Got Pain? Your Gut Might Be To Blame.

Did you know that there is a strong connection between joint pain and your gut? If you’re experiencing achy knees, chronic pain or stiff joints, leaky gut may be to blame.

Often, these ills are attributed to the unfortunate effects of aging and maybe we just chalk it up to be arthritis. What if that pain was actually caused by an imbalance from another part of our body?

Our gut.

Did you Know:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may affect as much as 30% of the population. Symptoms typically include gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and altered bowels (constipation, diarrhea, loose stools).
  • Up to 84% of IBS may be linked to an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. The good news is that many people can experience relief by following diets that reduce bacterial overgrowth.
  • What’s interesting is that when gut health is improved, studies show that it can also improve anxiety and depression. Evidence shows that brain fog and impaired memory can also improve with gut healing.
  • What’s more? data also shows that improving gut health can also show an improvement in metabolism.
  • Additionally, several studies have uncovered a link between microbes in our gut and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). People with RA as well as psoriatic arthritis tend to have higher levels of a certain type of bug in their intestines that those without the disease. This research suggests that the connections aren’t just between the gut and arthritis, but any type of inflammation in the body.
  • Inflammation in the intestines has been shown to cause insomnia, improving that inflammation can improve sleep!
  • Certain skin conditions (pimples, rashes, skin inflammation) have been clinically documented to improve after reducing unwanted bacterial overgrowth.

Importance of the Small Intestine

The small intestine accounts for over 56% of our intestinal tract, nutrients are absorbed here and it is responsible for 90% of caloric absorption. Yep you read that right 90% of the calories you take in are absorbed in the small intestine. Another factor worth noting is that the small intestine has a profound impact on the immune system: the largest mass of immune cells found in our entire body is seen in the small intestines.

So, you can see, it’s kind of a big deal.

It’s important to note that the small intestine’s thin, protective mucous membrane is much more prone to damage (which can result in leaky gut) than the large intestine.

That is why small-intestinal health is impactful on immune and autoimmune conditions.

What Exactly is Leaky Gut?

Think of the gut as a drawbridge. Naturally, the gut is semi-permeable to allow micronutrients (think of them as tiny row boats) pass through the intestinal tract into our bloodstream (this is normal). Certain external factors such as processed foods, infections, toxins and stress can increase intestinal permeability, causing our drawbridge to stay open which allows larger boats to escape into our bloodstream (this is NOT a good thing). Your immune system marks those foreign invaders that were never meant to pass through, such as toxins, as pathogens and begins to attack.

According to a description in the journal, Frontiers in Immunology, leaky gut is described as:

The intestinal epithelial lining, together with factors secreted from it, forms a barrier that separates the host from the environment. In pathologic conditions, the permeability of the epithelial lining may be compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream creating a ‘leaky gut.’

What Causes Leaky Gut?

Maybe you just tweaked your ankle and have been trying to limp your way through the day with a few Motrin. Perhaps you’ve been taking birth control for years. Or your diet is filled with processed foods. Any of these scenarios can irritate the small intestine leading to leaky gut or intestinal permeability (when the food particles that pass through the intestine “leak” into our bloodstream) which triggers the immune system to go into attack mode and fight the invaders.

This is dangerous.

Leaky gut results in increase in inflammation, this inflammation can lead to joint pain and a host of diseases.

Leaky gut can also be caused by:

  • Chronic stress
  • Toxin overload (alcohol, antibiotics, pesticides, tap water, aspirin, other drugs)
  • Poor diet (inflammatory foods such as added sugars, refined oils, soy, food additives, gluten, dairy,  the typical Standard American Diet SAD diet)
  • Artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose, neotame)
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Bacterial imbalance
  • Aging
  • Genetic predisposition

In fact, a 2015 review paper, published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews, shoed that food additives found in processed foods can irritate the gut, lead to leaky gut and subsequently, cause autoimmune disease.

As you can see, many things on that list is IN our control (minus aging and genetics).

How Do I Know If I Have Leaky Gut?

In addition to your joint pain, additional symptoms that may indicate the problem is all in your gut include:

  • Inflammatory conditions, arthritis
  • Digestive problems (bloating, gas, IBS, gastric ulcers, diarrhea)
  • General/seasonal allergies and/or asthma
  • Hormonal imbalances (PMS)
  • Autoimmune diseases (celiac disease, psoriasis, lupus)
  • Chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia
  • Brain-related symptoms (brain fog, anxiety, moodiness, depression, ADD, ADHD)
  • Skin issues (acne, rosacea, eczema)
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Food allergies and/or intolerances

Create a Healthy Gut Environment for Healthy Bacteria

Remove. Replace. Restore.

Adequate, if not optimal, digestive system function is essential to our health. If you are in pain, try eating to reduce inflammation to create a healthy environment for gut bacteria and improve microbiota/gut flora.

The first thing is to remove all inflammatory triggers such as stress and certain foods like:

  • Sugar
  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Omega 6 Fatty Acids
  • Refined Carbs
  • MSG
  • Gluten & Casein
  • Vegetable Oils
  • Alcohol

Then replace the good by eating whole, unprocessed foods that support nutrient absorption such as:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Green leafy veggies
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges

Finally, restore a healthy bacteria in your gut (think: high-quality probiotics, prebiotics: non-digestible fiber compounds found in garlic, onions, leeks, raw dandelion greens, curcumin, bone broth).

