health, Nutrition, wellness

Sodi-yum?

From tortilla chips to popcorn to pretzels, salty snacks are a crowd favorite. And I don’t blame you! Even if you’re a mainly sweets person, a salty snack can just hit the spot. Honestly, If you tell me that you don’t love a salty snack here and there, you’re lying. All that salt that we love so much, it can’t be healthy, right? Well, just like everything else in the health world, there’s good and bad to salt.

The Bad

Excessive sodium in your diet can have numerous health consequences.

• Too much sodium can lead to elevated blood pressure, causing your heart to work harder than it needs to, and putting strain on your arteries as well. This added strain puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

• Too much salt can also help lead to dehydration, as it throws off the balance of water and salt in your body (and your blood.)

The Good

You actually need sodium in your body, and in your diet.

• Sodium is important to your nervous system, helping to conduct impulses.

• Sodium is also one of the elements in your body that is in charge of muscle contraction, so too little sodium can affect how your muscles work (and set you up for cramps!)

• Sodium is an important electrolyte and helps to maintain the fluid balance in your body.

Sodium has its place in your body as an electrolyte, and is important to healthy function. However, as a society, we way, way, way overdo the sodium consumption. The bare minimum sodium we need to function is 500mg, which is actually routinely stored in healthy kidneys so you don’t run low. The upper limit of sodium that is recommended to consume in a day is 2300 mg, which is only about a teaspoon of salt, with people with high blood pressure recommended to consume about 1500mg of sodium per day.

Weirdly enough, salt is not our problem when it comes to sodium. Sodium is just an aspect of salt (chemical name sodium chloride), but sodium is in much more than just salt. According to the FDA, the majority of our sodium overconsumption comes from processed and prepackaged foods. This is because sodium is an excellent preservative, extending the shelf life of common foods, as well as a great flavor enhancer (hello, we all love salt). The biggest sodium offenders include foods such as bread, pizza, processed cheeses, processed meats, and then our beloved snacks.

To ensure you aren’t overdoing the sodium, while still being able to enjoy some salt here and there, there are a few steps we can take.

Eat potassium. Potassium helps to counteract the blood pressure raising effects of sodium, so eating foods such as beans, bananas, and tomatoes can help offset the sodium effect.

Prepare your own foods when you can. That way, you are in charge of the sodium amounts going into your foods, rather than something prepackaged with a long shelf life.

Buy fresh foods when you can. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce your sodium intake, as these foods are no sodium added, unlike canned or sauced fruits and veggies.

Enjoy low sodium foods. There are plenty of snacks that have lower sodium contents, including no salt chips or no salt pretzels. As well, there are lower sodium versions of sodium rich foods, such as low sodium soups and beans.

Drink your water. To help with fluid balance after a salty indulgence, drink extra water. This helps to retain that balance of fluid and salt in your body, helping to counteract the dehydrating effects of sodium.

So no, sodium is not the best thing you can ingest. However, your body does need sodium tor in properly. As long as you do it with caution and moderation, and your doctor doesn’t tell you otherwise, you can still enjoy a salty snack here and there.

Nutrition, Progress

Making Healthy Choices Easier

The above photo speaks the truth, “you can’t outtrain a bad diet.” How frustrating is it to spend time and effort on your workouts in the gym, only to see no progress? Your nutrition needs just as much effort, if not more, than your exercise program to see success. Weight loss (and gain) is a simple equation of energy balance. If you take in less energy than you expend (eat less than you need to maintain your weight), you will lose weight. Conversely, if you take in more energy than you expend (eat more than you need to maintain or lose weight), you will gain weight. This means that what you eat is the true determinant of the results of your program. The problem is, that proper nutrition is really tough. Nutrition is definitely the harder aspect to figure out, especially to figure out AND make it work for you and your life. This post is to show you that, though nutrition requires thought, it doesn’t have to require much time. No matter what your time constraints are, we can find a solution to make proper nutrition easier for you.

