I've compiled some information on sugar from some of my virtual programs. Also, I included some background on your 30 minutes of cardio per day too. I thought I'd include it to help with a little extra motivation :)
For exercises/stretches, we worked on Cat/Cow, Extended Child, and bringing your knee to your chest. As I thought about it, I do all of these exercises in this morning stretch video that I made this summer (you'll recognize the location:)) You can try the whole video or just use it to help guide your through doing those specific exercises.
Email any time with questions! Keep up with tracking your sleep and food this week as well.
Have a a great day!
Why 30 Minutes Per Day of Moderate Intensity Activity?
There are so many benefits of exercise that if we could bottle the effects and put them in one pill, everyone would be taking it! Exercise not only helps to improve our mood, energy, strength, bone density, cardiovascular system, brain health and memory but we also tend to sleep better! As if that's not enough, exercise helps to reduce stress, inflammation and our waistline.
Sometimes, we forget that our heart is a muscle. Cardiovascular activity is especially great at increasing the strength of our heart muscle!
This week, we'll work on building a habit of 30 minutes per day. You can break it into 10 minute chunks or accomplish it all at once. This will also get you one step closer to your daily step goal.
Since exercise is often the first thing to go when we get busy and stressed and it is also the very thing we need most when we get busy and stressed, this is our first assignment! Aim for 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity* activity like walking, running, biking or swimming.
*What's moderate intensity? Think of cardiovascular exercise on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 is super easy. 10 is an all out effort that you could not sustain for too long. Moderate is about a 5 to 6 on that scale
Resetting Our Sugar Cravings
Have you ever noticed that the more sugar you have, the more you want? So, why exactly do we like sugar so much?
This is a good question! Our bodies are programmed for survival. Long ago when food was scarce, our bodies wanted to make sure we consumed enough calories so we appear to have developed cravings for sugar to help prevent starvation. Luckily, starvation was more of an issue when we were hunting and gathering. Today, for most of us, our hunting and gathering consists of going to the grocery store or opening the fridge.
There's another reason we like sugar. Remember the flight or fight response we discussed. Our body wants energy that is easy to use so we can fight or flee when under stress. Well, sugar is a simple carbohydrate and the easiest form of energy for our body to utilize. Just think of how quickly you get an energy boost when you consume a simple carbohydrate like candy or a sugary drink. This energy boost is also why we crave sugar when we're tired.
Riding a Roller Coaster
Once this initial burst of energy fades, typically a lack of energy, fatigue and cravings for more sugar replaces it. Our natural inclination then is to try and get back that burst of energy a.k.a.. blood sugar spike. This is the blood sugar roller coaster so many of us can find ourselves on in life.
A way to get off of the roller coaster is by consuming less refined sugar and refined carbohydrates (pastries, white bread, cookies, etc). Instead, consume more complex carbohydrates which contain more fiber and less sugar. Our energy remains more constant and we feel great!
Glucose, often called blood sugar, is our main source of energy.
Our bodies absorb glucose from our digestive tract into our bloodstream. Insulin then helps that glucose to enter our cells so that we can manufacture energy. Extra glucose gets stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen and also as fat. Glucose is also essential for our bodies to metabolize fat stores. A fact drilled into my brain during exercise physiology is that fat burns in a carbohydrate flame. Meaning, glucose is essential to turn fat into energy. Interesting, right?
I'm sure you're seeing why our bodies REALLY like sugar! There is also a lot of research happening right now that is examining what happens in our brains when we consume sugar. Research has shown that when we consume it, we get a rush of dopamine, the brain chemical that rises when people initially fall in love or become addicted to a drug. A little sugar isn't a problem for dopamine levels but if we have too much, too often, problems can arise. If you have 5 minutes, a neuroscientist and leader in the field of research on food and our brains, Dr. Nicole Avena has created this How Sugar Affects the Brain video.
What are the other effects of sugar?
We all know that if consume too much sugar, we can gain weight. Too much sugar has other effects on our body as well.
Too much sugar has been shown to cause inflammation in our bodies and tax our immune system. Studies have also linked too much added sugar to:
- Heart disease
- Worsening of conditions such as depression and anxiety
- Memory and learning difficulties
- Increase in triglycerides
- Lower levels of HDL
- Disrupted Sleep
- Acceleration of the aging process (yikes)
What's added sugar?
Added sugar is sugar that does not naturally occur in a food. In other words, we put it there. The sugar that naturally occurs in fruit, milk and some vegetables is not considered added sugar. We want to consume these foods because they are packed with nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.
The "Bliss Point" and Sugar
No surprise, food companies have figured out how to capitalize on our love of sugar. In the book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Companies Hooked Us, Michael Moss explains that food companies work to discover the "Bliss Point" in foods. The "Bliss Point" is the level of sweetness where our bodies and brains like a product the most. In fact, when Prego made a big change to its recipe, one of the biggest changes was that it added a LOT of sugar. Presto. Sales went up! If you look at a jar of Prego, sugar is the next ingredient after tomatoes.
In fact, a recent study in JAMA views overconsumption of added sugar as an independent risk factor not only for cardiovascular disease but also for diabetes, dementia and liver cirrhosis. Added sugar does not include naturally occurring sugars that we find in foods like fruit and milk. Rather, the study looked at added sugar in items like soda, candy and other added-sugar foods like bread and pasta sauce. The study recommends keeping added sugar to less than 15% of your total calories each day. This would equate to 75 g of sugar if you consume 2000 calories per day. The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization go a little further and recommend no more than 6 tsp/day of added sugar or 24 grams (1 tsp= 4 g). For comparison, a sweetened soda or juice can have between 20 and 40 g in just one cup.
Why are we concentrating on added sugar? Naturally occurring sugar like the kind we find in an orange isn't as concerning because the orange is also packed with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. All the good stuff in life!
Tips to reduce added sugar this week?
- One of the big questions I get is, "what do I do if I have a birthday party?" If you have a special occasion like a birthday and want to have a piece of cake, go for it and enjoy it. You can also reduce your portion size, not finish the whole thing or even skip it. I promise you'll still have fun at the party.
- Be on the lookout for sugar's code words on food labels. If it ends in an -ose, say adios. It's probably sugar. Here are a few other code names for sugar:
- Glucose Solids
- Maple Syrup
- Agave Nectar
- Invert Sugar
- Cane Sugar
- Cane Juice
- Corn Syrup
- Remember, the ingredient that appears the most in the food is listed first and the ingredient that appears the least is last. Food manufacturers have tried to outsmart the label by using different types of sugars instead of just one type. This way, the ingredients will appear lower on the ingredient list. You're going to be hip to this game now!
- Add some flavor to your water by tossing some fruit or cucumber in your water. If you like gadgets, there's a product called a Zinger to help you flavor your water on the go.
- Choose unsweetened cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, etc and add your own sweetener. You'll use much less than the food manufacturers will put in the item.
- Use spices like cinnamon, vanilla extract and cardamom to add flavor so you'll need less sweetener
- Craving dessert? Try some berries. If you really need something sweet, top your berries with some 70% or more dark chocolate which has less sugar.
- Are you using sugar as a reward? Notice if you're using a sugary treat as a reward for getting through a tough day or something else that you didn't want to do. If you do notice you're doing this, think of an alternate reward.
- Don't buy it. A great way to make sure you don't eat sugary items is to simply not bring them into your house. Then, you won't be tempted by that Klondike bar staring at you in the freezer.
As you go through the week, begin to read your labels. Eventually, we'll work to consume less than 24 g of added sugar/day (1 tsp- 4 g.)*
*The latest proposed sugar guidelines from the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization.
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