Foods Athletes Should Avoid

Regardless of the exact sport, there are several foods that athletes should avoid to ensure maximum efficiency on the court or field. These foods have poor nutritional qualities or high caloric levels that are inappropriate for anyone who wants to maintain a healthy, high-functioning body.

Food 1: Pasta Made with Refined Flours

Pasta made with refined flour is a poor nutritional choice that athletes will not commonly add to their meals due to the many health issues associated with high-carb diets. In addition, pasta has a lot of calories that can lead to weight gain. For obvious reasons, athletes will want to maintain their weight, which can help protect their bodies’ joints from damage during physical activity, for example.

Food 2: Sugary Boxed Cereals

You’d be hard pressed to find boxed cereals in the kitchen cabinets of athletes, especially those catered to a younger audience, i.e. Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, etc. Rather than eating this unhealthy food for breakfast, an athlete should make healthier cooked oats with nutritious fruit such as raisins or berries, or perhaps a vegetable omelette.

Food 3: High-Sodium Canned Soups

Most canned soups are high in sodium and other preservatives, making this option a bad nutritional choice for an athlete. Consuming a lot of salt can reduce an athlete’s level of performance because it can cause a number of serious health issues including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, kidney damage, and cardiovascular disease.

Food 4: High-Fat Meats

Meats high in fat can, obviously, cause a severe decrease in athletic performance. Athletes often look for leaner meats such as chicken, turkey, or most seafood to protect the body’s cardiovascular system. Additionally, athletes would be wise to cut off the excess fat from poultry, beef, or pork.

Food 5: Ice Cream

While ice cream and most junk foods are not harmful in moderation, consuming these products immediately before or after a game can be. A standard serving size of ice cream contains high levels of fat along with several tablespoons of sugar. Eating this several times a week can lead to not only weight gain, but an increase in cravings for sugary foods in general.

Food 6: Microwaveable Popcorn

Most brands of microwave popcorn contain artificial ingredients such as preservatives, sodium, fat, and sugar. While plain popcorn has only a few calories, microwaveable popcorn with excessive amounts of butter is often processed with several substances. Preparing air-popped popcorn for a snack is a much healthier choice, especially athletes.

Tips to Help Avoid Stress Eating

There’s arguably nothing more satisfying than eating while you are hungry. However, this is not to be confused with stress eating. Stress eating is characterized by consuming food in response to your emotional state rather than simply hunger. Basically, your mood dictates when you eat, and how much you consume in one sitting. This can be an especially unhealthy lifestyle, but there are ways present to combat stress eating. Here are some tips for you to avoid this behavior and return to a normal pattern of food consumption.

Practice Breathing

Taking a deep breath is a powerful tool for you to use in response to stress eating. This is because breathing controls the portion of the brain that controls the flight or fight response that is activated in the sympathetic nervous system. This will help calm you down and the urge to eat or binge should decrease.

Eat With a Conscious

If you eat consciously, it removes all of the rushed nature of stress eating. Take smaller bites and allow yourself to fully appreciate what you are eating. When you become a conscious eater, you will then learn to understand the difference between when you are full and when you are eating for the sake of eating.

Change Your Approach

Believe it or not, stress eating is all about your approach to the situation. Stress eating is predicated on conflicting emotional feelings. This means changing your lifestyle and switching to a healthier diet. Once you do that, you will appreciate the value of indulgence. Unless you are on a specialized diet, stick to foods that are healthy yet filling. The habit of stress eating may slowly wither away as a result.

Examine Your Feelings First

Arguably the most important thing you can do before stress eating is examining your own emotional state beforehand. Self-reflection is an important tool for stress eaters because stress eating is not about what you are eating, but what is going on in your head at the time. Examine if you are breathing correctly. Is your heart racing a bit faster than it should? Observe your thoughts and your physical behavior, and try to slow down.

Stress eating can be difficult to overcome, but these simple steps can help you exponentially.

