Exercising Hard for a Healthy Heart: Raising the Heart Rate

by May 8, 2014

Exercise has long been shown to have a powerful impact on cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. While any exercise routine can contribute towards the improvement of an individual’s heart health, it is believed that vigorous exercise makes the most powerful impact on the health of this vital organ. For this reason, it is essential to consider including high intensity activities when developing a personal exercise plan.

Exploring the Link Between Intensity and Heart Health

The benefits of regular physical activity is as a whole innumerable. Researchers have long believed, however, that vigorous exercise that causes the heart rate to rise has a longer lasting effect on heart health. According to a study review conducted at the University of Mexico in 2006, higher intensity aerobic routines are more effective at reducing the risk factors of coronary heart disease.

Higher intensity exercises are believed to be the most effective for a multitude of different reasons. These routines allow exercisers to increase overall aerobic capacity, which correlates to a reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease. It has been surmised that the neurological responses of high intensity routines could also be responsible for the overall effect of these activities.

Following a High Intensity Routine

Beginning a high intensity routine that raises one’s heart rate can be a challenging step. Because these routines require a much more advanced level of physical fitness, most individuals will need to slowly work up to intense regimes. Careful attention should be paid to ensure that such exercise routines are not put into place too quickly, which could result in injury.

Heart Rate Max - Min Levels

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years old exercise vigorously for at least 75 minutes each week.  This exercise routine should furthermore be combined with muscle-strengthening activity for optimal health. The same guidelines suggest that increasing the amount of intense aerobic activity twofold to 150 minutes each week will have an even greater effect on overall cardiovascular health and physical fitness.

While some individuals are reluctant to begin a high intensity routine because of the difficulty of such exercise regimes, the significant health benefits of such activity mandates considering such plans. For those that are unable to follow a high intensity activity for a sustained period of time, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staggering lower intensity exercises with those that raise the heart rate. This will ensure the individual still receives some of the benefits of a high intensity routine.

Healthy Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich Recipe

by May 4, 2014

The summer months are upon us which means we are all thinking of the delicious meals that are staples of summer. One very popular item is the cheese steak sandwiches, commonly known as the Philly Cheese Steak. Cheese steaks are a Philadelphia tradition: thin slices from a rich and very fatty slab of beef, fried up and topped with a heavy cheese sauce. We’ve cut down on the fat considerably – but not on the taste.

All it needs is a cold beer or a glass of pinot noir on the side. Make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth in place of chicken stock.

Protein Supplements – The Facts Behind Protein

by April 30, 2014

Daily schedules have turned a lot of individuals to protein supplements and meal replacements to maintain healthy balanced meal schedules. Instead of turning to the bad supplements like seen in fast foods; people are incorporating a variety of protein sources into their everyday lives to make up for the loss experienced.

For those who have the ability to consume six perfectly balanced meals a day to stay in perfect health & shape, supplements are not as necessary. This however is excessively difficult to do with hectic schedules and lifestyles. This is why using protein supplements is necessary for many.

Protein Sources

Protein is seen in many different items now a days including protein bars, powders, liquids and even incorporated into other protein sources to increase protein amounts. The quality of protein is measured by the Biological Value (BV).

This value measures how the body absorbs and utilizes protein. It is based on nitrogen retention of the body. When the Biological Value of protein used is higher, the body is able to absorb, utilize and retain better levels.

Proteins that have high BV levels promote lean muscle gains. Of all proteins, Whey protein achieves a rating of 104 BV, being the highest BV of all proteins. The following are several protein sources and their BV levels:

  • Whey protein (104)
  • Egg protein (100)
  • Milk protein (91)
  • Beef protein (80)
  • Soy protein (74)
  • Bean protein (49)

Protein Supplements

protein shakes

There are quite a few different protein supplements available now and the selection continues to grow. Understanding the Biological value of various proteins does help with the selection process for those wanting to increase the amount of protein consumed on a daily basis.

