Food, Lifestyle

How to deal with Winter Woes?

During winter, we like to relax over the holidays, play in the snow and enjoy the chilly weather. All this is subject to us being fit andhealthy and not being down with the seasonal flu, or having a cough, high fever or the painful achy joints.

Winter is the time when the earth is dry, days are short and nights are long. Most people feel sluggish and depressed as we see the sun less.

How do we improve our immunity and keep our joints supple? What foods and lifestyle changes do we need to embrace to keep us healthy andhappy through the winter?

During winters, our digestion is at a peak and is perfect for digesting fats and heavy starches that will nourish us. Even though, doughnuts, french fries, ice creams etc are fatty and starchy, they don’t nourish us . Hence they are not suitable for any season even if they fit into our macros.

Let us look at a few tips and easy ways to improve our energy levels and to keep seasonal depression at bay during the winter:

  • Time for Tubers – Just like summers are for fruits, winters are for tubers.

Starches and carbs have got a bad reputation and most ‘Diets’ avoid carbs except for sweet potatoes. There are many different tubers that are native to India and other countries.

Traditionally we have used tubers in several dishes during the winter (like puzhukku that is made in Kerala, thaalaga kozhambu in certain parts of Tamilnadu and Undhiyo that’s made in Gujarat).

Tubers are excellent for hormonal balance

This is significant now as we have higher number of PCOS , fertility and reproductive issues than ever before. Tubers are excellent for hormonal balance.
Products like progesterone creams and bio identical hormone replacements for hormonal issues (like PCOS, PMS, endometriosis etc) contain compounds that are extracted from yams and other tubers.

 
  • Intensify your physical activity – Double the intensity of your Physical activity during winter whether it is running, hiking, biking,lifting weights, favourite sport or yoga. The reason for this is that in summer we get exhausted or tired soon and the same levels of exertion doesn’t exhaust us but will only energize us in autumn,winter and spring.
  • Include more seeds and nuts – Sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, chia and the liks are wonderful to keep our joints, skin, hair and nails healthy in winter. Unsalted nuts are also a rich source of essential fats and minerals like zinc, selenium, magnesium etc that are essential for immunity, blood sugar regulation and hormones.
  • Care for the citrus – Nature provides whatever is needed to protect ourselves during that season. When we ignore that and start eating other fancy foods (sometimes in the name of a diet), we weaken our immunity.

Winter is the time for citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, mandarins, gooseberries, guava and other sour fruits that are abundant in Vitamin C. 

  • Be sweet and spicy–  Jaggery is another winter hero as It warms andnourishes the body . It is unrefined, wholesome and also a good source of Iron, phosphorus , potassium and calcium .  Stevia extract, time to go back to shelf !!! ( it is still refined and ultra processedwith virtually zero nutrients)

With the falling temperatures, it is natural to yearn for spicy food. Listen to your body and be generous with the spices. Ginger, pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, clove etc helps in improving the digestion and immunity.

  • Self indulgence – Give yourself a warm oil massage with sesame or mustard oil and a relaxing bath. Massages are great stressbusters and a nice way of increasing hormones like DHEA , Serotonin and other pleasure hormones which are crucial to keep ourselves stress-free and happy.

 It is also evident from the fact that we become gloomy when the sky is grey and cloudy. After all we are not peacocks .

Each season comes with its own pros and cons. Winter is the time to rejuvenate metabolism, mind , immunity and use the stillness and chillness to our advantage with the steps mentioned above , rather than be indoors , binge watch and booze.

Are you connected with us via Facebook? Here is our Facebook page where we post daily updates on health and fitness. 

Interested in losing fat and balancing  hormones sustainably? Check out our programs

 

 

Fitness, Lifestyle

Sleep , Health and Fat loss – Are they related?

Nutrition and Exercise are the thoughts that instantly come to our mind when we think about losing fat, improving health or strengthening our body.  A critical factor or component that we tend to neglect is “Sleep”. Quality ‘zzzz’ or shut-eye is one of the most neglected and undervalued aspect of health.

