Immune Boosting Foods
The whole team at MINT is passionate about the foods that fuel us for success. With our Registered Dietitian Sarah Romotsky leading the charge, we are all on board with eating well to stay fit, and to ward off any signs of the flu this fall! Our Head Pilates Instructor Timea Presley spotted this great guide to immune-boosting foods.
Immune-boosting foods for cold & flu season from Dr. Joel Fuhrman
The weather is beginning to cool down, and soon cold and flu season will be upon us. Cold and flu are a larger burden than we may think. Between treatments, illness-compromised productivity, and lost workdays, it is estimated that the common cold alone costs the U.S. $40 billion each year.1
We all know the basics for reducing exposure – wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and avoid being exposed to people who are already ill. However, exposure to these viruses is not the only factor here – excellent nutrition can reduce our vulnerability to infection and reduce the length and severity of illness if we do become infected.
Many micronutrients are required to support proper function of the immune system, and phytochemicals from colorful produce have additional anti-microbial and immune-boosting effects. A well-nourished body houses a high-functioning immune system.
Mushrooms have a unique ability to activate the body’s natural immune defenses. Reishi and shiitake mushrooms enhance activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which attack cancerous and virus-infected cells.2, 3 Shiitake mushrooms protect against influenza infection in animal studies.4-6 Fortunately though, it is not only exotic mushrooms that benefit the immune system. Eating white button mushrooms daily was found to enhance immune defenses in mucosal linings such as those in the mouth and respiratory tract.7 Dendritic cells are another type of immune cell that protects the respiratory tract, and their activity is also enhanced by white button mushroom phytochemicals.8
The cruciferous family of vegetables includes kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, watercress, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and more. The bitter, spicy, or pungent flavors of these vegetables are provided by glucosinolates, which are converted into potent anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates (ITCs) upon chopping or chewing. In addition to their anti-cancer effects, ITCs also support the immune system and have antimicrobial properties. Cruciferous vegetable phytochemicals may enhance interferon activity, which is an important component of the body’s antiviral response.9, 10
Berries are powerful anti-cancer foods that also offer protection against viruses. Antioxidants called flavonoids, which are abundant in berries, have antiviral activity.11 In fact, if you do get the flu, taking anthocyanin-rich elderberry juice may even shorten the duration of your symptoms.12-14 Berries and grapes are also rich in resveratrol, another antioxidant phytochemical with strong antiviral effects – resveratrol has been shown to block the replication of influenza and other respiratory viruses.15-17 Plus, strawberries are high in vitamin C, which protects immune cells from oxidative damage.18 The benefits of berries go far beyond cold & flu protection. Flavonoid antioxidants like those in berries are not just antioxidants – flavonoids also act on signaling within the cell leading to many beneficial effects: flavonoids activate the body’s natural detoxification enzymes, block the growth of cancer cells, decrease inflammation, and support proper blood pressure regulation.19 Berries (and pomegranates) are also extremely rich in another antioxidant called ellagic acid, a compound known to block cancer cell and tumor growth.20-22
Onions & garlic
There is no convincing evidence for using garlic supplements for symptoms of the common cold.23 However, eating garlic and onions daily has clear benefits when it comes to cancer prevention, and may also help to build immune defenses, including macrophage, T cell, and NK cell activity.24, 25 Plus, several garlic phytochemicals have virus-killing activity against common respiratory viruses.26
By eating nutrient-dense plant foods (vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds and nuts) every day, you will provide your body with a spectrum of immunity-boosting phytochemicals, and you’ll get an additional perk too – these same foods protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other devastating chronic illnesses.
Why Every Athlete Should Do Yoga
MINT Downtown’s Spa Manager and Massage Therapist, Maryl Baldridge, is also one of our wonderful yoga instructors, she recently shared the following article “Why Every Athlete Should Do Yoga“ by Rich Roll with our staff, we thought our members would enjoy it also!
From Mind Body Green (Published May 14, 2012 at 4:40 PM)
Just the other day I was having dinner with an old swimming buddy of mine, Mark Henderson, a former world record holder and Olympic Gold Medalist in the 4×100 Medley Relay at the Atlanta Games. In other words, a phenomenal athlete.
