Tag Archives: nutrition

6 Ways to Tone Your Legs

26 Jul

Lots of our female clients are looking for help to firm and tone their legs… fast.  That requires some effort, but you can shape your lower body with a combination of strength training and cardio.  You won’t necessarily need a gym, as most of the exercises we will share can be done with your own body weight.  Aim for 2-3 days per week, for both strength training and cardio (we like alternating days between the two types of training, in order to leave a day of rest between strength training days).

Here are 6 ways to firm and tone your legs:

  1. Do squats (or some variation).  Squats – traditional or single-leg – are among the most effective exercises for strengthening and toning your lower-body.  Before attempting the barbell back squat, begin with body-weight squats and progress to the dumbbell goblet squat.  Maintain proper technique and challenge yourself by increasing intensity (weight, repetitions) as you progress.  Lunges are another option, and can be performed in combination with, or as an alternative to, squats
  2. Work your posterior chain.  Don’t ignore the muscles behind your legs, your hamstrings and calves.  Exercises like the glute-ham raise, Romanian deadlift, and Swiss ball hamstring curl are great choices for working your hamstrings.  Calf raises can help strengthen and tone the muscles of your lower leg.
  3. Run (or walk) uphill.  Instead of running or walking on flat terrain, take a trip to your local stadium and add stadium stairs to your workout.  If that’s not an option, find an area with a hill or incline.  You’ll be surprised by how much even a small incline can increase the intensity – and the benefit – of your workout.
  4. Add intervals.  If you want to get lean, you need to burn fat.  High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to burn fat.  HIIT involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  HIIT works equally well, whether the type of exercise is resistance/strength training or cardio.  The key is to go hard during the high-intensity portion of the interval, and keep moving, even during the low-intensity portion of the interval.
  5. Get up off your feet.  Jumping exercises are a great addition to any workout.  Squat jumps and split-squat (alternating lunge) jumps require no equipment and can be done anywhere.  Plyometric exercises — such as box jumps, hurdle hops, and depth jumps — require greater expenditure of energy and burn more calories.  Add these exercises immediately after your squats or lunges.
  6. Eat smart.  If you really want to get lean, your nutrition plan must complement your fitness regimen.  Avoid (or, at least minimize) foods like white grains, pasta, fruit juices, and other processed, high-sugar foods. Ultimately, excess blood sugar gets stored as fat.  Make sure your carbs are whole grain and high-fiber.  Increase your protein consumption by eating more lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish), eggs, and dairy (milk, Greek yogurt), and add a daily protein shake to your diet.


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How to Eat Clean

9 Dec

Balanced-Meal[1]Here’s a nice resource from nutritionist, Amanda Carlson-Phillips.  The article, titled, How to Eat Clean, clarifies what it means to “eat clean,” and emphasizes the importance of avoiding processed foods and choosing nutrient-dense foods that are low in fat, high in fiber, and loaded with essential vitamins and minerals.

Amanda also discusses the benefits of clean eating, and that moderation is the key — not necessarily an extreme, fanatical approach.  She provides some simple tips for clean eating, and examples of “clean foods” from different food groups.

Please also see related article: Eat Clean, Get Lean, Feel Great


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Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

23 Nov

dinner[1]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 pound(s) of 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 temptation. Never 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.


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Break Your Soda Addiction (Here’s Why)

14 Nov

Nodiet-soda[1]I’m not a big fan of extreme, fanatical diets or nutrition plans.  In my experience, with hundreds of clients, they don’t have a lot of “staying power.”  If you like Oreos, have one or two, occasionally.  You’re a fan of Buffalo wings?  Treat yourself to a few every now and then.  The point is, denying yourself an occasional indulgence is not necessary, provided you follow your nutrition plan and stay on track the majority of the time.  However, there are some good reasons to be even more careful about your soda consumption (or, even better, get rid of it altogether).

I’m reasonably sure you’ve heard and read plenty about why soda (yes, even diet soda) is bad for you. It’s nothing but sugar-water. It’s devoid of any nutritional value. It leads to obesity and diabetes. In the article, 9 Disturbing Side Effects of Soda, Rodale News details nine other disturbing facts about what soda does to your body,  Please check out the article to read more about why you should finally eliminate soda from your diet.


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Be Aware of What (and how) You Eat

28 Oct

exps26136_C1442965D51B[2]Being aware of what you eat can help you make better food choices.  I’m not necessarily talking about dieting or limiting your calories (although quantity should be part of the equation for many of us).  Nor am I suggesting that you limit yourself to only certain recipes or foods.  In fact, nutritional awareness is just as much about how you eat as what you eat.

Here are a few tips to help you focus on the “how,” as it relates to your eating:

  • Consider how hungry you really are before eating.  Try to match the amount of food you eat to your hunger, and not necessarily your appetite.
  • Try eating with your non-dominant hand.  This will slow down your eating, allowing for that full feeling to take effect earlier in your meal, and help you avoid overeating.
  • Choose open-faced sandwiches and eliminate half of the bread or bun — and half of its carbs and calories.
  • Take mini water breaks between bites of food.  Not only will this slow down your eating, it will also help you feel fuller without adding calories.
  • Don’t deny yourself an occasional indulgence, but try to limit “cheat” calories to no more than 10% of your total daily calories.
  • Plan ahead and pack your own healthy meals and snacks.  A little foresight and planning — even the night before — can really improve your daily nutrition.


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Whole Grain Doesn’t Always Mean High Fiber

7 Oct

fiber-one-cereal[1]I think everyone should be able to read and understand food labels, but I don’t always like the way manufacturers use this information to mislead us.  For example, just because a product claims to be “whole grain” doesn’t necessarily mean it is high in fiber.

