Exercise is Medicine by ACSM


20 Sep

Having a heathy appetite, one that says, “I’m hungry”, then “I’m full”, is part of a cat and mouse game we play daily. The majority of us have no problem wanting to eat, but stopping is a whole other event. The hunger hormones in the body are called leptin and ghrelin. Both play a role in body weight. Leptin is in charge of decreasing one’s appetite while ghrelin increases appetite. They have a tug of war relationship; one that we fully sense and feel.

Leptin is made by our fat cells. It is the all-ruling appetite suppressor. Leptin levels are lower in persons who are thin and are higher in overweight people. Leptin communicates with the brain that the body has enough energy (body fat) and doesn’t need more fuel. Obese people have higher levels of leptin, but the body seems to miscommunicate and misinterpret these hunger signals. The more fat in the body, the more leptin in the blood. For overweight people the body appears to be resistant to leptin.

Ghrelin is the hormone that increases appetite. Its action involves releasing signals in the stomach to the brain that cue hunger. This hormone is produced in the gut and travels through the blood stream to the brain to tell the body to get food quickly. The body is smart because research has shown that in people who have eating disorders or who under-eat, ghrelin levels increase. In people who are obese, this hormone reduces. Ghrelin levels naturally rise when the stomach is empty because you are actually hungry. The body is trying to protect itself from starvation. Dieting causes ghrelin levels to increase. That is part of the fight when trying to lose weight.

The mind and body and do have an interesting relationship, one that we would love to have better control of. Foods that are especially high in fat cause major disruption to this communicating relationship between the body and the hunger hormones. There are some self-care tips to balance these hormones. A diet full of healthy carbohydrates and lean protein suppresses ghrelin versus a high fat diet. Sleep deprivation has been linked to higher levels of ghrelin too. Dieting is hard when ghrelin tries to use its power. Having more muscle mass is associated with lower levels of ghrelin, so start lifting those weights. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding extremes will help keep these hormones in check. Hormones are a tricky situation for us all. Poor choices to our eating will eventually catch up, and the hormones like to take advantage of this. Eating poorly only makes you want to eat more. Food is a drug but be sure not to self-inflict more damage by making impulsive eating decisions. Your body will love you back when you love it.

14 Sep

Waking up to a cup of Joe is a morning routine for most of us. Billions of people rely on caffeine to get the day going, for a pick me up, and just because they enjoy it. One day we hear it is good for us and then the next day we hear that it is bad. So what’s the right answer?? Let’s take a look at the good and bad.

Caffeine 101

Caffeine dates back to 2737 BC. It is a natural stimulant most commonly found in coffee, tea, and cacao. It is derived from nuts, seeds, and leaves that contain it. Upon consumption, the central nervous system becomes alerted. Folk lore says it was discovered by a shepherd that noticed how much energy his goats had from it. Since 80% of the world’s population has at least one drink with caffeine in it per day, caffeine is one of the top ingredients used in the world. Popularity spiked in the 1800s when soft drinks hit the market with caffeine in them. Caffeine goes straight to our bloodstream. Upon entrance, caffeine puts up a fight against adenosine which is the hormone that makes us feel tired by relaxing the brain. By blocking neurotransmitter communication with adenosine, caffeine defeats the build up of tiredness. Out brain becomes alert and focused, making caffeine quite the natural stimulant. Energy drinks, sodas, and weight loss supplements make the classic cup of coffee sound so basic.


Research points towards caffeine having the ability to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, strokes, some forms of cancers, and Parkinson’s disease. A cup of coffee is low calorie, so it won’t hurt your waistline provided creams and sugars are skipped. We feel better able to function mentally. Fatigue disappears for the time being. Our short-term memory can improve. For some, having a caffeine beverage is stress reducing and a nice compliment to a dessert or while chatting with a friend.