Increasing Keratin Through Your Dietary Intake

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

Looking good is just as much about taking care of your body on the inside as it is on the outside. Keratin is a protein that makes up your skin, nails, and hair. It is also found in your internal glands and organs. Keratin is less prone to tearing or scratching compared to any other protein found in the body. It is derived of wool, horn, and feathers of different animals and is often used in hair products. Keratin also strengthens the outer layer of the skin and boosts hair, skin, and nail growth. Keratin treatments and supplements can help strengthen your hair and keep it looking healthier, but there are several ways you can increase your natural keratin by adding certain foods to your diet.

Protein

Start by maintaining a diet that is rich in protein. Protein provides the body with amino acids needed to produce keratin. To prevent heart disease, avoid or limit your intake of fatty red meats. Choose fish, chicken, low-fat dairy, and lean meats instead to boost keratin production and enhance your hair, skin, and nails.

Iron

Foods that are rich in iron help transport oxygen from red blood cells to your hair follicles. Iron is found in animal protein and is easily absorbed by the body. Consume iron-rich foods found in both animal protein and plant foods including duck, turkey, shrimp, eggs, pork, lamb, beans, soybeans, black-eyed peas, lentils, and tofu.

Vitamins

Vitamin C aids in the absorption of vegetarian-based iron. To increase keratin production, eat grapefruit, oranges, papaya, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts at the same time that you eat vegetable-based protein. Vitamin B enhances red blood cells that carry nutrients to your follicles to grow hair. Foods with folate and vitamin B-6 and B-12 include oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, lentils, garbanzo beans, bananas, shellfish, white potatoes, chicken breasts, parsnips, spinach, and beets.

Biotin-Rich Foods

Biotin is essential in metabolizing amino acids that create keratin. It is also useful in strengthening the hair and nails. Dietary sources of biotin are found in raw egg whites, and egg yolks.

Implementing these foods in your diet will affect the growth of new keratin. However, one should not expect immediate results. It can take anywhere from six months to a year for you to see a visible change. Supplements, such as whey protein powder and salon keratin treatments, can help speed things up in some cases.

Fighting Constant Hunger and Maintaining Fitness

It isn’t something many people are proud to admit, but the average caloric intake of Americans today is 20% higher than it was in 1970, and more often than not, our average meals greatly exceed those of other countries in terms of size. So, why is it that many of us are so hungry so frequently? While excessive eating could certainly be a factor, it’s excessive snacking that seems to be our nutritional downfall.

According to personal trainer Sam Wood, there are various reasons why many people find it difficult to suppress their appetites throughout the day. From a sociological standpoint, we’ve been conditioned to believe that more is better when eating. Our average portion sizes as Americans are much larger than what is recommended by health professionals. Even worse, the actual food on our plates is not always what our bodies need.

One prominent issue that has taken the dietary world by storm is the notion that highly caloric foods are unhealthy. Believing this eliminates healthier fats and great sources of protein from one’s diet, seeing as both have higher calorie contents. Carbohydrates are another group of important nutrients that have been cast in a bad light as well, albeit they should be complex carbs and not processed. Complex carbs come with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The goal is to feel comfortably full for as long as possible. Healthy fats, foods rich in protein, and complex carbs will do just that.

The time of day at which you eat could also be beneficial (or detrimental) as well. For example, intermittent fasting allows you to eat all your daily foods within an 8-hour window, thus preventing you from snacking late at night, or eating too early, then feeling hungry again before 10:00 a.m. Though this may sound challenging, there are some helpful rules to abide by:

  • Never eat when bored or due to emotions
  • Meal prep
  • Grocery shop once a week
  • Shoot for 21 meals a week

Sticking to one strict routine can prove challenging. Don’t feel as though this is the key to optimal fitness. Changing it up can actually be highly beneficial. For example, some of the most common breakfast foods include bagels, cereal, white toast, etc., all of which are high in carbs that lead to you quickly feeling hungry soon after. More filling foods like eggs, greek yogurt, quinoa can have you feeling fuller longer, while also giving you a protein boost early in your day.

Finding a diet that works for you is exactly that; one that is personal. Results will more than likely vary from person to person, but following these general guidelines could be very helpful.

The Healthiest Grocery Stores to Shop At

Your grocery shopping is extremely significant when it comes to the health of you and your family. There are many natural health food markets and supermarket chains that have expanded their health food offerings in recent years. More stores are beginning to exclude all foods and beverages that carry hydrogenated fats, artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives. Here is a list of the best grocery stores for your organic and all-natural health food needs.

