Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learn the Basics of Nutrition

One of the biggest problems I face as a trainer and nutritionist is people's complete lack of  basic nutrition knowledge.  It is such a journey, for both the client and myself- to teach them the reasons that what they are eating is making them fat.  They are being bombarded with advertisements for "healthy" and "natural" products that are full of sugars and other simple carbs.  Most Americans believe that granola bars are healthy because the box says so.  That box of cereal is healthy because it tells them it will "lower your cholesterol".  Bagels, muffins and breads can be eaten freely as long as they are "whole grain". 
  We are more obese than ever as a society, in spite of buying more and more of these "health foods".  Problem is, these foods displace fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to the point where many of us are eating virtually no REAL food.  These fake foods also cause us to release a flood of insulin every time we consume them, and insulin is the fat storing hormone.  Most people (other than Lance Armstrong) can't utilize the large number of carbohydrates these foods provide, they simply aren't active enough to burn them off.
  Another issue is the unawareness that things that may be good for you (or at least better than a big greasy burger) can still have lots of calories.  I  met a friend at one of our local health food restaurant hot spots the other day.  I was there a little early, and while I sipped my green tea I couldn't help but notice the table of young ladies in front of me.  They had massive amounts of food on their table.  Huge pitas with piles of hummus, fried falafels, and each one also had their own colossal sized gyro wrap or chicken pita.  If I had to guess, each girl probably consumed well over a thousand calories in that one meal.  Your body doesn't care if its 1500 calories of health food, or 1500 calories of Burger King, both kinds of excess calories will go straight to fat storage.  And that was just lunch.  Similar scenarios were taking place at all but one other table around me, where a lady ordered a large salad with the dressing on the side.  Even her friend had a lavosh pizza the size of a place mat.
  In my business ladies like this will come to me upset that in spite of only eating healthy foods, they simply cannot lose weight.  They say their metabolism is messed up, or they think they might have a thyroid problem.  I always encourage them to get tested, and nine times out of ten they are fine.  Then the arduous task begins to re-train their way of thinking about what they should be eating.
  At the very least, I would encourage everyone to pick up a book such as "Nutrition for Dummies".  Having a basic knowledge of proteins, carbs and fats as well as how to read a food label is so important.  Secondly, track a few days worth of calories to see what is really being consumed.  There are great, free databases online that even have the calorie counts of most restaurant foods.  The support of a professional is also helpful, not only to learn how to help yourself, but for emotional support in changing your health and way of life forever.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hidden Poisons....They are Everywhere

 As I was walking through the grocery store this last Sunday, carefully selecting the things I think will bring my family the best nutrition at mealtimes, I started thinking.  I was thinking how unfortunate it is that I have to make two stops at two different stores every week.  Walmart doesn't offer but maybe one or two organic produce selections, and no meats free of hormones and antibiotics.  I have to assume they don't offer them because their shoppers aren't demanding it.   Worse yet, they probably don't even know the difference.  Even knowing as much as I do about what is really in our food supply (and it ain't pretty), I often get stuck buying things i know to be harmful just because I simply can't afford all organic.  If I were to simply buy all of my groceries at one of these other stores that DO offer organic.....the price for my same load of groceries more than doubles. 
  Being five months pregnant right now makes me even more cautious, so i have been paying a lot more to get all of my fruits and vegetables organic.  The last thing I can imagine is pesticides from my grapes, or hormones from my chicken at dinner going into this precious little person's developing system.  We have such a steep rise now in things such as autism, which is officially reported now as one in 91, some sources think it may be as high as one in 38 children.  Something is damaging our children, and it is an atrocity that with this information, we are still ingesting known carcinogens and toxins on our food supply every day.  The list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables are:

