Whether you overestimated the number of trick-or-treaters who’d show up or your kid did really well in your neighborhood, one thing’s for sure: You’ll be swimming in candy the day after Halloween.
Bucketfuls of candy taking up space in the kitchen can be tempting munchies for weeks to come. To avoid bingeing on sugary sweets this year, why not offer up your extra treats for a good cause?
Thanks to the Halloween Candy Buy Back (HCBB) program, founded in 2005 by a Wisconsin dentist, your local dentist’s office might be happy to take that Halloween candy right off your hands.
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Here’s how it works: For every pound of candy a child (or, presumably, an adult) brings in, participating dentists will fork over $1. Then the stash of goodies will be sent off to troops overseas through Operation Gratitude, a group that sends care packages to the U.S. military. Since its start, HCBB has collected more than 130 tons of candy.
More than 2,500 dentists will participate this year, up from 300 in 2007, NPR reports. Check out the zip code locator on the program’s site to see if a dentist near you is involved with the program. If not, you can always send the treats on your own. Operation Gratitude is accepting Halloween candy up until November 15, so there’s still plenty of time to slim down your stash. Just follow the instructions on their site for sending packages.
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If you do go through a dentist, there’s no denying a pound of candy is a lot. Even if you don’t rack up enough for a buck, getting rid of that stash will surely save you (and your kiddos) calories, sugar, and fat. And let’s not forget eating a bunch of candy isn’t good for a healthy smile either. But the best part? You know you’ll be making someone else’s day a little brighter.
When your metabolism is running like a well-oiled machine, your body is working for you. Not only can it make maintaining (or losing) weight a little easier, but maximizing your system's calorie-burning engine will also help you feel more energetic, active, and alive. To figure out how to get it to that happy place, incorporate these everyday eating and exercise habits into your regular routine.
Do more heavy lifting
It’s so easy to glance at the “calories burned” figure on the cardio machine and then add more time to your workout to make the number higher. But if you want your metabolic furnace to burn hotter during the day, you’re going to need to add muscle. “Muscle burns more calories than fat,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, CSCS, author of Three Steps to a Healthier You. She advises fitting in a total-body strength workout two to three times per week, using a weight that’s heavy enough to make the 10th rep very difficult.
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Eat protein in the morning and afternoon
You already know that cranking your metabolism means filling your dinner plate with quality protein (in the form of lean meats, eggs, fish, legumes, and yogurt). Thing is, it’s easy to get that chicken breast or piece of salmon in at dinner. What's harder is remembering to eat a high-protein meal at breakfast and lunch, says Rumsey, when you're typically on the go and too rushed to do much more than grab a piece of fruit or carb-heavy sandwich.
Getting good protein in the a.m. and p.m. "will also help you maintain and build muscle as long as you consume it before and after regular weight training workouts,” she says. Plus, research suggests that your body works harder to break down and process calories from protein than from fat or carbs, resulting in a slight bump in metabolism. And don't forget, protein promotes satiety. You’ll feel fuller and burn more calories breaking it down. Double win.
Dial back your work stress
No one has to tell you that chronic stress is unhealthy. But stress at work is especially detrimental. One study of women with a history of mood disorders in the journal Biological Psychiatry found that those who experienced extra stress during the workday burned 104 fewer calories in response to a higher-fat meal compared to women who were not stressed. As the researchers discovered in a later study, stress can change the way your body metabolizes fats, even reducing the benefits of eating a healthy meal.
Snack before bedtime
You heard that right—it's time to consider disregarding all those warnings about not eating after 8 p.m. “Conventional wisdom says that food you eat right before bed will sit in your stomach all night long, which will result in packing on the pounds,” says Cassie Bjork, RD, author of Why Am I Still Fat?. Instead, the right bedtime snack “will actually boost your metabolism by keeping your blood-sugar levels stable, which allows your pancreas to secrete the fat-burning hormone glucagon,” she says.
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Hit the sheets early
Sleep may be the last thing on your to-do list, yet it deserves priority status, and here's one out of a million reasons why. Not getting enough rest has a disastrous effect on your metabolism, prompting you to misread your system's hunger cues and revving your appetite. As one study suggests, this appetite boost happens when your body calls for extra calories to fuel the additional time you’re awake—and that leads you to overeat. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults snag seven to nine hours of shuteye per night. Give it a try tonight.
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Get up and move—right now
Maybe you put in your 45 minutes of daily heart-pumping exercise on the regular. But if you spend the rest of the day with your butt planted firmly in a chair, you’re keeping your metabolism in stall, says Rumsey. “It’s important to move as much as possible,” she says, not just because movement burns calories but because it keeps your metabolism on high.
So make an effort to get up and stand at your desk, head outside to eat lunch and then taking a stroll, or walk or down the stairs when possible. Moving more during the day, even if you're just heading down the halls of your office or taking the long route to the parking lot where you left your car, will keep your metabolism running, she says.
Stop counting calories
“People often think that restricting calories boosts metabolism, but this does the complete opposite,” says Bjork. Here's why: calories are the energy that fuels your body and helps your metabolism run efficiently. Take in too few, and you’ll start to feel fatigued and hangry. Ensuring that you’re filling up your plate with lean protein (like fish or meat), healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, almond butter), and lots of fruits and veggies will deliver high-quality, nutritionally dense calories to your body. That helps your metabolism run optimally, in turn burning calories rather than conserving them.
