Ever heard the term “Weekend Warriors?” These fun-loving, sports-minded folks work hard then occasionally decide to have some fun by participating in an activity that’s new (or old and dear). The problem is, their body isn’t conditioned through diet and exercise for what’s about to happen, and the result is often an injury … sometimes a bad injury.
Common catalysts for weekend warrior syndrome are spring thaw, reunions, holidays, turning 40, turning 50, New Year’s resolutions and your teen’s friends playing ball in the lot next door. There are abundant opportunities to “jump right in” and although your heart’s in the right place, you could pay a big price later.
I’ve fallen victim to this scenario myself. I work out on a regular basis and eat well, but recently I played a charity softball game, a sport that I used to play in my younger years … and I could not get out of bed on Monday. I also could not use my Blackberry because my hands hurt so bad.
Had I at least been doing some type of similar activity before that game, or stretching the body parts I knew I’d be using, I might have had a fighting chance. Changing from a flat gym floor to uneven earth or rolling trails or sloped beaches can also cause issues. Imagine what the 50th-birthday-but-20-mile-bike-ride might do to an office worker.
If we’re not used to using certain muscles, we make ourselves prime candidates for debilitating or highly irritating injuries. I was thinking about the various ways to keep the body prepared for the occasional odd activity, and came across a great quote on the Internet: “Men over 40 should be fit for their sport rather than using their sport to get fit,” it said. This surely applies to everyone contemplating a sudden, big burst of athleticism.
The easiest way to avoid injury is the one requiring the most discipline: don’t do too much of anything that’s new. Start out in moderation, play part of the game, do 5 miles instead of 20. You could save yourself a stress fracture or a couple of very uncomfortable weeks.
Flexibility and stretching are key, too, so if you know you have a new sport ahead, start working that part of the body, stretching daily, and always stretch after a workout to gain flexibility. A balanced diet and proper weight is always a good idea. Hauling an extra 30 pounds around a make-believe football field is tough.
Here’s another tip: A lack of magnesium can lead to muscle weakness and cramps. Magnesium is lost via sweat, so regular exercisers and even saunagoers need to take in enough magnesium rich foods or supplement magnesium. But after a spontaneous workout, you’d do well to have some on hand.
Weekend warriors can benefit from maintaining a healthy mineral balance. Think of magnesium as your “muscle mineral.” The FDA recommends 310-420 mg daily for most adults.
Here are a few magnesium-rich foods if, like me, you prefer a healthy diet to taking lots of supplements: 3 ounces of halibut, 90 gm; 1 ounce dry roasted almonds, 80 gm; 1 ounce dry roasted cashews, 75 gm; 1/2 cup cooked soybeans, 75 gm; 1/2 cup frozen spinach, 75 gm; 1 ounce mixed dry roasted nuts, 65 gm; 2 biscuits of Shredded Wheat cereal 55 gm; 1 cup instant fortified oatmeal, 55 gm.
I also like to keep resistance bands all around me: tied to doors, in my travel bag, in front of the TV, wrapped around the legs and arms of my chairs. A good 10-minute workout with bands can be great if done right.
So if your college roomie has challenged you to a tennis rematch from days gone by … start working the “pushing” muscles on your chest wall, and get your shoulder primed for action. Do some sideways motion drills, and start taking magnesium. If it’s been a while, you’re going to need it!
A healthy, balanced diet supplies your children with all the nutrients they need to grow, including the proper development of healthy gums and teeth. With increased focus on the importance of oral health during National Children’s Dental Health Month in February, it is a good time to remind parents, grandparents and other caregivers about how their children’s nutrition choices can affect their oral health.
For example, we tell kids to drink milk for strong teeth and bones. From a dentist’s point of view, how important are milk and dairy products in keeping teeth healthy? Calcium is very important as teeth form, and milk and dairy products are the best source of calcium and can play a role in preventing cavities.
As young teeth develop, adequate calcium intake during childhood and adolescence is important for children in developing and maintaining healthy teeth throughout adulthood. In addition, many studies show that eating dairy products, especially cheese, after meals or snacks helps to prevent the bacterial coating on the teeth from converting food sugars to acid; reducing the risk for cavities. Cheese also stimulates saliva flow, which helps to clear acids from the mouth that can cause cavities.
Dairy products, again, especially cheese, can actually prevent teeth from losing minerals and in some people, may even restore minerals to teeth. Some studies even show that proteins and phosphorus in milk may reduce the risk for cavities.
Though eating more nutritious foods can help promote healthy teeth and gums, beware of those that can cause tooth decay. While some foods are obvious culprits, such as candy, juices and sodas, other foods high in carbohydrates such as fruits, peanut butter, crackers and potato chips increase the risk of cavities as well.
All sweet foods are not created equal. Sticky foods such as cookies and candies stick to the surface of teeth and linger. These foods should be limited because they stick to the teeth and saliva is unable to wash the sugar away.
In addition to food choices, dentists and dietitians believe that children who consume too much soda and not enough nutritional beverages are more prone to tooth decay in addition to serious ailments later in life, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel, which ultimately leads to cavities. If erosion spreads beneath the enamel, pain and sensitivity may eventually result. This can cause nerve infection and necessitate a root canal.
How can you help prevent this? Encourage your children to drink plenty of water. An article published by the Academy of General Dentistry recommends that school children should rinse their mouth with water after meals, especially at school. This leaves their mouth with a reduced sugar and acid content.