bell peppers

This has become pretty common knowledge, that these and many other of our foods are literally poisoned.  The advice given for those who simply cannot afford organic?  Just wash them in mild soap, that will remove a good portion of the pesticide.  Hmmmmm, last time I checked, dish soap is not something you want in your digestive system.  Trading a little less poison for some detergent residue, sounds like a fabulous solution!
  Since we know fruits, vegetables and meats CAN be grown without these chemicals, hormones and antibiotics, its now just a matter of getting the information out there to everyone!  If we, as a society shun these practices by refusing to buy them, more and more organic varieties will become available at a lower price.  Its a shame that only the more educated and affluent can afford to have access to the best foods for their family.
  As I passed by the produce section at the end of my shopping trip, I noticed a guy with a young toddler in the cart selecting grapes for his little one.  I was thinking how sad it was that he was going to take those heavily sprayed Chilean-grown grapes home and feed them to that little baby.....thinking he is doing the best thing for him.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Eating Low Cal at Restaurants

I was just inspired by a client to write this entry on restaurant food, since this scenario is one I see so often.  She has been working so hard for quite some time, training her ass off 5 days a week.  She wasn't having much luck getting the pounds to come off by just making healthy choices, so I had her keep a food journal for a few days to see whats going on.  In her defense, she really was making an honest effort to make good choices most of the time.  With the volume of her training, even a few indiscretions should not have had much impact on her weight loss.  As with many past clients, there was a fair amount of restaurant fare in the journal.  A salad was listed from a popular chain restaurant that seemed pretty innocuous, including chicken breast and almonds as a garnish.  Upon further research, this seemingly healthful salad packs over 1300 calories and almost 1000 mg sodium.  A SALAD.  For a dieting female, this is not much less than an entire days' worth of calories and sodium.  Another item listed was a margarita, "just one".  Well, one 12 oz marg has roughly 540 calories.....all of it from alcohol and sugar.  That sure makes a big dent in the daily allotment!  To lose weight, there needs to be a deficit in calories each day so the body looks to its own stored fuel for energy.  Moreover, its also believed that only so much fuel (calories) can be assimilated in one sitting, meaning your body will use say, 300 calories of what you consume right away....guess where the rest goes?  Storage.  Alcohol is tricky too, it can halt the weight loss process because it is a "preferred' fuel source.  All fat burning comes to a screeching halt until every last bit of that booze is metabolized out of the system.  It gets first dibs over protein, carbs and fats.  In my work in nutrition consulting, I have done quite a bit of research on the different restaurants, scouring their nutritional information and trying to find healthy options for people "in a pinch".  I can honestly say, I have had very little luck, and it is unfortunate because many people don't like to cook, don't know how, or don't make time.  We really all need to learn to do some "basic survival" cooking so as to not be at the mercy of the restaurant industry.  I'm hard pressed to find even a salad at any of the major chains that clocks in under 900 calories.  We also don't see whats really going on in the kitchen.  Busy chefs cook multiple foods together on the same skillet often dousing the surface with ladles of oil to keep things from burning....and adding hundreds of calories to foods that would normally be low cal.  The only way to control what goes in your food is to make it yourself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pasta free spaghetti!

This recipe rocks!
It was given a gold star by the husband who is a big pasta fan...........even though it has none!  The pasta is replaced with spaghetti squash.  When cooked to just the right tenderness, the texture is pretty darn satisfying under your meat sauce.


1 large spaghetti squash
1 lb. Natural ground beef (try to get organic or hormone free)
1 sm. onion, chopped
couple of cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 14 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
*lots of dried oregano (to taste)
*lots of onion powder
*lots of garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of dried rosemary
1 tsp sea salt
pat of butter

punch a couple of holes in the top of the spaghetti squash and put it in the microwave and cook on high for about ten minutes (less time for a smaller one).  I usually throw mine in an hour or so before cooking the meal so I can take it out and let it cool for a half hour before I need it.  Brown the beef, onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a biol then simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
Slice the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds and toss.  Hold half of the squash on its end inside of a bowl and use a fork to scrape the strands loose form the skin.  keep scraping until you get as much out as you can.  Repeat with other half.  Toss the shells.  Toss with a small pat of butter.
Serve like pasta, pouring the sauce on top, sprinkle with dried parmesan (optional).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Plant- Based Diet for Ultra Performance and Superior Health?