The Basics

To improve your nutrition without much time or effort, let’s add. Water and vegetables are the two components of proper nutrition that many people tend to be lacking. Water is easiest. Some of my favorite easy tips to increase your water intake are to first get yourself a reusable water bottle. There are plenty of options out there, just be sure to get a BPA free plastic bottle, or a stainless steel or glass bottle. These bottles are easy to take with you, and can be refilled all day, with no adverse health effects to you (don’t reuse regular old plastic bottles of water, it’s not good for you!). Another easy tip to increase your water intake is to drink a glass of water before each meal. This helps with your hydration levels (obviously), but also helps to almost pre-fill your stomach, which will drastically reduce your risk of overeating. Don’t like plain water? Most people don’t. You have two options here: either suck it up and suck down that plain water or use some flavor. Infusing your water with fruit is the healthiest option, but Crystal Light packets, along with flavor drops, such as Mio, can help to jazz up plain old water. Moving on to veggies, modern technology makes that almost as easy as possible. There are plenty of options for plain veggies (and even some with some light flavoring) that involve nothing more than popping a bag into the microwave. Bird’s Eye Steamers are awesome microwaveable options, and the flavored varieties taste good (and are relatively healthy for you too!). Eating a cup of veggies before the rest of your meal can also ensure that you get your vitamins and minerals in, while also helping to reduce the risk of overeating for very few calories.

Set it and Forget it

Instant Pots have become all the rage in the past few years, and they can be incredibly useful in your journey to a healthier lifestyle. The instant pot makes pressure cooking easy and quick, and can help with meal prepping by making large quantities of (healthier) food, with very little effort. My mother uses hers to make her own Greek yogurt, and I’m a huge fan of using mine to make large quantities of rice and other starches. This helps to increase the ease of healthy nutrition by allowing me to put that rice or potatoes into the pot, setting it, and then prepping another aspect of the meal while it cooks.

Slow cookers are another handy dandy tool in your healthy eating arsenal. For most slow cookers, you get the meal ready in the morning, set the crockpot, and then you have dinner 6-8 hours later. You can’t really beat the ease of that. One of my favorite recipes for a slow cooker is Salsa Chicken. All you need for this recipe is a package of chicken breast and a jar of salsa, and maybe some corn and beans if you’d like. Combine the chicken and salsa in the slow cooker, set it for 8 hours on low, and boom: easy shredded chicken breast you can add to rice and veggies for a taco bowl, burritos, or to eat on it’s own with some veggies (hey, no judgement here!). There are plenty of healthy slow cooker recipes on the web, a quick google search will get thousands of recipes, right in front of you.

Bulk it up

This is the tip that requires the most effort, but it still makes your life much, much easier. There are plenty of recipes that you can make in bulk, and then freeze to keep the freshness. Pick whatever day is easiest for you (for many, it’s Sunday, but depending on your schedule, just pick a day that you have a few hours free), pick a few recipes, and spend a few hours getting stocked up on some food. Breakfasts tend to be the most freezer friendly, but there are a few dinners that freeze well too.

Breakfast:

Egg Sandwiches: Easy egg McMuffins at home? Yes please. Take a muffin tin and spray it with some cooking spray, and crack an egg in each spot. Bake the eggs for around 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees to cook all the way through. After they are baked, cool them completely, and assemble your sandwiches. Take an English muffin, place a slice of cheese, a slice of Canadian bacon (or whatever toppings you’d like) and an egg, and then wrap tightly with plastic wrap or tin foil and place in the freezer. Whenever you’re ready to eat, unwrap, place the Sammie on a plate, and microwave for around 60 seconds to heat.

Protein Pancakes: A simple recipe of 1 scoop of protein powder, 2 tbsp flour, 1 egg, 1 tsp baking powder, and a splash of water mixed to make into a batter (makes around 3 pancakes). Make multiple servings and cool completely, then place in a ziplock bag, squeezing all excess air out, and throw them in the freezer. Place in a single layer on a plate and microwave for 30-60 seconds to heat up whenever you’re ready to eat!

Lunch/Dinner:

Soups are the easiest to freeze, the just require airtight containers to store in the freezer. As well, lasagna and pasta can be frozen for a few weeks, as long as they are in an airtight container. For any frozen meal, make sure you keep it frozen. Don’t thaw and refreeze, as this can affect the quality of the food.

Though healthy eating requires more thought, and sometimes more effort, than workouts, it doesn’t have to take more time. As long as we are working smarter, not harder, we can make healthy meals quick and easy to make, and accessible to all, no matter your available time. Make room for some healthy food!

Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress

Surviving the Holidays

Here we are! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! From October to January, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the various December holidays in between, there are parties and celebrations galore. Each celebration may be unique in it’s traditions, but they all share a common characteristics: lots of food and drinks. Before we go any further into this topic: Enjoy the holidays! Do NOT let your diet get in the way of family time or enjoying your time over the holidays. Each holiday (minus Hanukkah and Kwanza) is one single day. Just like one day of eating salads won’t make you skinny, one day of indulgence won’t break your progress. The point of this post is to make you aware of the choices you are making, especially when holiday parties start popping up like zits.

