How to boost metabolism? Exercise and diet.

Here's the skinny on boosting metabolism, along with 8 simple ideas for burning more calories.

Photo: iStockphoto
For those who struggle with weight and low energy, learning how to increase metabolism will result in safe and effective fat loss, an increase in muscle tone, an elevated sense of mental well-being and a host of other wellness benefits.
Even the environment will fare better as we collectively improve metabolism. How so? Many people struggling with obesity eat a majority of their calories from processed, factory-farmed and heavily packaged foods. These foods are far more of a strain on the environment than foods grown naturally.
With those facts in mind, we present our list of tips on how to increase metabolism:
Tip #1: Eat real food
How to increase metabolism: eat real foodAsk yourself if something you’re about to eat was around more than 10,000 years ago. If not, don’t eat it. Better yet, if you’re really serious about boosting your metabolism, raid your pantry and fridge — not to gorge, but to purge it of any products that you highly doubt were around just a few generations ago.
If you have a hunch that the Jell-O, Twinkies, potato chips and Twizzlers in your cabinets weren’t enjoyed by cavemen, trash them and never buy them again.
Lean meats, plenty of fresh vegetables, some fruit and a small amount of seeds, nuts and natural oils should comprise 99 percent of your food intake. (Cheat once in a blue moon so you don’t completely fall off the wagon.)
Start reading food labels. If a product has as many items as the periodic table of elements, it won’t boost your metabolism. Don’t eat something if it has more than three to five ingredients (less is best).
Foods loaded with preservatives, excessive natural sugar, and cheap sugar surrogates like high-fructose corn syrup lead to weight gain because these substances are a shock to the liver and have a tendency to get stored as body fat.
Tip #2: Eat 3-6 times per day
How to increase metabolism: eat 3-6 times per dayOn one hand, it seems like many people have heard the wise tip of eating several small meals throughout the day. Why then is there still a prevalence of fasting to lose weight?
The psychological factor of stepping on a scale and seeing the weight go down is huge. If someone skips meals, say to lose 10 pounds for a wedding, they may be successful in dropping the weight.
When someone steps on a scale, however, the number before them does not tell the whole story.
The reading on the scale fails to decipher how much weight was attributed to fat loss (much to the chagrin of the faster, not likely very much), how much to muscle gain (none; more likely, muscle mass will waste away), and how much to water-weight fluctuations (very likely).
Eating smaller, balanced meals throughout the day keeps blood sugar levels from fluctuating. As a result, cravings for foods that tend to put on fat are greatly reduced.
If you go several hours without eating (more than four or five), your body’s neurological wiring will still act as it did in prehistoric times, shutting down your metabolism to prepare for a period of starvation.
Tip #3: Eat 10 grams of protein by 10 a.m.
How to increase metabolism: eat 10 grams proteinEvery meal you eat should contain the three main macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and natural fat. The trick is to figure out which proportions of each to eat at every meal. (An online test called Metabolic Typing can help you figure this out).
And if you’re following tip #2, chances are, you’re eating breakfast. That’s smart because it will fire up your engine and make sure your metabolism gets cranking early in the day.
By 10 a.m. every day — lazy Sundays included — eat 10 grams of high-quality protein to kick start your metabolism. (One egg has about 6 grams.) Even waiting to eat your first meal of the day at an 11 a.m. brunch will throw your metabolism off for the rest of the day.
Tip #4: Exercise — but don’t do too much cardio
How to increase metabolism: exerciseSome runners and joggers can’t figure out why, despite all the cardiovascular exercise they’re doing, those last 10 extra pounds won’t melt away.
Too much cardio will actually burn muscle tissue. A better way to boost metabolism through exercise is to start a strength-training routine.
Don’t have the money or desire to join a gym or hire a personal trainer? No problem. Your own body is the only piece of exercise equipment you need. You also don’t need to exercise for an hour or more at a clip to boost your metabolism.
Recent studies have demonstrated that several short bursts of resistance training can be more effective at boosting metabolism than an hour-long workout. Pushups off your knees, even for men, are a great way to get back in shape and boost metabolism. Perform several sets of 10 repetitions throughout the day.
4 extra tips to boost metabolism:
  • Drink green tea throughout the day.
  • Make sure to also drink plenty of water.
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to regulate hormone levels.
  • Check with a health professional to see if your hormone levels are balanced.
Judd Handler is a certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and wellness coach. He offers complimentary wellness consultations via Skype (search: coach_judd).
Got other ideas for how to increase metabolism? Leave us a note in the comments below.


