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5 Eating Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workout



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As the saying goes: Abs are made in the kitchen. Of course, time in the gym helps, too. “I think nutrition for optimal performance and recovery has gained recent attention because some high-profile athletes have been public about their nutrition strategies. But the science behind this has been around for years,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, a board-certified sports dietitian who has been a consultant to five professional teams and counsels professional athletes in her private practice.

Chef Lindsey Becker founded Tone House FUEL, a clean-eating program designed to help maximize recovery and boost results for people who work out at Tone House, an athletic-based group fitness studio in New York City. “A balanced, healthy diet with the right key nutrients can help your body become more efficient and enhance your athletic performance [in and out of the gym],” she says. “Consuming the necessary nutrients before and after exerting your body can help replenish energy stores, build muscle, decrease soreness, burn fat and repair damage or inflammation.”

Below Becker shares her tips for eating to get the most out of your workouts, with additional expert insights from Sass. Use their advice to ensure what you’re eating is supporting your exercise.

We often focus on calories, but nutrients also matter, Sass says. “Certain nutrients help your brain and muscles perform more efficiently, and others are crucial for recovering from the wear and tear exercise puts on your body,” she explains. The best macronutrients pre- and post-workout depend on the type of workout you’re doing, as well as the length and intensity.

“Eating the right foods will prevent you from crashing, boost your performance and help your muscles recover and grow stronger,” Becker says. “On the other hand, choosing the wrong foods could cause cramping, nausea, lack of energy and improper muscle recovery.”

Becker recommends beets, sweet potatoes, oats, spinach and eggs for their varied benefits. “Beets increase blood flow to working muscles, which can improve your workout and boost stamina, and are rich in antioxidants, which help fight the oxidative stress that can come with intense workouts,” she says.

She likes sweet potatoes for carbs, antioxidants and potassium; oats for steady energy and B vitamins, which help convert carbohydrates into energy; and spinach because a study found that it may help muscles use less oxygen, which improves muscle performance. And of course the incredible edible egg is a source of easily digestible protein to help rebuild muscles.

Aim to eat something that’s high in carbs, moderate in protein and low in fat, sugar and fiber 2–4 hours before a workout. Some macros aren’t ideal before the gym. “Eating too much protein or fat close to the start of a workout can lead to cramps or a brick sitting in your stomach because protein and fat take longer to digest,” Sass says. “Also, the goal of a pre-workout snack is to fuel the workout. If the food is trapped in the digestive system, it’s not available to working muscles when they need it.”

That’s why carbs are great — they’re generally easy to digest and provide readily available, easily burned fuel. Becker recommends oatmeal with a sprinkling of hemp seeds (for protein) and sliced banana or a smoothie.


Sass recommends eating 30–60 minutes after a particularly tough workout. However, although improper recovery can make you go into your next workout weaker and increase the risk of injury, you only need to refuel within an hour after hard-core workouts. This isn’t so crucial after a walk or moderate-intensity group fitness class, particularly if you’ll be eating a meal soon after, Sass says.

“Consuming the necessary nutrients after exerting your body can help replenish energy stores, build muscle, decrease soreness, burn fat and repair any damage or inflammation,” Becker says.

Good advice for anyone, this is even more important for active people because “nutrients are key to performance and recovery, and unprocessed foods are naturally nutrient-rich,” Sass says.

Becker and Sass agree that refined sugars have zero nutritional benefit and fried and greasy foods can be difficult to digest and cause cramping during a workout. So skip that leftover pizza before your morning indoor cycling class.

Great as they are, you shouldn’t only consume these five foods. “Eat them strategically,” Sass recommends. For example, fuel up with oatmeal, sweet potato, beets or green juices pre-workout, and enjoy eggs with veggies and avocado after a morning workout.


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5 Eating Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workout was originally posted at <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"></a> by Brittany Risher

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Flexibility vs. Mobility in Fitness: Why Not Both?



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When you hear the word stretch, you might think immediately about flexibility (or perhaps your lack thereof). Flexibility was always the term used for enhancing limited movement, until the word mobility arrived and took the fitness industry by storm.

As a NIFS Health Fitness Instructor for five years now, I’ve spent plenty of time in and around the fitness center using these terms. Whether I’m speaking to a client regarding their goals or sharing instructions on warm-up drills, these two words often get used interchangeably; however, they are not identical.

An Exercise Example to Illustrate the Difference

Generally speaking, flexibility can simply be defined as the greatest length a muscle can achieve during a range of motion (ROM), passively or actively. Mobility also requires achieving a certain ROM, but it also requires coordination and core strength to move around the joint under load.

Let’s examine a front squat to help make this clear. A flexible person may reach the deep squat position, enabled by the flexibility in ankles, knees, and hips, but then lack the mobility (coordination and core strength) needed to correctly complete the exercise by standing up. Similarly, without flexibility, that person wouldn’t even begin to reach the range of motion needed for the deep position required for the front squat, so mobility isn’t even a factor without the proper flexibility.

