Health and Fitness Tips and Inspiration

  1. How-To Create Healthy Ice Cream Recipes




    Nothing beats ice cream on a hot day. Of course, the high fat and sugar content of most frozen desserts makes them hard to fit into a healthy diet. Sadly, lower calorie and higher protein alternatives are generally expensive and loaded with artificial ingredients. Creating your own healthy ice cream, ice cream alternatives, and other frozen treats is actually a lot easier than you’d think. Beyond banana ice cream and Nice Cream, here’s what you need to get started on this family friendly, easy summer treat.

    Tools to Make Healthy Ice Cream Alternatives:

    You don’t need a lot of equipment to create delicious ice cream alternatives. While a high-end ice cream maker is a powerful addition if you find yourself dedicated to crafting sorbets and gelatos, you probably have what you need in your kitchen right now.
    • Food processor or powerful blender: This is your single-most powerful tool in creating your own healthy ice cream recipes. With a few changes and a little extra time in the freezer, you can modify your favorite smoothies into a sweet summer indulgence. The trick is giving them plenty of time to process and, possibly, returning them to the freezer when you’re done.
    • A bread pan: Once you finish creating your healthy ice cream, throw it in a bread pan and keep it in the freezer for a few hours so that you can easily scoop and serve when it’s dessert time.
    • Freezer Pop Molds: If you’d like to add fruit bars and other transportable treats to your ice cream stash, keep these on hand. Using craft sticks rather than the included bases are nice, since it’s hard to get all those parts back to the kitchen when you’re done. You can also use decorative ice cube trays for fun (and messy) treats for the younger crowd.
    • Freezer Space: You’ll want a level space in your freezer to let your treats set, so take the time before you mix to set that up. It’s way easier than juggling a tray in your hand while shuffling bags of broccoli and prepped meals.

    The Easiest Ingredients for Healthy Ice Cream Recipes:

    Traditional ice cream relies on a heavy amount of butterfat and sugar to create “mouthfeel”. That’s the creamy sensation that makes ice cream taste extra good and leaves you wanting more. A great healthy ice cream recipe replicates this through alternative ingredients that create a similar texture. Here are some of the best options.
    • Frozen Bananas: Bananas get their own recognition when it comes to healthy ice cream. Banana ice cream is easy to make using frozen bananas and your food processor. Better yet, doctor it up with some cocoa powder and peanut butter to create this Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl (I want all of these in my freezer this summer!) The high glycemic index of bananas makes them easily absorbable after a workout. Fuel your recovery and your cravings at the same time!
    • Coconut Milk: Whether you’re vegan, limiting your dairy intake, or just love coconut, you can’t go wrong with this delicious ice cream base. You can freeze your coconut milk before adding it to your mix, or just freeze the mixture afterwards in a bread pan. Pineapple and coconut are a natural pair. Throw in a little ginger to mix up this inspired sorbet.
    • Greek Yogurt: This tangy protein source combines well with fruit or protein powder. You can use it to add creaminess (and probiotics) to your final product. Choose from skim, low fat, or full fat options depending on how healthy you need your healthy ice cream to be.
    • Frozen fruits: This mainstay healthy ice cream base provides a desirable consistency, color, and sweetness. You can blend fruits with other bases or showcase them in sorbets and fruit pops. Try this raspberry mint ice pop for a perfect hot afternoon pick me up.
    • Canned Fruits: Don’t overlook canned fruits and pie fillings as you create your favorite recipes. The trick to using canned fruits is to freeze them first. Thaw them only as much as needed to dice into 1-2 inch cubes before adding to your base. Canned pumpkin or previously baked pumpkin or sweet potato can be frozen in smaller containers. Thaw slightly before slicing and adding to other bases for a creamy pumpkin pie ice cream. Mandarin oranges and sliced pears work well on their own. Put the whole can in the freezer, thaw under running water for a few minutes until you can easily remove from the can and slice into smaller pieces. Blend until you have a sorbet consistency. You can enjoy as is, or add a few drops of your favorite essence (vanilla or rum are nice).
    Get Creative. Your options are limitless. Add your favorite essence. Anything from mint to mocha is easily available at your local grocery. You can up the protein content and thicken your ice cream by throwing in a scoop of protein powder. For inspiration, check out protein packed frozen treats. Finally, don’t overlook healthy ice cream alternatives and frozen desserts at your next picnic or barbecue. From Frozen Pineapple Upside Down Cake to a cooler full of ice pops, you’re guaranteed a summer crowd pleaser!

    About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.
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  2. HIIT Vs. LISS: Which Cardio Workout is the Best?

