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Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

9 Dec

Well, it’s that time of year… the holiday “weight gain” season.  And, although there is anecdotal speculation — via media reports, surveys, etc. — that the average American gains 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas, several studies now show that the average weight gain during the winter holidays is just a pound or two.  But here’s the real problem: Most people don’t ever lose the weight they put on during the holidays, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Since the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year, that means much of midlife weight gain can be explained by holiday eating.

Here are some healthy eating tips to help you stay on track and get through the holidays:

  • Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Stay committed to your exercise/training program. Physical activity can help relieve stress, regulate appetite, and burn up extra calories.
  • Be realistic. Perhaps the holiday season is not the best time to try to lose weight. Aim to maintain your current weight instead.
  • Portion control. Keep your portion sizes small. Eat small portions of a variety of foods rather than a large portion of one food.
  • Eat breakfast. Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. It jump starts your metabolism and helps to stave off hunger and cravings.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alternate cocktails with unsweetened iced tea or seltzer to reduce the quantity of alcohol consumed. Choose wine, light beer or spirits mixed with no calorie beverages.
  • Drink lots of water. Drinking water can decrease the chance of overeating by temporarily filling your stomach. Also, caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration which increases your need for water.
  • Snack sensibly. Choose fruits and vegetables and dip with veggies instead of chips. Limit fried foods, high-fat sauces and gravies, and cheese cubes.
  • Eat slowly and stop when you feel satisfied (not stuffed). Listen to your stomach! It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that you’ve had enough. Pay attention to what it feels like to be satisfied and not full.
  • Prepare for temptationNever go to a party or event hungry. Prepare yourself for distractions by eating before you go. Have a small meal or a snack which contains a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and a little healthy fat to fend off hunger, such as natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread or low-fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit.
  • Visualize success. Make an action plan. Think about where you will be, who you will be with and what foods will be available. It’s much easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you’ve already planned for it. Parties are a time to mingle with friends and loved ones. Focus on interaction instead of on the food and drinks. Food very often is center stage of any party but you can guarantee success by visualizing the enjoyment of the company and not just the food and drink.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t spend all your time obsessing over the not-so-healthy delicacy that you’re really craving. Instead, allow a small portion and savor every mouth-watering bite so that you do not feel deprived.

Eating a bit too much one day is not the end of the world! It takes consecutive days of unhealthy eating to gain weight. If you slip up, put it behind you and return to your healthy eating plan, just don’t allow it to become a habit. You are in control of your lifestyle choices so choose wisely. It’s all about lifestyle changes, not diets.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Spread Out Your Protein

22 Nov

If you want to build muscle, you need to get more protein.  Active individuals should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, daily.  Athletes may need even more.

So, how should you distribute your daily protein intake?

Scientists at Skidmore College (NY) found that individuals who divide their daily protein among six smaller meals, instead of three larger ones, build muscle faster.

Start your day with protein, and try to get more than half of your recommended intake by lunch.  Eggs for breakfast are a quick and easy way to get your morning protein.  Add a mid-morning protein shake, and grilled chicken (or other lean meat) and Greek yogurt for lunch.  Peanut butter is another good way to get your protein with any meal or snack, any time of day.

I like preparing a protein shake — 10-12 oz. of chocolate milk and a scoop of chocolate whey protein powder — and sipping it, throughout the day.  It’s an easy way to add 30-40 grams of protein to my daily intake.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Don’t Overlook Cottage Cheese

28 Oct

cottage-cheese[1]If you’re looking for a nutritious protein source, don’t overlook cottage cheese.

Once considered a bland, boring diet food, lowfat cottage cheese boasts a whopping 28 grams of protein per one cup serving, only 163 calories, and goes well with lots of foods.

Cottage cheese provides all the amino acids you need, making it a source of complete protein.  It’s also a great source of nutrients like calcium (bone, heart, and muscle function), phosphorus (bone health), riboflavin (helps convert food into usable energy), and vitamin B12 (brain function, red blood cell production).

Use cottage cheese as a healthier alternative to sour cream; stir it into dips and soups; or add it as a dessert ingredient.

Try this Cottage Cheese Pancakes recipe.  These pancakes are not only packed with high-quality protein, but also lighter and fluffier than the classic version.  Serve them with a bit of butter and sugar-free syrup.