  1. Whole Foods Market

You will find over 420 Whole Foods Market stores in the United States, The United Kingdom, and Canada. It is one of the largest supermarket chains in its class. Whole Foods has the widest variety of freshly caught seafood, organic fruits and vegetables, free-range chicken, and grass-fed beef. Their prepared foods are clearly labeled and never contain any additives or preservatives.

  1. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s carries 80% of their own chain’s brands. While this grocery store is drastically smaller than your local supermarket, the food they do sell is often delicious and impressive. The meals in their brand contain no GMO’s, trans fats, MSG, or artificial preservatives. Trader Joe’s is truly unique and includes gourmet foods, vegetarian, organic, and alternative items for a vegan or vegetarian diet.

  1. Publix Super Markets

Publix stands out above their competition by making healthy eating a family affair. Pregnant women can join Publix Baby Club and receive newsletters about infants and earn special coupons. They have their own brand of pre-packaged organic foods called “GreenWide.” Publix makes it their focus to guide their patrons towards the produce that is the freshest and most nutritious.

  1. Natural Grocers

Based in Colorado, Natural Grocers now has over 90 stores in 14 states. You will find shelves stocked with organic produce, dietary supplements, vitamins, natural and organic food, and natural body products. Natural Grocers makes a free nutritional health coach available to all of its customers.

  1. Sprouts Farmers Market

Similar to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Sprouts is a chain of over 200 grocery stores that focus on healthy foods, supplements, and fresh produce. Their prices make them extremely competitive with their all-natural and higher-priced competitors. On a daily basis, you will find nutritious fruits, fresh vegetables, a full-service deli, wholesome grains, nuts and sweets, and seafood and meat counters that even make handmade sausages and burgers. Sprouts Farmers Market fully stocks their shelves with ready-to-eat meals, freshly baked goods, gluten-free groceries, and gourmet cheeses, as well.

Brain Food: How A Healthy Diet Leads to a Healthy Mind

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

Myth: Your mind and body are separate.

For both your stomach’s sake, and for your emotional well-being, I’ll have to kindly ask you to very slowly put down that fourth candy bar. It is common knowledge in the nutritional world that excess sugar harms the body both physically and mentally, but let me present to you the chemical proof:

One of our vital neurotransmitters which regulates our mood, serotonin, is produced right alongside the neurons that manage our digestion – in our gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin’s neighbor neurons also have a hand in our mental health, after they’ve of course, finished dealing with the fruits, vegetables, and chocolate bars passing through our system.Things go awry when the sustenance we choose works against us.

According to Eva Selhub MD of Harvard Health Publishing, certain foods just don’t do it for us the way natural sugars do. Processed sugar can actually cause extreme inflammation and debilitate most of the neurons in our gastrointestinal tract, which means not only our digestive system weakens, but the production of sufficient serotonin and our neurons’ ability to cope with stress and mood swings take a substantial hit as well.

Cue a stress-induced reach for that chocolate bar. Our bodies let us know when we need nutrients, but low emotional wellness can also trigger a craving that we don’t actually need, says Jennifer Kromberg PsyD of Psychology Today. An argument at work, unhealthy fasting or dieting, or the promise of a reward after writing a proposal when nothing else seems to be going quite right in our lives, are all dangerous paths that can lead to the understandable desire for quick and easy processed sugar.

I think of it as a cyclical process. If we are having these unhappy cravings, there’s a high chance our serotonin levels are already too low, and unhealthy foods are going to make matters worse. When we reach for that candy bar, we are potentially doing what has damaged our serotonin production and contributed to our dissatisfaction in the first place. Selhub mentions that those who take regular probiotics not only have the advantage of beneficial bacteria to fight off toxins in our food, but have also clearly exhibited positive turns in mental health.

If we want to feel physically strong, deal effectively with outside stressors, and whittle down problematic cravings, then a balanced diet is our key to both a healthier and scientifically- proven-to-be-happier life.

Your gastrointestinal tract and your mental are better off without that devious fourth candy bar anyway. Personally, I trust apples.

