I Put On 12 Pounds Just So I Could Try Keto

I was raised on low-fat diets, Weight Watchers, and the idea that eating fat makes you fat. Despite the decades of experience I have as a weight loss professional, some of these ideas from my own weight loss journey (I lost 65 pounds before making health and fitness my career) have been hard to kick.

So you can imagine my surprise (and slight anxiety) to see how popular the high-fat ketogenic diet has become throughout the past few years. Super low in carbs (we’re talking like 25 net grams a day), this trendy diet requires eating between 65 and 85 percent of your daily calories from fat in order to shift your body from burning glucose from carbs to producing and burning ketones from fats (a state called ‘ketosis’). That means saying goodbye to carbs like grains, starchy veggies, and most fruit—and loading up on fats like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and butter. The exact opposite of what the mainstream diet world has been telling us for the past three decades!

But with so many people boasting the energy and weight-loss benefits of the keto diet, I had to say: I was intrigued. I wanted to try it!

So, I did what any curious health and fitness expert would do: put my fears aside, purposely gained 12 pounds (yes, really!), and gave keto a shot.

Getting Started

I pored through the internet (relying heavily on Mark’s Daily Apple, Dr. Axe, and even keto Reddit boards) to gather information and plan out some easy meals for my first week.

My everyday diet embraced healthy carbs like yogurt, fruit, and potatoes, but shied away from too many fats, so I knew I’d have to do some meal prepping to make this massive change stick. I decided to make egg cups (eggs, cheese, bacon, and spinach baked in a muffin tin) for easy grab-and-go breakfasts, spinach salads topped with avocado, bacon bits, cheese, and ranch dressing for lunches, and cheese- and bacon-wrapped chicken for dinners. Lots. Of. Cheese. I snacked on macadamia nuts, enjoyed small pieces of dark chocolate, and even made ‘fat bombs’ (frozen balls of coconut oil, nut butter, and cocoa mixed together) to keep me satisfied and ward off cravings.

I loved the food (I mean, who doesn’t like smothering things in ranch and butter?), but I still worried I would gain a lot of weight.

To my surprise, though, my weight dropped those first few days. I learned that these quickly-lost pounds came from water (which is stored alongside carbs in our bodies), not body fat, but I wasn’t complaining. Plus, all the newfound fat in my diet was so satiating that I simply stopped feeling hungry. Within three days, my cravings disappeared and I felt balanced and energized.

Attack Of The Keto Flu

And then, around the end of week one…the ‘Keto Flu’ hit! A common experience for new keto eaters, the keto flu occurs your magnesium, sodium, and potassium stores become depleted as your body shifts from using carbs to fat as its main source of energy. (These vital electrolytes regulate your heart beat, balance fluid levels in your body, and perform many other important functions—and losing too much of them can be dangerous.) I couldn’t believe how quickly it came on. I felt extremely lethargic and thirsty, needed naps in the middle of the day, and couldn’t even get through a workout.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

Following the guidance of my online gurus, I picked up a magnesium and potassium supplement (like Country Life’s Magnesium Potassium Aspartate), and started drinking chicken Boullion cubes (which contain more than a gram of sodium a pop) to replenish my electrolytes.

The struggle lasted on and off for about two weeks—and it seriously knocked me out.

Smooth Sailing

Once my body got used to being in ketosis and I nailed my electrolyte intake, the ‘keto flu’ passed and all of the perks I’d read about finally started raining down. I had incredible amounts of energy, zero cravings, and slept beautifully. My workouts got back to normal, too.

As the weeks passed, I experimented more and more with my meals. Eggs continued to be my go-to breakfast, but I tried out all sorts of recipes for lunches and dinners, including ‘meattza’ (pizza using a layer of ground beef as the crust) and Hasselback chicken (chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach). I enjoyed my broccoli with melted cheddar cheese on top, ate a lot of cauliflower (it’s relatively low in carbs), and loaded up on spinach (which provided much-needed potassium).

It's like Where's Waldo… can you find Gertie in the photo? 🐶🐾

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I lost weight steadily throughout those two months. By the end, I’d lost 15 pounds total, and my body fat percentage had dropped from 36 percent to 29 percent, meaning I shed fat but kept my precious muscle. (The only other time I’d seen such a significant body fat drop was during my high-protein bodybuilding days!) My results confirmed everything I’d read online: Once your body adapts to burning fat, it will turn to your fat stores for energy.

As impressed as I was with how keto changed my body, though, I don’t think it’s something I could maintain long-term. Since the diet is so restrictive and takes such an immense amount of work and attention to follow, I found it difficult to fully live life while on it. Knowing just one misstep could throw me out of ketosis and back into burning sugar, I stressed about social situations and eating out. Plus, I really missed fruit and wine.

I’m glad I did it, though! Keto taught me that fats are awesome—and I’m truly sorry I avoided them for so many years. Since my experiment, I’ve continued to eat a lot of healthy fats—and even though I’m not all-out keto anymore, my meals are more satisfying and my weight has been easier to maintain. It’s amazing how far a little whole milk goes in a cup of coffee!


Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on. 

5 Signs You Need A Break From Caffeine

If even the thought of giving up coffee sends shivers down your spine, you’re far from alone. More than 150 million Americans—and 90 percent of adults worldwide—drink caffeine every single day.

In safe doses (up to 400 milligrams a day), caffeine offers some serious perks, including improved alertness, sports performance, and reaction time. Research has even linked regular coffee consumption with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.

However, too much of a good thing can backfire fast—and sweet, sweet caffeine is no exception. People with heart problems (like arrhythmias or high blood pressure), certain mental health conditions (like anxiety or attention disorders), and pregnant women should all be extra cautious with caffeine—but anyone who experiences any of the following six symptoms should also consider cutting back.

1. Your Heart Rate Is All Over The Place

Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and tells your body to up production of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone adrenaline, which elevates your heart rate (blood pressure and breathing rate, too), says Sushrutha Nagaraj, AMRSB, research scientist for nutritional research company Almeda Labs.

Depending on your age and health, your resting heart rate should typically be somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If you notice a resting heart rate that’s 20 to 30 beats per minute higher than normal—even when you’re sitting at your desk with your cup of Joe—be wary. An unnecessarily high heart rate means your blood isn’t being efficiently pumped and transported throughout your body, says Nagaraj.

2. You Feel Unusually Anxious

The extra adrenaline that caffeine tells your body to churn out can also cause feelings of restlessness and anxiety in some people—especially as your heart rate and breathing pick up. Caffeine also stimulates production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can have similar effects.

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In fact, people who consume five or more cups of coffee a day are significantly more likely to experience anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and antisocial behavior, says endocrinologist Caroline Messer, M.D., F.A.C.E., E.C.N.U.

3. You Stare At The Ceiling All Night

Caffeine also blocks our receptors for adenosine, a chemical that typically makes us feel fatigued and sleepy. “So if people drink a caffeinated product within a few hours of bedtime, it stimulates the brain and keeps them from sleeping,” says Nagaraj. Long-term, drinking caffeine too close to bedtime can pull the body out of its natural sleep cycle and cause insomnia.

4. You Go Through Withdrawal

If a day or two without caffeine leaves you feeling irritable, tired, or barraged by headaches, you might want to consider extending your break from it.

We may not think of caffeine the same way we think of alcohol or other drugs, but it is, in fact, a drug that can be abused. The World Health Organization considers caffeine dependence a clinical disorder.

Relying on caffeine to get through work or social events, having a high tolerance to its effects (needing to consume more than 300 milligrams a day), and experiencing withdrawal symptoms without caffeine can all indicate dependence.

5. You’re Shrouded In Brain Fog

Your body naturally develops a tolerance to caffeine over time, meaning you need more and more of the stuff to feel the same ‘boost’. Eventually you can develop such a high tolerance that your body becomes completely desensitized to caffeine, and you stop feeling any boost at all. At this point, which also indicates dependence, you’ll likely even experience the state of tiredness and mental fatigue we often describe as ‘brain fog,’ says Nagaraj.

How To Cut Back (Without Being Miserable)

If any of these signs sound familiar, it’s time to get some space from caffeine. Just take it slow: Instead of going cold turkey, decrease your caffeine intake by about 25 percent every three to four days, suggests Nagaraj. And if your caffeine consumption comes in more than one form (coffee, pre-workout supps, tea, etc.), like a pre-workout, eliminate each beverage one-by-one over the course of about two weeks. This way you can wean yourself off completely without getting smacked with withdrawal.

Related: 11 Caffeine-Free Ways To Power Your Workouts

This Is The Most Common Gym Injury Out There

You’re crushing your last set of push-ups, whipping battle ropes around, or charging through overhead barbell presses, when suddenly you feel it: Something is up with your shoulder.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 8.6 million Americans report physical activity-related injuries each year—and new research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that of all the injuries we rack up in the weight room, a whopping 36 percent are shoulder injuries.

That’s no coincidence: The shoulder, which is a ball and socket joint, is the most complex—and has the greatest range of motion—of any joint in the body, explains physical therapist Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault. Unfortunately, that freedom means that the rotator cuff (the network of ligaments, muscles, and tendons that hold the joint together) is inherently unstable.

