Strategies for Overcoming Plateaus

The dreaded plateau: Anyone in the fitness game long enough will most likely encounter one.

It typically goes like this: You’ve been consistently working out for several months, eating better, feeling great overall and becoming excited that your clothes are starting to fitting loose — everything is working!

Then all of a sudden, the magic abruptly stops. What gives?

Unfortunately, the human body can be quite stubborn. It is continually seeking a homeostatic state, making it resistant to consistent change. The truth is, your body would prefer to keep the status quo and is very smart when it comes to adapting to exercise and dietary changes.

This can create a great deal of frustration, especially when it comes to fat loss. Essentially, it becomes a chess match against yourself.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to troubleshoot if you find yourself in this situation. Outlined below are some strategies that can help regarding the three areas that might be the source of frustration: nutrition, exercise or recovery.

Remember: It’s a chess match, and it’s more effective and easier to determine what is working by making one change at a time.
Also remember that the body inevitably has to comply as long as you stay the course. Be patiently persistent and stay one step ahead at all times, and you’ll put that plateau in the rear-view mirror for good.

Nutrition

As contradictory as it may sound, it could be that you’re not eating enough.

While a reduction in calorie intake works in the beginning of any weight-loss attempt, eventually your metabolism will actually slow down.

This is because the body’s survival mechanism kicks in. The body gets to a point where it senses a lack of control and the possibility that it is being starved. When this happens, our thyroid actually begins to produce less calorie-burning hormones, and our progress stops.

A trick that can be used to avoid this is “caloric cycling.” Rather than continuing to take in the same number of calories each day, we throw in a higher-calorie day one to two times per week.

For example, if you have been consuming 1,500 calories per day, bump your calorie intake up to 2,000 calories after three consecutive low days. This signals to your body that you are not going to starve, and there is no need for survival mode.

Also, make sure you are getting good-quality, nutrition-dense food every day. This allows our bodies to adequately refuel from workouts, rebuild muscle and help maintain high amounts of energy. Remember that it takes calories to burn calories.

A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables at every meal, quality carbohydrates, protein-dense foods and healthy fats.

Remember that carbs should be reserved for postworkout or physical activity if fat loss is a goal. This is because the body is most tolerant of carbohydrates after a workout than any other time. Also, it will help refuel the body without any carbohydrate “spillover” into fat storage.

FITNESS

Undertraining: It’s easy to get lulled into the same routine. If you find yourself consistently doing the same exercises, sets, reps and same mode of cardio week in and week out, then this is simply a case of adaptation setting in. Quite frankly, it’s time to take it to the next level.

This involves disrupting your comfort zone. You can do this by either increasing the number of reps or the amount of weight you are lifting during strength-training sessions. If your cardio sessions have been strictly steady-state up to this point, try mixing in some interval training one to two times per week.

Overtraining: On the flip side, there is such a thing as trying to do too much. When results come to a screeching halt, the natural instinct is to think: “Well, I just need to do more!”

All of a sudden you are doing everything under the sun: Tabata, weights, running, kickboxing, zumba, workout videos — anything and everything. Slow down, killer!

The body needs to recuperate from the demands that are placed on it. By continuing to keep the foot on the accelerator, we can actually start losing results — or worse, you can get injured.

Working out too hard for too long can overload the hormonal system, create chronic inflammation and increase the production of cortisol, which makes us more likely to hold on to fat stores.

So rather than adding more exercise at that plateau, give your body a much-needed break by taking one to two weeks off from structured exercise and replacing it with some light recreational activity instead.

Sometimes just giving your body a moment to breathe is all it needs to reboot to the updated and improved version of yourself.

Try switching modes of exercise: This is a simple, yet very effective method. You’re not changing anything exercise-wise, just gaining a new weapon of choice. Regarding strength training, this may involve switching from machines to free-weights, free-weights to body-weight exercises, barbells to dumbbells and so on.

The same goes for cardio machines. Try the rowing machine or step mill if you have been glued to the elliptical for the last two months. Any switch-up is worth trying. Surprising enough, this does the trick in a lot of cases.

Train for an event: This shift in mindset can be the magic ingredient for a lot of people. It’s important that your fitness routine address more than scale. Weight loss can be an emotional roller coaster, and many people aren’t willing to stay on that plan for the long haul.

