Natural Energy Foods to Help Replace Caffeine

Natural Energy Foods to Help Replace Caffeine

The caffeine in coffee, energy drinks* and energy shots is certainly a stimulant, but one that calls you back again to remedy a subsequent crash. It also acts as a diuretic and has other potential side effects including insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness.

* A word about “energy” drinks… Many contain B vitamins in addition to caffeine, which are really boosters for metabolic pathways to derive energy from food, as these micronutrients do not provide any calories directly and are not stimulants.

Consumers may not be aware that caffeine is being added to everything from jellybeans to beef jerky. Have you seen “wired” waffles? In response to this growing trend, the FDA announced in 2016 that it would investigate the safety of caffeine in food products. For our neighbors to the North, Health Canada institutes caffeine content limits in cola-type beverages and requires mandatory cautionary labelling.

Some natural caffeine sources include guarana, yerba mate, chocolate and tea. The last two only have a quarter to half the caffeine content of prepared coffee. Chocolate also has theobromine, which has direct psychoactive effects like stimulating neurovascular activity and enhancing memory and alertness. As far as tea, green tea that contains catechins which impact energy, mood and cognition separate from the caffeine effect.1

Chocolate and tea may give you some verve but are hardly a recipe for a full breakfast. What the body needs is energy in the form of molecules called ATP to activate muscles. These are provided from the calories in food during metabolism, and carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source.

Juice contains mostly fructose and water, and is rapidly absorbed requiring minimal digestion, thus providing quick energy for a perk. Both citrus juices and cocoa-based drinks are rich in flavonoids, which may increase cerebral blood flow and increase neural activity.2

So what’s wrong with a typical bowl of corn flakes to go with a cup of juice, cocoa or tea? Refined grains fall flat of providing sustained energy. For that you’ll need complex carbohydrates and a little protein and healthy (unsaturated) fat. One type of complex carbohydrate, known as fructo-oligosaccharides, may boost mood by way of its effect on gut bacteria which influences behavior via neurotransmitter systems. Another type, inulin, is similar to fructo-oligosaccharides and linked to improvements in learning and memory tasks, such as accuracy in recall.3 Some lean protein and healthy fat serve to prolong the energy from carbohydrates.

Some specific natural energy foods to work into your morning routine for more oomph:

Still a coffee addict? Try switching to half decaf coffee, an herbal coffee, or a tea (e.g. ginko biloba, ginseng, rooibos) to fill your mug. Don’t forget that getting those muscles moving will help circulate oxygen to the brain. See our article How Early Morning Workouts Can Impact Your Day | Fitness. If you’re slow to rise and an AM workout is out of the question, stretching is a great start.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Sources:

  1. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Dietz C, Dekker M. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017 Jan 5. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Flavonoid-rich orange juice is associated with acute improvements in cognitive function in healthy middle-aged males. Alharbi MH, Lamport DJ, Dodd GF, Saunders C, Harkness L, Butler LT, Spencer JP. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Sep;55(6):2021-9. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1016-9. Epub 2015 Aug 18.
  3. An Investigation of the Acute Effects of Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin on Subjective Wellbeing, Mood and Cognitive Performance. Smith AP, Sutherland D, Hewlett P. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 28;7(11):8887-96. doi: 10.3390/nu7115441.
  4. Chewing gum: cognitive performance, mood, well-being, and associated physiology. Allen AP, Smith AP. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:654806. doi: 10.1155/2015/654806. Epub 2015 May 17.

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How Can I Make My Own Breakfast Bar? | Q+A

How Can I Make My Own Breakfast Bar? | Q+A

Question:

I’d like to make my own ‘breakfast bar’ to eat in the morning on the car-ride to the gym to play racquetball. Sweet is OK, but most of the manufactured ones have chocolate and that is a little hard to swallow at 5am. Doc says I need to watch/lower my carb intake so I need to be conscious of that too. Even purchasing them at the wholesale club is costly, so would love to be able to make my own. Any proven recipes you can share?

– Jerrey S. Fell

Answer:

While I’ve only made my own bar once, I’d rely on reviews for taste and acceptability. Nutritionally, it sounds like you’d like a meal replacement vs. an energy bar or protein bar. For the base sweet component, mashed bananas are easiest, but using ground dates and/or dried coconut also makes for a sturdy bar. Oats or puffed rice are good starches to use for bulk without a pasty texture that flour would give. A nut butter or protein powder will balance out the carbohydrates. Buying mainstream ingredients in bulk then properly storing the remainder will keep your costs down. Generally, store bought bars cost $1 per ounce.

