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What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?

10 Sep

When it comes to healthy dietary recommendations, there’s a lot of conflicting information from the world of medical science.  To complicate matters, there are about a zillion books, documentaries, and news reports that attempt to provide us with nutritional “advice.”

Despite a plethora of differing opinions from the “experts,” there is an issue on which they agree: Our country has an alarming obesity problem.  About 1 in every 4 health care dollars are spent combating the resulting side effects of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Physical activity is a big part of the solution.  Regular exercise is good medicine, both as prevention and treatment.

Diet and nutrition are the complement to exercise.  Here’s some sound nutritional advice for the masses (and about as close to a consensus as the experts get):

  • Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.  The importance of reducing fat intake is a myth, and was never supported by any good evidence.  All it did was make people rush to replace fat with carbs.
  • Some fats are better than others.  Unsaturated fats — like those found in olive oil, nuts, and legumes — are good choices.  Too much saturated fat (red meat, cheese, butter) can be bad.  Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oils,” should be avoided.
  • Choose your calories wisely.  Some forms of calories make you store fat more readily than others, and refined carbohydrates — white rice, pasta, crackers, cookies, candy — are at the top of that list.
  • A protein-rich diet may or may not be good for you.  If you’re physically active and eat lean protein sources (chicken and fish), it’s a good thing.  If you’re sedentary, it’s just a lot of extra calories from another source.
  • Sugar is bad, especially when you drink it.  Sugary beverages — even one a day — raise your risk of diabetes and obesity.  Sugar has adverse metabolic effects and virtually zero nutritional benefit.
  • Your body needs variety to function properly.  Every day, you should eat an assortment of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole-grains, and healthy fats.  Whole foods are better than supplements.  Aim for balance.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Upgrade Your Diet With Blueberries

20 Aug

Several months ago, I published a blog post encouraging readers to Eat Protein and Produce at Every Meal.  Eating lots of produce — fruits and vegetables — is beneficial to our health and wellness.

Some fruits, such as blueberries, are higher in nutrients than others.  Blueberries actually contain more antioxidants than any other fruit.  Antioxidants help prevent damage to the body’s cells and strengthen its immune system.

Some of the health benefits of eating blueberries include:

  • Very rich in vitamins C, B complex, E, and A
  • Also rich in minerals like selenium, zinc, and iron
  • May help reduce belly fat and risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, according to a new University of Michigan study
  • Helps promote urinary tract health
  • Proven to help preserve vision, and prevent or delay macular degenerationcataracts, and myopia
  • Improves brain health by preventing degeneration and death of neurons, brain-cells, and also by restoring health of the central nervous system
  • The vitamins, sodium, copper, fructose, and acids improve digestion
  • They contain compounds that can inhibit cancer cell proliferation and reduce risk for certain cancers

In season, fresh blueberries are great — in cereal, oatmeal, salads, and blended into smoothies and shakes.  I keep a big bag of frozen blueberries (from the local wholesale club) in my freezer all year-round.  They’re every bit as nutritious as fresh blueberries, according to the experts, and convenient to use however and whenever you choose.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What’s In Your Protein Powder?

13 Aug

Protein powder is a great way to supplement your daily protein intake.  Most protein powders promise about 20-25 grams of protein, per serving, give or take.

Unfortunately, the supplement industry is not appropriately regulated (the FDA doesn’t stipulate how manufacturers report a product’s protein content) and, as a result, you may or may not always get what the label promises.

Independent testing confirms that some protein supplement brands use added ingredients to “spike” their protein test results, making it appear that the product contains more protein than they actually do.

Here’s an informative article, originally published in Nutraceuticals World, that provides the “how to” as it relates to calculating a product’s protein content.

Look for independent, third-party quality control and purity testing when choosing your protein supplement.

As a general rule, if it takes more than one scoop of protein powder to get the 20-25 grams promised on the label, find another protein powder — it’s got too much unnecessary “stuff”  in it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Training Table 101: Protein and Complex Carbs

9 Jul

Fall sports season is just around the corner, which means training camp time for football, soccer, and volleyball players, among others.

For most of these athletes, August will be the most active and physically demanding few weeks that they have.  One of the challenges facing these athletes is that many of them have not maintained healthy eating habits needed to complement their energy expenditure.

