February Is Heart Health Month

img1519497740564_1.jpgFebruary brings to mind: hearts and flowers, and hugs and kisses, and endless mushiness. Cute and necessary I think, but ideally it’s how we should live everyday, receiving and sharing love with those in our lives and those we have the opportunity to meet. Before and beyond that though is the notion of loving ourselves. Just what does that mean anyway. Aside from pampering oneself and giving others the permission to treat us with dignity and respect, how can we engender love for ourselves that has a multiplying effect that extends beyond us to make a lasting impact on our world? I posit that how we treat and care for our bodies, minds, and spirits speaks a helluva lot more to how we care about ourselves and in turn determines whether we can truly care for others.

Every February we celebrate Heart Health Month. During this time we talk about physical matters of the heart (monitoring our cholesterol & sugar levels, diet, exercise, and other risks factors) all super important..but what if we paid equal attention to the emotional and spiritual aspect of our hearts as well. What if we approached the heart as more than just an organ that beats and transfers blood throughout the body, but one that is intrinsically linked to the very nature of our existence. After all, there is no life without it.

So with just a week left, it’s not too late to encourage you to consider:

(1) A healthier lifestyle this year. Give some thought to embracing a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lots of greens and color, whole grains; reduce your intake of unhealthy fats and oils, processed foods, refined sugar, and sugar additives.

(2) Visiting a doctor. Get all your vitals checked including your cholesterol and sugar levels and for heart and breathing irregularities, and blood pressure levels. Use the opportunity to take all the necessary annual blood and other tests that are recommended to make sure you’re healthy and whole physically.

(3) Exercise. Not over rated, exercise has been proven to have positive effects on your heart and reduce your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or to have a stroke if you are physically active. Some experts recommend at least 30 minutes per day of some time of exercise that accelerates your heart rate, while some cardiologists even suggests running ( particularly interval training) as a means of achieving cardiovascular fitness. Most often getting involved in group exercise to motivate and support you can work to get you started and keep you going.

(4) Volunteering, giving back, and embracing our spiritual selves. Engaging in individual or community efforts that relates to reaching out and cultivating and building relationships with the aim of encouraging and uplifting others works to create feel-good endorphins and empathy in us and toward those we engage with. It also opens us up the reality of our place and purpose in life to being a blessing to others. We begin to recognize that there exist a common thread that links all that we do. Our desire to be healthy and whole individuals is tied to our need to live with meaning and purpose, which helps us in our pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, and altogether, it all has an over reaching positive impact on our mental, emotional, and thus, physical health.

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Why Carbs are good for your Running

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

You’ve probably heard it enough – lose the carbs, lose the weight – that you’re thinking carbohydrates is your worst enemy. Most diets and diet-fads alike support the theory that carbs contribute to weight gain when in truth it is calories and consuming more than you burn that does that. On the other hand, carbohydrates are necessary for the proper functioning of your body. In fact, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 60% of your daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 to 1,300 should be from carbohydrates (The Mayo Clinic).

The Power to Choose (Wisely)
The problem is that not all carbs are created equal and so, it comes down to choosing your carbs wisely. Generally, nutritionists agree with choices that include whole grains and fruits and vegetables while watching your intake of naturally occurring sugar, and restricting foods with refined gains and added sugars. Particularly for the runner though, a diet rich in carbohydrates can help maximize training and performance; emphasis should be on the kind of carbs chosen, such as whole grains, beans, fresh fruit, milk and vegetables. The benefits of whole grain to your general health and wellbeing will be the subject of a later post, but suffice to say for now, your quality of life depends on it.

Power for the Run
Carbs are the brain’s main source of energy and the body’s preferred fuel source says dietician and strength coach Marie Spano R.D., C.S.C.S. It is the primary source for producing energy for all exercise including both long distance and resistance training. It follows that if you cut carbs, your energy will drop. Spano advises that decreasing the levels of your body’s stored carbohydrates will decrease your ability to produce force and power; we know the result of that.

