Introducing Plank Pilates Studio Director Julia Fouts’ monthly 5F blog post. Enjoy her expertise!

 5 F’s: Fouts’ Five Fun Fitness Facts

Every month we face an overwhelming variety of health magazines, ranging in topic from nutrition, fitness, body image, etc.  The list goes on. When each publication costs at least $3.99 a pop, it feels wasteful and disappointing when you choose the wrong one (especially when they’re filled with advertisements galore).

To solve this dilemma, I’ll read through all the good, bad and ugly articles so you no longer spend time sifting through the crap. Every month I’ll post a list of my five favorite tidbits or articles from a variety of magazines and expand upon each topic.  The magazine selection will usually include Fitness, Self, Women’s Health, and Running.

Without further delay the 5 F’s this month are (and in no particular order):

1. The importance of coffee: 

Like many of you, I love and unfortunately rely on coffee. So whenever I come across ANY benefit from coffee, I practically tattoo it to my forehead.

Studies have shown that pre-workout coffee signals the brain, picks up the metabolism and sets us up for a more intense workout. Whether it’s a jog, yoga or pilates, our pre-workout addiction has great effects on our efficiency. Also, coffee improves our agility. Agility is more about our first step and quickness, rather than speed. This piece of information is very important as it directly relates to balance! When we improve our agility we strengthen and sharpen our “go” muscles, the same muscles we use for ankle, knee and hip support. Thank you coffee! I’ll take another.

(Women’s Health)

2. New research: Hello, Irisin.

Irisin is a hormone that replicates some of the positive effects of exercise. Currently only researched by scientists at the Harvard Medical School, they’ve found that muscles produce this hormone when they’re worked. Why should we know about it? This is a belly-fat-burning hormone (ding-ding jackpot) that switches on when we exercise.

When this hormone releases into the bloodstream, it then causes our bodies to burn more energy because of our heightened respiratory rate of fat cells. It targets subcutaneous fat (just beneath the skin) and turns this bad fat into a better fat. Better fat, or brown fat, burns faster and is more susceptible to change. The fat will change and our guts will slim! So if you work out frequently and incorporate the entire body, you’ll get maximum toning effects.


3. Take a break. No, seriously.

A whopping 70% of workers fail to use all their vacation days. Come on people! Ever heard of a little siesta?

Getting away even a night or two can improve your mood and your work efficiency for the following two weeks. For me, even thinking about a long vacation stresses me out. Even in a hypothetical scenario, I’m immediately consumed with the tasks waiting for me when I return. So, I say start small.

Pick a weekend in the next two months and plan to take a full two days and one night off. It could even be in the same city, but do touristy and relaxing things. Save work emails, calls or assignments for when the weekend’s over. Block off at least 24 hours of no tasks. That “vacation” will be enough to get prepared to take your next real one. We all need a little R and R.


4. Best snack bars.

This is important because many of us are forced at times, because of no time, to have a meal supplement or energy bar to help us get through the day. Fitness Magazine compared a bunch of bars, and ThinkThin bars, a Plank favorite, was the winner. They are lower than most in sugar content and have twice as much protein. All of the bars are between 150 and 210 calories, so you’re not consuming an entire meal’s worth of calories but are still satiated.

A rule of thumb for fitness bars: you want the grams of protein to be about half the carbohydrates. For example, if there are 30 grams of carbs and 4 grams of protein, you’ll be completely unbalanced and likely hungry again in 20 minutes. Be smart, and read the wrapper!

(Fitness and Women’s Running)

5. Speaking of snacking…How do we fight those  “snack attacks”? 

It depends what and when you snack, but many studies demonstrate effective strategies to curb your snacking. One study showed that people who walked or exercised before work were 50% less likely to eat a chocolate treat later that day. So whether it’s a Pilates class in the morning or a two-mile walk to work, that counts!

Also, timing your snack can lead to healthy eating and weight loss. In a study focused on dieters, those that had a small snack between breakfast and lunch lost less then 7% of their weight in the course of a year. Conversely, those that didn’t snack in the morning hours lost more than 11%. This is a time that we are probably snacking out of boredom rather than hunger. Eating a good, healthy breakfast should sustain us until our lunchtime! If you find you are indeed hungry between the two meals, start looking at what you’re choosing for breakfast — it might not be a balanced meal or enough calories.


Be on the look out for May’s 5F! Thanks, Julia!