The scale can have you jumping for joy one day and crying the next, but the exhilaration of crossing the finish line at a Color Run or conquering a Spartan Race is something that will stay with you forever.

And more often than not, the pounds will continue to come off as a result of your training. So in addition to creating good memories and getting into fabulous shape, you become lean and mean in the process.

RECOVERY

Unloading: Recovery is the yin to the yang of exercise. As previously stated with overtraining, sometimes it’s a matter of giving the body a chance to actually adapt to the training demands that are being placed upon it.

At a minimum, you should “unload” with a lighter workout week every four to six weeks of training. It’s during this period that our body finally gets a chance to play catchup and physically adapt to the training demands placed upon it.

This is where we experience increases in strength and endurance as we carry over into our next training cycle and even experience more reduction in the fat loss we’re after. You can unload by cutting your workout times in half, decreasing your intensity or simply just participating in recreational activity.

Sleep: Sleep is huge. Let me say that again. Sleep. Is. HUGE! And it may be one of the reasons why you’ve hit a plateau.

Sleep has been said to be the “athlete’s steroid.” The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven to eight hours a night. It is during this time that we produce human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is important in tissue repair, healing, muscle growth, brain function, bone strength, energy, endurance and metabolism. Additional benefits include improved cognitive function, increased reaction time and better immune system function.

There isn’t really any downside to getting adequate sleep, and it’s a critical part of continuing to get results from training and feeling 100 percent.

Jason Wanlass is the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian. Contact him at championfit@live.com or championfit.net.

What does it take to get results?

Over the past 14 years I’ve had the opportunity to train hundreds of individuals.  All with their own stories, histories, and expectations.  And during that time I’ve developed a pretty keen sense in reading people.  More times than not I know within the first five minutes of meeting someone if they are truly going to “make it” when it comes to changing their lifestyle.  That’s not to say that it won’t happen for them at some point, but they simple aren’t ready yet.  You see…people come to me in hopes of being inspired and motivated, but the fact of the matter is the ball is always in their court.  At best all I can do is create opportunities for success, guide them along, and be their cheerleader.  But ultimately…if you REALLY want to change it’s something that only you can do.  Don’t get me wrong!  Having a trainer and a strong supporting cast does play a major role in the process, but it’s still a secondary one and putting those pieces in place is only the start.  At the end of the day it’s you that has to find the motivation to get up and burn while the rest of the world continues to sleep. It’s you that will have to spend less time with people who subconsciously want to keep you exactly where you are.  It’s you that will have to indulge less and actually start acting like you give a shit about what you put into your body.  And it’s you that will need to realize that you deserve to feel and live better than you currently are AND also do what it takes to get there.  So the question is how do you do it?  Or even better…what type of person do I need to become to do it?  Lately I have been reflecting on that exact question and even more specifically, I have been thinking of those I’ve had the pleasure of training over the last 14 years who were truly awakened, embraced the process, took power and ownership of themselves back, and became the change.  So without further ado…here’s what I have discovered.

Finding a purpose: It all begins here.  Getting into shape just for the sake of being in shape will not create the solid foundation and driving force to keep you in the game for the long haul.  Nor will body image goals like “getting skinner” or “losing the beer gut.”  Body image goals are the equivalent of chasing a carrot on a stick.  We constantly keep the lens focused on what we don’t like about our bodies even once we have reached our original weight or body fat goal, ultimately leaving you in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction.  There’s nothing “healthy” about that.  Besides, results are measured far beyond “how we look.”  I understand the nature of wanting to look better, but it’s the feelings we associate with it that we are after.  Having more confidence, feeling empowered, increasing our self-esteem, and overall happiness is what we are truly after.  Once you start training with more of a purpose you quickly make a mental shift towards the feelings you are after.  Your purpose can be a wide variety of things.  Being able to have the stamina to keep up and play with your kids…being their role model.  Participating in a event you’ve always wanted to like a 5K, Spartan Race, Backpacking Trip, or even playing in a sport you enjoy.  Getting out of a state of chronic pain.  I’ve known too many people dealing with back, shoulder, and knee issues on a daily basis.  Getting your body to the point where it complies to what you want to do instead of limiting what you can do is incredibly empowering!  Find and establish what is going to drive you as soon as possible and let that be the life force to your workouts.  Then fitness becomes a part of who you are opposed to something that you “have to do.”

