8 Things To Do On An Active Recovery Day

8 Things To Do On An Active Recovery Day

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON VITAMIN SHOPPE.

No matter how dedicated you are to crushing it at the gym (or in spin class, the pool, or out on the track), some days you wake up and just need some rest.

Despite sore muscles and stiff limbs, many of us are tempted to skimp on rest and recovery days—but they’re crucial to our progress and to maintaining the mental and physical balance that keeps an active lifestyle fun, says Grayson Wickham P.T., D.T.D., C.S.C.S., D.P.T., founder of Movement Vault.

When you need a day off from the gym, you’ve got two options: active recovery or full-on rest. (You probably need one of each per week if you work out pretty hard most days.)

If you’ve been gritting your teeth through discomfort or general tiredness and can’t remember the last time you fully stopped moving, just take a full rest day so you can sleep in, lounge around, spend time with loved ones, or do nothing at all, says Wickham.

But if you just feel a little more stiff or sore than usual, or don’t feel up to hitting the gym hard, an active recovery day may be more what you need, he says. Instead of couching-it all day, you’ll do specific things to maximize your body’s repair after days of hard work, says David Otey, C.S.C.S., Pn1.  Active recovery days support the muscle-building, fat-blasting work you do in the gym, help balance your hormones and mental state, and reboot your central nervous system.

Sounds pretty great, right? Check a few of these mind and body-boosting activities off your to-do list so you can make the most of your next active recovery day:

1. Light Cardio

Every time you exercise you create micro-tears in your muscles, says Otey. Ample recovery time helps your muscles repair the damage and grow stronger.

Doing some light cardio on an active recovery day will help get your blood pumping, which transports oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, without damaging them further, he says. Whether you head out for a walk or go for a bike ride, stick to about half an hour (or less) of low-intensity exercise (about 30 to 50 percent effort), says Otey.

2. Mobility And Flexibility Work

Active recovery day is the perfect opportunity to restore and work on your range of motion and flexibility by doing yoga, taking a mobility class, or doing some low-intensity dynamic stretches (like crawling, crab walking, or inch-worming) on your own, says Otey. Not only do these practices support blood flow, but they also help reduce your risk of future injury. Yoga, especially, has been shown to improve flexibility and mobility and benefit people with muscular issues, according to research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

If you go for yoga, stick to a beginner’s class, which will move and restore your body without taxing it too much, says Otey. (If you have a lot of experience on the mat, you may be able to get away with a more intermediate class.)

No matter what you choose to do, your goal is to move and stretch every muscle—from your feet up to your neck, and to move every joint through its full range of motion, he says.

3. Form Practice

If you’ve been itching to try a tricky move in the gym but don’t feel comfortable trying it out with weight in hand, active recovery day is a good time to practice the movement outside the gym.

If you want to nail the Turkish get-up, for example, you can work on the movement pattern at home pressure-free. Or, you can use a PVC pipe or empty barbell to work on your form for common CrossFit® moves like the squat cleans or power snatches, says Wickham. Not only will you build the muscle memory to maintain proper form when you add weight to the moves, but you’ll also tackle any anxiety about performing the move in the gym, he says.

4. Myofascial Work

‘Myofascial work’ is really just a fancy way of saying self-massage, and you’ve probably heard of the most popular method: foam rolling. By massaging your muscles with a foam roller or a lacrosse ball (which hits hard-to-roll areas like your chest and between your shoulder blades), you help to relieve tightness, knots, and circulate nutrients and waste products in and out of your muscles, says Wickham.

While you may need longer if you’re extremely tight or sore, start by spending a minute or two massaging out each of your limbs as well as your trunk (back and chest), he suggests. When you hit a trigger point or tight spot, pause and keep massaging that spot until it starts to dissipate, Wickham says. Over time this will help decrease overall stiffness and restore the muscle’s length and mobility.

Just don’t haphazardly sit on the foam roller while catching up on Netflix, though. To get the most benefit of self-massage, you have to really apply pressure to your muscles, says Mark Barroso C.P.T.

5. Sauna Time

If you love to drip with sweat, the sauna could become a part of your favorite active recovery day rituals. “I’m a big proponent of saunas because they’re relaxing, help promote better circulation, and can actually be good for the heart,” says Wickham.

Plus, according to one study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics, sitting in the sauna for 30 minutes can increase women’s levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which helps our bodies break down fats and build muscle.

Regular sauna sessions can also help the body cope with heat better, so you can perform at higher temperatures, says Wickham.