A Running Times article on Runners World titled “Fueling the Runner: Carbohydrates –Battling a Bad Rep” by Jackie Dikos, R.D. and 2:45 marathoner, highlight a key issue that unsuspecting runners fall prey to – fatigue. She stipulates that further investigation of such a complaint may reflect a diet lacking in carbohydrates the cause of fatigue either purposely done, as part of low carb diet, or with the runner totally in the dark as to the amount of carbs needed to perform efficiently. As already stated, our bodies prefer carbohydrates as the main fuel source when we run. But did you know that if it is not present, the body will convert fat and protein into carbs for energy. According to Dikos, this is a very inefficient form of energy for an endurance athlete. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates and continue training, your body snowballs into a state of mental and physical fatigue.

We Determine Carbs
We see then that carbohydrates are thus fuel for runners. For running efficiently and effectively we therefore need to throw away all our misgivings, all the misinformation and misrepresentation about carbs that we’ve sucked up for so long. No low-carb or no-carb diet can do the trick of making us the runners we wish to be, our responsibility is to make healthy food choices. Balance, variety and moderation should be our watchwords.

A Peek at my Running Diet

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It’s been said, you are what you eat; there maybe some truth to that.  Nine out of ten runners will tell you that food is a very important part of their lifestyle, it dictates how they are able to perform and even if they run at all in some cases.  Starting off the year on the right foot demands that we not only address the issue of exercise, but also that of our diet, as both are equally important in helping us achieve our health goals.  Rather than go the way of a long list of suggestions of do’s’ and dont’s, I’ve decided to give you a peek into what foods work for this runner girl.

healthy-breakfast-120516Breakfast: my best and most important meal of the day.  I get an early start at 5am but don’t get to have breakfast until about nine by which time I’m so hungry, I could eat the proverbial horse.  I tend to go a little cereal crazy here and generally have a bowl of some type of whole grain and granola mixed with oats and banana. A slice of toast with either peanut butter, cheese or margarine often follows with a glass of orange juice.

Snack: generally consists of yogurt with granola and nuts and fruit. Because I’m not a big snack person, I often miss this part to my detriment as I don’t have lunch until around 1pm. Of course by then I’m entering starving mode and a build up of gas threatens. This is a recent and very uncomfortable occurrence, which my doctor explains can be remedied by eating throughout the day. According to him, my high metabolism burns calories at a faster rate than most, therefore I need to eat at least six times a day – obviously not huge amounts – to make sure that I have the proper amount of calories my body needs.

l956566279Lunch: I love food. By which I mean home-cooked meals. A Caribbean girl at heart, I’ve inherited the practice of having full-blown meals for lunch and I generally walk with my lunch which would often include vegetables ( my favorite), chicken breast of some kind, or ground beef or turkey, some type of grain such as cous cous or brown rice, or whole grain pasta or soup ( a Caribbean soup consisting of a multitude of roots, vegetables, seasonings, meats and dumplings) now that it’s winter, peas or beans or a combination of any of the above and salad.

9-10_9999_54hummus-sandwich-appleAfternoon Snack: Most times this includes a fruit such as banana and part-skimmed mozzarella cheese or apple and humus or, sometimes and, an organic peanut butter and jelly whole wheat sandwich.

fotolia_1607767_XSDinner: may include whole grain spaghetti and meatballs with veggies or some variation of a pasta dish with either a seafood or type of meat or even salami and a fresh salad.

images (2)Quick Snack: I usually have an apple or trek mix on my way home from the gym or from running.

 

Supper: consists of cereal and milk or hot chocolate, now that it’s cold, with crackers and margarine or cheese.

Of course I’m not perfect and so this is a typical day. There are those crazy days, which happen far too often for my liking, when I fall off the wagon and have to make do with some version of the above; but for the most part I stay on course during the weekdays. On weekends, I allow myself to go off schedule somewhat to satisfy the party animal in me but never to the extent that I’m left with consequences to deal with. As a runner and health enthusiast, I try to always make healthy choices, fully aware that those choices are the reasons why I look and feel great, and perform so well.

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