Is it normal for you to feel tired during the day, experience headaches often, get dizzy when exercising, or have dry skin? These, are common symptoms, amongst others to be described later, that are culprits of dehydration, in which an estimated 75% of the population unknowingly and chronically lives with on a day to day basis.
Hydration: How to be a grape
Ever thought water was the best thing ever during a workout? You just couldn’t get enough? Water is just as important when we aren’t collecting sweat in a workout. Though not always the most exciting beverage, it is essential for optimal health and survival.
We are approximately 60% water. A true liquid asset to our health, water does so much for us including the regulation of body temperature, lubrication of our joints and body tissues, delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cells, flushes out waste products, prevents constipation, and maintains blood volume.
So how much do you need? A basic recommendation is 8 cups a day (imagine a half gallon of milk). That's the pretty bare bones minimum though, so if you aren't even meeting this, it's time to step your game up.
Depending on your age, weight, gender, environment (extreme heat or cold), and obviously how much you exercise, this number could be a serious low-ball.
Math Cap On
The infographic above gives guidelines on ounces for the average man, woman, and additional liquid if you are an athlete. You can also use the following basic equation:
What's Your Pee Look Like (Not to Be Creepy)
Most of us know that a dark colored and smelly urine is a sign of dehydration. Anything leaning towards more yellow than clear is a sign you need to sub the coffee for some agua.
Additional physical signs of dehydration can include a dry or sticky mouth, weight gain, joint pain and stiffness, and bladder or kidney problems¹. Yes, you read right, weight gain. Water helps us suppress hunger, reduces our body's sodium levels, and maintains muscle tone and metabolism. Motivated to drink more water yet?
Night time activities like drinking alcohol and sleeping can also dry you out. Drinking a large glass of water right after you wake up is a great way to rehydrate from sleeping and kickstart your day.
Tricks and Tips
If drinking water consistently really is a struggle for you, spice things up by adding slices of fruits, vegetables, or herbs. Fruits may include orange slices, fresh or frozen assorted berries, cucumber slices, watermelon slices, lemon and lime slices. Herbs can be anything from mint, sage, cinnamon sticks, and basil—explore!
Another tip is to buy a "water timer bottle". When it’s in sight, it’s in mind, allowing you not only easy access, but an easy decision when you need a drink.
Secondly, create a chart that will allow you to see your daily water consumption from drinking water specifically. This will allow you to see if you met your goal for the day. The small wins add up! Eventually, you may be able to do without the charting as it becomes habit to consume the proper amount of drinking water.
1 "Dehydration and Weight Gain." Spirit of Change. October 19, 2017. Accessed August 03, 2018. http://www.spiritofchange.org/alternative-health/Dehydration-and-Weight-Gain/.
2 "Water, Hydration, and Health." Popkin, B., D'Anci, K., Rosenburg, I.
Water, Hydration, and Health. Accessed August 03, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
Take a second to imagine what a stack of 1 billion dollars looks like, you can even google it if you'd like. It is a substantial amount of money, enough to fill 10 pallets stacked to the height of a person.
Now, try to imagine what $511 billion dollars looks like. Can you? I can't. Yet, that is the amount of money the United States pharmaceutical market made in 2019, a $75 billion dollar increase from 2018. This astounding number comes from the fact that prescription drugs in the U.S. are among the most costly to get in the world, AND that we as a nation are one of the most unhealthy in the world¹.
Now imagine that there is a drug that would cost you nothing financially to take and is in never-ending supply.
You've already guessed what it is thanks to the title of this article, it's exercise, and it is so powerful that when regularly "taken" you could throw out your Lipitor, Nexium, Plavix, Crestor, and whatever else resides in your medicine cabinet.
Brain Hypertrophy: both amazing and possible
For the non-fitness nerds amongst us, hypertrophy is the scientific term for 'swoll', 'buff', 'jacked', so in other terms, it is the growth in size and (as a result) the strength of a muscle.
It is fairly obvious that with frequent exercise, particularly resistance training, your muscles begin to hypertrophy, but did you know that this can actually happen to your brain as well?
Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki summarizes the PSA-style point in her Ted Talk, The brain-changing effects of exercise, in that exercise is a "miracle drug" for your body and mind.
As a neuroscientist, she became very intrigued on how exercise affects the brain and summarized an enormous amount of research into four main points, which we will dive into below.
Prepare for your mind to be blown (pun intended)!
"Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today." - Dr. Wendy Suzuki
The Big 4
Negative Side Effects
For more side effects, most of which are hilarious, check out this article by "Greatist".
The Question Everyone is Asking: how much?
