Why Should You Take a Rest Day?

Incorporating a rest day after exercise is essential to achieving performance goals, weight-loss or weight-gain goals, improving energy, sleep and much, much more. But, make sure it’s about recovery…not just rest.

What is a Rest Day?

A rest day is when the body repairs, rebuilds and strengthens itself in the time between workout days. Incorporating recovery time is important because this is the time that our bodies adapt to the stress of exercise; and allows our body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.

What Happens During a Rest Day?

Sometimes we take on a: “I must work out every day” mindset and completely forget that one of the most important parts of exercising effectively is giving our bodies time to recover.

But, continuous training can actually make us weaker, and increase the chance for injury. Exercise or any other physical work creates stress on the body such as:

  • Metabolic stress that comes from depleting the energy stored in individual muscle cells (muscle glycogen)
  • Mechanical stress created by physical damage to the structures of muscle proteins (muscle tissue breakdown)
  • Fluid loss
  • Even mental fatigue (that can lead to burnout)

That’s why we want to give our muscles (and our mind) a chance to come back stronger through recovery strategies.

A rest day allows tissue repair to occur.

Without enough time to repair and replenish, our body will continue to breakdown from exercise. This can lead to overtraining.

Signs of Overtraining

A common mistake of those new to exercise, and even among the experienced athletes, is to workout too hard, too long… too often. They feel guilty about taking a day off, as if they were to lose momentum, and end up over-training in the process.

Overtraining often occurs from a lack of recovery time.

Signs of overtraining include:

  • Feeling fatigued (more than usual)
  • Experiencing a lack of motivation to exercise
  • Feeling unmotivated to be active throughout the day
  • Noticing a decrease in performance
  • Experiencing unexplained weight loss/weight gain
  • Noticing the first stages of a nagging injury
  • And, if we were able to look at someone’s insides, we might also notice that their inflammatory markers are elevated, their connective tissues aren’t healing and their hormones are going haywire (ex: cortisol going up).

In short, lack of recovery can have wide-ranging effects. When it comes to exercise, sometimes less is more.

Your Ideal Rest Day Should Be an Active Recovery Day

Rest day should really be more like an active recovery day. The point is to do some sort of movement that is less intense than your regular workout days, but encourages blood flow.

Why?

  • Moving your body at a lower intensity will help boost recovery rates from your previous workouts by encouraging blood flow to your muscles and tissues.
  • That added circulation also helps deliver nutrients (like amino acids and oxygen) to muscles to aid in repair.
  • Active recovery is also helpful to flush out waste products (like lactic acid and hydrogen ions) that have built up during your workouts and are known to contribute to muscle damage, fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
  • On top of all that, active recovery days offer a refreshing mental break from intense training.

Plan Your Recovery Day

Then, the question becomes, what should you do on an active recovery day.

A recovery day should be planned like a training day. It’s not a day to lounge on the couch all day. Think of it more like an active recovery day.

That could be any activity that is relaxing and energizing and that is parasympathetic dominant (often referred to as “rest and digest” as opposed to sympathetic activities that are “flight or flight”, like an intense workout).

These can include:

  • Mobility
  • Yoga or stretching
  • Walk or an easy jog
  • Light hip and core exercises
  • Meditation
  • Other recovery protocols such as: heat/ice, stim, massage, compression, etc.

Generally, an active recovery day features activities that reach about 60 to 70 percent of your maximum effort. In other words, keep the intensity low to moderate.

That being said, remember to listen to your body and give it a break when it needs one. If you need a complete rest day, take it.

Other Factors At Play for Optimizing Recovery

Sleep

Sleep is essential. Not just on rest day.

Not to completely sound like a broken record, but if you’re not sleeping well, fix that first. Sleep is really a very powerful element to recovery.

In general, one or two nights of poor or little sleep won’t have much impact on performance, but consistently getting inadequate sleep (less than 7-8 hours) can result in subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and mood.

Everyone’s needs are a little different, but some research indicates that sleep deprivation (less than those 7 hours) can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis. Other studies link sleep deprivation with decreased aerobic endurance and increased ratings of perceived exertion.

Get your sleep tonight. Try this:

Set a night time alarm – one an hour before ‘bedtime’ to remind you to turn off your blue-light devices and another fifteen minutes before it’s time for your head to hit the pillow.