If you have any heart issues, check with your doc before sauna-ing, but otherwise these hot boxes are generally safe, says Otey. Just make sure you’re well-hydrated before you sweat and listen to your body when it wants out. If you get super drippy, be sure to drink a big glass of water and restock on electrolytes afterward, adds Barroso. (We love BodyTech’s grape Electrolyte Fizz.)

6. Epsom Salt Bath

Not only are Epsom salt baths incredibly relaxing, but they may also help support your health and fitness goals. These soaking salts contain magnesium, and can help soothe away everyday aches and soreness.

And while your body can’t absorb magnesium through your skin like it does when you eat it (which has been shown to enhance exercise performancekeep blood pressure in check, and regulate blood sugar), there’s certainly no harm in a relaxing bath. “Vegging out in the tub is a great way to relieve muscle tension,” says Barroso.

7. Meditation

Meditation can help you relax, repair, and rejuvenate—three things we all want to achieve on active recovery day. “Athletes tend to go rough on their bodies, and meditation can help them understand the relationship between physical exertion and mental awareness,” says meditation expert and founder of Break The Norms Chandresh Bhardwaj.

Beyond what we eat and how often we train, our fitness is also defined by how mindful we are with our bodies, he says. Athletes who meditate regularly can see benefits such as increased focus, reduced anxiety, better sleep, increased ability to cope with injury, decreased mind-chatter associated with failure, and increased humbleness after physical accomplishments and wins, says Bhardwaj.

If you’re new to meditation, Bhardwaj recommends starting with 24 minutes of the practice a day—one minute for every hour. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be a huge effort. Instead, it should be a time in which you can allow yourself to let go, relax, and be in the present moment, he says. Downloading a meditation app—like Headspace or Break the Norms—can be a good way to start.

8. Proper Refuel

We need more calories and carbs when we spend an hour in the gym strength training or hitting intervals hard than we do when we go for a casual walk or bike ride on an active recovery day—but we still need to fuel our body and muscles for our goals, according to Jonathan Valdez, M.B.A., R.D.N., C.D.N.

That means one of our goals on active recovery day—like on our training days—is to eat ample protein. Since you don’t need as many carbs to power you through a workout, Valdez recommends focusing more on eating 25 to 30 grams of protein at eat meal, along with 10 to 15 grams at snack-time.

One of Valdez’s go-to nutritional powerhouses for athletes on recovery day: a fruit smoothie. The fruit will provide an array of vitamins and nutrients—strawberries and kiwi provide vitamin CB vitamins, and antioxidants, for example—and using Greek yogurt as a base will pump up the protein and help muscles recover and rebuild after tough workouts, he says.

Along with protein, water is also top priority. “Your body uses water in countless ways, including flushing out waste, fueling the metabolism, and regulating pH and body temperature,” he says. So hydration, hydration, hydration is nonnegotiable.

 

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Winter Vegetables and Salmon One-Pan Dinner With (Heavenly) Maple-Tahini Dressing

Winter Vegetables and Salmon One-Pan Dinner With (Heavenly) Maple-Tahini Dressing

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON ORGANIC AUTHORITY.

Weeknight dinner has never looked so vibrant and seasonal. This salmon one-pan dinner made with roasted winter vegetables and a delicious maple tahini dressing is the healthiest way to get dinner on the table (or ready for meal prepped lunches) in less than 25 minutes.

 

 

The beauty of the one-pan dinner is minimal dishes and prep work. Simply line a large baking tray with parchment paper, chop up some vegetables, and throw everything together on the tray along with avocado oil or ghee, sea salt, and pepper.

This salmon dinner recipe included seasonal stars like butternut squash, rainbow carrots, and Brussels sprouts. Feel free to use whatever winter vegetables you have on hand for this one-pan meal. Other varieties of winter squash, like delicata or acorn, would work wonderfully. As would parsnips, beets, sunchokes, turnips, sweet potatoes, onion, and cauliflower.

While the vegetables initially roast, make a delectable dressing to coat the roasted vegetables in creamy, tahini goodness. This maple tahini dressing is made up of maple syrup, garlic, and tahini along with salt and pepper for balance.

Tahini, made from blended sesame seeds, provides nuttiness and richness, along with vitamins and minerals like calcium. Maple syrup is a delicious way to sweeten the dressing and adds a bright pop of flavor. Garlic adds oomph and anti-inflammatory properties.