Here’s a great option without chocolate:

In a food processor combine 1 C nuts, 1 C shredded coconut, ½ C wheat germ, and 2 ripe bananas. Transfer to bowl and mix in 1 C whole wheat flour, 1 C oats, 1 C vanilla Greek yogurt, 2 beaten eggs, tsp. cinnamon and tsp. baking soda. Spread evenly in greased rectangular baking pan. Bake in 350o F oven for 20 minutes or until light golden brown; cut into 12 bars. Let cool completely before removing from pan. Each 227 Calories, 10.5 gm Fat , 27 gm Carb, 9 gm Protein.

For more of a granola flavor without baking:

Blend 1 C peanut butter, 1/2 C honey with mixer until mixed thoroughly. Adding a little at a time, mix in 1/2 C dry powdered milk and 1/3 C vanilla soy protein powder. Stir in 2 C puffed rice, 1/3 C finely diced dried fruit and 1/3 C finely diced nuts. If dough is too sticky, add more powdered milk. Press firmly into a wax paper lined pan until flat, about a half inch thick. Cool in fridge until solid and slice into 12 bars. Each 239 Calories, 13 gm Fat, 25 gm Carb, 9.5 gm Protein. Use a low carb protein powder to reduce carbohydrates.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

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Member Spotlight | Health and Happiness Are Possible

Member Spotlight | Health and Happiness Are Possible

“I’m a firm believer in [that] you can only make yourself better if you try; I just had to try.”

Rebecca G.

LA Fitness Member

Have you ever had a photo taken of yourself, and not recognized the person staring back at you? Rebecca Guy of Hamburg, NY, knows that feeling all too well. The picture to the right was taken at a friend’s Easter party in 2015 and Rebecca could not believe how much she had changed since she had started her office job in 2013. A retail job she held prior, kept her naturally fit by constantly staying active on her feet. Once her new office position started, she began noticing that she was sitting 8.5 hours a day, 5 days a week. When the extra weight started accruing, Rebecca invested in a step tracker, only to realize she was barely averaging around 3,000 steps a day. Depressed at how inactive she seemed to be, Rebecca threw out the step tracker, but made no further attempt at changing her sedentary ways.

The months progressed and life carried on, until Rebecca found herself at an office outing where another photo was snapped and caused Rebecca to no longer want to wear tight shirts – too embarrassed of who she had let herself become. (Photo shown to the right) Shortly after, in October 2015, Rebecca took a trip to Los Angeles, CA to visit her sister where they hiked, went to the beach, visited Hollywood Blvd., and various parks. But instead of enjoying the experiences and beautiful sights, Rebecca recalls feeling miserable. It was after this trip that Rebecca knew something had to be done, and soon.

“My journey began when I realized if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I would spend the rest of my life unhappy, uncomfortable, and with preventable health problems. I knew nothing about working out, though, and I was terrified of the gym!  When I joined LA Fitness, the staff was amazing and understood my goals – to get happy, comfortable and healthy.”

– Rebecca G.

Rebecca G.

LA Fitness Member

Step 1

In December 2015, Rebecca joined LA Fitness. Her only goal was to show up. She kept telling herself just to get there and she would figure out the rest later. What Rebecca didn’t know is that a complimentary fitness assessment is included with new member enrollment. When LA Fitness staff offered to schedule her assessment Rebecca shared with us, “Honestly, I had no interest in knowing how out of shape I was, but I stopped myself- if I’m going to do this I have to do this right, maybe this would encourage me to show up.” As Rebecca was given a tour of the club she was asked what she wished to accomplished. She just wanted to be happy, comfortable, and healthy. Those became her goals. And on December 26th, 2015 Rebecca had her first training session with Master Trainer, Sarah O.

Change Is Scary

For most people new to working out, gym equipment can be somewhat intimidating, and the free weight zone is oftentimes looked at as the no go zone. When Rebecca first began her membership, she only knew how to use the treadmill. She didn’t know what either a rep nor a set was. But, with the help of her personal trainer Sarah, she became knowledgeable of the gym and began to feel relaxed, rather than intimidated and stressed. Rebecca explained her goals to Sarah, and was told that her goals would be met if she kept showing up for training, working out, and made some healthy lifestyle changes. And that she did – but it didn’t come easy. Rebecca shared that, “at first this was really hard, I mean really hard- but [Sarah] was always there for me […] guiding, coaching and encouraging me to be a better me.”