When your shoulder moves too far in any direction, or you have muscle or joint imbalances, it’s almost too easy to land yourself with an injury, which can sneak up over time or strike fast—especially if you’re lifting heavy loads.

The rotator cuff usually feels the brunt of it; overuse can cause rotator cuff tendinitis, in which the tendons in the rotator cuff get swollen or inflamed, or even full-on tears, says Wickham. Impingement issues, which happen when the two main shoulder bones (the humerus and scapula) pinch tendons between them when you lift your arm, are also pretty common.

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Similarly, less-than-ideal bench press, military press, or snatch form can cause the shoulder joint to hyperextend or even dislocate (meaning the head of your upper arm bone pops out of place), explains Josh Hillis C.P.T., P.E.S., author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday.

Are Your Shoulders Safe?

A dull ache in your shoulder here and there might indicate a muscular imbalance or just that you used too-heavy a weight too soon. While this could set you up for an injury down the line, you don’t need to panic just yet. “Pain that is severe or sustained, and that you would rank as more than a five out of ten, however, is likely an injury that requires medical attention,” says Wickham.

To keep your shoulders in tip-top shape, you need to work on mobility. Since we spend so much of the day in sub-optimal positions (sitting at our desks, hunched over watching Netflix, driving), we don’t utilize our joints’ full range of motion, and can lose some over time, explains Hillis.

Related: 6 Healthy Habits You’ll Thank Yourself For Starting 20 Years From Now

Spending a few minutes on mobility and range of motion before strength training ensures you can move safely and get the most benefit possible. Before your next shoulder day, try these two moves: First, get on the floor on all fours, with your hands and knees planted. Rotate at your wrists and knees to move your core in five slow and controlled clockwise circles and then five counter-clockwise circles. Then, cycle back and forth between a plank and downward-facing dog eight to 10 times. (You can also follow along with daily mobility videos from programs like Movement Vault or RomWod at home.)

Since the research suggests that shoulder issues often stem from bad exercise form, Hillis also recommends working with an exercise professional to make sure your technique and movement patterns are in the clear.

Should You Be Using A Neti Pot? (Hint: Yes)

The winter—and the accompanying hot air we blast through our cars and homes—often leaves our noses dry, stuffy, and irritated. If you’ve torn through box after box of tissues and tried every OTC decongestant and natural remedy in the book to no avail, there’s one simple trick that just might work: a neti pot!

Here’s how it works: You fill this genie lamp-shaped pot with saline solution (water and non-iodized salt), stand bent over your sink, tilt your head to the side, and pour the water right up your top nostril so it flows out the bottom. Yes, you purposely flush your nose with water.

It sounds gross—probably because it kinda is—but people swear by it.

Though neti pots have only become trendy throughout the Western world in the past decade or so, they’ve been used in India for centuries—and they can be hugely helpful if you suffer from colds, respiratory infections, or allergies. “I commonly recommend the neti pot for several reasons,” says Dr. Noah S. Spiegel, M.D., an ENT specialist at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. “For one, it’s very effective in removing nasal and sinus symptoms. Two, it’s very safe. Three, it’s a natural, medication-free way of improving nasal and sinus function.” Not to mention it cleanses and hydrates your nose!

When you use a neti pot, you literally flush out any particles (including allergens like pollen or dust) that may get trapped in your nasal cilia (tiny hairlike cells that help mucus move along your airways). In fact, regular use can be helpful for seasonal nasal irritation, according to research published in the European Archives of Otolaryngology.

Related: 5 Supplements Nutritionists Take During Cold Season

If conventional therapies are not helping, a neti pot can be a real game-changer. You might even come to like the feeling of the flow.

Free Your Nose

Spiegel recommends using a dishwasher-safe glass or ceramic neti pot, but a plastic pot works just as well if you’re skeptical or want to save a few bucks. Just replace it every few months to stay as germ-free as possible, says Spiegel. To get your flow on, fill your neti pot with boiled or bottled water (again, germs!) and stir in a pre-made neti pot saline packet (they often come with the pot) or a sprinkle of non-iodized salt. Then, flush away until your pot’s empty!

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When your nose is in need, you can use your neti pot a few times a week, or even daily, says Spiegel. Neti pots are safe for most people (including children), but they’re probably not a good idea for anyone who has a deviated septum, so talk to your doc first if you have any ear, nose, or throat abnormalities.

Want To Try Keto? Here’s What A Healthy Day Of Eating Fat Looks Like

With research continuing to support keto’s potential health benefits—especially when it comes to metabolic and cognitive function—it’s no wonder the trendy diet seems here to stay.

But eating 70 percent of your calories from fat—and doing it in a healthy way—is no simple task. At its worst, a keto diet is loaded with bacon and all but devoid of veggies. “Many people following keto today consume meals high in processed meats that have been linked to disease and processed dairy that much of the population is intolerant to,” says Roseanne Schnell, C.D.N., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe.

That’s why she put together a keto meal plan that’s chock-full of the good stuff, including low-carb vegetables, vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega-3s, and plenty of greens—in addition to all of the healthy fats you could ever want. Adjust the portion sizes to meet your needs, and you’re good to go!

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How Many Omega-3s Does Your Body Need Daily?

Healthy fats (you know, the kind found in avocados, olive oil, fish, coconut oil, and nuts) are essential to a balanced diet—and omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat we typically associate with salmon and fish oil supplements, are no exception.

There are three types of omega-3s we need: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha linolenic acid). You can find DHA and EPA in animal sources, like fatty fish and grass-fed beef, and ALA in plant sources, like walnuts and flax seeds.

All three offer unique benefits, but research suggests DHA and EPA hold the most weight, particularly when it comes to your heart. That’s because they support a healthy blood pressure and help promote overall cardiovascular health, explains Melissa Majumdar, M.S., R.D., senior bariatric dietitian at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Your ticker isn’t the only part of your body that benefits, though. Omega-3s are also essential to your brain and eye health, , since DHA is concentrated in the cells of your brain and retina, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. About 60 percent of our brain is actually made of fat! In fact, research from the American Academy of Neurology found that eating a diet high in omega-3s may be associated with lower levels of a blood protein related to age-related cognitive decline.

Related: You’ve Heard About Omega-3s—Here’s What You Should Know About Omega-6s

Sounds great, right? There’s just one problem: Our bodies can’t make nearly enough of the omega-3s we need, so we have to get them through our diet. (We can’t make ALA at all, and we’re not too great at making EPA and DHA.)

People can technically get their fill by eating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans‘ recommended eight ounces of fish (ideally omega-3 rich sources like salmon, tuna, herring, or sardines) per week—but data from the USDA shows that the average American falls short, eating just 2.7 ounces per week. Similarly, research published in Nutrients suggests that up to 96 percent of people don’t get enough DHA and EPA to protect their heart health.

While there’s no singular consensus on exactly how many omega-3s we need each day, most experts and organizations agree that between 250 and 500 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA a day is enough to boost our overall health. People with certain health conditions, though, may need more omega-3s than the average recommendations.

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Pregnant and breastfeeding women, for instance, should really be aware of their consumption, since omega-3s are critical for prenatal development, says Majumdar. Pregnant women should aim for up to 12 ounces of fatty fish per week—or about 700 milligrams of omega-3s a day. Just avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish, which have the highest risk of mercury contamination, and check in with your doctor before adding a supplement to your routine. (The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s Super Omega-3 Fish Oil contains 995 milligrams of total omega-3s.)

Omega-3s are also of extra concern for vegetarians and vegans (and anyone who can’t stand the taste of the sea). You see, plant-based ALA—like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed oil—likely won’t be enough to meet your intake, since only two to 10 percent is converted to DHA and EPA. In this case, Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition, recommends a daily supplement that contains at least 250 milligrams of EPA and DHA. Algae-sourced omega-3 supplements—like Iwi’s Algae-Based Omega-3—are a great plant-based alternative to fish oil.

People with a family history of heart disease should also be aware of their intake, even at a younger age, since getting at least 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily helps promote overall heart health, says Gorin. And since those with diabetes are automatically at a higher risk of heart problems, they should also try to meet that minimum, says Majumdar.

If you turn to a fish oil supplement to help meet your needs, just check the Supplement Facts for specific EPA and DHA content. Some supplements may identify themselves as ‘500 milligrams,’ but contain less than half that amount of actual EPA and DHA, says Harris-Pincus. Double check the serving size, too, since some supplements require popping two pills instead of one.

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.

3 Easy Ways To Add MCT Oil To Your Diet

Whether you’re already an avid Bulletproof coffee drinker or just follow a few health and wellness gurus on Instagram, you’ve definitely heard some buzz around MCT oil. Trendy as this type of fat may be, what it actually is—and how eat more of it—remains a mystery to the average person.

“MCT oil is known as the ‘fat that burns fat,’” says Mike Roussell, Ph.D., author of The Metashred Diet. Oils are made up of chains of carbons of varying lengths. While olive oil, for example, is 18 carbons long, MCTs—which stands for ‘medium-chain triglycerides’—are only about 6 to 12 carbons long. Because these fats have shorter carbon chains, they’re more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream to be used for energy.