Read more: Sleeping Tips for Athletes

Nutrition

Eat better to improve recovery? You bet!

Another major part of recovery has to do with replenishing energy stores and fluids lost during exercise. This means eating whole, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods in your post-workout meal and ensuring you’re staying hydrated. Eating whole foods with herbs and spices can also help to moderate inflammation, assisting in recovery.

If you’re training hard, it’s important to refuel the machine (your body) for repair and recover and also prepare it for the upcoming workout tomorrow. Now is not the time to drastically restrict your food intake. At Salus Nutrition, we take a holistic approach and analyze each client’s situation to provide an individualized solution. Everyone is different when it comes to rest day vs training day macronutrient needs, but generally many clients do well with a consistent amount of fuel throughout the week.

When it comes to supplements, remember that supplements are designed to be supplemental: in addition to the fundamentals of proper nutrition. If you insist on pounding your body in the gym and your body is crying for a recovery day, a supplement probably won’t prevent further damage. Supplements aren’t formulated to fix stubbornness.

However, if you’ve tried the basic rest and recovery strategies consistently for several weeks and your body is still feeling trashed, consider supplementing.

Mental

Studies show that pain perception can be affected by stress, stage of the menstrual cycle (for women), and individual tolerance. Incorporating a recovery day is not only important for our bodies, it also is beneficial to help refresh our minds and destress.

Go ahead and roughhouse with your kids in the yard, take a walk or pick up a pen and start journaling.

The point is to give your mind time to chill out, break out of your routine and appreciate your day off. You’ll come back feeling mentally recharged and highly motivated.

How Many Recovery Days Do I Need?

The number of recovery days you need will depend on how intensely you’re training, your age, fitness level, etc.

Paying attention to how your body feels and how motivated you are is extremely helpful in determining your rest day and recovery needs and modifying your training program accordingly. Some people do well with a 3 days on, one day off cycle. Others prefer a 5 days on, two days off. It’s all very individualized.

It is this balance that takes us to a higher level of fitness. The greater the training intensity and effort, the greater the need for active recovery.

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 Create a Bedtime Routine

Do you have a bedtime routine? Do your kids?

You both should! Here’s why.

Sleep does so much more than prevent us from feeling tired. When we sleep, we heal and repair our bodies. Get enough and you could experience an improvement in learning and memory (bonus for school!). Research also shows that getting enough sleep helps with feelings of anxiety and depression, and is associated with maintaining a healthy weight.

Check out these bedtime routine ideas and sleep solutions to help you get the best sleep your body needs!

Why Is a Bedtime Routine Important?

Sleep is an extremely important part of our overall well-being and health. If we don’t get enough, it may not be noticeable right away (although often it is), but the repercussions can add up.

Lack of a good night’s sleep can have immediate effects on our mood, motivation, focus, energy and strength the next day. This can affect our state at work, school, in our workouts and how we react at home.  A lack of sleep over many nights can have long-term effects on our health, too. From high blood pressure and obesity to psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders, research shows that the risks of sleep deprivation are severe.

Read: Sleeping Tips for Athletes >>

Create a Bedtime Routine (That Works!)

Create a 5 minute (or more) routine that helps transition from day to night. This will prepare them for a good night’s sleep (and even better day tomorrow.

This routine should be separate from a typical “getting ready for bed” task like brushing your teeth or washing your face.

The routine can take any form you want, as long as it works for you. Think of physical habits (like stretching), mental habits (like journaling or reading), spiritual habits (like meditation or prayer).

Practice a Good Bedtime Routine to Sleep Sounder

Believe it or not, getting good sleep takes practice. And guess what? It all starts before you even close your eyes.

One of the best places to start practicing at getting good sleep is by creating your optimal sleep environment.

This includes both your physical space and mental state.

Follow these simple ABCs of Better Zzzzs to start sleeping better tonight.

Clear the clutter.

Turn your attention away from the endless to-dos, stressful sights and clutter of the day by clearing your space and mind. This practice can go a long way toward ensuring you are prepared to successfully get enough Zzzzs.

Research even shows that if notice that your bedroom is full of stuff when you head to bed, your brain thinks, “It’s time to ignore the clutter (or fix it),” which takes mental (or physical) effort. And working from home has only made matters worse as many people are working in their bedroom.

