Tip Tuesday: Artificial Sweetener Awareness

Last month, the blog featured a post on avoiding hidden sugars. It's just as important, however, to watch out for artificial sweeteners - chemical additives that provide sweet flavor without caloric impact. Today, we're taking a look at these artificial sweeteners! 

When you begin making changes to your diet, your inclination might be to find alternatives to your normal comfort foods. Hooked on soda? You might find yourself reaching for diet versions instead. Can't live without sugar in your coffee? You'll reach for the Equal instead. But are these alternatives really "healthier," or are they just the lesser of two evils?

As it turns out, diet soda, and other drinks with artificial sweeteners, have a whole host of negative side effects. A study out of the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio found that study participants who drank diet soda were more likely to gain weight than to lose it. The study found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda caused the metabolic signals in the body to malfunction, and put users at a higher risk for obesity. A 2013 study out of Purdue University, published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism [author manuscript full text available here, through PubMed Central], provides an overview of research that demonstrates a link between the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.

What does all that research mean? Basically, the sweet flavor from these chemical additives tricks your brain into craving more sugar. Your body also reacts to the artificial sweeteners in the same way as it does to real sugar, so you can actually be counteracting all of your healthy habits by adding that pink packet to your daily coffee. 

So, what's a girl to do? Luckily, we have some tips on refreshing drinks that can help to fill the soda void in your life!

Flavored soda waters

Soda water, seltzer, club soda - they all basically mean the same thing, water with carbonation added. There are a number of brands that offer flavored soda waters that don't have any added sweeteners. Polar Beverages is based here in Massachusetts, and they offer great seasonal options, like Blueberry Lemonade or Pomegranate Sangria. However, make sure to read the label before you buy! You want to find a brand that only adds flavoring; check for added sweeteners to avoid an unpleasant surprise. Also, this shouldn't replace the regular H2O you're consuming throughout the day! Too much carbonation can lead to bloating, so treat this as just that - a treat. 

Iced green tea

Green tea is a great alternative to coffee. It has a whole range of benefits that can help to improve your efforts at living a healthier lifestyle, and it tastes great! If you don't enjoy the flavor of green tea on its own, try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, or add a few pieces of frozen fruit - frozen raspberries or peach slices are my favorite options! You can also find great tea blends that include fruit flavors; Whole Foods has an extensive selection to explore! Word of caution: Caffeine can be dehydrating, so make sure that you're drinking water alongside your iced tea. 

Infused water

Any graduate of the Six Weeks to Chic program knows that drinking water continuously throughout the day is a huge factor in improving overall health. However, plain old water can definitely get boring at times. Infusing your water with natural flavors can help to add interest to your daily water intake, and as long as you choose the right additions, you won't be negating your efforts at the studio. Pitchers and water bottles with infusers are easy to find these days - try this model as an example. Some of our favorite combinations here at SP include strawberry & basil, cucumber & mint, grapefruit & lemon slices, or mixed berry.

What are your favorite healthy beverage options? Any tips for breaking the artificial sweetener habit? Let us know in the comments!

Tip Tuesdays: The Benefits of Heated Fitness Classes

There's nothing quite so satisfying as getting a good sweat on in a fitness class. We've all seen how steamy the studio can get after a killer cardio session! But what about classes where the room is intentionally heated before we even begin? Believe it or not, there are real benefits to taking a heated class. Read on to learn more about why you should consider adding a heated class to your routine, and for some tips to stay comfortable and healthy through those classes!

There are a number of benefits to working out in a heated room. At Studio Poise, we rely on heaters to add intensity to some of our yoga and strength classes; we don't heat any of our cardio classes. Wondering why we kick things up a notch by making the temperatures climb?

Heated fitness classes improve cardiovascular health.

Working out in a heated room makes your heart work harder. You may feel like you can't work out with the same intensity as you would in a non-heated class; that's because of the extra cardiovascular effort involved thanks to the heated room. As long as you're in good health, it's perfectly safe to ramp up the intensity from time to time. As an added benefit, if you consistently take heated classes, you should notice that you can push further in non-heated classes, thanks to your improved heart performance!

Heat helps with flexibility.

Practicing yoga in a heated room can help you to reach new levels of flexibility as you work through poses. The higher temperature means your muscles warm up faster, and you should feel it as you progress through the class. Go with the flow and be amazed by what your body can accomplish! As always, listen to your body and don't do anything that doesn't feel right - you don't want to risk injury - but don't be afraid to explore how the heat helps your range of motion.

 

Sweating can help with detoxifying your body.

If you've been feeling sluggish or not your best, taking a heated class can be a bit like hitting the reset button. Because you'll be sweating - a lot - you'll be ridding your body of any toxins that may have built up. You'll be drinking plenty of water both during and after the class to replenish the fluids you lost, which also helps to flush out your body.

