There’s nothing worse than turning to a comfort food only to be plagued with a bellyache. Bloating and discomfort are hallmarks of indigestion. And poor choices of foods that weigh you down can turn lunchtime excitement into an afternoon of feeling heavy and tired.

That icky, uncomfortable feeling you get after overindulging in unhealthy foods goes by many names. Indigestion is an umbrella term that encompasses the bloated, gassy, sluggish, and heavy sensations that follow a meal that’s gone too far.

It’s not just overeating that leads to indigestion, though. Certain foods can trigger stomach upset more than others—you’ll read about some soon. A well-balanced meal with appropriate portions is easily digested. But when simple carbs or saturated fats dominate your plate, you can almost count on needing to loosen your belt.

An unhealthy diet can leave your body feeling worn out and weary. But positive changes and healthy choices can put the spring back in your step. Lots of foods can stall your digestion. Good thing there are just as many options that fill you up without weighing you down.

First, let’s highlight some of the common sources of bellyache and the foods that weigh you down. You’ll start with some of the obvious bad actors. And then follow up with hidden sources of feeling “ugh” after eating. Remember, too much of any food can lead to gastrointestinal upset that sinks your day and leaves you feeling heavy.

The Heft of High-Fat Foods

This might be a no-brainer. But foods with a high fat content definitely weigh you down.

Foods with lots of saturated fat tend to be very rich and can leave you feeling uncomfortably full. Fat (saturated and trans) is often added to foods to boost taste. But all that flavor comes at a price.

Fatty foods are usually low in fiber. This is a problem because fiber is great for digestion. It adds bulk to stool and pushes it through the digestive system. High-fat diets are often accompanied by constipation. Without fiber to aid in digestion, fatty foods leave your gut feeling heavy.

Fried foods are especially hard on your body. They lack fiber and they are low in the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that help you maintain your energy. It’s hard to fight off sluggishness and sloth when using fried, often heavily fatty, foods for fuel.

Alternative: Unsaturated, Healthy Fats

It’s impossible to practice healthy eating without having fat in your diet. It’s an essential macronutrient. But not all fats are created equal. Watch out for too much saturated fat in your diet and do your best to avoid trans fats. Instead, focus on healthy unsaturated fats (mono and poly) as part of a balanced diet.

Examples of foods high in unsaturated fats include: avocado, olive oil, nuts, and fish. These foods are nutrient-rich and contain fats that support healthy brain function. Swap out some of your high-saturated-fat foods with a healthy fat instead.

Processed Grains

When lunch rolls around, the last thing you want to fill up on are processed grains. You’ll find them hiding in white bread, white rice, and pasta. These carbs are notorious for dumping sugar into the bloodstream and creating crashes shortly after.

Refined grains are missing key components like bran and germ. Bran supplies fiber, which stabilizes energy for hours after a meal. With bran missing from the equation, an energy slump is bound to follow a meal of processed grains.

Foods like white bread are also lacking in germ. This part of the grain is rich in B vitamins. Your body utilizes B vitamins to harness energy from the food you eat.

If you eat too much processed grain, so much for lunch fueling a productive afternoon. You might need a nap instead.

Alternative: Whole Grains

A simple solution to fatigue brought on by processed grains is to switch them out for their whole grain counterparts. Whole grains are a much healthier option when building a meal.

That’s because whole grains are high in fiber. So, they steadily release energy and help you avoid sugar highs and crashes. Fiber also helps the waste products from digestion travel through your gut. With reliable energy and a happy tummy, whole grains are an important part of a healthy meal and diet.

Don’t settle for the sleepiness and stomach discomfort brought on by processed, refined grains. Put whole grains on the menu instead. Look for whole-wheat bread, cereal, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta to round out your diet.

Low-Calorie Foods Can Lead to Feeling Heavy

It’s hard to believe that low-calorie foods aren’t always the best choice when you need a snack. Calories are your body’s energy currency. And you need to keep calories moving in to have the energy you need to accomplish tasks.

The problem arises when too many of these low-calorie options are used throughout the day. Insufficient calorie intake will leave your body feeling sapped of energy. It’s difficult to get work done when your fuel tank is on empty. And, often these snacks are prepackaged, processed foods with little nutritional value. So, it’s a double whammy for your body.

Restricted calorie consumption can also backfire. And it can drive you to eat more than you should at your next meal. Then the cycle of feeling bad continues because overeating brings on sluggishness and bloat. And the extra food can literally weigh you down. That’s because quieting excessive hunger with an extra-large meal may also lead to weight gain.

Changes to metabolism and hormonal balance may also occur if calorie restriction becomes a habit. These metabolic changes make it hard to maintain a healthy weight. And hormonal shifts may trigger lowered mood and decreased sense of well-being.

Alternative: Healthy Snacks in Proper Portions

Overindulgence in any food has the potential to lead to weight gain. But opting for low-calorie foods over a healthy snack can produce the same result. When choosing something to tide you over ‘til the next meal, avoid labels like: low-cal, lite, and zero calorie.

Choose naturally low-calorie snacks like berries, melon, and cucumber. These will fill you up and provide your body with much needed vitamins and minerals.

If you’re worried about calorie intake, look for hidden sources of calories. Carbonated beverages, alcohol, and juice are all loaded with calories. These drinks don’t satisfy hunger. Drink water instead, and eat wholesome, healthy foods to fill your daily calorie requirements.

Carbonated Beverages Don’t Always Lift You

If you’re feeling gassy and bloated after eating, your choice of beverage might be to blame. Carbonated beverages like soda are popular. But these fizzy drinks don’t stop bubbling after the first sip. They create gas long after you swallow. And while they don’t leave you feeling heavy, they don’t have a desirable after-effect either.

First, let’s go over what gives carbonated beverages their characteristic bubbles. Fizzy drinks contain large amounts of carbon dioxide, a gas. These gas bubbles pop in your digestive tract. So, the fun fizz in your drink translates to gas and bloat in your belly.

Another source of gas from carbonated beverages is the sweetener. Diet drinks have sugar substitutes that taste sweet like the real thing. But your body knows the difference and these substitute sweeteners can be tough to digest.

Limit food and drinks containing sugar alcohols like sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol. These sugar substitutes travel all the way to the large intestine before breakdown begins. Gas can be a result of this fermentation and digestion. So, you don’t have to totally avoid these sugar alcohols. But reach for them in moderation.

Bloating and gas are sure-fire ways to feel off your game. It’s hard to get comfortable when you feel puffy and heavy.

Alternative: Water, Water, Water!

Eliminate extra gas from your diet by drinking water. Water is your body’s beverage of choice and is free of bubbles and sweeteners that upset your stomach later.

If flavor is what you’re looking for in a bubbly drink, try infusing your water with natural ingredients. You can achieve the desired taste with sliced lemon, lime, berries, and cucumber. Get creative and add herbs, too. Basil, rosemary, and mint are popular options. Herbal tea can also be a good, non-caffeinated option.

Skip carbonated water, too. Even without the added sugar, this fizzy drink can cause intestinal discomfort. Instead, drink water in its purest form. Straight up, on the rocks, or with a squeeze of lemon—you’re making the healthy choice by sticking to H2O.

Dairy Can Do Your Day In

Occasionally, a trip down the dairy aisle will sink your day, or—worse yet—send you running for the bathroom. That’s because lactose (a sugar found in most dairy products) can be difficult for your gut to digest.

The main offender is usually milk. Cow’s milk is high in lactose and can cause painful gas and diarrhea in people who lack the digestive enzyme lactase. If your body struggles to digest lactose, you probably already know about it. As much as 65 percent of the global population struggles to digest lactose.

Bloat and fatigue usually follow a bout with lactose. And this reaction to lactose makes it hard for your body to absorb the nutrition that milk has to offer. Remember, milk is high in bone-strengthening calcium. How can you get the good stuff from dairy and avoid stomach upset and feeling heavy?

Alternative: Yogurt, Cheese, and Other Fermented Dairy Products

Cue fermented dairy. Some of your favorite dairy products have already begun the breakdown of lactose. Yogurt and kefir are made with enzymes that tackle the lactose in milk before it gets to your gut. These alternatives are great sources of calcium and probiotics that further aid in digestion.

If you’re looking for a milk substitute, try almond milk. This and other nut milks may be easier on your digestive system. They are packed with good stuff like calcium and vitamin D. And they taste great, too.

Should your sensitivity to lactose be especially strong, consult with a healthcare provider. They will know the best ways for you to get the calcium you need without compromising your comfort.

Swap It Out

Now you know the foods that weigh you down (and beverages, too), so be proactive and switch them out of your diet. Substitute heavy foods for a fiber-filled option. Balance your plate with whole grains and a variety of food groups. Challenge yourself to drink more water. (And when you think you’ve drunk enough H2O, pour yourself another glass.)

Look for alternatives to the foods that leave you feeling heavy and keep you from being at your best. Limit or skip the items in the left column and snack on the healthier options from the right:

Weigh You Down

Fried food

Pre-packaged pastries

Trans fats

Red meat

White bread

Pasta

Low-cal ____

Diet ____

Soda

Ice cream

Lift You Up

Avocado

Olive oil

Fatty fish

Roasted veggies

Lean protein

Whole wheat bread

Brown rice

Nuts

Berries

Melon

Cucumber

Infused water

Greek yogurt

About the Author

Sydney Sprouse is a freelance science writer based out of Forest Grove, Oregon. She holds a bachelor of science in human biology from Utah State University, where she worked as an undergraduate researcher and writing fellow. Sydney is a lifelong student of science and makes it her goal to translate current scientific research as effectively as possible. She writes with particular interest in human biology, health, and nutrition.

It could be a yawn or an eyelid droop. But it might as well be an alarm blaring the message “Help! Send energy! SOS!” It’s a sure sign a jolt of something stimulating is needed to keep your energy level high enough to take on your task list. You can try to push through the meeting or chore you’re trying to conquer. That doesn’t always work, though. What you really need is an effective energy source.

The next questions become important: Which source is the best? What ingredients pack the most support for your energy level? What energy source will save you from the oncoming malaise and push you through your frenetic, frantic life?

Luckily, these questions have scientific answers. Ultimately, your choice of energy source is personal and has to work for you. But the information to make a good decision is below.

So, take the time to learn about plant sources (like ginseng and guarana), amino acids (like taurine and l-carnitine), and the most popular option—caffeine (coffee, green tea, black tea, or man-made energy drinks). Then you can make the decision for yourself. And hopefully avoid the energy alarm and finally glide through your to-do’s with energy to spare.

A Few Words About Energy

The most basic unit of energy is the calorie. Your body turns food’s calories into energy. It’s happening all the time. That’s because after food is broken down, energy is created inside your cells from ATP (adenosine triphosphate). There’s a great story about that cellular energy production if you want to know what ATP is and how cells use it to keep you going. But you don’t need to be a scientist to understand the energy discussion below.

Keeping your body properly fueled with nutritious, varied foods is important. Without the calories in food, you won’t have the energy to do anything. And you also need a healthy amount of sleep to refresh and rejuvenate your body.

