Workout for your brain

Have you ever heard of cognitive aging? This expression is the scientific description of a phenomenon we all have witnessed in one way or the other.

When we grow older, our memory gets worse, we struggle to find the right words and find it hard to concentrate, especially when in a busy surrounding. Our ability to react to new situations declines with age, and so do many other cognitive functions.

Boosting your brain

Let’s face it: They only way to truly avoid aging is to die young. Since this option is anything but attractive to most of us, we need to get used to the idea of growing older.

Nevertheless, even if we cannot help aging, we can do something about our age affecting our cognitive performance! And the key to better cognitive functions is – exercise.

Cardio or coordination training?

But what kind of workout does the trick? Is there a special Preserve-your-Brains training? Yes. And no. Scientists have found out that both, cardiovascular and coordination training improve your cognitive performance – but they do it in different ways, because they activate different parts of your brain, improving different cognitive aspects.

A workout a day keeps the doctor away

What does that teach us? The most important lesson to learn is that any kind of exercise is good for your physical and you cognitive health, so whatever workout you chose, it will be beneficial. Isn’t that great news?

But there is another lesson to take to heart: If you want your workout routine to affect as many parts of your brain as possible, make sure to vary your workouts. If you do a cardio workout today, why not do a coordination training tomorrow?

Take a few minutes to workout every day , so you can not only slow down cognitive aging, but also decrease your risk of cardiovascular diseases. For a long and happy life.

Health, Mental, Sports, Uncategorized

Avoiding seasonal depression

When days grow shorter and multicoloured carpet of fallen leaves covers the ground, many people start feeling down. They lack energy and enthusiasm for practically anything and find it very hard to bring up some kind of motivation. But where does that come from?And what can you do about it?

The main causes

Even though the causes of this so-called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are still uncertain, but there is one correlation that is undisputed: It is fairly obvious that the lack of sunlight plays a crucial role in this regard – causing various effects:

  • Your inner clock sets according to the hours of sunlight available and seems to get al confused when the surrounding day/night rhythm doesn’t match with your daily routine. In other words: Getting up when it is still pitch dark irritates your organism and can lead to affective disorders.
  • A second issue adding to the problem is the fact that sunlight promotes the synthesis of the feel-good-hormone serotonin. With the sunlight your exposed to decreases both, in duration and intensity, your serotonin levels go down as well – and a lack of serotonin is known to cause people to feel depressed.
  • What makes things even worse that while the serotonin levels decrease, the levels of another hormone called melatonin, which is known as the sleeping hormone. What is more than welcome at nighttime, when it helps you fall asleep, turns into a boomerang during the daytime: It causes a permanent feeling of fatigue, making it really hard to make it through a busy day. It is quite obvious you don’t feel terribly happy about that…

What can you do about it

It is plain to see that you can’t really do anything about the days growing shorter. Nevertheless, there are great strategies for breaking this vicious circle. Here come three easy ways to brighten up your autumn mood!

  • Go outside!
    Although the sunlight might not be as strong as it used to be duringthe summertime, going out and exposing yourself to the warm rays of autumn sun will surely recharge your batteries. Even on a foggy or cloudy day the sunlight is still strong enough to improve your mood! So why not spend your lunch break outside, getting some sun along with some fresh air. This will help you to feel energized enough to face the challenges awaiting you in the afternoon!
  • At least 10 minitues of exercise a day!
    Adding at least 10 minutes of high intensity workout to your daily routine not only reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Studies prove that exercising also immediately stimulates your production of serotonin, thus helping to fight the weather induced lack of this happy hormone. For optimum results, try and workout outdoors, so you can combine exercise with an extra share of daylight.
  • Ban electronic devices from your bedroom!
    Most computers and mobile devices come with displays that emit blue light that reduces the production of melatonin. Whilst during the daytime, melatonin might give you hard times, in the evening it helps you fall asleep. An impaired production of melatonin caused to the blue light emitted by your device therefore results in difficulties falling asleep. To make things even worse, your not only lacking the hours of sleep you lose – the melatonin you failed to produce in the evening is released to your system with a delay, so you get up with high melatonin levels in the morning when feeling sleepy comes in anything but handy.
Health, Mental, Sports

Your body is a prepper – the notorious Yo-yo effect

We all have heard that before: Eat too much and you gain weight – eat less and you lose weight. This formula seams too simple not to be true, the only problem is – it doesn’t really work! Have you ever tried and starved away a few pounds just to find that as soon as you return to a normal diet you regain it all – and more? But – where does this world famous yo-yo effect come from? 