The Affects of Age

When it comes to flexibility and mobility, age is definitely not on our side. As we age, we lose the elasticity in our muscles, and the tendons and ligaments tighten, making flexibility hard work. It’s not until someone suffers from poor movement patterns resulting in limited functional movement that causes injuries for someone to start trying to combat the effects of aging. (You can learn more about your own condition by having a Functional Movement Screening at NIFS.)

Movement vs. Static Hold

Lastly, when looking to improve and enhance these two concepts, mobility requires movement, whether we are testing for it or training to improve it. On the other hand, flexibility is done more often with a static hold. It’s safe to say that you could have excellent flexibility (the length of muscles required for a deep squat) but very poor mobility because you do not possess the ability to stand up out of a deep squat position under load.

Let me share with you a few helpful movements to further differentiate between these two concepts:

Flexibility Mobility Elbow to instep Elbow to instep w/ oscillation Half-kneeling ankle Ankle moving in and out Knee hug Hip drop


Be sure to stay tuned for part 2 of this series as I discuss the important addition of stability to your movement patterns.

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Flexibility vs. Mobility in Fitness: Why Not Both? was originally posted at <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"></a> by Cara Hartman

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creating healthy habits

4 Common Habits Sabotaging Your Sleep



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In addition to proper nutrition, hydration and recovery days, sleep can be one of the top factors that can make or break your fitness performance.

In a recent study looking at sleep quality and athletes, researchers noted that people who are in training tend to experience more sleep issues than non-athletes, due to training load and stress. The study also suggests athletes require more sleep than those who don’t work out because they have higher recovery needs.

But knowing that you should sleep and getting that sleep can be two very different things. When dreamtime proves elusive, there tends to be a slew of common sense strategies people use — yet it’s possible that, for some, those allegedly proven tactics are actually making the problem worse. Here are some habits you might be putting in place that are keeping you from getting enough shuteye:


Around sunset, your brain produces melatonin, a hormone designed to start a cascade of sleep-inducing reactions. But if you’re frazzled or anxious, the hormone might not be as abundant as you’d like. Because of that, many people turn to taking a melatonin supplement.

But they often pop it like a sleeping pill right before bed, thinking it’ll take effect immediately, according to W. Christopher Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine. Melatonin in the body tends to take around 3–4 hours, so if you’re taking it at 9 p.m., you might not sense any effects until about 1 a.m. — by then, you could be so frustrated by insomnia that you’re up watching TV instead, which will lower that melatonin back down.


Schedules become variable especially as seasons change — you stay out later on those bright summer nights, for example — and that can lead to hitting the sack when you’re tired. But too much variability can leave your body unsure about when to actually sleep, according to Mia Finkelston, MD, family practice physician.

“We can handle some changes to our usual routine, but not as much as you might think,” she says. “When you go to bed only when you’re tired, you’re introducing too much unpredictability into your sleep schedule. And that can catch up with you.”


Some yoga and meditation breathing techniques rely on counting each inhale and exhale, so it makes sense that you might try to import that to your sleep routine. But Winter says some people find counting to be an anxiety-provoking exercise, instead of the de-stressor it’s meant to be.

“Maybe you get anxious if you hit double digits and you’re not asleep yet,” he says. “Or, you might have fallen asleep around 30 the night before but now you’re nearly at 50 and still counting. Then you might wonder if you’re doing something wrong.”

When that happens, it can sabotage your sleep efforts. Instead of counting, he recommends visualizing a well-known process that’s calming to you. For example, one of his patients “bakes” every night — she envisions getting out the measuring cups, chopping up ingredients, arranging the bowls for flour and sugar — and has found the process so effective, she jokes that nothing ever makes it into her imagined oven.


Although it might seem like it would be a relief to know you have five hours left until you have to get up, looking at the clock is a bad habit, says Finkelston. It can be so counterproductive that she’s even advised some patients to put their alarm clocks in another room or the closet.

“To recognize how much time you have left to sleep, you have to wake up to a certain degree,” she says. “That might be just enough to kick you out of your cycle and cause some insomnia.”



In general, it helps to play around with different strategies to see what works for you, says Winter. If melatonin is your jam and it’s working, that’s great. But if you’ve tried it for week or so and you’re still staring at the ceiling for an hour, then try switching it up instead.

“The last thing you want to do is try to force something to work, because then you’ll be agitated when it doesn’t,” he says. That can increase levels of cortisol — the hormone responsible for your stress response — and you’ll be back where you started.

Instead, try implementing good sleep practices, where consistency is key. Limit screen time before bed, set a regular bedtime and get up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends, sorry). Winter suggests starting a “wind-down routine” about a half-hour before bed, which can help send a signal to your brain that it’s time to relax.

4 Common Habits Sabotaging Your Sleep was originally posted at <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"></a> by Elizabeth Millard

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