That alert feeling from having caffeine, is the result of our adrenaline being stimulated. Our blood pressure raises, and the fight-or-flight signal is activated. It is a natural diuretic, so the bathroom might have a higher number of visits. The acid in coffee can exasperate heart burn. Many people are hooked on caffeine. Between energy drinks, chocolates, teas, and sodas, caffeine gives a head change that makes us want more. Young people are being highly exposed to more and more caffeinated products with higher and higher amounts. Like a drug, when we have less or try to eliminate it, headaches from withdrawal can result. Overconsumption becomes harmful and can lead to high blood pressure, decreased bone density, and high blood sugar. Insomnia and palpitations can also result.

There’s a coffee shop on every corner. There’s coffee flavored candy and ice cream. Energy drinks and pre-workouts are trendy. 3 or 4 cups per day is the average amount we drink, which is about 350 milligrams of caffeine. Having more or less would influence the “good” and “bad”. Moderation has never been the easiest of our human qualities to live by. Caffeine has both “good” and “bad” qualities and that cup of Joe is a personalized experience that affects each of our bodies differently. The majority of us would say they couldn’t imagine a world without caffeine.

06 Sep

The inability to control is the bottom line when it comes to addiction. A person’s brain and behavior are greatly affected. When you become addicted, you continue to use the drug or carry on the habit despite the consequences. A person can become powerless to legal or illegal drugs and substances such as alcohol, nicotine, opioids, and/or marijuana. The brain starts to receive altered messages and all it can think about is the rewarding feeling the drug produces. The functioning of the neurotransmitters becomes distorted. The viscous cycle of tolerance starts to happen, and the person becomes persistent on experiencing the same high or an even better high better each time.

Addiction doesn’t just happen instantly. It builds its way into someone’s life. Cigarette smoking can start just at parties or social events, but then the person finds themselves keeping a pack in hand and reaching for a smoke more and more frequently. The risk of addiction varies by drug and certainly affects how quickly one forms the habit. Sometimes a person is prescribed a medication, and they become hooked after use (especially opioids). Painkillers cause a high risk for addiction.

Addiction is the accumulation of more and more of the user’s choice. The person needs higher doses to get high. Hence, drug addiction is also called substance abuse disorder. When a person tries to stop, they crave more and feel withdrawl symptoms. Some of the symptoms that person has become addicted to their drug of choice include the following:

  1. Having intense urges to use/take the drug.
  2. Drug use starts to prevail over responsibilities like work.
  3. Daily use of the drug, sometimes even several times per day.
  4. Continuing to use the drug despite any physical and health consequences.
  5. Doing whatever it takes to obtain the drug, which are behaviors you normally wouldn’t do.
  6. Spending lots of time going to get the drug in addition to time spent taking it.
  7. Spending excess money on the drug rather or not you can afford it.
  8. Doing things you shouldn’t under the influence of the drug, such as driving.
  9. Making sure you always have available supply of the drug.
  10. Feeling withdrawl when you don’t take the drug.

The main factors that cause addiction are your environment and genetics. Being exposed to the drug creates risk to partake. Traumatic life events can also cause a person to turn to drugs to deal with the situation. Feeling overwhelmed by stress can also cause drug use to help this feeling subside. Many addicts follow in the footsteps of their relatives. The reason people become addicted to drugs is an individualized experience.

Many addicts enjoy drugs and don’t want to stop, while others want and know they need help. The willpower to stop becomes a problem. Addiction is much more complicated than just deciding to stop and then you instantly doing it. The brain has to be re-wired to believe it can and will function without and the body has to feel committed to this process as well. There is help and hope and those in recovery help others. Addiction is a serious problem with serious consequences so most of the time testing the waters is never advisable because you may not be able to turn back.

31 Aug

The dreaded term older women dislike hearing. Menopause is an aging obstacle the reproductive hormones are bound to face. Levels of estrogen and progesterone start to lower, which are the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. It is a natural process the female body endures, but one not many are fond of facing. The female body runs out of functioning eggs. At birth, females begin with anywhere from 1 to 3 million eggs, which over time gradually decrease in number. By the first menstrual cycle, the female might have about 400,000 eggs left. When menopause hits, a female might have about 10,000 eggs.