If you have not got the desired results despite eating nutritious food and working out in a structured manner, the quality and quantity of your sleep should be analysed carefully. Clarity of thoughts, energy levels, performance in gym, digestion, immunity, depression, sex-drive and fat burn has a direct correlation to the proper/poor sleep you had in the previous nights.

Optimizing sleep pattern is crucial for health and weight loss. Studies suggest that, over a period of 6 years, people who sleep either less than 6 hours a night or those who do so for more than 9 hours have similar body composition outcomes and gain twice as much weight compared to those who sleep for 7-8 hours.

What happens when we sleep?

Restful sleep is when the sleep is deep, peaceful and without any body movement. During restful sleep our body repairs, rejuvenates and detoxifies itself so we wake up fresh having abundant energy for the next day. Our nerve cells are repaired ensuring faster communication inside our body happens, which means we can learn, memorize, and think faster and clearer.

Most of our hormones, including Thyroid stimulating hormone(TSH)Growth hormone (GH) and the sex hormones like testosterone , estrogen, Progesterone, LH etc are mostly secreted and released into the blood during sleep. Even though we slog in the gym for a chiselled/shredded look, the real chiseling happens when we sleep .

When we sleep after a workout, our muscles grow , restore and repair. Repaired muscles and optimal sex hormones are essential to sport that ripped look.

What happens when we sleep less?

Going for a weekend night out, pushing our work till the midnight, watching tv or a movie late night or any voluntary form of sleep reduction has become a mark of modern society.

Even if we sleep less for  just or a single night or several, it will cause damage. Some of the things that occur when we sleep less are

  • Decreased Thyroid function and Growth hormone
  • Increased hunger hormone and Decreased satiety hormone
  • Increased stress hormones – cortisol and Decreased insulin sensitivity

In short, Sleeping less is a perfect recipe for hormonal chaos leading to lifestyle diseases such as Diabetes, PCOS , High blood pressure, heart diseases, fertility problems, Hyper/hypo thyroid etc.

Are you hungry or sleep deprived?

When we are awake for longer time at night it is normal for us to feel hungry , as we need more energy to be awake than to sleep. Added to this our satiety hormone is reduced and hunger hormone is increased, which makes us raid our kitchen and eat energy dense processed junk food. Well, we don’t reach out for a fruit when we are hungry at 1am .

What affects our sleep?

Apart from the intended sleep curtailment, there are also other lifestyle factors that affect our sleep with or without our knowledge. Knowing those habits will help us change our lifestyle, which can improve our sleep quality.

Staying away from gadgets atleast 30 minutes before bed time is crucial for restful sleep,

  1. Exposure to artificial light around bed time

Artificial lights known as ‘blue light’ include light from lamps, devices like TV, Laptop, mobiles and other gadgets. The sleep hormone melatonin is produced only during darkness. Exposing ourselves to such gadgets and devices closer to bedtime will block the secretion of this hormone.

Sleep tip : Limit usage of devices(TV, phone, Ipad, Laptop) at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Reduce the intensity of lighting closer to bedtime.

  1. Lack of physical activity

Exercise reduces our stress and tires us out. Physical activity closer to the start of the day or noon is shown to have a positive impact on sleep as we get tired by the end of the day and fall asleep faster. This also improves the quality of sleep. Working out in the wrong way will also affect sleep and our results.

Sleep tip : Exercise in the mornings or early evenings to set your metabolism  and sleep wake cycle right.

  1. Our last meal of the day

A large supper will rev up our metabolism and makes it harder for us to have a good night’s sleep. The sleep that we have after a heavy meal will be less repairing and restful as our body must digest the heavy meal which is still lying in our stomach.

Sleep tip: Eat a light/ moderately heavy meal 2-3 hours ahead of your bedtime.

  1. Mental stress and physical illness

Physical illness, depression and other stress related disorders are linked to elevated stress hormones  – which results in sleep disturbances and reduces the quality of sleep.

Sleep tip : Try meditating a few hours before the bed time and create a peaceful bed time routine to reduce the stress hormones and to improve the quality of sleep.

