The 13 Best High Fiber Keto Foods

Are you consuming enough fiber from your ketogenic diet? Some folks are worried that they won’t be able to get ample fiber because the keto diet does not allow a lot of fruits and vegetables. However, you can actually eat more than enough fiber if you know where and how to get them.

Virtually all low-sugar fruits and non-starchy vegetables are among the highest in both fiber and nutrients. You can obtain the recommended daily amount of fiber from a keto diet by selecting those items. 

In this post, you’ll get a list of the best low carb foods that are also rich in fiber.

1Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are an excellent addition to your meals, and a good source of fiber, while being low in carbohydrates. A tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flax seeds contains 1.9 grams of fiber and only 0.1 gram of net carbs. 

Flax seeds will improve your cholesterol profile, lower your blood pressure and make you stay fuller for longer. You can add flax seeds to soups, salads, keto bread and desserts. These also make a crunchy coating for chicken or fish in lieu of breading. 

When shopping for them, look for the ground ones because the whole seeds are difficult to absorb. If you add a little (i.e. half tablespoon per serving of soup) the seeds will pass almost unnoticed, but they can certainly add flavor and thickness to your recipes.

2Chia Seeds

Chia is a great source of fiber. A single serving of 28 grams will provide 10 grams of fiber and only 2 grams of net carbs. In addition, it is an excellent source of fat and protein, containing 8.6 and 4.4 grams respectively.

Chia seeds are also known for their high calcium content, which can be beneficial if you are not fond of dairy products. A single serving will give you roughly 20 percent of the recommended daily dose.

3Avocado

Avocado is different from other fruits because it is loaded with healthy fats instead of being rich in carbohydrates. It is a superb source of folate, potassium, vitamins C, K, B5 and B6, making it ideal for the prevention of osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.

Half an avocado (100 grams) contains 14.7 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein and only 1.9 grams of net carbs while giving you 6.7 grams of fiber. Moreover, avocados actually contain more potassium than bananas, which are the frequently quoted potassium-rich food.

4Raw Coconut

Raw coconut is packed with MCTs, copper, manganese, potassium, and selenium. In addition, certain types of fat that it contains, like capric, caprylic, and lauric fatty acids, are believed to be beneficial for the immune system. MCT oil is made by extracting these healthy fats from coconut.

A half cup of raw coconut (40 grams) contains 2.5 grams of net carbs, 13.4 grams of fat, 1.4 grams of protein, while giving you 3.6 grams of fiber. 

5Broccoli

Broccoli has anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its high content of sulfur compounds. It is also an excellent source of folate, manganese, potassium, and Vitamin K. A cup of chopped broccoli (91 grams) contains 0.3 gram of fat, 2.6 grams of protein, 3.6 grams of net carbs, and 2.4 grams of fiber.

Steaming broccoli for 3 to 5 minutes ensures better retention of micronutrients and Vitamin C. It also makes broccoli crunchier and more flavorful.

6Spinach

Spinach is one of the staples for most people on the keto diet. It is a great addition to any type of diet because it offers numerous health benefits such as improving bone health, lowering blood pressure, keeping diabetes in check, among others. It is very versatile – can eat it raw, as a side dish, in soups, in smoothies, in an omelet, and many more.

A 100-gram serving of raw spinach contains 0.4 gram of fat, 2.9 grams of protein, 1.4 grams of net carbs, and 2.2 grams of fiber. Spinach is also rich in magnesium and potassium, both of which are important if you are on keto. 

7Asparagus

Asparagus is loaded with Vitamins A, C, and K, along with folate, phosphorus, and potassium. It also has antioxidants that reduce the effects of chronic inflammation and the aging process. In addition, it helps in stabilizing blood pressure and reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

A cup of raw asparagus (134 grams) contains 0.2 gram of fat, 2.9 grams of protein, 2.2 grams of net carbs, and 2.8 grams of fiber. Majority of grocery stores sell canned asparagus, which is precooked and can be eaten straight away. Otherwise, you can boil it, steam it, sautée it, or cook it in the oven. 

8Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a favorite among ketoers because of its neutral taste. Just like broccoli, the ideal way to cook it is to steam it or sautée it quickly in order to preserve its micronutrients, including choline, folate, Vitamins B6, C, K, among others.

A cup of raw cauliflower (100 grams) contains 0.1 gram of fat, 2 grams of protein, 2.8 grams of net carbs and 2 grams of fiber. You can use it to make purees or use it as a low-carb substitute for rice.

9Mushroom

Mushrooms are good for blood glucose control in type 1 and type 2 diabetics. They are also beneficial in improving immunity and lowering cholesterol levels. They are rich in potassium, Vitamins C and B (B1, B2, B3, B5, B9). A cup of sliced white mushrooms (100 grams) contains 0.3 gram of fat, 3.1 grams of protein, 2.3 grams of net carbs, and 1 gram of fiber.

10Radish

Radishes make great addition to salads, or you can use them as a quick and easy snack. Since they contain high quantities of isothiocyanate, radishes help protect against certain types of cancer. They have antifungal properties too and are rich in Vitamin C. A half cup of sliced radishes (58 grams) contains 0.1 gram of fat, 0.4 gram of protein, 1.1 grams of net carbs, and 0.9 gram of fiber.

11Zucchini

You can use zucchini to make zoodles, a low-carb pasta that a lot of people love. You can also add it to different dishes or soups, some even eat it raw. It is one of the staples in the Mediterranean Diet.

Yellow and green zucchini, also known as courgettes or summer squash, don’t have cholesterol or saturated fat. They are rich in carotenoids, potassium, manganese and Vitamin C. They contribute to bone health because of their high Vitamin K content.

A cup of chopped zucchini (124 grams) contains 0.2 gram of fat, 1.5 grams of protein, 2.8 grams of net carbs, and 1.4 grams of fiber.

12Tomatoes

Tomatoes are chock full of antioxidants, including biotin, carotenoids and Vitamin K. They are also an excellent source of potassium, which is great news for those following the keto diet – remember that replenishing electrolytes is a must!

Numerous studies have proven that tomatoes are effective in protecting against certain kinds of cancer and they are equally effective in maintaining normal blood pressure.

The carotenoids in tomatoes are best absorbed when combined with healthy fat, like avocado or olive oil, and you can mix them in different types of salads. The body converts some carotenoids to vitamin A, which is vital to vision. 

As for their macronutrient profile, a cup of tomatoes (149 grams) contains 0.3 gram of fat, 1.3 grams of protein, 4 grams of net carbs, and 1.8 grams of fiber.

13Bell Peppers

Bell peppers come in different varieties – green, yellow, orange, red, purple – and each one differs slightly in nutritional profile. But in general, they are all remarkably healthy and certainly a great addition to your diet.

All of them are packed with fiber and are also rich in Vitamin C and E. Yellow, orange and red peppers are also excellent sources of carotenoids. A medium-sized green bell pepper (119 grams) contains 0.2 gram of fat, 1 gram of protein, 3.5 grams of net carbs, and 2 grams of fiber. 

Parting Words…

There are lots of ways to incorporate fiber into your diet, even if you’re on keto. As a matter of fact, if you regularly consume whole foods and get some servings of low-carb fruits and vegetables daily, you’ll surely won’t be lacking in fiber.

In case you wish to add more fiber into your diet, there are keto-friendly fiber supplements that you can take. Always bear in mind that whenever you are changing the amount of fiber that you’re consuming, your body will need a few days to adjust, but soon you’ll determine what really feels best for you.

As a rule, daily caloric intake must include at least 20-35 grams of fiber – both soluble and insoluble. You can easily achieve this by adding more of the foods discussed above into your diet. It’s also recommended that you cut back on processed foods and simple carbohydrates. If possible, go for organic produce and pasture-raised proteins.

And just like any dietary plan, it is advisable that you seek the help of a nutrition expert or your healthcare professional before making any drastic changes. 

15 Low Carb Vegetables That Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar

Fresh vegetables are nutritious and they form part of a healthy diet. Most veggies are low in calories but rich in vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. If you are adhering to a low carb or ketogenic diet, you may be looking for something that steers clear from vegetables that pack a lot of carbs. As a matter of fact, there are veggies that you must completely eliminate from your daily menu. 

