How Much Should You Work Out If Weight Loss Is Your Goal?

We all cherish the endorphin rush that comes with a good sweat—but whether we want to address a health concern or fit into a favorite pair of jeans, there’s no denying that many of us have ulterior motives for working out.

We often consider exercise the make-it-or-break-it factor in weight loss, but there are a lot of mixed messages out there about how often—and how intensely—we actually need to sweat to change our bodies. To clear up the confusion, we asked top fitness pros to share what a weight loss-friendly workout routine should really look like.

The Big Picture

Believe it or not, research suggests exercise has a pretty limited impact on weight loss.

And while working out is important for your cardiovascular health, mood, bone density, mobility, and flexibility—and does impact your body composition (how much muscle versus fat you have)—it’s just one part of a winning weight-loss strategy.

Related: 7 Weight-Loss Myths That Can Sabotage Your Progress

“Successful weight loss is the result of several efforts: a foundation of strength training, appropriate cardio, a supportive nutrition plan, proper recovery and sleep, and stress management,” says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S. and author of Lift to Get Lean.

Spend Your Time Wisely

Regardless of your weight-loss goals, how often you work out should be based on your current fitness level. Perkins recommends starting with four to five workouts a week: three full-body strength workouts (about 30 to 35 minutes) to increase metabolism-revving muscle, and two to three cardio workouts (between 35 and 40 minutes) to promote fat loss.

Once you’re used to this schedule, add one or two challenging interval cardio sessions (about 35 minutes) per week. Perform cardio after strength training—and feel free to mix it up by trying a new group class or swapping your usual elliptical session for a neighborhood run.

No matter how much gym experience you have—and how motivated you are to change your body—ample rest is also key to seeing results. “When we exercise, we break our muscle tissue and energy stores down, so we need rest, recovery, and proper nutrition to build them back up,” says LA-based trainer Shannon Decker, C.P.T. “I personally make myself take two rest days a week.” If at any point you notice less-than-stellar workouts or feel fatigued or dehydrated, add another rest day to your weekly schedule.

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In the long run, over-exercising can actually sabotage weight loss by elevating levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “Chronically elevated cortisol increases your appetite and food cravings, and decreases your ability to sleep deeply,” explains Perkins.

Extra Credit

Formal workouts aside, don’t forget that the physical activity you do throughout the rest of your day also contributes to your weight loss success! Not only does moving more mean burning more calories, but it also improves a number of general health and fitness markers, like mood, mental clarity, and energy, says Perkins. Add as much general movement—whether a morning yoga flow, a walk with your dog, or playtime with your kids in the backyard—to your day as possible, especially if you work a desk job.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, whether or not you squeeze in that extra workout won’t make or break your weight loss. “Losing weight takes time and dedication,” says Decker. “It’s a lifestyle change.” If you realistically only have time to work out three days a week, it’s okay! Just remember that what matters most is consistently living an overall healthy lifestyle.

If You’ve Hit A Health Wall, Functional Medicine Could Be For You

Whether you’re dealing with inexplicable weight gain, mood imbalance, irregular periods, breakouts, or other chronic health challenges, you might feel like you’ve hit a wall with your treatment plan, and that the options you’ve been given are more like bandages than solutions. That frustration can lead some patients to explore alternative therapies and modes of care, such as functional medicine, a discipline that has been touted by practitioners like Deepak Chopra, an avid alternative medicine advocate, author, and speaker.

According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the discipline “is an approach to health care that conceptualizes health and illness as part of a continuum in which all components of the human biological system interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time.” Functional health practitioners have advanced professional degrees in licensed health care fields, which means post-graduate training is necessary for a doctor or other healthcare professional (in certain fields) to practice it, according to Functional Medicine University.

“At its core, functional medicine is designed to find the root causes of imbalances and dysfunction within the body that lead to chronic symptoms or disease,” explains Linda Matteoli, DO, owner of Origins Functional Medicine and a board-certified family physician in Longwood, Florida.

Related: Shop our range of immune support products. 

There’s more to it than that, though—here are four things you should know about this form of medical treatment.

1. Functional medicine practitioners aim to zoom out and get a bird’s eye view of your health concerns—and their causes.

Dr. Matteoli explains that diagnostic testing, like blood work and lab, is certainly utilized in functional medicine practices, but providers “look for imbalances in all areas of a person’s life—such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships, and stress management.” In other words, their goal is to go “beyond laboratory or imaging studies.”

Another way of looking at this concept: “In general, the body will never harm itself. Everything the body does, even cancer, is done as a protection mechanism to repair damage and maintain life,” explains Raul Serrano, DC, doctor of functional medicine and owner of Ignite Chiropractic & Wellness in Palm Harbor, Florida. “The problem happens when there is outside interference of some sort that either prevents the body from functioning properly or causes the body to take defensive measures.” He goes on to say that this could be related to nutrition, toxins, physical impairments, or other factors.

“In functional medicine, we work to eliminate the interference and create the environment for the body to function at its maximum potential,” says Serrano.

2. Functional medicine is also preventative medicine.

Even patients who aren’t struggling with a frustrating chronic health concern could benefit from seeing a functional medicine doctor. Dawn DeSylvia, MD, owner of Whole Life Health in Los Angeles, California, says that in her practice, she looks to “identify early risks for disease, many of which may go undetected for years. With early identification of risk factors, along with treatment interventions, we can greatly reduce the risk of disease developing in the first place.”

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For instance, one major precursor to disease that functional medicine doctors will investigate is inflammation, Dr. DeSylvia notes. “From there, we work to remove the risk factors contributing to this inflammation,” she says. Doctors may also work with their patients to come up with an anti-inflammatory protocol in which they incorporate certain foods and nutrients into the diet.

3. Functional medicine aims for long-term healing

“Functional medicine is truly for everyone,” Dr. Matteoli shares. “Often these individuals have had many previous doctor appointments without clarity and answers or have been told that prescription drugs or surgery are their only options for managing their symptoms.”

For patients who have been in this position, Dr. Matteoli notes that functional medicine may be appealing, as providers are focused on investigating the origin of a health concern and identifying subtle imbalances.

Dr. DeSylvia concurs that functional medicine is often an attractive avenue for “people who either have been diagnosed with a disease, and are suffering side effects from their current treatment, or ‘falling into the statistics’ that treatment fails.” She adds, “Also, I see people who have been to specialist after specialist and told, ‘Nothing can be done.’”

The focus, then, would be to address the issue—but to also come up with a long-term plan. Though functional medicine can address an acute issue, providers aim to hone in on the underlying cause of a chronic imbalance and then come up with a treatment game plan that will promote wellness now and in the future. “The combination of this expanded workup with holistic treatment helps to balance the entire person, which in turn leads to true long-term healing,” explains Dr. Matteoli.

4. Providers work with patients to come up with an individualized treatment plan.

Patients who see a functional medicine doctor will be able to have a true back-and-forth conversation with their provider, as opposed to being given directives around their treatment.

The IFM notes that, “Patients and providers work together to determine the diagnostic process, set achievable health goals, and design an appropriate therapeutic approach.”

That said, no treatment plan—functional or otherwise—should be seen as a magic bullet, Dr. Matteoli points out. “One pill or one surgery is not going to correct chronic disease,” she says. “Rather, it takes the approach of a widespread treatment—identifying and rebalancing multiple systems simultaneously to achieve wellness.”

What Does A Health Coach Actually Do?

Whatever your wellness goals—be it to lose weight, get ahead of developing a disease you may be genetically predisposed to, or figure out a game plan for clean eating, you may be interested in taking a more holistic and proactive approach to your health. If this is the case, it’s possible you’ve heard about or even considered hiring a health coach to help you along the way. But how do these health care providers differ from doctors, and what can you expect from working with one?

Health coaches aim to counsel you holistically.

If you’re looking for a practitioner who is focused on getting a bird’s eye view of your overall health, a health coach may be a wise choice. They aim to help their clients find resolution in health issues by sustainable and realistic means.

“Primarily, the intention of a health coach is to be holistic, or to focus on the whole person,” notes Jess Krauss, integrative health coach and owner of The Little Clementine in New York City. “Health coaches view a client’s goals as related to many aspects of one’s life and there is no one-size fits all solution.” In fact, Krauss says, they may focus on not just the client’s physical exercise, but their spirituality, relationships, environment, and nutrition, as well as how each aspect plays into each other.

Health coaches can help you get to the core issue.

“A health coach helps clients discover the root of their discomfort, without the use of Western medicine and with more of a focus on lifestyle improvements,” says Krauss.

For instance, Krauss explains that if she’s approached by a client who wants to lose weight, she works to get a full history of when or how the weight gain began. For instance: “If my client comes home from work late each night, to a dark and empty apartment, that may lead him/her to overeat due to stress from work, being too tired to cook, and feeling lonely. Immediately, I see a need for change in environment and relationships. I would ask, ‘What is losing weight going to help you with?’ The real goal may be to boost confidence or overcome a chronic illness.”

Sam Kelley, national board-certified health and wellness coach and owner of SunKissed Health in Minneapolis, Minnesota, explains, “We also learn behavioral change models and methods, such as motivational interviewing, which is used by counselors and psychologists.”

This motivating factor can be easily missed in the traditional healthcare model, so “if a person is not clear on why they personally want to change, they will be less inclined to implement and sustain these changes,” he says.

Health coaches establish a concrete game plan with their clients.

“A health coach will establish a plan to consistently meet with a client and set up small, realistic goals, with actionable steps,” Krauss explains. They will work with the advice you’ve been given by your medical practitioner. They also aim to work with clients in a supportive, consistent way, enabling them to stay accountable.

“A physician may make lifestyle recommendations and even write up a medication prescription to a patient, but the patient may not follow through with their care plan,” says Kelley. “Perhaps they are confused about their next steps, feel overwhelmed, or don’t understand the long-term benefits.” This is where consistent meetings and checks-in come in handy.

Health coaches may be able to help in areas where other practitioners might fall short.

“If you are a person who has visited many doctors, received many conflicting answers, and still see no resolution, you are someone who should be motivated to meet with a health coach,” Krauss notes.

One of the underlying rules a health coach will follow is this: “What works for one person may not work for another,” Krauss explains. In other words, working with a health coach is a way to get a tailor-made, individualized strategy that is focused on getting to the core of the issue.