You must eat to balance blood sugar, and steer clear of food allergens, intolerances, and food additives. Why? As a response to eating food that you’re intolerant to, your immune system will react with inflammation.

How do you know if you’re intolerant to certain foods? Of course you can do a blood test, but the most useful diagnosis is 3-week food exclusion to watch for symptom improvements followed by a gradual food reintroduction to confirm.

One way to try a food exclusion experiment is to follow the Paleo diet, which does a great job of removing common food allergens. In the Paleo diet, you focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, eggs, healthy fats, oils, nuts and seeds. You avoid grains, beans and legumes, processed foods and dairy.

Which Approach is Best for You?

Remember, our gut is the gateway to health.

With nearly 80% of our immune system residing in the gut and 95% of our serotonin produced in the gut, chances are, if our gut is healthy, we will also be healthy.

But this is a journey. These changes won’t take place overnight. A good place to start is with the 3-day elimination diet. But, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information above, don’t hesitate to reach out.

You can also set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn more about our one-on-one nutrition health coaching.

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

Taking Control of Cravings and Temptation

Do you usually give in to cravings, give up… or take control?

This post is not your typical advice about fighting off cravings. 

Sure, mindful eating, drinking more water, decreasing stress and avoiding the notorious feeling of being hangry will all help keep your cravings at bay (like that unplanned decision to grab pretzels from your kid’s snack pack).

Whether you just want to kick up your feet and relax with a glass of wine on the weekend or head out to taste-test Nicholas Creamery, let’s see what we can do to make it fit into your day.

Wait, what? You might be thinking…has Coach Angela gone crazy?

Nope.

What I’m talking about here is learning how to plan ahead to prevent going overboard. Celebrations, holidays, stressful occasions, etc.- they will always be there. Learn how to navigate through them rather than avoid them (and then spiral out of control). The right way.

Here’s the deal. You need to be strategic about it.

Most of us crave energy-dense foods such as chocolate and other high-caloric sweet and savory foods. Whatever it is for you, choose your guilty pleasure ahead of time- a drink, some ice cream, chips and guacamole, etc. It’s all about planning ahead and then staying in control, guilt-free.

Mind blown.

Look at this kind of like a test. A lot of feedback I hear from clients is that they feel uneasy, even scared, to “enter back into the real world” after a challenge.

Our goal is to set you up for success for life – to approach situations with confidence in making the healthiest decisions possible, and also to enjoy yourself in moderation. That being said, if you’re worried that a little will most likely turn into a lot, you might want to wait until you have built up more confidence over your choices, first.

Take Control of Cravings For Good

Whether you decide to implement these tips next weekend or next month, here’s how to stay in control in the face of temptation and cravings.

Decide In Advance-

Decide what food or drink you’d like to enjoy in advance. If you plan for your portioned out serving of dessert or a glass of vino, you’ll be less likely to cave in after a stressful week with an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s…or the whole bottle of wine.

Pick one.

And take the time to thoroughly enjoy it. Without the side of guilt.

Control Portions-

Be sure to identify the serving size that you’re going to have ahead of time and stick to it. Visualize that one glass of wine or talk about sharing some decadent ice cream with your loved one.

This will help you to stay true to portion control and walk away feeling satisfied rather than stuffed.

Swap it Out-

Now, I know “moderation” requires willpower. Especially when you’re attempting to moderate food specifically designed by scientists to make you want to eat more now and crave more later. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to make the decision to completely avoid those foods that you know you can’t put the breaks on and instead find nutrient-dense alternatives that you enjoy.

Look at this not as deprivation, but as the smartest decision you could possibly make for a happier, healthier life.

Finding foods “that you enjoy” is key. Do some research on healthy swaps and discover whole foods that can replace unhealthier versions. For example, if you love chips and dip – experiment with baked plantain chips and homemade guacamole. Just remember to portion things out properly in advance.

Look for a Distraction-

If your cravings have been hijacked by the surge of dopamine that spikes every time you walk through the kitchen, look for a distraction like drinking a glass of water or calling a loved one. Too often we eat because we’re bored or simply in the habit, rather than physically hungry. To combat that, research shows that changing your habits by focusing on another task, like walking around the block, can help reset your mind and help keep uncontrollable cravings at bay.

Dig a Little Deeper

There’s a chance your cravings due to a strict deprivation. In fact, some studies show that a short-term, selective food deprivation can increase cravings for the avoided foods. But get this:

Dieting’s bad reputation for increasing food cravings is only partially true as the relationship between food restriction and craving is more complex. While short-term, selective deprivation may increase food cravings, long-term energy restriction seems to actually decrease food cravings. This suggests that food deprivation can also facilitate extinction of conditioned food craving responses.

How do you get there? Change your mindset.

You’ve heard me say it before — instead of saying: “I can’t have that.” Reframe your thought process and instead say, “I don’t want that.” Say that enough and you’ll start to believe it.

Ask Yourself

Is there something that you’ve been craving lately? Or an event coming up that’s going to be full of temptations?

How can you manage these feelings by using the tips and tricks mentioned above?

Control Cravings With a Healthy Mindset

A healthy lifestyle is about making the most nutrient dense choices you can but also maintaining a healthy mindset. It’s not about constant feelings of restriction or becoming a hermit to avoid social temptations. Stay balanced by understanding that you can have some (not all) of your favorite foods and be okay with that.

