health, Nutrition, wellness

Sodi-yum?

From tortilla chips to popcorn to pretzels, salty snacks are a crowd favorite. And I don’t blame you! Even if you’re a mainly sweets person, a salty snack can just hit the spot. Honestly, If you tell me that you don’t love a salty snack here and there, you’re lying. All that salt that we love so much, it can’t be healthy, right? Well, just like everything else in the health world, there’s good and bad to salt.

The Bad

Excessive sodium in your diet can have numerous health consequences.

• Too much sodium can lead to elevated blood pressure, causing your heart to work harder than it needs to, and putting strain on your arteries as well. This added strain puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

• Too much salt can also help lead to dehydration, as it throws off the balance of water and salt in your body (and your blood.)

The Good

You actually need sodium in your body, and in your diet.

• Sodium is important to your nervous system, helping to conduct impulses.

• Sodium is also one of the elements in your body that is in charge of muscle contraction, so too little sodium can affect how your muscles work (and set you up for cramps!)

• Sodium is an important electrolyte and helps to maintain the fluid balance in your body.

Sodium has its place in your body as an electrolyte, and is important to healthy function. However, as a society, we way, way, way overdo the sodium consumption. The bare minimum sodium we need to function is 500mg, which is actually routinely stored in healthy kidneys so you don’t run low. The upper limit of sodium that is recommended to consume in a day is 2300 mg, which is only about a teaspoon of salt, with people with high blood pressure recommended to consume about 1500mg of sodium per day.

Weirdly enough, salt is not our problem when it comes to sodium. Sodium is just an aspect of salt (chemical name sodium chloride), but sodium is in much more than just salt. According to the FDA, the majority of our sodium overconsumption comes from processed and prepackaged foods. This is because sodium is an excellent preservative, extending the shelf life of common foods, as well as a great flavor enhancer (hello, we all love salt). The biggest sodium offenders include foods such as bread, pizza, processed cheeses, processed meats, and then our beloved snacks.

To ensure you aren’t overdoing the sodium, while still being able to enjoy some salt here and there, there are a few steps we can take.

Eat potassium. Potassium helps to counteract the blood pressure raising effects of sodium, so eating foods such as beans, bananas, and tomatoes can help offset the sodium effect.

Prepare your own foods when you can. That way, you are in charge of the sodium amounts going into your foods, rather than something prepackaged with a long shelf life.

Buy fresh foods when you can. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce your sodium intake, as these foods are no sodium added, unlike canned or sauced fruits and veggies.

Enjoy low sodium foods. There are plenty of snacks that have lower sodium contents, including no salt chips or no salt pretzels. As well, there are lower sodium versions of sodium rich foods, such as low sodium soups and beans.

Drink your water. To help with fluid balance after a salty indulgence, drink extra water. This helps to retain that balance of fluid and salt in your body, helping to counteract the dehydrating effects of sodium.

So no, sodium is not the best thing you can ingest. However, your body does need sodium tor in properly. As long as you do it with caution and moderation, and your doctor doesn’t tell you otherwise, you can still enjoy a salty snack here and there.

fitness, health, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Stress Management

That work deadline on Friday.

Working out four days a week.

Planning out healthy meals for the week.

Personal projects.

Trying to have a social life.

MONEY.

Life is damn stressful these days! Sometimes, the shear amount of shenanigans we have to do, even daily, is enough to make your head spin. As we all know, stress sucks. When stress is prevalent, and for too long, there are plenty of negative health consequences that you will notice. Some of these effects include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, increased muscle tension, lack of sleep, and an increase of bad habits to combat that stress.

Stress releases tons of hormones into your body that help with all of this negativity. The fight or flight hormones come out, causing that increase in muscle tension and blood pressure, and the stress hormones come out, causing that lack of sleep and recovery, as well as increasing your appetite. Ok, So now that you’re terrified of stress, what the hell do we do about it?

Enter: stress management, the main soldier in the war against chronic stress.

Stress management is huuuuuuuuuge. Stress management are techniques that you can employ to help prevent stresses from forming or becoming bigger, and also to help squash that stress once it does show up. Stress management requires some trial and error, as finding the right option is very personal to you and how you work. However, I’m here to give you a whole bunch of ideas to start with.

1.Exercise. Physically exercising and moving your body can be very beneficial in releasing stress. Many people, including myself, find that exercising helps to relieve any anxiety you are feeling, along with giving you a physical outlet to get out that muscle tension. Exercise also releases anti stress hormones. These are called endorphins, and as the famous Elle Woods says, “Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” She’s right. Endorphins are hormones that help to improve your mood, which is the main reason why exercise is such a beneficial stress reliever.

2. Self Discovery. Self discovery, including journaling and meditation, can help you to find the root cause of your stress. Journaling is a great way to release your true thoughts and emotions, without actually needing to talk to anybody. As well, the more you keep writing and releasing, the more likely you are to discover something you wouldn’t have otherwise. Whenever I just start writing, by the time I’m done, I’ve figured out a new piece of the puzzle without even realizing it. Meditation is another great tool for stress management. I’m sure a lot of you reading this has a vision of someone sitting there, cross legged with their hands on their knees saying “ommmmmmm,” but that’s not exclusively what meditation is. Meditation is being aware of your mindset, clearing out negative thoughts and focusing on your body. It takes plenty of practice, but being able to turn off those thoughts is such a helpful tool, especially in an era where we never really turn off.