To restore order, get rid of the clutter. For example, get the unfolded laundry out of your bedroom, write down your to-dos so you can attend to them in the morning, straighten up your workspace at the end of the workday, etc. This practice tells your brain that your sleeping space is peaceful.

Turn it off.

If falling asleep is difficult for you or your child, consider setting a curfew on all your devices. The artificial “blue” light that is emitted by electronic screens can trigger our body to produce more daytime hormones (like cortisol) and disrupt our body’s natural preparation to sleep.

Instead, spend the last hour or two before bed reading a physical book or magazine (a real one with actual pages — not an e-book). This can also help you mentally wind down for the night, instead of getting fired up by your social media feed or disturbing news.

Keep it cool.

According to sleep.org, the temperature has to be just right for an ideal night’s sleep. In general, the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep conditions.

Improve ventilation.

A stuffy space can hike nasal congestion and hinder your ability to breathe easily while you sleep. Studies even show that those who keep their windows open overnight feel more alert the next morning. But if you suffer from seasonal allergies, it might help to invest in a room purifier alternatively.

Diffuse oils.

Create a bedtime routine that involves diffusing essential oils 30 minutes before bed. Certain scents encourage drowsiness and can signal your brain that it’s time to start shutting off. Try a few drops of lavender, frankincense, cedarwood and bergamot.

Keep it consistent.

What time you get out of bed is an important factor for a good sleep routine. If you sleep in, past your usual time, it messes with our circadian rhythms. You’ll inevitably be less tired at night and have trouble falling asleep. No matter what time you go to bed, try to get up within an hour of your usual wake time.

Fun fact: Did you know that 7:30am is the latest wakeup time you need in order to maximize your physical activity during the day? According to the National Sleep Foundation, every hour you sleep in after that, research shows a significant drop in daily movement.

Exercise

Science shows that exercise helps to increase the total amount of sleep we get, especially in that slow-wave restorative REM phase. During exercise, our core body temperature rises, which helps to decrease body temps at night. REM is associated with decreased core body temps, so you can see how exercise can help gear you up for a good night of sleep.

In fact, the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity did a new analysis of studies on sleep and exercise. They found that those who strength train actually fall asleep faster and wake up less frequently throughout the night. Too stressed to fall asleep? Stretching before bed also helps when stress is preventing you from falling asleep.

You move, you snooze.

Choose the foods that help you snooze.

What you eat and how you sleep are directly linked. Yup, research shows that your gut health impacts your sleep quality. Probiotics in foods like yogurt and fermented veggie, can improve sleep quality. Also, prebiotics (which our gut bugs need to thrive) in foods like onions and artichokes, also protects us from stress.

The less you stress, the sounder you’ll sleep.

And, it goes both ways. The sounder you sleep, the better and more diverse your gut microbiome is.

Your sleep quality can also impact your food choices the next day. Interestingly, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who slept fewer than five and a half hours per night ate 385 more calories the next day. That’s another meal for many people – equivalent to guzzling two and a half cans of soda, a few Twinkies or a couple slices of pizza.

Another interesting note in the study: the sleep-deprived individuals chose different kinds of foods the next day compared to the well-rested subjects. The sleep deprived folks skimped on clean foods like protein and instead ate empty calorie foods like soda, candy, and pizza!

Why does this happen? Fatigue often leads people to seek out foods that offer quick bursts of energy or increased alertness: sugar and junk.

Get the right amount of sleep, your body will thank you for it.

Create Your Own Bedtime Routine

Take time for yourself and create your own bedtime routine. Consider that the time preparing for sleep is just as important as the time spent warming up for your workout. It puts you in the right mental and physical state to do the best job possible at what’s happening next: sleep.

Do you have a child or family member who struggles with sleep? Talk to your them about their ideas, and make a change together.  The more involved they are in the process, the more likely they’ll stick to it and establish some healthy sleep habits.

Read: Changing Habits >>

Want to Know the Secret to Meal Prep? Plan Ahead

You’ve set some goals, so now it’s time to get used to tracking your progress and learning how to plan ahead.

No matter your intention for joining the challenge. Setting goals and changing your way of life can be tough at the beginning. It’s it’s not uncommon for the initial reaction to feel a little overwhelmed about hitting each goal flawlessly. But remember, you want your goals to be risky, yet realistic.