As a matter of fact, the criteria for a food to be able to claim “100% Whole Grain” and “Whole Grain” are based on whole grain — and not fiber — content.  That’s why sugary cereals can claim to be whole grain and contain just 1-2 grams of fiber per serving.  Some of these whole grain foods contain more sugar and calories than those without the whole grain stamp.

You’re better off looking for foods with a 10:1 ratio of carbohydrates to fiber, or lower (Cheerios, for example, has a 7:1 ratio).  Foods with this ratio have more fiber and less sugar than those foods with higher ratios.


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The Worst Breakfast is No Breakfast

5 Oct

Breakfast[1]I always enjoy traveling to different schools and organizations to discuss Strength & Conditioning, Speed & Agility, and Nutrition.  Invariably, when discussing nutrition, we touch upon the importance of breakfast.  When I tell the audience that any breakfast is better than no breakfast, I usually get a few sarcastic responses like, “what about donuts?” or some other sweets or junk food.  Although I differentiate between a healthy, nutritious breakfast and a less sensible option, the point is this:  Eat something — anything — within 30-90 minutes of waking.  It will set the tone for the rest of your day.  It’s not that the quality of what you eat is unimportant, but the benefits of eating breakfast are indisputable:

  • Improves physical and mental health
  • Improves behavior and performance
  • Kick-starts your metabolism
  • Improves your mood
  • Boosts your energy level
  • Helps to minimize daytime hunger

Like any other meal or snack, the key is to aim for balance: clean carbohydrates (whole grains, high-fiber), lean protein, and healthy (unsaturated) fats.  Protein for breakfast is a must.  Eating a protein-rich breakfast can energize you, reduce food cravings, and prevent overeating later, according to research from the University of Missouri.

Don’t get hung up on eating “breakfast” food for breakfast… eat whatever you want.  Just keep it sensible, nutritious, and balanced.  Leftovers from last night’s dinner?  Eat ’em.


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Eat Your Healthy Fats

29 Jun

1205-fat[1]When it comes to nutrition, fats get a bad rap (it’s been said that eating fat won’t make you fat any more than eating money will make you rich).  Additionally, a fat-deficient diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies (especially for athletes).

Fat serves many functions in the body, including:

  • Necessary for insulation and protection of internal organs
  • Hormonal regulation
  • Carries fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
  • Necessary for formation of healthy cell membranes
  • Proper development and functioning of brain and nervous system
  • Promotes feeling of satiety (fullness) following a meal
  • Source of long-term (stored) energy

It is recommended that athletes get 20% of their total calories (or 2/3 of the total fat intake) from healthy — monounsaturated or polyunsaturated — fats, and limit saturated fats to no more than 10% of their total calories (1/3 of total fat intake).

Healthy fat sources include avocado; fish (especially cold-water fish like salmon); almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews; olive oil; coconut and coconut oil; Seeds; olives; peanut butter and other nut butters; low-fat dairy (milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, etc.).


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Why You Should Try an Herbal Cleanse

20 Jun

HerbalCleanse[1]Have you ever tried an herbal cleanse?  I have, and I’m hooked.  A few years ago, one of my colleagues persuaded me to try AdvoCare’s 10-Day Herbal Cleanse (prior to that, the only cleanse I had ever tried was the “Taco Bell” cleanse).  Initially, I was a little reluctant because I had heard that these cleanses could be really hard on a person’s system.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the AdvoCare cleanse was actually quite mild (I wasn’t running for the bathroom every few minutes), and I felt great.

AdvoCare’s Herbal Cleanse is a great way to “kick-start” a new diet or nutrition program.  It can help rid the body of toxins and impurities; supports better digestion and healthy weight loss; and provides 10 grams of fiber per day.

The key to the AdvoCare Herbal Cleanse system is its combination of products: ProBiotics, Fiber Drink, and Herbal Cleanse Tablets.  The instructions are easy to follow, and the cleanse should be complemented by a healthy, well-rounded diet.  Drink clear liquids such as water, herbal teas, and diluted fruit juices; follow a diet rich in whole, fresh fruits and vegetables with light lunch and dinner options; and avoid fried, heavy foods, junk foods, and fast food.


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Strategies for Dealing with Stress

9 May

How-to-Manage-Your-Stress[1]Life’s daily anxieties cause stress.  And though experts say that some stress is good for you — it can sharpen your senses and your mind — too much stress is bad for your mental and physical health.  Ultimately, you can’t control everything that happens, but you can choose how you react to and deal with it.  Here are some strategies for dealing with anxiety and stress:

  • Accept that some things are out of your control.  Focus on impacting and influencing those things over which you have control.
  • Be positive.  Avoid thinking and expecting the worst.  Adopt a “can do” attitude and don’t hesitate to ask for help if and when you need it.  Believe in you.
  • Be efficient.  Manage your time wisely and prioritize.  Commit to a reasonable, daily “to do” list, in writing.  Give yourself time to get things done, and allow adequate time to prepare for an event.
  • Have a hobby.  Do things that are enjoyable and provide you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
  • Don’t always depend on others to provide your happiness.
  • Allow yourself some quiet time.  Take 15-20 minutes every day to sit quietly and reflect.  Learn and practice relaxation techniques like yoga or deep breathing.  Meditation and prayer can help you process things.
  • Exercise regularly.  Hit the gym; ride a bike; go for a walk or jog; go hiking — stay active!  Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Get enough sleep.  Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.  Aim for at least 7-8 hours per night.
  • Seek social support.  Family and close friends (along with clubs, organizations, and support groups) can provide perspective and help you stay balanced.


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