Monday, October 31, 2011

5 Simple Steps to Healthier Eating

People are always looking for simple solutions to the complicated issue that is fitness.  What does it mean to be fit?  While there is no exact definition, fitness does not equal being thin.  It's an intricate, lifelong process of pursuing physical, emotional, and mental health.  Diet, exercise, stress management, sleep quality, and work-life balance are just a few factors that affect your level of fitness.  Today we will focus on one of the big ones: diet.

In the Western World it's hard to know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it.  Things were much more simple for our caveman ancestor when only whole, natural, unprocessed foods were available.  Not only that, but cavemen had to work really hard to get food by hunting and gathering.  Now, we don't even have to move from our car seat to grab dinner.  This pattern of easy access to low-quality foods has created devastating effects on the human body.  Do you think that cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart attack were as prevalent in ancient cultures?  Certainly not.

While diet is a very individualized process based on body type, energy requirements, food tolerances, and lifestyle, I can offer you five simple tips to help you make better choices each day.  Small positive dietary changes can have a major impact and lead to ultimately what most people in modern society seek: fat loss and better health.  The following are 5 habits recommended by Precision Nutrition that anyone can follow with a little bit of planning and commitment:

1) Eat small meals every 2-4 hours.  This will prevent snacking on empty calories since you are eating often.  Eating in regular intervals will keep your blood sugar balanced so you are less likely to binge and make poor food selections.  It also stimulates metabolism and helps your body maintain lean mass while burning off fat.  A great example of what a meal could look like is a grilled chicken breast, a cup of raw spinach with olive oil and vinegar, and an apple.  Remember, you have the choice to make your body better or worse with every meal.

2) Eat complete, lean protein with each meal.  Research shows that a protein-rich diet helps you achieve your best health, body composition, and performance.  Protein will keep you satiated longer, which means you're less likely to consume empty calories.  A serving of protein is the size of your palm for women or the size of two palms for men.

3) Eat Vegetables with each meal.  Vegetables and fruits are essential for physiological functioning, and they should be eaten in their natural form (ie: not covered in sugary syrups or cooked in meat fats so much that the color no longer is true to its original form.)  Shoot for 2 servings with each meal.  A serving can be a medium sized piece of fruit, 1/2 cup of raw chopped fruit or veggies, or 1 cup of raw leafy green vegetables.

4) For fat loss, eat "other carbohydrates" only after exercise.  In other words, if you want carbs beyond fruits and veggies, you have to earn them.  Any breads, potatoes, pasta, rice, or occasional junk foods and desserts should be eaten within 1-2 hours after your workout when the body can best tolerate them.  High-quality whole grains should still be prioritized.  Make sure your workout is intense!

5) Eat healthy fats daily.  Fat was given an ugly name in the 1980s and 1990s, but in actuality, your diet should consist of 30% healthy fat.  This can include olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds and oil, nuts and nut butters, avocado, meats, low-fat cheeses, dairy, and eggs.

By following these five habits, you will automatically make healthier food choices without the overwhelming task of counting calories or weighing food.  This is solid nutritional advice in its simplest form. 

I also wanted to share a recipe with you that has been a wonderful savior to me.  I have a killer sweet tooth.  I like sweet things for breakfast and after every meal.  Unfortunately, as I've previously discussed on my blog, sugar is deadly.  Literally.

This Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake is healthy, filling, and a well-balanced meal!  I have it for breakfast most days of the week, and it tastes just like a milkshake! 
This shake has protein, a serving of fruit, and healthy fats!  Take it to the next level by following it up with a glass of greens supplement (more to come on this).

1 Frozen Banana (break into 2-3 pieces before freezing)
1 tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 tablespoon All-Natural Peanut Butter
1 Scoop Unflavored Protein Powder
1/2 c-1c Milk (for a thicker ice cream to eat with spoon, use less milk.  For a milkshake consistency, use more.)

Throw it all in a blender!  Sometimes I also add chia and/or raw cacao nibs for some fiber.

Over the next few weeks, I will be putting together a program where I will offer online nutrition consultations and coaching.  Goal setting, nutritional principles, eating for your body type, grocery shopping, and lifestyle coaching will all be included.  I will let everyone know when this is officially available.

Please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have a question, or you can even shoot me an email!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Challenge #3 - No Fast Food + Exercise = Happier Heart!

Despite some soreness and adjusting to adding regular exercise into your daily routine, it seems last week's challenge was another success!  I'm ready to get started with week 3 (Monday-Friday), so here it is:


This week it's time to start looking at food labels closely.  There is a major difference between good and bad fats.  Good fats, like Omega-3s for example, are vital for our bodies to function properly.  It's important to eat good fats daily (ie: avocados, nuts, olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and salmon to name a few).  However, trans fats can be detrimental to our health.  Companies who produce highly processed foods like to use trans fat because it makes food last longer on the shelf, and it's a taste that humans seem to really enjoy. 

