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What is Collagen and Where Can You Find it?

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We’ve been hearing about protein a lot these days. It seems like you can’t walk down any grocery aisle without seeing a product boasting the benefits of added protein from cereal to granola bars, and even cookies! But what about this one protein in particular — Collagen. You ever heard of it? Let’s learn more!

What is collagen?

Collagen is a compound made up of long chains of amino acids, just like all other proteins. It sounds super science-y, but if you’ve ever had jello salad at your Grandma’s Thanksgiving table, that’s basically the best way to understand collagen. Gelatin, the main ingredient in jello, forms from cooking and drying collagen. You can imagine that it takes on a similar role in our bodies as it does jello, to provide, our skin especially, with some plumpness and shine.

Collagen is the most common of the body’s proteins. It’s found in our body’s connective tissues, everywhere from our muscles, skin and bones to our digestive tracts and beyond. Sounds important. Now, remember when I said that collagen is composed of long chains of amino acids? Well, these amino acids are essential and not produced IN the body and therefore have to be consumed from OUTSIDE the body through our diet. Fortunately, we house quite an abundant amount of collagen in the skin, but as we age we tend to lose collagen resulting in such less desirable things like wrinkles, dry skin, and brittle hair or nails. So if you’re really starting to feel like your face is showing your age, consider your diet and how it’s contributing (or not) to collagen production. Keep reading for tips on how to get more collagen in your diet.

What does it do?

Besides just giving us radiant skin and silky smooth hair, hydrolyzed collagen (the broken down and more easily digestible form) has some serious health perks, like acting as an anti-inflammatory, aiding in digestion, or possibly even reducing joint pain — just to name a few. So how do you take advantage of these health benefits? It’s all about knowing what lifestyle choices help you versus hurt you. Things like age, too much sun, elevated weight, and drugs or alcohol actually suppress your body’s natural collagen production. On the other hand, eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying hydrated and limiting stress will only increase collagen production.

Where can you find it?

When it comes to age there’s nothing we can do to combat that, that’s why having a handle on the things we can control is so important. Consuming a diet rich in the collagen building blocks is a must, but the way you go about it is up to you. The most simple way to naturally boost your collagen is to consume foods high in vitamin C and antioxidants such as brightly colored fruits and vegetables and leafy greens. Another dietary approach is to make your own homemade bone broth — it’s generally inexpensive while providing a good source of collagen. Finally, supplemental collagen is always an option, but according to Dr. Mark Moyad, Director of Preventative and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan, the true health benefits of collagen supplements are preliminary and still being researched. That said, powdered collagen supplements can be easily added to smoothies or soups to potentially give you an extra boost. When searching for collagen supplements, organic and grass-fed animals are recommended.

What lifestyle choices do you currently make in your life that support collagen production? What could you do better? We’d love to hear from you!

Sources:

  1. How to Boost Collagen for Better Skin — Dr. Mercola
  2. You Asked: Should I Eat Collagen Powder? — Time Health
  3. Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides from Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice – Nutrients
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Diet

4 Outstanding Reasons–and Recipes–to Eat More Blueberries

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Heads up: It’s peak blueberry season. And no doubt you’ve heard that blueberries are totally beneficial super foods with almost magical health benefits. Well, it’s true. They’re considered “brain food,” with the ability to fight toxic proteins, and can harness their crazy-good antioxidants to fight harmful molecules and potential infections (so long, UTIs!). With all these benefits, and the United States’ role as the world’s largest supplier, there’s an entire month— July—dedicated to their greatness. Do you need more reasons to eat them? If so, here goes. Skip to the end for blueberry recipes, if you’re already convinced.

1. Digestive health. Blueberries have high fiber content. Enough said.

2. Weight loss support. That fiber also increases your general sense of fullness, and extends the sensation between meals, reducing overall appetite.

3. Better bone health. Bone structure, strength, and elasticity are all helped by the great combo of iron, zinc, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and manganese found in blueberries.

4. Smoother skin. Say so long to some extra wrinkles thanks to the vitamin C that helps collagen improve overall skin texture, and acts as an antioxidant to help prevent skin damage from the sun and pollution.