More and more we are starting to see the pitfalls of the “standard American diet”. It is no coincidence that it bears the acronym S.A.D……well, because it is nothing less than sad. Most of us don’t even know that most of the things that we are putting in to our mouths (and more sadly our kids’) aren’t even really food. The bulk of our diet is made in factories from refined white flour, partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. It is then packaged in colorful little boxes with enticing pictures on the front and at a fraction of the cost of “real” food. By real food I mean those things our creator intended for us to eat, like beautiful, multicolored fruits and vegetables. The average per-person vegetable consumption is 0-2 servings per week. And we wonder why as a nation our health is failing. The foods we were intended to eat infuse our cells with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Not only do these components contribute to optimum health, but they give us long-lasting, sustained energy by way of slowly released energy. This equates to nice, even blood glucose levels. Simple carbohydrate sources such as the ones we have all come to accept as the foundation of our diets (bagels, bread, pasta, crackers) have a more profound effect on glucose levels. Upon consumption there is a nice rise in blood sugar and energy, but hours later there is often a compensatory crash in energy levels. The blood sugar crashes from all of that insulin released as the body tries to deal with the big onslaught of fast digesting carbs.

One of the biggest pushes toward a high processed carb diet is in the endurance exercise community. Just about every book and magazine geared toward running or cycling touts the necessity of obtaining the vast majority of calories from starchy carb sources. It is often recommended that 50% or MORE of the daily calories should be from carbs, that they are the body’s preferred fuel source. Many participants even supplement further with fast digesting sugar-based gels and liquids during their activity.

We have to step back and ask ourselves, is this approach really the best? Even more importantly, is it the most beneficial to our health? Could we just be plain wrong? Endurance athletes are notorious for “bonking”, which in layman’s terms is running out of gas during an event. If all these processed carbs are so wonderful for sustained energy, why are we needing sports drinks and gels to get us through, and why are overtraining and overuse injuries so prevalent? Let’s take a look at it from another angle.

The Tarahumara are a tribe of Indians living in Northwestern Mexico. Running is a part of their daily life, not only as a lifestyle but as a necessity. They live in a very rugged and treacherous terrain with deep canyons and lots of vegetation. It is not unusual for the average tribe member to log between 50 and 80 miles every day at a marathon pace. The land makes it impossible to travel by horse or wagon, so they run from place to place to complete their daily tasks. The interesting part is that they are keeping up this frenetic pace on a plant-based diet. No bagels, no sports goo, no big bowls of cereal. Their diet is roughly 80% plants (squash, beans, corn), 10% fat and a measly 10% protein from the special occasion when they get some fish, mice or goat. Even more fascinating is that they run incredible distances and still feel great. One tribe member was said to have ran six hundred miles in five days to deliver an important message. When they ran in the 1928 marathon, they blew through the course and exclaimed “Too short! Too short!”

Scientists have done many tests and studies on the Tarahumara to see if they have some genetic propensity toward better endurance. Everything keeps coming back to the fact that they are products of conditioning not heredity. Their extreme, almost vegetarian diet translates into an unnaturally low pulse rate and blood pressure. These things (along with a high-antioxidant diet) are also attributed to generalized well being, better energy, and a reduced risk of disease.

There seems to be such controversy over eating a plant-based diet. Many people view it as extreme, when in fact it is actually where our culinary roots are. Prior to the factory age we had to grow, hunt and forage for our sustenance. Have we gotten so far from where we are supposed to be in regards to our diet that we are sabotaging ourselves? Why are we continually pumping more and more man-made carbs into our systems in the quest for sustained energy when really some beans and vegetables would do the trick? Nutrition science is always behind due to the old-school doctrine of the U.S.D.A., and people are given these antiquated RDA guidelines to follow which may not necessarily lead them to optimum health. I still think we are closer than ever to a revolution. More and more athletes are coming out, and very vocally about their switch to a vegetarian or even vegan diet. They are raving about how much better their performance is, and how they are no longer just surviving, but thriving!

Monday, February 14, 2011

What is Crossfit??