During training camp, many players actually struggle to keep weight on, rather than off.  Understanding the importance and impact of appropriate calorie consumption — as well as specific intake of fats, carbs, and proteins — is a must.

Basically, calorie consumption should take (at least) two factors into consideration: Body weight (desired) and physical activity (duration, frequency, intensity level, ambient temperature).

A typical meal or snack should be pretty simple:

  • Protein, such as steak, chicken, or fish
  • Vegetable
  • Healthy starch, including sweet potato, brown rice, whole grain pasta, etc.

The focus should be on protein and complex carbohydrates.  Additionally, adequate fluid intake — before, during, and after physical activity — is critical to prevent dehydration.

Athletes burn a lot of energy during training camp.  Most of these players have invested considerable time and effort training during the off-season to prepare themselves for the rigors of the upcoming season.  Proper nutrition is important to prevent weight loss, and loss of muscle mass.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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3 Essential Steps to Build Muscle Strength and Size

4 Jun

Straight Bar Deadlift

The fastest way to build muscle strength and size is good old-fashioned strength training, done right. Over time, strength training challenges your muscles by breaking them down so they repair and recover bigger and stronger than before.

To be optimally effective, strength training must be combined with proper nutrition and rest. Although there are some strategies to accelerate the process, there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work and follow the plan.

Nutrition

Without proper nutrition, you will compromise any muscle strength and size gains you hope to achieve. Simply stated, your body needs the raw material that food provides for growth.

It’s essential to eat sufficient calories, as well as carbs and protein, 30 to 90 minutes before and after working out. For every pound you weigh, aim for 0.8 grams of lean protein per day; whole grain and high fiber carbs; and healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, nuts, and salmon.

Weight Lifting

You’ll need to work out three or four days per week to reach your goal. Here are some guidelines to get you on your way:

Favor compound movements over single-joint movements: compound exercises, like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses and Inverted Rows, involve more than one joint and engage multiple muscle groups. Triceps Extensions and Biceps Curls are single-joint isolation exercises. Compound exercises require greater muscle activation, recruit larger muscle groups, and stimulate strength and size gains.

Lift heavy weights: if you want to build muscle fast, you need to push your body to use as many muscle fibers as possible during exercise. Lifting heavy weights allows you to challenge your muscles, which is the key to making strength and size gains.

For any given exercise, build strength and power by using a weight that you can lift no more than 4-6 repetitions per set; build muscle size by using a weight that you can lift 8-12 reps per set; and build muscle endurance by using a weight you can lift 15+ reps per set.  If you can perform more repetitions than that, the weight is too light and you will fail to make gains.

Try supersets: we emphasize supersets at Athletic Performance Training Center. By pairing push and pull exercises, you are able to work twice as many muscles in a time-efficient manner to help build overall muscle strength and size.

Rest

Several different rest factors must be considered in your training:

  • Get a good night’s sleep, seven to eight hours each night.
  • Do not rework a muscle group until it has the chance to recover for 48 hours.
  • Rest between sets to allow your muscles to recover so you get the most out of each set. As a general rule, the higher the intensity of your workout (the more weight you lift) the longer your rest interval should be.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What’s More Important — Diet or Exercise?

30 Apr

Your genetic “blueprint”dictates a lot about your fitnesshealth, and wellness.  But we all have a window of opportunity within which we can have an impact.

And, while diet and exercise are both significant contributors, you can impact your metabolism to a greater extent through exercise.

Simply stated, pound-for-pound, muscle burns more calories than fat.

The best way to build muscle and burn fat is high-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT).  HIRT continues to build muscle and burn fat even after you have left the gym.

In one recent Italian study, lifters doing HIRT burned 18% more calories 22 hours after exercising than individuals who did traditional strength training.

Next time you’re in the weight room, try this approach:  Choose three exercises.  Start with the first exercise and, using 80-85% of your 1 rep max, do 6 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps.  That’s one set.  Do 7 sets of all three exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Nutrient Timing — It’s More Important Than You Think

23 Apr

We all know that what you eat is important, but so is when you eat, especially if you’re active. In this infographic, John Berardi, Ph. D., and founder of Precision Nutrition, shares his thoughts regarding what to eat before, during, and after exercise.

This informative resource breaks down workout nutrition based on body type and composition, portion sizes, and protein and carbohydrate consumption.

