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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

Walk This Way!

30 Jan

walkingblogWe all do it and we all do it everyday.  We do it without thinking about it.  We do it at home, we do it at work, we do it at the grocery store.  We learn to do it at a very young age and we continue to do it most of our lives.  It’s one of the things our species is best known for. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I’m talking about WALKING.   For most of human history, walking and running were the only means of getting from A to B. These days, that’s no longer the case for most of us. That’s unfortunate because walking—particularly at a brisk pace—is an innate way in which we can burn calories and belly fat. It requires little in the way of equipment, it can be done more or less anywhere and it’s less likely to stress the joints in the way that running can.  Not only that, walking more is a great way to decrease your stress levels. Less stress = easier weight loss.

Now, just walking here and there is great, but how can we really harness the power of walking to make it even more beneficial to our health and fitness?  I’ll go through a few tips, tricks, and even a walking plan to get your started!  It’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other!

  • Increase Your Count:  No matter your current step count, increasing it is totally possible. The average recommendation is 10,000 steps a day – so let’s try increasing it to 15,000 steps per day, seven days a week, to lose weight.  Unlike increasing your workouts overnight, doubling up your step count won’t stress your body or make you prone to injury.
  • Walk Uphill:  Walking uphill, or climbing a staircase will help you build more muscle, which increases your metabolic rate. That will help you burn more calories even when you’re sitting. Add incline intervals to your walks three days per week and steadily increase from there.
  • Power Walk:  Picking up the pace for one-minute intervals gets your heart rate up and burns more calories. You can increase the pace and duration from there.  Don’t forget to swing your arms!  More movement = more calorie burn and strength building.
  • The Long Route:  Park farther from the door, take the stairs, walk around the building instead of through it.  As we’ve said, integrating more steps into your daily tasks can help you hit your daily step goals and lose more weight.

So here’s the thing:  for a lot of people, walking is just plain boring.  Sure, it’s easy, but how motivated are you to really put it to work for you?  Try these tricks and you’ll be motivated in no time!

  • Choose Your Shoes:  Make sure you choose comfortable shoes, with flexible soles and stiff heel counters to prevent side-to-side motion.  You’ll want them to be lightweight, cushioned, and have low heels.  Chances are, you already have them in your closet!
  • Make a Playlist:  Having a great soundtrack to your walk will motivate you to push harder and go farther and the best part is that you probably won’t even notice the extra effort that you end up putting in. Look for songs that are between 75 to 130 BPM—these tempos will help you synchronize your stride to the beat.
  • Find a Buddy:  Numerous studies confirm that having a strong support group is vital to achieving and maintaining weight loss success, with those who are part of a social support network losing more weight than their solo counterparts.  Plus, you get a nice catch up session with your friend – the time will fly by!
  • Vary the Route:  Switch up the path from time to time to keep your interest up.   With so many new things to see, you won’t be prone to boredom or burn out.  Also, try changing up the surfaces on which you walk.  Walking on grass or gravel burns more calories than walking on a track, while walking on soft sand increases caloric expenditure by almost 50 percent!

Finally, if you need a little guide to get you going, just follow the plan below.  As you get more advanced, simply increase the time and pace of your walks.  Fit them in as much as you can, wherever you can!  Your body will thank you for it.

DAY 1:  
Walk for 5 minutes after breakfast.
Walk for 5 minutes after lunch.

DAY 2:  
Walk for 10 minutes after breakfast.
Walk for 5 minutes after lunch.

DAY 3:
Walk for 15 minutes after breakfast.
Walk for 5 minutes after lunch.

DAY 4:  
Walk for 20 minutes anytime before dinner.

DAY 5:
Walk for 15 minutes after breakfast.
Walk for 5 minutes after lunch.

DAY 6:
Walk for 20 minutes after breakfast.
Walk for 5 minutes after lunch.

DAY 7:  
Walk for 25 minutes anytime before dinner.

DAY 8:  
Walk for 20 minutes after breakfast.
Walk for 5 minutes after lunch.

DAY 9:  
Walk for 25 minutes anytime before dinner.

DAY 10:
Walk for 25 minutes after breakfast.
Walk for 5 minutes after lunch.


Now go enjoy the outdoors, burn those calories, and get walking to a whole new level of fitness!

PX Studio

Article Sources:
Eat This, Not That (
Women’s Health (
My Fitness Pal (

Keep Your Resolution Goals on Track – Recipe Time!