The health coach-client relationship also tends to veer towards the collaborative. “There is also an emphasis on learning strategies to empower the client and cultivate a co-creative partnership,” says Kelley. “This philosophy style further enables those beautiful ‘a-ha!’ moments during coaching sessions, which may be quite transformational for the client and help steer their path towards self-efficacy, success, and optimal wellness.”

Health coaches aren’t substitutes for doctors.

“Health coaches are not a replacement for your primary care doctor, your therapist, or your nutritionist, Krauss says. “All of these professions are in place to improve the quality of patients’ lives. Health coaches simply provide a new and alternative perspective to health and wellness, when other methods have not been successful.”

It’s worth noting that there are no standardized requirements to become a health coach. Many health coaches may be certified in related areas, like personal training or nutrition.

What Attending A Wellness Retreat Did For My Body Confidence

Being invited to a wellness yoga retreat at a gorgeous ranch and beach club in Malibu, California, sounds like the stuff of fantasies. But when I first agreed to attend YogaOutlet’s first-ever two-day retreat, featuring classes with world-renowned instructors (I’m talking people who’ve graced the cover of Yoga Journal or have their very own workout DVDs), I wasn’t thinking much about relaxing.

Outside of taking restful, restorative yoga once or twice a week, my regular practice was fairly limited. The thought of taking Vinyasa classes that get your heart rate up by doing intense flows—along with advanced moves like shoulder stands—alongside people who do it for a living was a fairly intimidating thought. But this wasn’t a retreat for pros only. It was going to be a mix of press and pros—and being that I was game to expand my skill set as a student, I thought to myself, Hey, I’ve got this. Then I sent the “Count me in!” email. Captures

Fast-forward to the first day of the retreat: I realized that not only were lithe, internationally famous yoga pros in attendance, but the classes were also peppered with the kinds of Instagram-famous couples who casually do acroyoga (think yoga meets Cirque du Soleil). Oof, there was no way I’d be able to keep up with them, I thought. They better keep that retreat photographer far away from me.

There’s no way even my mountain pose (which is just standing still basically) was going to look correct next to these yoga rock stars. And there was no way I wanted to be in the background of those shots, let alone take YogaOutlet’s team up on their offer to go do some sun salutations on the grounds of the ranch for an Instagram-worthy photo shoot.

Once an overweight adolescent, and now an adult whose hormonal imbalances and stress levels will forever influence her size, this was most definitely a moment which brought out insecurities around my body and fitness. Even gym classes in high school were pure torture. Though I’ve come a long way since then, I’m not beyond experiencing occasional PTSD from the days when I was a chubby 12-year-old in a stoplight-red regulation gym uniform, timidly flailing away from a dodge ball—or a volleyball or a basketball or a football. You get the picture. 

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But obviously, yoga is 180 degrees from dodgeball, right? In fact, it’s supposed to be one of the most mindful, body-accepting workouts out there. And yet, get me sweating around a bunch of people who seem to know what they’re doing better than I do, and there’s a chance I could have let my insecurities turn me into the unhappiest camper to ever attend a posh retreat on the Malibu coastline. Luckily, it didn’t play out that way.

During the retreat, I listened to experts in the yoga and wellness fields lead vibrant conversations on everything from Ayurvedic medicine to building a supportive social circle in an era of self-isolating digital communication. I stopped and sipped water when holding a certain pose began to feel just plain wrong on my back or shoulders. I made small talk about organic food and the beauty of Miami Beach with one of the acroyoga couples. And eventually, my guard came down.

Sure, in some circles, people who practice yoga or have an intense interest in the fitness community are more about image than wellness. They’re capturing their workouts for social media to appear a certain way—not to share their knowledge. They’re competitive, and maybe even lacking a practice, which is what yoga and fitness is supposed to be about! Practicing—and therefore, always being a work in progress.

But during the informational, sometimes emotional conversations that the retreat fostered through classes and workshops, and even in the most physically intense moments of our yoga classes, I soon realized that there is a community of people who really do get it: Fellow students who aren’t going to give you side-eye if you have to stop halfway through an intense yoga flow in a heated room. Advanced instructors who will praise you for listening to your body and knowing your limits and connecting with the class in a mindful (opposed to aggressively physical) way.

Though every instructor had a unique way of coaching and connecting with the class, the powerful message that I heard over and over again was that you bring your body but also your head and heart to the mat. And it’s that ability to connect them that matters more than any long-held shoulder stand or inversion. 

Related: Does Yoga Count As A Workout?

As a kid, my fears around fitness were exacerbated by the pressure of competition. But somewhere between dripping sweat in downward dog and learning about my Ayurvedic boy type (pitta-kapha, obviously) and aromatherapy, I realized that the only person I needed to compare myself to at that retreat was myself. Captures

Because they truly do practice what they preach, some of the most advanced yoga pros in the world ended up doing the opposite of intimidate me. They inspired me to accept myself more—exactly as I am, with all of my current strengths and weaknesses.

I learned that wellness isn’t about how hot you look on Instagram in a Lycra yoga jumper while doing some bendy move. It’s about committing to, listening to, and taking care of your heart, mind, and body—at a retreat, or wherever you can quiet that overworked mind. Hey, you’ve got this. 

8 All-Natural Goodies To Make Your Face Glow

When you’re attempting to lock down the perfect skin-care regimen, finding the products that will address your specific concerns can be extremely overwhelming. Simply investigating ingredients on every box and tube is enough to make your head spin. Thankfully, certain power-nutrients and natural kitchen staples can be utilized for a plethora of facial skin concerns, from acne to aging spots. Here, eight go-tos that experts love and research backs.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is also one of the hottest nutrients in skin-care—with good reason.

“Every day our delicate skin is exposed to environmental pollutants, such as radiation, sunlight, cancer-causing free radicals, inflammation, and smoking,” explains Rebecca Lee, RN, founder of the natural health resource “Pollution breaks down our precious collagen and accelerates the aging process. Collagen is the bouncy structural protein that keeps our skin youthful and firm. As we age, the amount of collagen in our skin declines.”

Enter ascorbic acid. “Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and collagen builder used in many skin serums,” says Emaline K. Brown, ND, a naturopathic doctor at Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego, CA. “Topical ascorbic acid has been shown to improve the appearance of age-related hyperpigmented and photodamaged skin.”

We recommend: The Vitamin Shoppe’s C-1000 Complex

2. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can be used as a facial toner or mixed into face masks,” Lee says. Some ACV fans even swear it can reduce spots.

To make your own toner, add one tablespoon of ACV to one cup of warm filtered water. Use this mix to lightly clean your face with a cotton round. Depending on how sensitive your skin is, add more or less ACV.

If you’d like to experiment with DIY face masks, there are plenty out there that feature ACV—like this activated charcoal mud mask. (And if you just can’t get enough of the stuff, here are eight more health and beauty uses for ACV.)

We recommend: Bragg’s Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar 

3. Vitamin B3

The B vitamin referred to as nicotinamide (or niacin) can help to minimize the appearance of age spots, according to a study in the British Journal of Dermatology. This is due to vitamin B’s ability to inhibit melanin transfer to skin cells, explains Dr. Brown.

We recommend:  Solgar’s 100 mg Niacin tablets

4. Honey

Brimming with amino acids, vitamins, minerals, iron, zinc and antioxidants, honey is an all-natural skin-cleansing and skin-soothing agent, says Dr. Lee.

Apply honey (organic and raw, like this YS Royal Jelly, is best, since it contains all-natural ingredients) directly to the skin, she recommends. “Leave the mask on for a few minutes, then rinse it off with warm water.” We recommend these Internet famous Manuka honey mask and scrub recipes.

Pro-tip: Include cinnamon in your mask mixture, as it can help the skin look younger, according to an article in Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine.

We recommend: YS Royal Jelly’s Raw Manuka Honey 

5. Zinc 

Though you might only associate zinc oxide with sunblock or antidandruff shampoo, it’s more than that: Zinc may actually help promote a balance in the production of oil in the skin—on top of helping to modulate some of the hormones that could lead to pimples, says Neha Suryawanshi, a nutritionist.

We recommend: The Vitamin Shoppe’s Zinc Capsules

6. Probiotics

You’ve heard of taking probiotics to bolster gut health, but good bacteria is also popping up in everyday skin-care products, thanks to its ability to boost the skin’s natural defense barriers, according to a review published in Beneficial Microbes.

There is increased evidence that probiotics can be used to promote skin health, Lee explains. In fact, a review in Clinics in Plastic Surgery suggests the skin’s microbiota is just as important as the gut’s—which is why probiotics may be useful not just inside, but out.

We recommend: The Vitamin Shoppe’s Ultimate 10 Slow Release Probiotics

7. Vitamin A

Also referred to as retinol, vitamin A in topical form is often used to give the skin a boost, says Suryawanshi. “Vitamin A promotes proper repair and maintenance of the skin and deficiencies that can result in a dry, flaky complexion,” she explains.

It’s no wonder it’s such a popular ingredient in anti-aging skin-care products. Research published in the journal JAMA Dermatology concluded that topical retinol improves the appearance of fine wrinkles associated with natural aging by boosting the production of collagen.

We recommend: Ann Webb’s Super Retinol Slow Release Cream

8. Coconut oil

Coconut oil has received much acclaim (and some controversy!)—but there’s no doubt that it’s a rock star when it comes to skin-care. “Coconut oil has several properties that can help improve your complexion,” says Lee. For one, she explains, it’s an emollient, “which increases skin hydration, making it an effective moisturizer for dry skin.”

According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the lauric acid found in coconut oil can be used as a skin health-boosting tool. Some beauty enthusiasts have even sworn by coconut oil as a makeup remover, skin moisturizer, and facial cleanser.

We recommend: Garden of Life’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil 

7 Winter Spices To Keep You Healthy And Hygge

From sipping a pumpkin latte to grating ginger into a warm pot of chili, many time-honored cold-weather activities involve noshing on comfort foods, especially those flavored with delicious spices. But these spices aren’t just about pleasing your palate. Many of them boast wellness benefits, as well.

Here, seven winter spices health experts recommend adding to your diet:

1. Ginger

Ginger is not only delicious and warming during crisp evenings, but it may help stabilize cholesterol levels, explains Emaline K. Brown, ND, a naturopathic doctor at Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego, CA.