Check it out!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Chocolate Protein Pudding Pops

26 Mar

I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to get more protein in my diet.  And since, invariably, most of my clients can also benefit by increasing their protein consumption, they often ask me for suggestions.

One of my favorite treats is chocolate protein pudding.  I prepare it by blending one packet of sugar-free chocolate pudding mix with 16 ounces of Fairlife chocolate milk and one scoop of chocolate protein powder.  This simple recipe makes four – 4 ounce servings, with about 14 grams of protein per serving.

I recently came across a recipe for Chocolate Protein Pudding Pops.  This frozen treat is delicious, nutritious, and perfect for summertime.  Here’s how to make them:

  • 3 scoops chocolate whey protein powder
  • 4 cups nonfat vanilla (Greek) yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Fairlife chocolate milk

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and mix thoroughly. Pour into popsicle molds and place in your freezer overnight. Enjoy!

Makes eight – 4 ounce popsicles

Nutrient Content (per serving): Calories: 90, Total Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium : 97mg, Total Carbohydrates: 7g, Sugars: 6g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 16g

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Increase Protein Consumption With This Simple Strategy

22 Jan

Most of us are “under-proteined” and “over-carbohydrated” (okay… I know those aren’t real words, I made them up; stay with me).

Protein Consumption Guidelines

An active individual should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, daily.  For example, an active, athletic 150 pound person should consume between 90-120 grams of protein per day.  Elite athletes may need as much as 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, daily, to rebuild muscle given the physical demands of training, practices, and games.  Sounds like a lot, huh?

For most of our clients, we recommend ditching the antiquated “3 square meals per day” strategy in favor of 5-6 meals or snacks.  Ideally, each of these meals or snacks should be balanced, including lean protein — about 20 grams, healthy fats, and clean carbs.

Additionally, active individuals and athletes should always consume 20-30 grams of protein following a workout, practice, or game.

Here’s a strategy I suggested to my kids — all very physical active — to help them supplement their daily protein intake:

The first step is to get an accurate idea of your current daily protein intake (from all sources).  Next, calculate the difference between the amount of protein you should be getting and the amount you’re actually getting (my youngest daughter’s additional daily protein requirement, based on this equation, is about 35 grams).

The rest sounds simple — make yourself a protein shake.  In my daughter’s case, we mix 11 ounces of milk (11 grams protein) with one scoop chocolate whey protein powder (24 grams protein) in a blender/shaker container, the night before the day she will drink it.  The simplicity of the strategy is the method in which the protein shake is consumed.  Instead of guzzling it all at one time (which may be somewhat overwhelming and/or prohibitive for some folks, especially for larger quantity protein shakes), she takes a few sips, throughout the day.

First thing in the morning or with breakfast, have a few sips of your protein shake.  Mid-morning snack… a few more sips.  Same goes for lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, and evening snack.  The goal is to finish your protein shake before you go to bed —  a few sips at a time, then make another one for the following day.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Eat Fewer Foods with Added Sugar

11 Dec

Want to make a dietary change that will help you feel better, look better, and perform better?  Start by minimizing (or avoiding) foods with added sugar.

By reducing or eliminating foods with added sugar from your diet, you will eat fewer carbs.  This strategy, combined with increasing your protein consumption, can lower your calorie intake and optimize hormones that regulate fat burning.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared.  They are listed in food labels under a wide variety of names, including corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, and — of course — sugar, to name just a few.  This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits.

Added sugars, which are sprinkled on and processed into packaged foods and beverages, have become all too common in the American diet, says the American Heart Association. The group argues that sugar bingeing is helping drive the uptick in metabolic changes in the American population, including the exploding obesity rate (U.S. News and World Report).

Added sugars are commonly found in foods and beverages, such as:

  • regular soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks
  • candy
  • cakes
  • cookies
  • pies and cobblers
  • pastries, sweet rolls, and doughnuts
  • fruit drinks
  • dairy desserts

Check your food labels.  If the foods you usually eat contain added sugar, especially as one of the first few ingredients listed, consider it a red flag.  You can do better by choosing a healthier alternative.

Already doing a good job avoiding foods with added sugars?  The next step is reducing your consumption of refined grains, such as white bread, white rice, etc.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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