How I ran 5 miles with no training

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"Well Caroline, you're not going to be in shape forever" sighed my mom as I ate a Chili's family size molten lava cake that I ordered to go. She was right. High school cross country stamina does not last forever. I figured if I wanted to get back in shape, I would have to have some sort of "end thing" to hold myself accountable. That "end thing" was the Spring Lake 5, on Memorial Day Weekend. This is not a 5k. ITS A FIVE MILE RACE. This was the perfect way to get in shape, with zero excuses.

The race was 2 weeks out. The lava cake incident was months ago. And you guessed it, I had not ran once. Whoops. Now I really had to get my act together. Plus, my extended family would be cheering me on from the sidelines, it would be too embarrassing not to run.

Through VarCity, I did do the occasional Swerve class (that I HIGHLY recommend) so I wasn't a complete couch potato.

Here is the milage I did in order to

Day 1: 1.3 miles
Day 2: It was raining, and thats a good enough excuse not to run
Day 3: 2 miles
Day 4: 1.3 miles
Day 5: 3 miles
Day 6: Didn’t feel like running, whoops
Day 7: 2 miles
Day 8: 4 miles
Day 9: 3 miles
Day 10: My ankle started hurting again because of a Fashion week injury in February that never healed
Day 11: 1.3 miles
Day 12: 2.5 miles
Day 13: 1.3 miles
Day 14: RACE DAY

So, I did it. 47:13. Nothing crazy, but I did it. Next year, I promise I’ll train better... but then again that’s exactly what I said last year.

Kale vs Spinach: Which Super Food is More Super!?

Summer is here and sometimes nothing is better than a fresh summer salad.  If you’re one of the healthier salad-munchers out there, you probably reach for either spinach or kale to fill your bowl.  While both kale and spinach offer win-win nutritional benefits—full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients—which one has the nutritional edge? We dug in to find out.

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What is a Microbiome and Why Is It Important?

The human body carries trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other tiny microbes.  Think of your body as a living/breathing rain forest.  Scientists call these resident bugs and all of their genes the “human microbiome.”

Some of these microbes can be harmful, but most have lived and evolved with humans for thousands of years.  They help train our immune systems to attack only foreign invaders, not our own joints and organs, and they pull essential nutrients out of the food we eat.

Today, people in the Western world have far fewer kinds of these helpful bacteria than their cousins in developing countries and that might be connected to rising rates of autoimmune diseases, such as asthma, and metabolic ones, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.  

Throughout our lives, we help shape our own microbiomes — plus they adapt to changes in our environment. For example, the foods you eat, how you sleep, the amount of bacteria you’re exposed to on a daily basis and the level of stress you live with all help establish the state of your microbiota.

Microbiome
Microbiome

What Time Is the Royal Wedding!?

 Meghan and her mom leaving yoga.

Meghan and her mom leaving yoga.

With just one day left until Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding, the big question isn’t “when is the royal wedding?” but what workouts is the bride-to-be doing to prepare for her royal internationally-televised wedding.  #nopressure

While Meghan was last seen leaving a gym in London last month, the 36-year-old has likely been sticking to one of her favorite workouts:  a pilates workout, which utilizes the Megaformer machine.

“Pilates Platinum is hands down the best thing you could do for your body,” Meghan told Women’s Health U.K. in 2017, referencing the fitness studio in Santa Monica where she used to take classes. “The results are incredible.  Your body changes immediately.  Give it two classes and you will see a difference.”

Pilates is a high-intensity, low impact class, which prioritizes constant, but slow movement, to really help you feel the burn.  During the classes, which can include 30 straight minutes of sliding split squats, participants typically burn 800 to 1,000 calories — and the calorie burn continues for several more hours.

The reason why — it’s so slow, and you’re using every single muscle.  While your slow-twitch muscle fibers repair, your body is using energy, calories and stored sugar so you honestly become a fat-burning machine.