The following are several different types of protein supplements used:

  • Weight Gainers – protein shakes with high calorie base, with on average 30-40 grams of protein. Whey protein most commonly used, but both egg and milk proteins are on the market.
  • Meal Replacement Powders (MRPs) – powders with low calories containing less carbohydrates. Whey protein most commonly used and as of recent a combination of whey & milk proteins being used.
  • Protein Powders – powders that contain mostly protein. Per scoop they commonly contain 5 grams of carbohydrates, 20-25 grams of protein and 100-125 calories. Whey protein and mix blend protein powders mostly used.

Protein supplements continue to change and grow every year. The demand for protein supplementation has grown so drastically that supplement companies are having to find more ways to introduce protein into products that are easy and quick. This has led to the development of:

  1. Protein Bars
  2. Ready to Drink Protein Shakes
  3. Beef Liver Tablets

Which Protein Supplement Is the Best?

There is no exact way to determine the best protein supplement as each have their own pros and cons. For those wanting to gain weight or muscle mass, turning towards weight gainers or protein bars is the common route. For those hoping to do the complete opposite, using meal replacement powders would be the wiser route.

The best protein supplement varies for every need. This is why it is important to understand protein supplements, Biological values and individual needs. If choice is determined by budget however, individuals are more likely to turn towards protein powders as getting massive tubs of blended protein powders can be cost effective for most.

As always, do not use protein supplements to replace regular meals often. They are not better than consuming food and real foods are always the base of every good fitness diet plan.

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup Recipe

by April 26, 2014

Soups are a great addition to every meal plan. They can be made ahead of time and the amount can be adjusted to be for multiple meals. Soups are also a great meal for lunches. Many of us turn to carb filled meals at lunch as we are in a rush but soups allow people to have a hearty lunch without jeopardizing overall health. 

The following sweet potato and kale soup is one recipe we highly recommend incorporating into your regular meal plan! Check it out below and let us know if you try it. 

Want to cook other delicious recipes that are good for you? We know this all to well! Head on over to our Recipes section for even more recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks & desserts. Here at ShapeWell we want to make improving overall health easier and that includes the things you’re eating!

Improving Memory and Awareness with Napping

by April 23, 2014

The whole idea of mid-day napping to improve memory and awareness is not a new concept. There are places throughout the world that have time allotted every day for an afternoon siesta and it is becoming a practiced process even in the workplace of large businesses and organizations like Apple Inc. and Google. Sadly, this is not a concept that is being picked up on quickly by others even though it has repeatedly been proven that napping will improve an individuals overall memory and awareness with a simple nap. 

Corporate lifestyles are running the world and slowly weeding out the priority for ones mental health. Napping has continuously been labelled as something those of lazy lifestyles do and not those within the corporate world. This however is not true in any way and it is time individuals stop feeling guilty for those weekend siestas and mid movie power naps.

Napping is good for the body and completely natural for people to need. 

Improving Mental Awareness and Memory 

nappingLifestyles are becoming more demanding both in the workplace and also personal lives. People are finding themselves busy from the moment they wake to the moment they go to bed. As lifestyles continue to get busier mental health continues to diminish.

The number of people affected by mental health complications such as: 

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Personality disorders 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Psychotic disorders

This isn’t stating that if an individual does not get the necessary amount of sleep everyday they will be affected by any of the above mental illnesses, but their chances are increased greatly. The number one mental illnesses seen throughout the United States is depression. More individuals are becoming overwhelmed with their lifestyles but never having that fulfilled feeling; leaving them struggling with depression, anxiety and over time other serious mental illnesses. 

Napping has proven to have an overall improvement on many mental illnesses, overall awareness of surroundings and an individuals memory. Naps also assist with an individuals overall productivity. The more productive and successful in everyday life, the less likely someone is confronted with depression. 

How Long Should You Be Napping? 

10/20 Minutes: commonly known as the power nap; beneficial for refreshment of mind and increasing alertness and overall energy. Does not enter a deep sleep state allowing individuals to get back to daily activities without any sluggish effects. 

30 Minutes: this nap length will generally have individuals feeling groggy afterwards as their bodies are just entering a deep stage of sleep. Will help improve alertness and overall energy once grogginess has subsided. 