The Food

Halloween has millions of pieces of candy by the bagful, Thanksgiving brings multiple dinners, and the December guys brings work parties, family gatherings, and celebrations out the wazoo. How is someone supposed to stay on track during a time like this? Simple: we do our best. If we just gave up from October-December, then we need to start over in January (holla resolutioners), and then the cycle begins again. Let’s break the cycle. The biggest thing to remember with Holiday food is moderation. Snag an appetizer as it’s passed around the office party, snack on a fun size candy bar from the community bowl, and have a slice of pumpkin pie. All of these snacks can be part of a healthy lifestyle (and they should be, nothing is off limits with a healthy life), as long as we practice moderation. The problem comes when we can’t stop at one piece, one slice, one drink etc. Again: one day won’t ruin you. However, if you decide to indulge, keep it to one day. Multiple days of going over calories and macros will add up come January.

One of the best tips that I can give you to deal with the Holidays is to keep your routine. Maybe lighten up your earlier meals a bit (one egg and two egg whites instead of three whole eggs or 1/3 cup oatmeal instead of 1/2 cup, etc), but mostly just stick to what you know. If you decide to starve yourself all day in hopes of “saving up” for a big meal or party, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to go way overboard because you’re, you guessed it, starving. It’s much better to go into a big food situation satisfied and blood sugar on track, than ravenous and cranky. Except for your occasional all out day (plan that one in advance, make sure that’s the day you want), keep tracking your food. You’ll be surprised what you can eat, while still staying within your goal ranges.

The Alcohol

Even more dangerous to a healthy lifestyle than party food, is alcohol. Not because alcohol can’t be in a healthy life (moderationnn), but because the calories in alcohol don’t fill you up, are devoid of any nutrients, and can cause you to eat foods you usually wouldn’t after you indulge. One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories (as compared to 1g/4cals for carbs/protein and 1g/9cals for fats), but contains no nutritional value. To track alcohol itself in a food tracker, either take from your carbs (alcohol cals divided by 4) or fats (alcohol cals divided by 9), depending on which works best for your preferences. The other tricky part about is alcohol is, unless you’re sticking to beer and wine, the alcohol is usually mixed with something to make it more appetizing. Those mixers add sugar and calories, making that 140 calorie shot of vodka into a 350 calorie vodka cranberry. The lowest calorie mixers include soda water/seltzer, diet soda, and fresh fruit juice. I would say to tweak your drink order itself if 1) you know you’ll be indulging a lot tonight or 2) you know you have a lot of alcohol based events coming up. Otherwise, enjoy what you enjoy (and fully enjoy it) and move on.

As well, be sure to keep your stomach full before a night of drinking. You need to make sure your body is able to metabolize the alcohol, and slowly enough (due to food) so it’s not too much too fast. Another issue with drinking is the after drinks snacking. I don’t know about you, but pizza after happy hour is my jam, even if I planned on eating a healthier snack when I get home. Try to keep yourself full and happy before drinking, so hopefully you don’t feel the need to get snackage on the way home. Have some satisfying, yet healthy, snacks waiting for you when you get home too, and hide the not so good for us snacks. The easier it is to access, the more likely you are to eat it.

What do we do?

Halloween is known for it’s candy obviously, and Thanksgiving has the feast to end all feasts, and Christmas is a time of overindulgence with a rich family meal on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and they are only a month apart (if you celebrate Hanukkah, as I do along with Christmas, it is celebrated by frying foods in oil, not any better health wise). If we do nothing, and just overindulge until the cows come home, January is going to be a rude awakening. The biggest thing to remember: consistency is key. Even with your parties and events and meals, stay on your normal workout routine and nutrition. Do not try to “make up” for the extra calories with less food or excessive exercise. That won’t do anything but make you miserable when you aren’t partying. This season is all about fun and enjoyment, so don’t let you fitness goals stop you from enjoying your life. Health is an all around state of mental and physical well being, so being obsessive over calories during the holidays impedes on the mental health aspect. Take a deep breath, plan out the next few months, and continue to smash your goals. Holiday goal: maintain your routine and enjoy the season.

Nutrition

Carbs are Friends, not Food

Wait, no no. Carbs are friends AND food!

Some of my fave carbs right here (both in the photo and on the shirt)

Who here has ever been afraid of carbs? (I, for sure, was! A long time ago, I ain’t ashamed to admit it!) But I’m here to tell you today, there’s no need to fear the carb.

