Question: With it being American Heart Month, I’m curious what dietary changes I should make in order to stave off heart disease? Just trying to be proactive rather than reactive!
Answer: First of all, kudos for focusing on prevention! As far as diet is concerned, there are definitely some modifications you can make, but to be honest, they aren’t all that new. For starters, you could try following the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet focuses on specific amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. Sounds pretty healthy, right? In fact, the diet has been shown to reduce hypertension, and can also decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke over time. But even if you don’t follow a comprehensive diet, you should still try to limit your sodium intake, reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats, moderate your alcohol consumption (no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women), and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. All of these changes will go a long way in helping to protect your heart, and the rest of your cardiovascular system. If you want additional information, check out the American Heart Association website, www.americanheart.org, or consult with a registered dietitian.
Question: I lift 5 days per week consistently, but my strength gains have flat-lined. How do I continue to get stronger? I don’t think I can lift any more than I am right now. Help!
Answer: I don’t really have much information to go on here, but let’s see if I can provide some insight. First of all, there’s the distinct possibility that you’re working out too much. Maybe your volume (the combination of sets and reps) is too high—a common problem for those looking to gain strength as quickly as possible. And how long has it been since you’ve taken some time off to allow your body to fully recuperate from the stress of exercise? Some much-needed rest may do the trick, and amazingly, people often come back even stronger. I also wonder if you’re changing up your workouts enough. Many people get into the habit of using machines or free weights, but then never gravitate toward other forms of exercise. Cables, tubing, bands, kettlebells, medicine balls, and even bodyweight exercises can all increase strength, so you should try to vary up your routine regularly. Lastly, you have to remember that strength doesn’t just increase exponentially on a continual basis. There is a threshold that you’ll reach at some point, and you could be there already. If you feel like you need help with your current program, talk to a certified personal trainer.
Question: I see quite a few advertisements for multivitamins these days, but I’ve never really thought about taking one. Now that I’m the big 4-0, I’m focusing more on my health. Do you think taking a multi is a good idea?
Answer: In a word…yes! Nobody follows a “perfect” diet, so taking one makes sense. There are actually a number of health organizations that currently recommend multivitamin/ mineral (MVI) supplements for all individuals. I like to think of an MVI as insurance. You pay insurance for your house and your car, so why not take a multi to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need to function and feel well? After all, there’s really no downside to taking one. In most cases, your body will use what it needs, and will eliminate what it doesn’t. The hard part is finding the right supplement. You should look for an MVI that is broad-spectrum, meaning it has a comprehensive list of essential nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. You also want to make sure that the one you take includes these nutrients at functional dosages, which means that the ingredient levels actually affect your health in a beneficial way. Unfortunately, many of the most popular MVI’s only contain the Recommended Dietary Allowances, which are nutrient levels designed to prevent deficiency diseases, not necessarily enhance health. You should also look for products that are manufactured by reputable companies that follow good manufacturing practices and FDA regulations. There are plenty of well-formulated products on the market. If you need help choosing the one that’s right for you, contact a registered dietitian.
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