This is a fair question being that your pharmacist lays out a detailed time table for your prescription. According to recent research, the minimum amount of exercise needed isn't much. This does not need to involve heading down to the local gym, it could include activities as simple as aggressively vacuuming your house and rearranging your living-room furniture. See the graphics below for recommendations by age.
Get Your Office Active
You would think that sitting around at your desk more leads to greater work output, but the opposite is actually true. The average American workplace is becoming increasingly more sedentary.
In 1950, 30% of Americans worked in high-activity occupations. By 2000, only 22% worked in high-activity occupations. Conversely, the percent of people working in low-activity occupations spiked by 14% in that same 50 year period, jumping from 23 to 41%.
Ironically, this decreased physical activity leads to presenteeism, which is being physically at work, but mentally somewhere else; and absenteeism, having to take leave from work due to illness or injury. Both presenteeism and absenteeism obviously contribute to lower work output levels (ACSM, 2018).
Perhaps you work in a company that has recognized the direct and indirect costs of inactivity, and has created a few workplace initiatives to combat this.
Some examples may include bike to work programs, worksite wellness initiatives, treadmill or standing desks, or paid workout time. Did you just say paid workout time? Heck yeah I did. Why aren't more companies doing this?!
How You Can Help be the Change
The ultimate goal is that you and your fellow co-workers want to be healthy for yourselves, not for the benefit of your company, although it's great that they may reap the benefits of your health commitment.
At my former job, one department organized a "Transformation" contest in which the person with the biggest weight loss at the end of 3 months would win a pot of money that they all chipped in to.
No incentive from HR, just good, friendly, competition to improve each others health.
Come to find out, this is a rather common practice in many companies, one such being Draper, Inc. who created not only a 10 week weight-loss challenged dubbed "Dump Your Plump", but its own Wellness Park that includes a one-fifth mile track, workout stations, ping pong, and volleyball courts.
Other great option would be to check out the Sweat Collector Challenge. Challenge #3 is specifically geared towards increasing your daily exercise by 30 minutes.
What Other Companies Have Done
Google is an excellent example of a company who actively wants to improve the health of its employees, so much so that it has its on research and development team on the subject. The workplace is pimped out with a slide, ping-pong tables, nap pods, swimming pools, and even LEGO stations.
Motley Fool, a company that specializes in stock analysis, gives all of its employees access to free personal training sessions and wellness consultations as well as 50% reimbursements on race fees. This has skyrocketed wellness engagement in the company to around 86%.
Zappos, like Google and Motley Fool, employe a wellness coordinator, who has created free fitness classes, nap rooms, marathon reimbursements, and reduced gym memberships.
Their coordinator, Kelly Maher says, "It's about getting people to want to do things voluntarily, not forcing them. Success programs are the ones that get team members energized versus forcing it on them."
There is one thing, that when regularly prescribed to, can have you scooping all your prescription drugs into the trash.
We know this is exercise, which could not only keep us out of the doctors office, but save us billions of dollars in money spent on pharmaceuticals.
Imagine a world in which insurance companies aren't helping cover the cost of your prescriptions and surgeries, but instead help cover the cost of gym memberships, race or school sport fees, or even absorbing some, if not all of the cost of personal training.
In the meantime, you can find accountability with people who spend most of your time with, like co-workers, family, friends, and so forth, can help you start building positive habits in regards to exercise.
Test the waters a bit and see if you can be a trend setter at your work, or even at home, by starting or joining a challenge or getting more people on board with being active.
It benefits both you, them, and your company! A true win win.
¹Mikulic, M. (2020, November/December). Topic: Pharmaceutical industry in the U.S. Retrieved November 20, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/topics/1719/pharmaceutical-industry/
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). (2018) Schools and workplaces. Retrieved March 2nd, 2018 from https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/schools-and-workplaces/
Suzuki, W., Dr. (2018, February 28). The brain-changing benefits of exercise. Lecture presented at TED Talks Daily.
Rothfeld, L. (2015, May 15). 7 companies with amazingly unique wellness programs. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://mashable.com/2015/05/15/unique-corporate-wellness-programs/#Un5v9n4v6EqR
DeNoon, D. J. (2018). The 10 Most Prescribed Drugs: Most-prescribed drug list differs from list of drugs with biggest market share. Retrieved March 2, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/drug-medication/news/20110420/the-10-most-prescribed-drugs#2
"Wow, this is tasty" were the first words out of my mouth after trying this recipe. I was skeptical at first, because it looks too healthy to be any good, but I walked away from the stove feeling like I had just won an episode of "Chopped".
This recipe was inspired by the flavors of fall, and for a warm hearty meal as temperatures are starting to drop. It's easy to shop for, I've broken your shopping list into two lists below to help you as you peruse the store. *Note: lentils are in the dry goods section!
