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6 Reasons to Drink More Water

Drink More Water

1. Perform Better

Hydration is directly linked to athletic performance. So, if you’re looking to improve your time on the track or take your soccer game to the next level, make sure you’re drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Don’t forget 75% of our muscles are made of water. 

2. Eat Healthier

Often times when we’re in that after-school lull and we’re craving a slice of pizza or a quick burger, we can actually quench that craving with a few glasses of water. Making a conscious effort to drink a glass of water before you raid the pizza stand can help you avoid bad food choices before dinner.

3. Be Less Cranky

Dehydration can affect your entire day, especially because dehydration can cause you to feel sick. Drinking more water will help you think more clearly and even improve your mood!

4. Prevent Headaches

One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is a headache. Next time you have a headache, instead of reaching for the Advil, drink a couple of glasses of water and see how you feel. If you feel better without medicine, this is a good way to know that you can prevent at least some headaches by drinking water before turning to the medicine cabinet.

5. Naturally Cleanse

What if I told you that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a store-bought cleanse? That’s because water has naturally detoxifying benefits. Add a little lemon and you’re good to go! Bacteria and waste can live in our stomach and intestines and this is exactly why the digestive system needs water to function and clear you out.

6. Help Your Skin Glow

Water helps the skin rebuild cells more successfully. Not only does proper hydration make your skin more healthy; hydration can also make your skin glow. Skin is our largest organ, so isn’t it about time we take better care of it?

4 Ways to Improve Your Smoothie

Healthy Smoothie

Smoothies are an everyday part of life for most of us, but they can quickly become sugar bombs loaded with empty calories if you’re not careful. Below are our top 4 ways to make sure your smoothie stays a positive part of your diet!

Choose fruit that has a lower sugar content

Fruit is absolutely good for you, but too much of anything can have a negative impact. If you’re gonna load up on fruit, make sure you’re not also loading up on calories. Most berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, and even strawberries, are low in sugar. So are grapefruit, cantaloupe, and papaya, so stick with these smoothie fruit friends.

Avoid store-bought juice

Often the juice we buy in the store is loaded with added sweeteners. Instead, juice your own fruit, or use another liquid. You can try water or coconut water. The liquid from young coconuts is quite sweet. Unsweetened almond milk, flax milk, soy milk, and hemp milk are great nondairy substitutes. Regular milk can work, too. Just be mindful of the additional calories.

Go Green

Green smoothies are all the rage for a reason. A few handfuls of spinach, kale, or Swiss chard make your smoothie look virtuous without negatively impacting the taste. The blended flavor of these greens is very mild and usually masked well by the taste of the fruits you add. Plus, you’re getting the benefit of less sugar and lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other essential nutrients. If you decide to add more greens, tartness from fresh lemon or lime juice can help mask the bitterness without relying on sugar.

Sweeten Wisely

It doesn’t make any sense to choose low-sugar fruits and then dump in spoonfuls of honey or table sugar. Use a very light hand when adding sweeteners, or try using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or a dash of vanilla extract. You can also use a high-quality, flavored protein powder.

5 Easy + Healthy After-School Snacks

5 Easy and Healthy After-School Snacks

The hours between the end of school and dinner can be tough for healthy eating. Pizza, Chipotle and subway are all easy after-school options that are loaded with calories and processed carbohydrates. Below are VarCity’s favorite quick and healthy after-school snacks.

1. Hard-Boiled Eggs

Eggs are one of the healthiest and most weight loss-friendly foods you can eat.

They contain protein, vitamin K2 and B12, to name a few.

Although their high cholesterol content gave them a bad reputation for years, new studies show that eggs don't have any effect on your risk of heart disease.

Two large, hard-boiled eggs contain about 140 calories and 13 grams of protein.

2. Turkey Roll-Ups

Turkey roll-ups are delicious and nutritious.

Turkey contains high-quality protein, which helps you feel satisfied, preserves muscle mass and burns more calories during digestion than fat or carbs.

3. Healthy Beef Jerky or Beef Sticks

Beef jerky or beef sticks make great high-protein, portable snacks. But make sure you choose the right type.

Some jerkies are loaded with sugar and preservatives. Beef sticks generally don't contain sugar, but many aren't made from high-quality meat and may contain other questionable ingredients.

