Best Post Workout Meals: Part 2

Workout Food

In our last post, we learned how important it is to eat post-working out. In this second installment, we learn how the right balance of foods can help you recover after exercise.

After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow muscle proteins.

Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.

Doing this helps your body:

• Decrease muscle protein breakdown

• Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth)

• Restore glycogen stores

• Enhance recovery

Protein Helps Repair and Build Muscle

Exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein and even the most advanced athletes experience muscle protein breakdown.

Consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also gives you the building blocks required to build new muscle tissue.

Studies have shown that depending on your body type, ingesting 20–40 grams of protein maximizes the body's ability to recover after exercise.

Carbs Help With Recovery

Your body's glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps replenish them.

The rate at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the activity. For example, endurance sports cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance training.

For this reason, if you participate in endurance sports (e.g. running or swimming), you might need to consume more carbs than a bodybuilder.

Eating plenty of carbs to rebuild glycogen stores is most important for people who exercise often, such as twice in the same day. If you have 1 or 2 days to rest between workouts then this becomes less important.

Fat Is Not That Bad

Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. While fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits.

For example, a study showed that whole milk was more effective at promoting muscle growth after a workout than skim milk.

Moreover, another study showed that even when ingesting a high-fat meal (45% energy from fat) after working out, muscle glycogen synthesis was not affected.

It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.

Best Post Workout Meals: Part 1

Bachelorette Diet

I recently ran home after the gym to catch the end of the Bachelorette and was having trouble deciding what to eat post-workout. Eating the right nutrients after you workout is just as important as what you eat before — so figuring out the right combo can be tough. And decisions can get especially tough when the Bachelorette is about to start and you’re super exhausted. So for that next post-workout dinner decision, here’s a detailed guide to the best post workout meals.

Eating and Physical Activity

To understand how the right foods can help you after exercise, it's important to understand how your body is affected by physical activity.

When you're working out, your muscles use their glycogen stores for fuel. This results in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged.

After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins.

Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.

Doing this helps your body:

• Decrease muscle protein breakdown.

• Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).

• Restore glycogen stores.

• Enhance recovery.

Getting in the right nutrients after exercise can help you rebuild your muscle proteins and glycogen stores. It also helps stimulate growth of new muscle.

HIIT + Interval Training: What to Eat to Recover

Blueberries Eggs Avocado HIIT

Studies show that high-intensity interval training or HIIT (i.e. short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by short rest periods) has been linked to weight loss, an increase in both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and strengthening of muscles. It’s also ideal for those short on time.

And if you’re adding HIIT to your routine to help you reach your fitness goals, it’s important that you pair it with the right nutrition. Refueling your body post-workout with the right types of foods aids in muscle repair and growth and can help to replace energy that was lost during your workout.

You should look to refuel your body no later than 60 to 90 minutes after your HIIT workout. This provides your muscles with what they need to replenish their glycogen stores adequately.

So, if 2019 is the year that you give HIIT a try, make sure that you’re also choosing the right nutrients after your workout. To get you started, you can check out the four food suggestions below!

1. Eggs

Eggs are one of the best — and my personal favorite — foods for after a workout. They’re a powerhouse of nutrition, with a significant amount of protein and healthy fats — around 7 grams and 5 grams respectively per egg.

Eggs are also considered a “complete protein” source. This means that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids, which have been linked to aiding in muscle recovery. Eggs also contain B vitamins, which can aid in energy production.

2. Blueberries

My grandma always told me the secret to her longevity was eating blueberries. Blueberries are both delicious and packed with dietary fiber, vitamins, protein, and antioxidants.

Aging and exercise cause some type of oxidative stress, or an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. For this reason, it’s important to include antioxidant-rich foods in your everyday diet. What’s more, eating blueberries after a workout has been linked to accelerated muscle recovery time.

3. Avocado

Avocados are not only delicious but also a great source of magnesium — which is excellent of muscle recovery. Avocado also contains 14 percent of your daily value of potassium, which can help to regulate fluid balance and controlling electrical activity of the heart and other muscles.

What’s more, avocado is a great source of folate and vitamins C, K, and B-6, all of which are anti-inflammatory nutrients, which can help reduce inflammation in the body that may be caused by exercise-induced stress.

4. Green leafy vegetables

Much like blueberries, green leafy vegetables are part of my go-to post-workout food. They’re chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They’re also low in calories.

These types of vegetables are also high in antioxidants and can help to minimize the free radicals that may be released during HIIT training.

There’s a large variety of leafy green vegetables to choose from, but some of the more popular ones include kale, spinach, arugula and watercress.