Refer back to my previous post about striving for progress…not perfection.

If you’ve been eating a certain way for quite some time, the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to focus on one change at a time.

Planning ahead for meal prep is key to make this happen.

Plan Ahead for Meal Prep

With 101 things on your to-do list, meal prep can seem intimidating. How do you even get started? Meal prep doesn’t require complicated planning or tools – just a little time to get organized first. With a few hacks, you can gain control and help make cooking during the week way easier.

Start by scheduling.

Actually schedule time on your calendar to plan your meals for the week (or at least part of them), make the shopping list, go grocery shopping and meal prep. Go ahead, open your calendar and put those important reminders in now…

Make your grocery list.

After you figure out what your week looks like, make your grocery list. Be sure to stick to a store you’re used to and can navigate conveniently. This is not the time to venture out to a new grocery store.  Go prepared with your list and NOT on an empty stomach. Shop mostly along the perimeter, where the produce and meat aisles are located.

Or you can even get your groceries delivered. For example, if you have Amazon Prime and a Whole Foods nearby, you can order with ease and even save favorite items for easy cart adds.

You are in control.

Just remember: You are in control. You make the list; you choose to stick to it (don’t fall for those impulse items). Bring home only what you want in the house to keep temptations at bay.

You can definitely do it!

Make Ahead

Once you get home, start prepping and cooking (or schedule the day that you will do this). At the Salveo house, we usually meal prep Sundays and Wednesdays. Whip up a batch of protein — grill some salmon or several chicken breasts (or both) at once. Wash and chop veggies so they’re easy to grab for snacks or salad. Shave and cut up sweet potatoes, batch cook brown rice…You get the idea.

Or consider a regular healthy meal delivery service like Fit Food NJ. Even one meal during your busiest day might be worth it, and could mean the difference between a nutrient-dense, delicious meal and a regrettable fast-food run. (Save 10% with code: Salus)

Store Safely

Use quality food storage containers to keep prepared food safe. Stainless steel containers and glassware are the safest solutions. I recommend avoiding reusable plastic containers whenever possible. But, if you do use plastic, at least keep it out of the microwave.


Bonus Benefits

It’s so much easier to focus on healthy ingredients, control portions, and avoid those mid-week slumps when ordering a large pizza sounds so much easier than whipping up something fresh.

Ready to set things up this week so you can’t fail? Even an hour can set you up for success.

The name of the game is:

Anticipate. Plan. Strategize.

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Check out some of our most popular Salus Nutrition posts:

Life After the Nutrition Challenge

life after challenge

Life After the Nutrition Challenge

You made it! It’s been weeks of clean eating, being mindful of your portions, staying hydrated, exercising, mobilizing, sleeping like a baby, working toward your goals and motivating everyone around you! But, now what? What happens after the nutrition challenge?

Preparing for life after a nutrition challenge is not a huge topic many nutrition challenges address (resulting in a lot of those notorious ups and downs). But, since we’re all about making changes for LIFE (not just during the challenge), here are a few things to keep in mind.

Dealing with All the Occasions

Although things look a little different this year, we will inevitably be faced with vacations, holidays, celebrations, unexpected dinners out, soon enough. These are important moments – they’re happening now, they’ll be facing you next month, next holiday…each and every year. And you should be able to enjoy them without stressing out. “How will I deal with those road bumps,” you ask?

By practicing your new set of skills.

Hopefully you feel armed and ready to attack the real world with all the knowledge, new habits and shift in your mindset. As you’ve learned, being mindful with what, when and how you eat is a skill that must be practiced regularly.

Whether it’s a celebratory beer at the beach on the fourth of July, a taste of your nephew’s birthday cake or those famous nachos you’ve been dreaming about, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

“Learning is discovering that something is possible.” ~Fritz Perls

Once you are comfortable with your normal, day-to-day quality and quantity choices, it is okay to enjoy a splurge “treat” once and a while. But remember, this is not an excuse to go off the rails and eat everything in sight. Take this time to practice the skills you have learned throughout our journey – rely on your hand for portion sizes, stay in tune with your body’s fullness signals (think 80%), stay away from those things you know are going to make you feel like crap the next day (refined sugars, etc), plan ahead (be mindful) and hey, don’t stress about it.

Turn your focus more on who you are with, your surroundings and how the food tastes.