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)

In a large bowl. stir together the cottage cheese, eggs, butter, and milk.  Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and nutmeg, and blend lightly until just mixed.  Grease a griddle with cooking spray and place over medium heat.  Put a large scoop of batter on the griddle and use the back of a spoon to spread it out evenly.  The pancake is ready to flip when you begin to see small air bubbles form, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Flip and cook for another minute or 2.  Makes about 12 4-inch pancakes.

Per pancake: 97 calories, 5 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 5 g fat (3 g saturated)

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Fuel Your Body After Your Workout

21 Oct

pGNC1-13512491dt[1]Your muscles do not grow during exercise, regardless of the intensity of your workout.  Exercise is important, but it’s only the stimulus — or trigger — for growth.

You’ve got to rest and refuel your body, following a workout, in order to strengthen your muscles, and post-workout nutrition is essential for growth.

When you eat protein after your workout, your body breaks it down into amino acids, which are used to repair and rebuild muscle fibers, a process known as protein synthesis.  One amino acid, in particular, warrants special mention.

Leucine is a natural amino acid that is found in your body. Leucine and the branched-chain amino acids, isoleucine and valine, make up almost one-third of your muscle protein. Simply stated, leucine triggers muscle growth.  Leucine breaks down faster than other amino acids, and works to stimulate the production of protein and energy molecules in your muscles.  For this reason, synthetic leucine is often used as a food supplement to help athletes rebuild muscle and increase their physical endurance and strength.

When you’re buying a protein supplement, check the label to make sure it has a full complement of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

Aim for 30 grams of protein per meal, including post-workout.  As long as you’re eating enough calories overall, you’ll get enough leucine to optimize muscle growth.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Who Needs Carbs? Who Doesn’t?

14 Oct

V-Type_Diet_Men[1]While low-carb diets have increased in popularity over the past several years, they’re not necessarily the right choice for athletes and active individuals.  In fact, there are very few populations — people with neurological disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s), sedentary people, and those who are metabolically dysregulated (e.g., diabetes) — in which some research supports a lower-carb diet.

Here’s an article from Precision Nutrition titled, Carb Controversy: Why Low-Carb Diets Have Got It All Wrong.  Highlights from the article include:

  • Eating an appropriate amount of carbs can help you look, feel, and perform better.
  • Most of us require some level of carbohydrates to function at our best over the long-term.
  • Healthy thyroid function requires adequate energy and carb intake.
  • Research shows that lowering carb intake can adversely affect your muscle mass even if protein remained constant — insulin is crucial for building muscle.
  • The big “secret” might be a high-protein diet rather than a low-carb diet.
  • There’s a difference between processed, refined carbs and whole-grain (minimally processed), high-fiber carbs.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Don’t Let the Scale Define You

23 Sep

weight-loss[1]While I realize (statistics indicate) the average American can stand to lose a few pounds, the scale doesn’t always tell the entire story.

Your body weight is not a reflection of your worth.  It’s more productive to focus on eating clean (and not overeating), exercising, improving strength and mobility, increasing energy, and NOT a number on a scale.

There’s not necessarily a definitive relationship between body weight and overall health.  A person can have a healthy body weight, yet eat (qualitatively) poorly and be relatively physically inactive.

I don’t do a lot with scales and body weight at our facility.  I would rather concentrate on how people feel, function, and perform.  Keep in mind muscle takes up less space but weighs more than fat.

“Healthy” is not limited to any particular shape, size, or weight.  At least some of that is determined by genetics, anyway.

Part of the problem is our referent.  We try to compare ourselves with others  — unfairly and unrealistically —  instead of aspiring toward self-improvement: being better today than we were yesterday.

We all want to look and feel good, but the fads and gimmicks we chase to get there are not the answer.  In simple terms, eat cleaner, eat less, be more active, and exercise more.

An examination of ounces and pounds shouldn’t start your day any more than it should end it.  Don’t let the scale deflate your efforts if you know you’re on the right track with your nutrition and exercise plans.

Even if weight loss is part of your plan (and it’s okay if it is), detach the number on the scale from how you feel about you.  Be fair to yourself, eat well, stay active, and stay on track.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Add an Egg to Your Protein Shake

16 Sep

egg[1]Next time you prepare a post-workout drink, crack an egg (or two) in your whey protein shake.

