A Surprising Way To Fight Off The Afternoon Slump

Before you pour another cup of coffee, science suggests you can wake up your brain and boost focus without any caffeine.

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. No one likes to feel tricked, especially about their health. That’s why every weekday, we make sense of the confusing world of wellness with quick tips designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The 20-minute brain boost

  • Eat more, lose more?

  • The flexibility fix

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The 20-Minute Brain Boost

Need a quick jolt of focus without caffeine or other stimulants? Here’s a surprising fix the next time you hit an afternoon slump. 

Research suggests that chewing gum is an effective way to increase concentration, focus, and memory and can even boost your mood. 

Additional research has also found that chewing gum reduces daytime sleepiness and increases attention and alertness — the same results as caffeine — but without the jitters, addiction, or upset stomach. (We still love our coffee, but it can be an issue for some.)

But there’s a catch: that boost appears only to last about 20 minutes. Still, there are plenty of reasons why gum could be an effective way to stay sharp through the day without needing to take other stimulants consistently.

Studies suggest this phenomenon might be caused by better blood flow to your brain (chewing gum can increase it by up to 40 percent). Chewing also helps activate your hippocampus, which plays an important role in focus and learning. 

Eat More, Lose More?

A calorie is a calorie, but not all calories are equal. New research suggests the type of foods you eat can make it easier to absorb fewer calories and lose weight. 

In this most recent study, people who ate more fiber and less processed foods absorbed approximately 115 fewer calories per day — despite eating the same number of total calories. And some individuals burned up to four times as many calories. 

The researchers believe it’s because highly processed foods are quickly and easily digested, meaning the calories are more likely to stick in your body. In comparison, less processed foods are harder to break down. But here’s where it gets interesting: these fiber-loaded carbs go on a longer digestive journey where your microbes — the healthy bacteria in your stomach — feast on the calories and burn more energy.

So what carbs should you eat? The people who absorbed fewer calories ate oats, beans, lentils, chickpeas, brown rice, quinoa, whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

But here’s the other key: it wasn’t just fiber-loaded foods that burned more calories. “Large particle foods” also can trick your body into working harder and storing less. So, instead of eating nut butter, the participants had nuts, or they ate pieces of steak instead of ground beef. 

The scientists believe less processing meant more digestion and more fullness. Even though the high-fiber diet group absorbed fewer calories, they were not any hungrier than the other group. 

The Flexibility Fix

If you want to improve your mobility and move better, you might want to buy some dumbbells. 

Research suggests that resistance training is just as effective — and sometimes more effective — as traditional stretching at improving your flexibility.

The idea of being “too muscle-bound” is a myth that could hold you back. Resistance training improves your mobility and flexibility by forcing you to move a weight through the end ranges of motion. As Arnold would say, the “stretch and flex” helps you become better at moving. The key is making sure you perform exercises with a full range of motion rather than cheating and overly focusing on how much weight you can add to an exercise. 

Resistance training forces your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to all work together to move a weight. Add it all up, and a little strength training is medicine for your aching body and can reduce the likelihood of injury and pain. You just need to focus on doing movements correctly. 

Strength training can improve flexibility at all ages, too. Scientists found that people who added resistance training in their 70s also improved their flexibility, including those who trained with heavier weights.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell