SparkPeople Guest Blogger

8 Health Benefits of Coffee

If you enjoyed a cup of coffee this morning, you have already started the day on a healthy (and possibly more productive!) note. Not only does a cuppa Joe deliver your trusty a.m. caffeine boost, but it also may reduce the risk for certain health problems and can improve bodily functions. Check out the top eight health benefits of consuming coffee.

Increased Alertness and Energy Levels

Coffee contains caffeine, which is responsible for the increased alertness you feel once your first cup has kicked in. Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning that it increases heart rate, respiratory rate and metabolic activity. As a result, more body cells respond to nerve impulses, which improves energy levels.

Stronger Cognitive Functioning

When consumed in small amounts over a period of time (such as two hours), the gradual increase in caffeine heightens the amount of impulses within the brain cells. As a result, the brain recognizes stimuli faster and with more resolve. 

Posted 8/17/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 7 comments   14,575 views

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A Do-Anywhere Routine for Stronger Wrists

If you've ever experienced wrist pain during a workout, you know it's no fun and it could even be holding you back from seeing progress if it prevents you from completing your routine! This basic, wrist-focused routine is designed to help you build strength, range of motion and flexibility in the muscles that surround and support your wrists. 

Posted 8/10/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   18,358 views

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Best Foods for Runners before a Race

You're preparing for your race when hunger suddenly strikes, but after months of training you're worried that a meal will slow you down during the big event. Trainers and friends give conflicting advice on what to eat, but your stomach is rumbling louder than they are. Luckily, there are tasty foods that you can eat before a race that will keep you full without harming your performance. In fact, these top foods will help you to harness all of your power during the race! First, let's look at the general timeframe of your pre-run meals before getting into the specific foods.

Posted 8/6/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   10,097 views

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Black Tea Health Benefits

Enjoying a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean reducing pleasures. In fact, one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is simply adding a tasty drink to your daily routine. Black tea's numerous health benefits are scientifically sound, and along with the drink's rich taste and varied styles, you can't go wrong with a morning or evening cup! Here are the greatest health benefits that black tea has to offer!

A Reduced Risk of Stroke

Drinking more than 3 cups of black tea a day can reduce the risk of stroke by nearly 21%. Researchers found that this effect worked across all genders and ages and is due to the tea's helpful effects on the heart and arteries. While many things factor into the risk and severity of strokes, adding black tea into your diet is a simple, tasty, and effective way of preventing a terrible occurrence.

Prevention of Cavities, Plaque Formation, and Gingivitis

Black tea contains many beneficial substances including polyphenols. Polyphenols help your mouth by suppressing the bacterias and sugars that can eventually lead to tooth decay. They also slow down the production of plaque so that your teeth remain shiny and smooth. This also leads to a decreased risk of gum problems such as gingivitis. As with all oral benefits, your breath will remain fresher throughout the day as well!

Cancer-Fighting Antioxidants 

The previously mentioned polyphenols are a group of strong antioxidants that differ from those found in fruits and vegetables. Their main claim to fame is fighting destructive free radicals in the body. By hindering their growth, your body has a better chance of preventing cancers and tumors from forming or spreading. This is especially helpful for those who regularly consume tobacco or alcohol. While black tea cannot cure a preexisting cancer, it still remains one of the simplest and most affordable ways to add daily health and pleasure into your life.

Posted 8/1/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 3 comments   11,214 views

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The Natural Benefits of Ginger

The next time you get an upset stomach, you might be relieved to know that you don't have to down spoonfuls of gross pink fluid or chew chalky tablets. In case of bellyache, stock your fridge with one thing: Ginger. Hundreds of years ago, people sailed all over the globe in search of this natural soother of upset bellies. Ginger has been proven to reduce nausea and vomiting, even in chemotherapy patients. But that's not the only reason you should start consuming more of this spice. 

Posted 7/28/2015  9:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 11 comments   20,615 views

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A 6-Step, Full-Body Barre Workout

Barre, the ballet-inspired workout that focuses on isometric strength training, continues to gain new fans around the country due to its quick results and unique, graceful movements. Get a taste of this increasingly popular way to work out with this routine developed by BarreAmped creator and fitness instructor Suzanne Bowen. The total-body barre workout can be done anywhere you have a ledge or some other support for balance. These six effective moves will have your muscles shaking and working. Grab your mat, some light hand weights and a stopwatch, then warm up for five minutes and try it for yourself!

Up & Back with Arm Sculpt 
To begin, hold on to something sturdy for balance and grip a light weight in your left hand. Extend left leg forward while keeping the right knee soft and hips squared. Take your left arm straight back behind rib cage as you feel your triceps contract.

On your inhale, hinge at the hips, bend your left leg and move the torso to face down as you reach the left leg straight back and your left arm forward. Exhale and return to start move. Continue for one minute.

Make it easier: Decrease range of motion, hand weight size or duration.

Make it harder: Increase time to 90 seconds and, with each move, pause and pulse arm and leg 10 times.

Troubleshoot: Be careful not to lock out the standing knee. Make sure that the leg is moving straight. When you hinge to move the leg back behind your body, bend the knee and press it back.

Works: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and triceps.

Fiddler with Rear Shoulder Lift 
From the last rep of "Up and Back" above, hold that hinge. Bend your elbow and face palm to the back, keeping the arm in line with your shoulder. Bend your left knee and point toes, then lift your right heel. Pulse left knee and elbow up in tiny moves up and down for one minute.

Make it easier: Drop right heel down, drop the weight and stay more upright.

Make it harder: Hinge more parallel to the floor, dip down a little lower in the right knee and increase duration to 90 seconds.

Troubleshoot: Keep hips square, right knee soft and core tight so that you don't move the lower back at all.

Works: Glutes, hamstrings, calves, rear deltoid, lower back. 

Posted 7/27/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   28,830 views

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Breakfast, the Most Important Meal (for Weight Loss)

You might want to lose weight for a variety of reasons: to feel better, look better, or maybe because your doctor told you that it will benefit your overall health. One thing to keep in mind is that, like every other thing you put in your mouth, breakfast (or lack of breakfast) can really make or break your weight-loss efforts.

Mix It Up

It's important to have protein, whole grain carbs, and fruit at every breakfast, both to keep yourself from getting bored and to ensure you get a good balance of nutrients. This balance not only helps stave off hunger for a longer period of time, but the whole grains won’t make your blood sugar spike. When blood sugar spikes, eventually it crashes, and then you’ll be hungry and more likely to feel tired. A balanced mixture of foods is not only important in helping you lose or maintain weight, but it also keeps you from foraging for more food before lunch.

Tea, Please!

Is coffee not your cup of tea? Green tea can give you the morning pick-me-up you need while providing healthy antioxidants and aiding in satiety.

Make Your Own

Many storebought products come with added preservatives or other ingredients for the sole purpose of expanding the shelf-life of those foods. Although a longer shelf-life is great for convenience and food storage, some of these additives aren't exactly the healthiest things you can put in your body. But you don't have to rely on the storebought stuff! It's plenty easy to make your own wholesome granola. Give this homemade granola a spin and see what you think! 

Posted 7/24/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   12,882 views

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The Best Post-Run Recovery Foods

Many runners plan out their daily health routines down to the nth degree.  However, even though you are seeing your desired results on the outside, you may not be doing everything you can to ensure your body is being properly cared for on the inside. 

Eating the proper foods at the right times can mean the difference between a healthy body and one that isn't receiving the post run nutrition it needs to recover.  Therefore, you should take some time to learn exactly what foods should be eaten before, during and after your running events, if you want to keep your body in optimal condition.  Let’s take a look at some of the best post run recovery foods.

Post Run Recovery Foods By Category

There are a number of different types of foods your body needs after a run.  Let's start with discussing specific categories and why they are important. Then, we will go into the types of post run recovery foods your body needs.

1.  Carbohydrates

You should strive to consume carbohydrates within 20-30 minutes after your run.  Eating carbohydrates shortly after your workout helps optimize your body's recovery as that is when your muscles are the most receptive to rebuilding your glycogen reserves.

2.  Protein

Protein helps with the repair of muscles after a strenuous run. Therefore, you should try to consume some carbohydrates and proteins at a ratio of 4:1.  In other words, 4-grams of carbohydrates for every 1-gram of protein you eat.
3.  Electrolytes and Antioxidants

Running, especially long-distance running, significantly depletes your body's electrolytes and antioxidants.  There are several ways to help restore these vital nutrients in your body.  Certain fruits and fruit juices will do the trick.  Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and eat frequent small meals to help combat fluid loss and replenish your body's electrolytes. 

You are probably asking yourself "what about a sports drink?" Well, sports drinks can be helpful. However, while a sports drink will supply your body with the sodium and potassium you lost through the sweating process, they really don't have any nutritional value.  Therefore, you can guzzle a sports drink for a quick fix but you should ultimately strive to replenish your reserves with fresh fruit or fruit juices. One more tip is to avoid drinking alcohol or large amounts of caffeine as these will only dehydrate your body further.

The Best Post Run Recovery Foods

Now we are going to provide you with specific examples of the best post run recovery foods you can eat to help replenish your body with the vital nutrients it needs.  Of course you need to start restoring your fluids as soon as possible after a strenuous run. Therefore, a sports drink or some water are both great for a quick fix.  However, the recovery process does not stop there.  Here are some specific foods that will help restore your body back to pre-run status.
  • Oatmeal
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken
  • Hummus
  • Salmon
  • Lean beef
  • Turkey breast
  • Sports/Energy bar
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Fruit Juice
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Almonds or other nuts
  • Vegetables
There are some great food combinations that also work well, such as:
  • quinoa salad
  • chicken/turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • whole-wheat pasta or rice with a lean meat and your favorite sauce
  • salad with some lean meat or fish
  • omelet with veggies and lean meat
  • turkey and avocado sandwich on whole-wheat bread

What You Should Do If You Can't Eat Immediately After A Run

It's best to try and eat a post run meal within an hour or so.  However, if that's not possible, strive for one of the following:
1.  Chocolate milk is helpful for immediate nutrient replacement.
2.  Drink a protein shake with either milk or water.
3.  Snack on some Greek yogurt.
4.  Grab an apple.
5.  Have a banana with some peanut butter.
6.  Try some Hummus with carrots or pita chips. 

Last But Not Least

Although running is an integral part of your health regimen, it can also be hard on your body.  Therefore, you will need some rest and relaxation after your run.  Make sure you give your body plenty of time to recover properly after a rigorous workout.  That means sitting down, relaxing and putting your feet up as you enjoy the fruits (no pun intended) of your labor!

Posted 7/7/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 1 comments   8,188 views

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The Many Benefits of Honey

What is one food that was eaten thousands of years ago, is still eaten today in probably the exact same form, and is just as good for you today as it was then?  Honey!   Some refer to honey as liquid gold because in the good old days honey was the only opportunity many people had to eat something sweet, so it was considered a great and rare treat.

General Health Benefits

Honey offers benefits to the entire body.  A tablespoon of honey only has a little more than 60 calories. Honey is fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free.  No wonder health conscious people add honey to their tea rather than sugar or a sweetener substitute.  Honey is comprised of 80% carbohydrates, 18% water, and a 2% mix of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, so honey adds a mighty health wallop.

Help Ditch the Cough

Honey is a cough suppressant.  In a 2012 study, the journal Pediatrics recommended that when children between the ages of one and five years take two teaspoons of honey 30 minutes before bed, they coughed less, which made falling asleep easier.  Although the exact reason honey helps is unknown, most believe that honey coats and soothes the throat, especially the nerve endings that might cause the “itch” creating the cough.  Honey can also be used to treat upper respiratory tract infections.


