Fitness & Wellness

Foods For A Healthy Immune System

If you’re working out at The Worx in Alexandria, VA, hoping to improve your health, remember, what you eat also plays a role in your resistance to disease. There are foods for a healthy immune system that also act as building blocks for cells and maintain hormones and other functions throughout the body. The right food in your diet won’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it will help reduce the potential of it happening. Some foods help fight off colds, others beat bacterial infections and some can help prevent cancer.

Eat foods high in vitamin C.

Vitamin C has long been known to be beneficial for fighting colds. Most people realize citrus fruits, like grapefruit, oranges and lemons are high in vitamin C, but they may not realize sweet red peppers, cantaloupe and broccoli. Consider adding mini sweet peppers and broccoli to your veggie tray to boost your immune system.

Don’t forget the zinc and vitamin D.

Zinc and vitamin D became very popular supplements during Covid-19. Everyone was taking them to boost their immune system. You can get zinc by eating crab, lobster, red meat, pork, oysters, dairy, nuts, beans and whole grains. Vitamin D is a little harder to get from food, but easy to get by safe sunning and sunning a little each day without sun block. Salmon, herring and sardines contain it, so do fortified products. Studies showed that 80% of covid patients were vitamin D deficient.

Herbs and spices can add nutrients to boost your immune system without adding calories.

A bit of garlic in your food or a dash of sage or oregano may improve your health. All three are known antibacterial herbs. Others that are also immune boosters include ginger, peppermint rosemary and thyme. Not only does garlic help boost your immune system, it helps lower blood pressure. Rosemary helps fight infections with its anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Add more spices to every dish and you could be improving your health at the same time.

  • Get your greens for a healthy boost. Green leafy veggies like kale and spinach have many different nutrients that boost the immune system. Both are high in antioxidants, which includes vitamin C, beta carotene and flavonoids.
  • Berries are delicious, plus they boost your immune system. Elderberries, one of the less known berries, have antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. Researchers note they actually help fight off the flu.
  • Get healthy fat, fiber and vitamin E when you grab a handful of nuts, such as walnuts or almonds. Fiber has a beneficial effect on your immune system, since it feeds beneficial bacteria.
  • Foods that are fermented are considered probiotics, because they contain beneficial bacteria. Foods that contain soluble fiber are prebiotics, because it feeds the body’s microbes. Beneficial bacteria boosts your immune system, so consume probiotic foods, then follow up with foods that have soluble fiber.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

Strength Training After Having A Baby

Times change and so does medical advice. At one time women were relegated to bed rest for days after having a baby, then it changed, and they could get up, just not exercise for about six weeks. Now the philosophy has changed, particularly about strength training after having a baby. It doesn’t mean you can go to the gym and try to press the heaviest weights, but if you feel good enough, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, resuming physical activities within days may be alright.

Using your own judgement, but with moderation.

You know when you’re ready to get back to the gym or on your exercise mat. Do you know how hard you should workout? Right after pregnancy is not a good time to push yourself as hard as you can. Start slowly. Your muscles have all been stretched and aren’t strong enough to support much effort. They leave you vulnerable to injury, so go slow. Even if you worked out regularly, for a few weeks, do a beginner routine.

Building core strength is important and this workout can do it.

You’ll need three to five pound dumbbells to do this exercise. Get on all fours, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your wrists right beneath your shoulders. Raise one leg and extend it behind you. Bend the opposite elbow, bringing the weight toward your ribs. Lower it and repeat that twelve times, then do it using the opposite leg and arm. Do as many as you can at first and as you get stronger, increase weights and reps.

Build strong abs.

Lay on your back with your legs up, bent at a 90 degree angle, directly over hips. Extend your arms at your sides with your palms up. Tighten your abs, pulling them in and lower one foot, pausing before it touches the floor. Raise it back to starting position then lower the other foot slowly and bring it back up to starting position. Stick with ten or 15 reps and build.

  • Carrying your baby will build your strength, especially if you hold baby while climbing stairs. As baby grows, you’ll be lifting more weight. Build your leg strength by taking baby for a walk. The faster you walk and further you walk, the more stamina you’ll build.
  • Be careful not to use weights that are too heavy, initially. If you don’t have barbells or free weights, consider buying resistance bands to start. They’re inexpensive and are great for building muscle strength.
  • Avoid cross=training, circuit training or any exercises that includes heavy barbells behind the head. Even weighted sit-up style exercises should be avoided for several weeks.
  • If you have a stability ball and dumbbells, your ready to go for this exercise. Lay on your back, knees bent and heels on a balance ball or the wall. Raise arms, bent at the elbow with a barbell in each hand.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

Are There Health Benefits To A Vegan Diet?

