Archive | February, 2017

Caffeine 101: What You Need to Know for Your Health and Fitness

20 Feb

We all drink some form of it – whether it’s coffee or tea or soda.   It’s even naturally occurring in some of the foods we eat.  Caffeine is everywhere, but how much of it should you be consuming and in what form?  Let’s get down to the basics.caffeine

What is caffeine and what does it do?  
Caffeine is a drug that is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It’s also produced artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Caffeine gives most people a temporary energy boost and elevates mood.

Whether caffeine is consumed in food or as a medicine, it changes the way the brain and body work. Once consumed, caffeine is absorbed into the blood and body tissues within around 45 minutes.  Caffeine blocks the nervous system’s ability to open up the brain’s blood vessels, causing them to constrict – this is the reason caffeine is used in pain relief medicine for headaches. If the headache is vascular, the effect of caffeine narrowing the blood vessels can offer relief.

Where is it found?
Caffeine occurs naturally in the leaves, seeds, or fruit of more than 60 plant species, including:

Coffee beans – seed
Tea leaves – leaves, bud
Kola nuts – seed
Cacao beans – seed
Guarana – seed
Yerba mate – leaf
Yoco – bark

Caffeine no longer only features in tea, coffee, and chocolate; it is regularly added to gum, jelly beans, waffles, water, syrup, and more.  Caffeine is even being added to marshmallows, sunflower seeds, and other snacks for its stimulant effect.

How much is safe?
Studies suggest that moderate amounts of caffeine are not harmful. How much is moderate? One hundred to 200 milligrams (one to two 5-ounce cups of coffee) each day is the limit that some doctors suggest, but each person is different.

How caffeine affects people varies with their size, their sex, how sensitive they are to caffeine’s effects, and any medications or supplements they may be taking. Experts agree that 600 milligrams (four to seven cups of coffee) of caffeine or more each day is too much.

The amount of caffeine included in some common foods and beverages are:

  • Coffee, brewed – 102 -200 milligrams per cup
  • Coffee, instant – 27-173 milligrams per cup
  • Coffee, decaffeinated – 3-12 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, brewed American – 40-120 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, brewed imported – 25-110 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, instant – 28 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, canned iced – 22-36 milligrams per 12 ounces
  • Caffeine-containing cola and other soft drinks – 36-71 milligrams per 12 ounces
  • Cola and other soft drinks, decaffeinated – 0 milligrams per 12 ounces
  • Cocoa – 3 – 13 milligrams per cup
  • Chocolate, milk – 3-6 milligrams per ounce
  • Chocolate, bittersweet – 25 milligrams per ounce

What are the risks of caffeine intake?
Caffeine consumption is generally considered safe.  However, it’s good to keep in mind that caffeine is addictive and some people’s genes make them more sensitive to it.Some side effects linked to excess intake include anxiety, restlessness, tremors, irregular heartbeat and trouble sleeping .  Too much caffeine may also promote headaches, migraines and high blood pressure in some individuals .  Finally, it’s worth noting that caffeine can interact with some medications.

What are the health benefits?
Caffeine consumption is linked to several health benefits:

  • Protection against heart disease and diabetes: Recent evidence shows a 16–18% lower risk of heart disease in men and women who drink between one and four cups of coffee each day.  Other studies show that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee or green tea per day is linked to a 14–20% lower risk of stroke.  A recent review notes that those who drink the most coffee have up to a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Similarly, those who consume the most caffeine have up to a 30% lower risk.
  • Protects the liver: Coffee may reduce the risk of liver damage (cirrhosis) by as much as 84%. It may slow disease progression, improve treatment response and lower the risk of premature death.
  • Promotes longevity: Drinking coffee may decrease the risk of premature death by as much as 30%, especially for women and diabetics.
  • Decreases cancer risk: 2–4 cups of coffee per day may reduce liver cancer risk by up to 64% and colorectal cancer risk by up to 38%.
  • Protects skin: Consuming 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day may lower the risk of skin cancer by 20% .
  • Reduces MS risk: Coffee drinkers may have up to a 30% lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). However, not all studies agree.
  • Prevents gout: Regularly drinking four cups of coffee per day may reduce the risk of developing gout by 40% in men and 57% in women.
  • Supports gut health: Consuming 3 cups of coffee a day for as few as 3 weeks may increase the amount and activity of beneficial gut bacteria

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Caffeine is not as unhealthy as it was once believed to be. In fact, evidence shows that it may be just the opposite.  Therefore, it’s safe to consider your daily cup of coffee or tea as an enjoyable way to promote good health.  

See you at the Studio – after my cup of tea, of course!