And while research is mixed on whether they can boost performance, these MCTs can actually support weight loss by helping to amplify the metabolic benefits of a high-fat, low-carb diet, such as increased insulin sensitivity and decreased appetite, explains Roussell.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

Thing is, MCTs are pretty rare in the average diet. “While they’re present in coconut oil, you should really be consuming pure MCTs to get their benefit,” says Roussell. The best way to do so: an MCT supplement, which you can find in powder form or as emulsified oil (either flavored or unflavored). These supplements are versatile and easy to incorporate into your daily routine—even if you don’t cook!

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The first, and simplest, way to up your MCT consumption is to just add it to a food you eat often. Mix MCT powder into anything soft, like yogurt or applesauce, or stir it into coffee as a creamer replacement (it has creamy quality to it).

You can also add MCT oil to any smoothie or protein shake recipe for extra satiety and fat fuel. Roussell likes the following MCT-powered blend in the morning or after a workout:

Get the coconut milk, emulsified MCT oil, and vanilla protein powder you need for this blend.

To really maximize your MCT intake, add them to cooked foods and baked treats, like sautéed veggies or banana bread. Just swap MCT oil in for a third of whatever oil the recipe calls for. And keep in mind: “It has a low smoke point, so always cook on low to medium heat,” Roussell says.

As tempting as it may be to go MCT-crazy, Roussell recommends starting off slow, with just a tablespoon in your daily coffee or smoothie. Too much too quickly can cause GI distress and send you running to the bathroom. (Your intestines absorb fats slowly, so if you eat too much too quickly it doesn’t get absorbed fast enough and literally goes right through you.) Plus, “at the end of the day, it’s still fat and it still has calories,” says Roussell. “Like anything else, you can’t eat as much as you want without any consequence.” If you’re not sure how MCTs should fit into your overall macronutrient and calories goals, a dietitian can help you identify what works best for you.

The Best Time Of Day To Take 7 Popular Supplements

This article originally appeared in Amazing Wellness magazine. 

You may have a near-perfect battery of supplements to support everything from your bones to your blood to your heart, and more. But when and how you take your vitamins, fish oil, and probiotics may be as important as what you’re taking. Get the most out of seven popular supplements with this comprehensive guide to timing, combining, and dosing.

1. Calcium

In doses higher than 250 milligrams, calcium and magnesium tend to compete for absorption. But both are critical for bone health, and the extra convenience of taking them in a combined supplement may outweigh the relatively small percentage of each that may not get absorbed. A 1:1 to 2:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium is best.

Take calcium with food (to boost absorption and reduce the risk of kidney stones) and in split doses (the body absorbs smaller doses better than large ones). If you can, take calcium at a different time of day than zinc and iron. Chelated forms tend to be better absorbed and easier on the stomach. New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care is a whole-food supplement that delivers bone-strengthening calcium.

2. Iron

For maximum absorption, it’s best to take iron on an empty stomach. Unless you have a sensitive stomach, take it first thing in the morning and wash it down with orange juice. (The caffeine in coffee and the calcium in dairy can interfere with its absorption, while vitamin C can enhance it.) To prevent constipation, avoid the ferrous sulfate form, and be sure to drink plenty
of water and eat ample fiber. If you have a sensitive stomach, try iron bisglycinate.

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Take 60 to 120 milligrams of iron with a vitamin C-containing food (like an orange) before breakfast, at least two hours before taking vitamin E or a multivitamin. Flora Floradix Iron + Herbs is an easily-absorbed liquid formula that’s rich in iron and B vitamins.

3. Vitamin D

Like other fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, and K), vitamin D is better absorbed if taken with a meal that contains fat. (One study found that taking vitamin D with dinner—usually our heaviest meal—increased blood levels by 50 percent.) Don’t take D at dinner if you eat late, though, since it interrupts the body’s production of melatonin and can disrupt sleep.

Take up to 2,000 IUs of vitamin D with lunch or early dinner that contain healthy fats, like avocado, olives, salmon, or nut butter. The Vitamin Shoppe Vitamin D3 delivers 2,000 IUs in each easy-to-swallow softgel.

4. B Complex

B complex vitamins are water-soluble, so the body can only absorb so much at a given
time (unlike fat-soluble vitamins, which are stored until they’re needed). Splitting the dose can ensure steady blood levels. B vitamins tend to boost energy, so take them in the morning; at night, they can lead to restlessness and insomnia. They’re best absorbed on an empty stomach, but if you have a sensitive tummy, take them with a little food.

Split B vitamins into morning and afternoon doses—before breakfast and lunch—and take them on an empty stomach, if possible. Look for a formula that contains well under 100 milligrams of B6. Irwin Naturals Mega-B Complex softgels provide all of the essential B vitamins.

5. Vitamin C

Like B vitamins, vitamin C is water-soluble and doesn’t require dietary fat to be effective. Splitting the dosage improves absorption, keeps blood levels elevated all day, and prevents the gastrointestinal distress some people experience with large doses (1,000 milligrams or more). Buffered forms of vitamin C are best if you have a sensitive stomach. Vitamin C enhances calcium absorption, but may interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12, so take them separately if possible.

Take 250 milligrams twice a day, with breakfast and lunch. Plnt’s Whole-Food Vitamin C offers 250 milligrams per capsule.

6. Fish Oil

Fish oil can cause gastric distress (like nausea and indigestion), so it should always be taken with food. Plus, the fat in your meal will also help its absorption. Because it can be hard to digest, take fish oil in divided doses, and never right before physical exercise or bed; the increased activity or prone position can interfere with digestion and cause heartburn or reflux. If you really struggle with digesting fish oil supplements, try an emulsified version, which may be easier to digest and absorb. Fish oil mixes well with most other supplements, but don’t take it with ginkgo biloba or other blood-thinning herbs. If you’re on a prescription blood-thinner, talk to your doc before adding fish oil to your routine.

Take 500 to 600 milligrams of fish oil twice a day, with breakfast and lunch or with lunch and an early dinner. Nordic Naturals Lemon Omega-3 softgels offer 690 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.

7. Probiotics

Harsh stomach acids may destroy probiotics, so they’re best taken when digestive enzymes, bile salts, and stomach acids are low—in other words, on an empty stomach. Some studies suggest probiotics survive in the largest numbers when taken 30 minutes before a meal that contains some fat (which buffers stomach acids and helps probiotics survive to reach the intestines). However, some evidence also exists that food buffers stomach acid, so taking probiotics with a meal may offer increased protection for the microorganisms. (Keep in mind that probiotics were traditionally taken via cultured foods like yogurt or sauerkraut.) Additionally, different strains may have different tolerances to stomach acids. Since the jury’s still out, try taking some of your daily probiotics before meals and some with meals, and see what works best for you. Just don’t take them post-meal: Several studies show probiotic survival tends to be lowest when taken 30 minutes after eating. Choose a probiotic with a variety of strains, especially L. acidophilus, B. Longum, B. bifidum, L. rhamnosus, and L. fermentum.

Take anywhere between five and 25 billion CFUs of a broad-spectrum formula, half an hour before or with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra delivers 15 billion CPU per three-capsule serving.

Keep your supplement schedule straight with this handy infographic:

How I Went From ‘Not Outdoorsy’ To Full-Fledged Biker

At the start of April 2016, I could count on one hand how many times I’d ridden a bike since I was a kid. But by the end of that summer I rode round-trip on my mountain bike from Brooklyn, NY to Croton-on-Hudson, NY—about 50 miles each way.

So how did I transform from a self-proclaimed “not outdoorsy” person into somebody with a mean biking habit? It all started at a flea market.

For those familiar with anxiety disorders, it’s no surprise how it can shrink your world. For me, that meant I was living in a carefully constructed comfort zone, one that did not include physical activity. Exercise was something other people did. “Getting fit” meant sweating a lot and operating machinery I wasn’t sure how to use. Whether the machine was some sort of gym equipment or a bicycle made no difference, because just being in public and moving my body meant feeling uncomfortably exposed.

I’d only ever really power-walked as exercise. For a while, it was my main form of exercise because it didn’t feel out of place with all the other fast-walkers in New York City. Plus, I didn’t have to go out of my way to do it.

So one day, at that flea market in Brooklyn, I found myself forking over 120 bucks for a slightly rusty, but serviceable, used bike. (The only thing I find more anxiety-inducing than feeling vulnerable in public is wasting money, so I bought that bike to trick myself into riding it—and it worked).

With a hunk of metal staring me down (and taking up a LOT of space in my tiny apartment), I had a reasonably motivating incentive. My next step was to preemptively address every barrier that could keep me from riding (I’m tired, it’s scary, etc.). I can always come up with a reason to avoid doing difficult (or just annoying) things, so I identified three ways to support my new would-be riding habit.

I studied up.

If I feel under-equipped with something, I almost never follow through. I knew I had to demystify cycling in order to stick with it. Bike culture (a community of tight-knit people who seem to know a lot about biking) can be pretty insular, but there are tons of amazing organizations (like 718 Cyclery, Sun and Air, and WEbike) who emphasize that cycling is for everyone. After all, it’s a cheap, accessible form of transportation, a great alternative to cars or the subway, and it’s relatively easy exercise.