Sure, we talked about swimming. Then our conversation turned (quite unexpectedly) to yoga. Mark had begun practicing recently and was amazed by the results – increased strength, presence of mind and improved sleep, to name a few. The list goes on.
Almost simultaneously, we spurted out the same lament: “Why didn’t we do this when we were competing!?”
In truth, I wish I had discovered yoga during my prime swimming years back in the 1980’s. Because there is no doubt in my mind that it would have made me a much better athlete, not to mention human being.
Thankfully, I discovered it many years later. And it has improved my life in amazing and unpredictable ways – not just with respect to my career as a middle-aged ultra-distance triathlete, but in countless areas of my life.
In my opinion, EVERY athlete – irrespective of sport or discipline – has the potential to enhance his or her ability by adopting a consistent yoga practice. I’d go so far as to say that if you’re not practicing yoga, you’re competing at a disadvantage and missing an opportunity to enhance peak performance.
Here are a few benefits I have reaped:
1. Improved Strength: Routine and consistent practice of the various yoga asanas (poses or postures) has helped me build strength and improve lean muscle mass. Most notably with respect to several muscle groups under-utilized in my chosen athletic disciplines of swimming, cycling and running. These gains have enhanced core body stability and significantly impeded overuse injury by strengthening the supportive but otherwise under-developed muscles surrounding the more utilized muscles, creating a more balanced and optimally functional overall strength.
2. Balance: As a swimmer, I have always been rather flexible. But my balance is historically horrible. But through a consistent yoga practice, my coordination and balance have improved immensely. Why is this important? Better balance and coordination means enhanced control over how I move my body, which in turn leads to better technique and form — the brass ring every athlete spends a career refining, whether your focus is a swim stroke, golf swing, running stride, jump shot or wrestling move.
3. Flexibility: Yoga invariably improves joint and muscular flexibility, which is crucial to the body’s overall structural soundness. Enhanced joint and muscle pliancy translates to greater range of motion, or an increase in the performance latitude for a particular movement or series of movements. For example, a swimmer with supple shoulder and hip joints is able to capture and pull more water than a swimmer with a more limited range of motion. The result is more forward movement per stroke as well as enhanced muscular economy. In turn, this increased range of motion provides a greater ability to strength condition a particular muscle group due to the amelioration in overall force that can be exerted with each movement. And although there is some dispute about the advisability of “over” stretching (for runners in particular), I remain a huge advocate, finding that the more I work to maintain my flexibility (something that wanes with age), the less likely I am to suffer an overuse injury.
4. Mental Control: The physical benefits of yoga for the athlete are huge. But they’re nothing in comparison to the more ephemeral benefits. Most people, particularly athletes, tend to think of yoga as a great “workout” – a means to tighten the core, flatten the stomach and tone that butt. Sure, it does that. But as soon as the rigorous portion of the class comes to a close and it’s time for savasana (corpse pose), otherwise known as the meditative portion of the session where the student lies down on his or her back for a period of quiet meditation, I watch people flee for the door, ducking out early under the false belief that this most important asana is optional and unnecessary – the hard work is done.
Not only are these people wrong, they’re missing the point of yoga entirely. Because savasana is where the magic happens. Deprive yourself of this experience and you are missing out on the best and most beneficial part of the practice. From a traditionalist point of view, the series of physically challenging yoga asanas were originally designed for a specific purpose that has nothing to do with the strength or flexibility. Instead, they were conceived and organized solely as a means to prepare the mind and body to reap maximum benefit from the important meditation that follows, which, taken as a whole, is a routine designed not to give you a nice butt, but to improve your ability to quell, quiet and control the impulses of the mind — to clean mental house, center focus and promote serenity by silencing the endless and seemingly unmanageable mental chatter that invades our daily experience and undermines the expression of our “best self” within.
In other words, savasana is the most important part of the practice for the athlete (and everyone). Why? Because the mind is a mysterious contraption, more often than not an actual enemy, constantly impulsing us with negative and fear-based signals that keep us trapped, afraid and all too often paralyzed to unlock the dormant and untapped potential within that is yearning to come out.