Let’s start with, what actually is a carbohydrate? It is simply a macronutrient in your diet, yielding 4 calories per gram (which is the same amount as protein). Carbs are the main energy source in your body, being broken down in glucose and glycogen, fueling both daily activities and muscle contraction during workouts. Carbs can be broken down into two categories: simple and complex. Simple carbs are easily digestible, causing a quick burst of energy and just as quick of a decrease, and include foods such as refined grains and sugars. Complex carbs are harder to digest, being higher in fiber leading to a more gradual energy spike with little to no crash. Complex carbs include foods such as whole grains and vegetables. Both types of carbs are absolutely ok in your diet! Be sure to have a balance though, and, as long as you hit your fiber and don’t go over your carb goals, have some chips.

How many carbs do I need? This is a tricky one. With the craze of the ketogenic diet, the low carb fans are coming back. The ketogenic diet is one that consists of >10% of total calories coming from carbs, 20% coming from protein, and 70% coming from fats. In terms of weight loss, according to the NSCA, keto and normal diets are pound for pound, so it’s really up to you. However, the recommendation for carbs in the everyday diet is between 45-60% of total calories. I personally prefer a range between 35-50% of total calories coming from carbohydrates for both myself and clients. The lower end of the range of carbs is for more aggressive fat loss, but I tend to keep my clients around 40%.

Weight loss comes from a calorie deficit, no matter how much of your diet comes from carbs. Protein helps to keep your muscle mass during times of dieting, so that is non-negotiable in terms of keeping in your diet. The rest is up to you, and your personal preferences.

Long story, short: don’t be afraid of carbs. They’re good for you. Just don’t overdo the sugar, and eat your fiber, and you can absolutely incorporate carbs into your diet, while still reaching your goals.

Nutrition, Opinion

Flexible Dieting, Flexible Results?

There is so much debate as to what is the best diet out there. There’s the paleo people, the keto crowd, the meal planners, and everyone thinks their way is the best and talks bad about the others behind their backs, it’s almost like high school cliques for the fitness industry. You all know what team I’m on personally, definitely team flexible dieting, but I’m honestly on team whatever works best for you. I really wanted to take today to dive into flexible dieting because I believe it is the best way to track your food and make sure you are on the way to results, while also living your life. Flexible dieting gives you grams of each macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) as goals for your intake for the day. This allows you to pick and choose what you eat in order to meet those goals, giving you flexibility with your meals while also keeping you accountable. Sounds pretty great right? It is. However, you need to do it right.

I follow a flexible diet so I can eat this:

But I also eat a lot of this:

When IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) first hit the scene, it was met with a lot of backlash. There were jokes upon jokes of “fitness people” eating nothing but pop tarts and fried chicken and burgers all day while thinking they were healthy. And yeah, a lot of people did that. It’s very easy to get carried away with letting yourself have treats (because hello, they’re there and you can have them), but we need a balance. Flexible dieting really teaches you that balance. Nothing is off limits in this diet, but if you eat nothing but calorie dense foods with no nutritional value (candy, fried food, etc), you don’t leave yourself with much food. Those dense foods have high macros, which can leave you with almost nothing else to eat for the rest of the day. You can’t forget about your vegetables while flexible dieting. You can’t forget about those vitamins and minerals that you need for a healthy, functioning body.

I don’t believe any diet that restricts your foods is healthy, hence why I love the concept of flexible dieting. The problem is, is that flexible dieting requires you to have the willpower and dedication to give yourself that balance of healthy foods and treats. Once you have found that balance, and it took me some time as well, it is a wonderful tool. Tracking my food in terms of macros has given me the tools to be able to almost guesstimate what macros foods have, which can let me not track for a bit and not derail my progress completely. I believe a good diet doesn’t just tell you what to eat, it gives you the tools to make it a lifestyle and not just a diet anymore. If you let it, flexible dieting can give you those tools. You can take the concept of balance and put it into your lifestyle, giving yourself freedom from the typical diet, whether you’re tracking macros or not. Find a diet that works for you, but don’t let it run you. Learn from what you eat, and more importantly how you eat, and build a way of eating that works for you. Let fitness fit you.

Even Pups T. Dog enjoys a flexible dieting approach!

Nutrition, Progress

The Foundations of Fitness: Part Two

Nutrition

Everyone loves food. However, when it comes to food in regards to health and weight loss, we all differ. Everyone thinks that their fad diet is superior to everyone else’s. Nutrition isn’t as complicated and confusing as everyone tries to make it out to be. We’re just going to scratch the surface and go into the basics here today. All of our food, no matter what it is, are a combination of macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals in foods, which are just as important, but make sure you’re taking a quality multivitamin and eating some veggies and you should be good there. Now the macros. There are three main macronutrients that we need to be concerned with: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Both fats and carbs have been demonized by the media over the years, but no one macronutrient is better than another. Weight loss is simple, but true fat loss gets more complicated, and all macros help to aid in fat loss.