1.To journal: grab a piece of paper and just start writing. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling and just keep writing. Let the words just flow. (If you’re the type of person who needs a prompt, google “journal prompts”. You’ll find plenty to help you get started!)

2.To meditate: find a quiet and comfortable place. You can be seated or laying down, but turn off all outside noise, shut your eyes, and relax. Focus on your breath, acknowledge any thoughts that pop up, but try to let them go too. Doing this daily can help to increase the time you can meditate.

3. Self Care. This is the most personalized approach that we have to stress management. Self care is so individualized and personal to you. Self care is really anything that makes you happy. My self care involves a face mask, a yummy snack, and a funny movie. I know of a friend’s self care that is being creative and using an outlet to express himself. There is no wrong way to perform self care, it’s really just making time for anything that brings you joy. This is our biggest preventative stress management technique, where the other two are more reactive to stresses already. Be sure to give yourself some time every week just for you, it can make a huge difference in your stress levels.

Just like stress itself, stress management is very personal to you. There can be a period of trial and error when trying to figure out which technique works best for you, but give them a shot. It’s better than staying a huge ball of stress all the time. Let me know which techniques you’ve tried, or have worked for you!

Exercise, fitness, health, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Gym Anxiety

A huge component of getting your health on track is exercising consistently. This usually requires you to get out of the house, and most likely your comfort zone, and head to a gym or health club.

If only exercise was as easy as walking into a gym.

Once you get there, there are so many options.

Do I start with cardio or weights?

If cardio, do I use the elliptical, treadmill, stair stepper, rower, or bike?

How long should I be doing this for?

Should I still lift weights afterwards?

If weights, how do I do this?

Can I just use machines? Are there directions?

Will the machines be enough?

How many of each do I do?

Do I do cardio after this?

Should I have eaten beforehand? How long before? What should I have eaten?

For me, all of these questions are easy. I’ve spent the past nine years of my life studying the science behind these questions and figuring it out myself. I’m guessing you don’t have that same experience, and that’s totally fine. As a fitness professional, even I get gym anxiety. I don’t like being around so many people, and sometimes, it’s just too much for me to handle. I also feel the eyes of everyone in the gym, and I also feel the pressure to look and perform a certain way, especially given my background. Most days, I’m cool as a cucumber, and the gym is my safe zone. Some days, I full on panic walking in there and seeing all of the other bodies getting their workout in.

The gym is a place for everyone to work on their health. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain gym, there’s nothing wrong in switching to one that is more your type of environment. There are gyms that cater to elite athletes, ones that cater to crossfit, ones that cater to bros who like to scream and slam weights, and ones that cater to those who are not so comfortable in all of those previous scenarios. You just have to find the right one for you.

Not only is the right environment step one to feeling comfortable in the gym, but knowledge is too. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you head out and get your personal training certification in order to feel somewhat comfortable in the gym, but a little research goes a long way. Before you head into the gym, reading some articles on the basics of fitness (may I recommend the foundations of fitness posts I wrote HERE and HERE), can make you feel much more comfortable. Having a concrete plan of what exercises you are doing, what machines you are heading for, and how long to do all of them is huge. This gives you a set program for yourself to follow, taking the guesswork out of this crazy place. There are plenty of free, generic programs out there for you to follow until you feel comfortable enough to put your own spin on it.

Use the resources that the gym provides. Many gyms offer complimentary personal training assessments as part of the membership. Yes, this can be scary to sit down with a professional when you feel less than an amateur, but remember: their job, above all else, is to improve your health. Don’t allow them to sell you on random shenanigans you don’t need, but don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Ask them to show you a machine, ask for a quick form check, ask them how many reps they thing you should do, the worst they can do is say no. Many gyms also offer exercise classes. This can be a great way to learn a thing or two, without drawing too much attention to yourself. Just be careful with new movements, and don’t push yourself too hard until you know you’re doing it right (this is actually great advice for any new exerciser. Don’t be afraid to start light until you get the hang of it)

If all else fails, put on your headphones, hop on a treadmill, and observe. Tune out all the craziness and hubbub of the gym by putting on your music that you like, and hop on the treadmill, even at a walk. Once you’re on the treadmill, look around you. Watch people at the gym and watch the exercises they’re doing. Watch how they do them, watch the personal trainers and the exercises they give clients. It’s a great way to get yourself familiar with some things you maybe have only seen online.

One of my favorite quotes is “don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” It’s totally fine to be scared as hell of the gym, but don’t let that stop you from getting healthy. It is a large, confusing place, full of lots of other people who seem like they know what they’re doing, and you just missed the memo. Everyone was once a beginner. I promise you, most of those people don’t know much more than you do, they just hide it better. There was a time when I was just wandering around the gym, lost and confused. Now, I’m more comfortable there than pretty much anywhere else. Just like anything else, it takes time. Everyone is there for the same reason, you got this.