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

How to Use MyFitnessPal Effectively

Are you ready to take your food tracking, water intake and measurements a step further? Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, lean out or feel more energetic throughout your day, the free app, MyFitnessPal is a user-friendly tool to help you reach your goals and set you up for success. On this post, I’m going to dive into some insider tips on how to use MyFitnessPal effectively.

As a Sports Nutritionist, I love having the ability to see what my clients are eating and hold them accountable. As an athlete, I love having the ability to plan ahead and maximize my macros for performance goals. It works for all levels, all ages all goals.

But the key to success, like most things, is being consistent with your tracking.

Why Track Food

Food journaling, or food tracking, is a method of mindful eating. According to the American Society for Nutrition, studies show that mindfulness has a great influence on how much we eat, how we feel when we eat and when we choose to eat. It can also help you

  • Remember what you have eaten that day.
  • Find out where you can improve if you are trying to achieve a goal.
  • See if you are eating too much or NOT enough.
  • Notice what time of day you typically get hungry and help you adjust your eating schedule.
  • Realize if you are eating out of boredom rather than hunger.

10 Tips on How to Use MyFitnessPal Effectively

With a handy barcode scanner, recipe importer, custom reminders and progress charts, MyFitnessPal makes food tracking a breeze! Here are 10 tips to get you going!

Be Honest.

Track everything, from the olive oil spray you put on the pan to the breath mint you grabbed from your coworkers desk. The more honest you are in tracking, the better you’ll be able to stay accountable to your actions…the faster you’ll achieve your goals.

Not tracking that bite off your kids plate doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Track Ahead of Time. Then Adjust.

One of the best things I love about MFP is the ability to plan my day ahead. Whether it’s the night before or the morning of, map our your day of meals and snacks to balance out carbohydrates, proteins and fats and hone in nutrient timing.

As your day throws you unexpected curves (like most days), simply adjust accordingly.

Test Yourself.

Learn to eyeball portion sizes.

The more you weigh and measure your food, become aware of how those portions look using your hand as a guide. This is extremely helpful when you’re eating out, at a friends house, holiday party, etc.

Set Reminders.

As you start this new tracking method, you can set up custom reminders through the app to be reminded throughout the day if you forget to track a meal or snack.

When you log your meals, make note of the time of day you are eating and how you are feeling. Keep your thoughts short and sweet – no need to write a novel, unless you want to.

Save Your Meals.

Do you eat the same thing for breakfast nearly every day? Save the foods as a favorite meal so you can add all items to your diary with one simple click.

Copy Your Meals.

Leftovers tonight?

Flip back to yesterday’s entry and click “copy meal” to copy those foods to today (or tomorrow…or any other date). Quick and simple.

Scan the Barcode.

Can’t find the right item in the search bar?

Simply hit the barcode button and scan your package then adjust portions accordingly.

View Nutrition Progress.

Either flip your phone horizontal and scroll to the bottom or click the menu bar and then the Nutrition tab to view that day’s nutrients.

Experiment.

Start with the free app as you’re getting started. If you feel this is a helpful tool to keep you on track, you can go with Pro, but the free app works well, too!

Add Your Coach.

Gain an extra layer of accountability by adding your Nutrition Coach or a friend to have access to view your food diary. You get to decide the level of privacy they can see.

There you have it: my top 10 tips on how to use MyFitnessPal effectively. Take your goals to the next level with one-on-one nutrition coaching. With ultimate accountability and guidance, we’ll help you achieve your goals.

Isn’t it to time to take care of you? Let’s chat!

Nutrition Inquiry

When Should You Choose Organic?

when to go organic

If You Choose Organic, Does That Mean It’s Healthy?

“Organic” always means “healthy,” right? Well, sometimes. Choose organic foods and you’ll avoid a lot of toxic chemicals, which is ideal… but think twice before you rely on the “organic” label just to justify that organic pastry or lollipop for your kids.when to go organic

What separates conventional farming from the organic way?

The National Organic Program, a regulatory program within the USDA has established national standards for organically grown foods. To earn the label of “organic” in the U.S., farmers must adhere to certain standards such as: submit to audits conducted by accredited certifying agents, give animals access to the outdoors, make use of crop rotation, mechanical tillage, hand-weeding and other management methods to control weed growth. They must NOT: treat animals with antibiotics, growth hormones, or feed made from animal byproducts, fertilize with sewage sludge, apply prohibited substances to their land for at least three years prior to harvest.

Simply stated, organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. “Organic” does not necessarily mean animals are humanely treated, free to roam pastures or grass-fed. And it is not synonymous with healthy, low-sugar or unprocessed food…but, that’s what marketers want you to believe. You know, so they can charge you more. Confused yet?

Be a smart consumer. Here is the organic label lingo to become aware of:

Organic Labels

Many people get caught up on trick labels like “healthy,” “fresh,” “natural.” It’s easy to get confused. Always check the ingredient list and the nutrition-facts panel to see what’s really in your product. If you can pronounce the ingredients, you won’t need a chemistry degree to decipher the label.

  • “100% organic”: This product must contain 100% organic ingredients.
  • “Organic”: This product must have at least 95% ingredients organically produced.
  • “Made with Organic ingredients”: This product must have at least 70% organic ingredients.