Diet and sleep are certainly the cornerstones of solid energy levels. But life throws a lot at you. And you probably find yourself outmatched occasionally and reaching for something more. For many, that’s an energy drink (could be coffee or tea, too) to help them tackle the seemingly endless flow of tasks.

So, let’s talk about compounds that keep you alert, focused, and feeling energized mentally and physically. Those are the energy sources that stimulate your body and brain to fuel your productivity when you need it most.

Without further ado, find out more about popular energy drink ingredients that can help you maintain your energy levels.

Ginseng to Get the Job Done

Turning to ginseng for an energy boost isn’t new. It’s been part of ancient traditions for hundreds of years.

Asian ginseng is most known for its energizing properties—of the 11 types of ginseng growing around the world. Regardless of species, the real energy source in all types of ginseng is a compound called ginsenoside (a plant steroid).

Ginseng and its active compounds have been shown to benefit:

  • mood
  • energy (specifically fighting fatigue)
  • antioxidant activity
  • cellular energy production

Research about how ginseng helps fight against mental and physical fatigue exists, but isn’t robust. It’s theorized that ginseng’s mental effects come from increased levels of certain brain chemicals and its impact on aerobic energy production in the brain. Physical mechanisms have been harder to nail down. And the conclusions are best described as theories right now. That’s because more study is needed to figure out exactly how the stimulating root works in your body.

In fact, some research has struggled to show significant results to back up the effectiveness of ginseng on reducing fatigue and boosting physical performance. A meta-analysis (a study of existing studies) suggested more and better studies—large, randomized, controlled trials—should be done on ginseng’s effectiveness.

That’s the consensus of modern science. But it doesn’t take into account the centuries of usage in traditional applications.

The good news for someone looking to test out ginseng as an energy source is that it’s safe and readily available. Just make sure to consult your physician or pharmacist for possible drug interactions. And also research has shown that cycling ginseng (two or three weeks on and a week off) is a more effective way to use it as an energy supplement.

Turning to Taurine to Tame Tiredness

Usually an amino acid would lead to a discussion of protein structures. But taurine isn’t a typical amino acid. You can find it in your diet in meat and fish, and all over your body—in your heart, brain, eyes, and blood platelets. That’s because your body makes taurine and needs it.

But if you’ve heard about taurine at all, it was probably in a discussion about energy drink ingredients. The amino acid has been popping up in popular drinks since these energizing beverages started hitting store shelves.

Why is taurine turned to so often to boost energy levels, though? The answer probably has something to do with the amino acid’s role in energy metabolism. It also may act like an antioxidant, and it helps with hydration and cellular electrolyte balance, too.

The research on taurine as an energy source is mixed. When combined with caffeine and B vitamins (in a popular energy drink brand), studies have found promising results. That includes suggested benefits related to fighting fatigue among drivers, impacting attention in adolescents, and countering sleepiness.

But it’s hard to pin those promising results directly on taurine instead of the combination of energy drink ingredients. Taurine by itself has slim evidence for improvements in energy. And one study showed taking the amino acid before exercise didn’t help overall performance.

Taurine has been shown to be possibly safe at reasonable doses—with no major side effects found. But it’s hard to be too bullish on taurine as a standalone energy supplement.

Are B Vitamins Your Energy Answer?

You need B vitamins. These essential vitamins are, well, essential to your survival. But claims made about B vitamins increasing energy levels are more suspect.

The fact is, without B vitamins, energy production in your body doesn’t operate properly. Each B vitamin works differently, but they generally help facilitate the complex conversion of foods into energy. So, in one way, B vitamins are all about energy.

But taking extra B vitamins isn’t a direct solution for those seeking energy sources. To feel any fatigue-busting effects, you would need to be deficient in one of the B vitamins. And you don’t want to be in that situation to begin with.

So, be wary of products claiming energy boosts from B vitamins. But don’t disregard the importance of these essential nutrients to your overall health. Here’s a useful guide to each of the B vitamins to boost your nutrition knowledge.

Your Guide to Guarana

The world’s energy drinkers are discovering what tribes of the Amazon have known for a long time. Guarana has a quite a kick.

The seeds of this Amazonian climbing plant have been used therapeutically for centuries. It contains a big punch of caffeine—about four to six times more than you find in coffee beans.

But caffeine isn’t the only thing guarana has going for it as a source of energy. Other compounds in the seeds (theophylline and theobromine) could make the stimulating product more potent than caffeine alone. That’s because they are also caffeine-like stimulating substances.

Guarana also sports a green-tea-like antioxidant profile. One of the Amazonian seed’s most potent antioxidant compounds is catechin. This plant phenol (type of plant chemical) is one of the main connections between the antioxidant possibilities of guarana and green tea.

What does the research have to say about the combination of energy sources found in guarana? Not much because it’s pretty limited. One study aimed to discover whether guarana’s mix of stimulating compounds was more effective than just caffeine. Researchers found that lower doses of the energizing mix in guarana did stimulate in the short-term. But the study also called for more research on the effectiveness of guarana in boosting energy levels.

Research on the safety of the seeds has been positive. It has been found to have low toxicity in reasonable doses. And it’s widely available—both as a standalone product and in energy drinks. But people who are sensitive to caffeine, pregnant women, adolescents, and children should be cautious about how much they consume.

Getting to the Meat of L-Carnitine’s Energy Benefits

Since it was first isolated from meat, l-carnitine got a very fleshy sounding name. But this derivative of an amino acid (lysine) has more to do with energy production than muscle building.

L-carnitine helps chauffeur fatty acids into the power plants of your cells (the mitochondria). Without hitching a ride with l-carnitine, fats you eat couldn’t efficiently be used for energy production. And fat—which, don’t forget, is one of the essential macronutrients—is full of potential energy.

The research done on l-carnitine is promising. Usage for 30 days was found to positively impact fatigue—both mental and physical. But doses over three grams per day—about triple what would be recommended—were found to cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues.

Caffeine is the King of Energy Sources

You or someone you know has almost certainly turned to caffeine for a pick-me-up. As long as you’re reading this during the day, you know someone who has had caffeine in the last hour. It’s that popular.

And there’s good reason for caffeine’s ubiquity. It works. Consuming caffeine is a well-established way to fight fatigue naturally. It doesn’t even matter the source.

You might feel like caffeine has a magical ability to power you through your day. But the way it works is pretty established science. Caffeine cranks up your metabolism and supports naturally stimulating chemicals in your body. It also exhilarates your central nervous system, starting with a handy trick it plays in your brain.

Caffeine fits into a receptor in your brain for a compound called adenosine. When adenosine clicks into its receptor, it usually helps you relax. But when caffeine takes its place—effectively blocking the adenosine—your brain and nervous system do the opposite. And that’s how caffeine revs up your central nervous system. It’s why it helps you feel alert and energized.

But you don’t want to overdo it with caffeine. Otherwise, too much caffeine can make you overly anxious and even shaky. It is potent, and a healthy adult shouldn’t consume more than three to four hundred milligrams per day. Some people—including pregnant women, adolescents and children—are more sensitive to caffeine and will need to limit their intake even more. And remember that high doses of caffeine can lead to a hard crash. So, you may want to spread out your caffeine consumption in smaller amounts throughout the day.

For most, the question about caffeine isn’t whether it works on energy levels. Instead, it’s which source is best and how much caffeine each beverage contains? The following table can help you answer those questions.

Beverage Type Amount of Caffeine Antioxidant Activity? Other Important Compounds Fun Fact
Brewed Coffee (non-decaf, non-espresso) 85–165 milligrams (mg) per eight ounces (237 milliliters) Yes Phenolic compounds (like chlorogenic acids), ferulic acid, and magnesium The more roasted the coffee bean, the less caffeine remains in your cup. So, light roast packs the biggest caffeine punch.
Black Tea (freshly brewed, not bottled) 25–48 mg per eight ounces (237 mL) Yes L-theanine (an amino acid that could impact brain chemicals), flavonoids, catechins, and tannins Black tea comes from the same plant as green tea, but is fermented, which accounts for the color difference.
Green Tea (freshly brewed, not bottled) 25–29 mg per eight ounces (237 mL) Yes Similar to black tea: L-theanine (an amino acid that could impact brain chemicals), flavonoids, and catechins (including EGCG, or Epigallocatechin Gallate) Green tea (and black tea and matcha) all come from a bushy plant (Camellia sinensis) that’s native to China.

Select Your Stimulating Beverage Carefully

You know the energy level you need to maintain to tackle your to-do list. And now you understand a little more about energy sources that can help you cross the finish line. But don’t forget to pay attention to the calories and sugar content of whatever beverage you choose.

Getting too much sugar will wind you up only to trigger a big crash. Plus, all the extra calories in sugary sodas, energy drinks, and fancy coffees might slow down your weight-management efforts.

So, next time your energy alarm goes off, you know what to do. Turn to the energy source that will work best for what you need. And then bask in a wave of energy that can wash away your to-do list.

It’s the tagline of everybody’s 3:00-in-the-afternoon slump. It’s that three-word utterance you’re so familiar with you probably don’t realize how often you say it: “I’m so tired.”

But why? What brings you to this point of heavy-lidded fatigue and exhaustion? Besides the obvious, easy answer—lack of sleep. But that answer’s simplicity is deceptive and implies that lack of sleep is easy to overcome and undo. As if getting enough sleep to fully power your day could be as simple as turning off your bedside lamp at night.

The reality of feeling and being tired is much more complex and convoluted. There’s traffic, schedule conflicts, and personal commitments. Carpools, gym trips, and the decision between cooking and takeout. It all drains the precious energy resources you have for the day.

On top of all of that, the fact artificial light (put off by all the technology everyone relies on) extends each day, encouraging you to work later and stay up longer. Research supports this new reality. And the effects are concerning. A recent global study showed that lack of sleep significantly impairs verbal skills and reasoning—things you depend on every day. In fact, researchers equated getting as few as four hours of sleep per night to aging eight years.

Changing your routine, slowing down your life, or decreasing screen time may be difficult. So, let’s start with something simple—awareness. Developing a better understanding of your personal expression of tired is helpful. What gets you there? How does it feel both mentally and physically?

Once you’re in tune with your own hallmarks of feeling tired, you can react quickly to assess and address your needs. Over time, this awareness will help you build preventive strategies, to keep you from experiencing unnecessary tiredness before it happens.

Signs & Symptoms of Tiredness

Young beautiful Afro-American businesswoman using laptop, holding cup and yawning while working in cafe

Awareness starts by knowing what you’re looking for. In the case of being tired, it’s both signs and symptoms. (They’re common and similar terms, but there is a difference.) Signs are what others can detect about you, because they’re visible from the outside. Symptoms are what you personally experience—what can be described by you alone.

When it comes to tiredness, a sign could be excessive yawning. This is something easily noticed by a friend who might say, “Wow, I see you’ve been yawning a lot. Did you get enough sleep last night?” A symptom could be mental fogginess, which isn’t outwardly visible to a friend, even though you are perceiving and experiencing it.

