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How Your Circadian Clock Affects Your Workout Time

The time of day you hit the gym could have an impact on the quality of your workout, according to research published in the October 2016 issue of Cell Metabolism.

Researchers discovered circadian clocks in the muscle tissue that regulate how well it adapts to changes in the environment and activities throughout a 24-hour period. “Our sleep/wake cycle is programmed by our internal biological clock,” says lead researcher Joe Bass, MD, PhD, the chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. “There is a similar clock in the muscle tissue.”

Your body uses oxygen to make energy; the more vigorously you exercise, the more oxygen you need — and the more quickly you run out. A dip in oxygen triggers the muscles to use sugar for energy and increases lactic acid, which causes muscle fatigue and muscle aches.

When oxygen is running low, Bass says: “Your cells need to turn on a switch that says to your body, ‘we need more oxygen,’ and the ability to turn on that switch is critically dependent on what time of day it is. Your internal clock regulates how well your muscles can mobilize energy.”

SO, WHAT TIME OF DAY IS BEST FOR A WORKOUT?

Researchers tested that question by studying mice running on a treadmill at different times of day.

Looking at the muscle fibers allowed the researchers to determine how well the muscles processed fuels like sugar and fat based on what time the mice exercised. Their findings revealed that the nocturnal rodents were more efficient at turning on genes that helped them adapt to movement and use oxygen for energy after the sun went down.

Since people have a sleep/wake cycle opposite of a mouse, our muscles should respond most efficiently to workouts during daylight hours. (Bass cautions that the science is based on animal research and so far unproven in humans, but he believes the data could be applied to human workouts.)

Even small disruptions to the circadian clocks in the cells can impede performance. Bass uses jet lag as an example: An athlete who is accustomed to running at 7 a.m. in New York who then travels to San Francisco will not perform as well in a race that starts at 7 a.m. Pacific time.


For each hour of time zone change, it takes your circadian clock one day to adjust.”


“The research has implications for athletic performance because there is an interplay between the internal clock and performance,” Bass says. “For each hour of time-zone change, it takes your circadian clock one day to adjust; a three-hour time difference means it’ll take three days to get your performance back to normal.”

Remember this research the next time you schedule a workout — and consider it permission to sleep through those predawn Spinning classes for ones during your lunch hour.

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Recipe: Pork & Spinach Pot Stickers

Spinach & Thyme Pot-stickers

Tasty pot stickers get a twist with this recipe by Healthy Nibbles & Bits, which uses spinach. Lean ground pork is flavorfully seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. The meaty filling is wrapped then pan-fried to perfection! Make and freeze ahead of time for a quick appetizer or snack!

Spinach & Pork Pot Stickers 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds (565 grams) ground lean pork
  • 1/2 cup chopped baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 35 pot sticker wrappers (about 1 pack of wrappers)

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the pork, spinach, ginger, thyme, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and garlic powder together.

In a small bowl, pour a bit of water, which you will use to prep your pot sticker wrappers. Take a wrapper and dip the edge in water to about 1/2 inch deep. Rotate the wrapper so that you get a half-circle of water. This allows you to fold and seal the potsticker.

Let the pot sticker wrapper rest on your fingers on your left hand. Then, you’ll fill the center with a spoonful of meat. Resist the urge to fill it with too much filling! It will make the folding more difficult.

Using your right thumb and forefinger, pinch and seal a bit of the dry part of the wrapper with the wet part. Use your left thumb to hold the filling down as you pleat the potsticker. Then, using your forefingers, pinch a bit of the wet part of the wrapper together. You have created your first pleat! Press down that pleat along the dry side of the wrapper. Continue creating pleats until until you reach the end on the left side. Repeat with remaining pot stickers.

To cook the pot stickers, heat a large sauté pan with a tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, line the potstickers in the pan, bottom side down.

Let the pot stickers fry for about a minute, then pour about 3 tablespoons of water in the pan and cover it with a lid. Reduce the heat just a little. When the water evaporates, continue adding another 3 tablespoons of water and close the lid. Continue doing this until you have cooked the pot stickers for about 6-8 minutes.

Dip in soy sauce or chili sauce, if desired.

NOTE: You can create the pot stickers ahead of time and freeze. Simply thaw, pan fry and enjoy!

Nutrition Information

Serves: 12 |  Serving Size: about 3 potstickers 

Per serving: Calories: 168; Total Fat: 6g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 31mg; Sodium: 275mg; Carbohydrate: 15g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 12g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 34mg; Iron: 10%; Vitamin A: 3%; Vitamin C: 2%; Calcium: 3% 

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10 Ways to Add Flavor, Not Calories

The new year has many of us scaling back on our eating habits and resetting our diets to focus on healthier, simpler foods that have fewer calories. But “better for you” doesn’t have to mean bland. Small additions can make a big impact when it comes to boosting the flavor and texture of healthier foods. A twist of citrus, a handful of fresh herbs, a splash of broth, a bit of crunch and a dash of heat are sometimes all it takes to turn simple food into something exciting. The bottom line is this: Delicious food doesn’t have to come at the cost of hundreds of calories. Here are 10 ways to perk up your food with little to no calories at all.