 

Choose Organic with the Dirty Dozen

Each year, the Environmental Working Group identifies the fruits and vegetables that contain the most—and least—chemical pesticides. They call them the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen.” The ”dirty dozen” list is a good place to start going organic.

  1. Strawberries (these are the worst offenders hording the most pesticide residues)
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes
  13. *Hot Peppers

NOTE: A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce.

Even though it didn’t officially make the list (because it’s processed), the EWG also included a special report about raisins. EWG says that 99% of nearly 700 raisin samples tested positive for traces of at least two pesticides, and one sample had 26 different pesticides. “If we included raisins in our calculations, they would be number one on the Dirty Dozen,” said Thomas Galligan, Ph.D, a toxicologist for the EWG, in a press release. So, go organic with your raisins!

Clean 15

The Clean 15 list, on the other hand, includes produce that is least likely to be contaminated by pesticides. Almost 70% of these food samples had no pesticide residues whatsoever. You can typically go conventional with these fruits and vegetables.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Frozen Sweet Peas
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupe
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honeydew
  15. Kiwi

Keep in mind, organic foods can cost up to 50% more than conventional products, so do your research first and choose wisely.

Do Your Research

Is there a trick label that often confuses you? Take a moment to look it up, define it and share it.

But, I know, Google can be equally confusing. Here are a couple more reputable sources to consider for your own research:

 

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

Set Real Expectations

So, you’re motivated to make some changes and you’re willing to do anything you possibly can to achieve these goals. I would love nothing more! But, anytime you start a journey to make a lifestyle change, it can be tough. You can expect some bumps along the way which is why it’s important to set real expectations. For the long run.

Hey, I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect… and no one expects us to be. Because they’re not perfect either.

Set Real Expectations in the Face of Challenges

Sustainable change is all about learning how to set real expectations in the face of life’s challenges. If there’s one thing you can expect in life, it’s that things will always come up: parties, birthdays, anniversaries, life-altering events, stress, work, travel, sickness…COVID-19. Challenges will always be there whether we like it or not.

Don’t run from challenges. Anticipate them.

Challenges are part of life and unique opportunities for learning more about ourselves.

Research shows that while our behaviors may seem “spur-of-the-moment,” when it comes to over-eating, for example, the groundwork is laid several hours, days, months…years, in advance by our daily rituals, habits, mindset and automatic thinking. Your actions in the face of a challenge are simply the last link in a long chain of decisions.

The goal of today is all about recognizing your actions in the face of a challenge:

  • What is the root cause of those actions?
  • How can you learn from those events?
  • … and most importantly, How can you move forward?

According to James P. Leahy, author of Bridging the Expectation Gap: The Key to Happiness, unrealistic expectations create an expectation gap which leads to unhappiness and feelings of failure.

If you’re in this for instant gratification, don’t expect your changes to last. On the other hand, if you’re in this to embrace life-long, healthy habits that you can learn from, you can expect some amazing things to happen now, next month and even more the following year at your annual physical. That’s why if you make a mistake, it’s important to be nice to yourself.

Don’t let one mistake derail an entire day or a whole week.

Set Yourself Up For Success with Real Expectations

Expectations have an enormous effect on our outcome, energy, drive.

In fact, multiple studies show that the way we manage our expectations can heavily influence our ability to experience happiness in life, work and even health outcomes.

When life gets crazy and you end up making a mistake, the one thing that you can control is how you RESPOND in that moment. Remember, you are in charge of your own actions, choices and reactions, regardless of any circumstance.

Letting emotions control you is the easy way out. It’s easier to do (or say) things in the heat of the moment… that you may regret down the line.

But, it takes internal strength to pause, breathe, and make a sound decision by staying calm under pressure. And that starts with setting realistic expectations for yourself in the face of a challenge. 

“When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~Viktor Frankl

Rather than focusing on perfection, anticipate challenges to occur and then pour all of your energy into simply committing to doing your very best every day with the hand you are dealt.

Common Mistakes and Their Fixes

Here are a few common mistakes many people struggle with and their common “fix.”

The Mistake:

You deter from your normal way of eating and indulge in something outside of the norm, feel guilty and then proceed to eat everything in sight.

The Fix:

Remind yourself that slipping up a little is not the same as slipping up a lot. Own up to your choices and move forward.

The Mistake:

Eating portion sizes like a 5 year old during the day and then binging at night.

The Fix:

Of course you feel ravenous. ⁣
Of course you feel hangry.⁣
Of course you feel out of control.⁣

Your body is trying to do everything it can to signal to you that it needs to fuel itself.⁣ Instead, by eating balanced meals full of animal protein, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds throughout the day– you will reap the benefits of feeling satiated, full of energy, sleeping sound & through the night, and saying ‘goodbye’ to feeling ravenous late at night.⁣

The Mistake:

Waiting until 9pm to realize you still have 1,000 mL of water to drink.

The Fix:

Plan. Ahead. Do the math based on how much water you need and spread it out throughout your day. Rubber bands on water bottles, water app, giant jug…whatever set up works best for you, embrace it and just be ok with the fact that you’re going to probably be going to the bathroom a lot more than you were before. Just don’t let it interrupt your sleep by waiting until night to chug a liter.

Set Real World Expectations

For the next few weeks, focus on making deliberate choices that reflect reality.

There is so much outside of our control.

Focus on what you can actually control and let go of the things you can’t. Set real expectations for yourself, expect challenges to be there and use them to grow stronger.