    A woman running doing a hiit workout versus a man doing a liss workout No question about it. HIIT is hot. High Intensity Interval Training (including Matrix Fitness’ Sprint 8) is getting a lot of attention for all the right reasons. But does that mean that LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) is out? Not necessarily. Here are a few benefits of each form of training, and a plan for working them into your workouts.

    Five Benefits of HIIT

    • You’ll Burn Calories After Your Workout: During High Intensity Interval Training your body is forced to perform and recovery at its limits. This forced adaptation means your post workout recovery is also more intense. As your body recovers, your metabolism is higher, which means you burn more calories even at rest after HIIT workouts. This burn lasts for up to 48 hours, which means a few HIIT workouts each week can go a long way towards fat loss.
     
    • HIIT Workouts Are Time Efficient: Exercising at intense levels means you don’t have to work out for hours. A true HIIT workout can be had in just 20 minutes and shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes. This makes HIIT workouts a schedule friendly option for busy athletes (and the rest of us mortals).
     
    • HIIT Makes Your Workouts More Interesting: While it’s hard to call a HIIT workout fun, you’ll find the time goes by quickly. HIIT workouts provide constant variation by alternating short efforts with short recoveries. The training difficulty changes throughout your workout as well. This constant variety coupled with full effort means your brain will stay engaged in your workout.
     
    • HIIT Workouts Make you Fitter: Increasing your V02 Max (how your body responds to challenging exercise) can only happen through challenging exercise. That means training at lactate threshold or anaerobic levels. Fortunately, HIIT fits that bill. By challenging your heart’s maximum output and recovery, you will build endurance that will increase your sustained efforts. That means your HIIT workouts can do amazing things for your next 10K.
     
    • HIIT Workouts Reverse Aging. Sound too good to be true? A recent Mayo Clinic study demonstrated that HIIT workouts reverse evidence of aging on the body’s protein function. This happened at the cellular level. It resulted in increased muscle gain and improved fat loss. The study also found that HIIT was associated with improved insulin sensitivity and cardio respiratory health.
     

    Five Benefits of LISS

    • LISS Builds Endurance: Do your training goals include running a 10K (or more)? Want to complete a cycling century? Or maybe you just need to keep up with the kids this summer. If so, LISS will help you get there. LISS is especially important if you want to complete events that last for more than an hour. By completing LISS training, you teach your body to maintain a steady pace in your aerobic zone. This makes LISS a great match to aerobic training programs on your home fitness equipment. You can also combine LISS training with a heart rate monitor, maintaining a heart rate of less than 80% of your max throughout your workout.
     
    • You’ll Find your Zen Place: There’s a special mindset that comes from a long workout at a steady effort. These workouts are especially effective when you complete them outdoors (or in view of the outdoors). With the pounding of your feet or the tempo of your foot strokes, your brain gets calmer. You’ll find yourself working through, or just feeling better about, the challenges of life and work.
     
    • You’ll Burn Serious Calories: HIIT tends to get a lot of attention when it comes to fat loss, but LISS workouts pack their own punch. The duration of these workouts will increase your daily caloric output. This makes it easier to lose weight or maintain weight loss.
     
    • LISS Lets You Recover: You can’t do a HIIT workout every day. The most effective training programs will include HIIT two or three times per week. Completing more HIIT training than that may interfere with your recovery and not offer additional benefits. So, if you want to stay active on those recovery days, LISS workouts are an effective option.
     
    • LISS Workouts are Doable: For new exercisers, the idea of working to your maximum effort level can be intimidating. Knowing that you can alternate HIIT workouts with a more comfortable option might help you stick to your training program. Additionally, LISS workouts let you build muscular endurance and stability more gradually. This helps you to avoid over-training or unhealthy levels of impact. If you’re just getting started, try a HIIT workout 1-2 times per week and supplement with LISS while you get stronger.


    How to HIIT and LISS your Workout Plan Next Week

    With benefits to each style of workout, you’ll want to be sure you’re including both HIIT and LISS training in your week.

    Here’s how.

    HIIT It

    • Sprint 8: If you need an efficient workout that takes the guesswork out of your program, we’ve got your back. Sprint 8 is patented and requires just 20 minutes. It also adapts to your individual fitness. That means you don’t have to be a runner or serious athlete to succeed. Just set aside 20 minutes and experience the benefits of improved heart health, muscle growth, and fat loss.
     
    • One Minute Strength Intervals: Here’s another HIIT workout that doesn’t require speed. After a 3 minute warm up on your favorite elliptical, treadmill, or indoor cycle, alternate 60 second periods of work with 60 second periods of recovery. Your work periods will be at a high resistance level (incline on your treadmill) that puts you up to 85-95% of your maximum heart rate. During your recovery periods, reduce your resistance/incline completely, and just keep your legs moving. Repeat 12 rounds. Follow with a 3 minute cool down.