What does this have to do with athletic performance? Everything. When you look at the highest levels of sport, all the athletes are incredibly talented. They all train equally hard. So what distinguishes the Olympic champion from the also-ran? The mind. The guy or girl who wins typically knows he/she is going to win. Unrestrained by fear, free from negative thought patterns, and laser focused, I think it’s fair to submit that the champion athlete most likely has enhanced dominion over his/her thoughts when compared to his/her competitors, able to leverage it’s incredible power to focus entirely on the task at hand and remain thoroughly rooted in the present moment without the invasion of unhelpful thought patterns. They visualize success so completely that it literally becomes a foregone conclusion.
Much like a muscle, the mind can be trained. And consistent practice of the asanas when followed up with proper savasana is the best way I have found to not only improve my sleep, reduce stress, quell negative mental chatter, and manage (and walk through) fear, it informs my entire approach to training and racing. And has made all the difference in helping me achieve some rather fantastical athletic goals that seemed not only far beyond my capabilities, but almost impossible from any objective or logical perspective.
5. I Met My Wife In Yoga: The biggest benefit I have reaped from yoga? 14 years ago I met my wife in a yoga class. We’ve been together ever since. Not only is she a fantastic yoga teacher, she has been instrumental in making me a better man and a better athlete. So there you go. Don’t underestimate the extent to which yoga can change your life — you just never know.
Looking for an athletic edge? This is it. So get on it, before your rival does.
About Rich Roll
Rich is a two-time top finisher at the Ultraman World Championships and in 2010 was the first person (along with colleague Jason Lester) to complete EPIC5 – 5 ironman-distance triathlons on 5 Hawaiian Islands in under a week.
His inspirational memoir FINDING ULTRA: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself (Crown / Random House) hits bookshelves May 22, 2012 and is currently available for pre-order.
My First Acupuncture Experience
From MINT’s Executive Assistant to the CEO, Marketing & Operations Coordinator, Kristin Thompson
Rarely do I feel like it’s time to start something new. It’s the overly optimistic side of myself that feels like ‘those things’ should wait until a moment of inspiration, or, for a clearing on my calendar. But, in those occasional moments when I take action and move forward some intention into reality, I am reminded how invigorating new experiences are.
Our new Acupuncturist, Ling Feng, has been on staff now for exactly a month. Yesterday I finally made it in, not to just to talk shop with Ling (full disclosure I work at MINT as our CEO’s Assistant and as a Marketing & Operations Coordinator), but to see what our new expert-in-residence has up her sleeve. When I first met Ling this May, before she started here, I was so impressed by her resume, she was an attending Physician at Beijing’s top hospital before she moved to the US to study Alzheimer’s in New York. A background, which, clearly informed the acupuncture I received yesterday.
I didn’t know what acupuncture would feel like, look like or change. But as I made that jump from co-worker to client, Ling put me entirely at ease, so much at ease that last night was the best night of sleep I’ve had in months! Ling ushered me through her intake form and after slipping under the covers and onto the table she placed small, rounded cups onto muscles we had identified as needing attention. She tightened the cups and I felt the muscles respond at attention and then ease into relaxation. Ling then released the cups and in the rush of decompression I realized this ancient practice has staying power for a reason!
The doctor in Ling was really revealed as she navigated my spine, shoulder and other pressure points – sterilizing and painlessly inserting the acupuncture needles. The surprise of how undetectable the needles were was fascinating and I started to think, okay so if it’s not painful, then what is it? As I settled in – with all the needles in place – and Ling stepped away from the table I laid there, still sort of wondering what really was happening – but, confident that there was really something to all this. I rested, I waited and savored the unhurried moments of laying face down, on a massage table. And, I thought to myself – there is meditative merit to Acupuncture, I get this! When I left the appointment and chatted with some coworkers I realized just how zoned out I had been, and I started to think “she must have really let some toxins out!”