Ask yourself these two questions:

What’s one thing that I can expect to get in the way of achieving my goals?

And what can I do today to help me keep going when I face that specific obstacle?

To learn more about making important improvements to your nutrition and exercise program, give us a shout at info@crossfitsalus.com.

 

Sleeping Tips That (Actually) Work

Most of us know how important sleep is for our health. But do you know how important it really is for our digestion, thinking, performance…even body composition…oh yea, and our sanity? But we get it, even if you read all the sleeping tips in the world, the moment your head hits the pillow, you just can’t seem to fall asleep.

You’re not alone.

Want to Perform Better, Feel Happier, and Lean Out? You guessed it: SLEEP MORE!

Find out why getting your Zzz’s is so important and some quick and easy sleeping tips to help you fall asleep…and stay asleep.

Sleep, Your Most Powerful (and Legal) Performance Enhancer

If your nutrition and training are on point, but you still don’t perform or look the way you want, poor sleep habits may be to blame. You better believe it, sleep is the most powerful recovery aid out there. And it’s legal.

In fact, research even shows that physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep can dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise. And those who sleep less than 6 hours per night (or, surprisingly, more than 9 hours) gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as those who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night.

Not surprisingly, more than ⅓ of adults get fewer than the amount of sleep they need to keep their risk of health problems in check. So, what’s that magical baseline number?

Our recommendation is for adults to get 7 hours of sleep a night- minimum. That’s 7 hours asleep – not seven hours in bed. You need more (eight or more) if you’re training hard in the gym or sick.

Sleep and Body Composition

If your goal is to perform better, feel happier and lean out, take a look at your sleep habits. 

When you’re more rested, you’ll be more successful if your goal is to stay lean and recover better (so you can perform stronger).  On the other hand, poor sleep habits drain our energy (and our mojo) and even screw up the regulation of our hormones.

Plus, if we don’t sleep enough, our bodies will start to look for energy elsewhere, oftentimes resulting in junk food cravings and over eating. It’s no coincidence that we’re hungrier when we’re tired. That’s because those hunger-regulating hormones that tell us to eat more, go up (ghrelin) and the precious ones that tell us when we’ve had enough, go down (leptin).

A lack of sleep also alters the activity of our hypothalamus, resulting in increased cortisol. Higher cortisol levels have been shown to increase appetite in some people, and can even increase fat storage.

There’s no question that a lack of sleep causes havoc in your body.

Research shows that sleep deprivation can create insulin resistance and reduce insulin sensitivity in subcutaneous fat cells, which play a key role in energy metabolism and balance.

In other words, develop good sleep habits to help your body and mind recover. In turn, it will help us in our efforts to stay lean, perform stronger, stay happy, focus longer and stay healthy.

Sleeping Tips that Work

The good news is that research shows that returning to adequate sleep (7+ hours) can quickly reduce any of the above risks.

So how do we go about getting that performance-enhancing, mojo-regenerating, energy-filling shut-eye?

Try one of these quick sleeping tips tonight!

1. Create Your Own Wind Down for Sleep Routine

We need time to transition from the day to the night. This will be how you prepare your body and mind for rest and recovery. Your routine should allow you to put a book-end on the current day, prepare you for the next day, and get you ready for bed.

Create environmental cues to help you wind down and de-stress at night. Check out some examples below.

  • Set an alarm for 8pm to cue the start of your “Wind Down Routine.”
  • Take the dog on a quick walk, stretch, roll, or take a bath.
  • Go to the kitchen and set up the coffee pot for next morning, prep breakfast, travel mug and shaker bottle.
  • Put the clothing you’ll wear to the gym the next day in the bathroom, and set your packed gym bag by the front door.
  • Then take your night time supplements, brush & floss your teeth, wash your face, and go to the bathroom.
  • Thirty minutes before it’s sleep-time, get in bed, plug in the phone, and set your alarm for tomorrow (no more phone usage after this). Sleep 101: How do cell phones mess with sleep?
  • Lastly, read a book or if you can’t quiet your mind, meditate or write in your journal. Oftentimes people overthink journaling. This journal doesn’t have to be organized, it can be a brain dump of all of the things that you’re thinking about; things you need to do tomorrow, or anything else that comes to mind. Do any of these, or all until you feel like falling asleep.

We know that getting more sleep can be a challenge. We’re asking you to start small, 15-30 more minutes each night can create huge benefits to your health, body composition, and performance.

2. Be Consistent with Your Sleep Schedule

Whenever possible, aim to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day/night. I know that’s tough for those with a strong social-game or those with young kids, but the more consistent you are, the more your body will naturally release those calming hormones before your head hits the pillow making that whole falling-asleep process much easier.

Plus, a schedule helps to stimulate those necessary hormones that help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to attack the day.

3. Moderate Caffeine and Alcohol Intake

Even though a nightcap may sound relaxing, consuming more than 1-2 drinks at night will interfere with deep, restorative sleep. Same goes for caffeine after 2 p.m.

4. Eat Properly

Eating too large of a meal right before you hit the sack can interfere your ability to fall and stay asleep. Your best bet? Eat a balance of protein, carbs and fats and walk away from your plate feeling satisfied, not stuffed, at dinner. Oh, and steer clear of those heavy late night mindless snacks.