A fat boy does exercises

Gimmicky gadgets that target your abs won’t help you get rid of belly fat but we’ve got suggestions for how you can shed the extra weight.

Photo: Wang Congqi, ChinaFotoPress/ZUMA Press
You’ve tried it all: ab machines, celebrity detox diets, laxatives, even skipping meals, yet none of these methods seem to help you slim down.
Here’s the real skinny on how to get rid of belly fat.
Some ways to help you burn stubborn fat around your midsection involves:
  • Avoiding sugars and starches as much as possible
  • Getting enough essential fatty acids in the diet, which can help metabolize body fat
  • Tweaking your exercise routine
  • Managing stress levels
  • Correcting hormonal imbalances
By now, hopefully you realize that gimmicky gadgets that target your abs won’t help you get rid of fat around your midsection. Ab machines may help somewhat in strengthening your rectus abdominis muscles (the ‘6-pack’ superficial layer in the front of your core), but they won’t burn fat.
And by extension, it’s impossible to do what’s called ‘spot reduction’ fat burning. Running on a treadmill for 45-minutes at a high intensity may indeed help you burn fat, but there’s no telling where on your body Mother Nature plans on burning up your fat stores.
It could be in your saddlebags, buttocks, back or chest; there’s just no telling.
The Aerobic vs. Anaerobic debate
So what’s the best method of exercise to burn belly fat (and fat circulating in the bloodstream)?
For decades, exercise gurus and scientists recommended sustained (at least 30 minutes) aerobic exercise in the so-called ‘fat-burning zone,’ which is often regarded as approximately 50-70 percent of your maximum heart rate.
There are still plenty of aerobic advocates who claim that aerobic exercise is king, but recent research and new fitness training schools of thought have a different opinion.
Several repetitions of high-intensity, short-burst exercise of 30-60 seconds, followed by a recovery period will burn significantly more calories than a steady-tempo jog on the treadmill.
Really want to burn belly fat? Then train like an Olympian
It’s no wonder that Olympic athletes like track and field sprinters are chiseled Adonis’s with virtually no abdominal fat. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete but you can train like one (if you’re physically fit) if you want to burn belly fat. 
Try raising the treadmill to the highest incline and sprinting at the highest speed (on most machines, this will be 10 m.p.h.) for 30 seconds, then lower the treadmill all the way down and reduce the speed to 3 m.p.h. until your heart rate recovers. Repeat several times.
If you’re not into high-intensity training, you’ll still want to implement cross-training into your routine, whereby you mix weight and resistance exercises with cardio exercises. Pick exercises that involve virtually every muscle. For example, do any variation of squats or deadlifts, followed immediately by a round of jump roping or jumping jacks. Doing 10 sets of this will boost your metabolism and hopefully burn fat around your midsection.
Mix it up
Another vital tenet of belly-fat burning exercise is to frequently alter your training routine. Ever notice that people who walk on the treadmill for 2 hours at the gym rarely make any improvements to their physique? Though long walks can help stave off disease, they most likely will do little to burn body fat.
You must train at a higher intensity and constantly trick your body to prevent routine adaptation. Keep doing the same thing and your body won’t burn fat as effectively.
Got stress? It may show on your belly.
Some adults who exercise regularly and claim to eat healthy still have trouble getting rid of that extra 5-10 pounds of love handles and belly fat. Stress is the likely culprit.
Stress of any kind—including exercising too hard and failing to refuel the body properly and getting enough rest—leads to adrenal fatigue and floods the body with the hormone cortisol. When excess cortisol courses through the body, it can have a negative effect on DHEA production, a hormone that is one of the precursors to the sex hormones like testosterone.
If you’re testosterone levels are low, you’ll have a harder time burning belly fat and gaining lean muscle. Consult your physician or wellness practitioner to test your hormone levels.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, California. He can be reached atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Cardio exercises to get your heart pumping.So, you want to get started with cardio exercises? Great, we've highlighted eight of the most popular ones for you to choose from.

