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Foam Rolling – Why It’s So Beneficial!

There are many different stretching exercises out there and all have similar goals: increase flexibility, improve performance and reduce muscle soreness.  One of the more recent and effective additions to the world of stretching is foam rolling.  Due to a recent injury, I have spent a lot of time rolling and learning first hand about its benefits and I have been amazed at the results.

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What is Foam Rolling?

Foam rollers are cylinders about 6 inches in diameter and usually about 36 inches long that you lie on and roll over your muscles to help to loosen tight muscles. Foam rolling actually increases circulation so the connective tissue and muscles receive more oxygen and water than stretching alone.  In addition, foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release that acts similarly to massage. Meaning not only do you get the benefits of working out muscle knots and tightness, but you also get the same reduction in stress releasing hormones and improved mood and relaxation that you get from a massage.  Some call it the ‘poor man’s massage’.

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research documented the benefits of foam rolling before a workout.  The study tracked 2 groups of active people: one group used a foam roller before working out and the other group did not.  The group that used the rollers not only felt less sore after their workouts, they also felt that the workouts were not as difficult.

Foam rolling is not only beneficial for those who work out, it is also great for anyone who sits for long periods of time.  Long bouts of sitting are not good for our bodies (that is a whole other blog topic!) but for most of us, it can’t be avoided.  Foam rolling is also an excellent way to reverse the harmful effects of long-term sitting.

Tips of How and When to Roll:

  • How to roll.  Either find a trigger point (painful spot) and apply pressure, or roll along the muscle (like a massage). A combination of both usually works best.
  • Roll before and after a workout. 
  • Hydrate before you roll.  In general, hydrated tissue is resilient and more susceptible to the benefits of rolling while pliable dehydrated tissue is glued-down and sticky.
  • Do it slowly.  You want slow and purposeful movements.  When you hit a painful area, stay on it – that is where you need to focus.
  • Move in multiple directions. It’s not just up-and-down; muscles and fascia attach at different angles and even in spirals, so roll in different directions.
  • Make it a daily habit.  Even if you aren’t at the gym, make a point of rolling those muscles.  Think of it like flossing – it is daily maintenance.
  • Don’t foam roll on joints.

Personally, foam rolling is the single best thing I have done to combat my injuries.  The benefit is immediate; with each rolling session, I feel noticeable improvement.  I plan to make foam rolling a permanent part of my daily routine in hopes of not only speeding up my recovery, but reducing my chance for future injuries.

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Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Without Sabotaging Your Day

Those powerful sweet cravings can sneak right up on you.  For me they often hit right after lunch, but many people say that late night is the hardest. Here are some tips to squash those cravings and some suggestions when you just can’t say NO.

Squash the Sweet Tooth

First, try these tricks to help beat that sweet tooth without actually eating anything sweet.

1)    WAIT.  When you really want something sweet, try to wait 15 minutes. Often, this is all it will take for the craving to pass.

2)    Drink water – it will hydrate you and possibly buy you enough time for the craving to subside.

3)    Drink a flavored herbal tea.  Sometimes the different flavors like vanilla, cinnamon or mi
nt, can satisfy that need for sweetness.

Healthy Sweet Tooth Options

If you are still craving that sweet something, try the following healthy snack choices.  It is better to enjoy a small sweet snack to satisfy your craving rather than eating your way around the kitchen just trying to avoid it.

1)    Skim latte with one shot of mocha.  Low in calories and just sweet enough to do the trick.Unknown

2)    Frozen grapes.  They are sweet and give you something to sink your teeth into.

3)    Toss a teaspoon or two of sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon into a zip lock bag.  Add apple slices and toss.

4)    Honey graham crackers with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

5)    Combine nonfar Greek yogurt with honey, crushed graham crackers and any kind of fruit. Makes for a sweet, crunchy snack.images-1

6)    Toss popcorn tossed with 1 to 2 tablespoons of melted chocolate chips.  Let in cool in the refrigerator so it is not too sticky. (We recommend popping your popcorn on the stove top or air popping it.  Microwave popcorn has been found to contain dangerous levels of chemicals.)

7)    Melt 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter and 1 tablespoon chocolate chips and use as a dip for pretzel sticks.

8)    Melt 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips and dip a banana into it.

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9)    Toast one piece whole-wheat bread and spread a very thin layer of butter,than sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar (you only need a tiny bit)

10)  Apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter

 

Notes on calories and fat:

One Tbsp. of semi-sweet chocolate chips has just 70 calories and 4 grams of fat.

One Tbsp. of peanut butter has 80 calories and 8 grams of fat.

One full graham cracker has 65 calories and under 2 grams of fat. Try to buy the brands without hydrogenated oils.

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Granola Bars: Homemade and Amazing

I have referred to my daughter’s cooking in past blogs and I can’t resist sharing her latest treat with everyone.  These granola bars with blueberries (or any berry of your choice) and yogurt drizzle are not only healthy, but incredibly delicious.  They are a good source of protein, omega-3, biotin, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber.  I never considered making my own granola bars until I tasted these and I have a feeling you will agree.

There is only one caveat – resist the urge to eat the entire batch at once.  We wrap them individually and keep them in the refrigerator so we don’t finish them off as fast as we make them.

Note – the yogurt drizzle contains sugar (the only non-healthy item in the entire recipe) so you can choose to skip it altogether as we sometimes do, or just lightly drizzle the bars with it.  As an additional note, the directions below will make much more yogurt coating than we have ever needed or used.

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Ingredients for the bars:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice krispies
1/4 cup whole roasted almonds, roughly chopped
2 tablespoon chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter or almond butter (I typically use peanut butter)
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 (rounded) cup fresh blueberries or 3/4 cup dried blueberries

Ingredients for the yogurt drizzle:

1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions for bars:
  • Skip this step if using dried blueberries.  Roast fresh blueberries in 350 degree over for 30 minutes or until they pop and shrink.  Best to coat baking sheet with parchment paper – then blueberries won’t stick
  • In a large bowl combine the oats, rice krispies, almonds, chia seeds and salt.
  • Combine almond or peanut butter with honey and microwave for about 40 seconds or until mixture is pourable
  • Add vanilla to warm honey mixture
  • Add honey mixture to the dry oat mixture and combine – it will be thick!
  • Add dried blueberries
  • Coat a 9 X 13 pan with parchment paper and pour mixture into pan and press down evenly and until tightly packed
  • Place in freezer for one hour, then cut into bars
  • Bars should be stored in refrigerator to keep fresh and hold their shape better.

Directions for yogurt drizzle:

  • Combine water, vanilla and then whisk gelatin in and let thicken for about 5 minutes
  • In another bowl, combine yogurt, honey and salt
  • Microwave yogurt mixture for 15 seconds, mix and repeat till warm, but do not let it boil
  • Add gelatin mixture to yogurt mixture and whisk together
  • Add in powdered sugar and whisk until thick, but pourable
  • Drizzle bars with the yogurt
  • The bars will be sticky now – we usually just wrap them (one or two together) with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for later eating. The yogurt will harden in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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