But, I get it. It may not only be dinners out or fancy celebrations that pop up. Sometimes, we just feel physically or mentally exhausted… and all we want to do is veg with our meal in front of the TV. And that’s OK. It’s impossible to be perfect 100% of the time…I’m sure as heck am not.

And no one expects us to be.

The biggest challenge we’ll ever face is that of our mind. When we don’t do what we believe or feel deep down in our gut to be “right,” we won’t feel good. And our bodies will show it. But, if we live according to our values (and often, healthy choices), life “flows” much more effortlessly. You must be willing to face your own doubts and fears. You know you’re going to face difficult situations in the future.

You can’t control the future. But you can control the choices you make, your reactions and your mindset.

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

No matter where you are, practice what you learned over the challenge and keep your mindset…and portions, in check.

Identify Your Goals for After the Nutrition Challenge

After the nutrition challenge is over, it’s important to clearly identify your goals going forward.  Figure out your long term and short term goals. This will help you stay motivated and find a clear (and safe) path to take.

If you love how you felt over the past few weeks and have decided this is now how you’d like to continue living life. Keep doing what you’re doing! Find an alternate way to stay on top of clean eating meal prep and check-in with your goals regularly – whether that’s with a buddy, a coach, an app. There’s not necessarily one right answer for that, different things motivate different people.

If you love how you felt over the past few weeks, but you’ve decided to add back in some of the foods you were avoiding (gluten, dairy, soy, processed foods, sugars, etc), it’s important to carefully re-introduce them slowly to avoid feeling ill. If you had an “off-day” any time over the challenge, you know exactly what I mean.

Here’s what you need to know about reintroducing foods back into your life after the nutrition challenge.

Implementing an Elimination Reintroduction Plan After Your Nutrition Challenge

This nutrition and wellness challenge was a bit of a science experiment. You learned a lot about your body and hopefully realized that food isn’t just fuel…it’s information. Every bite we eat sends messages to our body and our body responds. Sometimes louder than others.

Think about this: the GI tract doesn’t just have the job of digesting and absorbing food…. It also has its own working nervous system (the enteric nervous system). That means our gastrointestinal tract is abundant in neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, bacteria, enzymes and hormones. That’s pretty awesome, right?

But now consider this: given the amount of devoted resources our body needs for a properly functioning GI tract, when things go wrong in our gut, all hell breaks loose. From microbial imbalances and detoxification abnormalities to motility issues and inflammation, food intolerances or sensitivities can directly contribute to gut problems like gas pains and bloating, AND it can also harm other body systems at the same time.

GI disturbances have been linked to unwanted symptoms such as arthritis, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, asthma, addiction, migraines, mood disorders, kidney problems and a whole slew of other conditions.

Proceed with Caution

So, all that being said, after you’ve eliminated potential food sensitivities throughout this challenge and you’re ready to reintroduce some of these foods back into your diet, you must proceed with caution.

1. Grab a pen and paper or use a handy app like myfitnesspal where you can record what you eat and jot down notes about how you felt after and monitor yourself for symptoms.
2. Slowly reintroduce only a SINGLE food group that you previously eliminated for one day only. Then monitor yourself for two days. (example: if you decide to reintroduce dairy on Monday, that day you might try milk in the morning, some cheese at lunch and maybe even a little cottage cheese at night). The key word being: slowly.
3. Monitor yourself for any abnormal reactions through Wednesday. Negative reactions to watch out for include: insomnia, fatigue, joint pain, skin breakouts, headaches, bowel changes, brain fog, bloating and even respiratory issues.
4. If you don’t notice any negative symptoms, it’s time to reintroduce a different food (example: sugar) on Thursday. Proceed with the same timeline as above.
5. Continue this process for a few weeks, reintroducing one new food only every few days, no sooner.

Depending on how much you eliminated, this process could take up to 6 weeks, but at the end of the experiment, you’ll know a whole heck of a lot about your body and how it responds to different foods…which as you saw above, can give you more than just gas and bloating.

The bottom line: Don’t waste all your effort over the last few weeks. Take the time to learn even more about your body and how it responds to your every day choices.