While we can’t follow are children around throughout their day with healthy snacks and a toothbrush, we can instill good habits by providing them with discipline and structure in making smart food and beverage choices and encouraging routine brushing and flossing.
Here are my top three recommendations for nutritious foods to include in your in 2010 meal planning:
1. Broccoli: This leafy green vegetable is a good source of Vitamins A and C, antioxidants that protect your body’s cells from damage. Broccoli provides calcium, potassium, folate and fiber and contains phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. An added bonus – broccoli contains no fat, cholesterol or sodium, unless added during cooking.
2. Almonds: These nuts contain nutrients such as riboflavin, magnesium, fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin E, a natural antioxidant. Because almonds are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat, eating small servings of almonds can help lower cholesterol levels. They are considered a “heart-healthy” source of fat. Almonds also contain vitamin E and phytonutrients, just like broccoli, and may help prevent against cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
3. Apples: Apples have no fat, cholesterol or sodium and contain small amounts of potassium, which may promote heart health. Eating apples can also help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels and a healthy weight. They are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber such as pectin actually helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, thus reducing the incident of arteriosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber provides bulk in the intestinal tract, holding water to cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system. Don’t skip the skin; almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin. Eating the skin also increases insoluble fiber content.
Whether you are pregnant, preparing for pregnancy or you know someone who is, good nutrition is vital to a healthy pregnancy. By following simple guidelines of good nutrition, a pregnant mother can help ensure the health and proper development of her baby.
The old saying about eating for two during pregnancy doesn’t mean you need to eat double the calories. In fact, you need only 300 extra calories per day in the second and third trimesters to support proper growth and development of your baby.
By monitoring your caloric intake and eating a prenatal diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, you can prevent unnecessary weight gain that may lead to health complications later on.
While pregnancy doesn’t mean giving up foods you enjoy, you should avoid empty calories and limit fats and sugar. Give in to a pregnancy craving now and then, but in moderation. Limit sweets to one small portion a day so you won’t feel deprived or tempted to overeat.
Some examples of nutrient-dense foods that you should incorporate into your pregnancy diet include yogurt, peanut butter, chicken, eggs and dairy products that are higher in protein, calcium and iron. Lean pork and lean beef also contain protein, vitamin B, iron and zinc, which are essential to a healthy pregnancy. Orange juice offers folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects, and vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron from foods such as fiber-rich black beans and spinach.
In addition, a healthy pregnancy diet should include whole grains, a great source of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Calcium is especially important to a pregnant women’s diet. Mothers-to-be need approximately 1,500 mg of calcium daily to support the baby’s bone growth and to prevent the mother from losing her bone density. It is important to remember that most women do not get enough calcium even when they are not pregnant. Therefore, extra effort has to be made to get the right amounts of calcium throughout pregnancy. Calcium-rich foods include tofu, salmon, green leafy vegetables and dairy products.
In addition to getting enough calcium, folic acid is important to proper fetal growth. Natural foods such as dark green vegetables, oranges, grains, beans, lean meat and liver are rich in folic acid.
Eating four small meals and making healthy snack choices can help you control hunger during pregnancy. The best way to make sure that you’ll get all the proper nutrients is to eat the following recommended servings daily:
- Six to 11 servings of whole grains such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta
- Two to three servings of protein-rich foods including meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts;
- Four or more servings of vegetables;
- Three to four servings of fruit; and
- Three to four servings of dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese.
In addition to eating the right foods, you should drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water daily to help prevent dehydration. You should avoid alcohol and caffeine during pregnancy.
Be sure to take a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 100 percent to 200 percent of the recommended dietary intakes for vitamins and minerals. Always discuss vitamin and supplement choices with your health care provider or registered dietitian before you start taking them.
Developing healthy eating habits during pregnancy can help ensure the proper growth and development of your baby, not to mention the health benefits for mom too. Eating well during pregnancy and continuing those habits after your baby arrives will set the stage for your child to have healthy eating habits too and potentially reduce his or her risk for certain illnesses.
Give your baby the best start at life by eating smart and living well.
Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. Contact her at AssociatesinNutrition.com or Elaine@eatrightRD.com. Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy: www.AssociatesinNutrition.com/wordpress.
Back-to-school means back to the courts and fields for student athletes. Reaching peak athletic performance doesn’t mean you have bulk up on carbohydrates or chug the latest sports and energy drinks. Student athletes have unique nutritional needs, requiring approximately 2,000 to 5,000 calories per day, depending on body composition, amount of exercise and other health factors.
Here are some tips for fueling your body for optimal strength and energy:
-Eat a variety of foods including protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, minerals and vitamins; lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and dairy for calcium provide a balanced diet
-Avoid supplements and steroids, which can have negative side effects on your health
-Avoid extreme diets. Youth athletes require the proper amount of nutrition and depriving your body of proper nutrients can cause decreased energy, muscle loss and sometimes, more serious health problems
-Hydrate with water; avoid caffeine and sugary drinks
Before practices and games:
-Be sure to eat a small, balanced meal approximately 2 to 4 hours before the event and include proteins and carbohydrates such as a turkey sandwich, or pasta and tomato sauce
-No time for a meal? Eat a light snack less than 2 hours before the event such as low-fiber fruits, crackers or yogurt
-Hydrate by drinking plenty of water before, during and after sports activities; avoid caffeine
Because body sizes and activity levels vary from person-to-person, you need to alter your diet to fit your individual needs. For more information, visit http://www.mypyramid.gov/ and create a personalized plan that works best for you.