Disclaimer about Calorie Tracking
Calorie tracking is not for everyone, and if you find it to be too obsessive for your tastes don't worry about it, your focus is better served on mindful eating.
Part of mindful eating is being in tune with what your little stomach desires. Eat this soup (or any other meal) until you are satisfied instead of Thanksgiving full.
The story of our lives will forever be that we need to cultivate a healthy relationship with food as much as we need quality, healthy foods. Why not start today?
To take, or not to take? That is the question. Supplements have been a buzzword in recent years, and a focal point of public confusion.
The purpose of this article is to accumulate information from a host of reputable organizations so you may make an informed decision on taking supplements.
What Is a Supplement?
So what exactly is a supplement? They come in all shapes and sizes, from capsules, to drinks, to powders, and are sold in a multitude of places.
We have herbal supplements like:
Vitamin and mineral supplements like:
Performance enhancing supplements, or ergogenic aids, like:
It is a multi-billion dollar industry, and ultimately has very different standards than it's prescription drug cousin.
"Natural" Means Nothing
Herbal and botanical supplements often get the automatic okay in our minds because they are "natural". However, natural means just about nothing in an industry that synthetically creates their products.¹
The perception of a natural supplement product is that it is not artificially fabricated. This is highly ironic given that the vast majority of dietary supplements are synthetically created in a laboratory environment and likely do not contain any natural, plant-based or nonsynthetic ingredients. - Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN, CDE
Don't believe me yet? In an alarming study in 2015, authorities, including the attorney general of New York, conducted tests on the top-selling store brands of herbal supplements in the four retail giants - GNC, Walmart, Target, and Walgreens - and found that four out of five of the products did not even contain any of the herbs on their labels and that pills labeled "medicinal herbs" often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants.²
Last year alone, there were 22 "dietary supplements" recalled for various reasons, some because they contained salmonella, anabolic steroids, or undeclared ingredients. This has been a trend for some time now.
Go back 5 years to a 2013 report published by researchers in Toronto, and you will find the same pattern, in which 44 random herbal supplements containing "single herbs" were sampled and analyzed using DNA bar coding analysis, but less than half the supplements (48%) contained any of the herbs listed on the label.
Moreover, at least half of the supplements contained something that wasn’t even on the label (substitutions or fillers).³
Another irony, is that only a tiny percentage of the world's population stands to benefit from supplementation, but yet for some reason we still yearn so badly to feel superhuman that the global supplement industry rakes in over $100 billion dollars annually.⁴
There are countless supplements that claim wonderful benefits by using their product, and truthfully there could be benefits to using what they say is in their product, but unless you have the ability to run DNA analysis on it yourself (or scientists already have), we don't know if what they claim is in there is actually true!
It could be ground up doll hair for all we know.
Sadly, according to several reputable organizations, sound science supports the use of only a few dietary supplements whose labels claim ergogenic benefits. However, without a healthy diet in place, there is almost no justification for their use.⁵
According to AND, DoC, and ACSM, sound science supports the use of only a few dietary supplements whose labels claim ergogenic benefits . These organizations add that the best way to use supplements is as additions to a carefully chosen diet, that dietary supplements rarely have ergogenic benefits when not used in these conditions, and that there is no justification for their use by young athletes. - NIH
As previously mentioned, supplements are not a substitute for a proper dietary foundation and will not work as effectively if it is not in place.
Since we are in the category of "performance enhancement", I will briefly touch on the adequate daily amounts of calories, fluids, and carbohydrates for athlete:
Can you guess?
Sports with the highest percentage of users taking performance-enhancing drugs for men are ice hockey, wrestling, and baseball and among women are volleyball, swimming, and ice hockey. But the biggest target for adulterated supplements? Bodybuilders.⁶
The FDA notes that products marketed as dietary supplements for bodybuilding are among those most often adulterated with undeclared or deceptively labeled ingredients, such as synthetic anabolic steroids or prescription medications . As one example, some products sold for bodybuilding are adulterated with selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs); these synthetic drugs are designed to mimic the effects of testosterone. - National Institute of Health (NIH)
Did you just run to your bathroom or kitchen cabinet and side eye your collection of supplements? Give yourself some mental relief and see if it's actually effective by clicking here.
How did we get here?
In 1994, a law called the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA) was passed, which lightened the standards on supplements treating them as "food products" instead of drugs. The following are outlined standards and regulations on drugs vs. supplements:⁷
The DSHEA was designed to protect the American people, but in actuality puts responsibility back on the supplement manufacturer to simply honor the laws outlined.
There is no system in place for policing this other than the FDA, which will only take action if someone is actually harmed from these products. Basically, anyone who can grind up some herbs and come up with a good marketing strategy can sell a dietary supplement and make millions until caught.
This literally happens more than you think.