Reflections on Your Nutrition & Wellness Challenge

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this nutrition & wellness challenge. As your Nutrition Coach, it is my goal to educate and inspire you to develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. It has been a pleasure guiding you through and I hope I’ve helped you:

  • Have the desire to eat more fresh, minimally-processed foods.
  • Discover how to balance lean protein, veggies, nutrient-dense carbohydrates and healthy fats.
  • Learn to adjust portions that directly meet health, performance and body composition goals.
  • Become aware that many other areas, in addition to nutrition, affect our physical and mental state. Sleep, environment, hydration, exercise…they all play a role, too.

Please Share

I genuinely appreciate any and all feedback on your experience, so please take a moment to drop a review on Google or Facebook.
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Create Healthy Nutrition Habits for Life

And, after the challenge, if you’re interested in learning more about a customized plan that really dials in to your individual health and nutrition needs, or you have any other nutrition-related questions, reach out to info@salusnj.com to set up a free 15-minute consultation.

Check out our most popular posts from the nutrition challenge:

Mindful Eating

When was the last time you truly paid attention to what you were eating — when you truly savored the experience of a meal? Often, we eat on autopilot, inhaling our food while our attention is on the TV, laptop or our phone.

Mindful eating encourages us to remove those distractions and sit uninterrupted for a meal. In doing so, we begin to take our time, eat more slowly, and reconnect with our senses.

Mindful Eating: Slow Down for a Moment

Why do you eat when you eat?
Are you hungry, bored, stressed?

Today, we’re going to review some simple ways to recognize these habits (you may not even realize you’re doing it), and talk about ways to navigate around them for more mindful eating.

Eat With Your Brain

Most of us are guilty of aimlessly walking into the fridge after just eating a meal, opening it up and searching for something else to eat.

Are we really still hungry or maybe it’s just that we’re bored… or simply in the habit of grabbing something sweet after dinner. There are so many different environmental factors that play a role in mindless eating. And many we don’t even recognize.

In order for the body to realize it is becoming full it needs to work with the mind. When you pay attention when eat, you not only allow yourself time to feel full, but studies show that you’ll also enjoy what you’re eating more.

Refresh your perspective.

Diets and challenges are pretty much synonymous with short-term restriction and feelings of deprivation. Because of this most diets fail after the first week. Of course, we’re not going to let that happen.

Prepare healthy, not convenient, food and refresh your perspective on the healthy habit changes you’re starting to implement to embrace them as a lifelong change.

Be present.

Mindful eating simply invites us to be present during the cooking process or while eating. It allows us to truly savor our food without experiencing any judgment, guilt, anxiety, or sabotaging inner self-talk. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Sit down when you eat.
  • Take a breath and appreciate what is in front of you and be present in the moment.
  • Take a look at the ingredients list and read each word. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, put it down (and then don’t buy it again).
  • Giving thanks or saying a mantra to yourself might help you slow down. Try something like: “I eat to nourish and energize my body.”
  • Keep practicing. Just like any habit, mindful eating takes practice.
  • Put down distractions…

Put down distractions.

Distractions take away from our intention to appreciate the food on our plate. Its texture, smell, taste and how it will benefit our bodies, energy, performance, etc. Try to identify when something other than hunger is making you want to eat and then steer your attention to your goal oriented activity instead.

Listen, I’m a mom of twins. I know a distraction when I see one. Use what you’re learning as a teaching tool for your children, but set real expectations. Help them instill mindful eating habits early on to set them up for success later in life. It won’t happen overnight… and they will most likely get distracted by the bunny in your yard time and time again. But, if you can you can make an effort to be present as a family, just a little bit at a time, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

Food for Thought

Where were you at lunchtime or dinner time yesterday?

Who was with you and what did you talk about?

If you were alone, did you do anything else besides eat?

What was your mood like when you were eating?

Some days we won’t be able to remember the answers to these questions. The truth is, some days we’ll be lucky enough to sneak in a meal in between meetings and kids practice.

Make an effort to enjoy a peaceful meal over the next couple days.

Don’t let food become a mindless afterthought.

Take a Deep Breath

Now sit down, take a deep breath and really savor what you’re eating. And then read more on The New York Times, “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought.”

“The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves. That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’

For many people, eating fast means eating more. Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing.”

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

DISCLAIMER: It’s important to note that individuals dealing with an eating disorder should first consult with a  health care professional before incorporating mindful eating as part of a broader strategy.

Hangry? We’ve All Been There

Ever felt hangry?