The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is the hormone that produces eggs during menstruation. When menopause starts, the eggs start to resist FSH and the ovaries produce less estrogen as well as less testosterone (affecting sex drive). Just when menopause hits varies person to person and is influenced by family history, autoimmune diseases, smoking, and even chemotherapy/radiation. The average age of menopause is 51.

All that being said, menopause does mean the start to the end of one’s menstrual cycles. You have officially been diagnosed as having gone through menopause when there is no menstrual cycle for 12 months. However, the symptoms of menopause are what wreak havoc for many. Those hot flashes, the emotional rollercoaster, and the lack of energy, make this time particularly undesirable. Other symptoms include vaginal dryness, sleep problems, weight gain, night sweats, chills, slower metabolism, thinning hair, and dry skin. Weight gain can be the result of genetics or the fluctuation in hunger cues do to hormonal imbalances which could increase appetite. Loss of sleep doesn’t help either.

There are several natural remedies or approaches to help alleviate menopause related symptoms. Eating foods rich in phytoestrogens help mimic the role of estrogen in the body. These include tofu, flaxseeds, beans, sesame seeds, and tempeh. The dryness associated with menopause means it’s important to drink plenty of water. Processed foods and refined sugars should also be kept away or very limited. Some studies have even said that diets high in processed foods can heightened the emotional roller coaster of moods menopause can bring. Managing weight is the key, so skipping meals or eating far less than your body needs would actually be more detrimental than good. Keeping a stable blood sugar by eating more often and less more often would be a good way to assist metabolism. Protein is a good food selection to help keep staying full and satiated. There are natural substances too. Black cohosh has been found to help lessen the intensity of hot flashes. Cranberry extract, probiotics, prebiotics are other suggestions to suppress symptoms.

There are different treatments to help alleviate at least some of the discomfort. Hormone therapy is common which typically consists of a low dose starting with estrogen. This can also be administered in the form of a cream. Sometimes low dose anti-depressants are used as well. This usually is for the hot flashes and moods. Gabapentin and Clonidine are two other medications. These can be taken in the form of pills or worn as a patch. It is important to talk with your doctor about risks and side effects, especially since these should be used temporarily not for long periods of time. For example, hormone therapy for long periods of time can increase the risk for breast cancer. Although many women can relate to one another when it comes to menopause, it does vary from person to person in terms of how the body handles this lovely part of female aging.

Truthfully, menopause is a natural part of life, so much like anything else, the better we take care of our health, the better we navigate through anything our body faces. Hormones are not a simple subject to cover and understand because every body can vary in levels and how the body uses them. The best approach is to have a body positive attitude and to have a few natural remedies to help along the when it comes to menopause.

23 Aug

How many people were raised starting the morning with a glass of orange juice with breakfast?? Apple, grape, orange, pineapple, cranberry…. there’s a type of juice to please everyone’s taste buds. The fallacy is that many believe drinking fruit juice equates to eating fruit. Therefore, fruit juice is perceived as healthy. The word “fruit” is associated with healthy. However, fruit juice contains as more if not more sugar than other beverages. Although fruit juice contains nutrients and antioxidants, these positive traits don’t negate the quantity of sugar.

We are victims to misleading labels on these drinks. Labels that read “100% pure” and “not from concentrate” make us think the juice was freshly squeezed and stored in the container for us to enjoy. The truth is that we are not drinking fruit from its original state. Fruit juice is actually stored in tanks that deplete oxygen for up to a year before being packaged. This process removes quite a bit of the rich fruit flavor, so manufacturers then add back that flavor in with you guessed it…. sugar.

This is not to say that fruit juice is entirely awful. Orange juice does contain vitamin C, vitamin B, potassium, folate, and antioxidants. However, when the calories from fruit off the tree are compared to those in the bottle, the beverage version contains much more added sugar which ultimately results in many more calories. Here’s a shocking example… apple juice versus Coca Cola. Take for instance a 12- ounce serving of these two drinks. The apple juice contains 165 calories, and 39 grams of sugar which equates to 9.8 teaspoons. The can of Coca Cola contains 140 calories and 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons). The truth lies in the sugar.