5. Lower blood pressure. Blueberries contain potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which naturally decrease blood pressure. They do not include sodium, the concerning element connected to a high BP.

Here are five tasty ways to add more blueberries into your diet:

Toss Them in Fresh

A handful can be added to a salad, smoothie, oatmeal, or any number of other meals that could use a boost.

Breakfast: Vanilla Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

Take an idea from above for your first meal of the day, or prepare these delicious single-serving breakfasts.

blueberry parfait

Baked Goods: Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

Lemon and blueberries are both beneficial for your health. Enjoy the combo in this gluten-free side.

recipes-lemon-blueberry-yogurt-muffins

Snacks: Frozen Red, White & Blue Yogurt Bites

Take a break from Fourth of July activities with these colorful, cool morsels.

blueberry yogurt bites

Dessert: Blueberry Mini Tarts

Enjoy a healthier dessert, and limit your sweets consumed— unless you pop too many!

miniblueberrytartheader

Note: Beware of food that’s blueberry-flavored. It often doesn’t include actual blueberries. We want the real deal! And remember to hold off on washing the “dusty” fruit until you’re ready to eat them (to make them longer-lasting), and watch their juice; blueberries are a natural dye.

Sources: Medical News Today, Health.com and WebMD

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Fitness

Reasons Why You’re Gaining Weight While Working Out Explained

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Gaining weight while working out

Let us set the scene: you’ve been working really hard at the gym and trying your best to stick to a healthy diet but when you step on the scale you see a higher number than you expected. Don’t panic! Lots of people have experienced gaining weight while working out, it’s actually pretty common and you’re not alone. There are lots of factors to consider when weight loss is concerned so before you let yourself get discouraged—check out five reasons you may not be seeing the weight loss you planned for. 

Water Retention

When you first start exercising your body will naturally go through many changes in the first few months. New exercises can lead to inflammation or small tears in your muscle fibers as you build muscle mass. Your body will respond to this inflammation by temporarily retaining water. Let your body heal! Drink plenty of water, eat well and get as much sleep as you can. As a rule of thumb, you should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should be drinking no less than 70 ounces of water a day. 

Glycogen Conversion

Your body provides energy to your muscles by converting glycogen, or sugar, into glucose. When you begin exercising regularly your body stores more glycogen to fuel the extra movement. Glycogen has to bind with water in order fuel your muscles. As exercise becomes more routine over time, your muscles will become more efficient and need less glycogen to maintain your energy. As that happens, your muscles will retain less water and you will see that added weight come off! 

High-Calorie Diets

In order to shed the pounds, you must have a caloric deficit. It can be difficult to keep track of everything you eat but try logging your meals once a week to check in on how much you’re actuallyeating (and drinking!). If you’re taking in more calories than you are working off—you won’t see the weight loss you are working towards. However, don’t try and shave off too many calories from your diet, that won’t help either and it’s not sustainable or healthy. Make small adjustments. Eat fewer processed foods and more whole foods (think foods on the outer walls of the grocery store) to round out your diet.  

Time

Weight loss is not a linear process and you aren’t going to see immediate results—no matter how much work you put in. If you didn’t gain 30 pounds overnight, you can’t expect to lose it that quickly either. Our bodies are incredible machines and when you introduce something new: exercise or dietary changes, our bodies need to recalibrate and make adjustments. Depending on the person, it can take weeks and even months for your body to respond. Be patient.

Muscle Gains

Muscle mass weighs more than fat mass and you will undoubtedly gain weight from lean muscle gains. While your clothes may feel looser, the scale may tell you otherwise. This is a win! You’re working a well-rounded program that includes both strength and conditioning and now you’re reaping the reward. And, for the record, I’ve been a trainer for almost 15 years, and I’ve never owned a scale. It doesn’t tell your story but signals like inches down, a sense of wellness, and feeling stronger than you were before are what you should use to track progress moving forward.

Try not to get too discouraged by what the number on the scale says. What’s really important is making healthy happen and investing in your health. How much you weigh is not nearly as critical as how great you feel in and outside of the gym.