One of the Pilates studios where the former Suits star has been sighted going for her Megaformer fix is Studio Lagree, which has locations in her old and new hometowns of Toronto and London.

Meghan is also friends with Pilates Platinum instructor Heather Dorak, who has documented her friend’s flexibility on social media.

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“Happy Happy Birthday to @meghanmarkle 💞. Thank you @pilatesplatinum for bringing this beautiful soul in to my life 10yrs ago. Can’t wait to celebrate with you 👙🌴,” the fitness expert wrote alongside a photo of the pair working their cores by the pool.

The former Suits star has also frequently been photographed out and about with her yoga mat.

Additionally, her mother Doria Ragland (pictured above), who arrived in London ahead of her daughter’s nuptials on Wednesday, works as a yoga therapist.  

Oh and if you’re still wondering “what time is the royal wedding?” — the big event starts at 7am NYT.  

Ten Nutrition Tips That We (Almost) All Agree With: Part 5

When Is the Royal Wedding

Between the Pinterest boards full of protein diets, the endless weight loss tips we see online and the countless low-carb diet foods we see in the grocery store, it’s getting more difficult to determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  VarCity HQ did a little leg work for you and scoured the internet for the common themes we saw from nutritionists throughout the internet. 

Below is VarCity’s top 10 list of nutrition rules that almost all experts agree with: 

9. "Diets" Don't Work — a Lifestyle Change Is Necessary

"Diets" are ineffective. That is a fact.

They may provide short-term results, but as soon as the diet ends and you start eating junk food again, you will gain the weight back. And then some.  This is called yo-yo dieting and is extremely common.

Most people who lose a lot of weight on a diet end up gaining it back whenever they "stop" the diet.  For this reason, the only thing that can give you actual long-term results is to adopt a lifestyle change.

SUMMARY
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the only way to ensure long-term weight loss and a lifetime of improved health.

10. Unprocessed Food Is Healthiest

Processed food is generally not as healthy as whole food.

As the food system has become more industrialized, the health of the population has deteriorated.  During food processing, many of the beneficial nutrients in the food are removed.

Not only do food producers remove healthy nutrients like fiber, but they also add other potentially harmful ingredients like added sugar and trans fats.  Additionally, processed foods are loaded with all sorts of artificial chemicals, some of which have a questionable safety profile.

SUMMARY
Basically, processed foods have less of the good stuff and a lot more of the bad stuff.  The most important thing you can do to ensure optimal health is to eat real food. If it looks like it was made in a factory, don't eat it!

Ten Nutrition Tips That We (Almost) All Agree With: Part 4

When is the royal wedding

Between the Pinterest boards full of protein diets, the endless weight loss tips we see online and the countless low-carb diet foods we see in the grocery store, it’s getting more difficult to determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  VarCity HQ did a little leg work for you and scoured the internet for the common themes we saw from nutritionists throughout the internet. 

Below is VarCity’s Part 4 of our top 10 list of nutrition rules that almost all experts agree with: 

7. Refined Carbohydrates Are Bad for You

There are a lot of differing opinions about carbs and fat.  Some think fat is the root of all evil, while others believe carbs are the key players in obesity and other chronic diseases.

But what pretty much everyone agrees on is that refined carbohydrates are not as healthy as unrefined carbohydrates.

Unrefined carbs are basically whole foods that are rich in carbs. These include whole-grain cereals, beans, vegetables and fruits. Refined carbs, on the other hand, are sugar and refined flour.

Whole foods contain numerous beneficial nutrients and antioxidants.  However, when high-carb foods such as grains are processed, the most nutritious parts are stripped off. What is left are massive amounts of easily digestible starch.

Those who base their diets on refined carbs may be lacking in fiber and many other healthy nutrients. As a result, they are at an increased risk of chronic disease.  Eating refined carbs will also cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. While high blood sugar levels are unhealthy for all people, they are a much greater concern in people with diabetes.

It is clear that whole grains and unrefined carbohydrates are a lot healthier than their refined, processed counterparts.