There is no precise definition of a low-carb diet, but majority are under 150 grams of carbohydrates per day, while some nutritionists recommend as low as 20 grams per day. In this article we will identify the low-carb vegetables that will work within the limits of a carbo-controlled diet plan.  

Here’s a list of the best low-carb veggies to include in your meals.

1Bell Pepper

 Antioxidant-rich peppers are known to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage associated with cancer. Also known as sweet peppers or capsicums, bell peppers are among the highest sources of vitamins A and C that help in improving immune function and maintaining bone health. Munch on them raw or add them to your pasta.

A single cup of chopped bell pepper contains only 9 grams of carbohydrates. It provides 93 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin A and 317 percent of the RDI for vitamin C, which is frequently lacking in low-carb diets.

2Asparagus

 Asparagus is a spring vegetable that’s rich in vitamins A, C, and K, along with chromium, which aids in balancing insulin and blood glucose levels. A cup of asparagus contains 8 grams of carbs.

A number of studies have shown that asparagus can help stop the growth of different kinds of cancer by fighting free radicals and breaking down cancer-causing compounds. Studies in mice reveal that it can also protect neurons and reduce anxiety.

3Cauliflower

 Cauliflower is one of the most popular low-carb vegetables around. Because of its mild taste, it is used as a substitute for rice, potatoes, and other high-carb foods. A cup of raw cauliflower only contains 5 grams of carbohydrates. It is also rich in vitamins K and C, as well as potassium and choline, which helps in brain development.

Just like other cruciferous veggies, cauliflower is associated with a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

4Broccoli

 Broccoli also belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and radishes. It is a certified superfood, with a number of studies showing that it is capable of decreasing insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics. Scientists also believe that it can help protect against different types of malignancies, including prostate cancer.

A cup of broccoli contains 6 grams of carbs. It can provide over 100 percent of the RDI for vitamins C and K. You can use it to replace rice, pasta or potatoes. Simply fry it in butter or add cheese for delicious dishes.

5 Kale

Kale or leaf cabbage is nutrient dense. It is chock full of antioxidants, including kaempferol and quercetin. Both have been proven to lower blood pressure and can also protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses. A cup of kale contains 7 grams of carbohydrates. It can provide a whopping 206 percent of the RDI for vitamin A and an equally impressive 134 percent of the RDI for vitamin C.

Multiple studies have shown that high intake of vitamin C improves immune function and boosts the ability of the skin to fight harmful free radicals, which speed up the aging process. Kale is also an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin which are good for the eyes. 

6Brussels Sprouts

 Brussels sprouts contain huge amounts of antioxidants, along with a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids which give them their potent anti-inflammatory properties. A half-cup (78 grams) of cooked Brussels sprouts contain 6 grams of carbohydrates. It also provides 137 percent of the RDI for vitamin K and 80 percent of the RDI for vitamin C.

A group of plant secondary metabolites called glucosinolates can be found in Brussels sprouts. They are known for protecting the lining of the digestive tract, thus aiding digestion and the absorption of essential nutrients.

7Spinach

 Researchers claim that spinach can help in reducing damage to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). It’s good for the heart and can minimize the risk of common eye disorders like cataract and macular degeneration. 

Spinach is also a superb source of vitamins and minerals. A cup of it delivers over 10 times the RDI for vitamin K. However, it is important to note that while spinach is low in carbohydrates, the carbs tend to become more concentrated when the leaves are cooked. For instance, a cup of cooked spinach provides 7 grams of carbs, whereas a cup of raw spinach contains only 1 gram and an equal amount of fiber.

8  Eggplant

This is a common ingredient in many Asian and Italian dishes. Its skin is stacked with anthocyanins which help prevent cancer and minimize the risk of developing cardiac diseases.

One cup of cooked eggplant contains 8 grams of carbohydrates. The purple pigment in its skin contains an antioxidant called nasunin. Researchers claim that it decreases free radicals and may help protect the brain. Studies also suggest that eggplant can help in lowering cholesterol levels and may improve other determinants of heart health.

9Artichokes

 A medium-sized globe of artichoke contains 14 grams of carbohydrates. However, ten grams come from fiber, making artichokes very low in digestible carbs. Inulin constitutes a portion of the fiber and it serves as a prebiotic that nourishes healthy bacteria in the stomach.

Artichokes may protect the heart from certain diseases. A study showed that people with high cholesterol experienced a decrease in inflammatory markers after drinking artichoke juice. They also had significant improvement in blood vessel function.

10Cucumber

 Being 95 percent water, cucumber is known for its hydrating effects. It helps with bowel movement and contains a soluble fiber called pectin. A cup of cucumber contains 4 grams of carbohydrates, less than a gram of which is fiber.

This veggie isn’t loaded with vitamins or minerals but it contains cucurbitacin E, a compound that may have beneficial health effects. Animal studies reveal that it has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and may also protect the brain. 

11 Zucchini 

This is the most common kind of summer squash. It is rich in B vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that help reduce inflammation. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing about 35 percent of the RDI per serving. A cup of raw zucchini contains only 4 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of which is fiber. Leave the skin on in order to get the maximum amount of nutrients.

12Tomatoes

 These are technically classified as fruits but are commonly consumed as vegetables. They are low in digestible carbohydrates, with a cup containing 6 grams.

Tomatoes are a superb source of vitamins A, C and K. They are also rich in potassium which helps in lowering blood pressure and decreasing the risk of stroke. They have been proven to fortify the endothelial cells that line the walls of arteries. In addition, their high lycopene content helps in preventing heart disease and prostate cancer.

Cooking tomatoes has been shown to increase lycopene content, while adding fats during cooking increases its absorption into the bloodstream.

13 Cabbage

This cruciferous veggie is a good source of vitamin C which boosts the immune system and aids in collagen synthesis. It provides 54 percent of the RDI for vitamin C and 85 percent of the RDI for vitamin K.

Cabbage is packed with soluble fiber that feeds healthy bacteria in the stomach. It may also reduce the risk of developing certain forms of malignancies, including esophageal and stomach cancer. A cup of raw cabbage contains 5 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of which are fiber.

14 Celery

Celery is remarkably low in digestible carbohydrates. It is chock full of electrolytes, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that help lower blood pressure. Of specific value is the antioxidant luteolin which shows huge potential for preventing and treating cancer.

Celery is also an excellent source of vitamin K, providing 37 percent of the RDI. A cup of chopped celery only contains 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of which are fiber. 

15 Lettuce

This leafy veggie has one of the lowest-carb content. A cup of it only contains 2 grams of carbohydrates. Lettuce can also be a good source of certain vitamins, depending on the type. For example, romaine and the other dark-green varieties are packed with vitamins A, C and K. They are likewise rich in folate which lowers the levels of homocysteine, a substance linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

The 5 Components of Fitness

Fitness refers to your ability to meet the physical demands of daily activities and still have enough energy to deal with the challenges of life. It plays a crucial role when it comes to your overall health status. 

On a broad perspective, being physically fit has been linked to reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, improved mental health, and enhanced quality of life with age.  

The components of fitness that are needed to achieve the above definition and benefits include the following:

 Cardiovascular Endurance

Also known as aerobic fitness or cardiorespiratory endurance, cardiovascular endurance pertains to the ability of your heart and lungs to work together in order to supply oxygen and fuel to the various tissues during sustained workloads. 

By performing regular exercise that challenges your heart and lungs, you can improve and maintain the efficient delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients. This will improve cellular metabolism and allow you to meet the physical challenges of everyday life.

Given the fact that cardiovascular disease accounted for 17.9 million deaths globally in 2016, starting a workout routine that improves cardiovascular fitness is therefore of paramount importance. Traditional activities like walking, running, cycling, swimming, circuit training or functional exercises will enhance cardiovascular fitness. 

The key here is consistency. Experts recommend at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise every week, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise. This may sound a lot, but it translates to just 15-30 minutes of exercise per day, depending on how hard you are willing to push yourself.