The liver becomes sugar overloaded very quickly when these drinks are ingested. It’s as if you quickly ate 5 oranges when you drank one cup of juice. Fructose is the type of sugar this juice contains, and the liver is responsible for metabolizing this substance. Too much sugar is too much work for the liver, and this excessive amount turns into fat. Liquid sugar has been associated with high levels of triglycerides, insulin resistance, increased belly fat, and elevated LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

Many people don’t consider these liquid calories in their diet. They don’t eat less to compensate for these additional calories. Whole fruit is the better choice. Don’t punish your liver and waistline just to please your taste buds. Eat your calories to benefit from the nutrients and fiber that fruit has to offer. No wonder we never argued when we were offered juice as kids.

17 Aug

The human body operates much like a furnace…. it produces heat. Our body is working to keep us alive, and this generates heat. When a person runs cold, the body is trying to communicate that something in the production line isn’t right. Typically, body temperature ranges from 97 F to 99 F for adults, while children have a higher body temperature ranging from 97.9 F to 100.4 F. Everyone’s body temperature is actually different and the person next to you might have their furnace set a few degrees higher or lower than you. Our body temperatures vary all throughout the day. This all depends on your activity, age, sex, what you have had to eat or drink, and what time of day it is. Body temperature also varies based on where you measure it. The underarm pit will be hotter than around the mouth area.

When body temperature is above normal, this is called a fever. A fever is considered anything above 100.4 F. The body is working to fight off germs and getting sick, and this battle produces heat. The body is doing what it is supposed to be doing, so a fever is not always a bad thing. However, if a fever is associated with rash, vomiting, or headache, and persists for more than 3 days, seeking a doctor’s help is advisable. Fevers should be taken more seriously when it comes to children. Getting adequate rest, taking over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, using cold compresses, or taking a cold bath, can help alleviate a fever. The body goes to war when it comes to infections but can be cooled down using these methods.

On the other hand, when body temperature is well below normal, it called hypothermia.  This occurs when the body loses too much heat and it can be very serious, possibly fatal. Hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below 95 F. This low body temperature is of particular importance when it comes to babies and the elderly. This is usually a sign of sickness. Hypothermia can also be caused by malnutrition, anorexia, certain medications, stroke, nerve damage, and alcohol and/or drug use. It is important to help warm the body up using heating pads, putting on layers of clothing, removing any wet clothing, drinking a warm herbal tea, or sitting by a fire or heating lamp.

Hot or cold extremes are uncomfortable and form of communication that the body is in fight or flight mode to help you. Listen to your body when it speaks to you. Normal body temperature comes and goes throughout the day, so always bring a jacket just in case and stay hydrated to help regulate your furnace.

09 Aug

Dried Fruit: The pros and cons to packaged sweetness

Part of a healthy, balanced diet includes the consumption of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. Dried fruit might seem like a handy snack to meet this dietary recommendation. This snack consists of fruit in which the water has been removed by a dehydrator or naturally from the sun. Apricots, cranberries, raisons, dates…. are just a few on the list. Sometimes they’re coated in a spice or sugar for added taste, such as dried mangoes with chili pepper. There are pros and cons to this selection. You be the judge whether you decide to reach for fresh or dried next time you have some.


Fans of dried fruit love its sweet taste, the no mess, how convenient for on-the-go it is, and the long shelf life. Dried fruit outlives and fresh type. We find these snack packs in vending machines, at the airport, while we are checking out at the grocery store, and at gas stations. Seems like a good alternative to a candy bar when the options are limited. Dried fruit is nutritious in the sense that it is just compacted fruit. It actually contains close to 3 ½ times the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber compared to fresh fruit. It is a great source of antioxidants.