    LISSen Up

    • Sweet 75: Your goal on LISS days will be to teach your body to work (and recover) at a maintainable effort. Using a heart rate monitor, complete your favorite run, walk, or cycle maintaining a heart rate of 75% of your maximum. If your heart rate begins to go above 80% reduce your effort level until it comes down. If you decrease below 70% you need to up the pace. This workout goes well with a good playlist or Netflix series. Plan to spend 60-90 minutes completing the workout. By 30 minutes, you may find it harder to avoid climbing above 80%. This is where the true benefits of building endurance in LISS training begin.
    Knowing the benefits of HIIT and LISS workouts, makes it easier to fit them into your weekly rotation of workouts. HIIT workouts will help to get you fitter in shorter periods of time. Alternating these workouts with the slower paced LISS workouts will give you a well-rounded program. Over time, you will experience better fitness, endurance, and weight loss through including both workouts each week.
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  3. Treadmill Motors: Truths & Lies

    treadmill motor shown in treadmill

    The Truth About a Treadmill Motors:

    The treadmill motor is a key component to a treadmill and delivers power to the belt system of the treadmill. A motor’s horsepower will usually ranges anywhere between 1.5 and 3.0 HP. All home treadmills are made using DC (Direct Current) motors. DC motors are quieter and only operate at their full capacity when running at their top speeds. This means that a person walking at 4 mph on a machine with a 2.5 HP motor will likely only be using a small fraction of the motor’s capacity. The issue here is that a heavy person walking at a slow speed will put an extra load on the motor and cause it to run hot which will eventually result in motor or lower electronic board failure. A larger motor will be able to handle the extra load without over-heating and typically I would suggest looking for a motor that’s at least 2.5 horsepower continuous duty. Larger motors allow for the higher user weight rating, and also have a higher top speed, reduce component fatigue and make for a more stable running experience.

    The Lies About Motors:

    If you are choosing a bigger motor then also be cautious as some manufacturers use bigger motors to power their treadmills because they have a poorly designed deck and belt, and they need a bigger motor to power it-always make sure to check the quality of the entire treadmill!

    Not only that but the actual HP rating solely determined by the treadmill manufacturer itself. There is no industry standard as to how to rate your DC motors. A manufacturer may say they have 2 HP continuous duty motor rated at 2,000 rpm and 15 amps, and a separate manufacturer may be labeling the same treadmill motor as a 3 HP commercial grade continuous duty motor. This is because manufacturers can rate their motor at a very high rpm speed (around 5,000 rpm) in order to achieve a higher horsepower number for marketing purposes. These smaller, cheaper treadmill motors with high RPM’s increase the listed horsepower output on the belt but since the motor is spinning so much faster it will burn out more quickly.

    One last thing to look out for is manufacturers that inflate ratings by specifying “peak horsepower” and only advertise the motors maximum power, not its sustained output, which is generally not relevant for runners who need continuous power.

    Generally the top brands of treadmills are all using good quality motors and should last you a long time, however you should look at the motor warranty to separate out the high and low quality ones.

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  4. 5 Tips to Help You Exercise Safely in the Summer Heat



    With the summer months rapidly approaching, it’s time to take your workouts outdoors!   While many of us may be tempted to jump right into our outdoor workouts, we should all take great care in preparing for the summer heat and the effects it can have on our bodies.

    Let’s take a looks at 5 tips that will assure your outdoor workouts are safe this summer.

    Tip #1: Hydrate

    Exercising in hot weather increases our body temperature, so it’s vital to assure your body is properly hydrated before, during, and after your workouts.

    While the body’s ability to perspire acts as a natural cooling system, it’s your job to make sure you’re hydrated enough for this to work properly.

    Your focus should primarily be on drinking water.  Remember, our bodies consist of 50-60% water, so it’s vital to maintain this amount.  On a hot day, you can easily lose 3-5% of your body’s water weight while working out.

    During exercise, aim for drinking 8-10 oz. of water every 20 minute. After exercise, be sure to get in another 10-20 oz. to assure you are properly re-hydrating.  Another great way to re-hydrate is to grab some fruit.  An orange or an apple will help replace valuable electrolyte loss and aid in recovery.

    Tip #2:  Avoid Peak Heat

    Plan your outdoor workouts for early in the morning or around sunset. Sun and humidity levels are more intense during the daytime hours, so to minimize the effects of the heat plan your workouts around that part of the day.

    Tip #3:  Dress Appropriately

    Invest in some lightweight, loose-fitting workout clothes that will help wick away moisture and keep your body cooler.  Sweating alone does not cool the body, but the evaporation of sweat does.  Clothes that soak up your sweat not only become uncomfortable and weigh you down, but they don’t allow for proper evaporation.

    Also avoid dark colored workout clothing that will absorb the heat and focus on wearing light-colored items.