23 Jan

Can you believe it?  We’re now 4 weeks into our new year and almost into February.  This is generally when the times get rough trying to stick to your health and fitness routines.  The weather is chilly, making us gravitate towards heavier comfort food.  The year begins to get busier with school starting again and upcoming holidays.  For most people (including me), the answer to keeping my healthy lifestyle on track starts and ends with my meals. But who has the time to do major food prep and spend hours on end in the kitchen?  Yeah, me either.  You need recipes that are quick, stress free and that you can rely on.

Here’s a little recipe from my playbook to help you keep on track and moving forward. Creating something that is warm, comforting, filling, and easy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor or nutrients:



1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Additional salt and pepper, to taste


Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute more. Add the cooked onion to a 3-quart or larger slow cooker.

Add the jalapeño, tomatoes, black beans, corn, broth, chili powder, cumin, coriander, bay leaf, 1?2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1?2 teaspoon black pepper to the slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low 8–10 hours, or high 4-6 hours. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with tortilla strips, avocado, non-fat greek yogurt, and fresh cilantro and any other toppings you like.


CRISPY TORTILLA STRIPS: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Using a pizza cutter or large chef’s knife, cut 8 corn tortillas into several 1/2-inch-wide by 3-inch-long strips. Spread tortilla strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake, turning once, for 10-12 minutes, just until hard and crunchy. Remove from oven and let cool.

Remember:  YOU CAN DO THIS!!!   Stay on track and reach those goals!  See you at the Studio!

PX Studio

Recipe originally adapted from:
Oh My Veggies (

Make Lemon Water Your “New Year, New You” Go-To!

16 Jan

two-glasses-of-lemon-waterTwo simple ingredients – lemon and water.  You might wonder how that could possibly have any effect on your health and your body – and you would be surprised!  Simply adding lemon juice to your water has a variety of benefits.  Try it once and you’ll never go back!

What Is It?
Lemon water is simply the juice from lemons mixed with water.  The amount of lemon you use depends on your personal preference, and this drink can be enjoyed either cold or hot. Some people also choose to add lemon rind, mint leaf or other ingredients.

How Much?
For those who weigh less than 150 pounds, squeeze half a lemon’s worth of juice into a glass of water. If over 150 pounds, use an entire lemon’s juice. You can of course dilute the lemon juice more, depending on your personal taste.

When Do I Drink It?
Start your morning with a cup of luke warm lemon water, and keep a pitcher of water infused with a few sliced, whole lemons in your refrigerator to drink throughout the day. The key time however, is drinking a glass first thing in the morning – and about 10-15 minutes before you eat breakfast.

Nutrient Breakdown

  • Calories: 9.
  • Sugars: Less than 1 gram.
  • Vitamin C: 25% of the RDI.
  • Folate: 1% of the RDI.
  • Potassium: 1% of the RDI.

Additionally, remember that the exact nutritional value depends on how much lemon juice you add, as well as any other ingredients.

What Does It Do?
1. It promotes hydration.

According to the Food and Nutrition Board, the dietary reference intake for water is 91 to 125 ounces. This includes water from food and drinks.  Water is the best beverage for hydration, but some people don’t like the taste of it on its own. Adding lemon enhances water’s flavor, which may help you drink more.

2. It’s a good source of vitamin C.

Citrus fruits like lemons are high in vitamin C, which is a primary antioxidant that helps protect cells from damaging free radicals.  Vitamin C may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and lower blood pressure. Research published in Stroke showed that people with low vitamin C levels, especially obese men with high blood pressure, have a higher risk of stroke. Vitamin C may also help prevent or limit the duration of the common cold in some people, although studies are conflicting.

While lemons don’t top the list of citrus fruits high in vitamin C, they’re still a good source. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1/4 cup raw lemon juice provides about 23.6 grams of vitamin C. That’s over 30 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

3. It improves your skin quality.

Vitamin C found in lemons may help reduce skin wrinkling. A study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition concluded that people who consumed more vitamin C have less risk of wrinkled and dry skin.  How water improves skin is controversial, but one thing is certain. If your skin loses moisture, it becomes dry and wrinkle-prone. Whether it’s better to apply moisturizer to the skin or drink more water isn’t clear, but UW Health recommends drinking at least eight glasses of water daily to stay hydrated and rid the skin of toxins.

4. It supports weight loss.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition showed that polyphenol antioxidants found in lemons significantly reduced weight gain caused by a high-fat diet in mice. In addition, insulin resistance was improved.