 Muscular Endurance

 Muscular endurance is one of two determinants of overall muscular health. It refers to your ability to do repeated muscular contractions and prolonging the onset of fatigue while engaging in a specific task or activity

Think of a long-distance cyclist as an example. In order to continuously pedal over a long distance, a cyclist must develop fatigue-resistant muscles in the buttocks, thighs, and legs. These fatigue-resistant muscles epitomize high level of endurance.

Another good example of muscular endurance is holding a plank which develops core strength. The longer you are able to contract your abdominal muscles and maintain a steady position, the higher endurance you’ll have through your shoulders, abdominals, and hips.

Note, however, that muscular endurance is specific to muscle groups. You can develop greater endurance in some muscle groups without developing the same endurance level in other muscle groups. Moreover, the extent to which you decide to concentrate on developing muscular endurance must be directly related to your fitness goals.

For example, you may strive to develop enough endurance to complete daily household chores. But if you wish to become an endurance athlete who can compete in sports that require repetitive and sustained muscle contractions, like cycling, CrossFit or obstacle course races, you need to focus more on training routines that utilize high-repetition strength training in order to make you a better athlete.

 Muscular Strength

Muscular strength pertains to the highest amount of force that a muscle or a muscle group can generate in one, all-out effort without any time limit. It is your one-rep max in strength training terms. Muscular strength can be increased by using weights and training in the 4 to 6 range. As a rule, the heavier the weight, the fewer repetitions you need to perform.

Muscular strength is muscle group-specific, just like muscular endurance. This means you may have exceptionally strong deltoids, but comparatively weak gluteals, or exceptionally strong quadriceps but comparatively weak pectorals. This is precisely the reason why a balanced strength training program that works out all major muscle groups is very important.

Note that the extent to which you train to increase muscle strength depends largely on your health and fitness goals. For example, if your focus is on health, you must be strong enough to carry out activities of daily living. In this case, increased muscular strength may just be another effect of a workout program that concentrates on developing muscular endurance. 

You can actually improve muscular endurance and strength at the same time, but choosing a set and repetition scheme that suit your objectives is important. Let’s say your goal is to become stronger, then you must lift weights at the gym and push your muscles to the point of fatigue with every set. On the other hand, if your objective is to improve muscular endurance, you can work with lighter weights and do higher reps.

Either way, it is recommended that you do strength training 2 or 3 days a week using different exercises and equipment to engage all major muscle groups. You can do this along with cardiovascular training. For example, circuit training programs that combine cardio and strength exercises into a single bout can make your workout more efficient.

 Flexibility

Flexibility refers to the ability of a specific joint to move through the available range of motion. The sit and reach test is frequently used to test flexibility. Just like muscular endurance and strength, flexibility is joint-specific. For example, you can have very flexible hips, but tight and inflexible shoulders.

Flexibility is very important at any given age because it plays a crucial role in unimpeded movement and it can have a considerable effect on your agility, balance, and coordination. If you maintain full range of motion for major joints, you can enhance athletic performance and reduce the risk of incurring injury.

Later in life, the importance of flexibility becomes more evident. Think of the elderly, most of them have flexibility issues. They have the characteristic ‘shuffling walk’ or have a tough time reaching over their heads. This affects their independence and overall quality of life. They find it difficult to perform activities of daily living like picking up objects on the floor, reaching for objects on high shelves, or just reacting properly to catch their balance if they begin to fall.

There is no such thing as a fountain of youth and you can’t stop the aging process, but protecting and maintaining mobility of your joints can keep you up and about even during your golden years. Adults are advised to perform flexibility exercises 2 or 3 days each week. This can be achieved through static stretching or through workouts that involve dynamic stretching exercises like Tai Chi, yoga, or Pilates.

Body Composition

 Body composition refers to the ratio of fat mass, lean muscle mass, bone and organs that constitute the human body. This can be measured in several ways including underwater weighing, bioelectrical impedance, and skindfold readings. 

Underwater weighing is generally regarded as the benchmark for fat measurement, although there are only a handful of places that are set up for this type of measurement because of the size and steep cost of the needed equipment.

Since high fat levels are often linked to negative health outcomes like type II diabetes and heart disease, achieving and maintaining ideal body composition is an objective of virtually all exercise programs.

Looking at it from a positive perspective, body composition is frequently the result of working on the four other components of fitness. If you exercise regularly, do stretching and strength training, you are building muscle mass while reducing fat mass. The end result is enhanced body composition and better fat- to fat-free mass ratio.

In order to achieve substantial improvements in body composition, you must determine what your starting point is. However, this does not mean simply weighing yourself because weight alone does not tell you anything about the composition of your tissues. The smart thing to do is talk to an expert about testing your body fat percentage. You can also consider investing on a scale that estimates body fat percentage by using bioelectrical impedance analysis. You may also take your own measurements and input the data into a body fat percentage calculator.

To qualify as being physically fit, women should have a body fat composition that is lower than 24%. Men should have it lower than 17%. On average, men have 18- 24% body fat, while women have 25-31%.

How to Build Bigger Calves: The Complete Guide

Some people are born with incredible intellect, some are gifted with angelic faces, others are born into money, and there are those who are blessed with huge calves. If it so happens that yours are like string beans and you can’t get them to grow, don’t despair because you’re not alone. Across the world, people are falling victim to what has been dubbed as “mediocre calves syndrome.”

Your shoulders are broad, your arms are well defined, and even your quads and hamstrings are in awesome shape. Yet, regardless of how hard you try, your stubborn calves never seem to grow. It’s hard not to envy those folks who rarely need to do a calf raise, yet possess thickly developed pair of diamond shaped calves.

It’s common for the calves to lag behind other muscle groups, and there is a good reason behind this. In fact, deep inside you know precisely why you are not adding mass to your lower legs…the reason? You are not training your calves properly, and likely not hard enough.

You go to the gym, work on your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and if you still have an ounce of strength left, you do a couple of calf raises. Several months later you are still trying to figure out why the heck your lower legs look so skinny. Most of us are guilty of not prioritizing this part of the body. The truth is that the calves usually take a back seat to other muscle groups that are easier to develop.

This is unfortunate especially when you consider the benefits that a pair of powerful calves can provide like the following:

  • Prevention of injuries (i.e. calf pulls, Achilles tendon tears)
  • Improved knee flexion
  • Stabilization of ankles and feet
  • Increased short sprinting speed
  • Increased vertical jumping power

So How Exactly Can You Develop Your Calves?

Doing a number of calf raises at the end of a workout won’t help much. A lot more is involved if you really want to develop strong and powerful calves. In order to turn your calves into cows, you’ll need to train harder and smarter. In this article, you’ll learn about the specific muscles that you need to target and how to modify your training routine to hit those muscles from all angles. 

Brief Anatomy

The calf is composed of two massive muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. They both run the entire length of your lower leg, originating behind the knee and inserting into the heel. Their primary action is to plantar flex the foot at the ankle joint and flex the leg at the knee joint.

The gastrocnemius and soleus are responsible for adding size and symmetry to your lower legs, so they are essentially the muscles that make your lower legs look sexy.

It takes time, effort and a bit of pain to shock them into getting bigger. However, you will achieve satisfying results if you use the proper training strategy combined with a balanced and healthy diet.

The Gastrocnemius

Commonly called as the ‘gastroc,’ it is located at the superior portion of the lower leg and is composed of fast twitch muscle fibers. It is bigger than the soleus, and while both are explosive and can generate high levels of tension, they fatigue quickly. This is the reason why you need to train them first; ideally with lower repetitions and heavier weights.

How to Isolate and Target the Gastrocnemius

You can best hit the gastroc by doing movements where your legs are fully extended. Standing calf raises are a perfect example of exercises that specifically target the gastroc. They also partially engage the soleus, but by paying attention to form and keeping your legs extended, you will be able to avoid putting a lot of tension on this smaller muscle. A good alternative to standing calf raises is the donkey calf raise as it localizes both the gastrocnemius and the hamstring. More on these exercises in the succeeding sections.