    Tip #4:  Acclimate

    If you have been running indoors or working out in a cooler climate, be prepared to ease up a bit when the weather heats up.  Heat and humidity can wear your body down much faster when you’re not used to it, so gradually work your way into summer heat shape and allow your body to build up a tolerance to that kind of workout environment.

    Those high intensity intervals or long distance treadmill runs will be tough to match in the hot weather, so be smart and gradually work your way up to them.

    Tip #5:  Listen To Your Body

    It’s crucial to pay attention to your body when it comes to working out in the heat.  Heat exhaustion and sun stroke can quickly sneak up on you and put you in a world of hurt!

    If you’re feeling any of the following symptoms while working out in the heat, it’s time to shut it down and find some air-conditioned comfort:
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Weakness
    • Light-headedness
    • Muscle cramps
    • Headache


    To quickly cool off, here are a couple of tricks:
    • Run cold water over your forearms
    • Apply ice packs or cooling wraps to the back of your neck, your forearms, and/or your armpits
    • Use a spray bottle to mist your skin while fanning air on it to aid in the evaporation/cooling
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  5. Healthy and Delicious Memorial Day Recipes

    Friends eating at a picnic table outside for Memorial Day. Memorial Day is everyone’s favorite kick off to the summer.  Cookouts, family reunions, and activities with the kids make portable Memorial Day Recipes essential.  These (mostly) healthy recipes fit the bill, ranging from beverages to Memorial Day desserts.  Best of all?  These crowd pleasers all feature beautiful ways to showcase the healthy foods of early summer.

    Beverages:

      Whether you’re sipping iced coffee or staying hydrated with fruit infused water, the right combination will make the ordinary extraordinary.   Try a Coconut Iced Mocha  for an afternoon pick me up.   Or pack up enough of Blackberry Sage Infused Water to keep the crowd hydrated at your next beach party.

    Appetizers:

    The best Memorial Day Recipes for appetizers are portable, easy to prepare, and, of course, delicious.  Not too heavy and featuring plenty of fresh produce, here are some of our favorites.
    • Greek Salad Skewers: With all the fresh goodness of your favorite Greek Salad in the convenience of a skewer.  These round out the barbecue but you might want to save a few for your lunch on Tuesday.
    • Golden Goddess Turmeric: Level up your hummus by adding turmeric for a festive color with a nutritional punch.  Serve this as a veggie platter with cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, olives, and feta.  You’ll please the vegetarians and carnivores alike.
    • Portobello Nachos While Portobello Mushrooms are featured here, if you have access to other seasonal mushrooms, this is a fantastic way to showcase them! Roasting the vegetables ahead of time brings out their sweetness, making this appetizer one that will disappear in no time.
    • Smoked Salmon and Roasted Zucchini Roll-ups Grab and go meal prep ideas translate well to fresh, no fuss appetizers. This fresh combination is pleasing to the eye and the palate.  Need a vegetarian alternative?  Spread your roll-ups with this tasty Lemon Goat Cheese spread
    • Sausage Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates: While these fall more into the treat category, they’re sure to please the paleo crowd. Fortunately, the chewy sweetness of the dates makes a little bacon go a long way.

    Salads:

     While you could stick to a tossed salad or a quart of potato salad from your local deli, Memorial Day Recipes for salads that are beautiful and delicious will be a showstopper at your next Memorial Day Cookout.  Grilling the Potatoes in this Grilled Potato Salad adds a layer of flavor that will have your guests loading their plates.  The dressing and bacon can be a bit heavy, so consider adding a few more potatoes to stretch this out.  Need a lighter option?  Beets are a great workout recovery food and contribute color to your buffet.  Try this Beet Wild Rice Salad alongside your favorite grilled beef or mushrooms.

    Main Course: 

    In the unlikely event that you find yourself doing something other than grilling, it’s nice to have a Memorial Day Main Course recipe that can be prepared before the guests arrive, feels festive, and will survive hours on the buffet table.  This Instant Pot Carnitas fits the bill.  It also plays nicely with the fresh salsas and guacamole that are likely to make an appearance.

    Dessert:

    Unless you’re finishing the party with your first root-beer float of the year, the perfect Memorial Day Recipe for dessert should showcase the beautiful and delicious berries that are just starting to come into season.  This Shattered Blueberry Yogurt Cake is so stunning and delicious you won’t even notice it’s gluten free.  Try garnishing it with a few fresh strawberries for a celebration in red, white and blue.  Need another option?  Try this nut free, Apple Summer Berry Crumble that is equally comfortable at your next brunch. Sorting out the best recipes and food blogs can be overwhelming.  Need some suggestions?  Try these recommended food blogs to keep you inspired all summer long!  
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