But, the real benefits of the treatment sunk in hours after I left my appointment with Ling. I woke up this morning and for the first time in recent memory the instant ‘to do’ list didn’t start streaming through my head. I glanced over at the clock and it said 8:05 AM! What?! On a Wednesday? That is wild. I am one of those people who doesn’t set an alarm because, until today, I’ve always jolted up early enough that I don’t need one – let alone the grating, anxiety-inducing sound they start your day with. Wow. To put that internal alarm to rest – even if for just one day – is a powerful thing.
With the city’s sweetest and most highly trained Acupuncturist within the four walls of my office – acupuncture is one of those new things that I will actually make a point to mix into my routine.
From MINT Fitness Director Andrew Kubala
MINT Fitness Director Andrew Kubala, recently contributed to an article on the Washingtonian Well+Being blog.
The 20-minute “100 Workout”
By Laura Wainman
Thanks to Pinterest, you’ve learned how to revitalize old photo frames with scrapbook paper, bake the perfect chocolate peanut butter bars, and knot your belt 12 new ways. But the website that brought us the baseball cuff isn’t just for pretty things—it’s also a great fitness resource.
A simple Pinterest search for quick workouts yields hundreds of cardio and strength exercises that can all be completed in under 20 minutes. Whether you’re looking to get bikini-ready abs or shape up your legs for that new pair of shorts you snagged, next time you’re browsing the Pinterest pages during lunch, try our favorite new find: the 100 workout.
We checked in with Andrew Kubala, the fitness director at Mint in downtown DC, to learn what kind of results we can expect from this particular workout.
“The 100 workout is a kick-butt workout that focuses on lower body, core, cardiovascular, and muscle endurance. [It] is worth your while and all the pain if you do it correctly,” says Kubala.
Kubala estimates that if the workout is done properly, you can burn between 200 and 550 calories based on your weight, duration, and intensity. He recommends focusing on your form to get the most out of the workout, and to always listen to your body.
“If you have not exercised in months, do not try to get back on track with an intense workout like this; build up to it,” says Kubala. He does not recommend the workout for anyone with lower-body injuries or risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The advantage of this workout is that it can be done at home, without any machines, and in less than 20 minutes. We tested it for ourselves and can’t help but agree with Kubala: The 100 workout will kick your butt in less time than it takes to watch your favorite How I Met Your Mother episode.
Start out with 100 jumping jacks to get your heart rate up and stretch out the lower-body muscles you will be using later in the workout. Follow with 90 crunches, 80 squats, and 70 leg lifts. By the time we made it to the leg lifts, we were already aching. Remember to take your time with each of these exercises and execute the moves properly to work your body to the max.
After your leg lifts, you’ll pump out another 60 jumping jacks, 50 crunches, 40 squats, 30 leg lifts and the last set of 20 jumping jacks. Finish out your workout with a ten-minute run, and then down some serious water. Be warned: We were still feeling the burn in our calves two days after.
From MINT Owner & CEO, Patrick John
Reporting back from a post I made to this blog eight months ago. At the time I had let the demands of family and the businesses take over all my time, and was off balance without regular exercise. I made a no-excuses commitment to get back into regular training. My trainer Will Noel knew my challenges and created a very systematized and methodical approach, and I plugged in daily bike rides to and from work and watching total calories.
Just like anything in life, it’s amazing what we can accomplish when we really apply ourselves- since then I’ve lost over 5lbs, but most important feel terrific, sleep great, and am more productive- plus old clothes fit again! 34 jeans- wow! It’s also amazing what we can accomplish when we acknowledge that we can’t do it alone! See you on the workout floor.
Drink a Gallon of High Octane Fuel
From MINT Director of Sales, Chris Carnecchia
I needed to write something that would make you say “What in the world is this about?!” It’s about a a simple truth that we, even professionals in the fitness industry, tend to forget from time to time. Last fall, what had been a routine Doctor’s visit turned into a rushed ambulance ride to the Hospital. I’d gone in to the Doctor after feeling lethargic for three days, the symptoms worsened and progressed to practically causing hallucinations. It turned out that a bacteria had spawned severed dehydration. After being treated at the hospital with two bottles of IV, an extremely thick chalk mixture, and a quite sweet drink that numbed my entire insides I was sent home. Three days later after drinking one or more gallons a day of water I was felt like superman! I was embarrassed to have reached the point of such severe dehydration as a result of the bacteria.