Sugar, sugar, sugar. Dried fruit can contain up to three times the amount of sugar compared to fresh fruit. No wonder it is so tasty. Ever heard the word “fructose”?? Well that is the very sugar hiding in dried fruit. When we have extra fructose in the body, the liver converts it to VLDL. This is the bad cholesterol that is high in triglycerides. The health consequences of high triglycerides include heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. For example, let’s take a look at popular dried cranberries. Topped on a salad or part of your trail mix, it seems like an added healthy bonus. Wrong. One cup of fresh cranberries has 4 grams of sugar. One cup of dried cranberries has 70 grams. That equates to one bag of M&Ms. This raises the calorie content as well. In general, dried fruit has twice the calories and carbohydrates as fresh fruit. While all these no-no’s are added, calcium is subtracted as a result of the drying process.

The freedom of choice

What we perceive to be healthy doesn’t always equate to be true and this can be reflected by our fitness results. Clean eating involves fresh choices. Mother nature is the only additive. It’s probably a good idea to not eat anything with ingredients we are unable to pronounce. Real fruit doesn’t come with a label. We are also misled to believe that the bag of dried apricots was one serving, when really it was 2 or more which is another indication that we neglect labels and are not fully aware of what is being put in our bodies and how much.  It is easy to justify once bad choice over the other by reaching for a package of dried fruit instead of the candy bar. The truth is that a fresh apple can fit in your purse or bag too. Such a tiny snack pack wrecks quite the damage on the waistline. We are told to always stay hydrated, and this seems like good advice for our fruit too.

01 Aug

Orange juice is a breakfast favorite and comes in different varieties. This liquid extract can come from blood oranges, Valencia oranges, navel oranges, tangerine, or clementines. Some types include more pulp than others. Drinking orange juice can be just a beneficial as eating an entire orange, provided it is not loaded with preservatives, sugar, and additives.

The trouble is that just one cup of this juice contains quite a bit of sugar and carbohydrates, which might be why it can jump start a person’s day. One cup of orange juice contains about 26 grams of carbohydrates and 22 grams of sugar. Quite a bit for a small amount and not everyone is sticking to one cup per serving. The flip side is that this juice is loaded with vitamin C, up to 120%. Some might argue that the health benefits of this beverage are worth a little added sugar. Orange juice can reduce signs of aging, boost immunity, detoxify the body, boost metabolism, boost cellular repair, improve circulation, improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation. The key is how the juice is prepared.

Besides being packed with vitamin C, orange juice contains thiamin, vitamin A, fiber, folate, potassium, copper, magnesium, protein, thiamine, flavonoids. Vitamin C is a primary antioxidant in the body that destroys free radicals before they can do damage to the body. Vitamin A is another type of antioxidant that helps to detoxify the body. It increases the function of the kidneys and is also beneficial to eye health.

It is important to avoid frozen orange juice, canned orange juice, or concentrated orange juice, because they are all loaded with preservatives. The content of these juices is far different from the fresh squeezed type. Too much of any good thing can be harmful. Orange juice is high on the glycemic index which means drinking quite a bit at once can really raise blood sugar levels. This can cause complications for diabetics and pre-diabetics. The best way to reap the benefit of oranges is to eat a whole orange. Manufacturers often add chemicals to their juices in order to replenishes the loss of nutritive values from mass production.

The connotation of juice is healthy. It is assumed to be the same as eating the actual fruit. However, in today’s world of mass production and longer shelf life, we are ingesting and digesting more chemicals than ever. If what we ate was fresh, it should be consumed right away. Yet in a world of expiration dates and false advertising, we look for the best value for the largest amount, that will last the longest. Orange juice was never meant to be purchased under these considerations.

25 Jul

When we think of American food, the classic hamburger comes to mind. Certain chains have made this meat patty and bun extremely popular, especially with all the different versions that now exist. The patty can be fried, grilled, or flame boiled, and some of the traditional toppings include lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, cheese, pickles, mayonnaise, or different special sauces.