Here are a few more examples of the signs and symptoms of tiredness:

Signs Symptoms
Emotional irritability,

increased sensitivity, and

anxiety or depression

anxiety or depression
Mental forgetfulness lack of focus or concentration, and

mental fogginess

Physical frequent yawning or

unintentional dozing

headaches or

muscle fatigue

While these might seem obvious, there will be unique signs and symptoms for every person. As you become more fatigued, you may exhibit more emotional than physical signs of tiredness. Perhaps you lash out at a friend and immediately realize your overreaction. Or, when you’re tired, you become more easily stressed or upset by day-to-day hiccups than you normally would. Maybe you cry at something touching when that’s not your usual nature.

Research shows that sleep loss or deprivation can cause a sort of disconnection in the brain. Specifically, the part of your brain that controls emotion effectively shuts down. The failure of these control mechanisms when you’re tired gives rise to irrational reactions despite your best intentions.

While this isn’t exactly surprising, it is an interesting alternative to what you normally hear about the need for sleep. Yes, you need sleep to feel well-rested and physically rejuvenated. But you also need sleep to restore the brain connections responsible for emotion. This prepares you for the social interactions and challenges of the day ahead.

Don’t Let Feeling Tired Destroy Your Diet

After eating fast food. Man feeling full or taking nap after eating junk. Guy having hangover or unhealthy diet. Stomach pain while sitting on couch.

Other unique signs and symptoms of tiredness may relate to your diet. While some may experience a decrease in appetite, research shows most people are affected in the opposite way. With increasing feelings of tiredness, the body loses its ability to evaluate appetite, which can lead to overeating.

Additionally, as you become more tired, you crave more calorie-dense foods. And you’re more likely to reach for snacks that are high in fat. That’s why research shows a connection between obesity and sleep deprivation.

Taken together, it’s important to understand how your body and mind respond to feeling tired. It can have negative effects on your mental and physical health. If not addressed, these can lead to detrimental social occurrences or develop into long-lasting habits of overeating.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how your own body is affected by getting tired. Let’s switch gears and focus more on when those feelings of being tired kick in.

Need A Nap? How to Beat the Afternoon Slump

It’s 3 o’clock. Your lunch has settled and your belly is warm. The hum of your computer feels and sounds like a lullaby. The text on your screen begins to blur together as your eyelids softly close once … twice … and then ahh, it feels so nice. Why don’t you just leave your eyes closed for a moment?

The dreaded afternoon slump rears its ugly head once again. The good news is a few simple tricks can help you beat this monster into submission. Try out these ideas and see if they work well for you:

  • Eat a breakfast rich in protein. Studies have shown that meals (especially breakfast) that include protein and fiber are associated with better sleep quality. If you can, decrease the carbohydrate portion (if any) in your breakfast and substitute it for protein. This will help you feel fuller for longer, help with daytime alertness, and nighttime sleep. Here’s an idea: skip the bagel and go for an egg.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day. While caffeine has its perks, overloading too much can wreck your nighttime rest. Consider not going for the second (or third, or fourth) cup of coffee or tea as the day wears on. If that’s not an option, try cutting back on the amount of caffeinated beverages in each cup you drink.
  • Bring healthy snacks along. Before you start feeling tired, reach for a healthy snack. Something with protein, like nuts, can help you feel more alert and full. Another idea: try a satisfyingly crunchy snack like carrots, celery, or apple paired with your favorite nut butter. Small, frequent snacks can ward off hunger throughout the day. They also help you stay powered up and focused on the tasks at hand.

Busting the Tall Tales of Tiredness

Lastly, arm yourself with helpful truths about sleep. There is a lot of misleading or confusing information out there. And wading through it all can be exhausting—exactly what you’re trying to avoid!

Here are three common myths about sleep—let’s debunk each one:

  1. You have to get eight hours of sleep each night to be well rested.

False! You probably have “eight” in your head like it’s a magic number. A lot of people believe eight hours of sleep is the key to solving daytime fatigue or nighttime sleep issues. While eight hours might be the right amount of rest for you, it’s not universal.

This figure comes from research on thousands of people and reflects an average. That means there are plenty of people who fall on either side of eight hours per night. So, if you’re someone who sleeps for six hours each night and wakes up feeling well-rested and rejuvenated—that’s great. You’re doing just what your body needs. Don’t change. The same is true if you replace that six with 10. The issue arises if you sleep some number of hours per night—whether it’s eight or not—and you wake up feeling exhausted and foggy.

Moral of the story: don’t get stuck on eight. Find out what works for you and try to build a routine around your personal number.

  1. Naps are great for making up for lost sleep. The longer the nap, the better.

This one is both true and false. While naps can assist in making up for lack of sleep, there is a strategy to follow. It has to do with the time of day you nap and for how long.

Dr. W. Chris Winter, a neurologist and somnologist (brain and sleep doctor), suggests you try to nap in the morning or earlier in the day. Think of it as adding to the previous night’s sleep. The alternative route—napping in the afternoon or later in the day—robs you of a longer sleep session later that night.

Secondly, rethink how long your naps last. Two-hour naps are, in fact, not naps. They’re daytime sleep sessions. Instead, consider how long it takes you to fall asleep (usually 10-15 minutes) and add 20. Set an alarm for 30-45 minutes, giving you enough time to drift off and stay there for a solid, sensible session.

  1. Getting in bed with the TV on helps me fall asleep.

Person watches TV at night in his bed with his feet sticking up out of the blankets. The TV screen is blank white

This might seem true for you, but perhaps not for the right reasons.

Screens, and the blue light they emit, inhibit your body’s natural processes that help you go to sleep, namely melatonin production. Consider turning the screen off 30-90 minutes before you go to bed. If that’s difficult, try for 15 minutes and apply a blue light filter to the screen you’re using (easy to do on a smartphone, computer, or tablet).

Perhaps what you enjoy about a TV at bedtime is the white noise it emits as you drift off. Opt for a sound machine that doesn’t come with the blue light. Sound machines come in many forms that may suit you, including apps on smartphones. If that’s not your style, a simple fan can do the trick.

Rest is Best

No matter who you are or what you do, you likely need more rest. That’s just the way modern life makes almost everyone feel. And you deserve more rest. Now you have the tools to get it.

After a look at barriers to restful sleep and stressors that keep you feeling tired, hopefully you understand how you can achieve more rest. Take stock of your habits, schedule, signs, and symptoms. With a little bit of planning and dedication, you’ll be free from constantly feeling tired.

Want to learn more? Visit What’s Up USANA? to find more tips about sound sleep habits.

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/

Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013; 4: p. 2259.

Ward, A. “Somnology (SLEEP) Part 1 with W. Chris Winter.” Ologies Podcast.

Yoo, S. “The human emotional brain without sleep – a prefrontal amygdala disconnect.” Current Biology. 2007; 17: pp. R877-R878.

Female rock climber at Riverside Quarry, California

Female rock climber at Riverside Quarry, California

4:59… Tick, tock, tick, tock… BAM! 5:00. Elation. Freedom. Adventure. The moment you never thought would come finally arrives each Friday at 5:00 p.m. You’re released from your 40th hour of duty and ready to leave work behind and tackle the adventures that await. But, as a weekend warrior, your pursuits have an expiration. And the buzzer will sound in a mere two and half days on Monday by 9:00 a.m.


What’s a Weekend Warrior?

Weekend warriors are “everyday athletes.” They’re not quite professional athletes, but they train nearly as hard and do so in the short window of time when they’re not tied to a job. Pressed for time to pursue their athletic goals during the work week, these folks maximize their weekends. Scientifically speaking, weekend warriors pack most, if not all, of their recommended physical activity into one or two days out of the week. This often looks like adventure sports, endurance races, or other sports and playful activities—both solo and team-oriented.


Weekend warriors are the go-getters. They’re the people who work nine-to-five, Monday through Friday, (or any schedule, really) and are intent on making the most of their time off. But weekends might also feel bittersweet because they’re so short. So, how can you maximize those two days? Dive into some tips, tricks, and takeaways to milk each weekend for all it’s worth!

Weekend Warrior Training Tips

The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly encourages adults to engage in regular aerobic activity and strength training (twice) every week. If you prefer moderate aerobic physical activity, you should hit at least 150 minutes per week. If you prefer vigorous, intense aerobic physical activity, your goal at least 75 minutes. (Check out this article to see how to build a proper workout.)

As a weekend warrior, you likely pack those minutes of activity into a day or two instead of spreading them out over a seven-day span. This truncated type of schedule was not the original intent of the WHO guideline. So, does this consolidation exclude you from the benefits of exercise?

Not at all. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine puts those worries to rest. Researchers surveyed more than 60,000 people over a 20-year span. Based on their exercise habits, participants were considered active (three or more exercise sessions), weekend warriors (hitting the guidelines in one or two sessions per week), or insufficiently active (less than guidelines in one to two sessions per week).

The study concluded that active adults, including weekend warriors, had significantly better health outcomes. Specifically, being sufficiently active for at least one day (or more) per week lessened health risks by 30 percent. The takeaway is that it doesn’t matter how you get your activity done, so long as you get it done.

So, it’s OK if your busy work-week forces you to choose the weekend warrior life. But there are ways you can maximize your training efforts. This could mean warming up and cooling down sufficiently, adding in cross-training, and re-examining the structure of your workout. Here are some ideas (with more to come in the safety section):

Dynamic Stretching

Beautiful young woman practicing or exercising, doing sports in park

Stretching dynamically means your stretches coincide with movement rather than remaining static. Dynamic stretching allows your muscles to elongate while increasing your heart rate and blood flow. Try walking lunges with an added stretch. Once you step into a lunge, pause long enough to sink down into the bottom of it until you feel a gentle stretch and raise your opposite arm overhead. This will allow for movement in the shoulder joint while stretching out your hip flexor on the same side. Switch sides and repeat.

Build Your Efforts

Ramp up the intensity throughout your workout. This means you don’t start out hard. Instead, you gradually increase your efforts over time. For most athletic pursuits, you can measure this in a number of ways: time splits, weight carried, heart rate, power metrics, and more. Time may be the easiest to measure with the simplest equipment, so start there if you’re new to training.

As you continue warming up in the early stages of your activity session, use time as a measure of effort. For example, if you’re running you could measure the time it takes you to complete a lap or section of a route. As you progress through your workout, aim to decrease that split time. This means you run faster each time you repeat the lap or segment of your run.

If your activity of choice doesn’t lend itself to timing in the same way—say, weight training—you can employ a different strategy. Assign yourself a set time interval for a weighted movement. Start with light weights. With each new interval, increase the weight so your body has a chance to warm up slowly.

High-Intensity Interval Training

Consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT) when you’re especially pressed for time. Or add a HIIT session to your regular routine if you’re looking for something new. HIIT is a workout session made up of short, powerful rounds of cardio activity with minimal recovery periods in between. A great example of HIIT is Tabata training, named for Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese scientist. Tabata workouts are typically eight rounds of 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. The idea is to work as hard as you can for 20 seconds before moving into the short recovery. Such interval workouts can support muscle mitochondrial function (basically how your muscles make energy), which is a marker of athletic prowess and good health.