There are several benefits to cardio exercises, including:
  • Making the heart pump blood more effectively
  • Boosting metabolism
  • Maintaining mental well-being
  • Increasing lung capacity
  • Eliminating toxins from the body
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend that individuals under 65 perform moderate-intensity cardio exercise for 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
If you are embarking on a cardio exercise routine for the first time, stick to the lower end of your target heart rate and start exercising three days per week, on non-consecutive days. (Text: Judd Handler)


Jogging — Cardio exercises

Jogging is an exercise fad that hasn’t faded away since it first became popular four decades ago. Jogging remains one of the most effective and simple ways to get your heart stronger. According to one calorie-burning-by-activity calculator, a 140-pound person who jogs for 25 minutes will burn almost 200 calories. Don’t just jump out of your car and start jogging; make sure to do a warmup with some active stretching for at least 5 minutes. To challenge your heart, you may be better off implementing interval training, allowing the heart rate to spike up to the upper reaches of your target heart rate for a couple minutes and then leveling off for a recovery period.  If you’re running on hard surfaces like asphalt, splurge for some thick-soled spring-loaded shoes and replace them at least a few times a year. Get massages and roll on a foam roller to keep your muscles loose.


Hiking — Cardio exercisesFor nature lovers, a walk in the outdoors can also be a great workout for the ticker. Trails that have gradual elevation gains and losses are best. Your joints, especially your knees will be spared from serious pounding. Gradual inclines don’t spike up the heart rate too quickly. If you do have a steep descent, take short steps, angle your feet sideways and use your quadriceps (front of your thighs) to slow you down and get a muscle-building benefit. For challenging hikes, hiking poles will aid your climb and get your upper body muscles more involved. For hikes of over two hours, make sure you take a snack break—fruit and nuts are perfect—to sustain your energy.


Cycling — Cardio exercisesDepending on resistance level and speed, mere-mortal non-Lance Armstrongs can burn up to 500 calories by biking for as little as 30 minutes. Even those living in cold climates can continue to cycle during winter. Most bike stores sell studded tires, perfect for cruising through snow. If you love bike riding, you’ll need to supplement your riding with strength training, particularly core-strengthening exercises to keep your muscles along the spine strong. With all that bending over, you’ll need it. Developing a strong core will also help you recruit your core muscles to pedal rather than just using your legs.



Swimming — Cardio exercisesSwimming, by many, is considered the best cardio exercise because not only does it increase lung capacity and strengthen the heart, it also helps build your muscles. A 140-pound person who swims for 30 minutes will burn in excess of 200 calories and develop major muscle groups like latissimus dorsi(these are the upper-back “bat wing” muscles that Olympic swimmers have). A good warmup for swimmers is arm circles, brought into vogue by Michelle Obama. Reverse arm circles are very important to promote muscular balance of the deltoids (shoulders).


Cardio machines

Cardio machines — Cardio exercisesFor those that enjoy going to the gym, a cardio machine (Stairmaster, elliptical, rowing) is a great way to build heart strength. To maximize your time, pick a machine that will also give you a strength-training benefit. The elliptical has two moving poles that you alternately push and pull. Make sure you engage your core muscles to initiate movement of the poles—don’t rely only on your arms. When using the Stairmaster, make sure the resistance is high enough where your legs are getting a resistance training workout. For advanced-level Stairmaster users, add some light dumbbell presses to your routine. Make sure you keep upright posture on every machine.


Step aerobics

Step aerobics — Cardio exercisesAerobics have come a long ways since the days of Jane Fonda. Good old-fashioned step aerobics classes, though, are still a great way to get the heart pumping. Step classes usually make for a sweaty affair—good for ridding the body of toxins. Another huge benefit is improved coordination. Warning for klutzes: step aerobics may be an intimating challenge at first, as it requires stepping up on to raised platforms while alternating the leg used. Step classes, when done properly, place minimal load on the joints. Beginners should use a four-inch step; experts can go up to a foot high. To avoid maximum joint load, place the sole of your foot first on the step and don’t lock out your knees. Do no more than a handful of consecutive step ups on one side.


Power walking

Power walking — Cardio exercisesWalking by itself is often times not strenuous enough for a heart-muscle building workout, but power walking, or fast walking, as it’s also called, is perhaps the most effective and safest form of cardio exercise. Though it looks kooky to some, power walking involves a unique gait: a powerful heel to toe strike, combined with dynamic arm movement. Keep your elbows close to your sides and move your shoulder blades in a circular motion, creating energy like an engine piston. A popular power walking website suggests that walking is “the most natural and fundamental of all human conscious movements.” Power walking can have you traveling at 8 mph; regular walking keeps you moving 5 mph slower.