I started with 718 Cyclery’s Bike Maintenance classes, which are free and designed for beginners. There are women-identifying and non-binary classes, too, which I found less intimidating. YouTube was also a great resource for asking those questions I was too embarrassed to ask because they felt so obvious (how does the chain work?). Hint: Obvious questions are only obvious once you know the answer, y’all.

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I built routes and routines.

I’m a routine kind of person. I need structure. A lot of my nervousness around cycling came from unanswered questions: Where am I going? Am I wearing the right thing? Will I have to ride in traffic? What if I get a flat? These are totally valid questions. So much so that there are cycling classes that address them in detail!

Because of my lone-wolf nature—in addition to my social anxiety and general stubbornness—my strategy was to set aside low-pressure time to address each question, within my comfort zone. That meant roping in my friends who were comfortable with cycling for weekend rides.

I also mapped out every route that could be part of my schedule and made friends ride with me during the weekend, when traffic was lighter and I was on no sort of schedule. We rode from my apartment to work (and back), to the cafes I frequent, the grocery store, and my boyfriend’s house. We also found all the bike lanes along the way.

I used my navigation app to pinpoint every bike shop on those routes, too, so I was never far from a quick maintenance stop in the case of emergencies.

I took a “How to Change a Flat 101” class (in which no dudes were allowed!) just in case. I got extra crappy leggings and tee shirts to ride in, stocked up on wet wipes (for “showers” at the office), learned how to braid my hair to prevent helmet hair, and starting leaving clean clothes at my desk. It was a lot of prep, but I felt so much more comfortable and capable knowing everything was accounted for.

Related: How I Went From Gym Class Dropout To Half-Marathon Runner

I found my people.

My boyfriend is an avid cyclist, which was a huge help in the beginning, but I’m also an #independentwoman so I branched out significantly on this front.

Women-only cycling groups were a lifesaver; I was able to plug in with some feminist groups that created inclusive spaces for women or non-binary identifying people to ask questions, learn together, and have positive cycling experiences outside of the pressure and mansplaining that often comes in more traditional cycling atmospheres.

I also realized there are a ton of people just like me who ride casually or commute by bike but are by no means ride-or-die biker types. I started casually bringing it up in conversation and discovered friends I had no idea rode bikes and could offer tips. Bonus: Biking is a great way to spend time with people doing an activity that requires minimal talking!

In the end

Ultimately, finding my people, building routines around cycling, and demystifying all the scary parts of biking led to empowering myself. I liked the challenge. That’s how, a mere two months after I picked up my “baby antelope” (that’s what the bike shop guys call my tiny white trek antelope bikie), I was riding 100 miles round-trip from Brooklyn to Croton-on-Hudson.

I wouldn’t suggest picking up a bike and doing this the next day, of course. Having built up some strength from bike commuting for a while, along with having a support network of more experienced cyclists, I felt equipped to take it on—and I did!

Moral of the story: Go a little bit at a time, find your pain-points, ask questions, and push yourself a little further than you thought you could. Riding my bike has empowered me to take on other adventures I felt too nervous or incapable of attempting, has given me a new form of transportation, and makes me feel strong.

I Added Vitamin C To My Skin-Care Routine—Here’s How My Face Reacted

I take my skin-care routine seriously—I moisturize often, wear SPF daily, drink lots of water, and try to get in at least eight hours of sleep each night. It works!

Stress, diet, and life in general can take a toll on our physical appearance, and because I want to feel good and look well-rested as often as possible (don’t we all?), I’m always open to trying new skin-care trends. That’s why, when I heard that vitamin C—known mainly for providing immune support—has become a staple of beauty bloggers the Internet over, I had to try it for myself.

According to the journal Nutrients, vitamin C is a major antioxidant, which can support the skin’s tightness, suppleness, and clarity. To get the benefits, though, you don’t need to down gallons of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Serums—like Derma E’s Vitamin C Concentrated Serum, which I started using two weeks ago—do the trick.

The product works to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while boosting collagen production. It also contains aloe and vitamin E, to support skin hydration.

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In the past two weeks of use, I’ve applied the serum at night (because having a successful skin-care routine means being consistent, and in the mornings, I like to keep things simple because it’s hard for me to stick to a multi-step routine). Before bed, I put on some relaxing music or a fun podcast and light a couple of candles while I begin my skin-care ritual: I wash my face with a gentle cleanser, apply eye cream, and then add any serums. Sometimes I also use a face mask, like this skin-loving, DIY maple syrup-based one. (If I want to apply multiple products, I apply one, wait a minute or two for it to settle in, and then I move onto the next one.)

The Vitamin C Concentrated Serum itself is a tad oily, but it’s very smooth and it dries in mere moments. It’s also rather gentle, though I did experience a mild tingling sensation in the beginning (I didn’t mind the feeling and it went away after less than a minute).


Vitamin C: It’s totally legit. Here’s my glowing skin:

After putting on the Vitamin C Concentrated Serum every night for two weeks, I saw some obvious and clear results. Aside from two rogue zits (thanks, PMS!) during the 14 days, my skin became clearer and smoother.

I also noticed that my skin tone began to even out a little more with consistent use. And, in addition to clear skin, my complexion seemed less dull. Bonus: The good results are becoming more obvious as I continue to use the serum on the daily.

I’m going to keep this tool in my skin-care arsenal—and I really look forward to seeing more results as time goes on.

6 Possible Reasons Why You’re Having Crazy Dreams

Have you ever been jolted awake in the middle of the night by a weirder-than-usual dream, and wondered what the heck was going on in your noggin?

Whether frightening or funny, extra-vivid dreams may seem random—but that’s not necessarily the case. According to top sleep experts, there are a number of factors that can trigger wacky, intense dreams. Here are six you should know about.

1. You’re Seriously Stressed

Can’t ever seem to relax? It could explain your nightmares. “Some data suggests that if you have negative thoughts right before you go to bed, they can have an effect on your dream content,” says board-certified sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., advisor for SleepScore Labs.

To nix negative thoughts—and ward off crazy dreams—Breus suggests writing a gratitude list before bed. Just jot down five things you’re grateful for. Big or small, it doesn’t matter what they are, just that they’re positive.

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For stress support, also try adding adaptogens, like ashwagandha, your everyday supplement routine. These herbs have been shown to help the body adapt to stress and promote energy and vitality.

2. You’re Taking The Wrong Dosage Of Melatonin

Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in your brain, regulates your sleep-wake cycle, (a.k.a. ‘circadian rhythm’ or ‘biological inner-clock’). Your body cranks up production at nighttime to help you fall asleep, but the hormone is also commonly taken in supplement form. While melatonin supplements can support a restful night’s sleep, taking the wrong dosage can make you have totally out-there dreams.

Many supplements contain anywhere from three to 10 milligrams of melatonin—but if you’re intent on avoiding intense dreams, Breus recommends taking just a half to one milligram at a time.

Doctors don’t know for sure why high doses of melatonin cause strange dreams, but the hormone can impact the quality—and even length—of REM, (a.k.a. rapid eye movement) the deep stage of sleep during which we dream. (Experts believe the activation of the regions of the brain responsible for learning and memory may be involved.)

Stick to a smaller dose of melatonin, and take it 90 minutes before bed (that’s how long it takes to kick in), recommends Breus. The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s 1 Milligram Melatonin Tablets make supporting solid shut-eye easy.

3. You’re On Certain Meds

SSRIs—a type of antidepressant (Zoloft and Prozac are two examples)—have also been known to cause vivid dreams, because they cut the amount of time you spend in REM in half, or even more. “When you condense a dream state like REM down that much, you can change the continuity of the story being told in your dreams,” says Breus.

Think of it like this: If you took the storyline of a half-hour sitcom and crammed it into 10 minutes, it probably wouldn’t make all that much sense. That’s exactly what these antidepressants can do to your dreams.

Blood pressure meds can also cause odd dreams because they slow your heart rate down enough to decrease the flow of oxygen to your brain. This can affect your brain function, sleep quality, and thus, your dreams, Breus explains.

In some cases, adjusting when you take your medication—and making sure it’s not too close to bedtime—is all you need to do to squash those zany dreams, Breus says. But always talk to your doctor before making any changes.

4. You Have Sleep Apnea

If your weird dreams have ever involved being underwater, swallowing a giant marshmallow, or trying to eat your pillow, you might have a condition called sleep apnea, in which your upper airway becomes blocked while you snooze. “These dreams are a manifestation of the fact that you’re not breathing when you’re sleeping,” Breus says. No joke.

Snoring, waking up gasping or choking, feeling tired all day, and waking up with headaches are all indicators of sleep apnea. If you think you have sleep apnea, head to a sleep doc. They can run tests to confirm the condition and figure out a treatment plan, which often includes wearing a breathing device (called a CPAP machine) that keeps your airway open during sleep, Breus says. Once you begin treatment, those underwater dreams should subside.