Fast and Friendly Fuel On-The-Go

Sweaty young man eating energy bar at gym. Handsome mid guy enjoying chocolate after a heavy workout in fitness studio. Fit man biting a snack and resting on bench.

Weekend warriors don’t have time to waste. So, they’re constantly on the move during their precious weekend hours. When you’re scrambling to maximize your days off, it’s important to save time on food preparation. But you also don’t want to skimp on the fuel you need to get after your goals.

Since you’ll be on the move, your calories should come from foods that are easily eaten and digested while in motion. This means simple carbs that your body can easily use as fuel. Energy bars and chews are easy to pack and easy to eat. If you prefer something homemade, work in food prep time the night before your big day out to create your own quick snack.

Hydration is also a key component of proper fueling. Don’t show up to work hard without being properly hydrated or you’re starting at a disadvantage. So, add this easy trick into your routine: hydrate early, and continue to do so often.

And don’t forget your electrolytes or salts. You can turn to your favorite sports beverage mix that you can add to water or a ready-to-drink option. Look into which suits your activity and taste buds the best, and, of course, keeps you exercising at peak performance.

But make sure you get those electrolytes for longer bouts of exercise. You lose salts in your sweat, and it’s imperative they’re replaced. For instance, sodium determines how much water your cells can hold. And if its concentration is off balance, your body’s cells can’t maintain proper regulation.

Properly preparing with pre-workout food and drink is important, too. Luckily, there’s a whole story on that topic to help you out.

Stay Safe, Stay Strong

On the road to recovery for knee injury after fitness exercise, healthy lifestyle concept, indoors gym wooden floor brick wall background

Each weekend-warrior discipline (mountain biking, cycling, running, climbing, skiing, dominating the gym, and more) comes with unique safety considerations. Whether it’s injury prevention or safety gear, there are many ways to maintain your safety in pursuit of your athletic goals. You’ll see those tips and tricks below.

Injury Prevention

Injury prevention is a broad topic. So, let’s consider outdoor pursuits as an example. Below are several considerations for a handful of different weekend warrior outdoor activities.

Biking Running Rock Climbing
Clothing Chamois bike shorts;

jersey with pockets;

appropriate layers;

hat/sunglasses

Proper trail shoes;

appropriate layers;

hat/sunglasses

Climbing shoes;

appropriate layers;

hat/sunglasses

Safety Gear Helmet;

head and tail lights;

bike tube repair kit;

reflective item/layer

Headlamp;

reflective; item/layer

Helmet;

harness;

belay device;

carabiner;

rope

Planning Considerations Bike-friendly route;

traffic/trail conditions;

cell-phone-service range

Weather conditions;

wildlife potential;

cell-phone-service range

Weather conditions;

wildlife potential;

rock quality;

cell-phone-service range

Potential Dangers Car accident;

popped tires;

bike crash

Inclement weather;

loose trail and rock;

getting lost (in dark)

Inclement weather;

loose rocks;

equipment misuse/failure;

getting lost (in dark)

Should You Tell a Friend? Yes Yes Yes

From the clothes you wear to the accessories you carry, there are a lot of options that can help fend off injury.

Imagine getting started in the dark hours of an early fall morning. If you’re hopping on your bike, it’s imperative to wear warm clothing to protect you from the elements and make sure your apparel is reflective, too. This is especially true if you’re riding and might cross paths with, or bike alongside, traffic. Make sure others can see you so they can safely avoid you. Strap forward-facing and rear lights to your bike to serve the same purpose. The lights help alert other motorists of your presence.

Let’s continue with the cycling example. You’re wearing your protective, reflective gear, and you make it through the busy roads safely. But now that you’re further away from home, you pop a tire. This could spell disaster if you don’t have a repair kit (or you’re unsure of how to use one), especially if you don’t have cell-phone service.

Make sure you do the following: plan your route with cell coverage in mind, carry a well-equipped repair kit, and understand and practice how to use your repair kit. Without these precautions in place, you may be carrying your bike a long way home. And that journey comes with its own potential dangers.

Now let’s move further out of the city. Perhaps instead of the pavement, you’re hitting the trails. It doesn’t matter if it’s a long trail run, hike, or approach to a place to climb, the potential dangers are unique and require your attention. Be aware of the weather forecast. It becomes especially important if the terrain may be easily influenced by it (think: rockfall, washed out trails, slick footings, flash floods, etc.).

Additionally, depending on the trails in wilderness areas you enter, you may need to be familiar with the wildlife inhabiting those spaces. Do your homework and understand what kind of animals live there. Then study their habits and how to keep yourself safe should you have an encounter.

Quality Recovery for Weekend Warriors

You went out and crushed your weekend goal. Perhaps you biked that beast of a trail, climbed a daring route, or reached a summit by foot-power alone. Now that you are enjoying the afterglow and sense of accomplishment after finishing your workout, it’s time to talk about how to recover properly.

You’ll sense a theme here, because the tenets of recovery aren’t breaking news. There are some main to-dos that should be on your radar, things you should check off your list as each weekend winds down: muscle recovery, hydration, diet, and sleep.

Muscle Recovery

When you’re out there working hard for long bouts of time, your muscles take a beating. Intense exercise breaks down your muscles. It creates microtears in the muscle fibers, which actually allows them to build back up even stronger. But in the interim, the physical sensation manifests as soreness and tightness.

This is the time to slow down and be gentle with yourself. Consider which muscle groups need the most work to narrow down which stretches and movements will best support your recovery. Also invest in some recovery gear. Think: foam roller, massage ball, resistance band, or professional massages to aid in the process. Not sure what this gear looks like and what they do? Let’s find out.

  • Foam rolling. If you haven’t already heard of this muscle recovery strategy, take note. Foam rolling is a way to release tight, knotted muscles by utilizing focused pressure. The rollers take numerous forms—hollow or solid cylinders, small or larger spheres, and textured options of the same shapes. Let’s say you have a tight calf muscle. You can place a foam ball under your calf and utilize your bodyweight to apply pressure to the tight muscle. Then by rolling back and forth slowly, you can work to release the muscle tension. An added benefit of this type of movement is increased circulation for proper recovery. There are numerous guides available online for working out tricky spots in various muscle groups.
  • Stretching (with and without resistance bands). After exercising and foam rolling, your muscles are sufficiently warm for stretching. Earlier, you read about warming up your muscles with dynamic stretching. But after completing an activity and beginning the wind-down process with light foam rolling, your body doesn’t require dynamic stretching. Now you can focus on static or stationary stretching. Pick a stretch and hold it for at least 15 seconds to allow your muscle to release slowly. If your flexibility is limited, grab a resistance band to extend your reach. The Mayo Clinic has a simple guide to basic stretches.
  • Massage. When foam rolling and self-stretching doesn’t cut it, turn to a professional. This could be someone well versed in sports massage or a specialist in body work. Thai yoga massage is a good example. (This type of massage is a fully clothed session in which the practitioner utilizes their own body and weight to apply appropriate pressure and traction to release your tense muscles). Massage therapists understand anatomy and kinesiology (the science of body movement) on a deep level and can provide more insight, advice, and relief. There are also massage therapists that specialize in combinations of traditional massage and guided stretching.

Hydration

Portrait of young caucasian woman resting after training holding a sports bottle sitting on mat with legs crossed in gym with loft interior.

Be sure to replace the fluids and salts you’ve lost by hydrating well. This means drinking water and electrolytes. Now that you’re done with your activity, there’s no need to beef up your drink with extra calories (like the sweetened examples above). Just make sure you’re getting in the electrolytes and salts you need for optimal muscle recovery.

Diet

Immediately following your workout or adventure, you want to take advantage of your body increasing glycogen production to fuel your week and next workout. Within 30-60 minutes following your workout, make sure to get a healthy ratio of easily digestible carbohydrates and protein. Somewhere around 1:1 or 2:1 carbohydrate to protein should do. Also, try to avoid fiber and fat immediately during this time. These two macronutrients can slow the absorption of the carbohydrates and protein.

Following this period, and starting at your next meal, get back to your normal healthy diet. Fill up on antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies—blueberries, nuts, peppers, oranges, and leafy greens. Include healthy, lean proteins like chicken, fish, nuts, and beans. Reach for healthy, fiber-rich carbohydrates, generally referred to as “complex” carbohydrates. These include whole grains and vegetables. And lastly, don’t forget the healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flax seeds.

Sleep

Sure, you always need sleep. But when your weekend-warrior body has taken a beating, the necessity is even stronger. Allow for ample rest after your athletic efforts. If possible, begin a wind down routine an hour earlier than normal. It may sound difficult, but once you hit the sheets, your body will thank you.

Sleep is the time our bodies do the majority of repair work. Getting an extra hour of rest will allow your body to begin the repair process. Sleep gives your body time to heal broken-down muscles and replenish energy supplies. It’s also a period in which your mind can relax and regroup. This is an essential period if you want to have enough energy to charge through to the next weekend.

Get Out There and Dominate the Weekend

couple of bikers having a break looking at the sea

As a weekend warrior, you have your own sports to enjoy, mountains to conquer, and objectives to achieve. But now you have more tools to do so safely and more efficiently. As you plan your next weekend adventure, consider the tips you’ve learned here. Your preparation, safety considerations, fuel plan, and recovery are the tools that will help achieve your goals with more ease and peace of mind.

About the Author

Jenna Templeton is a health educator and freelance science writer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. After receiving a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Virginia Tech, Jenna spent five years as a research scientist in the nutritional industry. This work fueled her interest in personal wellness, leading her to pursue a graduate degree in Health Promotion & Education from the University of Utah. Outside of work, Jenna enjoys live music, gardening, all things food, and playing in the Wasatch mountains.

“6 Dynamic Stretches That Prep You for Any Workout.” Health.

“7 Best Recovery Foods.” Muscle & Fitness online.

“Chapter 4. Active Adults.” Physical Activity Guidelines, 2nd edition. CDC.

“Drink Up for Sports and Fitness.” WebMD.

Hamilton M. “How to Use a Foam Roller to Warm Up and Cool Down.” Runner’s World.

O’Donovan G, Lee I, Hamer M, Stamatakis E. Association of “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns With Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(3):335–342.

Shilton AC. “The New Rules of Hydration.” Outside Online.

“The Healing Power of Sleep.” WebMD.

Trewin A, et al. Acute HIIE elicits similar changes in human skeletal muscle mitochondrial H2O2 release, respiration, and cell signaling as endurance exercise even with less work. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2018; 315: R1003–R1016.

“What is Tabata Training?” Active.

It’s hard to imagine a life without joints. They spring into action the moment you roll out of bed. Joints facilitate little movements like brushing your teeth and tying your shoes. And they also allow you to clap, dance, and play.

Thank your joints for helping you find this article. Whether you’re at your desk or scrolling through your phone, joints make movement (like keystrokes and texting) possible.