The Soleus

This muscle is located right under the gastroc and is the one that gives width to your lower leg. It is also provides stabilization so you don’t fall forward by maintaining your posture.

In stark contrast to the gastroc, the soleus is composed of slow twitch muscle fibers so it produces less power. But what it lacks in strength it makes up in endurance and recovery. And since it takes longer to fatigue, you can train it more often.

How to Workout the Soleus

If the gastroc can help you develop powerful calves, the soleus will help you add girth and size. The soleus can be targeted by doing flexed knee exercises like seated calf raises. Again, since it consists of slow twitch fibers, you can exercise it longer by doing more repetitions.

Exercises to Help You Build Bigger Calves

1Standing Calf Raises 

Stand on the edge of a step. Pull in your abdominals, make sure that the balls of your feet are planted firmly on the step, and your heels are hanging over the edge. Place your hands against a wall or hold on to a sturdy object for balance. Slowly raise your heels above the edge of the step – as high as you can – so you are standing on your toes. Hold the position and then lower your heels below the edge until you feel a stretch in your calf muscles.

2Seated Calf Raises 

This movement works out the soleus. Place a block about a foot in front of a chair. Sit on the chair and put the ball of your feet on the block. Rise up on your toes as you breathe out and squeeze the calves. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat at least 10 to 20 times.

Add weight to increase the difficulty of the exercise. Have someone place a dumbbell/barbell on your thighs and hold it there. You can also modify the way in which the calf muscles are targeted by altering the angle of your feet. Do a set with your toes pointing inward, then do another set with your toes pointing 45 degrees outward.

3Leg Press Calf Raises (Donkey Raise)

Sit on a leg press machine and put your legs on the platform at a medium foot stance. Hold the weighted platform with your toes and the balls of your feet. Press the platform by raising your heels until your legs are fully extended. Your hips and knees must remain stationary throughout the movement. There should be no bending at any time.

Hold the position, then slowly lower your heels as you bend your ankles until your calves are stretched. You can increase the difficulty by adding weights. Remember that the key is to ensure that all of the weight is borne by your calves. Make sure that you don’t use other muscles to press.

4Jump Squats 

Assume the squat position, with your arms at your sides and your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and move the balls of your feet and toes as you squat. Engage your core then jump explosively. Land softly on the balls of your feet and lower your body back into the squat position. Do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Regularly doing this workout is a great way to quickly build muscle. The explosive movement is what stimulates the calf muscles to build fast.

5Box Jumps 

Find yourself an exercise box and stand in front of it with your feet shoulder width apart. Start with a height of 20 inches while you practice getting the right form. Bend into a quarter squat then swing your arms back. Swing them forward then jump so you land on the box as gently as possible. Jump back down and then repeat.

To build power, aim for 1-3 sets of 3-5 repetitions, using as high a box without sacrificing good form. Make sure that the exercise box is firmly anchored to the floor so that it doesn’t move or slide and cause you to fall.

6Jump Rope 

Jumping rope is one of the easiest and fastest ways to build bigger calves. You just need to be persistent and push yourself to do this for long periods of time, approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Final Note: Use The Correct Training Strategy

Always use the full range of motion because doing half-reps is useless when you’re building calf muscles. It’s imperative to complete the full range of motion with every repetition in order to engage the whole muscle. Remember that your calves are used to getting a little exercise every time you go for a walk. In order to build them, you must subject them to a workout that they don’t get every day.

Go as hard as you can and be persistent because your calves will only grow if you put them through some pain. Again, you use your calves on a daily basis, so they are already used to stress and strain. This means that when you are working out you, must go all in and keep going until they burn.

Make calf exercises a regular part of your workout routine. As much as possible, try to work on your calves 2-3 days a week in order to achieve maximum gains. However, note that the calf muscles, just like other muscle groups, need time to recover. Give them time to heal and do cross-training or strength training workouts on your non-calf days.

Pilates for Sciatica Pain: Top 3 Exercises

Sciatica refers to the pain that originates in the lower back and radiates to the buttocks then down the back of the thighs, legs and occasionally, the foot. The pain follows the course of the sciatica nerve, the largest and longest nerve in the human body. It provides most of the sensory and motor activity of the lower extremities. In majority of cases, sciatica only affects one side of the body.

 About 1 in every 50 people suffers from sciatica as a result of a herniated disc. Of these, about 10 to 25% have symptoms that last more than 6 weeks. While sciatic pain can be severe, roughly 80 to 90% percent of people with sciatica get better over time. You are most likely to get sciatica between the age of 30 and 50.

Aside from a herniated disc, sciatica may also be caused by a bone spur on the spine, facet joint injuries or spinal stenosis (i.e. narrowing of the spine) which compresses a section of the nerve. This results in inflammation, pain and often some numbness in the affected leg. Those with sciatica that is associated with muscle weakness or bladder or bowel changes may be candidates for surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatic nerve pain can vary between dull, aching or burning sensations and sharp, shooting or excruciating pain. Sciatica may also cause numbness and tingling in the affected leg. It is important to see a doctor in these situations because long-term nerve compression can cause permanent damage to the sciatic nerve. In such cases, the symptoms can become permanent.

Sciatica may trigger one or more of the following sensations: 

  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks or back of the leg that is worse when sitting
  • A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
  • Pain that is worsened by coughing or sneezing
  • Burning or tingling sensation in the leg
  • A constant, nagging pain in the rear calf
  • Numbness, weakness or difficulty moving the leg or foot

What are the Risk Factors?

Risk factors for developing sciatica include the following:

  • Age – degenerativechanges in the spine like bone spurs and herniated disks are by far the most common causes of sciatica.
  • Occupation – A job that requires twisting your back, carrying heavy loads or driving a vehicle for long periods may play a significant role in sciatica. However, there is no conclusive evidence of these correlations.
  • Prolonged sitting – It has been shown that people who sit for extended periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more susceptible to develop sciatica.
  • Diabetes – This disease, which affects the way the body utilizes blood glucose, increases the risk of damage to the sciatic nerve.
  • Obesity – Being obese or overweight increases the stress on your spine. Excess weight can cause spinal changes that ultimately trigger sciatica.

Pilates and Its Role in Managing Sciatica

Let’s be clear and straightforward about this, Pilates exercises will not cure sciatica or the conditions that caused it. However, they can go a long way in helping alleviate the symptoms.

It is highly unlikely that Pilates will trigger sciatica, but it is true that there are certain exercises that can aggravate the condition. If you are afflicted with sciatica, refrain from engaging in any form of exercise that will have you rolling back and forth on your spine. In addition, avoid extreme stretches like the saw, spine twist, and spine stretch. The goal is to do gentle movements that will not overstretch the sciatic nerve.

In addition, try to avoid over-recruiting muscles. For instance, doing traditional Pilates where you tuck your buttocks a little and squeeze the hip extensors may be inappropriate if you have sciatica. The reason behind this is that the movement can increase the pressure on the nerve and decrease the space around it. The solution is to exercise wherein the spine is in a more neutral position. This is when all three spinal curvatures – the cervical (neck) lordosis, thoracic (middle) kyphosis, and lumbar (lower) lordosis – are in good alignment.

Exercise Form

Meticulous form always plays a crucial role in any Pilates exercise, and it is even more important for those dealing with sciatica. Although the classical Pilates method entails keeping your lower back firmly planted on the mat when you are lying supine, the modified method maintains the neutral spine. This is very important if you have sciatica because forcing your back into the floor, tilting your pelvis and squeezing your glutes will cause your spinal and gluteal muscles to compensate for your abs. 

1Equipment Exercises (Pilates chair)

Some Pilates rehab experts use the Pilates chair for their clients with sciatica. If herniated or degenerated disc causes the condition, clients are instructed to lie face down on the chair with their hands against the pedal. As they extend their backs, they push down against the pedals. Clients with spinal stenosis use the chair from the standing position by slowly bending at the hip, rounding their lower backs and pushing down against the pedals. 

2Mat Exercises

Some exercises like the basic cat, which will have you kneeling on all fours and rounding your lower back, may help ease sciatica symptoms, specifically those caused by spinal stenosis. The cat is one of the simplest and gentlest Pilates exercises to stretch out the spine.