If you come to The Worx in Alexandria, VA, you find a friendly environment where people put their all into their exercise routine and achieving their goals. However, losing weight and getting healthy requires more than just exercise. It involves healthy eating, too. It can mean cutting down on carbs, cutting out sugar and for some, eating a vegan diet. Are there health benefits for this type of diet? The answer is yes, if you do it properly.

Weight loss is one of the benefits of a vegan diet.

It only makes sense that if you cut out sugary foods and opt for a plant based diet, you’ll probably lose weight. That’s because most vegetables are lower in calories, particularly low glycemic index ones. Studies indicate that a vegan diet can increase weight loss. One study that lasted 18 weeks showed that the vegan diet produced a ten pound higher weight loss than the control diet. Even an eat-until-you’re-full diet that was vegan outperformed a restrictive low calorie diet. It worked for all those that ate vegan, even for people that didn’t strictly stick to protocol, but cheated a bit in what they ate.

Vegan diets provide high amounts of nutrients.

Fiber is one of the reasons this diet can benefit you. Fiber helps feed beneficial bacteria, slows sugar absorption and helps you go. Plant-based diets contain more fiber, but also contain more nutrients than other types of diets. It contains nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables, whole grain and fruit. The nuts, legumes and seeds are a source of protein that contain other nutrients you don’t find in meat. Vegan diets are high in antioxidants, magnesium, folate, potassium and vitamins A, E and C.

If you have insulin resistance, kidney functioning problems or type 2 diabetes, a vegan diet can help.

You can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels when you consume a vegan diet. That improved insulin sensitivity helps lower blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. A vegan diet has been shown superior to the American Diabetes Association—ADA diet, the National Cholesterol Education Program—NCEP diet and the American Heart Association—AHA diet for blood sugar control. In fact, one study showed diabetics using the vegan diet could lower their medication levels more than those on an ADA diet.

  • Not only is a vegan diet good for diabetics, it’s heart healthy, too. The fiber helps lower cholesterol levels and the nutrients in the diet help lower blood pressure. Both affect heart health.
  • You’ll get phytonutrients in a vegan diet that provide benefits beyond the traditional vitamins and minerals Many can help lower the risk of cancer, benefit eye health, reduce inflammation and are anti-oxidants that protect cells.
  • Planning is important when you opt for a vegan diet. It’s harder to get adequate B12, zinc, iodine and calcium on a strict vegan diet. Don’t choose fast food vegan options, but go for whole foods.
  • Besides being heart healthy and good for diabetes, many studies show a plant based diet of raw foods provided prebiotic and probiotic foods that helped relieve the pain, swelling and stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

Sleeping More Can Be Good For Your Heart

Sleeping is important. Not only is it necessary to function your best, it’s helps you lose weight more successfully, is good for your heart and can improve your cognitive functioning. Sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea and insomnia can shorten your life expectancy. In fact, getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is one of the indicators of good heart health. While there are studies identifying how sleep helps, previous studies all show that lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease.

Obesity is a leading cause of heart disease and sleeping can help prevent that.

If you lack sleep, it can make losing weight harder. That’s because it interrupts the balance of the leptin and ghrelin hormones. Leptin makes you feel full, while ghrelin makes you hungry, no matter how much you eat. If you struggle with weight loss and find you’re always hungry, maybe it’s your sleep patterns that is affecting you. Obesity can also cause blood pressure to be higher. The excess weight makes it more difficult to pump the blood. High blood pressure adds to heart disease.

Consensus among scientists is that people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

What is lack of sleep? It’s not the occasional missing hour or two, but a chronic schedule that leaves you sleep deprived. The National Sleep Foundation noted that many Americans not only fail to get adequate sleep, they also get poor quality sleep, as well. That same study showed that a whopping 63% of Americans lacked adequate sleep during the week on a regular basis. They reported getting less than seven hours on a regular basis. Getting less than six hours every night increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by causing higher blood sugar levels, more inflammation, obesity and higher blood pressure.

