For runners, food does more than just squelch hunger. It also fuels your muscles and keeps you healthy. “Runners need quality foods that provide a ‘spark plug’ for their energy,” says Nancy Clark, RD, MS, and author of the Food Guide for Marathoners. These seven “elite” foods for runners will help you feel your best—and keep you up and running.
Small Bagel with Peanut Butter
If you’re a morning runner, you know it can be tough to hit the road on an empty stomach. It’s been several hours since your last meal the night before, and your energy stores are low. Eating a 100- to 300-calorie snack before your morning run can give you energy and staying power, says Clark. This quick-and-easy snack has carbs and protein, plus it’s easy to digest.
If you need a carb-packed energy-booster before an afternoon run, it’s hard to go wrong with a banana. A bonus: Bananas contain loads of potassium, which regulates blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke.
Your legs can take a pounding from high-impact activities like running; soreness you feel after a hard run may be caused by micro-tears in the exercised muscles. That’s why, in addition to their high fiber content, berries are a good option for runners: the vitamin C and potassium they contain help the body repair itself.
This nutritional powerhouse has vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and phytochemicals, all key for peak performance and health, says Clark.
Running and other weight-bearing exercise can help you improve your bone density. But calcium is an essential part of the equation, and many runners don’t get enough. One cup of yogurt contains a third of your recommended daily intake of calcium. Plus, yogurt has protein — important for building muscle and recovering from tough workouts.
In addition to being a quality protein source, beef is high in iron, an especially important element for runners. (Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue.) For vegetarians, beans, peas, green leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals are good sources of iron.
In addition to being a good protein source, salmon contains loads of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, which can counteract inflammation and fend off disease.
In: Fitness, Health, Nutrition
1. Prone Core Bridge
Lay on the floor on your stomach. Lift your body off the ground, supporting your upper body with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your forearms flat on the ground. Keep your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels and hold for 30 seconds. Work up to holding for 60 seconds or longer.
2. Side Plank
Lie on your left side with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up on your left forearm so your elbow is directly under your shoulder. Lift your hips off the floor to create a straight line running from your right shoulder down to your right ankle. Place your top arm along your side. Hold the position for 30 seconds, then lower your hip to the ground. Switch sides and repeat. Work up to holding for 60 seconds or longer.
3. Elbow-to-Knee Twisting Crunch (or Bicycle Crunch)
Start out on the floor, on your back, with your knees raised and your hands interlaced behind your head/neck. Curl your left elbow toward your right knee, bringing them together over the center of your body. Return to the starting position and repeat with your right elbow toward your left knee. Continue alternating nonstop for one minute.
4. Reverse Crunch
Start out on the floor, lying on your back with your arms by your sides. In one smooth motion, bring your feet up off the floor and crunch your knees toward your chest while pressing your hands into the floor. Crunch far enough to raise your hips off the floor. Lower your hips back to the floor and uncurl your legs until they are straight, with your feet one or two inches above the floor. Repeat nonstop for one minute.
Stock up on these healthy foods to make countless healthy, portable snacks that are delicious and good for you. Plus, these foods are proven disease fighters, energy boosters, and heart helpers so you can snack your way to better health.
Disease Fighters: Fruits and Veggies
Munch on blueberries, apples, peppers, and spinach, which are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Plus, the potassium, magnesium, and calcium in most fresh produce may help lower blood pressure.
Quick Tip: Buy extra cartons of your favorite seasonal berries, gently wash, and pat dry. Freeze in a zip-top plastic bag. Let the fruit defrost on your counter overnight, and mangia!
Heart Helpers: Dark Chocolate
Both regular and sugar-free dark chocolate decrease blood pressure in overweight adults, according to new research.
Consuming just a small amount of flavanol-rich cocoa powder daily can increase blood flow to your skin, making it softer, smoother, and more resistant to sun damage. (This is not your excuse to skip the sunscreen!)
Quick Tip: Add cacao beans, the source of all chocolate, to your diet for an extra flavanol boost. Try Sweetriot Flavor 65 (pieces of the bean covered in dark chocolate) or Hershey’s 65% Cacao Premium Dark Chocolate with Nibs (the center of the cacao bean).
Energy Boosters: Whole Grains
Good news for carb lovers: You need at least 130 grams a day to keep your memory and concentration sharp. Opt for the whole-grain kind — it’s higher in fiber, giving you energy with staying power.