Look for jerky and beef sticks made from grass-fed beef and salt, with as few ingredients as possible. Grass-fed beef contains more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef.

Most beef jerkies and sticks contain about 7 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams).

4. A Piece of Fruit

Healthy snacks don't need to be complicated. Just a single piece of fruit can be incredibly satisfying.

Examples of fruit that are portable and can be eaten with almost no preparation include bananas, apples, pears, grapes, grapefruit and oranges.

5. Mixed Nuts

Nuts are an ideal nutritious snack.

They've been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and may help prevent certain cancers, depression and other diseases.

Despite being relatively high in fat, they are very filling. Several studies suggest that eating nuts in moderation can help you lose weight.

Nuts contain the perfect balance of healthy fat, protein and fiber. They contain about 180 calories in a 1 oz (28 grams) serving, on average.

They also taste great and don't require refrigeration, so they're perfect for carrying with you when away from home.

Think Twice Before that Morning Juice

Sugar Juice

Starting your morning with fruit juice is often perceived as a healthy way to start  your day.  That's understandable, given that it is natural and has the word "fruit" in it.

However, what many people fail to realize is that fruit juice is also loaded with sugar.  In fact, fruit juice contains just as much sugar and calories as a sugary soft drink... and sometimes even more.

Even if juice is labelled as "100% pure" and "not from concentrate”,  after being squeezed from the fruit -- the juice is usually stored in massive oxygen-depleted holding tanks for up to a year before it is packaged.

The main problem with this method is that it tends to remove most of the flavor, so the manufacturers need to add so-called "flavor packs" to the juice, to bring back the flavor that was lost during processing.

So even if you're buying the highest quality juices at the supermarket, they're still far from their original state.  Some of the lowest quality ones don't even resemble fresh-squeezed fruit juice at all...they are basically just fruit-flavored sugar water.

BOTTOM LINE:
Fruit juice isn't always what it seems, even the higher quality types have gone through processing methods that remove the flavor, making it necessary to add "flavor packs” (whatever those are!) to bring them back to their original state.

VarCity Lifehacks: Breathe Away Your Anxiety

Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety.  We all feel it and when we do it can paralyze us in the most important of times.  Aside from working out, there are a few techniques that can significantly improve anxiousness.  One technique that is used by a lot of professionals in high pressure situations is “box breathing”.

Benefits of box breathing

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system. This system regulates involuntary body functions like temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost-immediate sense of calm.

Box breathing can reduce stress and improve your mood.  It can also help treat insomnia by allowing you to calm your nervous system at night before bed.

What is box breathing?

Box breathing is a technique used in taking slow, deep breaths. This can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.

Also called four-square breathing, this technique can be beneficial to anyone, especially those who want to meditate or reduce stress. It’s used by everyone from athletes to police officers, nurses, and yoga practitioners.

The steps of box breathing

Before you get started, make sure that you’re seated upright in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Try to be an a stress-free, quiet environment where you can focus on your breathing. Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture. You should be sitting up straight. This will help you take deep breaths.

Step 1
Sitting upright, slowly exhale, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Focus on this intention and be conscious of what you’re doing.

Step 2
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. In this step, count to four very slowly in your head. Feel the air fill your lungs, one section at a time, until your lungs are completely full and the air moves into your abdomen.

Step 3
Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

Step 4
Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.

Step 5
Hold your breath for the same slow count of four before repeating this process.

Tips for beginners
If you’re new to box breathing, it may be difficult to get the hang of it. You may get dizzy after a few rounds. This is normal, and as you practice it more often, you’ll be able to go longer without the dizziness. If you get dizzy, stay sitting for a minute and resume normal breathing.

To help you focus on your breathing, find a quiet, dimly lit environment to practice box breathing. This isn’t at all necessary to perform the technique, but it can help you focus on the practice if you’re new to it.

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.  

Top 5 Reasons to Stop Using Anti-Bacterial Soap: Part 2 of 2

Anti-Bacterial

1. Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than conventional soap and water.  42 years of FDA research has produced no evidence that triclosan provides any health benefits as compared to old-fashioned soap.