5. You Hit The Bottle Hard

If you think that drinking a few cocktails or glasses of wine before bed will ensure a restful night’s sleep, think again. Booze actually suppresses the first couple of cycles of REM sleep, because your body can’t enter REM until your liver metabolizes all of the alcohol in your system, which can take upwards of three to five hours depending how intoxicated you are, says neurologist Jeffrey Durmer, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of FusionHealth. Once your body can get into REM, it’s likely to stay there for longer than normal, which can lead to more intense dreams. (Alcoholics who are in withdrawal often have straight-up hallucinations as their brains try to make up for all the REM they’ve missed.)

Related: Exactly What To Do At Night To Have A Great Sleep

You already know to keep alcohol consumption low or moderate (one drink per day for women and two for men) for optimum health, but you should also steer clear for at least three hours before bedtime, Durmer says.

6. You Watched Something Weird Before Bed

Yes, Black Mirror is totally addicting, but it’s probably not ideal bedtime entertainment. Why? “You often dream about whatever you think about right before you fall asleep,” says Breus. So if you watch a horror movie—or just something weird—right before crawling under the covers, you pretty much set yourself up for  equally weird dreams.

Skip the pre-bed thriller and watch something less stirring (like Food Network or The Office) before you hit the hay.

Keep this infographic handy the next time your slumber isn’t so smooth…

5 Healthy Eating Commandments Everyone Should Follow

Healthy eating looks a little different to all of us—and considering we all have different bodies and lifestyles, that’s totally okay. But regardless of your personal preferences, dietary restrictions, or health concerns, are there some across-the-board nutrition rules you should follow? Absolutely.

Trends and gimmicks aside, here are the five laws of healthy eating top dietitians agree will help you stay true to your health and wellness goals long-term.

1. Enjoy Food Without Guilt

Any long-term healthy lifestyle depends on your ability to enjoy the foods you love in a balanced way that never leaves you feeling deprived. “Food should be savored, not feared,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. “No one is saying you can’t eat fries, pizza, and burgers—but maybe sometimes you bake the fries, top the pizza with lots of veggies, or take your burger bun-less.”

Related: What A Day Of 80:20 Eating Actually Looks Like

To find this balance, most dietitians recommend following the 80:20 rule: 80 percent of the time, you go for the better-for-you foods, and 20 percent of the time you choose whatever your heart desires most.

2. Keep Healthy Food Around At All Times

That said, sticking to healthy eating 80 percent of the time is a lot easier when you have the good stuff on-hand. Think about it: When is it that we find ourselves noshing on greasy drive-thru food or inhaling a Dunkin’ muffin? When we’re starving and desperate for grub, but don’t have any quality options handy.

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The solution: Always (always!) have healthy snacks on you. “I keep what I like to call ‘emergency snacks’ everywhere,” says Kelly Jones, M.S., RD., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. “Whole-food bars (like RXBARs) and roasted beans (like edamame or broad beans) are my go-to’s because they provide fiber and protein to hold me over; I have them in my purse, my car, my gym bag, and my work bag.”

3. Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

The more we learn about fiber, the more we realize how crucial it is to our health. A diet rich in fiber helps control blood sugar, decrease cholesterol levels, and improve digestion, says Gans—research has connected higher intake with weight loss and a lower risk of all-cause mortality. The National Institutes of Health recommends women eat 25 grams of fiber a day and men eat 38—but most Americans only reach a measly 15.

Every single snack and meal you eat should offer some fiber, says Gans. Some of the highest-fiber foods out there include lentils, avocados, chickpeas, chia seeds, nuts, and berries—but you’ll score some fiber from all sorts of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. 

4. Focus On Protein At Breakfast

Starting the morning with protein helps ensure you last until lunchtime without falling victim to the munchies and makes healthy eating easier throughout the rest of the day. In fact, high-protein breakfasts have been associated with slowed digestion and reduced levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

“Many people turn to oatmeal or cereal at breakfast, which can be carb-heavy and lacking in protein,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., who recommends incorporating at least 15 to 20 grams of protein into your morning meal.

Rizzo’s go-to’s include smoothies made with Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs with toast, veggie omelets, or even protein bars. “For a quick protein-rich breakfast option on-the-go, I love the new Chobani ‘hint of flavor’ yogurts, which provide 12 grams of protein for just nine grams of sugar,” she says.

5. Don’t Fear Fat

Fat gets a bad rap because it has more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein (nine calories for fat versus just four for carbs and protein), but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it.

As a matter of fact, research shows that eating healthy fats—think nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, and chia seeds—decreases our production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and prevents blood sugar spikes, so we don’t overeat and feel satisfied for longer after snacks and meals, Rizzo explains. In addition to supporting a healthy weight, fats also help us absorb nutrients, build cell structures, and manage inflammation.

Rizzo loves snacking on guacamole or subbing smashed avocado in for mayo. According to a recent study, adding half an avocado to lunch can increase satiety by 40 percent in the following hours, without affecting blood sugar.

Pin this helpful infographic to keep healthy eating top-of-mind:

Vitamin K Is (Finally) Having A Moment

When you think of vitamins, you probably start at the beginning of the alphabet. A, B, C—you get the picture. But something weird happens after vitamin E: We skip straight to vitamin K.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, vitamin K has long been considered last—and least. Yet despite its lack of limelight, K is still important for your health.

For starters, there are actually two types of this fat-soluble vitamin: vitamin K1 (a.k.a. ‘phylloquinone’), which supports blood clotting after injury, and vitamin K2 (a.k.a. ‘menaquinone’), which promotes strong bones and a healthy heart. The bacteria in our gut produce some vitamin K2, and we get the rest of our Ks from food.

The Benefits

Wound healing. “Without the clotting benefit of vitamin K1, a simple paper cut could cause massive bleeding,” says Maria Zamarripa, M.S., R.D., owner of FoodFarmacistRD. Why? Our bodies need vitamin K to produce the proteins that help blood clot. That’s why it’s used when a patient on prescription blood thinners experiences an uncontrolled bleeding incident, and is even given to newborns who don’t yet have enough vitamin K in their bodies for proper blood clotting, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Strong bones. Ever wonder why you see K2 in bone support supplements? “K2 can boost bones’ absorption and utilization of calcium,” says Zamarripa. This supports stronger bone density, which is key in preventing osteoporosis, fractures, and injury as we age. In fact, one study found that postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who took 45 milligrams of vitamin K2 with 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day saw a significant increase in lumbar bone mineral density.

Heart health. Because vitamin K2 activates an enzyme that shuttles calcium into the bones, it also promotes heart health by preventing calcium from building up in the arteries, says Zamarripa.

How Much K Do You Need?

This is where things get a little confusing. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 90 micrograms of total vitamin K per day for women and 120 micrograms per day for men. However, since testing vitamin K levels (particularly K2) is difficult and there’s not enough data to determine how much K is best for most people, this recommendation is based only on the K1 levels already seen in healthy people

That’s why the research organization VitaminK2.org believes that the current recommendations are insufficient for the optimal function of the proteins in our tissues (like bones and blood vessels) that depend on vitamin K. “Our concern is that there is a current RDA for K1, but none for Vitamin K2—so the population is not receiving its bone and cardiovascular benefits,” says Katarzyna Maresz, Ph.D., President of the International Science and Health Foundation, the independent international research consortium that created VitaminK2.org.

For now, the NIH asserts that vitamin K is only of concern for people who take blood thinners or have bleeding disorders—but Maresz’s organization suggests it’s also important for newborns, children, adults over 40, and people with kidney issues, intestinal disorders (like IBS), and cystic fibrosis, who may all be lacking in that bacteria-produced K2.

The organization also posits that the typical Western diet contains insufficient amounts of vitamin K2—an issue that’s only worsened by our frequent use of antibiotics, which “can kill the good bacteria in our gut, potentially reducing our vitamin K2 levels,” Zamarripa says.

How To Up Your Intake

You’ll find the more-common vitamin K1 in dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as kale (531 micrograms per cooked half cup), spinach (444 micrograms per cooked half cup), broccoli (220 micrograms per cooked cup), Brussels sprouts (219 micrograms per cooked cup), and Swiss chard (299 micrograms per raw cup).

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The elusive vitamin K2, meanwhile, is found in pasture-raised animal products such as full-fat dairy, egg yolks (six micrograms per egg), and ground beef (six micrograms per three-ounce serving). It also has another lesser-known, more potent source: a Japanese dish called ‘natto,’ which is made from fermented soybeans and packs a whopping 850 micrograms per three-ounce serving. A study of elderly Japanese men even links habitual intake of natto—and its vitamin K2—with increased bone health.

To make sure you’re gettinbg adequate K2, Maresz recommends taking a high-quality K2 supplement—45 micrograms a day for children and 180 micrograms a day for healthy adults. And, “if your doctor prescribes antibiotics, make sure eat plenty of dark leafy green vegetables and fermented dairy products like yogurt, or take a supplement, to replenish your vitamin K,” says Zamarripa, (We like The Vitamin Shoppe brand 100mcg Vitamin K2.)