Kettlebells — Cardio exercisesOriginating from Soviet bloc countries where fitness gyms were virtually nonexistent, kettlebells have become very popular in the west over the last decade. A kettlebell looks like a canon ball attached to a luggage handle. The off-centered weight forces the whole body to execute a movement. Though it’s most often thought of as a strength-training tool, kettlebells workouts will boost your heart rate. The kettlebell swing is a basic exercise, which takes a few practice sessions to master. Proper form is essential for avoiding injury. There are thousands of free online kettlebell swing videos. Beginners should use an 8-kilogram kettlebell (a little less than 20 pounds) and perform 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions with both arms gripping the kettlebell. Stronger newcomers can opt for 18-kilogram kettlebells and perform one-arm swings to near failure, or, perform more advanced alternating toss swings.


A salad of tomatoes and avocados

It's important for diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels even as they attempt to lose weight.

HEALTHY OPTIONS: A salad of tomatoes and avocados is a nice option for diabetics due to their natural fat and low carb content. (Photo: fotoosvanrobin/Flickr)
November is American Diabetes Month, and with about 8.3 percent of Americans having diabetes—and another 80 million at risk of becoming diabetic—it’s crucial for all of us, not just nutritionists and celebrity fitness trainers, to pass on some of these tips on weight loss for diabetics.
The overwhelming majority of diabetics have type-2 diabetes, sometimes referred to as, “The Lifestyle Disease.”
Poor nutrition choices and lack of exercise are almost always the culprits of diabetes. “Nutrition illiteracy,” which can be defined as lacking the knowledge that certain foods are unhealthy, as well as access to affordable healthy options, can both be factors in becoming diabetic.
There are currently no cures or immunity to diabetes, but it is possible to control it.
If you have type-2 diabetes, safe and effective weight-loss strategies include:
  • Eating at least 3-5 smaller, balanced meals
  • Drinking enough water
  • Avoiding eating products with white flour and refined carbohydrates
  • Including lots of fiber in the diet
  • Exercising daily
What is a balanced meal? 
For those who are nutritionally literate, it might be obvious what constitutes a balanced meal. But for many diabetics who have gone through much of their life raised on sugary cereals, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, fries, Coke and other junk food, it might not be so obvious what constitutes a balanced meal.
Every meal you eat should be at regularly-spaced intervals. Try to go no more than three to four hours without eating. Have breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at noon, an afternoon snack at 4 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Try sticking to the same eating schedule every day as this will help regulate blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the three macronutrients and all three should be eaten at every meal to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
The majority of carbohydrates you eat should come from vegetables (both cooked and raw). Earlier in the day, at breakfast and lunch, you can have a moderate amount of low-starch carbohydrate such as wild rice, oat bran, oatmeal and quinoa, a grainy, high-protein alternative to other blood-sugar spiking carbohydrates like white rice and pasta.
Try to limit your portion sizes of carbohydrates to a fist or fist and a half. Your protein choice should also be limited to about the size of your fist. Good protein choices to choose from at every meal include:
  • Lean meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans (don’t opt for soy meat substitutes)
  • Protein powder (perfect for late-morning smoothies)
Dietary fats are the third component of balanced meals. Fats get a bad rap in the media. Eating fat won’t necessarily make you fat. Eating more calories than you burn and consuming too much sugar without burning them by exercising will make you fat. Natural fats help slow down blood sugar and regulate insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. Some nutritionists think that eating full-fat ice cream is actually better for you than fat-free because the fat prevents blood sugar spikes. The problem, of course, with eating any ice cream variety is portion control.
Examples of natural fat include:
  • Olive oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Flaxseed oil
The amount of natural fat at every meal should generally be low, as in a tablespoon of olive oil on a salad or an eighth of an avocado and a handful of sunflower seeds and one egg yolk.
If you need to snack, it’s best to eat something that contains all 3 macronutrients, such as an apple with celery and a wee bit of peanut butter.
In addition to eating at least three small balanced meals throughout the day, here are some other tips for diabetics who need to lose weight:
  • Drink at least eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day
  • Have most of your calories come from vegetables
  • Melt a tablespoon of butter over your veggies and sprinkle some sea salt to make them more appetizing.
  • If you eat at least 21 meals a week (three a day), allow yourself two very small ‘cheat’ snacks per week. Try to make them healthy ones like one small square of dark chocolate.
  • Try to walk after every meal for at least 10 minutes. This will help regulate blood sugar.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, California.


