Lifehacks

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 Wellness Trends: Plant-Based Milks

Almond vs Oat Milk

With the rise in popularity of plant-based proteins, we aren’t surprised that food manufacturers are looking for new ways to get plants into our morning coffee routines. Since 2014, nondairy milk alternatives have grown an impressive 61%, and the market is expected to reach more than $35 billion by 2024.

And while the almond and coconut milks of the world are just going to continue getting more ubiquitous, there’s a whole host of other plant-based options, from beans to oats to bananas, that are ready to join the mix.

VarCity’s pro-tip: when choosing a dairy-free milk, look for an option that has a short ingredient list, is unsweetened, offers a source of protein, and is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

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.

Added Sugar: What Happens When You Cut it Out?

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Knowing exactly what constitutes a healthy diet has never been more difficult. Vegans believe forgoing animal products is best, while keto enthusiasts will tell you to eat anything that has four legs and can’t get away fast enough. But there's one food nearly every dietician suggest you avoid: sugar.

Giving up the sweet stuff is hard as it's even found in veggie burgers, tomato sauce, and crackers. But if you do nix added sugars from your diet, your body will benefit almost immediately.

Within a week you can expect lower blood pressure as well as healthier levels of fat and insulin levels in the bloodstream. Of course, how your body reacts to the absence of sugar depends on how much of the white stuff you eat in the first place–and whether you're eating carbs.

Your body breaks down complex carbohydrates, like oatmeal and fruit, into simple sugars to use as energy.

But what if you cut out all high-glycemic foods, as keto enthusiasts and no-carb, no sugar dieters attempt?

First, you'll probably day dream about donuts, if you're the type of person who regularly grabs a muffin in the morning and ends dinner with dessert. This occurs because you don't have sugar to help stimulate your brain.

You may feel, well, rough, but there's a lot of good stuff going on inside your body.

You won't go through the cycle of sugar highs and crashes, as initially you'll feel tired and lethargic, but that will pass within a few days. Also, adrenaline will increase and help break down glycogen, or sugar, stored in your body.

Within three to five days, your liver will make ketones from fat since there's no more glucose, your body’s main source of energy. That’s when your body enters ketosis, aka fat burning mode.

As a result, you could experience muscle cramps since you're losing a lot of water when you’re in ketosis after cutting out sugar. Some people experience keto flu, associated with headaches, fatigue and cramps, which lasts about a week.

But once that passes, you'll feel more energetic, focused, and calm. It’s common for people to cut out sugar and high-glycemic foods to lose weight for short periods of time. However, doctors still aren’t sure whether this is healthy long-term.

That’s why many doctors recommend eating healthy complex carbohydrates. Although they are broken down into sugar, this is an entirely normal and healthy process.

In fact, omitting added sugars while eating complex carbs keeps your insulin levels healthy. Try if for a week! You won’t get the headaches, you won’t get the crashes and you will get a consistent level of energy.

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).

Summer’s Already Here (gulp): Think 20-20-20 To See Results Fast

Summer Fitness Tips

Summer is here again and most of us definitely aren’t ready to be our best-beach selves. Need to see results fast? Try combining cardio training with some resistance training in a six-day-a-week fitness regimen. Do each component twice a week, for a total of six days, with one day off. And as with any new exercise regimen, speak to your doctor first.

Spend Two Days a Week Doing High-Intensity Exercise

Twice a week, do a high-intensity routine incorporating cardio and resistance for 20 minutes (including warm-up/cool-down).

Ideas: Warm up with walking for two to three minutes. Then do one minute of jumping jacks, then one minute of push-ups, then one minute of running or walking up a hill, then rest 30 seconds with easy walking. Repeat your high-intensity routine four times.

Then do a few minutes of stretching to cool down, for  a total of 20 minutes. Include the warm-up and cool-down, as both are important for any boot-camp/high-intensity routine.

Spend Two Days a week Doing Resistance Training

Twice a week, do resistance training for 15 to 20 minutes. You can use your own body weight for resistance training, doing squats, lunges, push-ups and triceps dips. The major bonus of resistance training is that because it builds muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat tissue does, your body continues to burn calories even after the workout is finished.

Spend Two Days a Week Doing Interval Training

Twice a week, do interval training for 20 minutes. Doing something fast, then slow, is an effective fat burner. Instead of going for a 10- to 20-minute light jog, for example, do a burst of sprinting until you are out of breath, walk for a while, then sprint again. Do this regularly and both your speed and stamina should start to increase. If you want to target your lower body run for five minutes, then do squats; run, then do lunges; run, then do step-ups.

Anxiety: Solutions for When Social Media has you Down

Social Media Anxiety

Social media related anxiety is at an all time high and the negative feelings you can sometime feel from swiping through the ‘gram can be overwhelming. The next time you find yourself in a bad mood, pinpoint exactly what is bothering you and describe your feelings. Are you missing out? Frustrated? Exhausted? Feeling inadequate?

Instead of resigning yourself to a generalized negative mood for the next few hours, label your emotions.

People who are able to differentiate their negative emotions are better at regulating and managing them.

Knowing what is wrong can empower you to seek a solution and tailor a response to the situation. For example, recognizing that you felt flustered after a big test might prompt you to speak to a teacher. Feeling “bad” doesn’t provide you with the same kind of useful information. It just hovers over you like a cloud. And because it is so vague, it can easily spill into other aspects of your life and be the reason you feel bad for the entire day.

Emotional differentiation is a skill that can be learned and deployed on a daily basis. By expanding your emotional vocabulary, you are giving yourself the tools to label and understand an array of emotional states. Not only will your bad moods be less bad, you will be better equipped to handle negativity when it arises.