After the vegetables have roasted for fifteen minutes, remove them from the oven and add the wild salmon pieces to the tray. Wild salmon provides a mega dose of healthy fats and protein, but can be swapped with other pieces of fish or thinly sliced chicken breast if you prefer. Pop the baking tray back in the oven and cook for an additional ten minutes (longer for chicken), or until salmon is flaky.

Remove the tray from the oven, divide vegetables and salmon into dishes, and drizzle with the maple tahini dressing. Hello, healthy and easy dinner.

Winter Vegetables and Salmon One-Pan Dinner Plus (Heavenly) Maple Tahini Dressing

Yield: Serves 2 + extra sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or ghee
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 4 rainbow carrots, sliced
  • 2 pieces of wild salmon
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons water, to thin
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Add cut vegetables to lined baking tray and drizzle with avocado oil or ghee. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Roast vegetables 15 minutes.
  4. While vegetables are roasting, make the dressing. Combine tahini, maple syrup, garlic cloves, one-tablespoon of water, and sea salt and pepper to a food processor or high-speed blender. Blend until smooth and incorporated. Add another tablespoon of water to thin texture, if necessary.
  5. After 15 minutes, remove vegetables from oven.
  6. Add salmon to baking tray and season with sea salt and pepper. Place tray back in the oven and cook for an additional ten minutes.
  7. Remove salmon and vegetables from oven and divide into two bowls. Drizzle with tahini sauce and enjoy!

 

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Do You Have a Zinc Deficiency? Here’s How To Find Out….

Do You Have a Zinc Deficiency? Here’s How To Find Out….

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON GUNDRY MD.

So, you’re trying to take care of your health. You’re eating Plant Paradox-friendly foods and doing as much as you can to take the supplements you need for a gut-healthy diet.

 

 

But, even with the healthiest diet, there might still be a few problems you’re not aware of. After all,it takes time to get your body in sync with your new habits. Sometimes it just takes your body time to learn to absorb the nutrients you’re feeding it – and zinc is no exception.

SO WHAT DOES ZINC DO, EXACTLY?

Well, you need Zinc to help facilitate cellular metabolism.1 It’s also really important when it comes to your immune function.2 Zinc even plays a major role in protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, and even in cell division – basically, your body NEEDS it to exist.3

As it turns out though, there are plenty of cases of zinc deficiency. And today, I’m going to help you learn a little more about why our diets lack zinc. I’ll even tell you how to get more good sources that are high in zinc absorbed by your body.

WHY DO AMERICAN DIETS LACK ZINC?

Now, it’s no secret that your body requires zinc to keep you happy, healthy, and alive. Zinc is an essential mineral. In fact, it’s classified as an essential ‘trace’ mineral because your body needs a little bit of it every single day.

You see, zinc is – or should be – everywhere in your body. You can find zinc in all of your cells and organs, bones and tissues, and throughout your body’s fluids.

Of course, more serious zinc deficiencies are not the norm, but millions of people happen to be suffering from slight zinc deficiencies – and even those less severe zinc deficiencies can take a toll on your overall health.

According to The National Institute of Health – adult males should be getting around 11 mg of zinc everyday. And adult females should be taking in at least 8 mg of zinc a day.4

But sadly, millions of people actually are zinc deficient and have no idea. But if you know how to look for the signs of even slight zinc deficiency, you might be able to stop the problem before it gets to be too much to handle.

For starters, you want to ask yourself if you might be more likely to have trouble with zinc absorption. If you fall under one of the following categories, you might want to check in with your doctor about your zinc levels –

  • Do you drink to excess? You might be at higher risk of zinc deficiency.
  • Do you suffer from any kind of malabsorption syndrome?
  • Do you have rheumatoid arthritis? If so, you may need to supplement your zinc as RA patients absorb less zinc and may require supplementation.
How can you tell if you have a zinc deficiency? Here are some possible symptoms:

LEAKY GUT SYNDROME

If you’ve visited this blog before, you’ve likely read about Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky gut is what happens when your intestine becomes permeable for any number of reasons. When that happens, you might experience skin disorders, thyroid issues, or even develop allergic reactions to certain substances and foods. Furthermore, you’ll have a more difficult time absorbing nutrients and your immune system can start to feel out of whack.

But the right amount of zinc could actually help ease certain symptoms associated with leaky gut.5

COMPROMISED IMMUNE SYSTEM

When it comes to your immune system, zinc really helps to keep things running as they’re supposed to.

That’s because the right amount of zinc is really important in terms of white blood cell differentiation and fending off certain diseases. Zinc also helps you kill off dangerous bacteria and viruses. Zinc also helps your cell membranes protect themselves.