If this word isn’t familiar to you, the feeling probably is. (I used to experience hanger a fair share when the kids were young, to be honest).

Have you ever snapped at someone right before dinner or when you were grocery shopping on an empty stomach? It’s possible you were having a bad day, but it could have been because you were hangry.

What is Hangry?

“Hangry” has actually been added to the Oxford English dictionary. If you go look it up you may see a picture of me circa 2010 with two infants demanding all of my energy and attention.

/ˈhaNGɡrē/
Adjective informal

Bad-tempered, irritable or angry as a result of feeling hungry.

Hungry + Angry=Hangry.

As in: “I get very hangry if I miss a meal which makes me want to bite someone’s head off.”

Yup, we’ve all been there before. That awful feeling when you are stuck between an early lunch and a late dinner. Hangry is a very real feeling. And it’s actually a signal from your brain.

S.O.S. Hangry is a Signal From Your Brain

When you go too long without food, we can reach the point when a perfectly pleasant person turns into an irritable monster. Oh, and our blood glucose levels start to drop making it harder to control our emotions. This can also trigger the release of stress hormones making it even harder to control anger and other other less than stellar symptoms including:

Mood Swings-

Low blood sugar levels can cause us to feel unusually irritated, anxious and moody.

It’s not just in your head.

A study published in the journal, Physiology and Behavior, found that low blood sugar induced a state of “tense-tiredness” that caused study participants to have more negative outlooks on certain life situations.

Feel like crying when you’re hungry? So do I.

Hulking Out-

Feeling the urge to lash out at your kids or friends when you’re normally calm, cool and collected?

You’re not alone.

Studies have shown that intimate partners are more likely to get angry with each other when their blood sugar levels were lower than normal. When we are hangry, nothing else matters.

Lack of Willpower-

When you’re beyond hungry, you might have a harder time sticking to your goals. Self control is compromised when glucose levels are low which can lead to impulse decisions and overeating.

For example, when you normally pass on the bread basket at dinner, if you’re hangry, you’re pretty much liking the plate clean.

Fatigue-

Being hangry can also result in fatigue, dizziness, headaches, foggy thinking, a decrease in motivation and just not feeling like yourself.

What the Science Says

So, why does this happen again? Why do we get so angry when we’re hungry?

We already know that glucose states get low when people are hungry. The brain requires glucose. If glucose is low, it doesn’t function properly. But, newer research states that ‘hanger’ might be more complicated than just a drop in blood sugar. It appears to be a complicated emotional response between biology, personality and environmental cues.

“Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions and behaviors – whether we are hungry versus full, tired versus rested or sick versus healthy. If you are feeling a little grumpy, take a step back and think about your emotions for a bit – it might help you from turning into a hangry mess.”

Hanger Management

Today’s questions aren’t quite as deep as the others but can have a profound impact on how you handle situations going forward to prevent this rollercoaster of blood sugar and emotions.

Have you ever felt hangry before? When and what symptoms did you experience?

What steps can you take to start listening to your body and give it what it needs to function at its best instead of ignoring important signs and ending up… Hangry?

Listen, I can empathize. Feeling out of control with our emotions is frustrating, especially when food is involved. But, thankfully, in most cases, hangry can be managed by making better food choices, focusing on quality, quantity and timing.

Quality-

Food quality matters. If you usually reach for processed carbohydrates like cereal for breakfast, your blood glucose levels probably tend to rise quickly which may lead to more extreme crashes later in the morning, leaving you hangry.

Want to avoid that rollercoaster?

It’s best to choose whole, nutrient dense foods that help you feel full longer and offer vitamins, minerals. Next time you’re in a mega-rush for breakfast, reach for something like a banana with a thumb portion of unsweetened almond butter and a hard-boiled egg.

Quantity-

Despite your lack of glucose driven hanger, don’t think you should just reach for a giant donut to fight off symptoms.

That will surely backfire.

As a general guideline, mix in a balanced portion of carbohydrates, protein and fat at each meal.

Refer to our recent post about proper portions.

Timing-

Like our bodies, our brain also needs fuel to function properly. Don’t wait until you feel overly hungry to eat.

For many people, this means eating more frequent portions than the typical three meals a day. If you know you’re the type of person who is prone to feeling hangry, plan ahead and meal prep a small snack to have in a pinch.