Unfortunately, consumption of trans fats can cause many serious health issues:

-Increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's
-Lowering of our good cholesterol
-Excretion of bile acids suppressed
-Exaggerated deficiency of good fats in the body
-Competition for fat uptake (the good fats may not win here!)

According to Precision Nutrition, "Even a single meal with a high "bad fat" content can diminish blood vessel function and elasticity!"  Therefore, this week we will not consume one of the greatest trans fat contributors, FAST FOOD!  I'm talking about the burgers, fries, fried chicken sandwiches, etc.  You can do pretty well with a fast food meal though; it's just about what you choose.  Until this past Thursday, I had been living in a hotel with no kitchen the last two months, and Chick-Fil-A became a lunch staple for me.  That sounds bad, but I simply ordered the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, removed the bread, and wrapped the chicken breast in lettuce.  If you're forced to swing through a drive through this week, think about what healthy choices you can make (or ask me if you don't know!!).  BEWARE: Fast food salads can be almost as bad as a fried meal once you add the dressing.  Read the salad dressing labels carefully and always opt for olive oil and/or vinegar whenever possible!

Fast food is not the only trans fat culprit.  Many packaged cereals and cereal bars, margarine or fake butter spreads, packaged cake/pancake mixes, soups, cookies, candies, dips, toppings, frozen foods, and baked goods all contain trans fat.  Read your labels this week to identify the perpetrators in your home.  We are only focusing on fast food in our challenge, but you can try to avoid trans fat across the board.


Just like last week, if exercise isn't already part of your daily routine, I'm giving you SIX new exercises to add to your tool box.  Repeat them 3-5 times each day.  You can complete these 3-5 rounds all at once, or you can break it up throughout the day.  Feel free to mix and match with last week's routine too!  See my video for a detailed explanation of how to safely perform each exercise.  Let me know how you're feeling throughout the week!

-50 Squat Pulses
-10 Plank to Pushup (5 right, 5 left)
-30 second V-Sit
-20 Jumping Lunges (or Front Lunges or Reverse Lunges)
-15 each side Bridge with Leg Lifts
-20 Mountain Climbers

I will also be posting a warm-up and stretching video over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Challenge #2 - Water & Exercise!

Great job to everyone who participated in last week's No Sugar Challenge!  The feedback I've received is that it wasn't that bad after all!  It's amazing how many foods we ingest mindlessly that can really add up to something bad of significant proportions.  How many times in a day or a week do we eat a piece of candy, a handful of chips, a couple of fries, etc?  Chances are that if you recorded everything you put in your mouth for one week, you would be shocked.  I hope you will continue without (or with minimal) sugar Mondays-Fridays at the very least.  This challenge was intended not only to increase health by eliminating sugar, a toxic substance, from your body but also to simply make you aware of what you consume.

This week we are doing a combination diet and exercise challenge, as they are equal parts in a successful fit and healthy lifestyle! 

Part 1: Water...we all drink it (hopefully!).  But do we get enough to support our body to function at its maximum potential?  This week we do!  Given that our bodies are composed of about 60% water, this is a very important challenge.  Water serves many purposes in our bodies to sustain life:

-It brings nutrients to our cells and carries wastes away from the cells.
-It lubricates our joints.
-It protects a fetus in the womb.
-It regulates our body temperature.
-It provides minerals essential to our body function.

The list goes on and on.  By the time you feel thirst, you have already lost 1-2% of your body weight in water.  This can cause lack of mental focus, reduced endurance, and increased strain on the heart.  The consequences of water loss become more serious with each percentage lost, so it's vital that hydration stays constant, especially if you're exercising (and we are!). 

There are complicated formulas to determine how much water you need each day, but we are going to keep it simple:


You will also aim to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, as they are high water-containing foods.  You should be getting another liter of water per day from your food.  It's also important not to drink too much water, as serious consequences occur when minerals become imbalanced by the abundance of water, although I don't think any of you will be faced with this problem.

To top it off, the only beverages you will consume in this challenge are water, coffee, or tea (not sweet, and preferably the herbal kind).

PART 2: Exercise

If you're already exercising regularly, please continue what you've been doing, as long as it includes strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility training.  As we age, degeneration of the body is not simply a result of just getting older but of lifestyle choices, so it's vital to move every day!  A lot of my friends tell me that they don't really know how to strength train, so every day this week, you will do FIVE simple body weight exercises:

-10 Pushups
-20 Squats
-30 second Plank
-10 Burpees
-25 Seated Bicycles

Repeat this sequence 3-5 times.  Don't forget to warm up and stretch after!  These exercises are meant to be done at home, so there are no excuses!  We are starting off very basic and will be able to progress week by week.  Of course, you should consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.  Please see the video below for an explanation of these exercises.

**Side note: you can also do your pushup on your knees in the burpees or plank from the knees, similar to how I describe in the initial pushup explanation.

Any questions you have about this week's diet and exercise challenge, please leave them as comments!