And believe it or not, zinc can also affect the balance of your moods, not just your general immune function. In fact, it’s possible to be even more susceptible to coli and other bacterial infections if you’re dealing with a severe zinc deficiency.6

INCREASE IN ALLERGIC RESPONSES

Chronic stress can actually be partially to blame for adrenal fatigue. This can of course affect zinc absorption and lead to deficiency and even spike your histamine levels.7

Turns out, zinc plays a huge part in helping your body put away histamine. So, if you’re low on zinc, you’re probably facilitating the release of extra histamine in certain areas. The problem is, extra histamine can lead to allergic responses like sneezing, runny nose, or even skin irritation. And the higher your histamine levels, the more likely you are to become sensitive to allergens in foods and in your environment.

IMPAIRED COGNITIVE FUNCTION

Now, zinc is absolutely essential when it comes to cognitive function. Unfortunately, if you’re missing the right amounts of zinc, you might notice a struggle with keeping attention or certain motor issues. These can start when you’re a child and continue to exist as you grow and become an adult.8

So, where do you get more zinc?

Well, first of all, supplements and foods high in zinc work best when absorbed with other essential nutrients – like those found in all natural foods. So…

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Autumn Mushroom Stew with Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Autumn Mushroom Stew with Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON MOTHER EARTH LIVING.

Autumn mushroom stew with rosemary mashed potatoes is a hearty, warming dish, perfect for autumn’s first cool day.

 

 

Autumn Mushroom Stew with Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
Makes about 6 cups; serves 4 to 6

Depth of flavor is the hallmark of any good stew, and this woodsy mushroom mélange is no exception. Leftover stew—if there is any—is delicious ladled over fettuccine or added to lentil soup or vegetarian chili. To sip? Pour a medium-bodied Rosso di Montalcino or, if the weather’s frightful, serve a robust Barolo.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 pound portobellos (about 2 large portobellos), gills removed
1/2 pound chanterelles or other wild mushrooms, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
14 ounces white mushrooms, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups Mushroom Stock (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
Vegetable broth, to taste (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, rosemary and thyme and cook, covered, about 15 minutes over medium-low heat until soft and golden brown.

2. Add portobellos, chanterelles and white mushrooms; cover and cook 10 minutes or until soft.

3. Push mushrooms and onions to the side add garlic and cook about 1 minute or until it just releases its fragrance.

 

 

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Build a Fall Garden Medicine Chest

Build a Fall Garden Medicine Chest

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON MOTHER EARTH LIVING.

Fall has come, and with it the time for us to put away our tools, slow down and prepare for a long winter’s rest. Many of us need this physical reminder. Between work, errands, school activities and more, it can be all too easy to attempt to continue operating at full steam during this change of seasons, but this is the time of year when our bodies need to restore themselves.

Mirroring our own turn inward, perennials and biennials return their energy to their roots in the fall. This is why many winter medicines are made from plant roots. As we approach the year’s end for harvesting food and medicinal plants, this is the ideal time to turn to preservation. Many of us preserve food, but it’s just as beneficial to stock our medicine chest with homegrown items—many medicinal plants can be “put up” in the same way as vegetables. We are merely freezing, canning and drying a complement to our winter food supply.

Some wild roots, such as sunchoke, can be dug even in winter as long as the ground hasn’t frozen too hard. If you wish to harvest roots throughout winter, before the snow falls, it’s important to walk the land to locate and mark them for a later harvest. Mother Nature doesn’t plant in rows like we do, so I use a brightly colored row marker labeled with the plant name. If you try this, make sure your marker is tall enough to show above a snowfall.

6 Medicinal Herbs to Gather Now

1. Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic is an important antimicrobial to have on hand. It’s one of our modern day panaceas, with possible medicinal uses ranging from reducing cholesterol and slowing down atherosclerosis to strengthening the immune system and fighting cancer. It’s wise to consume garlic regularly as a way to maintain general wellness, especially as winter illnesses make the rounds. Garlic is also a great treatment to help kick out viruses at the onset, either by consuming large amounts in raw form as food or by making your own capsules or tinctures. The constituent allicin is responsible for the antimicrobial aspect and must be used freshly crushed. Some research has found that the DNA protective effects of garlic are less damaged by heat if the garlic is chopped or crushed then allowed to stand for 10 minutes before cooking. If you’re using garlic for circulatory or reproductive health, there are no usage time frame limitations. Garlic is easy to grow almost anywhere in the country. Dig bulbs when there are just five green leaves remaining on the stalk.