YouTube is full of gym fails; think exercisers falling off treadmills, misusing strength machines, and wearing wildly inappropriate clothing. But most workout mistakes are a little less...obvious—and they aren't made only by people who are totally clueless about working out. Your friend who runs 20 miles a week or the woman you always see at the weight rack can be just as prone to errors that lead to injury as a gym newbie. Here, physical therapists reveal the seven most common ways their patients—even the super-fit ones—hurt themselves while working out.
They don't bother to warm up
It's tempting to skimp on a warm-up when you're time-crunched and want to maximize your precious gym minutes. Bad move: “The worst thing you can do is start cranking out the weights without getting your muscles ready,” says Karen Joubert, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based physical therapist. That’s especially true when you work out after a day at the office, when your muscles are tight from eight hours of sitting.
Get your body ready for action with a dynamic warm-up. David Reavy, a Chicago-based physical therapist, gave us one of his favorite moves: Get into a lunge position, then fold your body forward to touch your toes. This lengthens the hip flexor in your back leg and engages the posterior chain (a group of muscles in the back of your body). (Check out six more dynamic stretches to prep you for any workout.)
They work themselves too hard
You just hit a back squat PR—and immediately add two more plates to the barbell to try to max it out even more. “We think if we lift heavier weights and push ourselves harder, we’re going to see quicker results,” says Joubert. “But really we’re going to see quicker injuries.” Her advice: “Play smarter, not harder.”
But how do you know when the time is right to take it to the next level? Wait until workouts start to feel too easy, says Reavy, and then focus on moving up gradually. If you’re running 3 miles at an 8 minute pace, for example, either up your distance by a mile or two at the same speed, or run faster for the same distance. The same goes for weight training; either bump up reps or pounds. “You have to give your body time to adapt to a new challenge,” Reavy says.
They let their form break
Can't eke out one more deadlift without rounding your lower back, or one more squat without leaning forward? Best to either lighten your load, or even call it quits for the day—lifting with poor form opens you up to injury, says Reavy. When you're lifting weights, remember to keep your spine straight and weight in your heels, and if you're unsure whether you're keeping correct form, enlist the help of a trainer.
They push past the pain
Is it muscle soreness or something more serious? Here's a rule of thumb: Soreness may linger a day or two before going away, but pain persists, says Joubert. Soreness also tends to be relieved by stretching and movement, while an injury will actually get worse. And if you get a pain that is sharp and shooting, then you know you’re causing some damage, says Reavy. “Or any pain that travels, like something that starts in your leg and moves up.”
That said, muscle soreness could be a bad sign as well, especially if you notice it in one leg and not the other, says Reavy. This could be a sign you’re compensating on one side for an injury on the other.
While you may be tempted to really push yourself to reach results, the key is to check in with your body and take a breather if something feels off, says Joubert. The bottom line: working through the pain doesn’t make you stronger; it makes you injured.
They don’t take a recovery day
In the same way it’s important to take a break when your body is hurting, it’s also crucial to give yourself some regular R&R. While skipping a workout or taking a day off may seem counterproductive to your goals, “It’s actually just as important, because you won’t see changes if you don’t give yourself a break,” says Joubert. “If you push your body in that gym every day, what happens is it starts to tear down, because you’re not giving the muscle cells time to rebuild and grow.” She recommends focusing on adequate hydration, getting plenty of electrolytes along with clean foods, and resting.
That said, a recovery day doesn’t need to be a lazy day. Reavy actually likes to have what he calls “mobility days,” which involves a combination of activation exercises, muscle releases, and mobilization workouts. To activate his muscles, he revisits his go-to functional warm-up. Then, he releases tension in various parts of his body using a foam roller. Finally, he gets to the main event, mobility training, mainly focusing on his hips and pelvis. Here are two of his favorites that you can try out for yourself:
Ilium Mobilization Against Wall: Place the back of your hip against a wall so that the back hipbone is firmly pressed into the wall. Keeping your spine neutral, bend forward as far as you can only at the hip, while maintaining the firm pressure of the back hipbone into the wall. Return to the starting position. Repeat.
SI Mobilization Backbend: Place one foot behind you with the heel slightly raised. Reach back with the arm of the same side and place a fist on the center of your sacrum. Lean back as far as you can so that your spine is extended. This is the starting position. Rotate your upper body to the side you are mobilizing, and return to the starting position. Repeat on both sides.
They don’t cross-train
As obsessed with SoulCycle as you may be, doing one workout—and only one workout—will backfire eventually. “If you’re doing the same thing over and over again, even you’re using your body properly, you’re strengthening the same muscles over and over again which can lead to tightness,” says Reavy. You might also wind up with an overuse injury, like tendonitis or shin splints, Joubert says.
As an alternative, they both strongly suggest cross training. And when choosing your mix of exercises, just be sure you keep them balanced. “Your body needs to lengthen and shorten its muscles,” Reavy says. “So if you’re often lifting heavy weights (shortening), go take a yoga or Pilates class (lengthening) as a counterbalance.”
Cross training is really a win-win, says Joubert: You’ll see better results, and your body won’t get burned out by doing the same thing constantly.
They wear the wrong shoes
Different shoes are best for different kinds of workouts. Running shoes are designed with flexible fabrics and for straight-line motion, so wearing them to, say, a boxing class that requires side-to-side bounding sets you up for a rolled ankle. Invest in a set of cross-training shoes—your body will thank you.