Get Competitive: There’s nothing wrong with being competitive and this is something I encourage you to fully embrace.  I’m not saying that you have to beat everyone in the gym at everything.  But at least be competitive with yourself.  Establish goals within the workout.  How many reps you want to do?  How much weight do you want to lift (safely)?  How fast do you want to complete a circuit?  Drive yourself.  Challenge yourself.  Push yourself.  Your here to get better right?  Then train like it.  Begin to get a sense of where your fitness comfort zone is and push yourself just outside of that when you train.  The only exception would be on a recovery day or unloading week.  But even then you want to stay focused on being disciplined and seeing the benefit of holding back in that moment.  Once you discover where you fall in this fitness realm then you can begin to size up everyone else if it suites your personality and drives you.  It is said that we are the average of the five people closest to us.  This goes for training too.  Trying to hang with someone that’s just a little more skilled and fit can propel you to the next level.  So again…embrace being competitive…you’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll accomplish.

Know your numbers: We use 12 fitness tests in our gym that measure strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance.  We track these numbers and test quarterly.  This is how fitness is measured.  More specifically, this is how RESULTS are measured.  Bigger, stronger, faster it what we are after.  Ironically, this is how you catch both the carrot and the stick.  I’ve never seen a person with an elite level of fitness that didn’t look like they were chiseled out of stone.   Working to improve in all of these areas will have you accomplishing more physically and mentally that you could possibly imagine.

Be a Weekend Warrior: Workouts should carry over into life outside of the gym.  Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy my workouts and improving at my fitness test, but not nearly as much as what it allows me to do everywhere else.  Continuing to play at a high level in all areas of life is what the workouts give us.  For me personally it’s being able to participate in Spartan Races, play football, softball, volleyball in recreation leagues at a competitive level, having the endurance to play all weekend with friends and family without feeling like I got hit be a bus for a week afterwards.  It can be different or the same for you.  These are just my examples.  But I implore you to find something that keeps you active and that you’re passionate about outside for the gym and let that be another source of fuel for your workouts.

Workouts are non-negotiable: It’s simple.  The ones who “make it” always find a way to get a workout in opposed to finding an excuse for why they can’t.  This is because of all the previously stated points.  The workouts are now a part of who we are and not only improve the nature of who we are physically, but who we are mentally.  Workouts make you sharper, more focused, more efficient, and overall a friendlier and better human being day to day.  Cheating yourself from a workout now means you are cheating your true self.  Whether it’s your stress reliever after your work day, recharging at lunch, or setting the bar first thing in the morning, it becomes a necessity.  Again…it’s a part of you.

Take Nutrition Seriously: There are two extremes that need to be avoided.  One is the thinking that exercise gives you a hall pass to eat whatever the hell that you want.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Garbage in garbage out.  And your exercise performance and results will reflect that.  Two is thinking that food needs to be restricted to ridiculous proportions in order to get lean and mean.  Again, nothing could be further from the truth.  You shouldn’t fear food or fear calories!  If you deprive yourself of food you’re only slowing metabolism down and increasing how much fat your store because your body thinks there is a famine. Food is fuel.  Do you freak out every time you put gas in your car? No. Food is the same thing for our bodies.  Want to get lean and mean?  Then you better start eating clean…and often!  Fruits. Veggies. Whole grains.  Lean Proteins.  Health Fats.  And the occasional indulgence is acceptable and healthy as well.  I’m not the food nazi…far from it!  I love a good beer.  Sometimes several.  A small dessert after dinner…etc.  But 80-90% of what goes in is high efficient fuel that will drive my performance, give me energy, and keep me healthy.  So I encourage to gain knowledge in this area.  Pay attention to what you are eating and how you are eating.  There isn’t a one size fits all approach and nutrition is highly individualized.  Start with the basics, then tinker and modify to until your body responds in the most positive way and you discover the formula that works best for you.

Always Expect more:  Continue to be driven and expect more out of yourself.  Limitations are only illusions that the mind creates.  Avoid self-limiting phrases like “I’ll never be able to do that.”   You immediately build a ceiling for yourself be doing so!  Keep your mind and expectations open to all possibilities.  Be an inspiration to yourself and to others.  Find a way and get it done whether if it takes days or years.  Keep moving forward.  Whether it’s completing your first marathon or coming back from an injury, focus on the desired outcome and let it pull you forward.  And last…never become complacent.  We are designed to grow and evolve physically and mentally.  There is no place that we arrive.  Our journey if forever going.  Take the time to enjoy your accomplishments along the way, but continue to strive for more as you continue on your quest.  It’s your body.  It’s your mind.  It’s your soul.  You are the author.  Write your story the way you want it and go out and get it.

Post-Workout Nutrition is Critical for Quicker Recovery

When food and fitness are in the same sentence, most people instantly think of fat loss. Far less often do people think about the role of nutrition in workout recovery.

But consider the things that happen to the body after a demanding workout:

▪ The body is in a “catabolic” state (that means the breakdown of muscles exceeds muscle protein synthesis).

▪ Muscles have experienced micro trauma (a precursor to delayed muscle soreness).

▪ Muscle glycogen levels are depleted.

▪ Muscles are dehydrated.

▪ The body can experience a certain degree of inflammation.

In other words, your gas tank is empty. And when workouts are done repeatedly, the cumulative effect can begin to take its toll, resulting in lack of energy, nagging injuries and stagnant results.

However, with optimal post-workout nutrition, we can flip the switch. Ideally, this window of opportunity peaks within 30 minutes of a workout.

Because of these aforementioned workout effects, the muscle cells are primed to take in and utilize the key nutrients needed to facilitate recovery, build lean tissue and burn up fat. The body’s cell transporters of glucose (carbohydrates) and amino acids (protein building blocks) are in a heightened position to recharge your body fast.

Your body is practically begging you for what it needs right after you finish.

When we take advantage of this post-exercise window, when muscles are most receptive to nutrients, exactly the opposite happens:

▪ We reverse the catabolic phase and shift to anabolism (when muscle building exceeds muscle breakdown).

▪ We rapidly replace glycogen.

▪ ▪ We reduce the potential for delayed onset muscle soreness.

▪ Muscles are rehydrated quickly.

▪ Inflammation is reduced.

So now that we know the why, let’s examine the what and how.

You need both carbohydrates and protein

In most cases people think primarily of protein when it comes to recovery, but as we covered earlier, glycogen stores needs to be filled as well, and this is done with carbohydrate intake.

Even more interesting, the two combined actually boost one another and lead to more protein synthesis, less protein breakdown and faster muscle glycogen storage than if each were taken alone. Here is what you need.

Protein: The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends consuming about 0.2-0.225 g/lb of your weight in protein. For example, a 150-pound person should consume at least 30 grams of protein post-workout (150 x 0.2 = 30). And at a bare minimum, you should aim for 20 grams.

Good sources of protein include dairy products (especially milk, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt), chicken, fish, meat, soy (e.g., soy milk, tofu), protein bars and shakes, and nuts.

Ensure that the protein contains a large amount (5 or more grams) of branched chain essential amino acids, or BCAA (e.g. leucine, isoleucine, valine), as these cannot be synthesized in the body on their own.

Specific examples with BCAAs:

▪ 1 cup of 2 percent fat cottage cheese contains 31 g protein (approximately 7 g BCAA)

▪ 1 hard boiled egg has 6.3 g protein and 1.3 g BCAA

▪ 3-oz. chicken breast (w/o skin, roasted) has 28 g protein and 5 g BCAA

A 2015 article by Mike Roussell called “What Are the Best BCAA Food Sources?” at Bodybuilding.com gives more examples of foods high in BCAAs, from canned tuna to wild salmon to roasted peanuts.

Carbohydrates: Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard guideline for how many grams of carbohydrates to ingest post-workout due to a variety of factors (e.g. body type, performance goals, fat loss vs. muscle gain).

With that being said, a lot of it will come down to personal trial and error. Based on a variety of research, you should aim for at least a 1:1 ratio of what your protein intake is post-workout. In other words, if you consume 20 grams of protein post-workout, you should consume at least 20 grams of carbohydrates.

Of course, needs can be higher if you are looking to add muscle or participate in more endurance activities. Good sources of carbohydrates can be found in fruit, potatoes, wheat, rice, pasta, whole-grain bread, oats or in meal replacement shakes.