Try throwing some frozen spinach into your post-workout smoothies — about two big handfuls. It tends to blend easier when frozen, meaning you won’t be able to taste it, not to mention it makes your smoothie extra cold!

How To's: Interval Training

Interval Training

So how do you get the most out of interval training, and how long should each push and recovery be? One of the many great things about intervals is that there's no single hard-and-fast rule. Different lengths of work and recovery bring different benefits—and they're all good.

Start with these three interval training plans. Just know this: Interval training is tough, so if you're just starting to work out, spend a few weeks to a month building your stamina with cardio workouts before adding interval training to your routine. Add these interval training plans to your gym routine once a week to burn more calories, build more fitness, and get out of the gym faster.

1. Cardio Blaster

This is one of the best interval training workouts you can do to improve fitness. It burns lots of calories in a short amount of time.

How to do it:

• Warm up for 15 minutes.

• Then run, bike, or row for 3 minutes at 90 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate (should feel like 8.5 or 9 on a scale of one to 10). Take three minutes active recovery (you're still moving, but at an easy pace) and repeat the 3 on/3 off pattern three to four more times.

• Finish with a 10-minute cooldown.

Bonus benefit: This workout is like weight training for your heart—it strengthens your cardiovascular system, which improves your overall health.

2. Speedplay

Sprinting is great for tightening and toning your legs, glutes, and core. It increases your muscle power, which helps you push harder and makes your non-interval training workouts feel easier so you can challenge yourself and burn even more calories.

How to do it:

• Warm up for 15 minutes, adding a few 20-second bursts at the end to prepare for the workout.

• Run, bike, or row for 30 seconds at a nearly all-out effort. Take three minutes active recovery and repeat the 30 on/3 off pattern five or six more times.

• Finish with a 10-minute cooldown.

3. Cardio-Sprint Pyramid

This adds sprint interval training for a fast and fun workout. Here, after each burst of hard work, you'll recover for the same amount of time.

How to do it:

• Warm up for 15 minutes, adding a few 20-second bursts at the end to prepare for the workout.

• Run, bike, or row: During the work periods, you should have a rate of perceived exertion (RPE of 8 to 10, followed by 30 seconds of active recovery.

Build and taper the workout like this: 30 seconds sprint/30 seconds recover; 1 minute sprint/1 minute recover; 2 minutes sprint/2 minutes recover; 4 minutes sprint/4 minutes recover; 2 minutes sprint/2 minutes recover; 1 minute sprint/1 minute recover; 30 seconds sprint/30 seconds recover; Finish with a 10-minute cooldown.

Bonus benefit: This major calorie-burning interval training plan gives you the best of both worlds—high-octane cardio and muscle-sculpting sprints.

Want to Reduce Anxiety? Improve Your Feng Shui

Feng Shui Bedroom

Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of arranging living spaces, is based on many of the same principles as alternative therapies such as acupuncture. The point of feng shui is to maximize the flow of "qi" (energy or life force) in the environment for utmost safety and productivity.

Being thoughtful about how you arrange and use your bedroom is especially important. It's where you sleep and adequate amounts of quality shut-eye are vital to health and well-being. So for the sake of better sleep, consider these tips for improving the feng shui in your bedroom.

Start With Your Bed

The ideal bed placement allows you to see the bedroom door while you're in bed without being directly in front of or in line with it. According to feng shui, having a view of the door from bed without being too close to it gives a sense of safety and is conducive to relaxation and sleep.

The foot of the bed shouldn't point toward the door either. This is known as the "coffin" position and puts the bed in the main path of traffic. If this can't be avoided, a footboard, high bench, or table at the foot of the bed can act as a buffer as long as it doesn't block the view of the door.

The head of the bed should be against a wall, but not under a window which could allow qi to flow outside and cause restless sleep. It's best not to place a bed under a structural or decorative beam or ceiling fan either, as this is not good for physical health.

Eliminate or Hide Electronics and Exercise Gear

Televisions, computers, exercise gear, or a workspace in the bedroom are thought to distract from rest and take up energy. If you have no choice, hide these items as best you can.

Clear the Clutter

According to feng shui, clutter is more than a distracting eyesore. It can block the flow of qi, disturb sleep, and generally prevent things in your life from moving forward.

Neatness counts where you can't see it as well. Don't use the space under your bed for storage and keep the inside of your closet tidy and weed out clothes you don't wear periodically. Close the closet door at night. Keep the insides of drawers organized and don't pile books on top of your nightstand or dresser.