Cut The Carbs: A Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

The phrase “low carb” can be scary for a lot of people. It means cutting out grains, sugars, fruits and for some people it means giving up some of their favorite foods. What shouldn’t be scary is how easy it is to make these changes in your everyday life.

The keto diet is known for being a low carb diet that allows the body to produce ketones in the liver for energy. Normally when something high in carbohydrates is put into the body, the body produces glucose and insulin for energy. With the lower carb intake of the keto diet, the body stops producing glucose and insulin and goes into a state known as ketosis.  While in ketosis the liver will start to produce ketones which are the byproducts of the body breaking down fat for energy.

Ketosis is achieved by restricting the amount of carbs and the amount of protein that is being ate. Too many carbs and too much protein can limit the results of the keto diet and take the body longer to reach the state of ketosis. Keto dieters should also stop snacking, start fasting, drink lots of water, and add exercise into their daily routine. Once ketosis is reached, physical symptoms such as increased urination, dry mouth, bad breath, reduced hunger and increased energy will materialize in the individual.

Before starting the keto diet, a strict diet plan should be created to maximize optimal results. A key thing to remember about the keto diet is that the diet should consist of about 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. When setting up a diet plan, the following higher carbohydrate food groups should be cut from the everyday diet:

  1. Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, pasta
  2. Sugar – honey, agave
  3. Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges
  4. Tubers – potatoes, yams, anything that is a starch

Once the higher carbohydrate foods are removed, the following healthy fats should be added into the diet plan:

  1. Meat – fish, beef, lamb, eggs, poultry, shellfish
  2. Leafy greens – spinach, kale
  3. High fat dairy – butter, high fat cream, hard cheeses
  4. Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans
  5. Avocados & berries – raspberries, blackberries, any berry that has low glycemic impact
  6. Sweeteners – stevia, low carb sweeteners
  7. Other fats – coconut oil, high – fat salad dressing, nut butters

If keto is being done specifically for weight loss, also consider keeping net carb intake at between 20-30g. Net carbs are the total amount of dietary carbohydrates minus the the total fiber. But remember, when starting any diet, you are going to come down with the “flu.” Keto flu symptoms start to take shape when the body transitions from burning sugars for energy to burning flat. Symptoms can range anywhere from sugar cravings to stomach pains, nausea, cramping, and confusion.

Not only is the keto diet a great way to go from a high to low intake of carbs, it also helps with a variety of other health and everyday lifestyle changes. This is a great way to control blood sugar levels, increase mental performance, increase energy and normalize hunger, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve skin by reducing the likelihood of acne.

Corporate Dining: Eating Healthy in the Office (Pt. 2)

Originally posted on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

As discussed in part 1 of my blog, eating healthy in the workplace does not have to be as difficult as it sounds. While it can be challenging depending on your workload and free time, there are smaller, everyday acts of wellness that can prove beneficial in the long run.

Drink Water

An obvious consideration for anyone, drinking water throughout the day (preferably 1-2 liters) not only keeps you hydrated, but can also improve your focus, concentration, and decision-making skills. Coffee isn’t the only beverage that can give you that extra kick. Dehydration is a large reason why workers feel fatigued toward the end of the day. Drinking water can prevent this and boost your productivity.

Meal Prep

Controlling your nutritional intake is as simple as cooking for yourself the night before. You can choose to do this daily, or prep for the week the Sunday before. With this route, you have the option of controlling your portion sizes, incorporating fruits and vegetables, including healthy snacks, all the while saving time and money. There are many blogs out there today offering some of the easiest, most delicious meal prep ideas, one of the best being BudgetBytes.com.

Decompress

Something that often falls by the wayside is stepping away from the office setting to eat. It’s very easy to want to eat at your desk and continue working, but remaining in an office environment and failing to decompress will prevent you from enjoying your meals. Given that breaks are encouraged in most work settings, one should always utilize this time spent away from the desk and enjoy the opportunity to destress. Bringing a packed lunch outside allows employees to feel refreshed upon returning to work.