Honey can also help people who have trouble falling asleep.  Honey can help create a release of serotonin.  Serotonin helps improve a person’s mood, which in turn makes sleep come easier, and honey even improves the quality of sleep a person gets.  Another sleep benefit of honey is that some of the amino acids in honey include tryptophan, which is the same amino acid in turkey that tends to make it harder to stay awake after the big Thanksgiving meal. 

Allergy Relief

Honey has anti-inflammatory properties that sooth coughs and other allergy symptoms.  Although the scientific evidence is harder to prove, the anecdotal proof is evident.  Additionally, naturopathic doctors have been prescribing honey for people with allergies for years.  One belief is that the pollen has antibodies that when introduced to the body helps decrease, over time, the body’s reaction to pollen.

Energy Drinks

With only 17 grams of carbohydrates in a tablespoon, and because it offers unprocessed sugar, honey can be a benefit as an energy drink.  The fructose and glucose of honey enters the blood stream directly, which means drinking a honey-based energy drink right before a workout pays dividends immediately, and it continues to offer an assist during longer, more involved workouts.

Cancer Fighter

Some of the properties found in honey are also found in anti-carcinogen meds and other foods.  Yearly, there are more and more studies that indicate that honey has a role to play in the prevention of cancer, and in the prevention of the formation of tumors.

Cuts and Burns

Who knows why the first Egyptian found this out, but honey is beneficial for people who are suffering from cuts and burns.  Honey has antiseptic properties that keep wounds clean and free from infections.  It is believed that honey is able to take moisture from the air and to promote healing while keeping bacteria away.  Honey has even been recognized as a successful treatment for athlete’s foot, yeast infections, and arthritis pain.


In the unlikely event that a person would drink too much and wake up with a hangover, honey has been found to be one of the more effective and reliable home remedies.  Honey helps sooth the stomach, and it even allows the liver to expel remnants of alcohol faster.  A simple recipe for a hangover cure is to take eight parts orange juice, seven parts natural yogurt, and 1.5 parts honey and blend them together.

Honey is one of the best natural remedies and natural preventatives a person can find.  Like most foods, it is most effective when taken in moderation.  Whether you’re suffering from a cold or allergies, or if you want to ensure that you’re doing all you can to fend off cancer, honey offers many benefits.

Posted 7/1/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   14,154 views

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9 Fun Family Fitness Activities

The family that gets active together, stays together. Bringing the family together for a day or an afternoon of movement is both fun and offers an opportunity to stay connected even when schedules are hectic. Plus, you’ll be instilling great health and fitness values in your children. Make a commitment to unleash your inner child and spend valuable quality time with those you love by trying some of these family-friendly activities.

Zoo Adventure Walk Lions and tigers and fitness, oh my! Consider taking your family to the zoo for an educational and fun way to get your move on. Track your steps and the distance covered during your zoo adventure by wearing a pedometer or using an app on your phone. Keep the kids engaged by encouraging them to count the number of steps between animal exhibits and the number of different animals they encounter. Plus, the fun doesn’t have to stop when you leave the zoo! Back at home, take turns acting out all the different animals.

Obstacle Course Earn the title of Parent (or Grandparent) of the Week by creating an obstacle course in the backyard or at a local park. All you need is outdoor chalk, a hula hoop, ball, bucket or trash can, cones and a towel to build a fun and challenging circuit. Do each station once, then repeat the entire circuit for a total of ten times through.

  • Jumping Jacks 10
  • Hula hoop Try to keep the hoop moving for one minute.
  • Push-Ups 10-15
  • Hopscotch Set up the classic game with chalk or tape.
  • Basketball Bounce the basketball 10 times before throwing it into an empty bucket or trash can.
  • Toe Touch Hops Reach to the sky, reach down to touch your toes, then swing arms up and jump hop to the sky. Do this 10 times.
  • Cone Drills With a set of at least five rubber cones, have everyone weave in and out of the cones before running back to the first cone. Repeat this 10 times. If you don’t have cones, be creative by using water bottles or washcloths.
  • Beatle Bug Sit-Ups Start on your back and then bring knees and upper body together like a bug. Stay in this position, then repeat 15 more times.
Bike Ride Hop on two wheels and go for a family bike ride around the neighborhood or local park.

Jump Rope Grab a jump rope and spend some time in the driveway as everyone takes turns jumping. Compete to see who can jump the most consecutive times and challenge each other to try new tricks.

DIY Slip and Slide Spray a large piece of tarp with water and a little baby oil, set the hose at the top of the tarp and you’re in business. Let everyone take turns running and sliding as far as they can along the tarp. (Note: If you live in an area with water usage concerns, use a low flow of water.)

Volleyball Set up your own volleyball fun using a clothesline and ball. Choose teams and play on!

Fire Fly Run Mason jars and a setting sun are all you need for this fun nighttime activity. Hit your local park or another open space where the fireflies will be out in numbers. Run around as everyone tries to spot and catch the fireflies—just remember to let them go after you catch them.

Flashlight Tag Arm everyone with a flashlight and head to the backyard to run around as you try to ‘’tag’’ people by shining a flashlight on them.

Dance Party Gather everyone outside or in the living room for a dance party. Play each family member’s favorite songs while you all do crazy moves and express yourself through dance.

How do you get your family moving? Share you favorite family activity in the comments!

About the Author
Kim Truman is an all-around trainer and nutrition coach based in Dallas, Texas. She is well-known for her enthusiastic and motivational coaching style, as well as her high-energy workout programs. Discover more about Kim and her mission at

Posted 6/26/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   7,946 views

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5 Ways to Make Walking More Wonderful

Whether you have been walking for years or are just getting started with it, making your walking time more enjoyable can help you stay more motivated to stick with it over the long term, which is the key to lasting results!

Try these five simple tips to help you take your walk from good to great:

#1: Step in the right shoes.
This one may sound super obvious, but so many of us are walking around in shoes that are either the wrong size or aren't designed to support our unique needs. If your feet are in pain after you finish a walk, chances are you are in need of a sneaker makeover! The right footwear could be what's missing from your routine and could help turn your walking time into a more pleasurable experience that you'll actually look forward to.

If you regularly experience pain or tenderness in your feet, you may have issues with plantar fasciitis, overpronation (your feet rolling inward as you step), flat feet or even high arches that need to be addressed by either a specific type of shoe and/or orthopedics. Depending on what kind of issues you are experiencing, you may need the expertise of a podiatrist or orthopedist to best advise you on what type of shoe or orthopedics you should be wearing. Please don't wait until the pain is unbearable to make an appointment - do it today! 

It's also important to find the right fit. Your sneaker size is typically (though not always) a half to one full size larger than your formal shoe size. If you aren't sure what your specific sneaker size is, take the time to get fitted properly in an athletic store. And don't forget that even the perfect sneakers wear out over time and mileage, so be sure to replace them as needed (like when you start to notice the support or tread wearing out in your shoes) to keep a spring in your step over the long term.

Posted 6/25/2015  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   13,393 views

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9 Ways to Get Healthy Fats Into Your Diet

Life is full of ambiguity and challenges. Few challenges in life can be as complex as proper nutrition. Your body is your greatest possession. You owe it to yourself to find out all you can about staying healthy. Most diets imply giving up something. However, the diet we will discuss is about taking advantage of something. You will learn how to take advantage of fats by incorporating healthy fats in your eating habits. By making small changes, lasting results will come.

Don’t Throw Out the Sweets

This sounds counter-productive, but throwing out all the unhealthy food is the first step to failure. Humans have an affinity for sugar, which causes those pesky sugar cravings. When you can’t get to sugar, your body craves the most-caloric foods: fat. If you snack on candy or other concentrated sweets now and then, it’s okay. Just limit yourself to one or two high-sugar items a week.