Joints play an important part in everyday life. But it might not be easy to know if your joints are in good health. So, pause for a moment to learn about joints and easy ways to keep them in shape.

The Role of Joints

Joints are the skeletal hinges that make movement possible. Simply defined, a joint is the area where two bones connect, or make contact. They turn a rigid skeletal frame into a dynamic and flexible body.

Your joints are powered by muscle to move your body. And there are two main ways your joints move. When the bones in a joint move away from each other (like when you spread out your fingers and open your hand) it’s called extension. Flexion happens when your bones are brought closer together (making a fist).

Types of Joints

Not all the places your bones connect are the same. And there are three main types of joints. Grouped together by their range of movement and material composition, they are: fibrous (immovable), cartilaginous (slightly moveable), and synovial (freely moveable).

Fibrous

This joint may initially be hard to identify. They don’t look or function like you’d think a joint would. Fibrous joints (or fixed joints) are permanent connections between two bones. The easiest fibrous joints to identify are the sutures of the skull.

Your skull is made up of large, flat bones that fused together over time. But your skull was not always rock solid. A newborn’s is soft and moldable in order to safely exit the birth canal. Flexible bones slide over each other during delivery and return to their original position in the days following birth.

The flat bones of the skull then grow larger over time and become connected by thick, fibrous tissue. This joint is called a suture. Once settled in their permanent location, sutures ossify (turn to bone). These joints are completely immobile.

Teeth are another example of fibrous joints. Also called gomphoses, the joints between teeth and their sockets are welded together by periodontal tissue.

Cartilaginous

Like the name suggests, these joints are made up of cartilage links between bones. But not the squishy cartilage that makes up your ears and nose. This joint cartilage is incredibly strong and can withstand significant pressure.

A cartilaginous joint is only slightly moveable. One example is the pubic symphysis that connects the left and right pubic bones and stabilizes the pelvis. However, when a woman gives birth, this joint permits enough movement to widen her pelvis for delivery.

There are also cartilaginous joints between every vertebra in your spine. Individually, joints between vertebrae can move very little. But each slightly moveable cartilaginous joint across multiple vertebrae allows for dramatic movement—think about bending over to touch your toes.

This important type of joint also function to absorb impact. Cartilage discs cushion the spine and maintain its flexibility while you walk, jump, and dance.

Unlike their fibrous siblings, cartilaginous joints will never turn to bone. They remain mildly flexible and work together to provide strength and mobility throughout the body. 

Synovial

When you think of joints, you probably picture the synovial type. These are the connections between bones that make up your shoulder, hip, knee, and more. Synovial joints are free-moving and can extend and flex in several directions.

There are several different kinds of synovial joints. Most notable are the hinge, pivot, and ball-and-socket joints. These names describe how the joints work in your body:

  • Hinge joints are everywhere. Two significant examples are your knee and elbow. The long bones in your arms and legs are connected to each other via a hinge joint. It swings bones in and out in one direction.

You also have lots of hinge joints in your hands and feet. The bones in your fingers and toes are linked together through these types of joints. Think of making a fist or curling your toes. This movement is made possible by the collective effort of many hinge joints.

  • When you turn your head, you’re utilizing a pivot joint. That’s because the first two vertebrae in your spine are pivot joints that make side-to-side head movement possible.

This joint type works by connecting the round end of one bone to another bone with a ring of ligament tissue. Pivot joints don’t allow 360-degree rotation, but they help you move a lot.

Another pivot joint is found at your wrist. The two bones in your forearm (radius and ulna) rotate around each other with the help of a pivot joint. Try turning your hand over to look at your palm and then the back of your hand. You’re utilizing this kind of joint.

  • Ball-and-socket joints are the most mobile joints in your body. They have a large range of motion and can create movement in several directions.

These joints look exactly as described—like a ball in a socket. The spherical end of one bone fits into the cupped end of another. The two fit together very well and make it possible for the bone with the rounded end to move freely.

Your hips and shoulders are ball-and-socket joints. They help you swing your arms and legs in a front-to-back motion, and out to the side. You can also completely rotate the hip and shoulder.

Because these types of joints perform such dynamic movement they need protection from dislocation and injury. It is no surprise some of your strongest muscles surround ball-and-socket joints. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons power and stabilize the movement of these joints.

Joint Helpers: Ligaments and Tendons

Joints are powerful on their own, but they need help to stay in place. There are tissues in your body that secure bone to bone and bone to muscle. They’re called ligaments and tendons.

Tendons attach muscle to bone. They also protect the joints they surround. But the main role of tendons is to push and pull the bones they’re attached to.

Ligaments link bone to bone. Generally, the stronger the ligaments surrounding the joint, the more stable the joint is. That’s good. You want to maximize stability to ward off potential injury to your joints.

There are ligaments between the hinge joints in your fingers and knees. They strengthen the joints by preventing dangerous backward movement of the fingers. Ligaments also protect your knees from hyperextension (bending the wrong way).

Ligaments can decrease in strength and elasticity over time. So, it’s important to keep moving your joints that depend on the ligaments for stability. Maintaining your flexibility can support the long-term health of your joints.

Also, keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of joint injury. Unnecessary strain and overuse can leave even the strongest joints sore and swollen. Proper care for your joints includes regular use and rest. Give your joints a chance to recover from all the heavy lifting they do throughout the day.

Get Moving with 5 Joint Health Tips

Young or old, joint health should be high on your priority list. It’s never too early to start thinking about your joints. They work hard to move your body, so be good to them.

Joint discomfort is a pain, literally. But there are simple ways to keep your joints working and feeling their best.

You can stand up for your joint health by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Carrying around extra pounds adds stress to your joints. For example, when running you can put up to five times the force on your knee joints. That would mean for every extra pound or kilo of body weight you are carrying around would equate to an extra five pounds or kilos of force put on those joints. Many people experience moderate relief from joint pain by staying at a healthy weight.
  • Exercising regularly. Moving the muscles that power your joints helps keep them from stiffening up. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and biking are great ways to maintain joint health without intense aching or soreness. Protect your joints with proper safety equipment (like helmets and kneepads) before your sweat session. You only get one set, so treat it well.
  • Improving your posture. Walking tall and sitting up straight don’t just boost your confidence. They protect your joints, too. Slouching and slumping put a lot of pressure on joints. Practicing good posture helps evenly spread the weight your joints carry.
  • Eating Right. Fuel your muscles and bones with healthy foods to support joint health. Focus on getting calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and other joint-health nutrients to support your bones. Dairy, canned sardines in oil (with bones), fortified cereals and orange juice, Chinese cabbage, and cooked kale will do the trick. And eat lean proteins for maintaining mighty muscles.
  • Supplementing. Glucosamine and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are key nutrients that support healthy joints. Consider adding these supplements to your daily nutrition to help maintain your joint health. Both are believed to also play a role in keeping up optimum joint comfort.

Take good care of your joints and enjoy all the fun things they make possible. Jump, spin, clap, or crawl—joints make it all possible.

About the Author

Sydney Sprouse is a freelance science writer based out of Forest Grove, Oregon. She holds a bachelor of science in human biology from Utah State University, where she worked as an undergraduate researcher and writing fellow. Sydney is a lifelong student of science and makes it her goal to translate current scientific research as effectively as possible. She writes with particular interest in human biology, health, and nutrition.


Fitting into an old pair of jeans again. Competing in that bucket-list race. Chasing around children and grandchildren. Or perhaps simply not panting after taking the stairs. Whatever your goal, there are many motivations to get your body moving.

And there’s also many different ways to put your body in motion. But how should you move and what is enough? There’s intensity, frequency, and type of movement (strength training vs cardio) to consider. That’s a lot. So, no wonder it can feel hard to find the “right” way for you.

And then there are the excuses. Before you dive deeper into how to move, let’s breakdown some barriers by taking a closer look at common concerns.

  • I don’t have time to exercise. Often the scheduling of exercise is what keeps people from being active. Even if your days are filled with family, errands, and meetings, it’s possible to find the time to move. Start by redefining what a workout looks like for you. This means discarding the idea that exercise must be done in a gym. Now that you’ve broadened your options for place, get creative. Use the 5-10 minutes between engagements to lunge (or any other movement) in your office. Or turn your conference calls into walking meetings and take the call on the go. Lastly, while a dedicated workout session will provide strength gains and potential weight loss, working microbursts of exercise throughout your day as a replacement comes with benefits. When you’re especially busy, these sporadic, focused efforts throughout the day are much better than remaining sedentary and can even be better than one longer session.
  • I don’t like running, so I can’t do cardio. Running is only one way to get cardio (short for cardiovascular) exercise. Consider other activities that still get your heart pumping but don’t require expensive shoes or the dreaded treadmill. If it gets you moving with your breath and heart rate quickening, it’s a good cardio option. Think brisk walking, dancing, swimming, or yoga. Read on for more ideas to come.
  • I’m new to exercise and weights feel very intimidating to me. How else can I build strength? While weights are a great way to build muscle and overall body strength, there are other routes to the same destination. Your bodyweight can be enough (think: power yoga) and if you want a little extra, consider resistance training with bands. This can be a great way to get strong without a lot of equipment.
  • I enjoy exercise, but I’m not really sure how much I should be getting. The American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control have come up with guidelines for adults. Make sure that on a weekly basis you’re clocking in either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (about five days of 30 minutes exercise sessions) or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio (spread over two-three days)—along with two days of strength training.

The aforementioned guidelines are the minimum for weight and general health maintenance. If your goals require weight loss or muscle gain, you’re likely looking for more specifics. So, let’s break down strength training vs cardio exercise separately to really understand how they each work. Then you can explore the benefits of a strength-and-cardio-combo routine.

Strength Training

An activity counts as strength training if it involves significant effort to work your body’s major muscle groups (legs, core, shoulders, arms). While cardio exercises are recommended for certain durations, strength training doesn’t come with a similar prescription. Rather, you should continue to work your muscles—using resistance, machines, or hand weights—until the activity becomes difficult to continue. This muscle discomfort is actually indicative of minute muscle tears. To build up your muscles, you must first break them down.

Young people often focus on getting big, defined muscles for physical attractiveness. But as you age, strength becomes less about appearance and more a function of safety and independence. Sarcopenia is muscle loss associated with advancing age. With every decade past 30 years of age, adults will lose, on average, four percent of their muscle mass.

Maintaining muscle mass through the years will help you avoid injury, sustain mobility, and enjoy freedom of movement without assistance. Indeed, risk for bone fractures and other injuries increases significantly once sarcopenia sets in.

Participating in strength activities is important not only for building muscle, but also for increasing bone strength. And as you continue to age, both are extremely important. Weakened bones are more susceptible to breaking. Often these breaks are seen in the hip, spine, or wrist. The good news is that exercise—and, specifically, strength-based exercise—can shore up your bones.

It might seem counterintuitive, though. Hauling weights around seems like a way to break a bone. Not the case! In fact, bearing weights (whether your body’s own weight or added resistance) slows bone loss and even builds bone. The stress put on bones while strength training essentially kickstarts the cells responsible for bone-building.