However, the entire experience reminded me of the simple truth that water is just like fuel. It allows your body to work properly, flush out toxin and gives you the energy to do everyday things.
You may not always feel the need to drink water when you should, always remember to hydrate! Follow these simple steps to fuel your body:
- Drink 8 ounces of water when you feel hungry and before every meal
- Take a gallon of water and write the day and your name on it. Drink it before the day is over. (This is always at my desk!)
- Working out 3 – 4x a week will also help flush out toxins (it takes 20 minutes of activity before you really begin to start burning those calories)
So drink the FUEL it is the most important item to your body, fitness goals, everyday operation, and life in general. Trust me I know the consequences.
From MINT Registered Dietitian Sarah Romotsky
MINT’s Registered Dietitian Sarah Romotsky recently contributed to the Well+Being blog on Washingtonian wit her tips for avoiding devilish choices at DC’s lunch go-to Pret.
The Best and Worst Sandwiches, Soups, and Salads at Pret A Manger
This popular joint prides itself on being socially conscious, but with so many choices it can be easy to trip up.
By Jazelle Hunt
Thanks to its socially conscious approach, there’s not much to dislike about Pret A Manger. The soup/salad/sandwich eatery came to the District in 2009 and quickly became a staple (especially forWashingtonian staff). So it was with great interest that we asked DC-based Sarah R., RD, to take a look at the menu of this reliable British import.
“They have a good amount of ‘slim’ options, so they already make it easier for customers to recognize the better choices,” she says. “But people can get confused with so many options, and there are definitely some traps they may not be aware of.”
Check out her picks for the best and worst items below.
• Blueberry muffin: Shocker—muffins are totally useless nutritionally (and bagels aren’t too far behind). “Muffins are probably the worst things you can have in the morning; they’ll sit in your stomach and make you tired,” Sarah reveals. “Out of everything, even the chocolate croissant, the blueberry muffins have the most calories, sodium, fat, and carbs, and very little fiber or protein.”
• Plain croissant: If you really want a pastry, Romotsky recommends the plain croissant for its bit of fiber. “Maybe have half with an egg for protein,” she adds.
• Oatmeal: Tried-and-true oatmeal is so healthy, you can order a large. Just be careful about sprucing it up—stick to almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, and no more than one pack of sweetener. Stay away from dried fruit.
• Egg salad, Parmesan, and spinach sandwich: “It sounds like it’s pretty healthy, but the trap is the word ‘salad,’” Sarah explains. “This salad is held together with mayonnaise, so it has half your daily sodium, 650 calories, and 25 grams of fat. You might as well have a slice of cheesecake.”
• Egg salad and arugula sandwich: If egg salad is your thing, then this is the way to do it, our expert says. “In general eggs aren’t bad, but in an egg salad the mayo is the problem. This one’s a bit lighter.”
• Spicy shrimp and cilantro wrap: “I was really excited about this one—it’s got lots of protein, little saturated fat, and it’s on a low-calorie tortilla,” Sarah says. With its snack-worthy 290 calories and hefty 22 grams of protein, you’ll get a filling meal and still have room for a treat later.
Soups and Salads
• Steak and ale soup: “This was mind-blowing to me. It’s like the equivalent of four sliders,” Sarah says. “For 35 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, and 1,125 milligrams of sodium, you could’ve eaten huge amounts of food.” If you really want a beefy soup, Pret’s beef stew is a better bet.
• Pret’s cobb and greens salad: As expected, the cobb , with its bacon and blue cheese, isn’t your friend. Though high in protein, it’s got lots of fat and sugar that render the salad unhealthy.
• Turkey chili: Sarah says, “There were a few [soups] I really liked, but if you get soup for lunch you want to feel full. [This] is high in protein and lower in sodium than most soup.” It comes with pretzel bread, which she recommends swapping for a whole-grain option if available.
• Tuna niçoise salad: Our expert explains: “The tuna has healthy fat, there’s an egg, which is a great source of vitamin D, and it’s a low-calorie option.” The high protein content is a tummy-filling bonus.
