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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!

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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!

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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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Eat a Rainbow of Power Foods

29 Apr

colorful_food[1]Here’s an excellent article and informative resource I found in Sports Illustrated.  The article links a variety of “multicolored” foods and the performance benefits they deliver.

Through lab testing, a dietician for a professional hockey team tracks the players’ organ function, blood counts, muscle function, and vitamin levels; then uses this information to provide a range of foods to help players prevent injuries, promote recovery, and maximize performance.

The spectrum of foods includes reds (watermelon); oranges/yellows (sweet potatoes, carrots, pineapples); greens (spinach, asparagus); blues/purples (blueberries, grapes, red cabbage); whites (Greek yogurt, garlic, onions); and blacks/browns (dried fruit, oatmeal, quinoa, nuts, seeds).

These foods provide naturally occurring phytochemicals and powerful antioxidants that help heal sore muscles and bruises, and support muscle health.Red Wings Power Diet

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Low-Carb or Low-Fat?

4 Mar

A study from Tulane University in New Orleans corroborates that a low-carbohydrate diet is better for losing weight and may also be better for lowering the risk of heart disease than a low-fat diet.

In this Reuters article, study authors found that “those in the low-carbohydrate group had lower levels of fat circulating in their blood and had lower scores on a measure often used to predict the risk of a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.”

Please see related blog posts, Fat is not the Enemy and Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fat.

Above all, remember that moderation — portion control — is the key.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Add Cherries to Your Healthy Diet

15 Jan

You can add cherries to the list of foods with a plethora of health benefits.  More specifically, tart cherries are another of nature’s “superfoods,” with beneficial effects for insomnia, joint pain, or belly fat.

Here are some of the (surprising) health benefits of cherries:

  • Cherries help reduce belly fat.  They also help reduce levels of certain inflammation markers linked to heart disease and diabetes, and lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Cherries reduce your chance of getting gout, especially when combined with the uric-acid reducing drug, allopurinol.
  • Cherries can ease post-workout soreness.  When consumed immediately after a workout, cherries (or tart cherry juice) significantly reduced muscle inflammation, pain, and soreness.
  • Cherries are a natural arthritis remedy.  Researchers have found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers.
  • Cherries reduce stroke risk.  Tart cherries provide cardiovascular benefits equal to some medications, and can improve the result even when taken with prescriptions.  Anthocyanins — the pigments that give the tart cherries its red color — may help regulate fat and glucose levels and thereby reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Cherries may help you sleep.  In one study, there were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency total with cherry juice supplementation.

Who knew?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Happy New Year! (it’s resolution time)

7 Jan

Happy New Year, once again, and welcome to the end of the first full week of 2016.  Although I’m not a big proponent of annual resolutions, this time of year certainly lends itself to that process for lots of people.  If you’re one of them, here are some considerations in your quest for self-improvement:

  • Upgrade your pantry and fridge.  Replace the high-sugar, refined, processed, and fried foods and snacks with healthier options like nuts, fruits, and veggies.
  • Schedule your workout.  You’re more likely to commit to a regular workout if you schedule it as part of your day/week as you would any other appointment or obligation.
  • Train with a buddy to keep you motivated and accountable.  Research shows that you’re more likely to stay on task if you workout with a partner, especially if he or she is more fit than you.
  • Try new foods.  Experiment with new recipes and try to avoid stuff that comes out of a bag, package, or box.
  • Get your sleep.  You’ll feel and perform better when you are well-rested.  Aim for 7-8 hours of shuteye per night.
  • Try a new activity.  If your current routine is getting stale, move on.  Finding an activity you enjoy increases the likelihood that you’ll make it a priority.
  • Take a break.  Set aside time in your daily calendar for two 15-minute breaks — one in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Go for a walk, listen to music, or grab a healthy snack to improve productivity.
  • Get more color in your diet.  Try to include at least three colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Colorful meals are packed with antioxidants and nutrients to help fight illness and decrease inflammation.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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