Woman meditating in field.

Ideas for how to begin daily meditation for people who've never tried it or feel like they couldn't ever get their mind to be quiet.

Photo: lisadragon/Flickr
Feeling scatterbrained? Stressed-out and overwhelmed? Depressed? It’s time to calm your mind. Here are some tips on how to meditate and the benefits you’ll receive from daily meditation.
Warning: your life might change if you start meditating. Eventually, you may:
  • Develop appreciation for the mundane every-day tasks that bore you and keep you joyless.
  • No longer be bombarded by the constantly chattering “monkey mind” that’s been taking up residence in your brain.
  • Lower your blood pressure; perhaps you’ll be able to stop taking your meds.
  • Recognize the illusion of problems your mind spins out of control; learn how to see the hilarity of every-day dramas.
  • Attract more positivity in your life.
You gotta believe!
Can’t sit still for an hour while you’re in a position that seems like you’d strain your groin staying in it for any longer than a minute?
Don’t let that dissuade you from giving meditation a try. You don’t have to be like Buddha and sit in perfect “lotus pose” with your ankles up into your hip sockets. You can be seated in a chair or even lying down on your back staring up at the ceiling or sky.
Meditation doesn’t have to be an impossible spiritual pursuit necessitating pure stillness.
You can try moving meditations like tai chi or qi gong. Yoga classes can be meditative.
Some people even meditate while they walk. They concentrate on every step and attempt not to get distracted by their own thoughts.
Instead, focus is put on the setting, which can be anywhere that’s quiet (even if it’s the garage or laundry room). Anywhere that’s quiet and has natural beauty is a bonus.
Go for a walk and “be in the present,” paying close attention to the rustling of the leaves on a tree or a flock of birds flying overhead. While walking, also focus on the dynamic rhythms of the breath, with stomach and ribs expanding on the inhale and the deflations of the exhalations.
However you decide to meditate, the first baby step — but a very important one on the road to a calmer mind and less stressful life — is determining that you are ready for a change in your life.
Try telling yourself this: “I’m attracting peace in my life.” But don’t half-heartedly say it. You must truly feel that you’re going to be successful in focusing on the positive and calming the mind.
If you’re meditating because you heard Dr. Phil say it’s good for you, but you have your doubts it will do any good, you’ve already set yourself up for failure to make a powerful, uplifting change in your life.
How long should I meditate?
If you’re new to meditation, try just one to two minutes, maximum, at first, and notice how hard it is to not let your thoughts take over. Remember, the goal of mediation is to focus on your breath. You may also focus on a simple phrase you want to attract in your life — peace, wealth, wellness.
It’s OK if you have thoughts creeping in; Don’t give up at first. In fact, it’s not likely you’ll ever become a spiritual master and transport your spirit to another dimension. So when you notice your mind is focused on thoughts think of them as passing clouds.
Recognize the fact you’re thinking instead of meditating. Bring yourself back to your breath and phrase/mantra. Try staring at a candle flame. That will really zone your mind out. (Remember staring at campfires? How meditative!)
It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it
Very few people that try, say, guitar or surfing for the first time, are any good at it. It will be the same with mediation. Don’t give up. Eventually, try to meditate at least once in the morning and at night for at least 10 minutes. Stick with it and you will profoundly attract more peace in your life.
Got more tips for how to meditate? Leave us a note in the comments below.
Judd Handler is an Encinitas, Calf.-based lifestyle coach and health writer. He has been meditating, playing guitar and surfing for over a decade and wasn’t skilled at any of the three at first. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Coconut with corkscrew.

Here are a few ideas for what to drink to keep your body healthy and ready for the next workout.