“I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an antibacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families,” Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the FDA’s drug center.  “But we don’t have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water.”

2. Antibacterial soaps have the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Heavy use of antibiotics can cause bacterial resistance, which results from a small subset of a bacteria population with a random mutation that allows it to survive exposure to the chemical.

3. The soaps could act as endocrine disruptors.  In rats, frogs and other animals, triclosan appears to interfere with the body’s regulation of thyroid hormone.  If this is the case in humans, too, there are worries that it could lead to problems such as infertility, artificially-advanced early puberty, obesity and cancer.

4. The soaps might lead to other health problems, too. There’s evidence that children with prolonged exposure to triclosan have a higher chance of developing allergies, including peanut allergies and hay fever. Scientists speculate that this could be a result of reduced exposure to bacteria, which could be necessary for proper immune system functioning and development.

5. Antibacterial soaps are bad for the environment. When we use a lot of triclosan in soap, a lot of triclosan gets flushed down Small quantities of the chemical can persist after treatment at sewage plants, and as a result, USGS surveys have frequently detected it in streams and other bodies of water. Once in the environment, triclosan can disrupt algae’s ability to perform photosynthesis.

What Should You Do?

If you’re planning on giving up antibacterial soap—like Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente and several other companies have recently done—you have a couple options.

One is a non-antibiotic hand sanitizer, like Purell, which don’t contain any triclosan and simply kill both bacteria and viruses with good old-fashioned alcohol. Because the effectiveness of hand-washing depends on how long you wash for, a quick squirt of sanitizer might be more effective when time is limited.

Outside of hospitals though, the time-tested advice: wash your hands with conventional soap and water is probably the way to go.  That’s because while alcohol from hand sanitizer kills bacteria, it doesn’t actually remove dirt or anything else you may have touched. But a simple hand wash should do the trick. The water doesn’t need to be hot, and you’re best off scrubbing for about 30 seconds to get properly clean.

Our Top 5 Snacks for After-School

Healthy Snacks

After-school healthy snacks are always tricky.  You’re starving, but you don’t want to break the bank and you know you have dinner in a few hours.  Here are VarCity’s top 5 picks for healthy snacks to help you feel full in that 3pm between lunch and dinner area.

Yogurt

Low-fat yogurt is an excellent source of calcium. To add taste and nutritional value, whip up a yogurt parfait with berries and granola or make a homemade fruity yogurt pop that beats sugary store-bought frozen treats any day.

Cheese

The protein in this healthy snack keeps energy levels high until dinnertime. We like to stick salt-free pretzel sticks into cubes of low-fat cheese to make "satellite snacks," but you can also make cheese more interesting by putting it on your favorite whole wheat cracker or making kabobs with your favorite fruit.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet spuds are some of the most nutritious vegetables around: They're packed with vitamin A and are good sources of B6, C, and folate. These simple, delicious chips are great alternatives to the greasy, store-bought variety.

Hummus

Made from pureed chickpeas, hummus is an excellent dip for after-school.  It has an appealing nutty flavor, is thick enough not to be messy, and contains folate, vitamin B6, and iron.  Serve hummus with cut-up vegetables or salt-free crackers for dipping, or use it to make a pita bread sandwich.

Whole-Grain Waffles

For a fun alternative to peanut butter and jelly, try waffles for a boost of whole grains and fiber.  These cool new protein-packed waffles topped with a small dollop of cream cheese and a fruit jelly are a refreshing change for snacktime.

That Feeling When Your Parents Won’t Buy You Fitness Classes

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We know getting your parents to part with their hard-earned dollars is no easy task, so we put together the top 5 reasons you can use to get those workout funds from mom and dad.

1.  Statistically speaking, teens don’t outgrow being unfit.  Healthy teens develop healthy habits that guide them throughout life.

2.  Regular teen exercise and academic performance are highly connected.  

3.   Physical education requirements in schools have little to no impact  on teen health.

4.  82% of teens don’t get the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services’ recommended 60-minutes of daily physical activity.

5.  70% of kids in the U.S. quit organized sports by the age of 13.

And if the above reasons aren’t enough to convince your parents, we’ll even throw in a 50% off coupon for your first class!  Enter “FALLFIT” at checkout!