Notes on preservation: Clean the husk from the clove and you can pickle the clove in oil, honey or vinegar (see recipe at right). Garlic can also be infused into oil or made into a tincture. Dried cloves can be stored as is or powdered for later use.

Uses: You can use a garlic-infused oil for ear or topical infections. I always prefer to eat medicinal herbs as food for preventive purposes: Along with using fresh garlic in sauces, dressings and marinades, you might also try pickled garlic as a condiment.

Note: Garlic acts as a blood thinner, so do not take if using similar medications such as warfarin.

 

2. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Although its leaves are more well-known, parsley root is used therapeutically for its medicinal value: It’s rich in vitamins and minerals, and it acts as a diuretic to help the body regulate water content through our kidneys. Because of this, parsley can be useful for treating gout and arthritis.

Notes on preservation: Harvest this root after a couple of light frosts if you’d like its flavor—somewhere between carrot and celery, with a parsley note—to develop fully. You may choose to dry the root for medicinal teas throughout the winter or tincture them, but I like to keep the focus on food. Clean up the white, carrot-like roots and slice them into 1⁄4-inch pieces. Blanch and then flash freeze them on cookie sheets so they don’t clump in your freezer bag.

Uses: You can ramp up the nutritional value of your dishes by adding the roots—fresh, dried or frozen—to soups, sautés or stir-fries, or use them to make tea.

 

3. Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Elecampane is most useful for respiratory ailments. During the summer, this plant sends up large tobacco-like leaves and beautiful yellow flowers. Underground, its system of roots bears a resemblance to the network of bronchioles in a human lung. Elecampane root is known as an expectorant. The phytochemicals it contains help our bodies expel congestion from our lungs.

Notes on preservation: Dig the root, wash it thoroughly and then slice into 1⁄4-inch pieces. Dry it outdoors on a screen covered with cheesecloth to prevent bugs from bothering it, or use a dehydrator. You can also turn the dried slices into a tincture by covering them with pure vodka for four to six weeks, then strain.

Uses: I like to use elecampane as a decocted tea or tincture taken when a cold sets in.

 

4. Burdock Root (Arctium lappa)

Burdock is rich in vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus and calcium. You may find it in your supermarket as “gobo root.” Traditionally, burdock has been used as a diuretic, clearing the bloodstream of toxins. It’s thought to be especially helpful for easing liver complaints and other digestive disorders. Eating or drinking a tea of burdock root may also help clear skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema.

Notes on preservation: Chop burdock root and dry it out of direct sunlight or in a dehydrator until completely dry. Then store it in a dark, cool place. Alternatively, you can blanch the slices, then freeze them on a tray before transferring to a freezer container. You may also make a tincture using the fresh root (cover the root slices with vodka for four to six weeks, then strain). The fresh roots can also be pickled or stored in the root cellar in the same conditions as carrots.

Uses: As a preventive and overall health aid, decoct a tea from the dried roots. (Bring roots and water just to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least 10 minutes before straining.) Another traditional use is to add dried or frozen root slices to soups, stews and winter vegetable stir-fries.

 

5. Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

Marshmallow leaves and roots have been used around the world for their emollient action. Marshmallow can help soften and soothe internal membranes, making it useful to soothe sore throats or irritated bronchial passages. Dried marshmallow root can be used in teas to soothe a sore throat; it’s approved by the German Commission E for treating inflammation in the stomach, mouth and throat. It’s also traditionally used to soothe an upset stomach and help ward off urinary tract infections.

Notes on preservation: You may dig the roots and slice and dry them for later use. You may also choose to immediately make them into a syrup or tincture. To make an easy syrup, start by making an herbal tea—marshmallow tea is best made with warm but not boiling water; cover the root with warm water, then refrigerate in a lidded jar for several hours or overnight. Next, reduce the marshmallow tea over low heat until it’s shrunk to half its volume. Add a sweetener of your choice and a drop or two of alcohol for preservation, if you like. Store in a dark, cool place for up to two months.

Uses: The dried root may be used to make homemade marshmallows, a favorite recipe of mine for the holidays. Many homemade marshmallow recipes you will find don’t include actual marshmallow root, but Wellness Mama offers one. You can also decoct the dried root to drink as tea or use the slices as a topical compress or poultice for skin ailments. The syrup is helpful for stubborn coughs and the tincture may be helpful for chronic issues of the bowel, bladder or lungs.

 

 

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