Calcium can build in your arteries if you lack sleep.

The build up of calcium causes plague and plaque increases the risk of a heart attack. Just getting one hour less sleep every night than you need increases the risk by 33% of calcium building in your arteries to the heart. Sleeping too long, nine hours or more, can be just as bad as sleeping too little. It also increases the potential for heart disease.

  • If you want to improve your sleep, exercise more. Exercise burns off stress hormones and helps you achieve a deeper sleep. A program of regular exercise can help improve your sleep quality of sleep, too.
  • Improve your sleep by sticking with a schedule, even on weekends. If you break that schedule and have to take a nap, keep the nap under 20 minutes.
  • When you wake up from sleep, your morning habits play an important role, too. Open the drapes and get as much sunlight as possible. The light each morning, signals your body it’s time to rise and starts biological processes.
  • You can get better sleep by avoiding artificial light a few hours before bedtime, limiting alcoholic drinks, foods high in fat or sugar and keeping your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

How Many Eggs Can I Safely Eat?

If you’re trying to find a great source of protein that has many other nutrients, but doesn’t cost a fortune, you might turn to eggs. Some people worry about eating too many eggs, because they’ve gotten a lot of bad publicity due to their high cholesterol levels. That comes from the fact the yolk is high in cholesterol, which led many people to stick with just eating egg whites. That’s a misconception. When you eat foods with cholesterol, your body doesn’t have to produce as much, so you can safely eat more. Eating a few eggs every day isn’t the problem and won’t cause cholesterol levels to rise.

Your liver regulates the amount of cholesterol your body makes.

There are mixed reviews when it comes to the role that cholesterol plays with heart disease. Your body needs cholesterol and it’s an essential element for all cell membranes. Without cholesterol, it can’t make estrogen, cortisol or testosterone. If it’s not in your diet, your liver produces it. When you eat foods containing cholesterol, your liver produces less. Cutting it out of your diet simply means your liver will make more. If you have high blood cholesterol levels, however, it could cause a modest increase, so follow your doctor’s advice.

Do you need to limit your consumption?

The only thing that’s consistent in science is that it’s constantly changing as we learn more. At one time, people were told to limit their consumption of the yolk of an egg. That’s because it contains approximately 62% of the recommended daily amount of cholesterol. While most recommendations suggest limiting the intake of egg yolks to two to six a week, there’s little scientific backing for that recommendation.

Studies show that while eating eggs may increase cholesterol, it’s the good cholesterol.

One study compared two groups. One ate between one and three whole eggs every day and the other ate egg substitutes or something else. While overall cholesterol levels raised, it was because the HDL or good cholesterol went up, while the LDL or bad cholesterol remained unchanged. Eggs also improved blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant carotenoids. The omega-3 in eggs helped lower triglyceride levels, too. Triglycerides may increase heart disease.

  • You’ll get the protein you need and at a discount when you include eggs in your diet. They’re far healthier for you than a pancake or waffle that’s doused with syrup.
  • Observational studies showed that people who ate eggs were no more likely to have a heart attack than those who didn’t. However, in some studies, it showed that eating eggs actually reduced the risk of stroke.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes, there is some research that shows you might increase your risk of heart disease if you eat too many eggs, which is why you always should listen to the recommendations of your health care professional.
  • It’s more important to give up unhealthy high sugar food in your diet and highly processed food than giving up eggs, especially for diabetics. One study showed that when diabetics ate a low-carb diet, eggs actually reduced the risk of heart disease.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

Are There Any Foods That Help Relieve Allergies?

I started The Worx in Alexandria, VA, to help people get fit and feel better. Believe me, I know how bad it can feel when you’re overweight and not working out. Sometimes, things can prevent you from your normal workout schedule. Seasonal allergies, for instance, can make you feel miserable and look just as bad. That runny nose that requires constant wiping, the sneezing and coughing not only makes you miserable, it can scare others around you, who may think you’re contagious. That’s one reason I want to share information on foods that help relieve allergies.

Bee pollen may be a big help.

Bee pollen is what bees eat, but it also can be good for humans. It’s a mixture of nectar, honey, enzymes, flower pollen and bees wax. You may even find it at health food stores and farmer’s markets sold as an aid for hay fever. Bee pollen is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal. One study found the pollen prevents a critical step in allergic reactions. It’s best to use local bee honey, since there are studies that show it can build your resistance to local pollen that’s giving you the problem in the first place.