It’s also known as a go-to for gastrointestinal discomfort. “Many times these issues are a result of internal inflammation,” explains Claire Martin, RD, a nutritionist and cofounder of Being Healthfull from Oakland, CA. So, if you have an irritated esophagus, ginger can help soothe your throat.

Plus, if you’re traveling this holiday season to visit loved ones, it doesn’t hurt to reach for ginger, which can ease stomach discomfort related to plane or car travel, Dr. Brown notes.

2. Cinnamon

It’s pretty much impossible to avoid this staple spice in the cooler months, as it’s used in a bevy of seasonal dishes—from pumpkin loaves to holiday cookies. But don’t worry about overdoing it: “Cinnamon may help balance out spikes in blood sugar from that extra slice of apple pie,” says Dr. Brown.

Research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food points out that cinnamon is “a rich botanical source of polyphenolics [a.k.a health-boosting micronutrients] that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and has been shown to affect blood glucose and insulin signaling.” Credit goes to the spice’s ability to “increase insulin receptors, which take sugar into the cells for energy,” explains Serena Goldstein, ND, a naturopathic doctor in New York, NY. In other words, it lowers blood sugar, helping you to feel more stable.

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3. Cardamom

Called the “Queen of spices” in India, cardamom is a smoky, flavorful spice that comes in two varieties—brown and green. Green cardamom is generally used in the winter in both sweet foods (like cakes) and savory foods (like curry). It’s recommended that you use the whole cardamom pod—versus the ground spice, since the ground spice loses a lot of flavor.

A study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease  found that cardamom played a beneficial role in promoting metabolic health, glucose intolerance, and oxidative stress.

4. Turmeric

Popularly used in South Asian cooking, as well as in trendy (and delicious!) Golden Milk recipes, turmeric has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb to promote healing from a host of illnesses. Martin describes it as “a powerful antioxidant that not only neutralizes free radicals (disease-causing compounds found in the environment, pollutants, and smoke) but also aids and boosts the body’s own enzymatic responses to free radicals.”

It’s also particularly helpful at keeping your brain firing on all cylinders, notes Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., author of the upcoming book, Heal Your Drained Brain (February 2018). “The effects of this miracle spice are quite evident in rural India, where fewer than one percent of seniors aged 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease, compared to about 13 percent in the United States,” he says.

“Turmeric will make [your mind] feel better, too,” says Dow, “possibly increasing serotonin in the brain.” Additionally, it can address more day-to-day health concerns, as the main ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is a strong antioxidant.

5. Rosemary

Rosemary is fragrant and its scent alone may stimulate the brain to improve alertness,” says Dr. Brown. You can also derive long-term benefits from the delicious herb, because the carnosic acid in rosemary may improve cognitive function, notes Dow. In fact, it could even be called a sort of immortality spice, since populations that eat the most of it also live the longest.

That said, too much rosemary can cause diarrhea or headaches, and it’s best avoided during pregnancy, warns Dr. Goldstein.

Related: Shop a whole range of spices.

6. Allspice

One of the most important spices in Caribbean jerk seasoning, as well as in many holiday desserts, allspice has stomach-soothing and cold-battling powers. “Allspice may help ease the abdominal discomfort that so often accompanies holiday over-indulgence,” says Dr. Brown.

It’s also loaded with antioxidants!

7. Nutmeg

If you’re feeling blue, sprinkling a bit of nutmeg onto your oatmeal might help turn your frown upside down. According to Dr. Brown, as well as an animal study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, nutmeg may be able to boost mood and improve cognitive function. So, next time you want to lift your spirits—for instance, during the stress of the holidays—you’ll know where to turn.

Pin this infographic to your pantry to remember what’s what. 

14 Mantras To Help You Conquer Life, One Day At A Time

Stress is no joke—and its detrimental effects are on rise. According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s annual Stress in America survey, 2017 has seen a significant increase in the percentage of Americans who have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month, from 71 percent in 2016 to 75 percent this year. Of the symptoms reported by adults were nervousness or anxiety, irritability or anger, and fatigue due to their stress.

If you’ve ever experienced any of these symptoms (and let’s be honest—who hasn’t?), you may do well to explore new stress-management techniques. One of the simplest: speaking or meditating on a mantra. Research published in the British Medical Journal notes that mantras “may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Related: Shop our range of stress-busting essential oils, from lavender to rose. 

Here, 10 wellness experts share their go-to mantras for feeling more centered, empowered, and successful. Feel free to make any one of these your screensaver!

“I am.”

“It’s basically representative of who we are without labels, without judgment, without right or wrong, good or bad, without opinions or beliefs. It’s a part of us that exists before all that thought about not being good enough. When we go back to the root of who we are, we’re not attached to all those labels that we’ve given ourselves and the world has given us. We’re coming back to the root of our true nature, the love that we are, the peace that we are. We often think about it, as ‘I am… blank.’ We identify as mother, anxious, sad, teacher. But ‘I am’ [translates to] I just exist, and there’s nothing else attached to me, and I’m standing at this point of creation where anything is possible. It’s my favorite mantra to use throughout the day. I actually have a tattoo of it.”

 —Jamie Wozny, intuitive healer, spiritual life coach, certified Reiki Master, and meditation guide

“I am enough” and “Sat Nam Wahe Guru” (“My true identity brings me from darkness to the light”).

“The first one is great for beginners, as it is simple and true and very easy to either repeat or focus on in the mind’s eye. The second is a Kundalini Yoga mantra designed to help the chanter find balance, personal power, and grounding.”

Natalie Feinblatt, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist

You have the power” and “Whatever I do today is enough.”

“The first reminds me that I can make it happen. The power is in my hands to get it all done today, this week, whatever. This makes me feel empowered to push through when I’m feeling overwhelmed. The second: It can be hard when you feel like you have a million things on your plate or, at the end the day, there are still items unchecked on your to-do list. I have to remind myself, it’s okay if I don’t get it all done. I will figure it out, I will make it work, and whatever I did today is enough.”

Jessica Thiefels, certified personal trainer

“Om namah Shivaya” (“I bow to Shiva”).

“It’s a Sanskrit mantra that helps evoke your inner light—that never-ending and radiant light that’s available beyond any situations and circumstances. This light is like an inner smile, coming from a place where all is well, no matter what!”

Claudia Matles, certified wellness coach and yoga instructor

“I am grateful for the abundant flow of joy, health, love and wealth.”

“I encourage using gratitude. This mantra enhances the concept of the law of attraction, focusing on the positive aspects that you would like to bring into your life. I also tell patients to pick two or three strong words that they love for a specific reason, i.e. ‘I am healthy, safe and strong,’ ‘My immune system is always working for me,’ ‘I am loved and lovable,’ or ‘I am inspired to do my best.’ The important thing is that it is easy to say and repeat throughout the day. Many people feel silly at first saying a mantra, but they can be very empowering! They really help with self esteem and staying focused on a goal.”

Jill Howell, ATR-BC, LPC, registered, board certified art therapist, licensed professional counselor and author of Color, Draw. Collage: Create Your Way to a Less Stressful Life

“Relax the body to calm the mind, calm the mind to open the heart.”

“This brings balance to our body, mind, and heart. When we can balance these three, we think more clearly and can speak from our truth. With a calm mind an open heart, there is no problem we can’t solve! I would also suggest that when someone repeats a mantra they connect it rhythmically to the breath. On the inhale, let the breath sink into the belly or bottom of the lungs as this has a positive physiological response on the parasympathetic nervous system.”

—Paula Stephens, Certified Wellness Coach, E-RYT, and author of From Grief to Growth

“I am loved. I am loving.”

“It helps me to remember that I’m always supported in the universe and the people around me are doing their best and do care about me—even in those moments when it doesn’t seem like it!—and that inflow of love facilitates the outflow of love. This keeps me grounded, centered, and peaceful. It’s an easy go-to and fills my heart within a few repetitions.”

 —Jennifer Lyall, spiritual mentor, intuitive teacher, and authentic living guide

“I allow my mind to relax and be at ease, knowing that today will take care of itself.”

“It is powerful, because it allows us to let go of the illusion of control. We all live a hurried stressed out life, so this mantra allows us to breathe and realize that things really do get taken care of, and we can finally let go. It also helps people who have trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night with one simple change: ‘I allow my mind to relax and be at ease, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself.’”

—Miriam Amselem, holistic nutritionist, yoga instructor, and fitness trainer

“Here, now.” 

“This one of one of my favorite mantras, because it’s simple and I can connect it to my inhale (here) and exhale (now). This mantra reminds me that everything is temporary, and that the now is all I really have. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I tune into my breath and repeat it mentally to myself to quickly change my perspective. It’s also a great mantra to add to your meditation practice to help create a mental focal point to induce the relaxation response that counteracts stress and its effects as well as enhance cognitive function.”

—Tiffany Cruikshank, L.A.c., MAOM, RYT, founder of Yoga Medicine

“I move through the world with cool and calm confidenceone moment at a time.”

“It’s important to remind ourselves we already have the confidence we need to rise to just about anything life throws at us.  Take a moment to remind yourself something you rose to the occasion or were able to learn how to do something that seemed difficult at first, whether it was learning to how to read when you were little or making it through a divorce.  These are reminders that you can handle whatever life throws your way. The ‘one moment at a time’ part reminds us to be mindful which helps us to avoid the anxiety of focusing on too many tasks at once.”

—Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., author of the upcoming book, Heal Your Drained Brain (February 2018)

“I trust myself to let go of whatever doesn’t serve my highest good.”

“When you’re having a difficult time trusting that it’s okay to let go of something or someone that you’ve outgrown or are no longer in alignment with, and you feel guilt or fear about letting go, [try] this mantra. I’ve found it to be fairly magical in helping me calm down when feeling anxiety or stress over the letting go.”

Kris Cahill, healer, teacher, coach, and writer

“I honor my needs” and “Everything is unfolding as it should”

“The first: You deserve to honor your needs in any moment. Taking responsibility for the self-care of your mind, body, and spirit isn’t selfish; it affects how you show up in the world. Getting to a place where you honor everything about yourself (from the foods that you eat, to the way that you speak to yourself, to your relationships with others) is essential for a healthy self-care practice. The second: You are right where you’re meant to be in this moment. Whether you know it or not, your relationships, your work, where you live, and the experiences that you have every day are contributing to your growth and journey in life. Just think back at all of the experiences that have brought you to where you are today. Trust that everything is happening for a reason and that beautiful things are waiting for you with every turn.”