60 Minutes: just as a 30 minute nap, a 60 minute nap will also be confronted with some unwanted grogginess at first. 60 minute naps are great for a memory boost as well as improving energy drastically when grogginess subsides. 

90 Minutes: for those able to get a 90 minute nap, the overall results are like getting a good nights sleep. A complete sleep cycle is done and there is benefits to emotional memory, creativity and alertness. This nap is very beneficial for those who do not sleep much at night or struggle sleeping at night. 

Naps are very beneficial for everyone both physically, mentally and emotionally. Do not cut out night time zzz’s if day time zzz’s are being had; have naps as an addition to night sleep and see improvements all around. 

The Hidden Calories of our Diets and Refrigerators

by April 20, 2014

The refrigerator is the home of many things and the home of many items that contain a lot of hidden calories. These are items that have zero nutritional value yet seem to make their way into many of our meals. They are typically high in fat, contain unhealthy additives and lack nutritional positives for our diets. In most cases they also lack vitamins, minerals and any essential nutrients for a healthy diet. 

The Hidden Calories of our Diets 

There are several things that live in just about every refrigerator across the United States: 

  • Mayonnaise 
  • Ranch Dressing 
  • Creams

These are considered some of the biggest offenders and are the most commonly used condiments in homes. There are many reasons why these items should not be incorporated into any diet, whether one to lose weight or one that is maintaining a healthy weight. 

Mayonnaise hidden calories - mayonnaise

Even though this item is simply oil, egg yolks, vinegar, seasonings and lemon juice; two tablespoons alone are equal to 200 calories and 24 grams of fat; 4 grams of which are saturated fats (the bad kind of fat). 

Mayonnaise is an item that can make just about anything taste delicious, but it is jam packed full of useless calories and has zero nutritional value to overall health. Don’t go reaching for the low fat or light options either as they are just as bad as regular containing such things as high fructose corn syrup and various other additives to improve flavor. 

Foods that may contain mayonnaise: 

  • Pasta salads 
  • Devilled eggs 
  • Creamy artichoke dips 

Ranch Dressing 

hidden calories - ranch dressingThe most commonly used salad dressing, vegetable dip and flavor additive in the United States. It is the top selling condiment for over 20 years and an item that can have people consuming hundreds of calories in minutes; without even knowing it. 

Two tablespoons of ranch dressing equals approximately 150 calories, 16 grams of fat and 12 percent of the daily recommended sodium.  It contains zero vitamins and only 1% of the daily recommended value (DV) of calcium. When used, people are more commonly to just squeeze from the bottle; meaning even 1/2 cup of the dressing can have over 600 calories on one plate. When used for fries or pizza, the calories sky rockets even more! 

Foods commonly combined with ranch dressing: 

  • Salads 
  • Vegetables 
  • Pizza/fries 


hidden calories - creamsAll those items throughout the fridge with the label, cream. There are many of them, and many of them are not doing our diets any good. Items that are commonly seen within fridges are: 

  1. Sour cream
  2. Cream cheese

Sour cream is used for many different things even though it is generally ninety percent fat. Just two tablespoons equals 60 calories, 18 percent of the DV of saturated fats and zero nutritional value. Sure, this is a lot less than mayonnaise and ranch dressing; but it still is an item containing zero nutritional value and an item seen in millions of refrigerators. 

Cream cheese is another item many use regularly. Two tablespoons contains 100 calories, 28 perfect of the DV of saturated fats and zero nutritional value. Most restaurants and bakeries will put approximately 4 tablespoons or more onto bagels and breads; doubling the calorie intake and saturated fats. Bagels are already quite calorie heavy and when adding cream cheese it becomes even worse. 

As you can see, there are a lot of items our refrigerators contain that have zero value to our overall diets. Many of these items are used to improve the overall taste of other items so it is always recommended to use them within moderation.

Stop slathering them on and actually pay attention to the amounts you are using to make what may seem as dull foods to taste like amazing foods. Their hidden calories can murder any diet if not monitored! 

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