Grab an orange, lemon or red pepper.

Foods high in vitamin C may help allergies by protecting the upper respiratory area. It may shorten the length of time you have a cold as well, even though vitamin C won’t prevent a cold. Studies show that vitamin C intake has an effect on hay fever and that runny nose that comes with it. It decreases the symptoms, like a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and watery eyes. Eat a grapefruit in the morning, add some red sweet pepper to your salad and snack on berries.

Add some spice to your life and get rid of those seasonal blues.

When you have seasonal allergies, you often look like you’ve been crying, with your eyes swollen, face puffy and nose bright red. It’s the swelling and irritation of your nasal lining and the tissues of the throat and eyes. Ginger has been a trusted aid for stomach upsets, joint pain and even respiratory issues. In one animal study, ginger showed it suppressed the proteins that caused inflammation, which gives you those allergic reactions. Drinking some ginger tea may help.

  • Slice some extra tomato on your salad or eat food with cooked tomatoes. Tomatoes not only contain vitamin C, they contain lycopene. It’s an antioxidant that stops allergic inflammation. Cooked tomatoes are even better than raw ones. Quercetin acts as a natural antihistamine and is often at health food stores, but you can get it by eating onions, too. Onions also contain other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytochemicals that help quell allergic reactions. Raw onion is best.
  • Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent allergies and even aid asthma. Several studies show it helps decrease the narrowing of airways, decrease allergic sensitivity and provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Another healthy spice you can sprinkle on your food is turmeric. It’s anti-inflammatory, due to the curcumin it contains. It can reduce the irritation and swelling caused by allergies. Combine it with black pepper for the best results.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

Great Pregnancy Workouts

If you’ve wondered whether pregnancy workouts are safe, the answer is yes, as long as you follow certain guidelines. When you exercise during pregnancy the potential for preterm birth, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, cesarean birth and low birth weigh of the baby decrease. Exercising during pregnancy can help prevent and relieve back aches that occur as your belly grows and posture changes. It can make delivery easier, lower the potential for postpartum depression and improve physical recovery. It also can help you get back to normal after the baby is born.

If you exercised before you were pregnant, you can continue with most activities.

You noticed the term most was included, that’s because contact sports and ones that potentially could lead to falls, like competitive skiing, exercises that have you laying on your back too long or extremely rigorous exercise should be avoided. Your doctor is the best consultant on what you should and should not do, based on your body and pregnancy. There are generalizations for most people, however.

No matter what the trimester, moderate cardio is safe.

If you’re out of shape and decided to start exercising after you found you were pregnant, stick with less rigorous workouts, like walking, swimming or riding a stationary bike. Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. During your first trimester, doing exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles that support your abdomen are important, so is strengthening the pelvic floor. Pelvic curls, kneeling push-ups, squats and the pelvic brace can be done during that time.

During the second trimester, avoid high impact exercises.

Exercises that involve jumping, running, pushing yourself to exhaustion and trying to balance should be avoided in the second trimester. You can continue squats, push-ups and other exercises done during the first trimester that don’t involve those things. Add stretches to your repertoire to ease your muscles due to a change in gravity.

  • Switch more to cardio and developing strength in your abdomen during the final trimester. That can mean maintaining a walking or swimming schedule, doing exercises for the pelvic floor and some bodyweight workouts.
  • Avoid any type of exercise that could cause you to fall. That could be quite a few, since your center of gravity has changed. Avoid exercises that cause your legs to be too far apart, which can cause pain in the pubic area.
  • A few third trimester exercises can be bodyweight squats, bicep curls and standing shoulder press with light weights, wall push-ups and modified planks. Keep moving, but don’t push too hard. Make sure you warm-up and cool down.
  • If you’ve exercised regularly before you became pregnant, in most cases, you can continue with the same type of exercise. If you hiked or ran, switch to more even, level terrain to avoid falls. Always listen to both your doctor and your body and your doctor.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

Exercising On Your Cycle

Clients often take me aside at The Worx in Alexandria, VA, and ask if it’s safe exercising on your cycle. The answer is not only yes, but a resounding yes. Not only is it safe, there are several benefits of doing it. There are some things you need to ensure before you start, such as the type of exercise you’re doing. Sticking with light exercise when you’re suffering pain, cramps and bloating can help relieve those symptoms.

