Body Types

Itchy Muscles? What Does It Mean?

Teen Fitness

I’ve recently gotten into yoga and have noticed that the next morning, I’ll sometimes wake-up with an itching sensation that feels like it’s coming from inside my muscle tissue. I didn’t know whether that was cause for concern, so I started doing a little internet research find out.

What I discovered is that an itching sensation isn’t necessarily a bad thing and that if your itching only happens when you exercise, you likely won’t have any other symptoms.

People complain of itchy muscles especially in warm weather or if it’s been a while since they last exercised. Exercising, especially cardio workouts like running, increase your blood flow and send a lot of oxygen to your muscles. The theory is that the blood vessels in your muscles are stretching beyond what they’re used to, and this wakes up the nerves around them.

And since the nerve signals that communicate pain can sometimes be closely linked with the nerve signals for itch, itching muscles could also be a way that your body is processing stress from working out.

So next time you workout and your muscle fibers start to itch, that’s probably a good sign. Just remember to keep stretching and not to push your muscles to the point of strains or tears.

VarCity Fitness Trends: Boxing

Boxing

Boxing used to be a grungy sport reserved for people who didn’t mind working out in a dark, damp cave. Then along came boutique boxing studios, and suddenly boxing’s sexy again. It’s now the sport of models and fitfluencers everywhere—and when it comes to a workout that incorporates cardio and toning, boxing is going to make a strong push to supplant spinning as the number #1 workout in 2019.

For starters, slamming away at a heavy bag is a full-body workout that can burn around 700 calories an hour (depending on your weight). But if that’s not enough to get your gloves on, people are also using the workout as an outlet for stress and to build self-confidence. Go ahead—let it all out!

VarCity Wellness Trends: Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll Latte

Step aside matcha, there’s a new drink in the neighborhood. Chlorophyll lattes are here and the health claims are getting out of control. From bad breath to depression to exercise recovery, if you google it, chances are chlorophyll can apparently fix it. While a few smaller studies did find that taking chlorophyll supplements did slightly increase weight loss and lower cholesterol, experts have suggested that we need a lot more research to confirm the “superfood” claims.

Today it’s not unusual to find coffeeshops blending chlorophyll-packed supplements like spirulina and chlorella into your frothy morning brew,. And hey, even if the whipped cream and syrup pumps somewhat nullify any potential health benefits from the superfood greens, at least you’re getting a good ‘gram.

VarCity Tips: Eat This, Not That -- Shaved Ice

Healthy Summer Treats

Fro-Yo still may be king of the summer, but think twice the next time you get a bowl loaded with artificial sweeteners, empty calories and chemical-based flavors. For summer of 2019, try a bowl of shaved ice. Inspired by Japanese kakigōri, Filipino halo-halo, Korean patbingsu, and Taiwanese bao-bing, the icy treats are a low-calorie refreshing alternative. The trend is expected to go mainstream with the help of do-it-yourself topping bars.

VarCity’s tip: Keep your shaved ice refreshing and manageable by adding fresh fruit instead of super-sweet syrups, juices and candies.

The Benefits of Unprocessed Foods

Processes Foods

A recent study from the National Institutes of Health found that people eating ultra-processed foods ate more calories and gained more weight than when they ate a minimally processed diet. The difference in weight gain even occurred when the meals provided to the volunteers in both the ultra-processed and minimally processed diets had the same number of calories and macronutrients.

This study considered foods “ultra-processed” if they had ingredients predominantly found in food manufacturing, such as hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents and emulsifiers.

Previous studies had shown diets high in processed foods correlated to health problems. But, because none of the past studies randomly assigned people to eat specific foods and then measured the results, scientists could not say for sure whether the processed foods were a problem on their own, or whether people eating them had health problems for other reasons, such as a lack of access to fresh foods.

This is the first study to demonstrate causality — that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight.

An ultra-processed breakfast might consist of a bagel with cream cheese and turkey bacon, while the unprocessed breakfast was oatmeal with bananas, walnuts, and skim milk. The ultra-processed and unprocessed meals had the same amounts of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates, and participants could eat as much or as little as they wanted.

On the ultra-processed diet, people ate about 500 calories more per day than they did on the unprocessed diet. They also ate faster on the ultra-processed diet and gained weight, whereas they lost weight on the unprocessed diet. Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet.

Quick + Easy Summer Workouts

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Are you traveling with the family for the summer and do you need workout ideas to keep in shape efficiently and without exercise equipment handy? Try the below workout that can be done anywhere — even on the beach before the crowds arrive.

For each move do 10 reps, repeat for 3 rounds and rest 30 seconds between rounds.

Lateral Lunges

Step right leg out into a lateral lunge with the left leg straight. As you stand up, drag the left leg back to standing while using the sand as resistance. Repeat movement on the other side.

180-degree Jump Squats

Squat and touch the ground, jump 180-degrees clockwise and touch the ground again. Repeat by jumping 180-degrees counter-clockwise. Two jumps equals one rep.

Down Dog Push-Ups

Start in a down dog position. Walk your hands out to a full plank, perform a push-up and then walk your hands back to down dog.

Shuttle Sprints

Place two towels about 20 yards apart, and using them as markers, start at one and sprint to the other. That’s one! Keep your speed up, sprinting back and forth five times (10 lengths total).

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.

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!

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.

Train for Your Body Type: Mesomorphs -- Part 4 of 4

Mesomorph Body Type

Mesomorph:  Muscular and well-built, with a high metabolism and responsive muscle cells

You have the body type that finds it easiest to add new muscle and you don’t tend to store much body fat. Mesomorphs tend to take their naturally athletic builds for granted, which can result in diluted workouts and poor diets. Keeping in peak physical condition is often tempered by a scattered approach to eating and training.

The key here is to make the most of your body shape. That means following a progressive plan that will make you stronger and more athletic by increasing your power without getting too bulky. To fuel your workouts, you’ll need plenty of whole grains.

Are You a Mesomorph?

If you are, you’ll know it from the jealous looks. Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym, and pack on muscle the instant they pick up a dumbbell. If this sounds like you, you’ve hit the genetic jackpot – but you can make the most of your DNA with some tactical workout tricks.

What Mesomorphs Might Be Doing Wrong

Mesomorphs often won’t train as hard as they can.  Mesomorphs should try timed workouts, to give them goals to aim for and raise their workout intensity.

What Mesomorphs Should Be Doing

Mesomorphs should train athletically.  Try sprints, box and vertical jumps or other plyometrics.  Mesomorphs respond well to low reps and power moves.  Alternatively, interval sprints will pump up their metabolism and strip away fat.

What to Eat

Although the usual caveats apply, the good news is that your body will respond well to whatever healthy food you put into it.  A basic guideline for mesomorphs to follow would be to consume meals that are 40% complex carbohydrates, 30% lean protein and 30% healthy fats. So, for example, a plate that contained vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli, grilled chicken and olive oil on wholegrain bread would represent a staple dish for this body type.

What Else?

You should also factor in recovery days.  Some light movements on your rest days will help get the blood flowing and keep you fresh.

Money Moves

You’ll respond well to power moves.  Try pairing a strength move with a power move that works the same muscles. For example, superset five reps on the deadlift with five on the power clean.

The Mesomorph Cheat Sheet

Do

  • Train like an athlete

  • Time your workouts

  • Set personal bests

Don’t

  • Take your body for granted

  • Eat whatever you like