Fight The (Free) Radicals!

We’ve heard the buzz word antioxidant in the media for years now. We know antioxidants are good for us, but do we really understand what the heck they are and how they benefit us?

Here’s the basic, basic, basic (did I mention basic?) version of what happens:
Free radicals are formed when oxygen reacts with certain molecules inside our bodies. These molecules become oxidants and they are bad (hence the need for ANTI-oxidants to combat their badness). Remember back to chemistry class and atoms? Protons, neutrons, electrons, etc? Remember that atoms need to be stable, and that an even number of electrons helps make them so? (Wait, what?? You don’t remember everything from your high school chem class? Geeze!) Well, no worries. I just reminded you. And that’s all you really need to know for this basic (did I mention basic?) lesson.
So oxygen reacts with molecules in our bodies and free radicals are created. Free radicals are unstable and need extra electrons to become stable, and also, they are jerks. They steal other atoms’ electrons to stabilize themselves. The problem is that this now leaves the other atoms unstable. The atoms they steal from could be atoms that make up DNA (kind of a big deal, no?), cell membranes, proteins, and a whole host of other important molecules in our bodies.
The presence of free radicals in and of themselves is not the bad thing. Its what they do to stabilize that causes problems. Free radical damage has been linked to diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Aaaand, how do antioxidants help? Essentially anitioxidants donate the extra electrons the free radicals need in order to become stable so the free radicals don’t have to steal. This helps keep the important molecules in our bodies intact, and helps keep us healthy in the long run.
How do you get anitoxidants into your system? You eat anitoxidant-rich foods! Think of foods whose flesh (not just skin!) is a deep, rich color, and you probably come up with foods that have serious antioxidants properties. Grapes, berries, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes etc. You’ll also find antioxidants in foods rich in omega-3 fats such as oily fish and nuts.
Not only do these foods help support clean eating and weight loss goals, but they can help keep your body healthy at the most micro-level. If you aren’t incorporating them into your diet already, get on it!
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Three Things That Improve When Women Start Weight Training

1. Metabolism – Its a true story: Muscle burns more calories than fat. Or to be more accurate, it requires more energy to sustain muscle than it does fat.
One pound of muscle will increase your resting metabolic rate (i.e. the number of calories you’d burn if you did nothing but lay in bed all day) by about 7-10 calories. On average a person can put on about 3-5 pounds of muscle in about four months of lifting weights. So, lets do some math here.
3 pounds of muscle x 7 calories per pound = 21 extra calories per day.
So, assuming no additional changes to diet, any extra cardio, or any further muscle gain (which is unlikely because if you keep lifting you’ll keep building muscle), you’ll lose 2.2 pounds per year (7665 extra calories burned over 365 days). Keep in mind that these are super conservative numbers and every body is different. Many of us have the ability to lose up to five pounds per year with the same weight training routine. I wanted to give you the bare minimum here.
You know the beauty of this though? You don’t have to stop there. Say you do cardio with your new three pounds of muscle, you’ll burn more calories than you would have without it. And say you walk your dog around the block with your new three pounds of muscle, you’ll burn more calories doing that too. And say you cook bacon for breakfast…well you get the point! The more muscle you have, the more you burn all day long. If you were forced to pick either cardio or weight lifting for long-term, sustainable weight-loss, you’d want to pick the lifting without question. Lucky for us we can do both, and the cardio is just the icing on the cake…er…scale.
2. Shape – I’m going to use myself as an example here. I’m shaped like a pear. Lean(er) on top. Heavy on the bottom. Its just the way my body is. No amount of weight loss is ever going to change that. I might be a smaller pear or larger pear depending on how much I weigh, but if I don’t take action to change it, I’ll always be a pear.  Squats, lunges, and deadlifts will most definitely make my lower half firmer and more aesthetically pleasing (if you ask me), but they will not ever make my ass narrower than my back. Nope, not going to happen.
So. How does lifting solve the proportion problem? The right exercises will help me grow my shoulders and back to “match” my butt and hips by increasing the size of the muscles in the top half of my body. Same thing goes for someone who carries weight in her belly and doesn’t have any junk in her trunk. Lifting can create that junk! Building muscle can help you “bring up” your weaker body parts, whatever they are.
Once you’re at a good point, body fat-wise, you can begin to change your shape with the help of weight training. Or better yet, use weight training as a tool to help you drop fat and shape your body at the same time. Two birds, one dumbbell.
3. Empowerment – There is nothing more empowering than looking at a task which intimidates the hell out of you and conquering it. I don’t care if you are an eighteen-month old learning to walk or an eighty-nine year old trying to get out of your chair without help. Being nervous, afraid, or unsure about something and then kicking its ass will change your perspective on life, at least in that moment.
Lifting a weight that is heavier than the one you used last workout, pushing yourself to eek out two more reps, trying new exercises. All of these challenges can be a little scary in the moments leading up to them, but the feeling you get when you inevitably conquer them is rarely found elsewhere.
As women we should covet every empowering opportunity we can create throughout our day. They add up. Before you know it not only will you be slinging weights and sporting muscles, you’ll be tackling that DIY project you thought was too much work, asking for the raise you so deserve, and trying something new with your partner in bed. Yes. Lifting will improve your home, your career and your sex life (among other things), I promise.
Hopping off the treadmill and picking up a dumbbell can be a little intimidating (read Empowerment, above) but trust me, it’s totally worth it!
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