PX Studio


Article Sources:
Medical News Today (
Authority Nutrition (
CNN Health (
Evolution Nutrition (

Healthy Chocolate? Absolutely!

13 Feb

chocolateValentine’s Day is here and the grocery aisles are full of that glorious decadence that we call chocolate!  Sure, chocolate and candies have been the downfall of many a diet, but that doesn’t mean you have to shut them out of your life completely. While the candy aisle can be incredibly overwhelming, there are options that fit into any healthy meal plan.

Now, you can’t just go and grab any old chocolate bar off the shelf. There are “better” types of chocolate out there that have great health benefits.   Let’s compare our top four options:

  1.  Milk Chocolate:  High in sugar, saturated fats and milk solids, dismally low in cocoa and containing preservatives and flavorings, store-bought milk chocolate is designed for overeating, which can quickly push you beyond your calorie needs and put you on a blood sugar roller-coaster.
  2. 70% cocoa chocolate:  Often referred to as the ‘healthy’ chocolate, 70% cocoa chocolate contains considerably more cocoa and less sugar than its milk chocolate relative. Some ‘raw’ chocolates may use evaporated cane juice instead of sugar, and flavonoids in cocoa have been linked to cardiovascular health.
  3. White Chocolate:  Would you like chocolate with your cocoa butter? While more expensive white chocolate does contain the cocoa butter, it is devoid of cocoa solids, which typically qualify ‘chocolate’ and deliver the health benefits associated with choccie.
  4. Unsweetened Chocolate:  As the name suggests, unsweetened chocolate contains no added sugar and can be bitter. However, it’s among the healthiest forms of commercial chocolate. It also works in chocolate savory dishes – think South American cuisine.

Bottom Line:  GO DARK!  The higher the cocoa content, the more health benefits you’re going to get from that sweet treat.  Do yourself a favor though and always check the sugar content before you indulge.  When possible, try to avoid milk solids, corn syrup, soy solids (except lecithin, which will likely be included), artificial sweeteners and colorings. That ensures you’re getting the most health benefits with the least amount of sugar.

Now, you’ve decided you want a treat and you’ve figured out which type to go with.  Still feeling unsure?  Maybe a little guilty?  Not for long.  I keep stating these mysterious “health benefits” that come specifically from darker chocolate so let’s get to it:

A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:

  • 11 grams of fiber.
  • 67% of the RDA for Iron.
  • 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
  • 89% of the RDA for Copper.
  • 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
  • It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.  It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee.

Dark chocolate is also loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.

Finally, your heart loves (moderate amounts) of dark chocolate.  The bioactive compounds in cocoa can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.  It can also improve several important risk factors for heart disease by lowering the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.

This Valentine’s Day (and everyday), remember that you don’t have to completely give up your cravings, but you don’t have to give in completely to your sweet tooth either.  Choose wisely, indulge in moderation, and enjoy that delicious dark treat.

PX Studio


Article Sources
Eat This, Not That
Women’s Health and Fitness
Authority Nutrition



If It’s Raining – We’re Still Training!

6 Feb

I know – we live in beautiful sunny Southern California.  This whole rain thing isn’t really our foxhole.  All we want to do is stay inside – the little voice in our heads saying, “I don’t want to leave the house.” I know the excuses are many and that exercising on rainy days is one of the toughest things to do sometimes, as the rain can easily turn off any inspiration to work out. However, there are many things you can do (besides baking some goodies) on rainy days to make up for the missed exercise time outside & to get rid of those rainy day blues.

  • First of all, if you have a Studio membership you should consider dragging yourself straight there. Join a group pilates or cardio class to give you that extra motivation and push to get your exercise in! It’s only 1 hour!
  • Stretch! Stretching is the best thing you can do for your body, as you can extend your flexibility for the days you can get back outside.
  • Simply do your workout at home!  Take 20 minutes out of the day to do this awesome workout.  You don’t need any special equipment and it’ll leave you showered in strength and feeling like a champion!

Warm Upimages

10 Squats
20 Jumping Jacks
30 Seconds Wall Sit
20 Jumping Jacks
10 Squats

Lift & Crunch

Do each exercise back-to-back four times. Give yourself 30 seconds of rest in between sets.

20 Alternating Supine Leg Lifts
15-20 Crunches


Do each exercise in the following order 3 times. Rest when needed.

30 Knee-to-Elbow Crunches (15 each side)
20 Bicycles
30 Crunch Position Twists

Jammin’ Plank

Pick your favorite song and perform a plank throughout its entire play-time.

Hold a plank for 10 seconds, resting for 1, and repeat!  If you feel your form slipping, come down to your knees.


Just because it’s raining, doesn’t mean you need to stop training!

PX Studio

Article sources:
Fitaholic Training
Fitness Anytime