For people with herniated discs, the swan preparation is the recommended exercise. It is basically an extension exercise and considered as one of the best in counteracting the forward flexion exercises in Pilates mat work. It expands the chest and stretches the abs, the hip flexors and the quadriceps. 

To do the swan, lie prone, with your elbows and forearms on the mat and your fingers directly under your shoulders. Lift your head, neck and chest while extending your upper spine. Return to the starting position and do five repetitions. 

3Home Pilates Exercises for Sciatica

Whenever pain is involved, it is important to get in touch with a qualified Pilates instructor in order to determine which exercises are safe for you to do at home.

Majority of these pre-Pilates exercises are basic moves from which other exercises are built upon. They are simple and easy, so you can do them on your own.

Quadruped Exercises – these include movements such as the cat/cow and the arm/leg reach where both hands and knees are in contact with the ground.

  • The cat-cow goes between a back stretch and a back extension. It is effective in decreasing low back pain and is a great Pilates workout to help find neutral spine. Start in the four-point kneeling position with your back flat. Do the following:
  1. Engage your abs by lifting your belly button to support your spine.
  2. Roll your back slowly towards the ceiling while pulling your abs in and dropping your head and tailbone to go into cat stretch. Hold the position for 2 to 5 seconds.
  3. Reverse the curvature of the spine by lowering your belly button, raising your head up and sticking your butt back to go to the cow pose. Hold for 2 to 5 seconds.
  4. You can go from cat to cow as you wish. Remember that the mid range between the two will put your spine in neutral.
  • The kneeling arm and leg reach promotes core stability which is crucial for those with back pain and sciatica.
  1. Start in the four-point kneeling position. See to it that your legs and feet are parallel and hip distance apart. Your spine must be in neutral position and supported by your abdominals.
  2. Extend your right arm in front of you while simultaneously extending your left leg behind you. Your right arm and left leg should be parallel to the ground.
  3. Maintain your balance and hold the position for 1-3 breaths.
  4. Return to the starting position
  5. Repeat step 2 for your left arm and right leg.

Bridging Exercises – these are a great way to isolate and strengthen the glutes and the hamstrings. Do the bridge properly and you’ll see that it’s excellent for core stability and strengthening the abdominals, along with the muscles of the lower back and hip. 

  1. Start by lying on your back with your arms by your side, your knees flexed and your feet flat on the floor. Your feet must be directly under your knees.
  2. Tighten your abs and gluteal muscles.
  3. Slowly raise your hips to form a straight line from your knees to shoulders.
  4. Pull your belly button down toward your spine.
  5. Aim for 10 reps and 2 sets

Remember that the goal is to maintain a straight line from your knees to your shoulders and hold for a few seconds. As you build your strength, hold the bridge position for 20 to 30 seconds. Note that it’s always better to hold the proper position for a shorter time than to hold it longer but in the incorrect position.

8 Benefits of Pull Ups You May Not Know About

benefits of pull ups

A pull up is a compound exercise for the upper body. You have noticed those ripped dudes doing dozens of pull ups at the gym and you wish you could do exactly the same. A lot of us believe that doing pulls ups is virtually impossible because we need to lift our entire body multiple times. But the truth is that they are not that difficult to do.

You don’t necessarily need to start by doing a ton of them. You can get going with a few repetitions and gradually work your way up until you get better at doing them like those hulks at the gym.

Doing pull ups looks impressive and it offers a lot of benefits when done on a regular basis. Read on and discover such benefits that you may have never thought about…

How Do You Do a Pull-Up?

The first part involves scapular retraction. It is a technical term which simply means drawing your shoulder blades together and pulling them down. The movement activates your latissimus dorsi or lats, the huge set of muscles on your back.

After retracting your scapulae, you need to pull your body up toward the bar. This requires bending your arms or flexion of your elbow joint, which calls into action your biceps and the supporting arm and back muscles. Lastly, lower yourself back to the starting position. This engages your triceps and shoulder muscles.

Here’s the step-by-step procedure:

    • Jump, grab the bar and hang from it.
    • Engage your abs and pull yourself up until your chest is almost in contact with the bar, then pull up even higher until your chin is above the bar.
    • Always lead with your chest, keep your shoulders back and low, and don’t swing your legs in order to get up to where you want to be.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat until fatigued.

Back to the Benefits

1Work Out Several Muscle Groups Simultaneously

This is what we previously mentioned about a compound exercise, which is great if you are short on time. Pull ups are highly efficient because they engage your wrists, forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, lats, and your core. In addition, every time you do a pull up, you are lifting your full body weight. Over time, this will give you that sculpted upper body that you have always dreamed of. You won’t be able to find another type of exercise that works out as many muscles at one time.

2Pull Ups Work Wonders for Your Grip Strength

Grip strength is an essential component of everyday life and when it comes to extreme sports like mountain climbing, having a powerful grip is imperative. Think about it, every time you lift your body while hanging from the bar, a significant amount of the tension will be concentrated on your fingers and hands. Pulls ups are definitely better when it comes to grip strength training than any other exercise out there.

So, once you have introduced pull-ups into your regular routine, opening a stubborn pickle jar should be a piece of cake and you’ll likely be able to halve apples with your bare hands!

3Fat Loss – Shed Excess Weight

If you have ever struggled with weight, you may have noticed that the flab around your waist can be a pesky piece to get rid of. Luckily for you, doing pull ups offers a quick and effective solution! It will also help you lose excess weight in general, instead of merely focusing on trimming your tummy.

To be fair, pull ups don’t burn as many calories as cardio workouts like running or cycling, but they do burn some calories nonetheless. If you wish to romp up the intensity in order to burn more, you can increase the number of repetitions, do more sets, take less time resting in between, and do the pull ups faster.

This will surely get your heart pumping and boost your metabolism, forcing your body to use more energy to keep going. This means you will burn more of the food you eat instead of storing excess calories in the form of fat.

Moreover, there’s your exercise post oxygen consumption or EPOC. When you do pull ups, your metabolic rate remains boosted for a certain period after completing your routine, thus contributing to fat loss and achieving a lean and healthy physique.

4Alternate Form of Cardio

Another significant benefit of doing pull ups is that they do count as cardio, especially if you do them fast enough. Because of their high level of difficulty, pull ups require an extra ounce of energy to complete and this increases your heart rate.

Over time, your heart will become stronger, which is crucial to your overall health and improvement in physical performance. As your heart becomes stronger, you’ll have lower blood pressure, a slower resting heart rate, and reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Remember that even if you are not capable of doing pull ups for 15 minutes straight, you can always make them an integral component of a circuit routine. This will give you a decent cardio exercise.

5Pull Ups Make Your Back Stronger

We have previously mentioned that pull ups target multiple muscles in your upper body simultaneously, but the most important ones are the muscle on your back. Working out your back may not seem like the ideal body part to target since a lot of people go for the core, arms or legs. However, having a strong back is very important.

Having chiseled muscles on your back is good for your looks, plus you’ll achieve better posture. In addition, weak back muscles typically lead to back pain, which is a nuisance to most people. Strengthening your back muscles through some simple pull ups is the best and easiest solution to all of those aches and pain.

6Enhanced Endurance / Boost Your Stamina

As you workout on a regular basis, your stamina will increase. This means you will become more resistant to intense workouts like running, plyometrics or weight lifting. The reason why it’s almost imperative to boost your stamina is that you will be able to improve the ability of your body to support your daily activities, along with your performance in sports and exercise.

Pull ups impact and benefit your stamina through each and every repetition because of the physical challenge. It may look simple but there is a good amount of strain and pressure that is imposed on your upper body. As mentioned in the preceding section, pull ups are an excellent way to strengthen your heart, and as it becomes stronger, your endurance is enhanced and your stamina increases.

7Pull Ups Lead to Better Moods

The fact that working out can improve your mood has never been a secret. Engaging in any form of exercise prompts your brain to release endorphins, of which the most important is serotonin. It’s a ‘feel happy’ chemical that will give you a sense of elation, and it can help prevent mood swings, anxiety and depression.