5. Stop Bugging Out

We’ve all been there, your brain is wired and running through all the unchecked to-do’s on your list. The more you think about the fact that you cannot fall asleep, the more you lay there staring at the clock. Instead, grab a paper or create a voice-to-text note to write out whatever’s bugging you out. Dump whatever’s on your mind so you can finally relax.

6. Turn Off Electronics

Your phone, your computer, your TV: turn them off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The light from a digital device stimulates our brain and interferes with melatonin production making it harder for us to fall asleep and, you guessed it, stay asleep. Plus, the endless scrolling does nothing but stimulate your brain, emotions and energy (the complete opposite of what we want before bed).

7. Set a Bedtime Alarm

Seriously, set yourself an alarm to turn off your devices and start unwinding. Then, set another reminder alarm to head to bed. This will help to snap you out of whatever social channel you’re scrolling through and put the focus back on you, your pillow, and your health.

8. Make the Room Dark and Cool

A dark room will help you to maximize melatonin production and helps to entrench your circadian rhythm so you get sleepy on time. So, close the blinds, unplug the hallway night light and flip your smartphone screen face down. Sleeping in this level of darkness will mean that you wake up more refreshed and rested than you ever have.

Additionally, research shows that most of us sleep better when it’s cool (about 62-67 F). Set the thermostat to automatically drop a few degrees after bedtime.

Bottom Line

It’s time to get real about the health risks of poor sleep.

Give one of the above sleeping tips a try tonight and start working your way to those 7+ hours of sleep.  When you do, you’ll find that you can ward off stress easier, keep illnesses away, maximize performance & recovery and keep your mojo alive, too!

How do you wind down after a busy day? What’s your favorite pre-sleep hack?

Check out our series on sleep for more information:

Want more health and fitness tips? Check out our recent posts:

Do I Need to Count Macros?
Choosing a Jump Rope
Looking for Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Season?
Importance of Staying Hydrated
Bar Muscle-Up Progressions
Olympic Weightlifting in NJ: Some Basics
Is Sugar Bad?
Mobility for CrossFit: Why You Need to Do It
What to Expect During Your First CrossFit Class

Top 3 Healthy Party Tips

Social Survival: 3 Easy Healthy Party Tips

Whether you’re at a holiday party, summer BBQ or on the road, take these 3 healthy party tips along with you to stay healthy, hydrated and still have some fun.

3 Easy Healthy Party Tips

1) Load up on the greens!

Start each meal with veggies, snack on raw veggie sticks, or any of the vegetable-heavy dish. This will help keep you full, hydrated and energized.

Plus, if you’re trying to control your macros, the simple action of chewing raw vegetables takes longer than it does eating most calorie-dense foods.

Just remember to keep your eye out for organic produce and quality meats, especially the dirty dozen. Read: When Should You Choose Organic? to learn more about the dirty dozen, clean fifteen and figuring out all those confusing labels.

2) Drink plenty of H2O!

Especially if you’re outside, drinking alcohol or getting active, you’ll need even more water than usual.

Having a hard time fitting in all water?

  • Start your day off with a large glass water. Before coffee. Before breakfast. Before you even brush your teeth.
  • Make some herbal or green tea the night before and then chill it for a refreshing midday drink.
  • Whip up a mocktail. Make some fruit-infused water with berries, oranges, lemons, limes, or even cucumbers. Add sparkling water and mint to make it really fancy.

Not sure how much water you need in the first place? Read: How Much Water Should I Drink? for more tips on hydration.

3) Be mindful and relax!

If there’s a sweet treat or certain drink that you really love, enjoy it, but do so in a relaxed (not guilty) state.

Take a moment to taste every flavor and chew slowly.

The simple act of slowing down will help you get more in tune with your hunger levels as well.

Be mindful about your choices, rather than mindlessly picking while you’re chatting. Read: Mindful Eating for more tips on slowing down while you’re eating.

 

LEVEL UP? Foundation Nutrition & Lifestyle Challenge Rules

WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE?

The Level Up Nutrition & Lifestyle Challenge is a habit based program to help you achieve your body composition and performance goals. The challenge begins Monday, Sept 9 and runs through Sunday, Oct 20. All nutrition challenge rules are below.

Do you want to lose body fat, gain muscle, perform your best at the gym or gain more energy for life?

Then this challenge is for you!

Nutrition is the cornerstone for optimal mental and physical performance.

No matter your goal, the 6-week Level Up Nutrition & Lifestyle Challenge will introduce nutrition and lifestyle changes in an incremental way resulting in the ability to lose body fat, build muscle, and, most importantly, learn how to maintain these results moving forward.

You will gain the tools and knowledge necessary to achieve your goals in an approachable, sustainable way.

Heading up the program is Coach Angela Salveo: CF-L2 Coach, Precision Nutrition Coach, 7-year CrossFit Athlete and International Masters Weightlifter.

HOW TO TAKE THE CHALLENGE?

Decide- Make a decision that your health is worth it. Kick off fall and attack your goals stronger than ever!

Commit- Tell a friend and sign up for the challenge together for the ultimate level of accountability.

Dominate- Everyone is on their own journey, so you have options! Choose a level for each goal and challenge yourself to make at least one positive change every day. They all add up!

IT’S THAT SIMPLE.

Sign up today: levelupfall2019.wodifyrise.com 

——————————

WHAT THIS CHALLENGE IS NOT

…A quick fix. You are starting a nutrition and lifestyle make-over. It requires a long-term investment. 6 weeks is just the beginning to guide you in the right direction so you can produce long-term results!