Relocate Mirrors

According to feng shui, if you aren't sleeping well, a mirror in your bedroom could be the culprit. Mirrors are thought to bounce energy around the bedroom, which may result in restlessness and amplify worries.

Be Artful About Artwork

Any images you hang on your bedroom walls should be inspiring, uplifting, or relaxing. One of the best places to hang such an image is on the wall opposite your bed so that you see it first thing when you wake up and the last thing before you turn off the lights to go to sleep. Don't bring sad or upsetting images into your bedroom, or paintings or photographs that feature just one person: This symbolizes solitude. It's also best to avoid images in which a lake, waterfall, or river is the dominant theme. In other parts of the house, water symbolizes money, but in the bedroom, it may promote financial or relationship losses. 

Double Up

In general, try to have two of everything you can. Ovals and circles, whether it's the shape of your nightstand or the type of accessories you select, are better than furniture and accessories with sharp corners or edges.

Select Relaxing and Balanced Paint Colors

According to feng shui, warm colors reminiscent of skin tones, such as cream, peach, beige, yellow, coral, tan or cocoa, are ideal on bedroom walls because they're thought to be soothing.

Light blues, greens, and lavenders are considered restful and conducive to sleep. But too many cool colors, such as grays, blues, or stark whites are believed to interfere with relaxation. Aim for a balance of 50 percent warm skin tones and 50 percent cool blues, greens, or lavenders.

Superfood Friday: Farro vs Quinoa

Super Food Quinoa Farro Comparison Better

Now that we’ve seen the benefits of opting for farro at your next burrito spot, we now need to know who wins in the nutrition department in our “super grain” food competition. Quinoa or our new fav ancient grain farro? Check out the nutritional comparison below. And for those who deal with any sort of wheat intolerance, it's important to note that farro is not a gluten-free grain.

Quinoa Farro Comparison Better

As we see above, the answer is that both foods offer roughly the same nutritional benefits. And while quinoa and farro are both high in fiber and protein, farro has slightly more carbs but also offers more calcium than quinoa. So reach for whatever super grain you prefer, but keep in mind that both far exceed the nutritional benefits of eating white rice.

Eat This, Not That: Farro

Farro Dos Toros

I recently went to Dos Toro for the first time and was offered farro as a substitute for rice. Being that the farro was brown and looked closer to a whole grain, I opted for the farro.

But What Exactly is Farro?

Farro is an ancient wheat grain. Contrary to popular belief, farro does not refer to one type of grain. Rather, it's Italian for "ancient wheat grain" and often used to describe three different grains.

The kind that's most commonly found in the US and Europe is emmer wheat. It's sold dry and prepared by cooking it in water until it's soft and chewy.

Before it's cooked it looks similar to wheat berries, but afterward it looks similar to barley. It's a small, light-brown grain with a noticeable outer layer of bran.

It can be eaten alone or as an ingredient in dishes like stews, salads and soups. It can also be mixed with fruit and cream and eaten in a similar style to granola or muesli.

Without further ado, here are the top health benefits of farro.

1. Farro is Rich in Fiber

One cup of farro contains 12 grams of fiber, so depending on your gender, you’ll be either a third or halfway to getting your daily allotment of fiber with a single cup of this super grain. That’s the fiber equivalent of eating four medium-sized bananas.

2. Farro Provides 28 grams of Protein

Protein is a macronutrient that’s considered to be the primary building block of the human body as it helps build muscle, tissue, and cells. While protein shouldn’t compose the majority of your daily nutrition intake, it’s true that it’s essential to good health. Eating foods packed with protein like farro will help you stay healthy, gain strength, and lose weight. One cup of farro provides 28 grams of protein, which is equivalent to a 3-ounce portion of sirloin steak.

3. Full of Antioxidants

Farro, like other whole grains, can be an important source of the antioxidants that protect you from harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals can cause cell damage that is thought to result in certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke. If you’ve been trying to eat a few bars of dark chocolate a day or blending up some Goji berry smoothies, you now have another option for an antioxidant fix.

4. Low Calorie & Low Fat

Some varieties of farro are fat free – yes, you can get all those antioxidants, fibers, and proteins, without any fat grams. And if you’re counting calories, farro will be a go-to ingredient for you.

5. Farro is Loaded With Nutrients & Vitamins

Farro is an excellent source of nutrients like magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins.

So next time you’re given the option, think about opting for the farro — a much healthier alternative to white rice or other refined grains.

Big Presentation? Final Exams? Try this!