Within just a few sessions Rebecca’s fear of the gym was reduced, she knew what reps and sets were, which muscle groups to train together, and was surprised to find that she was working out with free weights, just like Sarah had taught her, all on her own! Rebecca started finding herself looking forward to going to the gym. She knew if she worked hard, her goals would be met. She was beginning to feel happier and healthier, and knew that the feeling of being more comfortable in her own skin would come in due time, with the more weight she lost.

Hard Work Pays Off

While Rebecca’s initial goal was to simply become a version of herself, Sarah introduced her to the idea of fitness competitions. At first, Rebecca laughed off the idea, with the assumption that fitness competitions were simply about fit individuals showing off muscles on top of muscles; she soon came to know that there were a lot more to fitness shows. Rebecca had never competed in anything before – even as a child – and therefore, had never known the feeling of winning a trophy. Sarah began inspiring her daily, and training her to lose weight, gain muscle, and tone. There were times Rebecca questioned if all the “extra” work was really worth it… until the big Natural Muscle Association Can/Am Competition arrived (March 2017), and Rebecca placed in the top three!

So where is Rebecca now?

Today Rebecca is 130 lbs., happy, comfortable, healthy, and a natural muscle figure competitor. She continues to train with Sarah and has plans to compete in yet another fitness competition in the upcoming months.

Words of Wisdom 

“My words of advice would be: don’t wait- just try it. I waited, I knew I had to do something to make myself better, but I waited; ignoring the problem and thinking it would go away. If I hadn’t waited, I would have been a lot happier a lot sooner. Just try- get there and try. Some days trying is easier than others- I have my days. Getting there is more than half the battle and when you get there, give it an honest effort you will thank yourself later when you feel and see the results.“

Rebecca G.

LA Fitness Member

A Little About Her Trainer 

“Be a story worth telling.” – Sarah O. MS; MBA; PhD

Sarah O. is a championship bodybuilder and figure champion, who placed as the 2009 USA winner. She been inducted into the Buffalo Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Hall of Fame, and featured in the National Fitness Hall of Fame, for both her accomplishments and efforts to revive the sport. She has been featured in several magazines, and owns a non-profit company which rescues cats from abuse and neglect. Sarah serves as a role model to those who look to become more.

 

commit to fit logo, LA Fitness, member fitness goalsDo you have an inspirational story you would like to share with us? Fill out the form below for a chance to be featured as a future member story!

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Recommended Reading

What Is World Health Day?

What Is World Health Day?

Let’s talk health.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization, 1948

The World Health Organization hosts World Health Day each April 7th, which brings to global focus a key issue relating to health that many feel needs to be addressed. The efforts to bring attention to the subject chosen continue for a full calendar year, until a new topic is chosen. This year their theme is ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’. Other themes in the past have included ‘Beat Diabetes’ (2016), Food Safety (2015), and Vector-borne Diseases (2014), to name a few. Currently, there are 35 countries participating in 65 varying events. To find an event happening near you, click here.

If You’re Unhappy And You Know It, Run A Lap

This year the World Health Organization’s one-year campaign is centered on depression. It’s a topic that many are familiar with, but one that often gets overlooked. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.1 But, there are some natural ways that may help combat some of depression’s effects. A 2005 study referenced by Harvard Health showed that simply “walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms.”2 It’s amazing what a difference something so seemingly small can make.

In yet another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 156 men and women with depression were split into three groups. One of the groups partook in an aerobic exercise program, the second group were given an antidepressant, and the final group participated in both. At the end of the 16-week mark, depression had eased in all three groups. In fact, “about 60%–70% of the people in all three groups could no longer be classed as having major depression.”3

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia, American author and motivational speaker

But why does exercising help mental health?