Naima Woodson, holistic health and fitness practitioner and instructor, writer, consultant, and speaker and certified yoga teacher

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The 5 Biggest Health Issues Affecting Men Today

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the top two causes of death for men in the U.S. include heart disease and cancer (with prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer being in the lead). But leading up to those chronic, potentially fatal issues might be a few seemingly more minor—yet still insidious—health concerns.

While there are plenty of variables at play, like genetics, some of the below issues may result from an unhealthy lifestyle. The good news: You can take back some control over your health by getting a grip on your diet, quitting smoking, ramping up your exercise habits, and more.

Here, the five main health issues that American men should not only be aware of—but deal with head-on.

1. Weight gain caused by not exercising or eating properly

Although this is an issue that affects the whole nation—including women and children—it’s one that experts say is particularly hitting home for men (especially minority men). And that’s because weight-loss programs have traditionally targeted women.

“A poor diet and physical inactivity are the two main factors that lead to weight gain,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, NYC-based dietician, bestselling author, and founder of The F-Factor Diet. “[Men should] implement a high-fiber, high-protein, and low-net carbohydrate diet” to help them lose weight in a quick and healthy manner, Zuckerbrot says.

In addition to eating healthy foods, the CDC recommends getting 60-90 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week. This might look like swimming, jogging, or weight training at about 50-60 percent of your max capacity about five-six days per week.

2. Inflammation caused by poor diet

Men may be putting themselves at risk for not only obesity but disease by eating what is called ‘inflammatory foods,’ like refined carbohydrates, fried foods, red meat, salts, margarine, shortening, lard, and soda, along with other beverages loaded with added sugars. And inflammation, if you didn’t know already, is the body’s response to injury—which, when chronic (i.e. not fighting a disease or illness), can cause a whole slew of health issues.

Barry Sears, PhD, author of the Zone Diet book series, blames this style of eating when it comes to “disturbances in hormone levels, constant fatigue, and increased accumulation of body fat” in men. Inflammatory foods have also been linked to an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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To support your health, go for an anti-inflammatory diet, which Sears describes as “calorie-restricted, with adequate protein, moderate carbs—but rich in non-starchy vegetables—and low in fat, especially saturated and omega-6 fats.”

Following the parameters of the Mediterranean diet (healthy oils, fish like salmon and tuna, and loads of greens) can also prevent inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, according to the Proceedings of Nutrition Society, several epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular health, reducing blood pressure, improving lipids (fats in the blood), and decreasing insulin resistance.

3. Kidney stones caused by lifestyle or genetic factors

One in 11 people in the U.S. are affected by kidney stones (pain-causing hard mineral and salt deposits within your kidneys), with men suffering more frequently than women. (The prevalence of kidney stones for men is 10.6 percent, while for women it’s 7.1 percent.) Though research published in JAMA concluded that obesity and weight gain increase the risk of kidney stones, other factors—from genetics to dehydration—may also spark their formation.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic says that diets high in sodium can increase the risk—all the more reason to cut back on salt.

4. Poor semen quality caused by an unhealthy lifestyle

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found a link between a man’s waist circumference, BMI, and semen quality, with researchers drawing the conclusion that being overweight can negatively influence sperm production. Maintaining a healthy weight via exercise and diet can also play a role in the quality of sperm.

Related: 4 Types Of Foods That Help Fight Inflammation

According to the Mayo Clinic, normal sperm densities are somewhere around 15 million to greater than 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Poor sperm quality is somewhere around 15 million sperm per million sperm per milliliter.

5. Low testosterone caused by an Overall unhealthy lifestyle

Though we tend to think of low-T as an issue that mainly effects older men, younger men are contending with it as well, and obesity is often to blame.

A study in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism tested 1,667 men ages 40 and older and found that each one-point increase in body mass index (BMI) was associated with a two percent decrease in testosterone. Additional research done by Harvard University found waist circumference was an even stronger predictor of low testosterone levels. In fact, a four-inch increase in waist size increased a man’s odds of having a low testosterone level by 75 percent.

Low-T is at the root of various downstream health challenges for men, such as reduced sex drive, increased breast size, erectile dysfunction or impotence, lowered sperm count, hot flashes, depression/irritability, shrunken or softened testes, loss of muscle mass or hair, and bones becoming more prone to fracture, according to Mayo Clinic.

“In order to increase testosterone levels, it is recommended to exercise, lift weights, de-stress, and increase protein intake,” Zuckerbrot notes. “Taking a multivitamin may also help.”

Link: Attention All Men Over 30: You’re Leaking Testosterone


The Best Workout For You, According To Your Sign

No matter how much you love your spin instructor or you can’t get enough of that hot Pilates class, chances are you’ve fallen into a rut with your workout routine at one time or another. In an attempt to switch up your routine, you could sign up for ClassPass or try that weird aerial yoga your best friend is taking—or you could get a little playful with it and see what your astrological sign has to say about the matter.

Note: The zodiac is not a trainer, so take this all with a grain of salt.

Aries (Mar. 21–Apr. 19)

This fire sign is ruled by Mars, the planet of action and aggression. (After all, it’s named for the Roman god of war!) You’re likely naturally athletic and competitive. For that reason, you might do well to play a team sport—like an amateur hockey league or baseball team. Or try another competitive workout, which will allow you to compare your score to others’ or be able to declare yourself the winner. Think boxing or Flywheel indoor cycling classes, which utilize a scoreboard, and allow you to compare data on your speed and effort with other riders’ scores.

Taurus (Apr. 20-May 20)

As an earth sign ruled by Venus, the planet of love and beauty, you may be more about Netflix and chilling than working up an intense sweat. Low-impact workouts are a fit for your relaxed, steady, grounded nature, so consider long walks, particularly outside in your neighborhood or with a friend. And if you work out solo, make sure you have a playlist you love, which can help push you even further, as you’re likely quite the music lover.

Related: Shop protein to fuel up your next zodiac-inspired workout. 

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

You’re an air sign, ruled by Mercury, the planet of communication, so your mind is likely always buzzing! You’ll do well to try a workout that’s intense and involved enough to keep you engaged and focused, so consider a barre or circuit-training class. Whether you’re counting reps of a core exercise or moving from one strength exercise to a different cardio move, it’ll be tough for you to get bored!

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Chances are you love being near the ocean, lakes, or even a stream, as you’re a water sign, ruled by the perpetually phase-shifting moon. You likely tune into and adapt your workout routine for your emotional state and enjoy any physically active pastime you can do with your partner, kids, or other relatives. Surfing is a natural fit for you, but if that’s not a possibility, given where you live, you might also enjoy something sensual and fluid, like belly dancing.

Leo (July 23–Aug. 22)

Because you’re a fire sign, ruled by the sun, you’re a go-getter who needs to feel confident and comfortable in order to stick with a fitness routine. If your coordination tends to be on-point, you may do well to try a dance cardio class. Otherwise, a HIIT class that utilizes an upbeat, loud playlist will likely win your big heart. After all, if anyone loves to turn a regular old workout into a full-on, raging party, it’s you.

Virgo (Aug. 23–Sept. 22)

Though Geminis are often the ones with the reputation for being mercurial, your sign is also ruled by Mercury, the planet of communication. You might have a tendency to overthink and analyze every situation, struggling to relax. For that reason, you could likely use a regular yoga regimen, particularly one that is part yin, or restorative. And being that you’re an earth sign, you’ll also find you feel more centered and peaceful when you do yoga—or really, any workout—outside.

Related: Shop aromatherapy to beautify your space.

Libra (Sept. 23–Oct. 22)

As an air sign ruled by the beauty-loving, social planet Venus, you’re happiest when working out with friends. So, for starters, if you don’t have a workout buddy, you’ll do well to snag one—or more! After you check that off your list,  hit up a Pilates or ballet class that taps into and extenuates your natural grace. The more you’re able to bond with your swolemate over your goals and progress, the more likely you’ll stick to any routine.

Scorpio (Oct. 23–Nov. 21)

As a water sign, any kind of workout you can do in a pool is sure to have you feeling confident and balanced. You also have a remarkable inner strength that allows you to push yourself quite hard, so you wouldn’t shy away from taking on a high-intensity routine. For that reason, you might also do well to try a seriously tough bootcamp class that leaves you drenched in sweat and feeling accomplished.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22–Dec. 21)

As a free-spirited fire sign ruled by Jupiter, the planet of expansion and adventure, you constantly need to feel as though you’re learning something new. You might enjoy working with a personal trainer who’s especially good at pushing you and keeping your plan fresh and interesting. Otherwise, consider strength training or CrossFit classes that require you to consistently push yourself to the next level. Another go-to activity for Sag is horseback riding, as you may feel a natural kinship to horses. (Your sign’s symbol is the archer, after all.)

Capricorn (Dec. 22–Jan. 19)

Symbolized by the mountain goat, you’re an earth sign ruled by taskmaster planet Saturn. In turn, you want to achieve your goals, but don’t mind doing so in a very calculated, down-to-earth way. You’ll love hiking, as that literally puts you right in your element, rock climbing, and any workout that requires slow and steady pushing to reach your highest potential. If you take spin classes, make sure to turn up that resistance and take advantage of all the hills!

Aquarius (Jan. 20–Feb. 18)

As an air sign ruled by the planet of change, Uranus, you’re innately rather science-minded and innovative. You’ll likely enjoy using technology, be it a FitBit or app on your phone, to hit your goals. Though you often stick to what you know, you might do well to try a workout that promotes a sense of community. Think joining a neighborhood kickball league or running in a local charity’s 5K. Being that you’re social and a humanitarian, activities like this fire on all cylinders for you.

Pisces (Feb. 19–Mar. 20)

Since you’re a water sign ruled by dreamy Neptune, you likely can’t help being imaginative and in tune with your emotions. The negative side of this is that all your empathy and sensitivity may make you particularly susceptible to feeling stressed and depleted. For that reason, any kind of mind-body workout (like Kundalini yoga or Tai Chi) will serve you best, allowing you to connect the dots between your mental, emotional, and physical wellness!