You have several reasons to start strength training. But where do you start? In theory, lifting weights sounds simple, but there are so many options. This can make it difficult to pick and stick to a routine. Peruse the following chart to gather ideas on how to build muscle throughout your body.

How Example Set Muscles Worked Extra Tip
Squat Place the bar across your shoulders. Keeping your chest high and feet hip-width apart, push your butt backwards and sit back as if reaching for a chair. Sit deeply with weight on your heels. Don’t let your knees pass your toes. Engage glutes as you stand up tall. 3 sets of 10 squats

Increase number of reps and/or sets as you gain strength.

Add weight slowly as you gain strength.

Gluteus maximus and medius, hamstrings, quadriceps Play with the width of your stance to focus on different muscle groups.

Turning your toes out wide will help recruit inner thigh muscles when squatting.

Deadlift Place a barbell (additional weight optional) in front of your feet. Keeping your chest high and feet hip-width apart, begin bending your knees as you reach for the barbell. Arms should be outside of your legs for a wide grip. Keep your lower back flat and your shoulders pulled back as you grip the bar. As you rise, keep weight in your heels. Engage glute muscles as you stand up tall. 3 sets of 10

Increase number of reps and/or sets as you gain strength.

Add weight slowly as you gain strength.

Erector spinae (low back), gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings You can substitute a barbell for two hand weights or a kettlebell, depending on your preference.
Stationary forward lunge Step one foot far enough forward that, as you lower, both knees come to right angles. Your front foot should be fully planted on the floor; your back foot should be on its toes. Your front knee should not surpass your toes as it bends. As you rise, return the moving leg next to the standing leg and repeat alternating legs each time. 2 sets of 10 lunges per side

Increase number lunges per side as you gain strength and stability.

Add weight slowly as you gain strength.

Gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps This movement works the same muscles as a squat, but requires more range of motion and therefore allows for further muscle development. Shake things up by trying out backward lunges (stepping back instead of forward), or walking lunges (alternate which leg steps forward each time moving you forward across the surface).
Standing shoulder press Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level, with elbows bent (imagine each weight is a food tray and you are a server). Knuckles face the ceiling; palms face one another. With feet hip-width apart and slightly bent knees, push weights above your head until your arms are fully extended. Bring weights back down to shoulder level, keeping a comfortable space between your sidebody and elbows. Keep shoulders relaxed (maintain space between your shoulder and ear). 3 sets of 10

Increase number of reps and/or sets as you gain strength.

Add weight slowly as you gain strength.

Deltoids (shoulders), trapezius (upper back), scapula (shoulder blade), triceps, biceps Do this while standing to recruit muscles from your legs and core. Seated shoulder press will focus solely on the upper body muscle groups.

 

Open your arms to the side, turning your wrists so that palms face forward (knuckles still to ceiling). The ends of dumbbells can touch over head as you press fully. This wide press will fire slightly different muscles.

Skull- crushers Lay down on a mat or bench with two dumbbells in hand. Bend your knees. Lift weights into the air so your arms are fully extended above your chest. Weights should be touching (palms face one another, knuckles to ceiling). Keeping your elbows stationary, lower the weights toward your forehead. Return weights to starting position and repeat. 3 sets of 8

Increase number of reps and/or sets as you gain strength.

Increase weight slowly as you gain strength.

Triceps

(with challenge: core and hip flexors)

If more comfortable, you can do the same movement with one weight in both hands. Hold the ends of one dumbbell in either hand.

If you’re up for a challenge, add on a core component by lifting your feet off the mat and bringing knees to a 90-degree angle. As you lower weights toward your head, extend your legs out. Return them to bent position as your arms rise again.

Cardio Training

While you may be familiar with the term “cardio training”—or even more simply put “cardio”—you might not have considered where it comes from. Cardio is short for “cardiovascular” because exercises of this type are aimed at strengthening your heart. They are also known as aerobic, because they require oxygen and increase the efficiency of oxygen distribution throughout the body by the heart.

With this knowledge in mind, it’s easier to see the connection between this type of exercise and heart health. With as little as 15 minutes per day, you can support a healthy heart. Plus, cardio or aerobic exercise plays a role in weight maintenance and weight loss. But before you dive into that, let’s get an idea for the different cardio exercise in which you can engage.

Aerobic exercises are any type of activity that get the body’s major muscle groups moving in a rhythmic way for a prolonged period of time. This type of movement gets your heart pumping, elevating your heart rate, and causing you to breathe harder than normal. The range of activities that meet these requirements are wide, so you’re likely to find one you enjoy. Pick from a range of solo activities or sports, group games, or recreational activities to get your heart pumping.

Solo Group Games Outdoor Recreation
Swimming Water polo Hiking or trail running
Dance class Tennis (doubles) Mountain or road biking
Heavy yardwork Soccer or flag football Skiing or snowboarding

Recall the heart-health guidelines for exercise from above. At a minimum, adults have two options. First, engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise throughout the week. The second option is 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise. No matter your choice, you should also include two days of strength-based training. This can simply involve your bodyweight or weights. Not sure what constitutes moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise? Check out the table below to spark some ideas.

Moderate Activities (150 min/week minimum) Vigorous Activities (75 min/week minimum)
Yard work or other involved house chores Tennis
Brisk walking (>/= 2.5 mph) Swimming laps
Water aerobics Running or hiking
Biking on flat ground (<10 mph) Biking (>10 mph)
Power yoga High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

From CDC’s Physical Activity Guidelines

Strength Training vs. Cardio, or Better together?

Over the years there have been many exercise crazes and popular routines. And some have pitted strength training vs cardio. Is this well-founded? Well no, not if you’re strictly interested in general health and weight maintenance. Both types of exercise are necessary to strengthen bones, fend off muscle loss, and keep your metabolic processes in balance. But if you’re focused on losing a lot of weight or building a lot of muscle, your routine might require some tweaks.

A few years ago, Duke University conducted a study comparing groups of people assigned to one of three groups. Group 1 utilized resistance (or strength-based) training. Group 2 was given an aerobic (or cardio) routine. Group 3 did a routine that consisted of both resistance and aerobic training.

Participants in the cardio-based exercise group lost more weight than those focused on strength-training. In fact, the strength group gained weight, though all of it was attributed to muscle gain, not fat. And those in group 3 experienced the healthiest changes in body composition. Combo exercisers both lost the most fat and gained muscle mass. Researchers noted that while these composition changes are the most favorable, it did come at a cost: time investment. Group 3 participants spent the most time in the gym.

There are some great takeaways from this study that can help you decide what’s best for your goals. Do you want to maintain your weight? Are you concerned with adding muscle? Are you pressed for time? These are all appropriate questions to consider as you build your personalized workout routine.

Building a Strong Workout for a Stronger You

  • Remember that health guidelines for exercise are only minimums (150 minutes/week or 75 minutes/week for moderate and vigorous exercise, respectively). These are great guidelines to follow if you’re simply maintaining your body weight.
  • Cardio burns the most calories, minute by minute. This means if you were to spend 15 minutes lifting weights versus 15 minutes running, the latter would expend more energy.
  • If your goal is to lose weight, combining both strength and cardio is your best bet. To really fine-tune your routine, start with strength training and finish off with cardio. Doing so will elevate your heart rate so your heart continues to work at that elevated level during your cardio session.
  • Consider your age as you build your own workout. As you pass 30 years of age and enter into each new decade, the need for muscle-building becomes more pressing.
  • Exercise is not the only answer. Weight maintenance and weight loss is hard to do if diet isn’t considered. Build your workout routine along with a balanced diet for success.

The only thing left is to get moving. Get started by recalling your motivation. Whether it’s to maintain, lose, build, or generally enjoy life, all are valid and achievable. Start by naming your motivation and goal to make them real. Find activities you enjoy and recruit friends or family to keep you company and hold you accountable. And before you know it, you just might be in those old jeans, crossing the finish line of your bucket-list race, or conquering those stairs with a smile.

About the Author

Jenna Templeton is a health educator and freelance science writer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. After receiving a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Virginia Tech, Jenna spent five years as a research scientist in the nutritional industry. This work fueled her interest in personal wellness, leading her to pursue a graduate degree in Health Promotion & Education from the University of Utah. Outside of work, Jenna enjoys live music, gardening, all things food, and playing in the Wasatch mountains.

You change into your workout clothes, get your equipment ready, and start your workout. And within a few minutes you’re already feeling tired, worn out, and not ready for what you have planned. It feels like you’re wasting your time. You want to do better, but today you just don’t have the motivation—and fuel—to push through.

Everybody has had a bad workout before. It happens. But when it comes time to exercise, you want to minimize the obstacles that keep you from performing your very best. They can be caused by stress, mental or physical fatigue, poor nutrition, or a number of different things. Some of these factors can be outside of your power, but nutrition is one you can control.

All of your food choices during the day play an important role in making sure you have the nutrients you need. But your pre-workout foods can have the biggest influence on how you perform while exercising. See which nutrients and foods to choose before exercise.

Where to Look For Energy

Providing energy should be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about pre-workout foods. Exercising while fasting can play a role in weight loss, but is not going to lead to your best performance. What you read below is all about performing your best, and eating before your workout is essential to that.

To decide what your energy needs will be, you first need to know what type of workout you are going to have. A low-intensity, 20-minute workout has very different needs than a higher-intensity workout lasting over an hour.

Your goal should be to consume enough calories to match your planned workout. (If you will be exercising more than an hour, you will also need to refuel during your workout.) Your 20-minute, moderate-intensity workout will need 100 to 200 calories. A longer session will require up to 500 calories or more.

For Energy, Carbs Are King

Have you ever wondered why professional athletes always have a big cooler or bottles full of sugary drinks? Or why there are so many energy blocks, gels, and drinks for sale that contain nothing but sugar? That’s because when it comes to energy, carbohydrates—or carbs—are king.

Your body can also use fat and protein for fuel. But carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source. The reason for this preference is that simple carbs are the quickest and easiest to digest.

During exercise, your body will first burn the sugar (simple carbohydrates) in your blood, most commonly glucose. Then your body move on to long-term carb storage (glycogen). Only after those are gone will it make a serious attempt at using fat and protein for energy.

When you’re eating before or during exercise, the goal is to keep your sugar storage full. This prevents your body from having to use as much fat and protein for energy. Have you ever hit a wall about an hour into an endurance workout, where all of your energy seems to disappear? That’s your body running out of carbs.

You might be thinking, “but I want to burn some fat.” You can certainly do that through exercise, but it will limit your performance. A good balance would consist of a pre-workout meal to fuel your upcoming exercise. Then choose a diet for the rest of your day that will help you lose fat.

Unlike the healthy foods you should eat the rest of the day, pre-workout foods are not going to be as balanced and varied. You should limit the amount of fat, protein, and fiber that you eat pre-workout. This means you won’t be eating a lot of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, meat, or dairy. High-glycemic carbs found in fruit, grains, and even some sweets will give your body access to easy energy, and help it focus on exercise, rather than digestion. (See below for some food ideas.)