The reason for this lies in the fact that your body is a prepper: When you eat very little, your body will go: OMG! There is no food left! I am running short of nutrients! We are all going to starve to death! And it reacts by activating its emergency mode: Slow down metabolism and use as little of the available energy, who knows things might even get worse than this! Funnily, this reaction is triggered not by a shortage in fat and carbohydrates, but in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. 

And being the very prudent prepper it is, your body sticks to its emergency mode even when you go back to a normal diet, just in case hard times are coming back. Therefore, it stores as much as possible of the energy it takes in as – guess what! – body fat, regaining all the weight you have been struggling so hard to get rid of (and more). 

In this way, a lack of micronutrients caused by the attempt to starve your way to the body of your dreams counteracts all your effort – and moreover, it is unhealthy, too. 

Therefore, in order to achieve sustainable and healthy weight loss, instead of starving, make sure to increase the amount of micronutrients you take in and reduce only the sources of energy like fat and carbohydrates! This will help you obtain the results you dream of and promote your general health and wellbeing! 

Health, Nutrition

The underestimated enemy

We all know, that if we want to reduce body weight, we need to reduce the amount of sugar we take in.
Funny enough, this very simple rule seems a lot harder to implement to our daily lives than one might think.

Even if you are perseverant enough to resist cakes and ice creams, chocolate and candy, you most likely fail when it comes to the most underestimated sources of sugar and calories: drinks!

These are the 5 most common party spoilers for those who try to lose weight:

I really don’t want to spoil the party, but – if you want to reduce weight, alcohol is an absolute no-go! Not only is alcohol itself high in calories, many drinks contain a lot of sugar as well.
If you follow weight loss channels on social media, you might come across low-calorie party drinks that appear to be okay even if you are on a regime.
Unfortunately, the contained calories represent only the tip of the iceberg. What is even worse is the fact, that alcohol affects your metabolism and reduces your body’s capacity of burning fat for several days.

Soft drinks
All the soft drinks you’d get in the supermarket are nothing but sugar, artificial colour and additives. They are the prototypical example of what dietitians would call “dead calories” – highly caloric foods (or drinks) that are rich in macronutrients (=carbohydrates) and totally void of micronutrients (like vitamins). You can probably starve for months, if you keep consuming soft drinks you are very unlikely to lose any weight, at all!

Milk Shakes
We all have grown up believing that milk is a great source of calcium and protein, and that you should be drinking at least a glass of milk a day to keep your bones strong.
Scientific studies indicate, that this might not be true: The contained calcium might not be easily available to the human body, the American Nurse Report even seems to prove that higher milk consumption over many years might increase the risk of fractures.
But this isn’t what this post is about, and when it comes to its nutritional value, milk naturally contains fat and lactose (=milk sugar).
Add some fruits and some more sugar and what you get is a high calorie sugar bomb that will definitely not help with your weight loss ambition!

Fruit juice
Unlike the first three, where most of us had already had the feeling that they were not exactly enhancing weight loss, this might come as a surprise.
Juices are undoubtedly less harmful than the previous three, because they often come with a range of vitamins and trace elements – at least if it is natural (and preferably organic) juice we are talking about.
Still they can spoil your attempt to reduce weight, because they contain a fair amount of sugar – partly natural fruit sugars, but added refined sugar as well. And, what makes things worse: They come with all the sugar, but without the fibers of the original fruits.

Isn’t this outrageous? Now we have been told for years that there is nothing healthier than a nice smoothie in the morning, and then there comes this blog post and tries to tell you it isn’t so! Okay, stop. Breathe! Smoothies ARE a healthy way to provide your body with the micronutrients you need. At least if you don’t buy the fake stuff you get cheap at the supermarket.
BUT! What we said about juices is partly true for smoothies, too. Especially when created with nice and sweet fruits or so called superfoods, they can contain an unexpected amount of calories.
We are not saying you shouldn’t be having them, we just mean to point out that they are more of a meal than a drink: If you bear that in mind, smoothies are a great source of power!