Why Everyone’s Talking About CoQ10

Just like certain fitness classes or diets, supplements can become trendy, too. And right now, everyone’s buzzing about Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

“CoQ10 is a natural compound made in the body that is used for cell growth and protecting the body against cell damage,” notes Rebecca Lee, RN, founder of It’s found in soybean and canola oil, chicken, herring, mackerel, beef, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, strawberries, roasted peanuts, and pistachio and sesame seeds.

The naturally-occurring enzyme also works to convert food into energy. However, it’s possible to suffer from a deficiency of the powerful antioxidant—usually due to disease, low dietary intake, or high CoQ10 use by the body, notes Mayo Clinic. Falling short on CoQ10 may lead to heart failure, high blood pressure, and chest pain.

Taking it as a supplement may also be a boon for your health in other ways—namely, in regard to supporting heart health, blood pressure, blood sugar, and helping to ward off pain in the head and neck. Here, what research and experts have to say about the potential benefits of taking a CoQ10 supplement.

1. It may help relieve head pain.

Lee points to a small study published by the journal Neurology that found CoQ10 superior to a placebo in preventing head and neck tension. “Fifty percent of patients who took CoQ10 reported significantly reduced frequency of headaches compared to only 14 percent of those who took the placebo,” she says.

2. It can promote healthy blood pressure.

Research has pointed to the substance as promising for being a go-to for patients struggling with high blood pressure. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Human Hypertension concluded that CoQ10 has the potential in hypertensive patients to lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.

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Mayo Clinic recommends taking 60-360 milligrams daily for eight-12 weeks to address hypertension. (Of course, be sure to work with your health care provider on any new supplementation plan.)

3. It’s an important supplement to your statin prescription.

If you’re on statins to reduce your cholesterol, you might want to talk with your doctor about taking CoQ10 as well, notes nutrition, fitness, and wellness coach Erin MacDonald, RDN. The reason: “Statins deplete the body’s reserves of CoQ10, and it’s a vital antioxidant,” she explains. (Research published in The Ochsner Journal supports the connection between statin therapy and lower CoQ10 levels.)

Bonus: Although more research is needed, Mayo Clinic points out that CoQ10 may help reduce muscle weakness associated with statin use.

4. It could improve cardiovascular health.

CoQ10 is a champion for heart health, naturally working to maintain the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol, supporting circulatory health, as well as functioning of the heart muscle and the health of vessel walls.

Additionally, two major meta-analyses reported in the Journal of Cardiac Failure prove the benefits of CoQ10 on heart failure of various causes.

5. It may promote fertility in men and women.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Kristie LeBeau, RN, RDN, says she recommends a CoQ10 supplement to patients who are trying to conceive. “It can improve sperm and egg health,” LeBeau says.

A study published in the journal Aging Cell looked at mice given CoQ10 prior to ovarian stimulation. The result: They made more made more follicles and better eggs than their counterparts without CoQ10. Researchers also believed that thanks to the supplementation, older mice produced eggs that functioned more like eggs from younger mice.

6. It may help keep you healthy as you age.

We naturally experience decreasing CoQ10 levels as we age, and researchers writing in Molecular Syndromology believe lower stores of the enzyme may be one of the main factors in the development of chronic diseases in aging people.

After all, in addition to being an antioxidant, the journal article authors point out that it is involved in several cellular processes, therefore “appropriate uptake of CoQ10 into cells is crucial for the improvement of cell activity during aging.”

6 Period Symptoms That Warrant A Visit To The Doctor

Plenty of women who get their periods are well acquainted with monthly cramps, cravings, mood swings, and fatigue. But there’s a real difference between annoying symptoms that are par for the course and others that are actually cause for medical concern.

We asked experts to weigh in on period symptoms that may serve as red flags. If you experience any of the six following symptoms, you’ll do well to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

1. Excessive bleeding (also known as menorrhagia)

Although you may feel like your periods are heavy, needing to change a pad or tampon on the hour every hour is not normal, warns Sheeva Talebian, MD, co-founder of Truly MD (an informative blog about health written by doctors) and director of third-party reproduction at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in New York City.

Related: Shop products to help get you through your cycle.

Bleeding heavily could indicate an “anatomic problem, like fibroids (noncancerous tumors of the uterus) or polyps (small, benign growths on the lining of the uterus), or it could be a miscarriage,” she notes. It could also be a result of a hormone imbalance or adenomyosis (a condition in which glands from the endometrium become embedded in the uterine muscle), or a complication related to medications or other medical conditions.

Dr. Talebian suggest seeing your doctor ASAP if the heavy bleeding continues, especially for several days.

2. A particularly long period (also known as metrorrhagia)

Some women bleed for four days, some for a week. But if your period lasts longer than seven days, you should see your doctor, Dr. Talebian says. As with menorrhagia, bleeding for this long may be an indicator of an anatomic issue or miscarriage.

3. Large clots

Generally, clots—a coagulation of the thick lining in the uterus—are considered normal. This is because your body releases anticoagulants during your period, but sometimes the flow of your period is too quick for the blood to de-clot.

However, if you happen to pass a blood clot that is bigger than a silver half dollar, check in with your doctor, says Jenepher K. Piper, MSN, CRNP, a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner specializing in Family Medicine at Hunt Valley Family Health, an affiliate of Mercy Personal Physicians in Lutherville, Maryland. “This could be a sign of fibroids or a bleeding disorder,” Piper notes.

One such bleeding disorder is Von Willebrand’s disease, which prevents blood from clotting properly.

4. Intermittent bleeding throughout the cycle

Spotting, especially out of the blue, could be cause for concern, Piper notes. According to the US National Library of Medicine, vaginal bleeding that occurs between periods is typically benign and treatable. However, there are cases when the bleeding may indicate a greater health concern. So, if you’re spotting (especially if that spotting is heavy), you’ll want to see a doctor.

5. Periods that are extremely light

It may sound like a dream to some women, but a light period isn’t always a good thing. “[A very light period] could indicate a lack of ovulation or damage to the uterine lining,” Dr. Talebian explains.

Light periods may also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, especially if accompanied by sudden fainting, abdominal pain, and shoulder pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. They can be very harmful, so see a doctor immediately if this is a possibility.

6. A sudden fever, vomiting or diarrhea, a rash resembling a sunburn, or feeling sick after using tampons

If you’ve been using tampons and are suddenly feeling like you’ve come down with a weird bug, check in with your doctor.

Symptoms may be linked to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare, life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria. Toxic shock syndrome has been associated primarily with long-term use of superabsorbent tampons. Thankfully, the tampons connected to TSS have decreased in the marketplace, and in turn, incidence of the condition is on the decline.

Related: An All-Natural Guide To Surviving Your Period With A Smile

The Bottom Line

According to the Mayo Clinic, women should also take any of the following patterns or symptoms seriously:

  • Your periods suddenly stop for more than 90 days—and you’re not pregnant.
  • Your periods become erratic after having been regular.
  • Your periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart.
  • You develop severe, debilitating pain during your period.

There are plenty of possible culprits—from lifestyle factors (like how much exercise you get) to diseases, fibroids, and birth control—that could lead to abnormal menstrual symptoms. They generally can’t be diagnosed without a medical professional, so it’s wise to take note of what you’re experiencing, and when and how often, and then talk to your doctor.

8 Supplements That Support A Healthy Reproductive System

Whether you’re actively trying to get pregnant or want to get your period symptoms under control, eating clean, exercising, and sleeping well can help ensure a properly functioning reproductive system.

But you can take all of that a step further by using supplements for additional support, says Dr. Michele Sherwood, DO, co-author of Fork Your Diet and founder of the Functional Medical Institute of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Here are eight expert- and science-backed supplements that can help promote a healthy reproductive system.

1. Omega-3S

Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil and some plant-based oils, like flaxseed) are often lauded for their ability to support brain and heart health. But they’re also good for overall female reproductive health, notes Sheeva Talebian, MD, co-founder of Truly MD and director of third party reproduction at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in New York City. That’s because they include something called essential fatty acids, which are key for our biological processes.

Research proves it: A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology looked at women aged 20-35 who were suffering from PMS, and concluded that taking an omega-3 supplement supported good health during menstruation.

“The three types of omega-3 fatty acids involved in human physiology are a-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plant oils, as well as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—both commonly found in marine oils,” Sherwood says.

Common sources of plant oils containing the omega-3 ALA fatty acid include walnut, chia seeds, and hemp oil. Sources of animal omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids include fish, fish oils, squid oils, and krill oil.

Dr. Sheeva recommends purified fish oil, but advises steering away from cod liver oil, as some have very high levels of vitamins A and D and can contain heavy metals.

2. DIM

Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is the breakdown product of indole 3-carbinol, the phytochemical found in veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. And it packs a powerful punch for your whole body. Basically, it’s an antioxidant that aids in promoting a healthy estrogen balance, Dr. Sherwood notes.

Plus, DIM improves the healthy utilization of the hormone testosterone. (Yep, even women need this hormone). “Testosterone balance aids bone health, brain health, heart health, and sexual health,” she says. DIM also promotes a healthy metabolism. Win-win!

3. L-Arginine

L-arginine, an amino acid and a building block of protein, promotes various functions in the body. L-Arginine becomes nitric oxide (a blood vessel-widening agent called a vasodilator) in the body, which helps promote healthy blood pressure. Dr. Talebian also likes it for women’s health.

“This [is an] amino acid that helps with cell division, immune function, and the release of hormones,” says Dr. Talebian. “

4. Folate

This is one of the most important nutrients for reproductive health, notes nutritionist Victoria J. Lindsay, RD. “Folate is a type of B-vitamin required for DNA synthesis and the formation of new cells in the body,” Lindsay explains.

Folate is especially important for its role in ovarian health and in the prevention of birth defects. “During pregnancy, the developing fetus requires folate to form new organs and tissues, and a deficiency in folate can result in a higher risk of neural tube defects,” she explains.

Don’t just take folate when you’re preparing for pregnancy, though. All women of reproductive age should be taking folate daily—in case of unexpected pregnancy. 