Many people turn to chocolate milk as a recovery drink, and there is research that lends merit to that practice. Although 1 cup of low-fat chocolate milk can have 25 g of sugar to only 8 g of protein, the simple sugar can actually help replenish glycogen stores quicker if consumed in that 30-minute window, and the milk proteins (whey and casein) help in the rebuilding of muscle. Just make sure you supplement chocolate milk with additional protein from other sources to hit that 20-gram minimum.

What about inflammation?

Exercise induces an inflammatory response which is normal and even desirable, but too much impairs the ability of the muscles to recover from exercise. Taking an omega-3 supplement is a great way to combat this and has been shown to significantly reduce the signs of inflammation regardless of exercise.

Recent studies have shown that amounts of omega-3 supplements that contain both EPA and DHA in the range of 540-3,000 milligrams/day can significantly help. The general recommended daily recommendation of 2,000 mg/day will suffice in most cases.

Don’t forget the water!

After a workout, fluid intake is necessary to aid in recovery since losses in both carbohydrates and sodium hinder the process of rehydration. As a general rule, drink 24 ounces right after a workout or, more specifically, 24 ounces per pound of body weight loss.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at championfit@live.com or championfit.net. He writes a monthly fitness column.

Keep your Head Above Water

There may be times when you wonder why your energy levels are so low or why you’ve been feeling more fatigued than usual. Often it’s a result of simply not drinking enough water.

Since the human body is about 70 percent water, it only makes sense that water intake is key for maintaining optimal energy on a daily basis. Sufficient hydration is crucial to every physiological action that takes place in your body. Water is involved in the digestion of food, helps lubricate joints, is a carrier of nutrients to cells, affects hormone regulation and is the main component of blood.

Proper water intake is also a key component of weight loss. Fat metabolism simply does not occur at an optimal rate when we are chronically dehydrated.

Even when it comes to exercise performance, the importance of water is often forgotten. Much of our attention is focused on finding the right foods for fueling our workouts. But inadequate hydration can hinder exercise performance as well.

And you can’t rely on thirst as an indicator. If you wait until you are thirsty to rehydrate, you have already lost 1-2 percent of your body weight, which results in a decrease in performance and loss of mental focus and clarity. This is primarily due to a reduction in cardiovascular output, metabolic reactions and an increase in core temperature since water is the body’s coolant during exercise.

Needless to say, maintaining hydration can be a real difference maker when it comes to exercise performance. Outlined below are tips and specific guidelines for proper daily water intake and throughout the workout spectrum (pre-, post- and during).

Daily Intake

Current research from the Institute of Medicine found that the average water loss per day was nine cups for women and 13 cups for men, which is the minimum daily recommendation for each sex, respectively. If you’re active, then you need more.

Eating your fruits and vegetables will supplement that daily minimum. Some 19 percent of our fluid intake also comes from food (approximately 4 cups on average). Fruits and vegetables are water-dense foods and are great for getting additional hydration. Plus, they are packed with nutrients, high in fiber and low in calories, which can aid in weight loss as well. Here are some of the most water-packed foods you should add:

▪ Squash (cooked): 94 pecent

▪ Cantaloupe: 90 percent

▪ Oranges: 87 percent

▪ Apples: 86 percent

▪ Pears: 84 percent

Pre-Workout

By “pre-hydrating,” you will ensure that you begin physical activity adequately hydrated and with normal electrolyte levels. As a general rule, aim for 16 ounces 30 minutes prior to exercise.

During Workout

Remember, if you wait until you are thirsty, then your performance has already suffered. Aiming for 6-12 ounces every 15-30 minutes will match the rate of fluid loss under most circumstances. Also, most sport beverages that contain a low concentration (6-8 percent) of carbohydrates and electrolytes can be even more beneficial for longer or more intense workouts since they help to maintain sufficient energy and electrolyte levels in addition to just water.

Post-Workout

After a workout, fluid intake is necessary to aid in recovery since losses in both carbohydrates and sodium hinder the process of rehydration. As a general rule, 24 ounces right after a workout or, more specifically, 24 ounces per pound of body weight loss.

Beat the Heat

Increases in temperature naturally increase the rate of fluid loss in the body. At a minimum you should increase your intake by 16 ounces a day once the weather gets significantly warmer. In some cases, daily fluid needs could be as much as double as normal. Monitoring your weight changes throughout the day and pre- and post-workout can serve as an effective gauge as well.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at championfit@live.com or championfit.net. He writes a monthly fitness column.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/living/health-fitness/article83128122.html#storylink=cpy

Nutrition Tips to Get You on the Right Path

There is no shortage of information when it comes to nutrition. And unfortunately there isn’t a universal method or diet that will work for everyone either.