Micronutrients and Water Are Important, Too

Your performance isn’t just about energy. Each of the essential micronutrients play a role in your health and in your workouts.

B vitamins are used for supporting energy metabolism. Calcium and magnesium help you keep strong bones. And vitamin C supports healthy tendons and muscles.

A deficiency in any essential vitamin or mineral may hold you back. So, a multi-vitamin/mineral product to complement your healthy diet is the easiest way to cover all the bases. This can be taken in the morning or evening, and doesn’t have to be taken right before a workout.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are also essential nutrients. They are needed in higher amounts than other micronutrients, and require some special considerations during exercise. Sodium and potassium are electrolytes that help your muscles contract. A shortage of either may lead cramping and hindered performance.

Try to get a little bit of sodium and potassium in your pre-workout meal. Extra can then be added during exercise.

Your need to supplement extra electrolytes depends on how much you sweat during your exercise. Salt (sodium chloride) is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat. Sweat typically has 0.5-2.3 g of salt per liter. That means really intense exercise could result in losing several grams of salt per hour.

Judge your workout intensity and your personal sweatiness to determine how much salt you need to eat before and during your workout. One of the easiest ways to add salt and other electrolytes is through a sports drink.

Hydration

Water is necessary for digestion of the food you eat during your pre-workout meal. Sufficient water is also needed for a healthy blood supply, which moves oxygen, sugar, and other nutrients through your body. It is essential for muscle contraction.

Dehydration limits the amount your body can sweat. And sweat is important to keep you cool and performing your best. Failure to stay hydrated can also lead to impaired concentration. This is key for technical sports like basketball, tennis, skiing, and more.

Proper hydration begins several hours before your workout. Make sure to drink plenty of water leading up to and during your workout. You can sweat 1-3 liters (about 1-3 quarts) per hour. Drink regularly during exercise to replace as much as you can.

One test to find out if you are doing a good job with hydration, is to weigh yourself immediately before and after your workouts. Your goal is to finish at about the same weight that you started. If you finish higher, then you may be starting out dehydrated or drinking too much during your workout. If you finish lower in weight, try to drink a little bit more while you exercise.

Don’t go overboard on water though. Too much can lead to stomach aches. You can replace any remaining water you need after you’re done with your workout.

Will Caffeine Help?

Other nutrients also offer fitness benefits, but can be harder to get from food. Caffeine is one of those. This stimulant reduces fatigue and drowsiness, and can improve your performance.

If you’ve ever looked at the label of energy drinks or pre-workout products, you know that nearly all of them contain caffeine. But caffeine may not be right for you. Depending one of your genes (CYP1A2 gene), it may offer no benefit, or actually be detrimental to your performance.

A genetic test is one way to know if caffeine will help or hurt you. But you might also be able to find this out through personal trial and error. Does caffeine help you concentrate and focus on the task at hand? Or does it just make you jittery and distracted? Listen to your body and mind, and don’t force something that isn’t working.

You will find some caffeine in chocolate, but the only natural sources with a higher dosage are tea and coffee. For the highest doses, look to energy drinks, pre-workout mixes, and supplements.

Pre-Workout Foods To Try

There are lots of great foods that you can use in your pre-workout meal. Here are a few ideas that incorporate the information above into helpful suggestions. You should try to eat pre-workout foods about 45 to 60 minutes before you exercise. Regardless of which foods you pick, you should experiment with a variety of options to find out which ones work best for you.

Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is a good source of carbohydrates. A single serving has about 150 calories. If you need more calories, look for an already flavored oatmeal, or consider adding fruit. Oatmeal does have some fiber, so don’t overdo it or it can upset your stomach.

Bread

You can eat bread plain, toasted, or as part of a sandwich. Jams and jellies are a great way to add extra calories and simple sugar to your bread. White bread has less fiber and will be easier to digest than whole-wheat bread. Skip the peanut butter or regular butter because the fat will slow down your digestion.

Did you know that endurance athletes will eat jam and salt sandwiches during their races? It’s a convenient way for them to replenish calories and electrolytes lost during exercise.

Fruit

Dehydrated or fresh fruit are great ways to give you energy for a workout and add some micronutrients to your diet. Be careful about your choices, though. Some fruits are high in sugar alcohols, which can lead to bloating, gas, and act as a laxative. Which is the last thing you want while exercising.

Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and citrus fruits are all lower in sugar alcohols and are safer choices. Watermelon, peaches, pears, blackberries, apples, cherries, and plums are higher in sugar alcohols, and too much could ruin your workout.

Coffee

If caffeine helps you through your workouts, coffee is a great natural source. Add some sugar to your coffee, or eat another pre-workout food on the side to get the calories you will also need.

Candy

Pre-workout is your chance to splurge. If you have a bunch of candy at home that is too good to resist, use it to your advantage. Rather than eating it before bed or another sedentary time, try using the candy to fuel your next fitness challenge.

Sweets that are higher in sugar and lower in fat are your best choices. Gummies and hard candies are options that are easy to eat before and during your workout.

Try even more pre-workout recipes and see what works for you.

What to Eat Post-Workout

You have the knowledge to test and figure out your best pre-workout foods. But fueling your fitness doesn’t stop there. It requires healthy eating throughout the day. Beginning right after you’re done exercising.

Post-workout, you want replenish any water you lost through sweat and haven’t yet refilled. Like water, your energy also needs to be replenished. Older research prescribed an exact ratio of carbs to protein (3:1) within 30 after exercise. Newer research has shown that any balanced meal within a couple hours of exercise will help replenish your energy storage and rebuild your muscle.

Unlike pre-workout, there is no need to stick with high-carbohydrate foods. The rest of your day should include a good amount of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and mix of vegetables and fruits.

friends eating lunch

friends eating lunch

You’re so unique that it was a one in 400 trillion chance that you turned out the way you did. So, to say the odds that any two people are identical is astronomical. What are the chances, then, that you would need the exact same nutritional recommendations?

Not good, which explains why the one-size-fits-all days of nutritional guidelines are fading. More and more researchers at the cutting edge are pushing for more specificity. That’s why you now see life-stage-specific guidelines. And more personalized health recommendations—the ultimate goal being the right dose of the right nutrients for each individual—are the next giant leap.

That’s why a new study published in Nutrients is so exciting. The study’s research pushes the forefront of nutritional science—getting the world closer to more personalized nutrition. Researchers did this by identifying gender- and age-specific differences in the association between certain nutrients and healthy, normal blood lipid levels. And that’s a part of the puzzle for showing the necessity of personalized nutrition in maintaining your health.

The Basics: What the Study Says

Nutritional researchers dug into the data from a large, long-term, survey study about health and nutrition. Their novel analysis broke down the effects of nutrients on blood lipid (cholesterol and triglycerides, which play a big part of heart health) levels by gender and age.

Doing this provided evidence that food (and the nutrients in it) affects men and women of different ages in unique ways when it comes to blood lipid levels. Most research talked about these links for all adults. But this deeper dive helps push forward the understanding of one aspect of health—blood lipids and, ultimately, heart health.

This study’s approach and results make all the difference for the push for more personalized health recommendations. And what were the results about nutrient levels and blood lipids?

The researchers were able to show distinct groups had different interactions between vitamins, minerals, and levels of triglycerides and both types of cholesterol—LDL the “bad” cholesterol and HDL the “good” cholesterol. That means women of childbearing age from the study showed ties to healthy, normal lipid levels from different nutrients than, say, men 35-64.

In fact, the research is the first to show a gender-specific link between healthy, normal cholesterol and at least one essential nutrient.

What it Means to You

Healthy, normal blood lipid levels are key to maintaining heart health. You know how important your heart is. So, protecting its health, at every age, is a focus of dietary and health guidelines.

The more specific recommendations that could eventually grow out of this research could make more personalized nutritional suggestions for heart-health maintenance possible. And it’s better to know more about the nutrients you need to maintain already healthy, normal levels of blood lipids and support your heart health.

This research represents another step forward in the history of nutritional scientific innovation. One that gets us closer to personalized nutrition that can help each person get exact what they need.

The Scientific Method – Dive into the Specifics

The scientists analyzed dietary data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) 2001-2013. Included in the study were 6,127 adult males and 6,157 adult, non-pregnant females. First, they broke out nutrient and blood lipid interaction by gender. Then separated the data further by age.

That specificity helped researches uncover their novel results. It’s why this study provides evidence that men and women of varying ages may process food differently. And that results in varying responses to nutritional intake.

But this is just the start. More studies are needed to improve the understanding of how specific nutrients work differently in different subsets of the population. Knowledge generated from this kind of research could lead to more personalized and effective approaches to improving health outcomes.

See the full study here:

Jin H, Nicodemus-Johnson J. Gender and Age Stratified Analyses of Nutrient and Dietary Pattern Associations with Circulating Lipid Levels Identify Novel Gender and Age-Specific Correlations. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 14;10(11).

Take a deep breath and get ready to turn the page. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the start of a new year or just time for a change. Whatever the last period of your life represented, now is the time to plan ahead and shift your energy in a new, better direction. Forget what’s bogging you down and focus on simplifying so you get down to the important things in life. That starts with decluttering. Rid yourself of unnecessary worries mentally, while also decluttering your physical spaces.

Decluttering can go deeper than just cleaning or organizing, too. It’s a chance to focus on choosing what’s really needed and what’s not. Making these decisions is paramount. That’s because it’s never a bad time to hit the reset button. You just have to be willing to take the required steps to do so. Whether that’s throwing away clothes that have sat in your closet for too many years, or even taking a break from continuously scrolling social media. Everybody needs a little push when searching for ways to declutter physically and mentally.

If you’re overwhelmed with everyday life, or have a hard time taking a break for yourself, you’ve come to the right place. With a little help from the list below, you can find what’s most important and methodically trim everything else. And whittling your life down to the essentials can help you focus and feel less overwhelmed.

Follow this rundown to identify issues, digesting what’s wrong, and find different decluttering methods and set yourself up for future success.

Item 1. Identifying the Clutter in Your Life

Clutter is everywhere. In your house. In your head. On your phone.

It’s nearly impossible to escape from your busy life these days. And the more you take on, the more clutter creeps in. Disorder takes you away from everything else on your to-do list. It preoccupies you with routine tasks rather than focusing on truly experiencing your life and planning for a better future.

To tackle the clutter, first you need to identify what truly has sentimental value, what you cannot live without. So, you have to be honest with yourself. Sometimes brutally so. Look closely at that old gift on your desk. Forget about what it might’ve cost a friend five years ago and ask what it means to you now. Think about the decorations you’ve been keeping in the closet just in case. Will you ever use them?

List what’s really important in your life and make those your categories to label items. Identify what fits in each category. And as for everything else? If it doesn’t fit in a category, serves no proper function, or has no emotional importance, chuck it. If you have too many of the same sort of item, get rid of the extras. Decluttering your life can help you take control.

Item 2: Focus on Decluttering One Spot at a Time

It’s easier to target a certain spot in your house when starting a serious clutter detox. Otherwise, the task can feel too big to tackle. Remember, little bites will still get the task done. So, make a game plan—breaking the task into parts will help you—and follow it as closely as possible.