Photo: norwichnuts/Flickr
Most of us know by now that water is the healthiest drink. Every once in a while, though, we all like to imbibe in a more exciting, satisfying and thirst-quenching drink. Here, then, are a few tasty and healthy beverages:
Thought we’d leave water off our list? Well, think again; specifically, think again about how most of us typically consume water: grab cup, turn on faucet. Guzzle.
We should be grateful for having water to consume, but often, we mindlessly chug it.
Try doing this instead: buy some oranges and limes or lemons and cut the fruit into little wedges. Get a nice glass one-gallon pitcher and pour some purified water and the wedges into it and store it in your fridge.  
Fancy spas typically offer this water, even infusing the water with cucumber slices.
Enjoy the process of making “spa water.” Preparing it can be a meditative art.
To add even more flavor, add a teaspoon of agave syrup (which is slower acting on the glycemic index for those concerned about blood sugar levels). Also add a pinch of cayenne pepper, if you want to spice things up. Stir well. Marvel at how tasty water can be.
After a lengthy, sweaty session of cardio or strength training, sometimes we crave something more satisfying than plain old water. Spa water can do the trick.
Get creative with water. If spa water tastes good to you, share it with anybody you know who doesn’t drink enough water. Maybe they will be inspired to transform what they thought was a bland beverage into a satisfying healthy drink.
Coconut water
Guess we can’t get away from water, can we? Coconut water is an isotonic beverage, which simply means that it helps rehydrate the body with vitamins and minerals after exercising. Coconut water does so without unhealthy high fructose corn syrup or other artificial sugars found in many sports drinks.
Opt for all-natural coconut water that is not from concentrate. If you see any other ingredients listed besides coconut water, don’t buy it.
A typical box of coconut water from a convenience store or grocer has about 12 grams of sugar. Lead a sedentary lifestyle and don’t exercise enough? Opt for spa water instead; you probably don’t need any extra sugar in your diet.
But even coach potatoes can enjoy coconut water once in a while. It would be best for non-active people to sip slowly and make the serving last for a while, rather than getting all the sugar at once, even if coconut water won’t spike your blood sugar levels like Gatorade might.
Fruit, veggie and protein drinks
Many people still think apple juice and other fruit juices are healthy. Most of the time, they are not; fruit juices are usually loaded with sugar, even when all-natural. The healthy eating concept of incorporating whole foods into the diet and maximizing nutrient density is best summed up with the example of the apple.
Instead of drinking apple juice (or eating apple sauce), instead eat an apple. The whole-food apple is lower in sugar and contains the fiber (which juice does not), important for keeping the digestives pipes flowing smoothly.
Vegetable juices in general are healthier than fruit juices. Drinking fruit juice by itself will likely spike blood sugar levels, and as a result, may cause a drop in energy.
Some fruit juices are heralded for health benefits, such as cranberry for prostate health. So if you want plain fruit juice, dilute the sugar rush by “cutting” the fruit juice with spa water.
Some people have a problem with keeping their blood sugar levels rock steady all day. So even if you’re having veggie juice, if you struggle with energy fluctuations, consider mixing in a blender, a scoop of whey protein powder or any other alternative protein (hemp, egg white, rice, etc…) to your veggie juice.
Add a splash of flax oil, loaded with essential fatty acids. This will keep your energy streamlined throughout the day.
Got any other healthy beverage ideas? Share with us below….
Judd Handler is a lifestyle and health coach who needs a cup of coffee in the morning but drinks spa water the rest of the day. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Doing cardio

Cardio exercise is healthy, but deciding how much to do depends on your goals.