Since vitamin K can affect the effectiveness of blood thinners, talk with your doctor before adding a supplement—or even more leafy greens—to your routine if you’re on medication.

I Tried A Charcoal Peel-Off Mask—Here’s What My Skin Had To Say

From pimple-popping to drag queen transformations, there’s something inexplicably satisfying about watching the Internet’s unusual assortment of viral beauty videos. But none ignites my fascination—and horror—more than a charcoal peel-off face mask trial. (If you haven’t witnessed YouTuber Tiffany’s disastrous peel-off experience, stop reading this and go watch it now.)

Painful mishaps aside, these black goo-like masks promise to reveal smoother, blackhead-free skin. The charcoal found in peel-off masks is activated charcoal, which has been heated to a very high temperature to make it more porous. The idea is that the pores produced during the process help the activated charcoal absorb extra bacteria and other molecules from your skin. “In a peel-off mask, charcoal can draw out bacteria and dirt from the skin to the surface, so it can then be washed off,” explains Gary Goldenberg, M.D., of Goldenberg Dermatology.

Related: 5 Health And Beauty Uses For Activated Charcoal

I’ve been genetically gifted (*sarcasm*) with an acne- and oil-ridden complexion—and though my acne was much worse during my teen years, I continue to deal with lingering purple-y blue scars, bulging cystic time-of-the-month pimples, and random whiteheads that pop up for no reason at all. And though my current skin-care routine includes a cocktail of creams, toners, and moisturizers, I don’t really do much to remove impurities—I just try to cover and moisturize them. So the notion of quite literally ripping them from my face certainly appealed. Curious (and slightly afraid), I decided to try the trend out for myself and see if it benefited my complexion.

Application #1: My Mask Doesn’t Look (Or Feel) Right

On morning one, I stood at my bathroom mirror before work with a bottle of BioMiracle’s Detoxifying Charcoal Peel-Off Mask in hand, ready to make the pore-purification magic happen. The bottle promised ‘a visibly clearer, smoother, more clarified complexion.’ Yes, please.

I’m a total baby when it comes to pain, so as excited as I was to detox my face, I couldn’t help but think back to the cringe-worthy YouTube videos of painful peel-offs I’d seen. As I started to spread the mask across my freshly-washed face, my heart rate kicked up a bit. With the piercing screams of beauty vloggers ringing in my ears, I continued to cover my face with the thinnest possible layer of the mask.

The directions on the bottle said to apply an ‘even and thin, but opaque’ layer of mask, and as the mask dried I learned that ‘opaque’ was the key word there. Because I applied such a thin layer, the mask just crumbled off in pieces and had no discernible effect on my skin, other than leaving behind a few black specks that I had to rinse off. Fail.

Application #2: This is Surprisingly…Cathartic?

As instructed by the bottle’s directions, I waited a few days to use the mask again—even though I was pretty sure my first attempt didn’t count as an actual application. This time, I made a point to smear myself a nice opaque layer of mask despite my lingering nerves.

As the mask dried, I could tell it was appropriately thick this time; it felt tighter and tighter over my skin—especially when I tried to move my mouth or crinkle my forehead. After 30 minutes (during which I guzzled wine), my phone alarm alerted me it was time to remove the mask. I trudged to the bathroom, took a deep, deep breath, said a prayer, and began to peel away at the edges. This time it came off in (mostly) a single sheet.

The removal process was surprisingly cathartic—somewhere between the sensation of peeling off dried glue (you did that in school, too, right?) and ripping off a Band-Aid. I did experience some minor pain at first—something I attributed to extra hair around the outside of my face—but I could practically feel the mask stripping my pores of blackheads and oil, and it was so, so satisfying.

I analyzed my freshly-peeled complexion in the mirror, noticing a newfound smoothness as I ran my fingers across my oil-free face. Ahhhh. The little redness I noticed faded quickly, but my blackheads still persisted. (The mask also ripped off a whitehead I had, which was bleeding a little bit, so I made note to avoid putting the goop over any sensitive-looking pimples the next time around.)

The Next Few Applications: Instantly Gratifying Complexion Fixes

By the time I reached my third, fourth and fifth applications—about five, nine, and 14 days into my trial—I had perfected proper mask application and consistency. With each application, my confidence grew, and I applied an increasingly thick layer. The thicker the layer, the more painful the peel-off—but I found myself almost enjoying the pain.

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The results continued in a fairly predictable pattern: I’d remove the mask to find a smooth and grease-free complexion. Any redness would subside in the next hour or so.

The Final Verdict

Like most of the buzzy beauty products I’ve tried out, the charcoal peel-off mask seemed to be more of a short-term magician than a long-term miracle-worker. That being said, though, I will absolutely use this mask again—probably the night (or a few hours) before an event, so my skin will be fresh and shine-free when it counts.

Want to test a charcoal peel-off mask for yourself? Try BioMiracle’s Detoxifying Charcoal Peel-Off Mask.

6 Skin Issues Caused By Working Out—And How To Get Rid Of Them

Exercise does our bodies (and minds) a ton of good. But let’s be real: A hardcore sweat session doesn’t always have the greatest effect on our skin. All that sweat means lingering bacteria, which makes breakouts and rashes more likely to pop up—especially if you’re not wearing the right gear.

So what’s a fitness devotee supposed to do? Follow this expert advice for beating the most common workout-related skin issues out there and hopefully you’ll never have to deal with a butt bump—yep, they’re a thing—again.

Skin SOS: Chest And Back Acne

What it looks like: Scattered red and pink bumps of various sizes.

What’s happening: All sorts of culprits can cause body acne, but often it’s a result of oil, sweat, and bacteria getting trapped in the pores, says Elyse Shelger, R.N., area medical lead for the skin-care center Skin Laundry. You’re especially prone to body breakouts if you don’t shower right after you work out. And even if you’re not hanging out in sweaty clothes post-workout, the skin-care products or fabrics you’re wearing, or even your sheets and towels, could be irritating your skin.

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What to do: When you work out, wear materials that are breathable and moisture-wicking (like bamboo, cotton, GORE-TEX, and Spandex), and toss ‘em in the laundry ASAP post-sweat. Then, properly cleanse your skin as soon as possible with a soap or wash that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide—both of which exfoliate, unclog pores, and fight acne.

Skin SOS: Face Breakouts

What they look like: Surface-level whiteheads, deep blackheads, small red bumps, or deep (and often painful) cystic pimples.

What’s happening: Like with your back and chest, when the pores on your face get clogged with oil, dirt, and bacteria, pink, inflamed bumps or pustules can pop up, says Julia Tzu, M.D., founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology.

Related: 4 Possible Reasons Why You’re Still Breaking Out As An Adult

What to do: First thing’s first: “Try not to wear makeup while working out, as the sweat and makeup can remain in your pores and lead to pimples,” says Shelger. Then, “Sanitize your yoga mats, wash any gym or yoga towels, and try not to touch your face after your hands have been in contact with dirty surfaces.” And—no ifs, ands, or buts—wash your face with a noncomedogenic (‘non-pore-clogging’) skin-care product as soon as you’re done working out, says Tzu. Micellar cleansing water or facial wipes can come in handy if you’re in a real time crunch.

Skin SOS: Chafing

What it looks like: Red, irritated skin that can be painful when exposed to the elements (including your shower).

What’s happening: Chafing simply indicates that a sensitive area of your body—usually your underarms, nipples, thighs, or the skin beneath tight sports bra or waist bands—has fallen victim to friction. Whether from your skin rubbing against itself or against irritating clothing, too much friction can lead to redness, bumps, and that awful stinging, says Shelger.

What to do: The best way to deal with chafing is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Before you sweat, apply petroleum jelly or chamois cream to spots that are prone to irritation, and avoid wearing textured clothing. If you do develop chafing, it’s important to keep the area clean and dry to prevent further irritation, Shelger says. Apply petroleum jelly regularly to help speed up the healing process.

Skin SOS: Athlete’s Foot

What it looks like: A dry, scaly rash that’s often accompanied by super-fun symptoms like itching, burning, stinging, and redness.

What’s happening: “Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection,” says Shelger. “Like other fungi, it lives and grows best in damp environments. Wearing damp socks or shoes is the most common cause, but since it’s contagious, it can also be spread by walking barefoot in gyms, locker rooms, showers, and spas.”

What to do: Antifungal creams and powders are your best bet here, says Tzu. You can grab an over-the-counter tube at your local drugstore, but if the rash gets worse, you may need to see a doctor for a prescription-strength treatment. At home, you can also try soaking your feet in diluted vinegar, which creates an acidic environment that wards off bacteria. Fill a foot tub or bucket with one part water and one part vinegar, and soak your feet for up to 10 minutes a day until your skin clears up, she suggests.

To avoid getting the rash in the first place, never share shoes or walk barefoot on mats and floors, and remove sweaty socks as soon as your workout is over so your feet can breathe, suggests Shelger.

Skin SOS: Heat Rash

What it looks like: A red, inflamed rash or tiny pink blisters.

What’s happening: Typically, heat rash happens when heat and humidity block our sweat ducts, causing them to swell, says Shelger. It’s most common in areas where the skin folds (which are harder to keep dry), or where clothing creates friction.