So... are you ready to steam up those mirrors? Here are some helpful tips to make sure your first heated class experience is a positive one!

  • Drink lots of water. Since you'll be sweating - a lot - it's important to make sure you're hydrated. Drink some water before class, have a full water bottle handy during class, and drink a full water bottle within 30-45 minutes of finishing class to make sure you replenish your body's fluids.
  • Bring a towel. If you normally don't sweat much during a workout, trust us, you're going to sweat during these classes! Have a towel on hand to wipe your face as needed. It's also helpful to have a towel nearby in case you feel your hands slipping during planks or downward dog.
  • Wear comfortable clothes. Make sure that you're wearing breathable fabrics that wick moisture away from your body. Avoid long sleeves or full length pants. 
  • Leave the perfume at home. If you're planning to take a heated class during the day, skip perfume that morning. Scents can be intensified in the heated space, and perfume can go from pleasantly floral to overwhelming fast.
  • Listen to your body. You know your body better than anyone, and it's important to listen to what it's telling you. Take breaks as needed, and if you feel like an exercise isn't working for you, ask for modifications. If the heat is getting to be too much, don't be afraid to step out of the room, drink some water, and take a few minutes to cool down before resuming the class. 

Don't miss our heated classes at Studio Poise!

If you've never taken a heated class before, you may want to start by trying Hip Hop Yoga with Ali White (Mondays at 5:15pm, Wednesdays at 6:45pm). The room is gently heated for this class and Ali will lead you through a series of yoga postures. You'll get your sweat on, but your mat will be there if you need to drop into child's pose for a quick breather.

If you're ready to step up your game, you won't want to miss the newest addition to the Studio Poise schedule - Poised & HOT Bodies, taught by Danielle on Fridays at 10am. The heat is cranking for some signature DRo strength and toning exercises. The class combines strength and toning moves with yoga, barre, and stretching - you'll get a little bit of everything and will leave the class feeling stronger and more flexible. Leave the mat at home - while Danielle incorporates yoga into this class, the bulk of the class is spent standing or at the barre. It's the perfect Friday class to kick start your weekend - you definitely don't want to miss this! 

Have you tried any of our heated class offerings? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! 

Tip Tuesday: Beware hidden sugars!

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Knowing how to read food labels is essential to successfully changing your eating habits. Ultimately, the healthiest eating habits avoid packaged and processed foods as much as possible, but practically speaking, processed foods will likely make their way into your grocery carts. To ensure that these foods don't sabotage your healthy living efforts, it's important to know how to read labels!

Sugars are one of the sneakiest ingredients. Foods marketed as "low fat" usually contain added sugars to help with flavoring, and sugar helps to extend the shelf life of packaged foods. It's important to limit your sugar intake wherever possible, and to aim for naturally occurring sugars when you do consume them - such as the sugars found in fruits or starchy vegetables. 

It's important to always read the ingredient labels when purchasing packaged foods, but sugar isn't always easy to find in those lists. There are over fifty different terms for added sugars - try to familiarize yourself with these so that you can recognize when sugar is sneaking into your food. Here are some quick tips to help you remember what to watch for:

  • Look out for "-ose" words - these are usually sugars! Terms like "glucose," "fructose," and "maltose" are all just different words for sugars. If you see a word ending in "-ose" in the ingredients list, chances are sugar has been added to the food.
  • "Natural" sugars are still sugars! It's easy to be tricked into thinking that there are "healthy" versions of sugars. A huge amount of money goes into marketing for packaged foods. Things like agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, and date sugar might sound like healthier ways to sweeten your foods, but they're still considered sugars and they'll have the same effect on your diet as plain old table sugar.
  • "Low/Reduced Sugar" is not formally defined by the FDA. If you see claims of "Reduced sugar" on packages, approach with caution. The FDA does not define what constitutes "low sugar," because the term is in relation to the "standard" version of the same food. So sure, maybe those Oreos have less sugar than their regular counterparts...but they still contain sugar and will still have an impact on your health goals! 
  • Artificial sweeteners are not the answer! We'll have more on this in a future "Tip Tuesday" post, but be wary of adding artificial sweeteners like aspartame, splenda, or sucralose. While they may not have the same caloric impact of real sugar, artificial sweeteners can make you crave more sweet foods, undermining your efforts to choose healthier options.

Interested in reading more about sugars in your foods? The following links were used in researching this post and contain more helpful information!

  • http://whole9life.com/2010/06/sugar-sugar-sugar/
  • http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/calories/added-sugars.html
  • http://www.hungryforchange.tv/article/how-to-spot-sugar-on-food-labels
  • http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/whattoeat/a/sugars.htm
  • http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/
  • http://www.sugar.org/sugar-basics-2/food-labeling/labeling-terms/