Photo: sportsandsocial/Flickr
With so much conflicting information about fitness in the media, maybe you're wondering "how much cardio should I do?"
The short answer: it depends.
The amount of cardiovascular exercise you'll want to engage in should be predicated on your goals.
  • Are you training for a marathon or other race?
  • Is weight loss your goal?
  • Want to fit both strength training and cardio in your routine?
  • Don't have a lot of free time to squeeze in a 45-minute run?
  • Just want to get in better shape?
For general guidelines, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity exercise three to five times per week.
What does moderate intensity mean?
If you can't carry a conversation during a jog, swim, bike or other aerobic activity that gets your heart pumping for a sustained period of time, you're working out too hard. This is especially true if you're new to exercise or concerned about flooding your body with the stress hormone, cortisol. 
Moderate intensity is generally viewed as, after a proper warm up (think: brisk walk for five to 10 minutes), elevating your heart rate to about 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate.
There are more scientifically precise ways of determining your maximum heart rate. The best method, especially for those who are around 40 years old or older and overweight is to do a treadmill stress test administered by a medical professional.
One formula that's often used for the general public is to take your age and subtract it from 220 and then multiply that by anywhere from .50 to .65, which will give you a heart rate guideline for moderate intensity.
The Karvonen formula is also cited as more reliable, though you'll have to know what your resting heart rate is to figure out your moderate intensity training range based on this formula. 
I'm training for a marathon. How much cardio should I do?
Before answering that question, first ask yourself why you want to train for a marathon. Is it just to prove that you can achieve a monumental task? Make sure you have a thorough understanding of sports nutrition and don't have any underlying health issues (an irregular heartbeat, for example).
If you're cleared by your physician and have studied sports nutrition extensively, you'll want to do cardio at least 5 days a week for several weeks if not months prior to a race. Each session should last well over an hour.
I lift weights and want to keep muscle. Won't too much cardio burn away my muscle mass?
If you're concerned about cardio exercise wasting away your muscle tissue, two to three moderate intensity cardiovascular sessions per week of 30 minutes should be enough.
Keep in mind that it's possible to sustain your heart rate at an aerobic capacity for 30 minutes or more during weight lifting. Full-body exercises like deadlifts and squats use your whole body and will tax your heart. To keep up your heart rate, consider focusing on muscular endurance by lowering the amount of weight lifted and increasing the amount of repetitions.
If you're concerned about staying as strong as possible, don't lift too light but do jump rope in between lifts to keep your heart rate up.
I don't have time to do 45 minutes of cardio at one time. What should I do?
Split up your routine. Performing two 20-minute sessions of cardio per day (jumping rope, climbing stairs or bleachers) a day has been proven to be just as effective, if not more so, than one continuous cardio session.
Cardio conclusion
Elite athletes and endurance exercisers thrive on doing high-intensity cardio for prolonged periods, provided that they supplement with adequate nutrition and rest. The average person would do well getting their heart rate up to at least a moderate intensity level five to six days per week. Striking a good balance between resistance and cardio exercise will be most beneficial. Pick an exercise program that accomplishes both to save time. Get clearance from your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, Calif.


Woman taking a vitamin

The health benefits of taking a supplement are debatable. In some cases, it might even be dangerous.

Photo: ZUMA Press
Here's a tough pill to swallow: supplements are a $25-billion-a-year industry, but are they necessary? Could it be that you’re literally peeing your hard-earned money down the toilet, or worse, doing more harm than good by consuming too many supplements? It’s certainly food for thought.
Many medical professionals and nutritionists argue that supplements are necessary because:
  • Most people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables
  • Most people eat processed foods, which lack essential nutrients
  • The soil in which our food is grown is depleted, thus lacking essential minerals
  • Pregnant women and the elderly need more vitamins than food provides
  • The consumption of pharmaceuticals, which may interfere with vitamin absorption
But what about for those who exercise regularly, eat balanced whole foods at every meal, don’t smoke, and drink alcohol moderately? Are supplements necessary?
Some research says 'no'
An article last year on mentioned a study that was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which concluded, “The evidence for routine use of multivitamin and mineral supplements to reduce infections in elderly people is weak and conflicting….”
Another peer-reviewed study mentioned in the article was penned by several researchers at the Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. After following up with more than 160,000 post-menopausal women during the 1990s, for an average of eight years, the researchers’ study “provided convincing evidence that multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, CVD (cardiovascular disease), or total mortality in postmenopausal women.”
Debunking supplements doesn’t stop there. Experts at the National Institutes of Health five years ago argued that there’s no clear evidence that vitamins prevent chronic diseases.
So what have researchers concluded from supplements? Researchers have inconclusively concluded the following:
  • Health benefits from taking multivitamins is still up for debate.
  • Some people may be getting too much of certain nutrients.
  • There may be possible interactions between multivitamins and minerals and prescribed or over-the-counter medications.
That’s a bummer. My cabinet is stocked with supplements. Surely my antioxidant pills are highly effective?
Marketing gurus have helped companies make millions by touting the latest antioxidant product du jour, be it the acai berry, mangosteen, blueberry, Omega 3s…the list goes on.
But research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that not only can some antioxidant supplements be ineffective, they can be hazardous to your health. The 2007 study of more than 232,000 people concluded that antioxidant supplements can "increase the risk of death."
Gulp. Talk about a bitter pill to swallow. Why would antioxidants be bad for you? Researchers theorize that we shouldn’t be as vigilant about free radicals as we are; our body actually needs some amount of them to perform certain functions like regulating blood sugar levels.
Is there anything these studies bashing supplements have missed?
Perhaps. Nutritional experts would argue that not all supplements are created equal. Certain brands are derived from whole-food sources, while other, more mainstream brands are laced with synthetic ingredients. The aforementioned research did not indicate what brand of vitamins the subjects were taking.
Certain vitamin supplements are time-released, while others flood the digestive system all at once, jockeying for position to be absorbed by the body, only to be flushed out by the kidneys.
Conclusion: Take supplements on an as-needed basis
If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about supplements; you may be advised to take supplemental folate. Susceptible to cold sores? You may need supplemental lysine, an amino acid. Concerned about prostate health? Saw palmetto or a bevy of other natural supplements might be the right choice. Digest food poorly? Hydrochloric acid and pepsin might be beneficial. Taken antibiotics lately? Consider recolonizing your digestive tract with probiotics. Most of your immune system lies within your gut, so if you’re going to choose one supplement to take, consider one that aids digestive health. If you eat a poor diet, a multivitamin split in half and taken in the morning and evening might be more effective than a diet full of junk food. But do your research on which multivitamin to take.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, Calif.


