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Science & Spirit: A Harmful Protein and More

by Kathryn Drury WagnerMay 03, 2019
Exercise class in a pool

kzenon/Getty

This week, Kathryn Drury Wagner found useful tips from researchers on how to be more successful with a workout regimen, why we don’t have 13th floors on buildings, and the healthiest ways to eat protein.

Keeping Fit Is a State of Mind

You know the type—and maybe, hats off, you are one of them—who bounds off to a workout every day. Then, there are the rest of us, who go “when we can” or “because we should.” 

A new study in the journal Heliyon found that people who were more motivated by intrinsic reasons such as enjoyment, challenge, and stress management tended to exercise more frequently. Well, makes sense. But how does that translate to us? Many of us are choosing exercise programs that don’t align with what we love, find challenging, or helps us lower stress. If you’re “meh” on working out, think about if you would enjoy another type of activity. For example, a person who loves social connection may do better with sports, CrossFit, and other group exercises, while someone who just isn’t a joiner might rather go for a run—solo. Or maybe a class like ballet or master’s swimming won’t feel like exercise to you, but rather an enjoyable new hobby. Engaging in a physical activity that is compatible with your interests and personality will better help you meet your goals.

How Superstitions Spread

In American society, people don’t walk under ladders or open umbrellas inside—it’s bad luck, and you need to knock wood! In countries like Turkey and Greece, evil is warded off with blue and white evil-eye charms. In Russia, whistling after dark is associated with coming financial ruin. How do such belief systems catch on? 

Two researchers have a theory that it’s a form of  “social choreography.” Beliefs that may be beneficial—not opening an umbrella inside prevents knocking objects over, for example—become encoded as people observe other successful humans. Gradually, these stable norms become surrounded by superstition and everyone follows them, regardless of if they are around other people or not.

Put Down That Shake!

I literally had just ordered a strawberry protein shake mix online, when of course, I found a new study warning me that certain types of protein, consumed long term, may reduce lifespan, negatively impact mood, and even lead to weight gain. Awesome! Naturally I had to read further. In research published in Nature Metabolism, the culprit is identified as excessive consumption of branched-chain amino acids, or BCAA. Whey protein—a popular shake ingredient—contains high levels of BCAA. 

This type of amino acid is good for building muscle mass, but apparently bad for health later in life. The best approach, the researchers said, is to get protein from a variety of sources, including lentils, red meat, dairy, nuts, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, and soy products. I’m still going to enjoy my new shake mix, but it’s a good reminder to not go too far in any one direction.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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