Other chemicals that are released in your brain are endocannabinoids, which have a similar effect as serotonin. In fact they trigger the same receptors as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the active component of marijuana. So, needless to say endocannabinoids makes you more relaxed, makes you feel happier, and they lower your pain threshold.

8Score Points in the Looks Department

Pull ups can give you that much coveted ‘V’ because your shoulders and lats will look bigger, your waist slimmer, but more muscular. Even if you don’t frequent the gym to look good, a set of pull ups done on a regular basis will do that for you as a bonus! You will look good in front of the mirror, in the gym or at the beach.

You may have also noticed that people seem to look great while they are doing the workout. The reason behind this is that pull ups highlight the arms and back, both of which have sizeable muscle groups that become tensed up.

Talking about muscles, this is precisely where pull ups trounce other types of exercises. By activating multiple muscle groups simultaneously, your entire upper body starts to shape up into a well-developed physique, which makes you look buff and tough.

Conclusion

If you haven’t tried doing pull ups, you should consider doing it or adding a few sets into your regular routine. Evidently, pull ups offer a lot of benefits so they are definitely worth doing. Having a stronger core, stronger arms, and a stronger back are just some of the things that you can achieve, not to mention pulls ups contribute to weight loss and cardiovascular health. So start today and gain the benefits that come along with it!

All You Need to Know About Tempo Squats

tempo squats

Before you can understand tempo squats, how to do them and how to reap the benefits, you first need to know about tempo training. There are multiple variables that you can manipulate during training – the most common ones include repetitions, sets, intensity, and frequency. However, the one variable that’s easy to manipulate but frequently gets overlooked is tempo.

It refers to the speed at which a certain phase of a workout is performed. In its most basic form, tempo pertains to the period of time you subject a muscle to tension for one repetition. In a nutshell, tempo is all about repetition, speed and control. A slow tempo is used to achieve greater hypertrophy, whereas fast tempo is used to elicit a greater strength response.

What is Tempo Training?

Tempo training is divided into 4 phases of movement: eccentric contraction, pause (end ROM), concentric contraction, and pause (top ROM). If you take a look at a tempo prescription, the 4 phases are broken down into 4 numbers, with each number corresponding to a specific phase of movement.

In the sequence, the first number corresponds to the eccentric phase of the exercise. The second pertains to the pause or isometric phase; the third corresponds to the concentric phase of the exercise, and the last number refers to the time between reps. Here’s an example:

In this example, you are doing 4 sets of 3 with 75% of your max. Now for the number sequence in red – that means you’ll use 4 seconds to squat down, pause for 3 seconds at the bottom position, and use 2 seconds in between reps. You may have noticed that the third number (the concentric phase) is a zero. It means there’s no specific time for the concentric phase, so it must be done as fast as possible.

Now, Back to Tempo Squats…

Before you read on, you must have a clear idea what tempo squats are. Here’s an example: imagine yourself slowing down the eccentric (lowering) phase of your squat for 5 seconds, and then standing up (concentric phase) at normal speed. That’s tempo squatting! You time certain phases of the movement instead of doing it the traditional way.

Tempo Squat Benefits

In this section, we will discuss the benefits of tempo squats, although majority of the concepts can be applied to other tempo exercises, regardless of the movement. But before we proceed, here are a few tips to remember when performing tempo squats:

  • Use a clock or metronome because our inner clocks tend to be much faster, particularly when we are under load.
  • Stay tight throughout the squat. You can only use brute strength and can’t rely on momentum to bounce back up.
  • Breathe, but only at the top. This applies unless you had a long pause at the bottom of the squat. Take a deep breath at the top and try to hold until you reach the top again.

1) Develop Positional Awareness

Tempo work tends to expose any imbalances that the full speed of movement may be hiding from you. If you slow down the movement, you will be able to feel it and see the precise positions that your body is passing through. Slowing down the movement gives your brain ample time to analyze it and then allow you to make the necessary adjustments if certain imbalances or deficiencies exist.

2) Develop Better Movement Patterns

This is related to the preceding section. Slowing down the movement provides for better self-analysis. If the deficiencies are corrected and the right succession of movements is turned into a habit, you’ll be able to achieve better movement patterns. Quality must be your first priority. Do not strive to go faster and harder at the expense of good form. Also, bear in mind that intensity comes only after you are able to consistently demonstrate the proper mechanics of a movement.  

So, for newbies, there’s an opportunity to practice correct form and for the pros, tempo squats can be used to pinpoint problem areas and work on any weak links in technique. For instance, if you’re having difficulty in the bottom position of a front squat, you must spend more time in that position to help improve your technique and provide for greater improvements in the future.

3) Control Loading &Time Under Tension

This benefit is for those who are just starting out or those who are not fond of spending much time in the weights room. Tempo squats improve the ability to control loading while still making you work extremely hard. Initially, you may experience a tough time tapping into the psychological drive needed to move heavy weights. But over time, you’ll learn how to summon the will and because of the high time under tension needed during tempo work, the hypertrophic stimulus will kick in and you’ll develop bigger, more sculpted musculature.   

4) Engage Small Muscle Groups

Tempo squats tend to fire up muscles that are not often used during normal squatting. Small muscles that stabilize joints are activated toward the bottom of your squat. This is a phase of the movement that most people miss after using their stretch reflex and bouncing out of the bottom.

In addition, your core muscles get a hefty workout too when you do tempo squats. Your ability to stabilize your midline for that period of time under tension is arguably better for your core than any number of sit-ups that you can do on any given day.

Key Takeaway

The extra time under tension will induce greater fatigue. This means you must use lighter weights as compared to similar amounts of repetitions without the tempo. Refrain from doing high rep sets because of the additional time it takes to complete a set. You must also run a specific tempo for a couple of weeks. You won’t get much out of your training if you constantly change the reps, sets weight, and tempo – unless you’re changing the tempo in a linear fashion.

Subscapularis Exercises To Help You Bounce Back From Injury

Subscapularis exercises

The subscapularis is the largest and the strongest of the four rotator-cuff muscles that act on your shoulder, stabilizing it and facilitating inward rotation of the humerus. It is the most-used muscle in the shoulder. Let’s first discuss its functional anatomy before delving into the different exercises that you can use to target it.

What is the Subscapularis?

A triangular-shaped muscle located in the subscapular fossa. The name ‘subscapularis’ means under (sub) the scapula (the shoulder blade). The muscle originates beneath the scapula. Its fibers form a tendon that inserts into the should joint capsule and the lesser tuberosity of the humerus.

The subscapularis is innervated by the subscapular nerve and supplied by the subscapular artery.

Action / Function

Contraction of the subscapularis will cause internal (medial) rotation and depression of the humerus at the shoulder joint. In certain positions, it also helps in adducting and extending the shoulder joint.

The position of your arm has a significant effect on the actions caused by the subscapularis. For instance, when your arm is raised, the muscle pulls the humerus forward and downward; but when the humerus is in a fixed position, it causes abduction of the lower border of the scapula.

As part of the rotator cuff or intrinsic shoulder muscle group, the subscapularis plays a crucial role in stabilization of the shoulder by preventing anterior and superior translation of the head of the humerus.

Exercises for the Subscapularis

Now that you know the anatomy and function of the subscapularis, let’s go back to the meat of the matter and discuss the exercises for this particular muscle. Note that most of the exercises are for strengthening purposes.

Isometric Exercises

Performing isometric exercises that engage the subscapularis involves contracting it for 5-10 seconds at a time without any considerable movement on your shoulder joint. These exercises are typically recommended by physical therapists as part of a rehabilitation program for an injured rotator cuff.

Lay on your back and place your left elbow approximately 6 inches away from your side and flexed to 90 degrees. In this position your forearm should be pointing upward.  Place a thick towel next to your hip on the same side then internally rotate your shoulder to put your hand on top of the towel. Press downward for 5-10 seconds. Relax and then move your elbow 3 inches laterally, farther away from your side. Repeat the movement.

Do two more reps – once with your elbow on the same level as your ear and once with your upper arm pointing away from your shoulder. Repeat the same movements with your right arm.