You hear about diets like Paleo, Atkins, The Zone Diet, eating for your blood type, etc. Each author will make a sound argument for the benefits of that approach, touting it as the “holy grail” of all diets, while critics will quickly line up to point out all of its pitfalls.

Now I’m not here to decipher or break down the pros and cons of each. Most plans are effective in helping the dieter to consume fewer calories than they burn, resulting in weight loss. But many other factors like genetics, environment, food allergies and daily energy demands will influence how an individual responds to dietary intake.

For example, a weekend warrior training for a triathlon will naturally have a higher need for carbohydrates and overall calorie intake compared to an office worker who hasn’t been physically active for five years. But regardless of individual differences and nutritional needs, the commonalities all people need is consistency, behavior change and an environment for success.

Let’s face it: Change is hard. Especially when it comes to nutrition. But if we start by implementing the right strategies first and foremost, our likelihood of success can only increase. Outlined in this article are three areas to begin with to get you on the right path and on your way to better nutritional wellness.

Weekly Prep

The majority of us have busy lifestyles and need to hit the ground running first thing in the morning each week. This means that gaining control over our food consumption will require setting aside a few hours or so weekly (usually on a Saturday or Sunday) to write out a menu and then shop for and prepare our meals for the week. The idea is to simply make the rest of your week easier by doing a little work in advance. The process goes like this:

▪ Sit down and come up with a meal plan, ideas and needs for the week.

▪ Decide roughly how much of each food you’ll need for the week and generate a shopping list.

▪ Hit the grocery store and, once you’re home, start cooking for the week. Cook the meat/beans, chop the veggies, set up snacks, etc.

You can either choose to prepare all the meals for the week or figure out which meals will be easy to cook just prior to meal time and save them for later. Typically, preparing meals that will need to be eaten during work hours or during busy times of the day when food prep becomes difficult is best done in advance. This usually consists of lunches and two or three daytime snacks.

Initially, this process will take some getting used to, but with time and practice it will become second nature and make a world of difference in terms of your consistency and success.

Create mindless eating solutions

In his book “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life,” Brian Wansink gives powerful solutions to healthier eating just by making simple tweaks in your home.

A 2015 Syracuse University study in which 230 homes were visited uncovered some interesting statistics based on what was visible on the kitchen counter:

▪ Participants weighed anywhere between 9 and 29 pounds more when they had items like cookies, crackers/chips, breakfast cereal and regular or diet soda on the counter compared to those who didn’t.

▪ Participants who had only fruit on the counter weighed 7 pounds less on average.

Also, how you serve dinner in your home can have an influence on the amount of food consumed. When serving food from the stove or counter, people ate 19 percent less food compared to those who served food “family style” directly from the table. Having to get up and walk is just enough for people to question if they are really that hungry.

Below is a checklist of ways to set up your kitchen and meals for better success. The goal is to achieve at least seven or more.

▪ Salad and vegetables are served before the entrée and starches are brought to the table.

▪ The main dish is pre-plated and served from the stove or counter.

▪ Your dinner plates are 9-10 inches wide.

▪ You eat sitting at the table with the TV turned off.

▪ There are two or fewer cans of soft drinks in your refrigerator at any one time.

▪ Your kitchen counters are organized (not messy).

▪ Pre-cut fruits and veggies are on your middle refrigerator shelf.

▪ At least six single servings of protein are in your fridge: eggs, yogurt, string cheese, tofu, etc.

▪ Your snacks are kept in one conveniently placed cupboard.

▪ The only food on your kitchen counter is a fruit bowl.

These are just a few of the countless ideas that Wansink provides in his insightful book. You can learn more by visiting www.slimbydesign.org.

Kitchen Makeover

There is a saying: “If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, you will eventually eat it.”