Bonus: Including five servings of whole grains daily in your low-calorie diet can help you lose belly flab and lower your levels of C-reactive protein, a predictor of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Add two more servings and you could lower your risk of diabetes by more than 20 percent.
Quick Tip: Tired of your usual whole wheat? Mix things up with Holly’s Cranberry Almond Oatmeal (38 grams of whole grains per half cup) for breakfast, Arnold Grains & More Double Protein Hearty Multi-Grain Bread (19 grams per slice) for lunch, and World of Grains Cookies (15 grams and only 130 calories per pack) for dessert.
Bone Builders: Low-Fat Dairy
Just 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day can help you maintain bone mass when trying to lose weight. Including dairy, such as skim milk, in a low-calorie diet can help you shed belly fat.
Quick Tip: Instead of sour cream, use low-fat cottage cheese in dips. It has less fat and more protein. Put it in the blender for a thick and creamy texture.
Belly Shrinkers: Nuts
Snacking on nuts may help you shed pounds. Researchers found that people who ate almonds as part of a low-calorie diet for six months lost 18 percent of their body weight — slimming their waistlines and reducing body fat to boot. (Scientists suspect that the fiber-plus-protein combo keeps hunger in check.)
Extra credit: Monounsaturated fats found in some nuts have been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol levels while preserving the good kind that your body needs.
Quick Tip: Toast raw nuts for extra crunch. Put a handful of your favorites on a baking sheet and roast in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Race season has started! After a long-distance run you need to take the necessary steps to recover and take care of that body. Read on for a few tips:
•Give your bod a break. After being pushed to its limits, your body is in need of some serious rest and relaxation. As soon as you can handle it after your run, try to take an ice bath to help all your sore aches and pains. Getting a massage is a great way to treat your body right too. If you can’t give up running for a few days, when you head out, be sure keep things really easy and light (if you’ve just completed a marathon, you should take a break from running for at least three days to help prevent injury).
•Eat and drink the right things. After a big run or race, it’s crucial to continue with a healthy diet. You need to build your muscles back up with foods that are packed with protein and good, healthy carbs. In addition, as soon as you finish your race — and for a few days after — drink lots of fluids to replenish what you lost during your big race.
•Stretch it out. Having a flexibility routine will aid the recovery of your sore joints and muscles. If you love yoga, no need to run out for a strenuous vinyasa class, but maybe check out some yin or restorative yoga sessions that you normally don’t make it to.
•Sleep it off. If you rest now, you’ll feel better later. Remember: you just ran a huge race! You’re going to experience some serious fatigue after pushing your body’s boundaries. Be sure to take it easy and get lots of rest.
In: Exercise, Fitness, Health
A new paper by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that positive psychological well-being may reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other adverse cardiovascular events.
Many previous studies have shown that negative mental states, like depression, anger and hostility, can be harmful to heart health. But the new report — an analysis of studies from the last 15 years — is the first large, systematic review of data on positive mood and cardiovascular outcomes.
Not suffering from depression is not the same as having a high level of optimism, note the authors of the study, published Tuesday in the journal Psychological Bulletin. “Even if a person doesn’t have depression or anxiety, that only puts them at a neutral point,” says study author Julia Boehm, a research fellow in the department of society, human development and health at HSPH. “That doesn’t mean they have happiness and optimism.”
After reviewing more than 200 studies published in two scientific databases, PubMed and PsycINFO, the authors found that optimism, life satisfaction and happiness were associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and its progression. “For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50% reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers,” Boehm said in a statement.
The association remained true regardless of factors like age, socioeconomic status, smoking and body weight. “Even if a person is overweight, smokes a lot and has high cholesterol, they can still benefit from positive emotions. It is something unique about well-being itself,” says Boehm.
Why exactly positivity may benefit the heart isn’t clear, but the researchers suggest that optimistic people may be more motivated to treat their bodies well. “Having a purpose in life motivates people and gets them thinking about the future and how they can structure their lives. They want to get out and do things. They are not sitting at home watching TV,” says Boehm.
“We found that if you have a positive disposition you’re more likely to exercise, eat well and get enough sleep at night. This can have positive biological effects in terms of inflammation, cholesterol, blood pressure and lipids,” says Boehm. “Engaging in healthier behaviors can lead to healthier bodily functions.”