Egg protein is a high-quality, lactose-free protein source, and makes a great complement to whey protein.  Egg protein stimulates muscle growth and has been demonstrated to increase muscle protein synthesis in university studies.

The egg white and yolk proteins are high in nutrients; one large egg contains about 6.5 grams of protein; and the egg white protein content is about 3.6 grams (slightly more than half of the total protein content).

Egg Protein Benefits

Eggs contain a high concentration of leucine.  Leucine is the major amino acid responsible for stimulating the synthesis of muscle protein after a meal (the only protein source that contains more leucine than egg is whey).

Egg protein contains 10% to 20% more leucine than most other protein sources.  It is more anabolic (muscle-building) than both soy and wheat protein.  Egg protein increases lean-body mass more than both of those protein sources — even at equal intakes.

Egg protein is quickly and easily digestible, at a rate similar to whey protein.  Consumption and digestion of egg protein leads to a large increase in plasma amino acids and commensurate muscle-building response.

Consuming egg protein promotes satiety (fullness) and can reduce short-term food intake, which may be beneficial for people looking to lose fat — but don’t want to feel like they’re starving themselves in the process.

Egg protein is also a great source of important vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Are Vegetarian Diets Appropriate for Athletes?

9 Sep

vegetarian_diets[1]Vegetarian diets have grown in popularity, over the past several years.  They have been associated with a number of health benefits including: lower risk of heart disease-related death, improved cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower rates of type 2 diabetes, lower body mass index, and lower rates of certain cancers, according to several studies.

But, aside from their effects on overall health, how do vegetarian diets affect athletic performance?

Appropriate macronutrient consumption — carbohydrate, fat, and protein — is important for vegetarian and non-vegetarian athletes.

Among the concerns related to vegetarian diets for athletes are inadequate intake of protein, creatine, ironzinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.  Deficiency of these nutrients will adversely affect performance.

In his article, Vegetarian Diets for the Physically Active Individual, Thomas M. Best, MD, PhD, FACSM, of The Ohio State University, asserts the following:

  • “Protein recommendations for vegetarian athletes are slightly higher due to the decreased digestibility of plant foods.”
  • “Exercise-induced muscle damage is commonly experienced after physical activity, and different studies showed that the amount of protein consumed seems to affect its magnitude.”
  • “The vegetarian athlete who restricts meat intake may have an altered iron status when compared to non-vegetarian athletes even with similar amounts of dietary iron intake.”

According to the author, “The currently available evidence supports neither a beneficial nor a detrimental effect of a vegetarian diet on physical performance capacity…”

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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No-Bake Energy Bites

13 May

765f27dee17fb177f3ad5d021376c879[1]Here’s a simple recipe for a healthy, tasty snack — No-Bake Energy Bites.

I was introduced to this recipe a few years ago, by my colleague and business partner, who brought them to our strength and conditioning facility.  Since then, I’ve seen the recipe (and several variations) posted on Facebook and other social media sites.

No-bake energy bites are easy to prepare (total prep time is about 10 minutes) and, once you and your family taste them, you won’t be able make them fast enough.

The original, basic recipe looks like this:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour
  2. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week
  3. Makes about 20-25 balls

The recipe can be modified to your taste.  You can add, subtract, or substitute ingredients.  If you’d like, press the mixture into a baking dish lined with parchment paper, and you can make energy bars instead.

Give ’em a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Chocolate Milk Diet

6 May

Chocolate-Milk[1]For years, we’ve advocated chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink — there’s always a jug of it in the fridge at our facility.  Backed by science, more than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout (to discover the science behind refueling with lowfat chocolate milk, click here).

Along those same lines, here’s an article from Eat This, Not That! titled, The Chocolate Milk Diet: No kidding, it really works.

The article touts calcium‘s role in building strong bones and the impact it has on blocking your body’s ability to absorb fat; the effect of vitamin D in calcium transport and its support of bone and muscle health; chocolate milk’s ability to provide a metabolic boost; and the relationship between protein (and muscle) and body weight.

As if any of us really needed a reason to drink more chocolate milk.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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