Don't Go Fat-Free

Your body needs fat to survive. Fats are used by the body in many different chemical processes, which are required to survive. For example, your skin contains fats to help prevent bacteria and elements from entering the body.  

Reduce Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature, as well as a few tropical oils. When you cook, use fats that exist as a liquid at room temperature. This includes olive, vegetable, canola, and peanut oil. These make excellent bases for creating a home-made dressing, which can be used on salads, breads, pasta, or anything else you eat.

Snack on Nuts

Nuts are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which promote heart health. Nuts contain huge amounts of proteins as well. This gives your body a source of energy without the high caloric values of common snacks. However, avoid purchasing nuts processed with additives, such as salt, sugars, or even electrolytes.

Have Fish Once a Week

Fish contains high levels of beneficial Omega-3s and other healthy fats. Furthermore, the Omage-3s reduce low-density lipids and triglycerides—bad forms of cholesterol. Some fish lack high values of these nutrients, so stick to Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Mackerel, and Lake Trout. Also, do not deep fry your fish. What’s the point of eating healthier foods if it’s swimming in pure fat?

Travel South of the Border

Mexican food contains many antioxidants in addition to being lower in unhealthy fats. Avocados, pinto beans, and fresh fruit and vegetables all promote healthy fats in your body. You can even purchase avocado oil for much of your cooking.

Make Specialty Butters

When you use butter for your food, you are actually using an unhealthy fat. However, you can reduce the amount of unhealthy fat by making home-made specialty butters. Take a typical stick of butter, add some seasonings to it, and let it set in the fridge for a few days. The flavor imparted in the butter will be pronounced, which results in using less butter for your foods.

Ditch Boxed Food

Processed foods contain an extraordinary amount of substitutes, fats, and preservatives. These substances encourage and reinforce cravings for unhealthy foods. When you shop for food, avoid going down the center aisles of the store. Fresh food is kept on the store’s perimeter for freshness, and fresh food has more healthy fats than processed items.

Eat  Your Eggs

You have heard of the dangers of egg yolks for cholesterol. However, whole eggs are very beneficial when eaten whole and in moderation. Try to limit yourself to less than six eggs per week. This will actually give you some of the healthy fats from the eggs without worrying about the excess cholesterol caused by overindulgence.

With the above steps in mind, you can incorporate more healthy fats into your diet. Don't feel like you have to use all of these tips at once--start with slow changes to allow for natural integration of healthy fats into your diet.

Posted 6/25/2015  9:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   10,352 views

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4 Essential Walking Posture Tips

Did you know that simple things like standing taller, engaging your abs and even walking sideways can help you walk further and faster, all while helping you burn more calories?

Here are a few walking posture tips to help you make the most of every step (think of the word P.A.C.E. to help you remember these!) 

Posted 6/4/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 1 comments   30,660 views

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The 1-Mile Indoor Power Walking Workout

This one-mile indoor power walking workout will help you stick with your walking routine no matter what time of day or night it is--or what the weather is like outside! 
We'll use a mix of moves that can be done easily in a small space to help you prevent joint strain. We're keeping it simple to help you squeeze in some extra steps anytime, anywhere. Just a heads up, we'll be jumping right into this walk to make this mile short and sweet, so please be sure you are warmed up first. And be sure to stick around for the cool-down to find out more about our upcoming #5MileChallenge with SparkPeople and brand new DVD, "Walk On: 5 Fat Burning Miles".

Posted 5/24/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 14 comments   43,803 views

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The 6 Best Foods for Runners

Running is a fantastic activity to help maintain a healthy heart and weight. But the real magic happens when you refuel after your run! To get the most out of running, it's crucial that you eat healthy foods filled with vitamins, healthy fats, plus carbs and proteins that aid in muscle repair and development. Incorporate the following foods into your diet to reap maximum running rewards. 

Posted 5/19/2015  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 5 comments   24,393 views

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