I get this question every day.  Since I am fully engrossed in it as a Crossfit certified trainer, and believe there is no faster way to get in amazing shape, here is a video.  This explains it better than my words ever could!  The beauty of it is that it is FULLY SCALABLE to anyone. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

People are starving....on purpose

There’s a relatively new diet out there called calorie restriction, or CR. Followers would argue though that it is not a diet, it is a “lifestyle”. They claim that reducing their daily caloric intake by 30% to as much as 50% is the fountain of youth, and there are studies showing they may increase their life span by as much as 40%. They brag of lowered blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate. They claim that they get to a point that they really aren’t hungry any more. This seems difficult to believe when being hungry all the time is the #1 reason people fail at even conservative 15-20% under maintenance diets. Neuroendocrine profiles clearly show that animals under CR are continuously hungry. At what point do these benefits become perilous? Sure, low blood pressure is good, but to a point- past which it is labeled hypotension. At this level it can be a nuisance causing dizziness upon standing and fainting spells. Further on down the road it can deprive the brain and other organs of vital oxygen. Same goes for lowered blood glucose. If it remains too low for too long there is a condition called neuroglycopenia that can result. Basically, the brain suffers from too little fuel for too long and there is fatigue, slurred speech, ataxia (incoordination), blurred vision and confusion.

A 20 year study was recently completed and published in Science News Magazine. There is compelling evidence that CR improves the health and extends the life spans of every tested species. “Tested species” however includes worms, spiders, rodents, dogs, cows, and monkeys. This study looked specifically at rhesus monkeys. We are only recently starting to do in-depth research on human subjects. There are now enough human guinea pigs out there following this diet, er, way of life that we have some to track. Researchers believe “it is likely we will see similar results in humans”.

Much more well studied are the effects of anorexia nervosa. Much scarier are the similarities between CR and anorexia. The physical effects of CR include:

- Decreased RMR (resting metabolic rate)

- Loss of LBM (lean body mass)

- Loss of bone mass

- Decreased heart rate (bradycardia)

- Decreased blood pressure (hypotension)

- Decreased cardiac muscle mass

- Alopecia

- Food related obsessions

Other deleterious health effects of a persistent caloric deficit are low BMI and the effects of starvation. BMI under 18 is associated with significantly increased mortality from non-cancer, non-cardiovascular disease causes. In a nut shell, you are at a hugely increased risk of dying from just about anything- except cancer or heart disease. Nice. Severe calorie restriction may also lead to low-grade, insidious starvation effects on the body. In absence of adequate intake, the body turns to muscle, collagen, bone and remaining fat stores for fuel. Catabolic (muscle wasting) hormones such as cortisol are elevated, and catabolic (muscle sparing) hormones such as insulin decline. With too few calories, essential nutrient intake suffers as well, especially fat-soluble vitamins. These require fat for proper absorption. High calorie foods such as meat, nuts, dairy and oils are omitted due to their high caloric density.

Interestingly, every single one of these “effects” are also effects of Anorexia nervosa, but believers don’t want you to acknowledge that. Is this lifestyle a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Might these people already be the same people who would be more apt to fall into disordered eating behavior? Sometime back I saw two proponents of the diet, a husband and wife, on Oprah. Something about their demeanor bothered me. It wasn’t just that they were staunchly defensive of their “lifestyle”, but that more that they had no sparkle in their eyes. Oprah followed them through a typical days’ eating. They loaded up huge (I mean HUGE) salad bowls with greens, greens and more greens explaining that all those leaves only amount to about 30 calories. Then they topped off that massive mound with finely measured bits of more calorie dense items such as sunflower seeds and protein. Dressing was too “costly” calorie wise, so simple vinegar or lemon juice would have to do.

It seemed as though the rigid structure and deprivation of their daily existence had stolen something from their souls, they were more like automatons. Studies are showing that the later in life you start the CR lifestyle, the less the benefits. In other words, you have to starve for most of your life to reap the full benefits. Even more recently they say the life extending benefits may only be an added 2% to your life span, not the lofty 40% they originally claimed. Personally, I’m not signing up for complete and utter misery every single day for the rest of my life- to possibly add ONE year to it. Would you like a splash of lemon on those greens?