There are a few different hypotheses to consider:

I. Thermogenic Hypothesis

II. Endorphin Hypothesis

III. Monoamine Hypothesis

IV. Distraction Hypothesis

V. Self-Efficacy Hypothesis

 

“We can’t escape pain; we can’t escape the essential nature of our lives. But we do have a choice. We can give in and relent, or we can fight, persevere, and create a life worth living, a noble life. Pain is a fact; our evaluation of it is a choice.” – Jacob Held, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Central Arkansas

i. The Thermogenic Hypothesis suggests that the natural rise in core body temperature caused from working out can help facilitate symptoms of depression. Specifically, the study explained that “increases in temperature of specific brain regions, such as the brain stem, can lead to an overall feeling of relaxation and reduction in muscular tension.”4

ii. The Endorphin Hypothesis is probably the most commonly referenced theory when it comes to talking about the benefits of exercising and the effects it has on mental health. According to this hypothesis, exercise helps release endorphins naturally. Endorphins are known as “feel-good” hormones and are directly “related to a positive mood and an overall enhanced sense of well-being.”5

iii. The Monoamine Hypothesis is similar to the Endorphin Hypothesis. It suggests that “exercise leads to an increase in the availability of brain neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) that are diminished with depression.”6 Serotonin has an effect on one’s mood. Dopamine “helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers [and] also helps regulate movement and emotional responses.”7 Norepinephrine is a chemical that mobilizes the body and brain for action.

iv. The Distraction Hypothesis is probably the most self-explanatory of these theories. This hypothesis suggests that physical activity helps distract from worries and depressing thoughts. Generally speaking, engaging in a distracting activity has shown more positive results than “self-focused or introspective activities such as journal keeping or identifying positive and negative adjectives that describe one’s current mood.”8

v. Lastly, there is the Self-Efficacy Hypothesis. In order to better understand what this hypothesis suggests, first let’s define self-efficacy. It “refers to the belief that one possesses the necessary skills to complete a task as well as the confidence that the task can actually be completed with the desired outcome obtained.”9 Those suffering from depression can sometimes experience negative thought processes, and feelings, towards themselves. However, a study showed “that involvement in an exercise program was associated with enhanced feelings of coping self-efficacy, which, in turn, were inversely related to feelings of depression.”10

If exercising is something you want to try to help become a physically, mentally, and emotionally better you, there are tons of different options available. At LA Fitness, Group Fitness classes are offered if you are the type of individual who thrives with the motivation of an instructor and the energy of others working out with you. If you prefer getting your workouts done solo, there is plenty of cardio and weight equipment to available to you. And if you’re new to working out, and unsure where to begin, booking a session with one of LA Fitness’ Pro Results® Master Trainers may be the best option for you.

This article is not meant as medical advice and should not replace any medical recommendations from your physician or other healthcare professional. Before starting a new exercise program, consult with your physician. If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, please reach out to a healthcare professional.

*Photos show a typical club. Amenities may vary.

 

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Sources:

  1. “Depression.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, Feb. 2017. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/>. Publications, Harvard
  2. Health. “Exercise and Depression.” Harvard Health. Harvard Health Publications, June 2009. Web. 28 Mar. 2017
  3. Ibid
  4. Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2004. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Jr., Robert Evans Wilson, Samantha Smithstein Psy.D., Loretta G. Breuning Ph.D., and Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. “Dopamine.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2004. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
  8. Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2004. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid

What Are Good Substitutions for Sugary and Salty Snacks? | Q+A

What Are Good Substitutions for Sugary and Salty Snacks? | Q+A

Question:

Hi. I am a couch potato and I am starting to look like one too. Just joined the Frisco, TX location and will start taking group classes.  What are good substitutions for sugary and salty snacks? Looking for healthier alternatives to ice cream and chips and salsa.

– Rose P.

Answer:

So glad you are turning over a new leaf, Rose! Though nothing will be like the original, look for similar textures or flavors when making substitutions for the best satisfaction.

In place of ice cream, dairy-based snacks include yogurt, fruit/pudding parfait, and strawberry or chocolate/banana smoothies made with whole milk and frozen fruit. Get creative and make your own frozen yogurt pops.

For baked items like cookies and cupcakes, you could substitute bran muffins, granola bars, and graham crackers.

To get a salty crunchy flavor, instead of eating fried chips, try baked ones (fresh salsa is fine). Soy nuts and dried seaweed come in different flavors to nibble on. Low-fat microwave popcorn is another option.

Additional healthy snacks that have completely different flavors and textures include:

  • Cottage cheese and pineapple
  • Carrots or snap peas and hummus
  • Celery or apples and peanut butter
  • Pretzels and string cheese
  • Grapes and hard-cooked egg
  • Whole grain crackers and guacamole
  • Tuna salad on cucumber slices
  • Mini pizzas (English muffin half, spoonful marinara, sprinkle cheese)

It’s simple to have easy, ready-to-eat snacks on hand for when your appetite surges. Just remember to pare down your subsequent meal to balance out the calories.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

Ask our Dietitian

QA_icon

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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