So if you wish to become leaner and healthier, you must remove or minimize foods that aren’t part of a healthy eating program and replace them with a variety of better choices. Here are some examples of what to have and what to eliminate:

Foods to have in

your pantry

Foods to have in your fridge/freezerFoods to eliminate or minimize
  • Whole oats
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Mixed nuts
  • Canned or bagged beans
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Green tea
  • Extra-lean beef
  • Chicken breasts
  • Salmon
  • Omega-3 eggs
  • Real cheese
  • At least four varieties of fruit
  • At least five varieties of veggies
  • Flax seed oil
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potato or corn chips
  • Fruit or granola bars
  • Regular or low-fat cookies
  • Crackers
  • Chocolate or candy
  • Soft drinks
  • Regular peanut butter
  • More than three types of alcohol
  • Instant foods like cake mixes and mashed potatoes

Source: “The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition” by John Berardi and Ryan Andrews

Sweet Potato Pot Pie

 

Sweet Potato Pot Pie

Great vegan recipe!  Polenta on the bottom, curried lentils in the middle, and yams on top.  If you’re preparing this recipe in advance to serve latter, try to stagger the steps enough to let the bottom two layers cool fully before you top them with the yams.  Cooling each layer separately will keep the dish from getting soggy from condensation.

YAMS

6 yams

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

LENTILS

6 cups water

2 cups lentils

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or tomato puree

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon sea salt

POLENTA

3 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup polenta

To make the yams, preheat the oven to 400˚ F, then bake the yams for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until they’re very soft.  When the yams are cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into the bowl, sprinkle the salt over them and mash until smooth.  Set aside.

To make the lentils, bring the water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat, then stir in the lentils, onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and salt. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the lentils are soft and start to break down.  Turn off the heat and set the lentils aside.

To make the polenta, combine the water, oil, and salt in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat to medium-low and slowly pour in the polenta, stirring all the while to prevent lumps.  Simmer, stirring almost constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until it thickens to the consistency of split pea soup.  Pour the polenta into a large casserole pan and smooth it into an even layer if need be.  Let it set for at least 10 minutes, until almost firm to the touch.

Preheat the over to 350˚ F.  Pour the lentils over the polenta and, if the lentils are hot, let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.  Spoon the mashed yams over the lentils in evenly spaced dollops then gently spread them with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 15 minutes, until heated through.  If the layers are at room temperature before baking, it may take 20 minutes; if you’ve prepared the dish in advance and they’re chilled, it could take as long as 30-40 minutes.

Courtesy of “The Accidental Vegan” – Devra Gartstein

What Supplements Should I Take?

As a trainer I’m constantly asked about what supplements are the best…  particularly for fat loss.  Now I’m always a little leery of products with terms like “shredd”…”thermoboost”…”lipozene”…etc. The reality is that many supplement companies do an effective job at marketing their product as the miracle breakthrough to monumental fat loss…the holy grail if you will.  While some of these products may be effective and produce some results, you can never be sure they will.  Why?  Well first, the supplement industry is not regulated in the U.S.  The FDA has the following statement on their website:

“The FDA does not analyze supplement products before they are sold to consumers.  The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the ingredient list is accurate and the ingredients are safe.  They are also required to make sure that the content matches the amount declared on the label.  FDA does not have adequate resources to analyze dietary products sent by consumers who want to know their content.  Instead, consumers may contact the manufacturer or commercial laboratory.”

In other words, there is no guarantee the product has the purity and potency as advertised.  In fact,  consumerlab states that only around 30% of supplements on the market actually do meet the criteria.

Regardless of the stats, a “fat burner” isn’t necessarily the right solution in most cases.  Where most people fall short is with their nutrition in general.  With that being said, “supplementing” where we are lacking makes more sense.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t strive to improve our eating, but rather include supplements on the days were our nutrition is less than ideal.

Now with that being said, here are the five supplements that I recommend to consider for regular consumption.

Multivitamin*

Food Equivalent: Varied Diet

As many of us are marginally deficient in several micro-nutrients, multivitamins should be taken everyday.  Especially if you are eating at a caloric deficit to lose body fat (increase nutrients without calories).  Take with meals, daily, or on days where dietary intake is lacking.

Fish Oil Supplement*

Food Equivalent: Fatty fish such as salmon

Traditionally Omega 3s were taken primarily to help improve cardiovascular health, but recent research has shown that the benefits go well beyond improving heart function.  Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to:

  • Improve nervous system and boost immune health
  • Increase fat metabolism and improve weight loss
  • Decrease risk of diabetes and certain cancers
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Improve function for those with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
  • Aid in workout recovery
  • Improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
  • Improve airway dilation

Much of the available whole-food fish supply contains environmental pollutants.  As a result, fish oil supplements should likely be taken every day while reducing fish intake to “occasional.”