So what to drink then?

if you get thirsty, the best you can do is drink water. If you feel that water tastes boring, you can add some taste by adding slices of fruits (Note: you need to cut them, not squeeze them!) or some spice. This will make for a great and delicious refreshment at 0 kcal!

Health, Nutrition

Apple vs pear – (not) just a matter of taste

In a Ranking of the most popular fruits, the poor pear does not stand any chance against the well-loved apple. Although the apple has recently lost its top rank to the grape, it still is Britain’s second best loved fruit and ranks fourth amongst the world’s all-time favourites.

This is about body forms

This post isn’t about preferences in fruit consumption, at all. It is about body forms, or, more precisely, about how and where your body stores fat.

Apple shaped bodies accumulate fat mainly around the waist – and mostly as visceral fat.

A pear shaped body characteristically grows fat depots around the hips and thighs.

Men are apples, women are pears?

Generally speaking, most men tend to have apple shaped bodies, whilst most women are more pear shaped, especially before reaching their menopause.

And even if! Fat is fat, and that is that…

That’s what one would assume, but it isn’t exactly true. There is a huge difference between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.

Scientific studies have shown that visceral fat like belly fat poses a significantly higher risk to your health and wellbeing.
It affects you fat metabloism and drastically invcreases your risk of developing cardio-vascular diseases or diabetes.

Am I at risk? The waist-hip-ration

You can easily find out whether your amount of visceral fat does already increase your risk of developing diseases:

  1. Measure your waist circumference (around the hight of your belly button)
  2. Measure your hip circumference (around the wides part)
  3. Try and calculate the ratio waist/hip in your head.
  4. Ok, forget it! Get a sheet of paper and calculate the ratio waist/hip .
  5. Still not sure you got the result right? Get your cell phone, open the calculator and calculate the ratio waist/hip! There you go!

The result you get for your waist/hip ratio should be smaller than 0,85 for women and smaller than 1,0 for men- if this is the case, every thing’s fine, no need to worry. Your result is higher than that? No problem – with some disciplin and a bit of assistance (i.e. your SMYLEAN programme) you will be able to fix this!

Pro tip: If you don’t want to bother with the calculation, you’d best use our SMYLEAN Mission tape, that allows you to simply read off your result – no trouble at all.


Why exercise can improve your memory

Exercising promotes your health – that much is undisputed. But, is it true that moderate exercise can also help improve my memory?

Yes, it’s true! The reason lies in an increased production of a substance called nitric oxide.

NO? Hell, yeah!

Nitric oxide is a colourless gas which is highly toxic when inhaled. Inside your vessels and your neural system, it does a brilliant job though!
An increased level of nitric oxide leads to a better blood supply, helps prevent thrombosis, improves your memory and aids your digestion – and there are many more positive effects nitric oxide has on your body.

Great! Where can I get that?

This miracle gas is synthesized in the inner lining of your blood vessels, the so-called endothelium. Just a few minutes of cardio-resistance workout can significantly stimulate this production and bring all the positive effects of an increased level of NO.

The dose makes the poison

Our body even uses the fact that nitric oxide is highly toxic in larger concentrations: When you catch some kind of infection, your white blood cells, which are in charge of your immune reactions, use clouds of this gas to fight intruders like bacteria or fungi.

But no need to worry – you cannot overdose on NO simply by working out to hard. The amounts your vessels produce are much to small.

Health, Sports

Addicted to fast food?

It will be pretty hard to find anyone who is genuinely convinced that fast food is good for your health. Quite to the contrary, we all know that we shouldn’t be eating it, but – hey: there’s nothing wrong with a nice burger meal every now and then, right? For after all: If it were that unhealthy, we wouldn’t be craving it, right?

Sorry to spoil the party, but – no. The bitter truth is: Fast food is addictive. As are most highly processed foods, by the way. The higher your food is in fat and sugar, the more likely it is to activate your reward system. This is why fast food makes you feel good and gives you the impression of treating yourself – while really taking in a most harmful meal that doesn’t keep you satisfied for long.