The first hamburger was sold by Louis Lassen in 1895. This information is according to the government of Connecticut who said that hamburgers originated from the Louis Lunch restaurant. This sandwich was actually nameless until a traveler from Hamburg, Germany, named it after where he lived. It wasn’t until about 1921 when White Castle in Kansas became the first chain to carry the product. About 19 years later, McDonalds soon followed suit. This chain was known for adding variety to the sandwich. Because McDonalds offered fast service, the hamburger soon became a hit. Today, Burger King follows McDonalds as the second largest hamburger chain.

A traditional single patty hamburger has about 230 calories, 9.5 grams of fat, 25 carbohydrates, and 13 grams of protein.

Americans consume approximately 50 billion burgers per year.

About 75% of all American restaurants are burger joints.

71% of beef consumed in American is in the form of a hamburger.

There are over 50,000 burger joints across the United States.

Of all sandwiches sold, burgers account for 60%.

McDonalds purchases over 1 billion pounds of hamburger meat per year.

Besides the major chains the list of burger joints that sell the most burgers are as follows: In-N-Out,  Culver’s, Fuddruckers, Steak n Shake, Smashburger, Five Guys, Whataburger, Rally’s, Carl’s Jr., and Wendy’s.

A burger can be very basic or very unique these days. The portion distortion of a single patty has also become part of the more the merrier for the belly. Not to mention the French fries or onion rings that come on the side. A burger can pretty much satisfy anyone’s taste-buds and there are now vegetarian and non-red meat options. Those following dietary restrictions might ditch the bun and opt for a lettuce wrap. There are gigantic not able to fit in your mouth burgers, and then there are mini sliders. Depending on your preference, a burger can be detrimental to the waistline or a good addition of iron and nutrients. Going back to the basic hamburger Louis Lassen made might be a lost art, but there’s always room for simplicity in one’s life. At summer barbeques and parties, burgers are always an option on the menu. A hamburger is taste of American tradition well sought after.

20 Jul

Whey is one of the most popular protein products on the market. It is derived from the watery portion of milk, the same part that separates curds when making cheese. This product can help improve a person’s nutrient intake, may be linked to weight loss, and has also been used to assist athletic performance. It contains lactose, minerals, protein, vitamins, and fat. However, user be ware if you have a milk allergy. In fact, ricotta cheese contains the highest amount of whey. Whey can be concentrated or isolated and then used to make other products. It is commonly found in crackers, baked goods, and protein products like bars and shakes.

Whey protein is considered a complete protein, meaning is contains all the essential amino acids. It is also easily digestible for those who don’t have a milk allergy, so the body quickly absorbs the benefits. The most common form used and bought is concentrate. However, it also comes in isolate and hydrolysate. Whey contains branched chain amino acids, particularly leucine. This is worth noting since leucine can help prevent age related muscle loss and increase strength. Whey contains lactokinins, which are ACE-inhibitors. These enzymes help reduce blood pressure. Whey can increase insulin levels, which helps moderate blood sugar. This is great news for diabetics. For example, taking a whey product supplement before a high carbohydrate meal has been shown to moderate blood sugar. Type 2 diabetics should take note of this.

Adding to the list of benefits, whey contains C-reactive protein (CRP), which helps reduce inflammation in the body. It also contains cysteine which is an amino acid needed for glutathione production in the body. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help lower the risk for chronic diseases. For persons with irritable bowel syndrome, whey can help reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. Whey is also satiating, meaning a person feels fuller longer. Protein is one of the most filling macronutrients. As a result, a person might use whey to help lower their weight.

Different packages have different size doses of whey. A typically serving of a protein shake power form contains 20-25 grams of protein. Taking more whey than this is not beneficial to the body, because we can only absorb so much protein at one time. This powder can be simply added to water, or it can be a great addition to a smoothie, yogurt, or baked good.

Whey is a convenient addition to one’s diet with so many benefits. It is readily available and not overly priced. Especially when on the go, whey is a great option. The body appreciates proper fueling, and whey is a great source of ammunition.