While the same results need to be proven in humans, anecdotal evidence is strong that lemon water supports weight loss. Whether this is due to an increase in water intake and fullness or the lemons remains to be seen.

5. It aids digestion.

Some people drink lemon water as a daily morning laxative to help prevent constipation. Drinking warm or hot lemon water when you wake up may help get your digestive system moving.

6. It freshens breath.

Have you ever rubbed a lemon on your hands to remove a powerful stench? It’s thought to neutralize odors. The same folk remedy may apply to bad breath caused by eating foods with strong smells like garlic, onions, or fish.  Keep your breath sweeter by drinking a glass of lemon water after meals and first thing in the morning. Lemon is thought to stimulate saliva, and water helps prevent a dry mouth, which leads to bad breath caused by excess bacteria growth.

7. It helps prevent kidney stones.

The citric acid in lemons may help prevent calcium kidney stones. UW Health recommends increasing citric acid intake to decrease your risk of getting new calcium stones. Drinking lemon water not only helps you get more citric acid, but also the water you need to prevent stones.  Having 1/2 cup of lemon juice provides the same amount of citric acid you’d find in prescription varieties.

Research shows lemon water has potential health benefits.  Adding lemon to your water may help you drink more throughout the day to help you stay hydrated, which is critical to good health.  If you drink it hot, lemon water is a comforting alternative to other hot beverages. If you drink it cold, it’s refreshing and energizing.  No matter how you enjoy it, lemon water will give you a wellness boost.

See you at the Studio – with your lemons water bottles full and ready to go!

PX Studio


Article Sources:
Life Hack (
Health Line (
Authority Nutrition (



Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals for 2017

9 Jan

We all start off each New Year with an idea of who we want to be, what we want to do, and generally a vague sense of how we want to accomplish that.  For most of us that means something like “I’m going to be healthier and get in shape!”  While that is an awesome sentiment and one we should always be striving for, there is no real way to quantify it and actually assess our progress and whether or not, at the end of the year, we have achieved that.  I want to help you be successful in reaching that lifestyle objective, so we’ll start off with the SMART model.  Once you have planned your overall objective (be healthier, lose weight, eat better, workout more, etc) turn your attention to developing several goals that will enable you to be successful. Goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.


That’s a great method – but what does it really look like in action?

  1. Specific. Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. 
    • A common goal, “get healthy,” is too general. There are so many ways to get healthy. How do you want to do it? Is it losing weight? Start exercising? Stop smoking? Break it down and it will be easier to manage.
    • Let’s pick weight loss and make a SMART goal out of it together. For example, “I will lose weight.”
  2. Measurable. A goal to “lose weight” is not enough. How will you track your progress and how you will know when you have reached your goal? Making your goal measurable means adding a number.
  3. Attainable. Before you can add a number, you have to know how high or low you want to go. It’s good to ‘shoot for the stars’, but don’t be too extreme. Likewise, a goal that is too easy is also not very motivating. Only you know your limits.
    • Let’s take our goal above. What percentage is attainable for you? Research suggests that a 5-10% weight loss is attainable for most overweight people.
    • A measurable, attainable goal could be, “I will lose 7% of my body weight.”
  4. Relevant. Set goals that are important to where you are in your life right now. Don’t set a goal that someone else is pressuring you to attain-that isn’t very motivating.
    • Examine our goal so far. Does it seem relevant to you? If so, let’s keep going. If you are not concerned about weight loss or this is not a good time in your life to focus on that, choose something that IS motivating to you.
  5. Time-based. Include an end-point. Knowing that you have a deadline motivates you to get started.
    • Since healthy weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week, set your deadline accordingly. For our example we can use 3 months. “I will lose 7% of my body weight in 3 months.”

Now we have a SMART goal! With a goal like this, it’s a good idea to set a few more action-oriented SMART goals so that you have a game plan. Here are a few examples:

  • Walk 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Find an exercise partner in the next three weeks.
  • Buy an exercise journal and record daily workouts.
  • Run a total of 15 miles a week for the next four weeks.
  • Fix your bike and ride it twice a week for the next two months.
  • Take a pilates or cardio class at Pilates X three times a week.
  • Swim three days a week for 30 minutes each workout.
  • Measure your daily caloric intake and record it in your exercise journal for 14 days.
  • Complete a fitness assessment/challenge in the next 30 days.

Becoming a better version of you starts by being SMART!  See you at the Studio!

PX Studio

Article Sources

American Council on Exercise (
Active (