5. Iron

“This nutrient plays a big role in transporting oxygen throughout the body, as well as creating protein and helping with the body’s energy production,” explains Lindsay. And women are at extra risk for iron deficiency due to losing blood during menstruation. While an iron deficiency can manifest itself in issues like increased fatigue, low levels have also caused fertility issues. In fact, the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found a link between the consumption of iron supplements and fertility. 

That said, you’ll do well to proceed with caution when supplementing with iron, as too much iron in the body may have adverse health effects, Lindsay notes. “Monitor dosage and work with a physician when wanting to increase iron intake,” she advises. (And for women who don’t need to supplement with iron but want to take a multivitamin, multis are available without iron for women).

6. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil

Flaxseed, as mentioned above, is a rich source of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—good for our overall health and menstrual symptoms. And the lignans (a type of health-promoting polyphenol) in flaxseed are thought to have some antioxidant properties that may support healthy estrogen activity, according to the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

7. Probiotics

All women can benefit from taking probiotics, Lindsay shares. That goes for even women without tummy problems or vaginal issues.

Probiotics—the bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tracts—are responsible for several essential metabolic processes, such as immune system regulation and proper digestion and absorption of food and nutrients,” says Lindsay.

Related: Probiotics Changed My Sex Life For The Better

For women, she explains, the better our bodies can process and absorb the nutrients in our food, the better we fuel all of the chemical reactions needed to keep ourselves and our reproductive systems healthy.

8. Chaste tree berry (vitex agnus castus)

This ironically-named herb is used to support women’s reproductive health (specifically, it supports a regular menstrual cycle), notes a study published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association.

The study showed that women had a decrease in the number of heavy bleeding days they experienced after using the extract.

Important to note: The herb does take several months to kick in. Pregnant women are warned against using it, as it could cause miscarriage.

Why You Get Sick When The Weather Changes

We’ve all come down with the sniffles when the weather changes drastically. And the timing isn’t exactly a coincidence or an old wive’s tale; you’re getting sick for a reason—and here’s why.

1. Major drops in temperature 

“The main weather changes that can set you up for illness would include severe changes in temperature,” says Mark Sherwood, ND, author of Fork Your Diet and co-founder of the Functional Medical Institute in Tulsa, OK. The main culprit: temperatures that go from warm to cold.

Not only does frigid weather restrict blood flow and narrow blood vessels, but in colder conditions, our immune systems may actually be less capable of fighting off the common cold (also referred to as rhinovirus), according to a 2014 study out of Yale University, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that at body temperature, antiviral proteins could keep rhinoviruses at bay. When temperatures were lowered to just 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the researchers saw that cells’ defense was far weaker, making it easier for the rhinovirus to take hold.

2. Environmental pollutants 

If the wind has picked up, you might also be at risk of respiratory symptoms. That’s because winds bringing in dust and other pollutants can affect your lungs and sinuses, notes Dr. Sherwood.

Related: Shop immune support products to stay healthy this fall season. 

A variety of issues—from respiratory illness to heightened trouble for asthmatics—may stem from winds. Research published in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research notes that climate change and climatic factors (think: temperature, wind speed, humidity, thunderstorms) can trigger respiratory allergies and asthma.

3. A change in barometric pressure 

If you feel a headache come on suddenly, it may be due to the weather—specifically, the barometric pressure, or an increase in air pressure. “The theory behind higher barometric pressure or changing weather as it relates to headaches is the belief that the headaches are a protective mechanism against adverse environmental stressors,” explains Dr. Sherwood. And, according to Internal Medicine, there’s a direct correlation between barometric pressure and migraines.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these kinds of weather changes may cause imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin—which can also set off a migraine. For some migraine sufferers, weather changes may be enough to warrant staying inside or changing plans around in order to avoid the potential of a debilitating headache or migraine.

But It’s Not Just Colds That Weather changes Can Cause…

Ever had a little extra knee pain, say, when it rains? According to a study in Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society, plenty of people attribute joint pain to weather conditions. In a study including 92 patients with rheumatic disorders (80 with osteoarthritis and 12 with rheumatoid arthritis) compared to a control group of 42 subjects, it was found that weather variables (like temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure) caused increased joint pain.

Related: What Exactly Is Rhabdo—And Are You At Risk?

Specifically, less barometric pressure and lower temperature equal more joint pain. Thus, if possible, you may want to modulate your response to pain (for example, taking meds) when the weather changes.

Keeping your immune system strong can help

Ultimately, no matter what kind of climate you live in, you’re bound to encounter weather shifts that may affect your wellness. Thankfully, keeping your immune system firing on all cylinders can make you less likely to suffer the consequences of a changing weather pattern.

“The absolute best [way] to boost your immune system is to consume six to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables during the day,” says Dr. Sherwood. Why? Antioxidant-packed produce can boost your ability to keep viruses and other health issues at bay. If that many servings of fruits and veggies sounds unrealistic, there are many dietary supplements that can help support immune health.

Also useful: Getting a good night’s sleep, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, will bolster your body’s ability to produce infection-fighting antibodies and cells.

How To Get Off The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster

You don’t have to have diabetes to suffer from blood sugar spikes and dips that can leave you feeling jittery, exhausted, and just plain terrible. Adopting healthy eating and lifestyle habits will help stabilize your blood sugar—which, in turn, can keep your energy up, your mood sunnier, and your hormones in check. On top of that, healthy blood sugar is also connected to successful weight management, and can keep related diseases like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease at bay.

Here’s what you need to know to get off that blood sugar roller coaster once and for all:

1. Understand the glycemic index

“The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods are digested, and the resulting effect on blood glucose,” explains David Nico, PhD, a certified wellness coach and author of the book Diet Diagnosis. In short: “High-glycemic foods cause an increase in blood sugar.”

When you eat high glycemic foods (or foods with a lot of sugar) your body releases insulin, a hormone that helps the body absorb and process sugar. But excess glucose can get converted into and stored as, triglycerides ends up getting stored as fat no it doesn’t—so when the body encounters this process too frequently, you run the risk of insulin resistance, which doctors see as an early warning sign for type 2 diabetes.

Related: What A Day Of Sugar-Free Eating Looks Like

When investigating where certain foods might fall on the glycemic index, you’ll see numbers that are based on how much any given food item raises blood glucose levels compared with how much pure glucose raises blood glucose, according to the Mayo Clinic. GI values are generally divided into three categories:

  • Low GI: 1 to 55
  • Medium GI: 56 to 69
  • High GI: 70 and higher

The goal: Aim for low to medium GI foods the majority of the time.

2. Identify low-glycemic foods you enjoy for snacks and meals

“Low-glycemic foods help stabilize blood sugar, as glucose is released more slowly into the bloodstream,” Nico explains. He advises consistently eating “nutritionally-dense whole foods with fiber to support blood sugar stabilization.”

A few low GI options: Green vegetables, most fruits, non-starchy veggies, carrots, chickpeas, lentils, oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread, and sweet potatoes.

3. Steer clear of high-glycemic foods

Processed foods, especially those high in refined sugar and anything “white” (think white rice, white bread, and potatoes), are typically high on the glycemic index.

“Unhealthy grains found in some baked goods, sweets, and packaged products are highly processed with white flours stripped of beneficial nutrients and fibers and contribute to blood sugar imbalances, because of their high glycemic index and load,” Nico explains. “The over-consumption of highly processed grains may eventually lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes making weight management a challenge.”

4. Prioritize protein

We generally think of lean protein (chicken, fish, plant-based protein like black, kidney, and pinto beans) as the component of our diet we need to eat to build muscle, but it also helps stabilize blood sugar and improves insulin imbalances, Nico explains.

Science proves it: Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that nondiabetic subjects who ate protein experienced a reduced glycemic response. And research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in patients with type 2 diabetes, eating a higher-protein diet helped improve glucose control.

5. Don’t be afraid of good fats

Foods that are high in monounsaturated fat (or MUFAs) like olive oil, nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans), canola oil, avocados, nut butters, olives, and peanut oil have been shown in research to benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control. (Incorporating them into your diet could also reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels but maintain your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level, notes the Mayo Clinic.)

And if you need a quick update: HDL is the “good” cholesterol, while LDL is the “bad” cholesterol.

Of course, you want to eat all of these foods in moderation—making a point to avoid saturated fats (usually found in processed foods) when you’re adding MUFAs to your diet.

6. Avoid artificial sweeteners

Reaching for a diet cola with zero grams of sugar isn’t necessarily a wise choice over its sugar-laden alternative. Research shows that fake sugar can also be detrimental to blood sugar stability.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

A study published in the journal Nature found that artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame, for example) raised blood sugar levels by altering microorganisms (mainly bacteria) in the gut.

8 Mood-Supporting Vitamins and Supplements

Plenty of us feel blue, anxious, or lackluster from time to time. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), more than 20 million American adults have a mood disorder and 40 million have an anxiety disorder.

If you’re frequently feeling these ways, seeing a licensed health care provider for individualized medical advice is always your best first line of defense. That said, various vitamins and supplements have been proven to support a stable mood. Here are eight that experts—and science—stand by:

1. Magnesium

You’ve heard that bathing in Epsom salts (which contain the mineral magnesium sulfate) helps to soothe achy muscles, of course. But there’s more to magnesium than bath time: “Nutritionally, magnesium is known as the anti-stress, mood-stabilizing mineral,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a stress management and nutrition expert and author of The Magnesium Miracle. “Studies have shown magnesium to reduce anxiety and stress levels. And serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical, depends on magnesium for its production and function.”

Research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology also found that magnesium supplements could help address mood-related pre-menstrual symptoms.

Related: It’s Time To Stop Being So Scared of Meditation

Dean recommends reaching for magnesium citrate powder, which is a highly absorbable form that can be mixed with hot or cold water and sipped at work or at home throughout the day.

2. Vitamin D

Many of us suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, especially in the winter months when longer, darker days limit our exposure to sunshine. According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies suggest an association between low vitamin D levels in the blood and various mood issues, including depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

They also note that vitamin D supplementation may support mood stability associated with SAD. Meanwhile, an article published in Issues in Mental Health encourages more research around the link between vitamin D levels and mental health. For these reasons, working with a doctor to check your D levels and explore supplementation options could help bolster mood.

3. Ashwagandha

This herbal supplement (also known as an adaptogen) is associated with promoting relaxation and calm. In fact, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine concluded that Ashwagandha root can help support stress management—and thus, well-being.