Sarah R. is a nutritional counselor at both locations of Mint Gym, and serves gym members and nonmembers. She can be reached at email@example.com, or ask for her at 202-328-6468.
Goal Setting for Success, From MINT Fitness Director Andrew Kubala
The new year is among us and like most people I ask myself where did this past year go? Also like most people I look at the new year as new start, a time to challenge myself and to improve upon this past year. Following these simple rules when setting your fitness goals for the new year and tee yourself up for success:
Keep it simple, specific, realistic & set a date or time line
If you have never worked out in the morning and you are not a morning person, don’t schedule morning workouts. Look at your schedule for the week/day and schedule your workouts or runs for the time that works best for you.
Your Goals should be measurable
Set performance goals, not outcome goals
You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible.
What are your action goals?
How many days a week are you going to run, workout, what is your plan? If you don’t have a plan make sure your research or ask for help. Feel free to grab a trainer for assistance.
Following these few steps can help this year be the healthiest and happiest year yet!
Make 2012 YOUR Year!
Before you travel down the rabbit hole of setting you eye on an ideal weight or a minimum number of times per week that you expect to get to the gym during 2012 – Stop and think with us…. Why is fitness a means to an end towards a better, more enjoyed life?
Before you set SMART (Specific, Meaningful, Adaptive, Realistic & Time-bound) goals for yourself take a step back with us and let’s build the value in the bigger picture. Having a crystal clear mission will always give you cause to take action.
Why does having an active lifestyle matter? Here are four fundamental reasons WHY movement matters:
- Exercise boosts brainpower
- Movement melts away stress
- Exercise gives you energy
- Exercise Helps ward off disease and strengthens your heart
Put the experts at MINT to work for you this year. Recruit us and we’ll make your personal mission a priority. See how the team at MINT is ready to make 2012 YOUR year!
In Defense of Stretching – Sean O’Brien
Let me start off by saying that I hate to stretch, I have my whole life. It doesn’t help that I have been very inflexible my entire life, but I also do not like the slowness of it and the lack of immediate results. You would think then, that all the recent articles saying that stretching does not prevent injuries and may do more harm then good would make me happy, right? Wrong.
There is a tendency in the fitness industry (as well as many others) to try and simplify things down to one-sentence answers and phrases that will sell magazines, books, training sessions and programs. As someone with ten years experience working in the fitness industry and as an elite athlete I have first-hand knowledge of how detrimental this can be. It is my belief (and studies back this up) that conventional static stretching such as a toe touch is almost always a bad idea before working out, especially if your muscles are cold, but that doesn’t mean that static stretching doesn’t have its place for some people at certain times. I also believe that the right kind of stretching will have great benefits in injury prevention and performance. A large amount of the negative press is based off a 2008 running study that had different groups do specific stretches before running or not do the stretches.
I was actually asked to be a part of this study but declined, as I didn’t want to change anything in the year running up to the Olympic Trials. The problem with this study is that they didn’t take into consideration the flexibility issues of each person. Different people and their respective muscle tensions, injury backgrounds, etc, need and will react differently to different stretching regiments.
Most recent articles do make a point of saying that dynamic warm-ups are now believed to do a better job of injury prevention. This I do agree with, but in my opinion most of these are forms of stretching, there-by negating their eye-catching headline and confusing people. I am a big fan of Active-Isolated stretching, especially before exercise and specifically for athletes who have had inflexibility and range of motion issues in the past. The Wharton family is a big proponent of the current Active-Isolated movement.
I started working with the Whartons in 2002 and within weeks of starting their routine had seen dramatic increases in range of motion. I recommend their book (found on that site) to anybody who is interested and Phil Wharton is currently living in the Washington DC area and available for individual or group sessions. We are working on getting him in for a stretch clinic at Mint.
My point in all this is that stretching is something that should not be avoided; rather certain types of stretches should be avoided at certain times. One of our great trainers, Pilates or Yoga instructors here at Mint can help you figure out which style stretching is most applicable to you personally and which exercises you should avoid.