What to do: If you already have those tiny heat rash bumps, all you can really do is keep the area clean to prevent further irritation. “Heat rash is usually self-resolving, requiring no treatment,” Shelger explains. But if you’re dealing with any uncomfortable symptoms—like itchiness, pain, or redness—a topical OTC steroid like cortisone cream may help, says Tzu.

Skin SOS: Butt Bumps

What they look like: Clusters of inflamed bumps on the buttocks that resemble pimples or terrible razor burn. They’re often itchy and can become crusty and sore-like in more serious cases.

What’s happening: Say hello to folliculitis, a.k.a. irritated hair follicles on your booty that are likely wigging out because of sweat, dirt, or bacteria clogging your pores. This can be caused by tight pants that cause friction and prevent your skin from breathing, or hanging out in sweaty workout gear for too long, says Shelger. Your backside is one of the most common spots for folliculitis, but it’s not the only place the bumps can pop up; any spot that’s cut off from oxygen and sitting in sweat and bacteria can fall victim.

What to do: Use a gentle benzoyl peroxide skin cleanser to help banish the bumps, suggests Tzu. Otherwise, make sure you’re wearing loose, 100-percent cotton undies when you work out (or consider going commando), and change out of damp clothes as soon as you’re finished.

5 DIY Skin Treatments Beauty Experts Swear By

We all have our go-to skin-care products—you know, the ones we always have stashed in our purses—but sometimes it’s fun (and super-effective) to play beauty chemist and whip up our own natural recipes. That’s why we asked five beauty pros to share their best DIYs; here are their favorite formulas for face masks, soothing spot treatments, and more.


1. Hydrating Facial Mist

When you’ve been out in the heat or just worked up a sweat at the gym, spritzing on a facial mist is a great way to calm and cool down your skin. The following recipe—courtesy of Shannon Smyth, founder of the beauty blog A Girl’s Gotta Spa!—contains aloe vera (which research has shown to have moisturizing properties) and a nourishing oil of your choice. (We suggest lavender oil, since studies have found it to be relaxing.)

95 milliliters spring water
1 Tbsp pure aloe vera gel
5 drops pure lavender essential oil or pure orange essential oil
1 to 4 drops virgin olive oil or coconut oil

Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in a 100-milliliter spray bottle. Choose how much olive or coconut oil you add based on how dry your skin is, and leave it out altogether if you’re very oily. If you have sensitive skin, start out with just a drop of essential oil, since their concentrated potency can be irritating. Once your ingredients are all added, give the bottle a shake and spritz your face a few times whenever you need a pick-me-up. If you’re misting post-workout, just make sure to wash your face (you can use a towelette if you’re in a rush) first to get rid of any dirt and grime. Otherwise, you can spritz yourself whenever—it shouldn’t mess with any makeup you have on.


2. Moisturizing Face Mask

One of the sweetest ingredients in your cabinet—honey—has some serious skin-care benefits, with research published in An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda supporting its ability to moisturize and soften skin. Makeup artist and beauty blogger Hillary Kline loves this face mask when she’s feeling dried out.

2 tsp honey
3 drops rose water

Directions: Mix honey and rose water together to create a thick paste. Apply a thin coat all over your face. Let sit for 15 minutes, rinse off with cold water, and then follow up with moisturizer.

Related: 8 All-Natural Goodies To Make Your Face Glow


3. Soothing Spot Treatment

Dry, itchy patches of skin are a downer for anyone—unless you know a way to nix the discomfort. Enter this spot treatment recipe from Eliss Halina, esthetician and owner of Saul’s Beauty Shop in Toronto. The recipe features oatmeal, which a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology has shown to effectively soothe dry, itchy skin, and peppermint for instant cooling relief.

1 cup milk
1 peppermint tea bag
¼ cup plain oats

Directions: Warm a bowl of milk in the microwave until hot, then steep a peppermint tea bag in it. As it steeps, grind your oats in a food processor. Place the ground-up oats in the center of a few layers of cheese cloth and pull the corners together to make a ball. Tie a string around the top of the ball to hold it shut, and place it into the milk. (When your finely-ground oats are placed in the hot liquid, they become ‘colloidal oats,’ the form that has been most widely studied and used in skin-care products.) Once the milk has cooled, dab the cheese cloth onto and itchy, dry patches.


4. Skin-Softening Body Scrub

One of the best ways to smooth rough patches of skin is by exfoliating—and body scrubs are quick and easy to whip up with ingredients you have at home. Roberta Perry, founder of ScrubzBody Skin Care Products, shares a simple scrub recipe made with moisturizing coconut oil and exfoliating sugar.

1 cup white table sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 to 6 drops essential oil

Directions: Pour sugar into a bowl and add the oils one at a time. (For a grittier scrub, use one less tablespoon of each oil.) Stir the mixture thoroughly and add your essential oil fragrance a couple drops at a time until you’re happy with the scent’s potency.


5. De-Puffing Face Mask

Ever used cucumber slices to relax the skin below your eyes—or at least seen it in a movie? Well, there’s a reason this natural remedy is so popular: Cucumber contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that can soothe skin, says Zondra Wilson, creator and founder of the USDA organic Blu Skin Care. Her de-puffing face mask pairs cucumber with nourishing honey.

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 tsp honey

Directions: Puree cucumber slices in a food processor and pour into a bowl. Mix the honey in with a spoon. Massage the mask in a circular motion all over your face and lie down on your back with a towel under your head in case the mask drips. After 10 minutes, rinse the mask off with lukewarm water and follow up with your regular moisturizer.

How Much Cardio Do You Really Need To Do?

For some people, there’s nothing better than a good cardio session, whether it’s a sunrise spin class, a lunchtime run, or a long walk after work. Others, though, prefer to spend their workout time with weights in-hand, avoiding cardio at all costs.

But even the biggest cardio hater has got to wonder: Is skipping out affecting your health? Love it or hate it, here’s how much cardio we all actually need to do.

The Case For Cardio

Each type of exercise offers undeniable benefits. Strength training boosts our metabolism, slashes our risk for health problems like type 2 diabetes, and helps us age better. Meanwhile, cardio torches calories, supports our cardiovascular health (like blood pressure and cholesterol), improves insulin sensitivity, increases lung capacity, promotes better sleep, and combats anxiety and depression, says Mariel Schofield, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., of Florida sports therapy clinic Westlake Sports Therapy. Cardio also keeps our circulatory system working optimally—so we can recover from strength training faster—and improves our body’s ability to utilize oxygen, adds Erica Suter, M.S., C.S.C.S.

In the long run, regular cardio exercise—like walking, swimming, cycling, or stair-climbing—has been shown to protect us against premature cardiovascular-related death while reducing risk of some cancers.

The Cardio Sweet Spot

If you want to improve your fitness or stay in shape, you should work out about five times a week total—three strength training and two cardio, says Yusuf Jeffers C.P.T., C.S.C.S., head coach at Mile High Run Club NYC. The CDC’s recommendation is similar, at 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (about five 30-minute workouts) a week.

Research also supports the idea that it takes just a few cardio sessions a week to reap legitimate health benefits, with one study finding that one to two hours of jogging had the greatest impact on mortality risk, and another finding that three 20- to 40-minute walks a week reduced symptoms of depression.

And for all the weight room addicts who still aren’t sold: According to The American Journal of Cardiology, cardio is more efficient at improving your cardiometabolic health, which means it actually benefits your strength training, too. So choose a form of cardio you enjoy—and get moving.

Optimize Your Cardio For Your Goals

If you’re pretty new to exercise, perform your cardio at a moderate pace. You should be able to speak intermittently with a workout buddy as you go and your heart rate should be between 50 and 70 percent of your max (220 minus your age). Start with 15 to 20 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes or more.

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From there, how you spend your cardio time should reflect your goals. If you’re training for an endurance event like a running race, obstacle course race, or triathlon, keep your cardio steady but bump your heart rate up to between 70 and 90 percent of your max for at least 10 to 15 minutes of your workout. You should have a hard time saying more than a word or two at a time at this intensity. Up the amount of time you spend in that range as you feel more comfortable.

If you just want to burn as many calories as possible during your cardio sessions, swap steady effort for high-intensity interval training (HIIT), in which you alternate between bursts of all-out effort and low-intensity recovery. Alternate between sprinting and walking on the treadmill, or performing a few rounds bodyweight moves (like air squats and jumping jacks) and resting. These quick workouts (often 30 minutes or less) demand so much of your body that you continue burning calories long after leaving the gym.

Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat

Which Type Of Collagen Supplement Is Right For You?

With a slew of health gurus touting its benefits and adding it to their coffee and smoothies, collagen is the supplement right now. Why all the sudden buzz? Well, up until recently, researchers hadn’t really investigated the benefits of upping our intake of this protein (which happens to be the most abundant protein in our bodies). Now, studies are showing that collagen supplementation can boost our joint and skin health, and promote healthy aging, explains Marc S. Schneider, M.D., director at Schneider Centre for Plastic Surgery.