Protein

Above is a high protein snack or post workout meal that can also help satisfy sweet cravings: one cup plain Greek yogurt, one scoop chocolate protein powder, one serving (32g) of Life cereal, and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds. 46g carbs, 2g fat, 47g protein.

Protein, and the amino acids that make up protein, are the building blocks of muscle. One gram of protein yields 4 calories. Protein sources can be complete or incomplete, depending on the amino acids they are comprised of. Essential amino acids are ones that need to be consumed, since the body does not create them, and non essential amino acids are ones that the body naturally produces. Complete protein sources are ones that contain all essential amino acids, and can be found in meats, fish, dairy, eggs, and soy. Incomplete sources contain a few of the essential amino acids but need to be combined to create one complete source. Incomplete proteins tend to be plant based, and include foods such as peanut butter, rice and beans, and lentils. Some plant based complete proteins would be combining peanut butter and bread or rice and black beans.

Though all macros are important, protein is especially crucial when it comes to fat loss. As we enter into a calorie deficit, which means we’re eating below our maintenance calories (we’ll go into this more in a future post), we need to make sure our body is burning fat and not muscle. Eating sufficient protein, which is more than you needed when you aren’t in a deficit, helps to ensure that your body spares your muscle stores for energy and uses fats and glucose (carbs/sugar) to supply energy. After a workout, if consumed within about an hour, protein helps to repair and rebuild the muscle that was damaged during resistance training.

Carbohydrates

Above is a higher carb meal that still has protein in it. 2.5oz chickpea pasta (measured raw), one cup sautéed mushrooms, one cup broccoli, 1/2 cup green peas, 1/2 cup portobello and wine Publix pasta sauce, and one tablespoon nutritional yeast. 67g carb, 7g fat, and 33g protein.

Carbs are simply enough, they are body’s main source of energy. One gram of carbs yields 4 calories, just like protein. And just like protein, there are multiple different sources of carbs. The easiest way to distinguish carbs is how easily and quickly they’re digested. Simple carbohydrates are easy to digest, and digest quickly, causing a quick burst of energy, but also causing an equally quick decrease in energy, aka a sugar crash. Simple carbs include foods such as sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice, and pasta.

Complex carbohydrates are more difficult to digest, allowing for a slower release of energy into the body that lasts longer. Complex carbs include vegetables, sweet potato, and whole grains. Complex carbs also tend to be higher in fiber, which is the indigestible portion of whole grains and fibrous veggies, and helps to slow down the absorption of carbs. Since fiber slows digestion, foods high in fiber help you feel fuller for longer, helping keep appetite in check, helping to keep overall calories. Even though complex carbs have more fiber and nutrients than simple carbs, neither carb is bad, as they have the same calories, as long as there is balance.

Fats

Above is a higher fat breakfast or snack of one slice of Italian bread, one whole avocado, and one tablespoon chia seeds. (24g carbs, 23g fats, 7g protein)

“Why would I eat fat if I’m trying to lose fat?” Fats are an essential part of any diet. One gram of fat yields 9 calories, so they also contribute to satiety, which is the feeling of being full and satisfied. However, some fats are better than others, just like carbs and protein sources. Polyunsaturated fats are the ones we want the majority of fats in our diet to be from and include fish, nuts, and plants, such as avocado. Fats are also essential to brain and eye health and function, as well as joint health. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are two fats we need to consume, since our body doesn’t naturally produce them, and they are vital to brain and eye health. They are found in foods such as fatty fish (salmon) and nuts, or in a quality fish oil or flax seed oil supplement. Other types of fat include monounsaturated and saturated (butter, coconut oil, any fat that is solid at room temperature) should be limited, since they contribute to high cholesterol. Though all fats shouldn’t be avoided, since they are part of a balanced diet, trans fats should be avoided, as they can clog arteries and contribute to heart disease and obesity. Also, beware of low fat foods. Foods, such as peanut butter or yogurt, that are advertised as low fat tend to be higher in sugar to make up the minuscule difference in fat. You’re better off indulging in some real fat than loading yourself up with additives.

There are many ways and styles of tracking nutrition. Some people do really well with the structure of a meal plan, that includes options of what to eat and when, while others do well with a more flexible approach, which involves keeping track of your macronutrient amounts in a set ratio. No matter how you go about tracking nutrition through your journey, the important thing is that you track. You’d be surprised how much you underestimate you’re eating, while overestimating the amount you’re burning.

If there’s anything we discussed that you would like more information on, feel free to reach out to me, either here through the site or facebook/instagram!