Stressed woman.

Stress affects us the same way it did our ancestors. Learn how the body responds and what you can do to minimize the damage.

Photo: Jupiterimages
How many sabre-toothed tigers tried to maul you to death today? Hopefully, the stressors in your life don’t involve an apex predator chasing you through the bush. Still, ever wonder, “What does stress do to the body?”
Stress affects us the same way it did our cavemen ancestors. We are still wired for stress physiologically much the same way we were millennia ago, with our primordial fight or flight response well alive within us to keep us alert and safe.
Though not all stress is bad, we need a break from bad stressors, otherwise our health may begin to deteriorate.
Modern humans battle bad stressors that might not seem like a fight or flight scenario—staying in an unhealthy or challenging relationship with a partner; financial hardships; job dissatisfaction; drug and alcohol abuse; nagging mother-in-laws— all this distress may cause the body to:
  • Elevate blood pressure
  • Increase heart rate
  • Slow down digestion and metabolism
  • Flood the bloodstream with chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol
  • Tense up muscles
Have a white-knuckle commute on the freeway to work every morning? Welcome to this modern life’s version of the caveman being chased by the sabre-tooth tiger. Though you might not have to flee your car and run, the same chemical cocktails are coursing through your body as the caveman’s.
Cortisol: Like adrenaline, it helps us deal with stress, but too much of it can be harmful
Cortisol is one of those chemicals. Excessive cortisol can be damaging to the body.Research has linked it to body fat storage around the abdomen. In turn, piling on the pounds around the belly can lead to heart disease.
Excessive cortisol flooding the bloodstream can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Some doctors believe that adrenal exhaustion (think: someone who is constantly tired) is the main culprit behind every chronic disease. Some doctors think that the mainstream medical profession fails to recognize adrenal burnout as a real health concern.
WebMD reports that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are stress-related, but in its assessment of stress on the body, nowhere does it mention adrenal fatigue due to excess cortisol, which is sometimes referred to as “the stress hormone.”
Failing to cope with bad stress, and thus severely fatiguing the adrenal glands (which rest over the kidneys), has a domino effect on the body’s many symptoms and functions, including:
  • Hormonal (hormonal pathways can be disrupted)
  • Musculoskeletal (you won’t burn fat as efficiently and gain muscle)
  • Immune (adrenal fatigue from bad stress wreaks havoc on the immune system)
  • Digestive (bad stress slows digestion, chronic digestion problems may arise)
  • Cardiovascular (adrenal fatigue can lead to heart palpitations and other problems)
Eating the wrong foods can also lead to adrenal exhaustion
As if mounting bills and a tenuous marriage weren’t enough stress to make your blood vessels dilate, your pupils enlarge, your breathing rapidly increase and your sweat glands kicking into overdrive, perhaps reading that eating an unhealthy diet also plays a major role in contributing to adrenal fatigue.
How? Eating the wrong foods over many years can break down the mucosal barrier in your gut. Think of the mucosal barrier as the body’s second skin as well as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens, or unwanted nasty critters invading your gut.
Your immune system lies mostly in your gut, so if over the years you continue eating poorly, the integrity of the mucosal barrier system becomes severely compromised. In the long run, digestion is compromised. With most of your immune system residing in your gut, your immune system will weaken.
Proper course of action for those with adrenal burnout
Concerned about what stress has done to your body? Seek a medical professional or alternative health practitioner who understands adrenal fatigue and knows how to restore hormonal pathways (Stress robs the body of certain hormones like pregnenolone to produce cortisol; over time this leads to more imbalances.) A nutritional approach to battling stress should also be applied.
How has stress affected your body? Let us know below.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, California.

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