4. Rhodiola

A plant that grows in cold, mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, and high altitudes in the Arctic, rhodiola has traditionally been used to promote a stable mood. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), two review articles—published in 2011 and 2012—looked at 15 studies that tested rhodiola on physical and mental performance in 575 people. Both reviews found evidence that rhodiola may help support mental and physical performance. However, more research must be done to make the connection, notes the study.

5. Passionflower

If a restless mind is interfering with your ability to catch some Zs, you may want to consider trying passionflower, which is a plant originally discovered in sixteenth-century Peru. Used to treat mood issues related to stress, research published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics concluded that passionflower is effective for supporting mood stability in those with anxiety.

6. St. John’s wort

When you think of mood-boosting supplements, St. John’s wort is one that most definitely comes to mind. The flowering plant has earned quite the glowing reputation for helping support mood stability.

Its benefits may be attributed to the way the plant prevents nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing certain mood-regulating chemical messengers, including dopamine and serotonin, according to preliminary studies cited by the NCCIH.

That said, it can interact with prescription drugs, herbs, and other supplements, so you should most definitely consult your healthcare provider before taking St. John’s wort.

7. SAM-e

S-adenosyl-L-methionine (also called SAM-e) is a well-studied, naturally-occurring molecule present in all living cells. An article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry concluded that preliminary data suggests SAM-e may be a potential mood enhancer.

The NCCIH warns that, like similar supplements, you should always consult a healthcare provider before adding SAM-e to your regimen.

8. Omega-3s

Eating more wild Alaskan salmon and supplementing with fish oil may bring a smile to your face for more than one reason. A review published in the journal Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience noted that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can help decrease feelings of sadness, promote stress relief, and increase libido—all things that make for a much better life!

How To Arm Yourself Against Ticks & Lyme Disease

If you’re spending time outside in grassy, heavily wooded areas during the warmer months (particularly in the Northeast and Midwestern regions of the United States), you could very well be coming in contact with ticks—and unfortunately, at risk for contracting tick-borne diseases like Lyme.

Lyme disease is caused by four main species of bacteria: Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia mayonii, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii bacteria. Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii mainly cause Lyme disease in the U.S., according to the Mayo Clinic. “Lyme disease can cause chronic [health] problems if not diagnosed and treated early,” says Stephanie Sterling, MD, clinical assistant professor of infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health in New York.

The illness is transmitted via a bite from an infected black-legged tick (more commonly referred to as a deer tick), though it must be attached to you for 36 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease.

So what should you be looking for while you’re wandering the great outdoors? The insects are typically brown, and when they’re young, they’re actually no bigger than a poppy seed, which of course can make them difficult to detect with the naked eye. And if you’re not actively checking for a tick, then you may miss it entirely. That’s why it’s so important to think in terms of prevention.

While early signs of Lyme include rash (the “bulls-eye rash” is commonly associated with Lyme, but it only presents in nine percent of cases) and flu-like symptoms, other signs and symptoms that may crop up down the road (if left untreated) include joint paint, neurological problems, and less commonly, heart problems, eye inflammation, hepatitis, and severe fatigue. Wondering if this is you? offers a symptom checker.

If you think you may have been infected by a tick carrying the bacteria, know that it’s not always easy to get diagnosed with Lyme. In fact, according to, “False negative” test results are very common, especially in the weeks and months after infection. This is because it takes time for the antibodies—your blood protein produced in response to an antigen or infection—fighting against the Lyme bacterium to pop up and be detected. Many people carrying the disease are misdiagnosed entirely.

Related: What It’s Really Like To Suffer From Lyme Disease—And How I’ve Learned To Cope

Not everyone with Lyme will be chronically ill or debilitated, though. Some people will need a dose of antibiotics while others will need long-term care. Some people can go years without symptoms or treatment. But when symptoms get so bad that they can’t be treated easily, this is known as post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD) or chronic Lyme disease (CLD). The Center for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that 10-20 percent of people who have Lyme have a chronic case of it.

Thankfully, there are plenty of precautions you can take to keep ticks at bay and guard yourself against Lyme disease.

  1. Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors. Dr. Sterling advises wearing clothing that will guard your skin and reduce the chances of a tick actually making contact with it. She recommends wearing lightweight pants that can be tucked into socks, and a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt if you’re spending excess time in heavy brush or gardening.
  2. Opt for light-colored clothing, too. “Ticks are dark, and therefore, are more easily spotted on light-colored clothing,” Dr. Sterling explains.
  3. Consider using a repellent with DEET. In a Wilderness & Environmental Medicine study, insect repellent with DEET was found to have been “moderately effective” against tick bites. Dr. Sterling recommends using repellents that contain 20 percent DEET, specifically, or DEET alternatives picaridin and IR3535, echoing advice from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Apply to clothes and exposed skin—but not your hands, eyes, or mouth,” Dr. Sterling advises.
  4. Reach for essential oils. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggested that Pelargonium roseum, also referred to as rose geranium or geranium oil, may work as well as DEET. At the very least, you’ll smell good! You can dab it all over your body for coverage—especially on your neck, wrists, and ankles. Got pups? You can help guard against ticks brought into the home by pets with peppermint oil and clove extract, which is used in Vet’s Best Natural Flea & Tick Spray.
  5. Do tick checks and strip down. When you return home from spending time outdoors in a heavily wooded area, you’ll do well to carefully look over your clothes and gear to make sure you aren’t bringing any unwelcome pests into your home, Dr. Sterling says. (This goes for checking pets as well.) “Consider showering after returning from prolonged hikes, gardening, or other outdoor activities,” she advises. “A shower can be a perfect opportunity to do a full-body tick check, as well as wash off any tick that may be climbing on you but not yet attached. Pay special attention to areas where tight clothing may have prevented a tick from climbing further, such as underwear lines, bra lines, belt lines. Don’t forget behind the knees, ears, armpits, and your belly button.”

Related: Shop products to protect your home and pets from ticks.

If you’re concerned that a tick may have made its way onto clothing, Dr. Sterling recommends tumbling dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes. “Clothes should be warm and completely dry—damp clothes may require more time,” she says. “If washing clothes first, wash with hot water.” (Ticks will die in the dryer not because of the heat, but because they require dampness to survive.)

Finally, if you do happen to find a tick already attached to your skin, you can safely remove it by using tweezers to gently pull its head out, Dr. Sterling says. “Prompt removal will decrease the chance of any disease transmission, including the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” she notes. “You can bring the tick to your doctor for it to be identified and, if appropriate, tested for bacteria.”

Call your doctor if you have a rash or fever, especially if you recently spent time outdoors.

4 Whey Protein Myths—Debunked

Whether you’re a devout protein lover or a sometimes-post-workout protein shake drinker, you’ve probably wondered whether that whey protein you’re using is the be-all-end-all of protein. You might also wonder whether or not your whey supplement is even working.

To help raise your WQ (Whey Quotient), we’ve asked the experts to debunk four of the most common myths about whey protein.

1. Myth: Supplementing with whey protein alone can help you lose weight.

Fact: Anyone looking to lose weight quickly might find themselves turning to whey protein-based shakes or smoothies. Unfortunately, the supplement by itself—unsupported by a balanced diet and exercise program—probably won’t help you shed much weight.

According to The Mayo Clinic, research supports whey’s ability to increase feelings of fullness, in addition to its ability to boost energy and promote recovery—but it’s not a weight-loss quick fix. As with all weight-loss plans, there’s no magic bullet.

2. Myth: If you’re supplementing with whey protein, you can build muscle Without Going To the gym.

Fact: Whey protein is packed with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which the body needs to build muscle but cannot produce on its own. “Whey has the most potent and ideal amino acid profile for driving muscle growth, and an abundant amino acid pool is a requisite for muscle growth, but by itself, [whey] won’t give the same benefit,” says Brandon Mentore, a Precision Nutrition Coach and board-certified holistic health coach in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In other words, whey protein and workouts need to go hand-in-hand in order for you to bulk up. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism concluded that taking whey protein while doing a resistance training program “offers some benefit compared to resistance training alone.” In fact, the study shows that when supplementing with whey, there is a “greater relative gain in lean tissue mass.”

3. Myth: All whey protein products are basically the same.

Fact: The way whey is processed can vary greatly by company and manufacturer. “There are different grades of purity and processing with whey,” Mentore notes. Looking for a clean line? Try the NSF Certified True Athlete brand.

You can also try native whey (which contains leucine and important immune-boosting proteins) or grass-fed whey (which may be higher in antioxidants, and is considered more ethical and sustainable).

4. Myth: Plant-based or other protein powders won’t give you the same results as whey.

Fact: While whey definitely has its benefits, plant-based protein sources are also good choices for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone with a dairy allergy. There are plenty of plant-based protein powders out there, too. And research published in Nutrition Journal found that both whey protein and rice protein, taken after resistance training, improved body composition and exercise performance.

Thinking of switching to a plant-based protein? Plnt’s chocolate protein powder packs 18 grams of protein in one serving, while Garden of Life’s organic vanilla protein kicks it up to 30 grams in a single serving.


Don’t Let These 8 Common Strength-Training Myths Fool You

Sure, you know how important strength-training is now, but for years people believed that cardio was the end all be all. Nope.

Just like cardio myths, though, there are a ton of strength-training myths floating around out there. Here are eight of the most common ones, busted by experts.

Myth #1: Strength training is More Beneficial for men.

Fact: It may be 2017, but weight-lifting is still sometimes seen as a guys-only workout, perhaps under the false pretense that men derive more benefit from it. According to a study published in The Physician and Sportsmed, however, women who follow strength-training programs also benefit, seeing increased lean-body mass, decreased fat, and enhanced self-confidence. Duh.

Myth #2: Weight-lifting makes women get “bulky.”

Fact: “It takes serious planning to bulk the body,” explains Amanda DaSilva, NSAM-CPT, a trainer and nutrition specialist. “You can build lean muscle without having to bulk.”

“Getting bigger is not an inevitable outcome of strength training,” agrees Tee Major, an ACE Group Fitness Instructor, fitness nutrition specialist, and FitFusion trainer. “If you train hard, and eat caloric-dense, whole foods, you will build fat-torching lean muscle and burn way more calories during your workouts to get that ‘toned’ look you’re after.”