CITRUS

Add zing to your cooking routine with fresh citrus. Lemon and lime juices are the usual go-to choices for adding a splash of bright flavor to fish, sautéed greens, roasted vegetables and crisp salads, but don’t dismiss the oranges, tangerines and grapefruits, which add sunny notes, too. Skip the bottled salad dressings — which are often loaded with salt and sugar — and make your own. Start with a quick citrus vinaigrette: Whisk 1 part citrus juice with 3 parts oil, and drizzle over dark leafy greens to boost your daily vegetable intake. Even better? Stir fresh citrus into yogurt or oatmeal for a bright start to your day.

You can mellow the flavor of tart lemons, limes, and grapefruit by cooking them — simply slice the whole fruit and either roast directly on the pan with your meat and veggies, or place on the grill for a minute or two until charred. Citrus juice and zest add big flavor to marinades with no extra sodium or calories. Looking to hydrate more? A spritz of fresh citrus does wonders for that glass of water.

Tip: A little zest goes a long way and can overpower your dish very quickly. Too much can make your food bitter. Start with just a small amount, then add a little at a time until you reach your desired flavor. Use a fine grater or Microplane for best results.

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Your Feet are the Foundation for Total Body Wellness

Taking care of your feet has the potential to improve how your entire body moves, yet most of us hide our feet in shoes where they’re so far out of sight that they’re literally out of mind.

You’re probably familiar with the way your car works: Tires contact the ground, translating the force up through the wheels and transmission to propel the car forward. You know that the condition of your tires determines how your car feels on the road — and worn tires can’t absorb the impact of a bumpy or grip on icy roads. Our feet work similarly for us, and the condition of our feet determines how well they serve our body.

Foot pain, unsteady ankles and conditions like plantar fasciitis or neuromas are obvious signs of a problem, but there are more subtle signs that your feet need attention. Some other indicators that your feet may be starting to weaken are loss of balance, tripping easily or often or losing your ground when you are in a hurry.

Hard-to-ignore symptoms may vary from swelling and bunions to hammertoes, calluses and corns. Pain in your knees, ankles, hips and low back may also relate to declining function way down in the foot. Maybe you are comfortable in heels, but going barefoot is killing you. Maybe you often get cold feet, literally.

Several factors cause our feet to lose their nature-given ninja status. For one, our shoes constrict the foot and its movable parts; shoes also reduce sensation and deprive us of direct contact with the surface. We also lack natural, untamed by man, walking spaces — in a natural environment your foot would be molding to pebbles, rocks, grass, boulders and inclines. Most of us live with feet only touching flat and solid ground, so it’s no wonder we lack mobility and strength — those attributes simply aren’t required anymore.

SYMPTOMS OF FEET IN NEED OF REPAIR

BUNIONS

Also known as hallux valgus, this deformity appears as we lose the strength in our core, hips and feet, and the whole body weighs onto the inside of the ball of the foot with every step you take.

HAMMER TOES

The four smaller toes of the foot sometimes get stuck curled up and under. That often starts as the toes are being crammed into too small or narrow a shoe or sock or by the muscular action of grabbing onto a flip-flop.

CALLUSES AND CORNS

These show up when your shoes rub against your skin, creating pressure and friction. The body responds by laying down extra skin, but then the raised surface itself becomes another place to press and rub against.

TOES TOO CRAMPED TOGETHER

Remember how spread out the Flintstones’ feet were? Your toes are naturally supposed to have space between them. That allows the metatarsals to meet the phalanges in good alignment, ensuring pain-free and smooth transition over joints of the foot.

FLAT FEET OR PANCAKE FEET

You don’t need high arches to have functional feet, but if the whole foot contacts the ground and you have some aches and pains, you may need to look deeper.

ARCH TOO HIGH AND RIGID

People with rigid and high arches usually tend to hang out on the outside of the foot and have a hard time creating stability through the front of the foot.

3 STEPS TO BETTER FOOT HEALTH

There are many simple exercises you can do anytime throughout your day to improve your foot shape and strength, but let’s get started with these three.

1. STRETCH YOUR CALVES IN THE MORNING

Grab a towel, roll it up to the thickness of a wine bottle and put it in front of you. Space your feet hip-width apart. Step forward, and place one foot at the edge of the towel, keeping the foot straight. Walk forward with the other foot until you feel a stretch in the calf of the front foot. Keep the pelvis from rotating, and do not bend at the waist. Keep weight in the heel of the stretching leg and both legs straight. You can step forward or back to adjust the amount of stretch. Hold for 1 minute on each side, and repeat several times.

2. STRETCH YOUR TOES

You can give your toes a great stretch by interlacing your fingers and toes for a “foot shake.” Simply thread your fingers between your toes and hold for a while. TV time is a great time to stretch those toes.

3. MASSAGE YOUR FEET

Use a tennis ball to massage your feet daily. Place it directly under your foot, and roll back and forth, focusing on releasing tighter, stickier spots. Don’t use too much weight. It should feel good.

Keep in mind that it takes time to recover your foot health after years of stuffing them in shoes and walking on manufactured and manicured ground. Ultimately, your shoes need to change as much as your feet, but giving your feet some tender loving care is a great start.

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