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Exercise

Everything New Moms Need to Know Before Working Out After Baby

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Many new moms are searching for answers and ways to reclaim their pre-baby body. Do they really have to wait six weeks to exercise? Why? What are the best ways to get re-started? We know you’re eager. And we’re excited to help! But before you ease (emphasis on ease) back into a fitness routine, please be sure to consider the following things and all that they encompass.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Your body has undergone 9 months of incredible changes, including weight gain and hormonal shifts that may have you feeling as if you’re a house guest in your own skin. Becoming a mom is a long journey and you should not expect (nor should anyone else) to be back to your pre-pregnancy weight right away. In fact, some doctors would say if you are back to pre-pregnancy weight in less than six months following birth, your exercise and nutrition should be reevaluated.

The first six weeks following birth should be primarily focused on feeling good and finding a little alone time. Approach your exercise program with curiosity and without judgment. Forget charting your progress or setting weight loss or physical goals; simply find time to move and regain a bit of control over your schedule and your body.

Then, barring unforeseen complications, after six weeks you can begin making a plan. You should have a bit more structure in your life at this point, sleep is (hopefully!) more frequent, and your body should be close to fully healed. Now you can begin looking toward getting back to pre-pregnancy weight, restoring core function, and improving body image. But still, approach your program with a dose of humility and grace. It will take time; time to feel like your old self and time to look like your old self. Slow and steady will win the race.

Your Doctor Knows Best

Regardless of how you feel and how desperate you are to return to your non-maternity wear, listening to your doctor regarding post-partum exercise prescription is crucial. The most progressive advice suggests anything that doesn’t hurt, you can do. (This is based largely on your pre-pregnancy and pre-natal routines.) However, it’s important to consider giving yourself time and space to heal. Be honest at your follow-up appointments and respectful of the internal trauma that birth causes (whether vaginal or c-section delivery) when determining your plan.

In the immediate weeks following birth, contraindications to exercise include heavy bleeding, pain, or breast infection or abscess. If you had a c-section or a traumatic vaginal birth (deep tears requiring repair), pain is your ultimate guide. Breast discomfort is for real; if you’re experiencing engorgement, you should wait until this passes before starting or resuming exercise. Finally, if you are experiencing heavy urine leakage or pelvic pressure during exercise for more than a couple of weeks, you should consult a physician before continuing your workouts.

There’s More to Monitor

Whenever you do begin to exercise again, there are important things to monitor (in addition to that new beautiful life!):

  • Hydration Levels – Fluid intake should be high. Monitor the color of your urine to be sure you’re on target with your water intake; or it might be easier to remember you should drink enough that you feel like you need to use the restroom each time you feed the baby.
  • Baby WeightMonitor your baby’s weight gain as you begin to resume your physical fitness. The calories expended and/or eliminated on the nutrition side should not interfere with the expected weight gain for your child.
  • Fatigue – Fatigue is a reality for every new mom and not something you should try to “power through” to get a workout in. If you have to set an alarm to exercise, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. The same goes for skipping an afternoon nap. You might want to consider reducing duration and increasing frequency at this new stage. Sleep is more beneficial at this point!
  • Rest & Activity Cycles – Be sure to maintain a balance between these two items. Activity is important, but rest is too. Rest, such as spending time with your baby or relaxing alone, is as beneficial for your physical body as it is for your peace of mind.

Re-Prioritizing is Your New Normal

One of the best gifts you can give yourself now is embracing the fact life has changed. Being a mom is a wonderfully tough job, and while making time for yourself is critical, you will undoubtedly have competing interests forever more. Time management takes on a whole new meaning with a baby in the house. The number of chores and needs in the household change, finding time for your spouse and friends will shift, work schedules evolve, and though in the past you may have always found time for your exercise, there may be times when it simply doesn’t happen. While I’m not suggesting that as moms we stop putting our oxygen mask on first, I am suggesting that you give yourself a break! If a workout doesn’t happen, all is not lost. Avoid going down the self-defeating path of one missed workout leads to many. Your workouts may look and feel different, happen less frequently, be sporadic, or shorter. Analyze your new normal and make sure everything is working for you and your family. The quickest way to getting your body back is to set your mind right, first!

Read about more ways to reclaim your pre-baby body. 

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