Food addiction in general has been discussed controversially, because scientists have not come to a final conclusion on whether you can or cannot be addicted to something that is vital – like food. But there is strong evidence that a frequent consumption that fatty and sugary meals can lead to addictive behavior.

What is addiction anyways?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines addiction as an inability to stop doing or using something, especially something harmful.

Scientifically speaking, the main characteristics of addiction are brain reward dysfunction, impaired control, preoccupation, risky use, tolerance/withdrawal, social impairment, chronicity and relapse.

There is rather strong evidence that especially the criteria of brain reward dysfunction and impaired control apply when it comes to addictive behavior in relation to food.

In the case of fast food, the signs of impaired control are:

  • You eat larger quantities of fast food than you actually wanted to – or you have it more often than intended.
  • You know you shouldn’t and keep making resolutions not to have fast food anymore – and yet you keep coming back.
  • You go the extra mile (literally) and invest a notable amount of time to get the fast food.
  • You crave fast food and feel you really need to have it.

Sounds familiar? Don’t panic, it does for most of us! The best way to get out of this is to establish a whole new lifestyle, replacing old habits with new and healthier ones. Been there, tried that and failed? Successfully changing your habits becomes a lot easier with a bit of support (as provided by a personal coach or our SMYLEAN app).

Health, Nutrition

Never underestimate the greens: 10 all-vegan sources of protein

If you have ever bothered to learn about healthy weight loss, you will surely have come across the fact that protein is a very valuable macronutrient: You need protein to build up muscles, and muscles help you burn fat because they increase your metabolic rate. In other words: If you build up muscle, your body burns more calories, even while you are sleeping.

Many people believe that proper protein supply can only be achieved by eating loads of meat, dairy and eggs. But – is that true?

Well, not quite! It is true, that the amount per 100g is highest in these kinds of foods, but – is that really what you want when it comes to weight loss?

If you’re on a regime of calorie restriction, you might want to have a look at the amount of proteins in relation to calories, not grams – and here, the picture changes drastically!

For your reference: A 100-kcal portion of sirloin steak (which is only 45g of meat, mind!) provides you with 12g of protein, whilst containing 6.3g of fat.

Compared to that, veggies do have a lot more to offer! Here’s the top ten vegetables for your protein supply at low calories!

For an intake of 100 kcal you can have 909g of watercress, providing you with 20.9g of protein. And the fat intake? Doesn’t really count, as it sums up to less than 1g.

Alfalfa sprouts

A 100-kcal portions of this power sprout corresponds to 435g and contains 17.4g of protein, coming with only 3g of fat.

Popeye the sailor was quite right: Spinach can be a source of muscle growth. Coming with the same caloric values as alfalfa, it gives you 12.6g of protein at only 1.3g of fat.

The much-loved spring vegetable is surprisingly rich in protein, too: Would you have thought you could eat half a kilo of asparagus to reach a calorie intake of 100kcal? And that this would provide you with 11g of protein? Note: 100 kcal of asparagus might contain less protein than the sirloin steak, BUT (!) you’ll feel pretty full after your meal, which most probably isn’t true for the 45g portion of meat, right?

Mustard greens
A vegetable rather uncommon in European cuisines is mustard greens. A shame, bearing in mind it is a great source of protein, too! A 370g portion (=100 kcal) contains 10g of protein and 1.5g of fat.

Unlike mustard greens, broccoli is vastly known and one of the most common vegetables. And for a reason: 294g contain 8.2g of protein and only 1.2g of fat.

Almost the same goes for broccoli’s pale cousin: 400g give you 8g of protein and contain 1.1g of fat.

Brussels sprouts
This very traditional vegetable can also contribute to your protein supply: 232g of brussels sprouts contain 7.9g of protein and less than 1g of fat!

Collard greens
Apart from being a great source for several micronutrients, collard greens also contain a fair amount of protein: 7.8g of protein in a 312g-portion of collard greens, whilst the amount of fat is only 1.9g

Chinese cabbage
Or how about a nice salad of Chinese cabbage? A 625g bowl (still 100kcal) provides you with 7.2g of protein and only 1.9g of fat.

As you can see from this list, there are vegan options to get your daily share of protein – you just need to look a little closer 🙂

Health, Nutrition