Question: Does cooking food in a microwave cause nutrient loss?
Answer: This is a great question because microwaves are pervasive throughout society. In fact, they’re a staple in almost every kitchen. Despite their popularity, many people are convinced that radiation from microwaves destroys nutrients. Thankfully, research does not back this up. The primary determinants of nutrient loss are cook time, cook temperature and the amount of liquid used. In other words, any form of cooking can lead to nutrient loss, but microwaving is actually a better option. Microwaves do a great job of heating your food very quickly and microwaves heat at temperatures that are lower than most other forms of cooking. The water-soluble vitamins, B-complex and C, are easily the most susceptible to heat, and are commonly found in beans, fruits and vegetables. Bottom line – use the microwave as often as you need to, but try to avoid using water in the cooking process to avoid leaching of those water-soluble vitamins.
Question: I’ve never been the best sleeper. Is this having a negative impact on my overall health?
Answer: Unfortunately, yes, it probably is. There is a lot of emerging research revolving around sleep (or the lack thereof) and its associated health implications. There’s some data now indicating that those who get just one night of poor sleep end up with abnormal lab values indicative of pre-diabetes. That’s right, pre-diabetes. Folks with poor sleep cycles can end up with suppressed insulin secretion after a meal, which leaves them with elevated blood sugar levels for far too long. They also have lowered resting metabolic rates, which could ultimately contribute to weight gain as well. Other researchers have discovered that hundreds of genes get disrupted after just one week of suboptimal sleep, thereby impairing the body’s ability to heal itself. Chronic sleep problems have been associated with heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and obesity for years, but now we’re starting to see direct observations in the laboratory setting. In the end, optimal sleep is just as important as your fitness level and your nutritional status when it comes to overall health, so try to get at least 8 hours a night, and more when you can.
Question: I lift five days per week consistently, but my strength gains have flat-lined. How do I continue to get stronger?
Answer: Despite not having much information to go on here, let’s see if I can provide some insight. First of all, there’s the distinct possibility that you’re working out too much. Maybe your volume (the combination of sets and reps) is too high—a common problem for those looking to gain strength as quickly as possible. And how long has it been since you’ve taken some time off to allow your body to fully recuperate from the stress of exercise? Some much-needed rest may do the trick and, amazingly, people often come back even stronger. I also wonder if you’re changing up your workouts enough. Many people get into the habit of using machines or free weights, but then never gravitate toward other forms of exercise. Cables, tubing, bands, kettle bells, medicine balls and even bodyweight exercises can all increase strength, so you should try to vary up your routine regularly. Lastly, you have to remember that strength doesn’t just increase exponentially on a continual basis. There is a threshold that you’ll reach at some point, and you could be there already. If you feel like you need help with your current program, talk to a certified personal trainer.
About the author: Grant and Cathy Pritchard are the club owners at Anytime Fitness in Buckley and Orting. To submit a question for future articles, contact the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org.