You’ll lift your mood when you workout.

When you’re menstruating, you can experience everything from irritability and mood swings to fatigue and depression. Exercise helps stabilize those moods changes and lifts your spirits. Think about early woman. During her cycle, she couldn’t take to bed or lay in a cave. She had to keep moving if her group was migratory and help bring food for herself and family. Women wouldn’t have survived if exercise shouldn’t be part of life at that time.

When it’s your period, there are some exercises you shouldn’t do.

While exercising is okay, don’t push yourself beyond normal. Exercising beyond your normal length of time and doing a workout more intense should be avoided. Keep your exercise regimen at that time to 45 minutes or less to avoid inflammation. Avoid exercises that cause your body to be inverted and if you feel tired, nauseous or have an increasing amount of discomfort, take a break and rest. Listen to your body.

Listen to your body and stick with exercises that feel good and help.

If working out at the gym and doing your regular workout is painful, switch your training. Go for a walk or do light aerobic exercise. Use lighter weights and do strength training, but don’t try power lifting if you’re dealing with issues from your cycle. Exercises that promote stretching to help muscles relax can also be beneficial.

  • If you have a regular cycle, work your exercise schedule so your toughest workout is after the first few days when bleeding and cramping can be at its worst. Move your toughest workout to later in your cycle.
  • Take precautions when working out during your period. You can combine feminine hygiene products to get the best coverage and take a break mid exercise to ensure you don’t have leakage.
  • Exercise can make changes in your period and the amount of flow. A program of regular exercise can cause a lighter flow with less cramping. The change in the amount of body fat caused by exercise reduces the thickness of the lining of the uterus causing your period to be lighter.
  • Your body’s hormones change during your period and that can lead to fatigue. When you exercise, it can increase your energy levels, especially during your period. At The Worx, we’ll work with you to find the right exercises to help relieve pain.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

Smoothies Vs. Juicing

If you like drinking your lunch through a straw making smoothies, or juicing fruits and vegetables can be a viable option. It’s quick and easy, plus contains tons of nutrients and can be a way to get a high number of different fruits and vegetables into your menu. What’s the difference? Which one is better? The discussion is strictly on making your juice or smoothie at home, where you can control the ingredients. Too often commercially sold smoothies or juice have additives, like added sugar.

What’s the difference between the two?

Juicers are different from blenders and created for different purposes. A juicer separates the fiber from the fruit or vegetable. The pulp—fiber—is then discarded, leaving only the juice. That allows you to process more fruits and vegetables for each cup of juice, thereby getting more nutrients. The blender for smoothies use the whole fruit or vegetable, leaving in the fiber.

You’ll get benefits from smoothies you won’t get from juicing.

While both types of drinks provide tons of nutrients, there are some benefits you’ll enjoy with smoothies you won’t get from juicing. When you make a smoothie, the drink is thicker and it takes longer to digest, thanks to the fiber that slows down digestion. You still get the nutrients, but because it digests slower, you feel full longer. That slower processing in your system due to the fiber helps keep blood sugar level, so it’s more beneficial for diabetics. The fiber helps improve digestion, plus there’s no waste.

Juicing also has many benefits.

Of course, just like smoothies, juicing helps boost your nutritional intake. Without the fiber, particularly the insoluble fiber that doesn’t digest, one cup of juice can contain more fruits or vegetables than a cup of blended smoothie. Juice is easier to digest, since the fiber is removed, which makes it the best option for people who have problems with digestion. The nutrients are easier to extract from the juice.

  • Juicers often cost more than blenders. While the cheapest are centrifugal juicers, masticating or cold press are often considered the best and tend to be quite pricey. By contrast, both jug blenders for large quantities and individual size blenders are often relatively inexpensive.
  • While you can include all fruits and vegetables in smoothies, you can’t juice certain types of fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and avocados. These can provide important nutrients you’ll be missing.
  • Clean up is far easier with a blender than it is with a juicer. With a blender you pour out the smoothie, put water in it, blend and empty. You can then wash the individual parts with ease.
  • While it can be more expensive to make juices, since it takes more to make a cup, you’ll also get more nutrients, since there are more in a cup and it’s less filling. For those trying to lose weight, a smoothie is best. It offers fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer.

For more information, contact us today at The Worx Fitness