Remain Resilient

Offices are commonplace for celebratory events, whether they be birthdays, goodbye parties, or promotions. With celebratory events typically comes cake, pizza, or unhealthy foods in general. Of course, indulging is okay if done in moderation, but being able to say “No, thank you” can go a long way. It may even become habitual after a while. Whether your coworker’s birthday merits an enormous chocolate cake, or your desk-mate wants to visit pizza shop down the street, remaining resilient and sticking to your nutritional morals can pay off both mentally and physically.

Best Methods for a Low-Carb Diet

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

Individuals on low-carb diets may find it difficult to provide their bodies with satisfaction in terms of food, but lowering one’s intake of carbohydrates can be incredibly beneficial health-wise. While these compounds are essential for energy, many people replace carbs with proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. So, why partake in a low-carb diet?

One of the more popular reasons why people choose to go on low-carb diets is because they are looking to lose weight. The notion of ‘carbs = fat’ is fairly common, and while it does hold some truth, it should not be the entire basis for choosing this diet.

Because the human body stores carbohydrates, which can later become fat if not used for energy, many people seem to think that cutting out carbs entirely will result in no fat gained. However, research has shown that after 12 months, individuals on a low-carb diet did not lose more weight than those on a low-fat diet. This can make finding the right balance challenging. But, the following tips can help alleviate those challenges, and help you stick your low-carb fast.

Know Low-Carbs

There are many foods available that are low in carbohydrates, including lean meats such as chicken, pork, or sirloin. Others include fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, apples, and blueberries. If cutting dairy out of your diet proves more challenging than expected, whole milk and plain Greek yogurt are low-carb as well.

Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals ahead of time can save a lot of hassle, especially for those with strict dietary restrictions. Knowing what you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day that week is a great way to prevent you from falling off the wagon. Similar to this tactic, meal prepping is just as, if not more effective. Cooking and creating all of your meals for the week allows you to stick to this diet, and avoid giving into cravings such as sweets or fast food. Additionally, this can save you a decent amount of money in the long run.

Know the Different Carbs

Carbohydrates can be categorized as simple or complex. Simple carbs are comprised of easy sugars to digest, which include white sugar and flour. Complex carbs take much longer to digest, and are found in nutrient-rich foods like beans, whole grains, and fiber-heavy fruits. These also tend to make people feel fuller faster. When on a low-carb diet, try to reduce your intake of refined or processed carbs.

Corporate Dining: Eating Healthy in the Office (Pt. 1)

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

pexels-photo-414262-205x300Eating healthy and exercising are not often at the forethought of someone in an office setting, but being more mindful of these factors can go a long way in terms of one’s health. Below are a few tips that may help even the most business-oriented individual become more aware of his or her overall health in the workplace.

Know Yourself

To begin a health journey in an office setting, the first step is understanding your daily eating habits and regular patterns. Something that may help those who mindlessly snack or eat is keeping a diary and making note of when and what you eat in a normal day. For example, it’s easy to indulge in unhealthy snacks or meals on a Friday or during a stressful day. Remember this habit and actively work to combat it.

If this is a new practice for you, do your best in understanding that eating healthy should not be seen as tortuous, but rather a journey toward bettering yourself. Always highlight the positives, whether that be weight loss, higher levels of energy, or improved skin quality.

Always Break Your Fast

It’s been said time and time again; “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and there is some truth behind that. Beginning your day with a nutritious, filling meal gives you the energy levels required to properly wake up and avoid that ever-dreaded morning slump. Your brain will be highly functioning at an hour where most people are still struggling to get out of bed, and you won’t hear the sounds of your own stomach growling until closer to lunchtime.

Fulfilling breakfasts can not only wake you up and provide abundant nutrients, but they can also improve your memory and concentration, promote weight loss, and give you an overall better mood.

Fill Your Desk with Snacks

Healthy snacks, that is. If you are only able to squeeze in a small breakfast before work hours, having healthy snacks in your desk drawer can prevent early morning hunger while also providing the nutrients your breakfast, or lack thereof, may not have been able to offer. Snacks like protein bars, peanuts or almonds, trail mix, or fruit and vegetables (so long as you have a refrigerator) are perfect fillers.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series which will include even more tips and tricks on how to effectively eat healthy in fast-paced business settings!