Our sleep need, to restore our health to optimal may vary depending on our illness, age, mental stress(exams), stage of parenthood(new mom) and more.

The magic number or the amount of sleep each of us need to function at our best might vary between 7-8 hours , but the fact that sleep loss will reduce our productivity and performance be it in gym, home or at our workplace is certain.

 

Are you connected with us via Facebook? Here is our Facebook page where we post daily updates on health and fitness. 

Interested in losing fat and balancing  hormones sustainably? Check out our programs

 

This article was originally written for and published in the October 2017 issue of ‘Stayfit’ magazine.

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

How to Reset Hormones In Just a Weekend?

Yes, it is totally possible to make or break your hormone balance over a weekend.

Hormones are chemical messengers that will tell your body and its organs to function in a specific way. When hormones go out of balance, we end up with issues like hypothyroidism, obesity,  PCOS, insomnia, Diabetes , endometriosis, low sperm count, fibroid. While treating these issues, doctors focus on the specific hormone that is causing the issue.  They do not treat the core issue of hormonal imbalance in the body. No hormone can carry out its function optimally without interacting with or influencing other  hormones .

What majority of people focus on are the major hormones namely:

  • Thyroid
  • Insulin
  • Estrogen(women) or Testoserone(men)
  • Progesterone

Some of the other hormones that often get neglected but are responsible for keeping us happy, calm, and energetic are

  • Serotonin – Happy hormone that stabilizes mood
  • Dopamine – Pleasure hormone responsible for motivation and focus
  • GABA – induces calm, sleep , reduces anxiety and fear .
  • Cortisol –stress hormone and affects insulin sensitivity and sleep
  • Melatonin –hormone responsible for sound sleep
  • Growth hormone – GH Improves muscles mass and heart health
  • DHEA – Fights fat accumulation and essential to produce sex hormones

 

Overlooking these lesser known hormones are also the reason for us becoming moody, having mood swings and low energy levels, suffering from depression , being unable to sleep well, and having high levels of stress.  These issues will not get better with medication for hormonal imbalances.

What does a weekend mean for many?

We have created a norm of struggling and stressing ourselves through the week and pushing ourselves just to relax over the weekend.

What most of us aim to do over the weekend is enjoy, relax, rejuvenate/energize ourselves for the week ahead. Many people do this by sleeping late, watching movies or television series late at night, binge eating, drinking alcoholic drinks, waking up late, eating out or ordering food from outside.

While we believe that doing all or some of the things listed above is what is bliss and relaxation, what we are actually doing is disrupting our  circadian /biological clock and thus the hormonal balance in our body.

Doing any of these, could also increase inflammation, toxins,  stress hormones, insulin resistance and interfere with the production of serotonin, melatonin, thyroid, DHEA, GABA and dopamine Progesterone in women and testosterone is men.

None 'GETS' time to workout. Those who do , 'MAKE' time to workout. (1).png

How can we make a weekend work towards our hormonal harmony?

Do what you really want the weekend to do to you – Relax, rejuvenate and energize.

Relax – By listening to your favourite music, by meditating, by having a full body massage and deep conditioning hair and skin  with herbal oil or any oil + essential oil of your choice. (Remember the weekly ceremonial oil bath that we used to have a few decades ago?) This will increase your serotonin, melatonin, GABA , reduce cortisol and ofcourse improve your skin and hair.

Rejuvenate – By sleeping on time, waking up by sunrise and getting a morning workout, be it a beach run or a hike will set your circadian clock. This will increase your dopamine, serotonin , insulin sensitivity and also help you detox.

Energize – Nourish your body and soul , with home-made food and family. Cook and eat as a family,  meet and spend time with real people (in person not via Whatsapp or Messenger)

Doing these will also help us in calming down and  improving energy levels, sleep , productivity , fat burn and metabolism.

Spending weekends like this often will make you enjoy life, and also weekdays , so you don’t have Monday morning blues

Are you connected with us via Facebook? Here is our Facebook page where we post daily updates on health and fitness. 

Interested in losing fat and balancing  hormones sustainably? Check out our programs

How do you spend your weekends? Let us know in comments