Side-Lying Internal Rotation

You’ll need a table and a dumbbell for this exercise. Lie on your left side and hold the dumbbell in your left hand. Tuck your elbow into your belly, with your forearm pointing forward and extended over the edge of the table. Lift the dumbbell until your forearm touches your abdomen, then slowly lower it and repeat. Perform at least 8 repetitions, then turn over and switch arms.

Resistance Band Exercises

You can perform different resistance band exercises in order to strengthen the subscapularis. The first one is similar to the side-lying internal rotation exercise, but you do it from a standing position. Hold one end of the resistance band, with the other end secured to a sturdy object. The resistance band should be positioned at about the same height as your belly-button.

The second is the diagonal exercise. Stand with your right foot in front of your left and the free end of the resistance band in your left hand. Your left arm must be pointing sideways, with your elbow slightly flexed and your palm facing forward. Internally rotate your arm and move your hand downward to stretch the band until your left hand is in front of your right hip. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Perform the same exercise with your right arm.

Push-up Plus

This is considered by many as the best exercise for the subscapularis muscle. Assume the push-up position, either from your knees or from your feet. Doing the exercise on your knees is a little easier.

  • Push-Up Plus – Knees

Place your hands directly beneath your shoulders.  Keep the tension in your scapulae and mid back, then at the end position with your arms fully extended, push up a little harder by trying to move your body further away from your hands.           

  • Push Up Plus – Toes

Perform this exercise in a slow and controlled manner. Hold for a second before lowering your body. Start with 5 repetitions the progress to 10 reps. Start from your knees until you are comfortable, then progress to your feet/toes. Avoid collapsing through the mid back or dropping your head.

The 5 Best Keto Diet Apps of 2018

In this article, we will take a look at some of the most popular diet tracking apps of 2018, in particular, those that can be used to assist with the ketogenic diet. When you decide to start with keto, it can be tough to determine what exactly you need to eat, how much you can eat, and what macronutrients you are ingesting on a daily basis. This is particularly true since most people have lost in touch with their hunger cues.

In most instances, we eat because its meal time or it has been several hours since we last ate. Some experts recommend eating when you are hungry, stop when you are already full, and simply enjoy every mouthful. However, for you to get to that desired ‘keto’ state, you must keep track and count carbs and calories in order to get the hang of what is in your food and what you are putting into your body. So without further ado, here are five keto diet apps that will help you monitor your progress and discover new delectable recipes.

1My Fitness Pal

When it comes to tracking macros, this is definitely one of the best apps out there. You’ll love it whether you wish to lose weight, get healthy, tone up, or try a new diet. No wonder it is the number one rated diet by Consumer Reports and PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Selection. It has also been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, CNET, NBC and more. 

All you need to do is scan a product using its barcode. The app recognizes more than four million barcodes! An alternative is to type the name of the food item or the name of the brand in the app’s search bar. Then indicate the amount of the food product that you’ve consumed. The app will show you a breakdown of the foodstuffs you ate including the quantity of carbs, fat and proteins. If you’ve set your personalized macros, you’ll get specific info about how much you should be having.    

My Fitness Pal will help you monitor your calorie intake and determine if your food choices are high in fat and low in carbs at the same time. The app boasts a massive database consisting of over six million foods, including international items and cuisines.

Here are some of the other notable features:

  • Recipe Importer: import the nutrition details for the recipes you cook
  • Food Insights: learn how you can make healthier food choices  
  • Restaurant Logging: instantly log menu items from your favorite restaurants
  • Calorie Counter: the app automatically calculates the calories in your foods, meals and recipes. 
  • Water Tracking: log water in ounces or milliliters; the app saves your recently logged amounts
  • Track All Nutrients: calories, carbs, fat, protein, fiber, sugar, cholesterol, etc.
  • Personalized Experience: come up with your own recipes, meals and save favorites

Subscription Pricing & Terms

MyFitnessPal is free to download. If you decide to upgrade to MyFitnessPal Premium, two auto-renewing subscription options are available: $9.99/month and $49.99/year.

2Carb Manager

The developers of the app claim that it is one of the most comprehensive and also the easiest carb-restrictive trackers and macronutrient counters in the market today. You can easily log in your meals and you can input data via voice, camera or search. The huge library of the app consists of more than a million science-verified foods. In addition, there is a barcode scanning feature that enables you to instantly pull data.

The Carb Manager plays several roles. First, it shows the most common restaurant dishes. Second, it has a net carb count for each recipe, so it is easier for you to stick to the primary objectives of the keto diet. Lastly, the app provides resources such as forums, e-books, a meal planner, and hundreds of recipes.

The app is perfect for keto dieters and for those who follow other low-carb eating regimen like Atkins, LCHF, and Paleo. Perhaps the best feature of the Carb Manager is the one that lets you take a photo of what you are eating and recognizing instantly what kind of food it is. In addition, it gives you all the important nutritional information.

Here are some of the other notable features:

  • A daily log of your diet and exercise
  • Quickly record your water intake
  • Set your net carbs and weight loss goals with the integrated calculator
  • Search over a million foods with macros and carb counts
  • Use the app’s search engine or scan a product barcode for immediate results
  • Choose from hundreds of exercises or create your own
  • Monitor your weight and body mass index (BMI) with simple charts
  • View detailed nutrition info for each day, including total carbs, net carbs, calories, fat, protein, and more.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

The Carb Manager is free for download. You can find it on Google Play and on the iTunes store. For more advanced features, you can check out Carb Manager Premium. The subscription period is 1 year for $39.99, 3 months for $16.49, and 1 month for $8.49.

3Keto Diet App

This is an amazing ketogenic diet tracker that a lot of people have tried. It provides a long list of great recipes that are easy to prepare. The developers regularly update the recipe database so users don’t get bored.

What’s really commendable about the Keto Diet app is that it will allow you to track all the foods you eat on a daily basis. You can easily monitor your calorie intake and many other facets of your diet. The app is not just about shedding off your excess pounds; it’s a tool that will help you in your bid to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Aside from restricting your carbohydrate intake, you’ll learn why it’s imperative to follow a whole foods based approach and incorporate healthy fat sources in your daily diet. 

A competitive advantage of the app is its automatic updates that indicate current values of your progress. Here are some of the other highlights of the app:

  • Keto Recipes: 300 low-carb, paleo and primal recipes plus more than 650 free recipes from the developer’s integrated keto blog.
  • Profile: You can set your carbohydrate limit and goals. There is an integrated Keto calculator to help you determine your ideal macronutrient intake. You can update your weight, body fat and measurements to monitor your progress.
  • Planner/Tracker: Schedule your meals with the app’s intuitive planner. Make your own diet plan using hundreds of included meals, restaurant dishes or create your own meals.
  • Progress: Monitor all aspects of your keto diet progress including weight, body fat, blood glucose, blood lipids, carbs, macronutrients, water intake, mood, energy, and body stats.
  • Expert Articles: Receive regular updates from the KetoDiet Blog, including success stories, diet tips, diet plans, weekly expert articles, and free recipes.
  • Keto Diet Guide: The keto diet approach explained thoroughly. Learn the science behind the diet and know more about ketosis. Discover why this dietary approach works well. Identify what foods to eat and which ones to avoid. Everything backed by scientific references.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

There is no subscription fee. You only pay $6.99 once and everything is included. You can find this app on both Google Play and iTunes store

4Total Keto Diet

This app was developed by Tasteaholics, an online platform devoted to low-carb eating education and resources. It provides a wide selection of recipes and informative articles. The app lets you mark all your favorite meals and even create customized shopping lists.

An interesting feature of this app is that it allows you to share all your recipes with a chance to be featured in the app’s constantly updated recipe library. As of the time of writing, the Total Keto Diet still has some limitations but its developers vow to continue adding more useful features, including a macronutrient tracker. This app is essentially a one-stop-shop for everything related to the ketogenic diet.