SUMMARY
Refined carbohydrates like processed grains are unhealthy. They are lacking in nutrients and eating them may lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin, which can cause all sorts of problems down the line.

8. Supplements Can Never Fully Replace Real Foods

"Nutritionism" is the idea that foods are nothing more than the sum of their individual nutrients.  But it’s also a trap that many nutrition enthusiasts tend to fall into.

Nuts, for example, aren't just shells loaded with polyunsaturated fat. In the same way, fruits aren't just watery bags of sugar.  These are real foods with a massive variety of trace nutrients.

The vitamins and minerals, the ones you can also get from a cheap multivitamin, are just a small part of the total amount of nutrients in foods.  Therefore, supplements cannot match the variety of nutrients you get from real foods.

However, many supplements can be beneficial, especially those that contain nutrients that are generally lacking in the diet, like vitamin D.  But no amount of supplements will ever make up for a bad diet. Not a chance.

SUMMARY
It is much more important to eat real, nutritious foods than to count on supplements to provide the nutrients you need.

Ten Nutrition Tips That We (Almost) All Agree With: Part 3

Protein Carbohydrates Diet Nutrition

Between the Pinterest boards full of protein diets, the endless weight loss tips we see online and the countless low-carb diet foods we see in the grocery store, it’s getting more difficult to determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  VarCity HQ did a little leg work for you and scoured the internet for the common themes we saw from nutritionists throughout the internet. 

Below is VarCity’s Part 3 of our top 10 list of nutrition rules that almost all experts agree with: 

5. Eating Vegetables Will Improve Your Health

Vegetables are good for you.  They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and an endless variety of trace nutrients that science has just begun to uncover.

In observational studies, eating vegetables is associated with improved health and a lower risk of disease.  We recommend that you eat a variety of vegetables each day. They are healthy, fulfilling and add variety to your diet.

SUMMARY
Vegetables are rich in all sorts of nutrients. Eating vegetables each day is associated with improved health and a lower risk of disease.

6. It Is Critical to Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a unique vitamin that actually functions as a hormone in the body.  The skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. This is how people got most of their daily requirement throughout evolution.

However, a large part of the world is deficient in this critical nutrient today.  In many places, the sun simply isn't available throughout most of the year.  Even where there is sun, many people tend to stay inside and use sunscreen when they go out. Sunscreen effectively blocks vitamin D generation in the skin.

If you're deficient in vitamin D, then you're actually lacking a major hormone in the body. Deficiency is associated with many serious diseases, including diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and others.

To find out if you are at risk, see a doctor and have your blood levels measured.  Unfortunately, it may be difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet.  If getting more sun is not an option, taking a vitamin D supplement or a tablespoon of cod liver oil each day is the best way to prevent or reverse a deficiency.

SUMMARY
Vitamin D is a crucial hormone in the body and many people are deficient in it. Reversing a deficiency can have powerful health benefits.

Ten Nutrition Tips That We (Almost) All Agree With: Part 2

Nutrition Diet Protein Carbohydrates

Between the Pinterest boards full of protein diets, the endless weight loss tips we see online and the countless low-carb diet foods we see in the grocery store, it’s getting more difficult to determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  VarCity HQ did a little leg work for you and scoured the internet for the common themes we saw from nutritionists throughout the internet. 

Below is VarCity’s Part 2 of our top 10 list of nutrition rules that almost all experts agree with: 

3. There Is No Perfect Diet for Everyone

People are all unique. Subtle differences in genetics, body type, physical activity and environment can affect which type of diet you should follow.

Some people do best on a low-carb diet, while others are better off on a vegetarian high-carb diet.  The fact is, what works for one person may not work for the next.  To figure out what you should do, a little experimentation may be needed.

Try a few different things until you find something that you enjoy and think you can stick to. Different strokes for different folks!

SUMMARY
The best diet for you is the one that works for you and you can stick to in the long term.

