Health and Fitness Tips
Did you know . . .?
What's wrong with skipping breakfast (or any other meal) if I'm not hungry?
When you wake up in the morning you've probably gone about 11 hours without eating, and since your body uses calories as fuel, you'll need to refill your tank right away. While it's tough for your body to get going when you're running on empty, skipping breakfast is even harder on your brain. Most of the cells in your body can store energy up for lean times, but your brain cells need a constant supply of carbohydrates to function, and your reserves are certain to be low after an all-night fast. Lunch and dinner are just as important. Without food in your system, stress hormones will kick in to keep you going but at a high cost--you'll be exhausted later. And when you make a habit of missing meals, your body starts conserving calories and your metabolism slows down. Not surprisingly, you end up feeling sluggish.
Why do I feel sleepy after a big lunch?
Large meals force your body to use precious energy stores for the huge task of digestion. Blood rushes to your gut, robbing the rest of your body of oxygen and nutrients. Afterwards, you may not feel like eating again for several hours. If you wait too long for dinner, you're more likely to overeat again. Soon you're stuck in a cycle of feast or famine in which your cells, like your body, are always either overloaded or starving, leaving you constantly fatigued. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can keep your digestive system humming along steadily and your energy level consistent.
What kind of snack is best for a quick boost?
Eat snacks that contain members of different food groups. Pretzels and crackers may be convenient, low-fat snacks, but they won't get you very far when you're feeling poky. These processed carbohydrates are broken down almost instantly, giving you the same brief blood sugar spike that candy does. Fiber, protein, and fat take longer to digest, evening out your metabolism and protecting you from those energy highs and lows. Nuts have all three; they're the perfect mini-meal. Fruit and yogurt are other good choices. Also try adding a slice of cheese to a whole-wheat cracker or dipping a carrot stick in peanut butter.
Try to stay away from coffee and candy, though. Neither one will give you sustained energy. Caffeine stimulates your nervous system, but it doesn't contain calories, which are your body's fuel. And sugar breaks down quickly in your system, giving you only a brief pick-me-up.
Why should I exercise?
No matter what your body type or fitness level, 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise will make a big difference in how you feel and how you look. Working out makes all of your muscles stronger, including your heart. So it should come as no surprise that regular exercise is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease, the number-one cause of death among Americans. Studies have also proven that regular workouts pay these benefits:
- help prevent osteoporsis and high blood pressure
- lower the risk of diabetes and some cancers
- relieve stress, depression and some symptoms of PMS
- increase your metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories), helping control your weight
- reduce some of the effects of aging (such as waning energy) and prolongs life
Best of all, when you exercise, you'll feel healthier, stronger, and more comfortable with your body. It can even help you get a good night's sleep.
What types of exercise are best?
The best type of exercise is the one you'll do. Choose an activity you like, or pick several so you don't get bored. When starting out, focus on gentle, low-intensity activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling.
You'll also want to match your exercise with your goals, lifestyle, and limitations. If you want to be aerobically fit, weight training won't get you there. If you live in Minnesota, running will be difficult in the winter. If you have a bad shoulder, swimming probably isn't for you.
Try to combine a weight-bearing activity such as jogging with strength training. Not only will this approach stave off boredom, but it will help you counter the limits of one sport with the strengths of another. Running, for example, keeps your heart rate up and works your legs, giving you greater endurance and energy. But it doesn't do much for your upper body and overall strength. For that you'll need to do some weight training -- or try something like a martial art or kickboxing that really works your whole body. To develop flexibility, add yoga sessions -- or at least a few yoga poses -- to the mix.