Fight Off Hanger by Listening to Your Body

Get in tune with your body and the signals it is giving you rather than brushing it off. Body communication and awareness is key:

  • Rest when you are tired.
  • Eat when you are hungry.
  • Move when you are stressed.

So, on a scale from one to #hangry, how ready are you get control and listen to your body and its cues? Once you do that, you’ll better manage your own chemical and hormonal reactions which will do wonders for your mind, body and spirit (and hanger-state).

Stay connected, friends.

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

Strive for Progress Not Perfection

Plan Ahead

Set Real Expectations

Overcoming Procrastination: Just Do the Dishes Already

 

This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice.

Balancing Macronutrients for Energy

Balancing Macronutrients for Energy

Macronutrients, you probably know them as “macros,” include carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each one plays a significant role our health, affecting our energy levels and body composition, our ability to do work and recover from exercise as well as our fight against chronic disease.

Today, we’re going to touch on energy balance and how the kind of macronutrients you choose (for example, minimally processed versus highly processed) and amount of each, can affect our body’s natural ability to control appetite and fullness cues as well as hormones and mood.

Macronutrients and Calories

You’ve heard of a Calorie. Technically speaking, a Calorie is a unit of heat measurement; kcal is used to express food energy, representing a Calorie. Different macronutrients make up different amounts of heat:

  • Fat contains 9 kcal per gram
  • Carbohydrates contain 4 kcal per gram
  • Protein contains 4 kcal per gram
  • Alcohol contains 7 kcal per gram

While we lose some of this potential energy through digestion and excretion, our bodies still do a good job of saving much of this energy for the resynthesis of ATP (using about 90% of the energy in our food, actually). But some factors can affect the nutrient and energy content of the foods we eat: soil and growing conditions such as climate and sunlight as well as ripeness at time of harvest (in season produce vs out of season) can affect the nutrient makeup of our produce.

Additionally, the length of storage and how we prepare and cook our food can also impact the amount of energy and nutrients we get from food (cooking, for example, usually makes more energy available, and can reduce the nutrient availability).

Metabolism

The amount of energy required for our individual physiological actions is referred to as metabolism. This includes:

  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR)– This is the level of energy we need to maintain vital functions of the body and stay alive.
  • Resting metabolic rate (RMR)– Similar to BMR, RMR is measured during rest and takes into account our oxygen consumption which is related to energy production.
  • Thermic effect of feeding (TEF)– The very act of eating and digesting will increase our metabolism. Our metabolic activity changes depending on what macros we eat: the thermic effect, or production of heat (proteins tend to have the highest thermic response, fats tend to have the lowest thermic response).
  • Exercise activity– Exercise activity obviously varies from person to person. The higher intensity exercise activity, the higher demand for energy transfer during and after the activity.
  • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)– This refers to all our daily life movement that isn’t considered deliberate exercise such as cleaning, playing with our kids, etc.

Why am I going into all this detail?

Everybody’s Macronutrient Needs Will Differ

It’s important to understand that every body will differ in their energy needs and without a proper balance our energy systems can get out of whack. For example, restrictive dieting and chronic stress can both lower our RMR by up to 15% which can affect our body weight as well as our physiological function and cells’ function.

If our energy intake is too low, for example carbs or fat stores are in short supply, our body will turn to protein from our muscles and even other structures such as bone which means that our bodies won’t recover properly. Not good for athletes. On the flip side, if we have too much energy coming in and not enough going out, it can affect our body weight, hormone balance, mental health and more.

We definitely don’t want either of those things to happen.

Macronutrient Balance and Planning Are Key

That’s why a proper macronutrient balance, along with exercise is essential. As a general reference, refer to our post on portions, “Do I Need To Count Macros?” for more information on portion guidelines.

Take the time to plan out your meals for the days ahead and remember to pack enough snacks to ensure you have a good balance of macronutrients.

Sharing Best Practices

Tap into your inner chef today and help others get creative with their food choices to stay balanced.

What are some of your favorite recipes or go-to recipe websites to look for challenge-approved meal ideas?
Also, what are some of your favorite local restaurants in Monmouth County that have good alternatives?

Please share your response on our Facebook page.

If you have any questions about your individual macronutrient needs, set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn more about our one-on-one nutrition coaching.

More on our Salus Nutrition Health Coaching blog:

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.