Here are some cool features:

  • Hundreds of Keto Recipes and a lot more added every week.
  • Offline Reading for previously viewed keto recipes
  • Favorites Section & Favorites Counter where you can see the most liked keto recipes by all users.
  • Intuitive Ingredient Sorting which divides your shopping list ingredients by recipe.
  • Keto Diet Beginner’s Guide to help you understand all you need to know about the keto diet and get started right away.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

The Total Keto Diet app is free for download on Google Play. However, you can only install it in Android devices.

5Ketogenic Diet Plan

This keto diet app was specifically designed for newbies and beginners. Hence, it makes everything appear simple to understand. Not only is it packed with delicious recipes and excellent meal recommendations, but it also provides resources about keto diet principles, along with the rationale behind the carb-restricted approach.

This app will let you learn more about how to live healthily if you are a diabetic. Moreover, it offers complete access to a photo gallery that highlights users’ progress by posting before-and-after images. Lastly, the app provides tips on how to start the keto diet without experiencing the unwanted side effects.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

The app is free and you can download it on Google Play. But just like the Total Keto Diet app, it is only compatible with Android devices.

What Are Net Carbs and How to Calculate Them

what are net carbs

Food manufacturers coined the term ‘net carbs’ during the low-carb craze of the past decade, in an attempt to further bolster the hype. It ensures dieters that they can eat sweet and salty foods without the need to count their actual carbohydrate load. The term, however, is not officially recognized by nutrition experts. There is no legal definition, so the Nutrition Facts labels of foods bearing it are not regulated by the Food & Drugs Administration.                                        

To date, whether to count totals carbs or net carbs remains a controversial topic, and because of outdated and conflicting information, determining how to compute net carbs can be quite confusing. Moreover, the net carbs labels on packed foods are not necessarily indicative of the number of carbs that your body really absorbs.

Fortunately, understanding how your body processes the various types of carbohydrates may help in attaining your target blood sugar level and weight loss goals. In this article, we will take a close look at the science behind net carbs and learn how to calculate them based on your food intake.

What Are Net Carbs?

Also known as digestible or impact carbs, net carbs refer to the carbohydrates absorbed by your body, including both simple and complex carbs. Whenever you eat food stuffs containing carbohydrates, most of the carbs are broken down in the small intestine into individual sugar units. The rationale behind this is that only individual sugar units can be absorbed by your body.

However, some carbohydrates cannot be broken down into individual sugars, while others are only partially broken down. These include dietary fiber and sugar alcohols, both of which can be deducted from total carbs when computing for net carbs.

How Your Body Processes Fiber

Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate with regard to its digestion and physiologic effects. Unlike sugar and starch, naturally occurring fiber is not absorbed in your small intestine because enzymes cannot break the bond between the sugar units. Consequently, fiber passes directly into your colon. Its fate after that relies on what kind of fiber it is.

There are two classes of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Roughly two-thirds of the fiber in your diet is insoluble, while the rest is soluble. Insoluble fiber leaves your colon unchanged, provides no calories and does not have any effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. In contrast, soluble fiber creates a gel that slows down the movement of food through your system and can make you feel full. When soluble fibers reach your colon they are fermented by bacteria into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs help in keeping your gut healthy and provides several other health benefits.

Note that soluble fiber does not appear to increase blood glucose. As a matter of fact, recent scientific studies suggest that its effects in the gastrointestinal tract help reduce blood sugar levels. Multiple studies have also demonstrated that soluble fiber may lead to increased insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar control, and absorption of fewer calories.

How Your Body Processes Sugar Alcohol

Sugar alcohols are processed by your body just like it handles fiber, with some significant differences. A lot of sugar alcohols are only absorbed partially in the small intestine, and there are a lot of differences among various types.

According to researchers, 2 to 90% of sugar alcohols are absorbed by the small intestine. However, some are only absorbed briefly into the bloodstream and later excreted in urine. Moreover, these sugar alcohols can have different effects on blood glucose and insulin levels.

Below is a list of the insulin and glycemic indexes for the most common sugar alcohols. For comparison purposes, note that the insulin and glycemic index of glucose are both 100.

  • Maltitol: Insulin index 27 / Glycemic index 35
  • Xylitol: Insulin index 11 / Glycemic index 13
  • Sorbitol: Insulin index 11 / Glycemic index 9
  • Isomalt: Insulin index 6 / Glycemic index 9
  • Erythritol: Insulin index 2 / Glycemic index 0

By far the most commonly used sugar alcohol in processed food is maltitol. It is partially absorbed in your small intestine, while the rest is fermented by bacteria in your colon. Studies have also shown that it contributes 3-3.5 calories per gram, as compared to sugar which contributes 4 calories per gram. Maltitol has likewise been reported to increase blood sugar levels in diabetics.

In terms of net carbs, the best all around choice appears to be erythritol. Roughly 90% of it is absorbed in your small intestine and later excreted in urine. The remaining 10% is fermented to short-chain fatty acids in the colon, making it carb-free, calorie-free and unlikely to trigger digestive problems.

Studies have revealed that other sugar alcohols are also partially absorbed and can raise blood sugar, but to a lesser degree than maltitol. However, they appear to cause bloating and loose stools in a lot of people.

On the whole, it seems that sugar alcohols don’t have a considerable effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, although individual responses may differ, particularly among diabetics.

How to Calculate Net Carbs in Whole Foods

Naturally occurring fiber can be found in whole food. Hence, you can just subtract the fiber from the total carbs to determine the net carbs. For instance, an avocado contains 9 grams of total carbs, of which 7 grams are fiber.

So, 9 grams of total carbs – 7 grams of fiber = 2 grams of net carbs.

How to Calculate Net Carbs in Processed Food

1) Net Carbs from Fiber

You can completely subtract most fibers from the total carbs displayed in the nutrition label. If you’re living outside the United States, note that the fiber has already been removed from the total carbohydrate line and is listed separately. However, if isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) is included in the ingredients list, you only need to subtract half of the fiber carbs.

2) Net Carbs From Sugar Alcohols

In general, you can subtract 50% of the carbs from sugar alcohols from the total carbs listed on the nutrition label. An exception is erythritol. In case it is the only sugar alcohol in the ingredients list, you can completely subtract its carbs from the total carbs.

The value that you’ll get may be different from the number of net carbs shown on the product label because many companies calculate net carbs by subtracting all fiber and sugar alcohol carbs.

The Pros

  • Less Restrictive – by calculating net carbs you’ll be able to widen your food choices.
  • Promotes Higher Fiber Intake – Foods rich in fiber promote fullness, reduce blood sugar and calorie absorption.
  • Lessens Risk of Hypoglycemia in Insulin Users – people taking insulin in order to cover all carbs without making necessary adjustments for high-fiber and erythritol-containing foods may experience a drop in blood sugar.

The Cons

  • Not 100 Percent Accurate – so far, it is not possible to calculate net carbs with pinpoint precision because of the varying effects of processing fiber, individual responses, and the mixture of sugar alcohols used in food products.
  • May Not Be Effective For Some With Type 1 Diabetes – although subtracting fiber carbs may help prevent hypoglycemia in some people with type 1 diabetes, others claim that calculating all carbs makes it easier for them to regulate blood sugar.
  • Can Lead To Increased Intake Of Sugar-Free Treats Excessive consumption of food labeled as “low in net carbs” may impede weight loss, increase blood sugar and cause other health issues.

At the end of the day, the decision on whether to calculate total or net carbs must be based on what really works best for you.

Conclusion

The debate as to whether it is more precise to calculate total or net carbs won’t end anytime soon. However, knowing how your body processes different types of carbohydrates can help in regulating your blood sugar, weight and overall fitness level.

Counting net carbs is one way to achieve this. Net carbs basically pertains to carbohydrates that are absorbed by your body. In order to calculate the net carbs in whole foods, simply subtract the fiber from the total number of carbs. For processed foods, subtract the fiber and a portion of the sugar alcohols.

Nonetheless, bear in mind that the “net carbs” shown on food labels can be misleading, and individual responses vary. In case you find that calculating net carbs results in higher than expected blood sugar levels, you may shift to counting total carbs instead.

The most important thing is to ingest the number of carbs that enables you to achieve your fitness goals, regardless of how you calculate them.