Do Your Due Diligence
By now, I hope you have come to realize that for the most part, supplements are a complete waste of time and money. I encourage you to be as informed about something as you can before buying and consuming it, and if you are already taking supplements, ask yourself the following questions:
The best option, of course, is to ask your physician or Registered Dietitian what they think. As a fitness professional, I (or any other for that matter) cannot recommend you supplements.
Please keep in mind the risk you take in purchasing supplements, you are always at the mercy of their honesty. Here is a list of claims to watch out for, all recommendations from the FDA.⁸
Why has it been hard to change?
The self-proclaimed "champion" of reforming the supplement industry is Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a Republican of Utah.
He played a large role in getting the DSHEA passed in the first place and within the past few years has fought against amendments to the current lack of supplement standards, arguing that there is nothing wrong with the current policies in place.⁹
According to a report by the New York Times, Hatch "has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the industry and repeatedly intervened in Washington to quash proposed legislation that would toughen the rules." Thanks guy.
Signs you may have goofed
We are all human, so if you feel you've been duped and your supplement is actually doing you more harm than good, check out this list of signs directly referenced from FDA.gov:
There is very little scientific evidence stating the need for humans to consume supplements.
For the vast majority, they are a useless waste of money, and the policies that are in place to currently govern the supplement industry are not only far too loose, but dangerous to consumers.
It is best to stay away, and obtain proper nutrition from a bulletproof diet.
1. Ferraro, Author Katie Ferraro Contributor Katie. "5 Reasons Why Most Supplements Are a Waste of Time and Money." ACE. Accessed May 22, 2018. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6513/5-reasons-why-most-supplements-are-a-waste-of-time-and-money
2. O'Connor, A. (2015, February 03). New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/new-york-attorney-general-targets-supplements-at-major-retailers/
3. American Cancer Society. (2015, March 15). FDA regulation of drugs versus dietary supplements. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/dietary-supplements/fda-regulations.html
4. Stulberg, Brad, and Steve Magness. Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books, 2017
5, 6. "Office of Dietary Supplements - Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance." NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed May 22, 2018. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance-HealthProfessional/
7, 8. Commissioner, FDA. (2017, December 22). Consumer Updates - Dietary Supplements. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm153239.htm
9. US Senator Orrin Hatch. JOINT RELEASE – Hatch, Heinrich Urge DOJ to Enforce Dietary Supplement Rules - Press Releases - United States Senator Orrin Hatch. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/keeping-supplements-safe-for-all-americans#2E709075-0958-4171-A73A-48EAF216E4A2
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Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com
Approximately 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, yet two-thirds remain obese. One of the reasons behind this epidemic is the fact that people get lured into trying a fad diet — sometimes more than once — that promises to torch calories and melt fat without changing your diet or hitting the gym. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race, and that means losing weight the safe way with a combination of diet, exercise, and wellness-focused discipline.
Address Mental Health
Mental illnesses such as binge eating disorder, night eating syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression should be treated in conjunction with a diet and exercise program. Studies indicate that there’s a link between mental health and obesity — depression can prompt obesity, and obesity can prompt depression. Along with focusing on losing weight and learning that food is for survival and not comfort, it’s crucial that underlying mental health issues are addressed in order to break the vicious cycle.
Manage Your Stress
Stress-related, mindless eating involves consuming food — sometimes in a large amount — even when you’re not hungry. Approximately 27 percent of adults in the US admit that eating is a form of stress management, while 34 percent say eating unhealthy foods due to stress is a habit. Not only do these actions create feelings of guilt and shame, but they also make it impossible to lose weight and keep it off. While seeing a therapist can help you manage your feelings, there are several wellness-based approaches you can take to manage your stress levels.
Make it Convenient to Work Out
Not having time is one of the biggest excuses people use to avoid working out. Make that excuse next to impossible by setting up a home gym equipped with cost-effective equipment, like adjustable resistance bands, a Swiss ball, and kettlebells. Check out local resale shops or online websites that sell previously-used goods to see if you can find these items at a lower cost. Instead of paying for an expensive gym membership, bring the instructor into your living room by downloading a workout app to help you with form, safety, and motivation.
Make Healthy Eating Fun
The words “balanced” and “diet” need not feel like a punishment. In fact, you can create endless combinations of tasty dishes and snacks utilizing healthy ingredients that don’t taste like rabbit food. Take up a cooking course, or scour YouTube for ideas. The more variety you have in your diet, the less apt you’ll be to slip.
To ensure safety, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any diet or exercise plan. This is particularly important if you have any underlying medical conditions where overexertion or food restriction may have a counter effect on your wellness. Remember, don’t beat yourself up if you have a slip up. Not only is it normal, but it can help you become stronger for the long term.