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Big test coming up?  Or maybe you have an important class presentation first thing and you need to be at the top of your game?  Try a cold shower first thing in the morning.  Cold showers are any showers with a water temperature below 70°F.  Cold water therapy (i.e. hydrotherapy) has been used for centuries to take advantage of our body’s tendency to adapt to harsher conditions. As a result, after a cold shower our bodies become more resistant to stress and allows us to increase alertness and overall mental awareness.  Check out the benefits of a cold shower below.

Increases endorphins

Depression affects at least 10 percent of American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  One holistic method of treatment that’s gaining popularity is hydrotherapy. Taking a cold shower for up to 5 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week, was shown to help relieve symptoms of depression.

The cold water sends many electrical impulses to your brain. It jolts your system to increase alertness, clarity, and energy levels. Endorphins, which are sometimes called happiness hormones, are also released. This effect leads to feelings of well-being and optimism.

Helps improve metabolism

People that are obese can’t simply start taking cold showers to lose weight without changing other lifestyle habits. But taking a cold shower 2 or 3 times per week may contribute to increased metabolism.  The research about how exactly cold showers help people lose weight is unclear. Still, it does show that cold water can even out certain hormone levels and heal the gastrointestinal system. These effects may add to the cold shower’s ability to lead to weight loss.

Improves circulation

It can feel uncomfortable to immerse our bodies in cold water, but it can also be invigorating. That’s because water that’s colder than our natural body temperature causes the body to work slightly harder to maintain its core temperature. When taken regularly, cold showers can make our circulatory system more efficient. Some people also report that their skin looks better as a result of cold showers, probably because of better circulation.

Athletes have known this benefit for years, even if we have only recently seen data that supports cold water for healing after a sport injury.  By bringing the temperature of an area of the body down, we speed up the delivery of warmer, freshly oxygenated blood to that area. And that speeds up recovery time. Some people may benefit from cold showers as a way to help their blood move through their body more quickly. These include people with poor circulation, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Helps fight off common illnesses

Our bodies are designed to become resistant to the elements we are exposed to. For example, leukocytes help fight infection in the body. The shock of cold water in the bloodstream stimulates leukocytes. This means that taking cold showers can help your resistance to common illnesses, like colds and the flu.

One study even indicated that cold showers could make the body more resistant to certain types of cancer. And a clinical trial in the Netherlands showed that people who took cold showers called out of work less.

People that are preparing for surgery or other disease treatment that could lead to decreased immunity might want to start taking cold showers in preparation.

Outlook

The ideal way to take a cold shower is to ease in to the habit.

Start by slowly lowering the temperature at the end of a usual shower. Get the water cold enough that you start to feel uncomfortable. Then, stay underneath the water for 2 or 3 minutes. Breathing deeply will help decrease your discomfort in your mind. The next time you try this exercise, make the water slightly colder. Try to last for another minute or two in the colder water. After performing this activity 7 to 10 times, you’ll find that you might even look forward to turning the hot water down.

Stretching Do's and Don'ts

Stretching Do's and Don'ts

Stretching as a warm-up before exercise has been taught in schools for generations. Today experts debate the effectiveness of stretching cold muscles. The VarCity cold truth? Stretching is helpful, but keep these basics in mind:

1.  Avoid Stretching a Cold Muscle

Only perform "static stretching” (stretch and hold) after a five to 10 minute warm-up.  A warmed-up muscle can stretch longer and endure more stretching and you may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. 

2.  Use Dynamic or “Active” Stretching as a Warm-Up

Dynamic stretches mimic movements used in a sport or activity.  Warm-ups prepare the body for activity by helping to increase blood flow and muscle temperature.

If you're preparing to play tennis, for example, you’ll want to practice side and front lunges as part of your warm-up – movements you'll use to reach for the ball.

Light, gentle rhythmic movements work best for the average person.  Go through a shallow range of motion (e.g. a half-squat vs. a full squat) until you're thoroughly warmed up."

3.  Stretch at the End of your Workout

Stretching at the end of the cool-down phase (i.e. after exercise when your muscles are still warm) helps to maintain long-term flexibility benefits.

Meet the Team: Audrey Simon

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Hey everyone! My name is Audrey and I am a junior at Brooklyn Tech. My hobbies include running, teaching, playing the piano, and playing tennis. Though I try to stay fit by eating healthy and working out, I still love bingeing on ice cream and bubble tea! I get how hard it may be to find time in high school to exercise, along with finding cheap ways to (especially in the city). I hope that through Varcity I can help everyone find both convenient and inexpensive places to work out! Look out for more fitness content :)