Take with meals, daily.  High Omega 3 content; should contain at least 30% EPA and DHA.  Generally recommended dose is 2000-3000 mg.  Though according to consumerlab as high as 9 g per day can be recommended in some cases.  Consult with your health care professional to determine which is the optimal dose for you.

Greens Supplement*: Green food blend high in antioxidants, strongly alkaline and vitamin/mineral rich

Food Equivalent: Vegetables, Fruits

Use in circumstances when vegetable and fruits are inaccessible.  Frequency depends on fruit and vegetable intake: If vegetable and fruit intake is high (up to 10 servings/day), supplement use will be infrequent.  If fruit intake is low, supplement use should be daily or more frequent.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)*: are naturally occurring molecules (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that the body uses to build proteins. The term “branched chain” refers to the molecular structure of these particular amino acids.  Muscles have a particularly high content of BCAAs.

Food Source: Any protein-rich food

BCAAs are thought to aid in improving muscle recovery and minimizing muscle delayed onset muscle soreness, though research has yielded mixed results.  However, during high-intensity exercise sessions when fat loss and muscle preservation is desired, supplemented is warranted and recommended.

Green Tea*: contains high levels of substances called catechin polyphenols, known to possess strong antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antitumorigenic, and even antibiotic properties.  Based on these findings, as well as observational studies green tea has become popular as a daily drink for preventing cancer and heart disease.

Green tea is often thought to boost metabolism as well.  While there are some studies that support this claim, other reviews have been mixed.

Recommended dosage is around 1-3 cups per day.  However, green tea does contain caffeine and may conflict with certain medications.  Consult with your health care professional prior to consumption.

*Sources:

Berardi J & Andrews R.  The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition 2nd Edition 2012

www.consumerlab.com

For additional information or more details regarding individual supplements please visit:

www.consumerlab.com

www.dietarysupplementu.com

The power of Omega 3

Most of us know the value and benefit of taking a multivitamin.  Today’s food lacks the amount of nutrients our bodies need day in and day out.  Supplementing with a multivitamin can obviously help minimize deficiencies we may have.  And while a multivitamin should be a staple in almost everyone’s diet, an additional supplement that should be regarded as equally importance is an Omega 3.  Omega 3 also known as linolenic acid, is a polyunsaturated fat and is part of the “healthy fat” family.  Supplementing with Omega 3 and consuming healthy fats helps improve our cellular function be keeping the cells fluid and more pliable. In contrast, high amounts of saturated fats (animal fats) and trans fatty acids found in processed foods diminishes function by making our cells hard and rigid, Omega 3 consumption can make it easier to balance things out in our body.

Traditionally Omega 3s were taken primarily to help improve cardiovascular health, but recent research has shown that the benefits go well beyond improving heart function.  Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to:

  • Improve nervous system and boost immune health
  • Increase fat metabolism and improve weight loss
  • Decrease risk of diabetes and certain cancers
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Improve function for those with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
  • Aid in workout recovery
  • Improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
  • Improve airway dilation

You can see why many doctors, therapists, and nutritional experts are so fond of Omega 3s.  While many fatty acids can be synthesized by our own body, Omega 3 must be obtained through diet and supplementation.  Foods high in Omega 3 include; walnuts, hemp seeds, fish (wild salmon, light tuna, shrimp, etc.), chia seeds, flax (Ground or Oil), soy nuts, olive oil.  Try to add at least ½ -1 serving to each meal/snack throughout the day.  In addition to food, it is recommended to take a daily Omega 3 supplement as well.  The minimum recommended daily amount is generally 2-3g per day in either liquid or capsule form.   However, research has shown as high as 9-10g/day may be recommended in certain cases. Consult with your physician to determine the correct dosage for you and start reaping the benefits of this super supplement!

Additional Resources:

www.dietarysupplemntu.com

www.consumerlab.com

www.pubmed.com

www.precisionnutrition.com

www.pubmed.com

Sources:

“The Essentials of Sports and Exercise Nutrition, 2nd Edition – John Berardi, PhD; Ryan Andrews, MS, MA, RD

www.consumerlab.com