Myth #3: Weight-training is just for body builders. There’s no reason to do it if your goal is weight loss or weight maintenance.

Fact: Research published in the International Journal of Exercise Science notes that the perks of strength training are varied and vast, ranging from increased lean-body mass to boosted metabolic rates, increase bone density, decreased risk of injury, and the regeneration of lost muscle tissue due to aging. Another study published in the International Journal of General Medicine found that a progressive strength-training program improved cognitive function in older adults. In short: Lift those weights, and reap those rewards!

Related: Shop proteins to make your workout go harder, faster, and stronger.

Myth #4: If you stop strength training, your muscle will turn to fat.

Fact: Although lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age, according to Harvard University, your body fat percentage can increase if you don’t do anything to replace that reduced muscle mass. That said, if you start strength training, and then stop, the muscle can’t magically turn into fat.

“Muscle and fat are different types of tissues,” explains Major. “If you fail to dial back the eating when you stop strength training, those extra calories will be stored as fat; it’s not because you stopped training, but because you’re now taking in more calories than you are using.”

Myth #5: Cardio burns fat better than weight-training.

Fact: Although elliptical and treadmill workouts offer motivation (in the form of that highly-approximated “calories burned” number we all stare at), trainers love strength training for fat loss.

“The myth is that cardio will make you skinny,” says DaSilva. “Except you’ll likely be losing muscle and retaining fat, throwing you into that nasty little title of ‘skinny fat,’ for lack of a better term.”

When you strength train, you recruit your muscle fibers, explains Major. “Those muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt over and over,” he says. “This process takes calories and energy to make this happen, generally known as ‘after-burn.’ You literally burn calories long after your workout is over.”

In fact, research published in the journal Sports Medicine notes that strength training is particularly helpful for decreasing your body fat percentage.

Related: Shop training accessories and get your weight lifting on.

Myth #6: You have to do more reps to get better results.

Fact: Not necessarily! According to the Mayo Clinic, research shows that you might be able to get the same results by doing fewer reps with a weight that challenges you more. A single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle efficiently in most people and be as effective as three sets of the same exercise.

In fact, heavy lifting for five repetitions or less is the quickest way to increase muscle strength, says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based trainer.

Myth #7: You can’t regain muscle once you’ve lost it.

Fact: While you’ll always do best to try to get ahead of muscle loss, it’s possible to regain muscle at any age. A study published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine involved 1,619 men and women ages 21 to 80 who did a progressive strength-training program. In 10 weeks, they replaced an average of three of the five pounds of muscle they had lost in the previous decade.

Myth #8: Reducing carbs will help you make the most of your strength-training program.

Fact: “Carbs help to energize and refuel the body,” says DaSilva. “They help you to build muscle. If you completely deplete your body of carbs, you are ridding it of an essential nutrient.”

In short, she says, eat your carbs. Just make sure you’re eating complex carbs and not the processed stuff.

Related: What You Should Know If You’re Considering Cutting Refined Carbs

Are You Dehydrated Without Even Knowing It?

When the temperature heats up outside, you’re probably more acutely aware of how thirsty (and sweaty!) you are. But dehydration doesn’t just strike during the summer months. In fact, you might be dehydrated right now—without even knowing it.

Humans are made mostly of water. 75 percent of an infant’s body weight comes from water, while older adults are made up of about 55 percent, according to research published in the journal Nutrition Review. So it’s no wonder that we need water to live and feel good.

Everyone’s aiming for those eight cups a day, but it’s more individual than that: “For water intake, you ideally should divide your weight in two and drink that many ounces of water over the course of a day,” says Jack Dybis, DO, founder of IVme Wellness + Performance in Chicago, Illinois. “So, a 140-pound woman should drink 70 ounces of water. For reference, 1 liter is equal to 33.8 ounces, so our subject should be drinking a little over 2 liters a day.”

Unfortunately, according to the CDC’s findings, most of us are falling short. In fact, up to 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated.

“Adequate hydration is crucial for basically every element of living,” says Brooke Alpert, RD, CDN. “We can go longer without food than we can go without water. Dehydration can lead to everything from fatigue, weight gain, blood sugar issues, cognitive functioning problems, muscle cramps, or even more serious complications.”

Related: Stock up on water for summertime.

Here are five crucial things you should know about dehydration so you can avoid the short- and long-term effects of it.

1. Watch out for red flags that signal dehydration.

“Everyone needs to be aware of the early signs of dehydration, which include lightheadedness, sore or dry throat, excess sweating, or nausea,” says Matt Tannenberg, a sports chiropractor and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in Phoenix, Arizona. “Later signs of dehydration including extreme fatigue, fainting, and the chills. When you sweat, you not only lose water from your body, but also your electrolytes.” (Your body needs electrolytes because they control cell membrane stability and carry electrical charge.) Older people tend to get dehydrated more quickly as well, so be aware of drinking enough even when you’re not feeling thirsty. 

2. There are simple ways to stay on track and make sure you’re drinking enough.

“I find that for my clients who tend to slack off on their hydration, an app like WaterMinder is a great tool to remind them to drink throughout the day,” Alpert notes. “It’s also helpful to get a nice water bottle that you leave in plain sight, which in itself is a reminder to drink.”

Related: Shop electrolyte products, from tablets to drink mixers.

3. if you’re exercising, you’re going to need more water to stay hydrated.

Whether you’re hiking, taking a hot yoga class, or just hanging out on your porch on an 80 degree day, you need to drink more water to make up for all that sweat. Generally, you can add 1.5 to 2.5 cups (or 400-600 milliliters) of water for short bouts of physical activity, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re way more active—let’s say you’re running a race— then you’ll have to up your intake based on how much you’re sweating.

4. Your urine can tell you if you’re adequately hydrated.

If you’re rarely thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow, your fluid intake is probably adequate, according to the Mayo Clinic. Darker urine can signal dehydration, though.

5. Drink more water, and reap the many benefits.

“Being conscious of your water intake during the day is very important, as hydration has innumerable benefits, like increased energy, headache relief, promotion of weight loss, better skin, hair, and nails and more,” says Dybis.

9 Fitness Instructors Reveal Their Favorite At-Home Exercise Equipment

We know you’re motivated enough to squeeze a workout into your day, but hitting up the gym, a group fitness class, or even a nearby park can sometimes be challenging. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get quality exercises in at home with one or a few simple tools.

From the few pieces of gear you can cobble together to make a mini at-home gym to the go-to tool that bolsters mobility, fitness instructors and personal trainers swear by the following nine must-haves.

1. Kettlebell

“There are unlimited kettlebell exercises that target every single part of the body. They vary from core stability and strength to a cardiovascular workout. The most common exercises are squats and deadlifts, but my favorite is for shoulder stability. Hold the kettlebell upside down balancing its weight with your hand. Walk or go upstairs and downstairs. It’s fun!” —Adela Blevin, NASM, CES, PES, Pilates instructor and personal trainer in Fair Lawn, NJ

2. Resistance bands

“I love mini loop resistance bands.  They are versatile and easy to use. You’ll feel the muscles working the whole time!” —John Urena, CPT, CES NASM, Level 1 Precision Nutrition (PN) Coach and owner of Start to Fitness Training in Los Angeles, CA

Related: Shop training accessories to help you burn those calories.

3. Jump rope

“[A jump rope] is easy to use, inexpensive, and can be combined with equipment-free body weight exercises for a cardio, HIIT or circuit style workout.”
Franklin Antoian, ACE personal trainer and founder of, Delray Beach, FL

4. A Stability ball

“I can use the stability ball as a piece of equipment for stretching, for strength work, and for balance in many different positions. [You can] stand, sit, or kneel on top of it, [or put it] on the ground with legs on it. It also works great with other equipment, such as hand weights or weighted ball.” —Kim Evans, AFAA, ACE, USATF, fitness specialist in Grand Haven, MI

5. Ab roller

It’s one of the easiest to use—but not easy to do— home workout tools. Plus, it’s cheap and hits your abs like no other exercise. Another great thing about it is that anyone can use it, from a novice to the advanced. You can vary the intensity by the amount of bodyweight you employ and by how far you roll out. It’s a must have!” —Mike Donavanik, CSCS, CPT, PES, FitFusiontrainer in Los Angeles, CA

6. TRX strap

Basically, you can make your training as easy or as hard as you want just by making a few adjustments of your body position and strap length. TRX straps are lightweight and portable. They come with a door anchor, so you can attach it over a door, or you can buy a permanent anchor and mount them to your ceiling. They are one of very few pieces of equipment out there that you wouldn’t eventually outgrow if you continued to work out and train long-term. With a TRX strap, there’s always going to be some way you can make a move more challenging when you feel like you’re improving and ready to challenge yourself further.” —Allison Perry, AFAA-certified group fitness instructor with training in multiple TRX modalities in Lexington, KY

Related: Shop delicious protein powers to rev up your workouts.

7. Resistance tube 

“My favorite at-home or on-the-road tool is a medium exercise tube with handles. My ‘Old Red’ has traveled many miles. That’s because it’s super easy, lightweight, and infinitely versatile. You can anchor it on any doorway or bed post for a variety of upper body exercises: rowing, curling, chest presses, etc. Also, it’s great for stretching shoulders, back, and legs.” —Chris Clough, NSCA-CPT, Elite Trainer in Baltimore, MD

8. foam roller

“People often neglect mobility, [which is] an important piece of fitness in their regular routine. A foam roller can easily be used a few minutes in the morning, a few minutes at night, or while watching TV. It takes up minimal space, is inexpensive, and provides huge improvements in workouts and recovery. Some of the best exercises to perform on the foam roller are thoracic spine extensions. When focusing on soft tissue, rolling through the quads, hip flexors, and piriformis can make substantial impacts, especially for those who sit all day long.” —Virginia Kinkel, NPC Figure Competitor, personal trainer and group exercise instructor in Washington, DC

 9. A yoga mat and a pair of free weights

“That’s really all you need to get a completely stellar workout. Planks, burpees, jumping jacks, and weight lifting on your yoga mat in bare feet is about the best exercise in the world. That’s all the at-home gym you need!”—Sasha Brown-Worsham, RYT 200, yoga instructor in Maplewood, NJ