4. Artificial Trans Fats Are Very Unhealthy

Trans fats are formed as a side product when vegetable oils are hydrogenated.  Food producers often use hydrogenation to harden vegetable oils for use in products such as margarine.

A high intake of trans fats is associated with various chronic diseases, such as abdominal obesity, inflammation and heart disease, to a name a few.

We HIGHLY recommend you avoid trans fats!

SUMMARY
Trans fats form in chemically processed oils and are linked to all sorts of chronic diseases. You should avoid them like the plague.

Healthier Alternatives to your Favorite Snacks

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True story: One time I ate 164 Weight Watchers points worth of food in a single day, the average person is supposed to eat around 28… whoops. I run regularly, but I do know that eating exclusively junk food will catch up to me pretty soon. To slow that down, I found some healthier alternatives to my favorite snacks.

First of all, I was pretty late to the game and realized that you can get ~reduced fat/sugar~ versions of a ton of things. I bought some, and here is the final verdict:

Reduced Sugar Welch’s Fruit Snacks: Worth it

Hershey’s Syrup Lite: NOT WORTH IT AT ALL GET THE REAL DEAL

Skippy Reduced Fat Peanut Butter: Worth it

Replacing White Bread with Wheat: Worth it

 

On to straight up healthier alternatives…

Its embarrassing how much I love soda. Its really bad. I recently discovered a sod- excuse me, “low calorie water drink” called Mash. If you’re looking for a Sprite or Fanta alternative, this one is for you.

As the summer approaches, we find ourselves eating a ton of ice cream. Its horrible for you, but that really doesn’t stop us. This summer, I am trying to switch out on cold treat for another with either acai bowls or Italian ice instead.

ALSO: Nutella is a great alternative to chocolate. I’m allergic to it, but it was delicious the first few minutes before my throat closed up.

Ten Nutrition Tips That We (Almost) All Agree With: Part 1

Fitness Protein Low Carb

Between the Pinterest boards full of protein diets, the endless weight loss tips we see online and the countless low-carb diet foods we see in the grocery store, it’s getting more difficult to determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  VarCity HQ did a little leg work for you and scoured the internet for the common themes we saw from nutritionists throughout the internet. 

Below is VarCity’s Part 1 of our top 10 list of nutrition rules that almost all experts agree with: 

1. Added Sugar Is a Disaster

To improve the taste of processed foods, producers often add sugar to them. This type of sugar is known as added sugar (e.g. sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup).

It is definitely true that added sugar contains empty calories. There are no nutrients in it, other than sugar. As a result, basing your diet on products high in added sugar may contribute to nutrient deficiencies.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other risks associated with excessive sugar intake that are now reaching mainstream attention.

Added sugar is being implicated as a leading cause of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

This is because fructose is metabolized strictly by the liver. High intake has been linked with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, abdominal obesity and high cholesterol over time.

However, the role of fructose in disease is controversial and scientists do not fully understand how it works.

SUMMARY
Added sugar provides empty calories and is believed to be a leading cause of diseases that kill millions of people each year.

2. Omega-3 Fats Are Crucial and Most People Don't Get Enough

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for the proper functioning of the human body.  Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid derived from animals, makes up about 10–20% of the total fat content in the brain.

A low intake of omega-3 is associated with a lower IQ, depression, various mental disorders, heart disease and many other serious diseases.

There are three main types of omega-3 fats: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

ALA comes mostly from plant oils, while the best sources of EPA and DHA are fatty fish proteins, fish oils and certain algal oils. Other good sources of EPA and DHA are grass-fed meat and omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs.

The plant form, ALA, needs to be transformed into DHA or EPA to function correctly in the human body. However, this conversion process is inefficient in humans.  Therefore, it is best to eat plenty of protein rich foods high in DHA and EPA.

SUMMARY
A large part of the population is not getting enough omega-3 fats from their diet. Avoiding a deficiency in these essential fatty acids may help prevent many diseases.