Bone broth, another big trend in the wellness world, is a major natural source of collagen—but since there’s only so much meaty broth one can swallow down on a daily basis, many different types of collagen supplements are currently taking over store shelves.

Most popular in powdered form, collagen supps are made from cow, chicken, fish, or egg sources. There are actually more than two dozen different types of collagen, all of which have slightly different functions—so which you choose depends on your goals, says Schneider. Here’s your guide to the most popular options out there.

Type I Collagen

If collagen’s skin-related benefits are your top priority, type I collagen is your go-to, as it makes up 90 percent of your hair, skin, and nails (organs, bones, and ligaments, too), according to Ryan Neinstein, M.D., plastic surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates. Type I collagen can help ward off the hallmarks of skin aging, like the stretching out or thinning of the skin.

Related: I Drank Collagen For 30 Days—Here’s How It Turned Out

“Collagen has been shown in preclinical studies to improve skin thickness, function, moisture content, and appearance,” says Neinstein, who credits type I collagen—particularly marine-sourced type I collagen—with these beauty benefits. “Collagen peptides from fish are considered superior in raising overall body collagen [which is predominantly type I] and improving skin, hair, nail, and bone quality,” he says. How? Research suggests marine collagen is up to one-and-a-half times more bioavailable than chicken or bovine collagen. (That’s why it’s the type of collagen most often used in topical cosmetic products.) Want to give it a try? We love Vital Proteins’ Wild-Caught Marine Collagen.

Type II Collagen

Chicken soup is good for the soul, but there’s another reason it’s so great when we’re sick: Type II collagen, which is mainly sourced from chickens and plentiful in chicken broth, is known for its immune-boosting and joint-supporting properties. “Type II collagen is by far the most important,” believes Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com. This type of collagen is a major part of our gut lining and helps it act as a barrier between the substances we consume and our bloodstream, which helps our digestive system run smoothly and also benefits our immune system, Axe says. It’s also a major building block of cartilage, which is why it’s so crucial for joint health. Two of our go-to’s are NeoCell Collagen Joint Complex and Sports Research Bone Broth Protein.

Type III Collagen

Type III collagen helps form arterial walls, which is key for cardiovascular health. It’s often found alongside type I collagen in the body (think bone, cartilage, dentin, tendons, skin, and other connective tissues)—though in smaller amounts—and thus offers similar skin- and bone-related benefits, Axe says. For that reason, types I and III make perfect supplement sidekicks, packing a one-two punch.

Type III collagen supplements are often made from bovine (cow) sources. Try adding Vital Proteins Beef Gelatin to soups or hot beverages.

Type V And X Collagen

Though the first three types of collagen are the most abundant in the body and the most commonly found in supplements, some of the lesser-seen types—notably types V and X—are also important for key body functions. Type V collagen helps form cell membranes and the tissue in women’s placentas, while type X plays a crucial role in bone formation. Type V collagen is usually sourced from the membranes of eggshells, type X is made from chicken and bovine sources. Supplements that contain just types V and X are tough to find, but Dr. Axe’s Multi Collagen Protein contains types I, II, III, V, and X, and is a good option for anyone seeking the overall benefits of collagen protein.

What To Know When You Shop

Many of the collagen supplements out there today include collagen types I and III—but if you’re looking for the most comprehensive benefit possible, Axe recommends choosing a collagen supplement that contains a variety of types (like his!). “It’s like taking a multivitamin,” he says. “It’s a good idea because most people have multiple deficiencies.”

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You’ll notice that many collagen supps are labeled as ‘hydrolyzed,’ which simply means they’ve been broken down into their smaller form—called ‘peptides’—which is easier for the body to absorb, says Schneider.

Lastly, since vitamin C supports collagen synthesis, it may be included in collagen supplement formulas (like Reserveage Collagen Replenish), but you can also just take your collagen alongside a vitamin C supplement or C-containing food (like citrus fruit) to reap the benefits.

Keep your collagen straight with this helpful infographic:

7 Things You Should Never Do After A Workout

Churn out tough workouts all you want, but if you really want to see results from your efforts, you’ll also need to pay close attention to what you do after those gym sessions.

Poor post-workout practices can steal your success—but they’re pretty easy to avoid if you know what to look for. Read on to arm yourself against any unintended backtrack.

Immediate No-No’s

You Rush Out Of The Gym

We get it, you have places to be, and after tossing around heavy weights or ramping up your heart rate on the tread, the last thing you want to do is more work. But sticking around for a few extra minutes of mobility drills can really pay off in the long run, according to Sean De Wispelaere, master trainer at MBSC Thrive and owner of Sean D. Thrive.

When you push, pull, squat, and hinge, you put a high demand on your joints and the muscles that surround them, says De Wispelaere. Mobility work—like sitting in a deep squat or moving your arms through Y-, T-, and W-shaped patterns—helps you maintain your full range of motion and avoid injury when it counts.

By increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your muscles and connective tissues, they’ll also prevent that stiff, locked-up feeling that sometimes follows a tough workout, says De Wispelaere.

You Stay Jacked Up

Not only does working out tax your muscles, but it also taxes your nervous system. During exercise, your sympathetic (‘fight-or-flight’) nervous system kicks in to power you through—but to recover, you need your parasympathetic (‘rest and relax’) nervous system to take over, says Joe Dowdell, strength coach and owner of Dowdell Fitness Systems.

To shift gears from a sympathetic to a parasympathetic state, Dowdell recommends doing some light stretching and diaphragmatic breathing after training. As you hold each stretch, take a few slow and controlled deep belly breaths. This tells your system to calm down and sets you up for muscle-building recovery. If you regularly struggle to cool down and recover after exercise, try a supplement like True Athlete’s ZMA With Theanine, which contains zinc and magnesium to promote muscle recovery and the amino acid l-theanine to support relaxation.

You Don’t Eat

Some people feel ravenous after an intense workout, while others can’t even stomach the thought of eating—but food fuels your recovery and progress, says Mike Roussell, Ph.D.

What to eat? Roussell recommends carbs. “Protein is typically the post-workout go-to, but exercise sensitizes your muscles to carbohydrates, so you need those as well,” he says. In the few hours after your workout, your body will use carbs for good (a.k.a. energy storage in your muscles) instead of evil (a.k.a. storage as fat). Replenishing the carbs you store in your muscles (called ‘glycogen’) helps you recover and feel ready for your next session faster.

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Eat something that contains both protein and carbs after your workouts, whether it’s chicken and rice or a smoothie (made with protein powder, fruit, and yogurt or oats), or a protein bar.

You Try To Annihilate All Inflammation

We usually think of inflammation as the enemy, and in many cases it can be a sign that something is wrong—“but when exercise produces an inflammatory state in the body, it’s actually is a good thing,” says Roussell.

You see, exercise is stress, and your high heart rate and muscle fatigue signal to your body that something is up, which triggers an inflammatory state. “However, one of the ways your body gets bigger and stronger is by dealing with that inflammation,” says Roussell. So while you might be tempted to down antioxidant supplements right after hitting it hard, these substances can potentially hinder your muscle gains.

Related: The Best Post-Workout Snack For Your Fitness Goals

Instead of focusing on blasting your body with antioxidants, focus on replenishing your body with carbs and protein, recommends Roussell.

Same-Day Mistakes

You Stew in Your Sweaty Clothes

Sweat can feel like a badge of honor, but please get out of your gear ASAP. Otherwise you’re more prone to skin issues like rashes and staph infections, not to mention B.O.

Plus, washing up can also benefit your freshly-worked muscles, says Dowdell. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath (which is rich in magnesium sulfate) can promote relaxation and help reduce muscle soreness, he says. Mix about a cup in with your bath water and soak for up to a half hour. You don’t need to hop in the tub right after you’re done sweating; a long soak will still do you good later in the evening.

You Don’t Catch Enough Zzz’s

The hard work you put in at the gym doesn’t transform into results right then and there, but in the hours and days after you finish—and sleep is a key component of that process. “Sleep is crucial to recovery and often overlooked,” says De Wispelaere. Since fitness-boosting hormones like growth hormone are released while you’re dreaming, whether or not you get to bed early can really affect your results.

To score high-quality sleep, De Wispelaere recommends the following steps:

  • Four hours before bed: Stop consuming caffeine.
  • One hour before bed: Limit how much you drink. (You don’t want to have to pee in the middle of your muscle-building sleep!)
  • 45 minutes before bed: Ditch the screens. The blue light that emanates from phones and laptops sends the wrong signals to your brain about what time of day it is, potentially keeping you up.

Next-Day Mistake

If an intense workout left you delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), jumping right into another tough session will not only hurt, but it can also backfire on your results. Remember what Dowdell said about those sympathetic and parasympathetic states? If you go hard day after day, your body can’t fully shift out of that sympathetic state, and you don’t recover properly.

“On the day after an intense session, stick to 20 to 30 minute low-to-moderate intensity exercise,” he recommends. (That’s about 65 to 70 percent of your max heart rate.) Jogging or biking, for example, boosts blood flow to your muscles and help remove waste products associated with DOMS. For extra points, tack on 10 to 15 minutes of mobility work after your cardio.