If further research supports the current findings, the authors hope it will allow for improved heart-disease prevention and treatment methods. “We are finding that bolstering psychological strength might be a useful target for future intervention. We don’t just want to fix what is wrong with someone, but we want to improve their overall well-being.”
“I think we can identify people who are socially isolated and pessimistic and find a role for cognitive therapy,” says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, an American Heart Association spokesperson and director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at New York University Medical Center. “When dealing with cardiovascular patients, we often see these negative emotions. Stress management and physical activity can help boost moods.”
For now, the authors recommend people “treat” themselves by focusing on the little things in life that are meaningful to them and make them happy.
In: Exercise, Fitness, Health
There are many factors that can make life stressful and overwhelming. Whatever it is that is stressing you out, we have a few tips to calm your nerves and relieve some of the tension in your life.
1-Listen to Music: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try taking a break and listening to relaxing classical music. Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
2-Call a Friend: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break to call a friend and talk about your problems. Good relationships with friends and loved-ones are important to any healthy lifestyle, and there’s no time that this is more evident than when you’re under a lot of stress. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.
3-Eat Right: Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. Unfortunately, it’s when we have the most work that we forget to eat well and, instead, resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up. Try to avoid the vending machine and plan ahead. Fruits and vegetables are always good, as is fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. A tuna sandwich really is brain food.
4- Breathe Easy: The advice “take a deep breath” may seem like a cliché, but it holds real truth when it comes to stress. For centuries, Buddhist monks have been conscious of deliberate breathing during meditation. For an easy three- to five-minute exercise, sit up in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and hands on top of your knees. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest. While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.
5- Laugh it Off: Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks our nervous system into making us happy. [Give YouTube a whirl to find a short, funny clip that will bring a smile to your face and hopefully cause a little laughter to ring through your office.]
6- Exercise: Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean power lifting at the gym or training for a marathon. A short walk around the office or simply standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.
7- Sleep Better: Everyone knows stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only gets worse and worse with time. Make it a point to get the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. Turn the TV off earlier, manage your time, and do your best to get into bed. It may be the most effective stress buster on this list.
8- Be Mindful: While most of the tips we’ve suggested provide immediate relief, there are also many lifestyle changes that can be more effective in the long run. The concept of “mindfulness” is a large part of meditative and somatic approaches to mental health and has become en vogue in psychotherapy. From yoga and tai chi to meditation and Pilates, these systems of mindfulness incorporate physical and mental exercises that prevent stress from becoming a problem in the first place. Try joining a class—many are free to try on the first day.
What helps you to relieve stress and unwind?
In: Exercise, Fitness, Health
Looking for a few songs to spice up your spring playlist? We’ve got a killer list that will keep you moving, even when you don’t think you can push through those last few miles. Music can have a strong influence on your energy level and intensity while working out. The tempo of each song is also an influential factor you must consider when creating your next playlist. Next to each song is the beats-per-minute (BPM), this indicates the tempo of the song and will help you match the BPM to the intensity of your workout. You can find more songs and their BPM here. We hope you find a few songs that will keep you moving!
Goyte—Somebody That I Used To Know—129 BPM
Ellie Goulding—Lights—121 BPM
Fun. & Janelle Monae—We Are Young—92 BPM
Snow Patrol—Called Out In The Dark—121 BPM
Steve Aoki & Rivers Cuomo—Earthquakey People—128 BPM
Madonna, Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.—Give Me All Your Lovin’—147 BPM
Rihanna—You Da One (Almighty Radio Remix)—129 BPM
Flo Rida & Sia—Wild Ones—129 BPM
Carly Rae Jepsen—Call Me Maybe—120 BPM
Far East Movement & Justin Bieber—Live My Life—129 BPM
Chris Brown—Turn Up The Music—131 BPM
Madonna—Girl Gone Wild—133 BPM
Katy Perry—Part Of Me—128 BPM
The Black Keys—Lonely Boy—165 BPM
Neon Trees—Everybody Talks—155 BPM
Mike Snow—The Wave—122 BPM
Jump on a ProForm treadmill or elliptical and you can rock out to your favorite songs while getting a great workout. Do you have any favorites that are on your playlist right now?