Start with an easy spot. Getting that first decluttering win will give you momentum. The desk in your home might be the easiest spot to target. That’s where work and life clutter seems to collide most often. But it’s also small, contained, and can count as impacting two aspects of life. First, find defined areas for work and home. One side of your desk could be business-specific: notes, files, projects, etc. The other can be where you store day-to-day items like headphones,  checkbooks, and more. (Don’t forget to weigh what’s important and what’s just clutter.)

Next, open the fridge and toss out anything that looks bad or smells worse. If you haven’t used something but need to, plan a meal around the foods or condiments in your fridge that are nearing their end. You’ll feel better than just dunking it in the trash. Same goes with the freezer. If you get a little angry with yourself every time you open it up, commit to making the best possible meal with what’s packing the freezer.

Now you have momentum and can start tackling the bigger areas of your house. Work your way up to what is likely the most arduous task—tackling your sleeping quarters head-on.

Your bedroom can be a sanctuary for self-care and a place to get good sleep. But it probably could use some decluttering.

Luckily, there’s a four-container method you can use. Make four piles: trash, give away/sell, storage, and put away. By containing the clutter in specific categories, you’re better able to distance yourself from what is an absolute must and what no longer qualifies. Anything you don’t need or want, toss it in the trash or give-away pile. If something is broken and doesn’t need fixing, toss it. For necessary, important items, place them in storage or just put them in their proper place.

And the four-container method isn’t just for the bedroom. It can be applied to any room in your house.

One more tip: If you’re having a hard time parting with some things, think of the decluttering like this: you’re making room for the things that matter.

Item 3. Decluttering Your Digital Spaces

If you can’t find that photo of an old vacation you want to share on social media, consider this: Compartmentalizing and decluttering your life digitally might be just as important as in real life.

Now that everyone is glued to screens nearly every day, your digital life should be as comfortable and clutter-free as your physical one. Start with your phone.

Better organize your apps. Putting them in folders or creating some kind of order helps a lot. That way, the next time you really need your travel app you can scroll right to it.

If you’re on your desktop or laptop, trash files that aren’t useful anymore. And organize those that remain. Accessing your own vital information should be easy—instead of a chore. Just like you can do on your phone, organize everything into folders on your desktop to avoid searching for documents with names you can’t exactly remember.

And if you’re really looking to trim down the digital clutter, consider the amount of devices you have. Do you really need a laptop, smartphone, and a tablet? You can also put respective time blocks on each, making sure that when your allotted time on each is reached, you put it down.

Item 4. Be Screen Savvy for Some Mental Decluttering

There is more clutter in life than too many clothes or cramped desk space. One of the most important of all detoxes could be one from the world you live through your smartphone. All the stimuli from social media and other screen-based time drains.

New operating systems now update you weekly about how much screen time you’re averaging a day. If you need another reminder that your life is dominated by screens, take a look. The reports might help shape your behaviors. Depending on what you see, you might want to declutter your mental state by cutting out some screen time.

Studies show social media detoxes might be worth it because they can help improve your overall mood. It might also help you feel less competitive with strangers that always seem to be living their best life. You can also conquer your FOMO (fear of missing out). This type of detox (even if it’s brief) can slow the digital stimuli to help you live more in the present and realize that life before social media was just as rewarding.

Cutting yourself off from social media altogether might not work for you. There are plenty of good things about social media (like the Ask the Scientists Facebook page!). But placing limits can help you declutter your mind and your life. And the free time and mental energy you obtain can be put to good use in different ways that you might’ve forgotten about since the apps have taken over.

Item No. 5 Decluttering Your Schedule

Finding room for yourself in the midst of your to-do list is another key decluttering task. The good thing is, you have some control to prioritize your schedule the way you want.

But sometimes that means skipping events—especially those you know will be disappointing or underwhelming. Saying no isn’t bad. So, rid yourself of that stigma.

And remember, it’s OK to put yourself first, too. There’s nothing wrong with rolling with an urge to see a movie, take a walk, or sit in a coffee shop reading a book. You don’t always have to be making others happy. Declutter your schedule so you have time to enjoy yourself.

Item No. 6 Exhausted? Remember Why You’re Decluttering

Mental clutter so often generates stress, which has ties to several negative effects on your mind and body. But physical clutter can also be stressful.

Researchers discovered a direct correlation between clutter and stress. They explored the relationship between 32 families and objects in their homes. Turns out, clutter has a serious effect on mood and overall self-esteem. So, more stuff, more dishes, and more clutter equals rising anxiety.

Physical clutter has damaging potential, too. It can be a serious fire and tripping hazard in your home. Physical clutter might also be a resting place for dust, mold, and animal dander. All of these can be harmful to those who suffer from allergies and asthma.

There’s No Better Time Than Now to Declutter

You have so many different ways to declutter. Embrace the diverse options for ridding yourself of things you don’t need or harmful habits. There is nothing like a fresh start. So, instead of putting things off, instead of ignoring it all over again, get to work.

Do your best to simplify and rid yourself of the trinkets you don’t use. Give away the clothes you don’t wear. Cut down your digital stimuli by limiting screen time.

The clutter doesn’t have to stress you out. So, take a breather. Get to work and see just how much you can accomplish when you take a step back and realize how freeing decluttering your life can be.

Everything is fast. Now life needs to be 5G, supercharged, and express. But your meals shouldn’t be a sprint. In fact, slower eating might actually crank up your weight-management efforts.

Try to think about the last time it took you 20 minutes or more to eat a meal. If it wasn’t recently, you may be scarfing your food down too fast. That’s because the 20 minute mark is important.

Science shows that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message you’re full. Eating slower can help you feel full sooner. This eliminates the unintended, extra calories consumed after you’re actually full—but don’t know it.

So, instead of spending a lot of time thinking about the right mix of macronutrients or counting calories, just take more time to eat. This simple approach is just one of your options, obviously. Dieters use hundreds of different methods to try and reduce food intake. But eating slower might be worth trying on its own, or in combination with the diet of your choice.

Wondering if eating slower can really help you manage your weight? You aren’t alone. Researchers around the world have taken quite an interest in the topic of slower eating. Let’s see what they’ve found.

And the Slower Eating Study Says …

A lot of promising results have come out of all the research on eating slower and weight management. Some research has shown eating slower can help reduce food intake, which is great for weight-management.

You don’t have to seek out all the research yourself. A meta-analysis (a study of studies) published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 did it for you. The study analyzed differences in eating rate and its influence on energy intake and hunger.

Researchers analyzed and combined the evidence from 22 studies. They calculated the average differences in food intake between slow and fast eating, and the possible differences in hunger.

The combined evidence showed that eating slower is associated with less calorie consumption than a faster eating rate. This was true regardless of the type of manipulation used to alter the eating rate. But how fast eating was done did not have an impact on hunger.

This review supports the idea that the rate of eating does affect energy intake. Eating slower will help reduce food intake and limit excess consumption, regardless of the method used to slow down eating rate. You’ll see some of those methods a little bit later.

How Does Eating Slower Make You Lose Weight?

Research on pace of eating has found correlations between lower body mass indexes and slower eating. That’s exciting. But why does it happen?

The lower calorie consumption for slower eaters is obviously a key part. Eating fewer calories is probably the most well-established weight-management advice. And you’ve already seen how eating slower ties to decreased caloric intake.

You eat slower, you tend to eat less. That’s mostly because you feel full before you overeat. Go back to the fun fact from earlier in the story. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to figure out if you’re full or how full you really are. So, if you eat a meal’s worth of food in 10 minutes and keep going for another five minutes, then you took in a lot of extra calories.

But research suggests the links between eating slower and weight go deeper than the simple math of calories.

The habit of inhaling food at a fast pace has established ties to metabolic issues. This revolves around how fast eaters’ bodies react to food—including glucose tolerance issues and insulin resistance. These connections aren’t surprising. Maintaining your metabolic health and staying at a healthy weight go hand in hand.

And eating slower could help you keep your metabolism and fat burning churning normally, as well as help you eat fewer overall calories. That’s a good combination for weight management. As a bonus, a study in Japan found that eating slower helps you better digest your food.

The Right Pace to Feed Your Face

There’s been far more studies on the reasons to eat slower than on the pace that’s right for weight management. It’s not easy to figure out how to categorize your eating—too fast, too slow, just right.

One study from the University of Rhode Island introduced numbers into the conversation about pace of eating:

  • Fast eating: about 3.1 ounces of food per minute
  • Medium eating: about 2.5 ounces per minute
  • Slow eating: about 2 ounces per minute

The numbers are helpful. But you don’t have to weigh everything you eat and break it down into two-ounce segments. There are easier ways to figure out the right pace to slow the flow of food into your stomach.

The simplest solution—use chewing as your pacing mechanism.

The more you chew, the slower you’ll eat. Counting the number of chews per bite, and aiming for 15-20, will help you hit the sweet spot for eating slower.

You can also time your chewing. One study found that 30 seconds of chewing helped study participants eat half as much candy as they would have when chewing normally.

No matter how you find the right pace for you, remember the 20-minute magic number. Eat at a leisurely pace to stretch the meal out enough for your brain to catch up to your mouth.

How to Eat Slower

Pacing yourself is good advice. But it’s kind of vague, right? There has to be a few practical pointers to achieve the right pace.

Actually, there is. You’re about to read six tips for eating slower. They can help you use slower eating to manage your weight. But they might even help your digestion and bring more enjoyment to your meals.

  1. Chew with purpose. You read about chewing in the pacing section above. But it’s worth repeating: chewing each bite more, and doing it slowly, helps properly adjust your pace. Try chewing each bite at least 20 times. You’ll slow yourself down and prepare your food better for digestion. If you’d rather time your chewing than count each chomp, go for 15 seconds or more.
  2. Take smaller bites. Chewing slow is great. But if you eat your meal in seven or eight huge chunks, your pace will still be too fast. Reducing the size of your bites, combined with purposeful chewing, helps you eat slower.
  3. Engage your senses. Taste is the sense most associated with food. But taking time to really enjoy how your food looks, and paying attention to texture (feeling) can also help slow eating. The most important might be smelling, though. Taste and smell are companions. Getting a good whiff, and enjoying the aromas will enhance your eating experience and throttle back your speedy eating.
  4. Break between bites. Intentionally pausing after each bite slows the speed of your meals. Do this by putting down your fork or spoon between bites—or setting down the food if it’s handheld.
  5. Listen to your body. Hunger is physical. You can feel it. There are signs when you need food, and different ones when you’ve had enough. Take time to check in with what your body is saying. And don’t disregard the signs because there’s more on your plate.
  6. Change your food mindset. Food is many things. At its most basic, it’s fuel. But food is also emotion and family and pleasure and intellectual stimulation and much more. So, don’t just treat food like the gas you dump in your car quickly so you can race down the road. Focus on each bite. Savor it. Discuss it. And really embrace and enjoy the full experience of eating.