…A meal plan. Specific meal plans are simply not sustainable. You will, however, receive guidance about what kinds of foods to eat and how much to eat to ensure you’re getting enough macro- & micro-nutrients. 

…A deep dive into unique needs. This challenge is designed to introduce better eating & lifestyle habits. For more specific individual coaching needs (emotional eating, counting macros, nutrient timing, eating to perform, weight-cuts, etc.), we are offering the option of individual nutrition coaching at a discounted rate (50% off) throughout the challenge. Take advantage of this incredible value by contacting  foundationnutrition@crossfitsalus.com 

 


LEVEL UP CHALLENGE RULES

NUTRITION QUALITY 

Rules: Eat only whole (unprocessed), nutrient-dense foods from the food list. This will be entered in the “food journal” section.

  • LEVEL 1: Made one positive change today. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Stuck to the food list for at least two meals and two snacks. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Stuck to the food list for all meals and snacks. (5 points)

 

NUTRITION QUANTITY (PORTIONS & HYDRATION)

Rules: Follow portion guidelines and hydration guidelines.

Eat 3 scheduled meals and 2-3 planned mini meals/snacks (**no mindless picking when you’re bored)

Eat only to satisfied, never stuffed.

  • LEVEL 1: Made one positive change today (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Stuck to the portion guidelines for at least two meals and one mini meal. Made hydration goal by at least 80%. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Stuck to the portion/hydration guidelines all day. (5 points)

 

What if I’m following macros?

For those of you who are already weighing/measuring your food and following prescribed macros under the guidance of a nutrition coach, you are encouraged to continue doing that during the nutrition challenge. If this is the case, your scoring will look like this:

  • LEVEL 1: You are more than + or – 15 grams away from your planned target ranges (0 points)
  • LEVEL 2: You stay within + or – 15 grams of protein & carb macronutrient target. And within + or – 10 grams of fat macros (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: You stay within + or – 10 grams of protein & carb macronutrient target. And within + or – 5 grams of fat macros (5 points)

 

SLEEP

Rules: Follow sleep guidelines for your age range.

Note: this will be scored for the NIGHT BEFORE.

See sleeping tips and bedtime routine tips on our blog.

  • LEVEL 1: Slept within 1 hour of recommendations. AND made one positive change to establish a bedtime routine. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Slept within 30 minutes of recommendations. AND turned off electronics 15 minutes before bedtime. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Slept according to the recommendations AND turned off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. AND followed a 10 minute bedtime routine (such as stretching, meditation, reading, etc). (5 points)

 

MOVEMENT

Remember, a little bit of activity goes a long way. Whether it’s a walk outside or a superset of pushups and sit ups, any exercise is better than no exercise. That’s why getting up and moving around is a big component of our lifestyle challenge. Working out at home? Check out free workout apps like NikeTrainingClub for some fun, free workouts.

Dedicate time in your schedule each week to make exercise a priority. And remember to tell a friend when you’re going to help you stay accountable.

  • LEVEL 1:  Made one positive change today (like taking the stairs, standing on a conference call or parking further from the door). (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Completed at least 20 minutes of physical activity. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Completed at least 45 minutes of physical activity (if it is your recovery day, this means adding in a low intensity workout, like a walk). (5 points)

 

MOBILITY

Mobility (stretching, myofascial release, etc.) can alleviate ‘everyday’ aches and pains as well as improve our body awareness & performance.

  • LEVEL 1: Stretch and/or roll for at least 5 minutes. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Stretch and/or roll for at least 10 minutes. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Stretch and/or roll for a minimum of 15 minutes. (5 points)

 

STRESS MANAGEMENT

Implement stress-relieving techniques to take better care of your mind, body and spirit. This can be meditation, yoga, taking a bath, walk, organizing a messy area, talking to a friend, drawing, getting a massage, taking a nap, etc. Everyone is affected by stress differently, so try a variety of strategies to discover which ones are the most effective for you. 

Note: Screen-time for the purpose of this challenge is referring time spent on devices such as a smartphone/tablet doing recreational activities such as gaming, getting sucked down the social media rabbit hole, etc.

  • LEVEL 1: Destress for at least 5 minutes. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Destress for at least 10 minutes. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Destress for a minimum of 10 minutes AND limit recreational screen-time to less than 1 hour each day. (5 points)

 

 

Changing Habits

 

Changing Habits With Success

Changing habits, like changing a training program, comes with a natural ebb and flow. One day you’re making tremendous progress and the next day you feel like you’ve regressed. It’s an normal (and important) part of the process.

It’s normal, but it’s not easy.

I get it, finding a steady rhythm of consistency to change your habits and food choices can be challenging. But thankfully there are a couple proven ways that you can set yourself up for success: choosing your battles and staying focused on your goals in as many ways possible!

Changing Habits Against the Odds

Working on changing your habits?

Here are 2 quick tips to help you navigate the lows and come out on top.

1. Choose your battles.

You don’t always have to fight the lows.
Be smart and instead, change the timing of your highs.
For example, it’s 10:00 pm and you still have an hour of work to do (and mobility…and have to get up early for your kid’s soccer game). You sink into the couch, open your laptop and the eyelids start to flutter immediately. Your first instinct may be to fight through the fatigue with less than stellar focus, nodding your head a few times before giving in to the pillow… But this time, try a new approach. Close the laptop, hit your 10 minutes of mobility then go to bed so you get your 7 hours (or even 6) of quality sleep. Set your alarm 20-30 minutes earlier and knock out that work you had to do with a fresh mind.

2. Write down your goals, post them close by and remind yourself of them often.

Keep them eye level at your desk reminding you to drink water, on your mirror reminding you to attack your goals, on the refrigerator reminding you to eat more greens or even on the TV to remind you to stretch.
Because, that exact moment you’re on a downward trend, that little post-it written in your own handwriting will remind yourself of those important goals and help you keep plugging away. And during those awesome moments when you’re on the upward trend, having your goals front-of-mind will help to channel your energy in the right direction.
Success!

Changing Habits is Tough – We’re only human after all.

Some days you’ll be able to make it to the box on time, smash out a productive day of work, cook a clean meal, fit in the time for your family and get to bed on time.
Other days, your day feels like it drags on forever and the only thing you can imagine doing is watching Netflix.

Like everything else in life, goals come with its ups and downs. You can’t escape them. But you can learn how to navigate through.

Ask Yourself

What has been the most significant change you’ve made toward your goals recently and what can you to to increase your confidence that you’ll be able to carry them over with you through life?

Making those connections is key to your long-term success. Good luck working on your goals! Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions along the way.

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

Endocrine Disruptors: What Are They? How Do I Avoid Them?

So, you’re drinking all your water, awesome! But now it’s time to step it up a notch and ditch the plastic bottles…and the endocrine disruptors that come along with them.

What Are Endocrine Disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors can be natural or man-made substances that interfere with our body’s endocrine system (hormone and cell signaling) and can lead to harmful developmental, neurological, immune and reproductive effects.

Maybe you’ve heard about BPA? It’s known to disrupt hormones and can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, leading to hormone imbalances. BPA has been linked to insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, liver damage, ADHD, infertility (for men and women) and altered gene expression

But, guess what? BPA-free doesn’t mean you’re safe from the health hazards of plastic.

A study published in Environmental Health indicates that almost all plastics, including BPA- and phthalate-free products, release chemicals with estrogenic activity. Bisphenol S (BPS) and triphenyl phosphate (TPP) are two chemicals often found in BPA-free products. Items containing these chemicals have been marketed as “safe” alternatives to BPA-containing plastics, but it turns out that BPS has endocrine-disrupting effects that are very similar to BPA, and TPP is even more estrogenic than BPA.

What Endocrine Disruptors Do?

Our endocrine system consists of glands that release hormones. Once released, those hormones act like chemical messenger that travel throughout our body, bind to target receptors on certain cells and cause predictable cellular change.

Endocrine disruptors mimic our naturally occurring hormones and end up binding to receptors which in turn changes our hormone creation, transport, binding and breakdown. They’re very stable which means they don’t break down easily (why manufacturers use them in products) and also means they stick around in our bodies for a long time.

When our hormonal systems are altered, it can lead to disrupted metabolism, immune function, bone health & mental status, altered testicular function & conversion of cholesterol to steroid hormones, oxidative stress, promotion of obesity and more.

Where are endocrine disruptors found?

We’re exposed to a cocktail of endocrine disruptors every day and probably don’t even know it.

They’re found in our plastic bottles, probably in your carpet and most likely in your drug store beauty care products. They’re even food packaging, shower curtains, cleaning products, children’s toys, canned food and of course water bottles (even BPA-free). That’s right, we’re constantly being bombarded with hormonal manipulators. They’re everywhere.

In fact, the CDC has found over 92% of people tested, including newborns, have detectable levels of BPA and other plastic chemicals in their bodies.

Yikes!

The good news? We can control most of our exposure.

Tips to Avoid Endocrine Disruptors

Research finds that BPA, phthalates and other plastics have harmful effects at both high and very low doses. Given the above evidence, I recommend trying to avoid all kinds of plastic, even ones labeled as BPA-free.

  • Use glass and stainless steel whenever possible for drinking, cooking, eating and storing food.
  • Never reheat your food in plastic containers or wash them in the dishwasher. Use glass.
  • Don’t cook with plastic utensils. Instead opt for bamboo or wood.
  • Use parchment paper or a lid from a pot to cover your food instead of plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
  • Watch what you eat (avoid canned foods and choose organic when possible).
  • Cook with cast iron instead of nonstick pans which can also hide endocrine disruptors.
  • Use a stainless steel thermos to pack your kids lunches instead of plastic baggies.
  • Don’t forget to say “no, thank you” to your receipt, as these have BPA coating as well.
  • Take a look at your (and your kids) cosmetic and personal care products (sunscreens, lotions, make up, soap, etc). Avoid those that contain phthalates in the ingredients and find natural replacements.
  • Choose wood or fabric toys for children instead of plastic.
  • Swap out those plastic water bottles and shaker bottles for an insulated stainless steel or glass (just make sure you keep the lid clean from mold).

Choosing what we put into and on our bodies can have an enormous impact on our health.

What steps do you currently take to avoid plastic? Are there some things you have difficulty finding alternatives for?

Take action, today… and every day.

Consider going plastic-free on your next water bottle purchase. But, remember: No matter what nutritional or lifestyle changes you’re here to make, you have to get better at making a change in the first place if you want those changes to stick.

One realistic step at a time. 

More on our Salus Nutrition Health Coaching Blog: