Monday, March 30, 2015

Eating Out and Staying Sane

I am a firm believer that you shouldn't forgo social interactions to stay on track with your health and fitness goals. That being said, it can be really tempting to stay home where you know you have healthy meals ready for you as opposed to trying to resist the inevitable temptation of restaurant foods. Been there, felt that, admittedly done it a couple of times.
I've put together a list of healthier alternatives for you to assist in your social life being COMPATIBLE with your fitness, health, and even aesthetic goals!

1. Choose the "make your own" restaurant, such as Chipotle. This is a fitness-lover's dream place, because they can build a meal to their exact tastes AND needs. However, when you are standing at that long counter of options, don't feel like you NEED to pick one of the options they give you at every step of the station. Brown or white rice? How about neither? You have the option to say no thanks, instead of picking the "lesser evil" of the two. (Now of course, rice is not evil, just illustrating that it would be an easy thing to leave out that would save you some macros/calories for later!)
The same can be done with dessert...choose a "build your own" frozen yogurt shop over a place has a limited menu of intricate options. What you put in your mouth is literally in your pick the toppings and even how much. No worries about anyone else's clumsy fingers putting double what you wanted, etc. Frozen yogurt shops will even let you weigh your bowl multiple times throughout your toppings process! I usually weigh mine before I start putting toppings on at all just to get a gauge on how much froyo alone I's not weird, and it's totally your right. I've never once had an employee be anything but accepting of asking to use the scale before I'm ready to pay. It happens more than you think, so if that's something that would make you feel more on track, DO IT.
2. On that same note, order the BOWL instead of tortilla-wrapped entree. I almost always order a burrito bowl/salad instead of the burrito itself because I can take those calories I saved from the tortilla (one has 45-50 grams of carbohydrate and around 10g of fat!) and use them for yummy fillings like rice and beans! Bonus: those fillings actually leave me feeling more satisfied anyway.
3. Always order sauce on the side. This goes for salad dressings, ketchup, mayo, BBQ sauce...anything. VERY rarely are the dishes actually prepared in a way where they can't separate the sauce from the food before serving it to you.
4. Go with grilled! Skip fried, and sometimes even baked (often restaurants will bake proteins with light breading that's hard to detect and isn't in the description of the dish on the menu). Less grease, oil, breading, and tastes the most FRESH!
5. Order from the "protein" sections of the menu. By this I mean head straight for the "Chicken & Seafood" or "Steak & Chops"-type headings versus the "Pasta"or "Sandwiches & Flatbreads". This does not mean cut out carbohydrate or fat from your meal, but rather make it easier on yourself by literally being able to see each macronutrient separated on your plate. Do you think it's easier to try and estimate the protein, carb, and fat content of a 6 ounce filet, wild rice, and green beans meal, or buffalo chicken flatbread with 8 different toppings/sauces?
6. Not all salads are created equal. Beware of the word "salad" and don't be tricked into thinking it's always a better alternative. A protein-topped salad can be an awesome (and filling) way to go for dinner, especially topped with yummy healthy fats, such as avocado and olives. But some come with so many different ingredients that it can be more of a buffet of kitchen ingredients than a true salad. Feel free to ask them to leave something OFF completely (such as croutons, for example), or substitute something you see they have in its place.
7. If you're going to have alcohol, skip the added sweeteners and go for the hard stuff! Sounds weird coming from a health and fitness fanatic huh? Well, hear me out. When you order a super sweet cocktail, it doesn't taste like you're drinking as much alcohol as it would in a stronger, less diluted drink...aka: you'll be tempted to order MORE drinks, even if you weren't originally planning to. Another way to get around these sugary calories is to order the "skinny" version, although it sometimes feels like they aren't quite as strong, which may lead to a similar scenario, so pick your poison (no pun intended ;)). If you weren't thinking of hard liquor, go with a glass of wine over beer. More antioxidants, less calories (more often than not), win-win.
8. Last, but certainly not least, is always ask if they can modify a dish for you, or substitute a side, even if it isn't listed on the menu. A good example is asking for no cheese in your salad, or on your sandwich. Or as another example I've been at a Mexican restaurant before where I knew they had good ingredients that I would feel good eating if put together in the right combination, but couldn't quite find the combo I was looking for on the menu. I politely requested a bowl with some of their ingredients such as fajita meat, black beans, veggies, and salsa be put into one bowl instead of coming with all the additional sides and wraps that the entrees listed had, and guess what? They happily created it for me. The server may say they "aren't sure" or haven't ever done it before, but if you're POLITE (super important) and nicely ask them if they wouldn't mind checking with the chef, they will. At the end of the day it's literally their job to serve you, so just don't be rude about it.

^^^This is an ideal option when eating on the go for me! I love to be able to put together a huge bowl of whatever my heart desires, while still sticking to my goals :) This is from my local natural market, but I do the same general ingredients when eating at more of a chain, such as Chipotle.

I hope this helps ease any worries about eating out, and how to get the body you desire while still keeping up with social and familial get-togethers.
Just remember, every pro was once an amateur; this hasn't always been easy for me! Even when I first got certified as a trainer I was still figuring this all out.
Baby steps, and you'll get more comfortable and intuitive as you progress!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Avoiding the "Holiday 5"

Americans have a very hard time keeping their weight under control around the holidays. The current weight gain statistics have the average somewhere around a staggering 5-8 pounds in less than a month! Starting at Thanksgiving, we indulge through New Year's Eve night, and wake up on the first of the year feeling terrible (and most likely hungover). Why does this happen? Most people see the holidays and the food and inactivity that comes with them as out of their control, or too hard to change. Soon, they've gained the unfortunate "Holiday 5" and resort to crash dieting practices.

Here are some easy ways to keep your weight, sanity, and most importantly HEALTH in check this holiday season.

1. Keep up with your workouts. Keeping your body moving will do wonders when your nutrition isn't what it normally is, and exercise has a way of promoting better nutritional decisions throughout the day. Plus, there's nothing like killing it at the gym to make you feel like you've really earned having a few of grandma's famous cookies, am I right?
2. Set a water goal for the day that you must meet before you indulge in any alcohol! Alcohol dehydrates you, so you can better avoid a terrible hangover by being hydrated before having any, as opposed to having to play catch-up later. For example, if I am going to have a glass of wine with dinner or dessert, I will only do so if I've gotten my daily gallon in for the day!
3. Limit alcoholic beverages per gathering. If you have Christmas Eve, Christmas day dinner, and an ugly sweater party to hit three days in a row, chances are there will be alcohol, sweets, breads...etc. All you need is a small plan for what you're going to have and when. This is NOT to say don't enjoy and indulge with family and friends; rather that you don't need to have 4 glasses of wine every day and night for a week! In addition to the calories from alcohol itself, you're less in control over what you eat while you're drinking.
4. Bring healthy snack foods with you to replace cookies, fudge, and other sweets that may be out. Cut up some veggies or bring a bag of berries with you so you can make the healthier choice and not feel guilty when you want to get seconds at dinner! Plus, snacking on veggies will fill you with fiber, which has been proven to keep your cravings in check.
5. Don't arrive to the gathering hungry! Eat a small meal or snack before heading out, and you'll be less likely to binge on what's in front of you later. A problem that many people have is holding out on what they eat throughout the day leading up to an event, so by the time they get there they're ravenous! Eat multiple small healthy meals throughout the day and keep your metabolism in check.
6. Distract yourself from the food table. Join a conversation or set up a puzzle table with people in another room so you aren't all standing over the food, and chances are you'll enjoy talking so much that you won't feel the need to add food to the equation!
7. Eat more slowly. Studies have shown that when people try and cram their meal into a shorter time frame, like saying "I'll only eat for a half an hour and then I'm done" eat MORE because they eat more quickly and their bodies aren't able to identify with being full as quickly. A great way to start is by putting your utensil down in between each bite.
8. Skip the sauces. Adding gravy, butter, and extra chocolate sauce to your already higher calorie meals is a recipe for feeling guilty and sluggish later. You can easily cut out 500 calories per day by simply not adding anything to what you have on your plate! Yes you're already indulging, but that doesn't mean you have to force yourself into eating everything you possibly can.
9. Start an active holiday tradition like a family walk after dinner, or a game of twister while you're waiting for the food to finish cooking. Getting everyone off of the couch and burning some calories will make everyone feel better and more in control.
10. Use smaller plates. Simply having less area to fill will force you to not only eat less, but choose your foods more wisely!

I hope you all have Happy Healthy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beat the Bloat!

We've all been there; had a little too much to eat and drink, not enough sleep, and even though a ton of FUN, we're feeling the effects of whichever event or holiday we just celebrated.
So now what? Instead of standing and staring at our watery faces and bellies in the mirror (guilty), here are some tips to get you over the water-retention hump and on your way back to your pre-holiday body!

1. Drink more water! Seems counter-intuitive right? But drinking more water allows your body to excrete more water through excretion, thereby ridding you of the water "retention". In addition, water helps to flush your kidneys, digestive system, and hydrate your body, thereby allowing your metabolism to function more effectively. Especially if you've overindulged a bit in the sweets department, you may notice your skin tone and complexion suffer as a result. Want to know what helps clear skin up? WATER. Alright I think you get it.
2. Get your sweat on! Sweating is a way of "evaporative cooling" which allows your body to regulate its own temperature. In order to sweat, your metabolism is most likely in a higher than normal state since a higher metabolism usually results in a higher resting body temperature. Not only does sweating get your heart rate up, but it helps you get rid of sodium that is also being retained under your skin. Ever wondered why your sweat tastes salty? You were retaining sodium! A great way to sweat a little harder is to sit in the sauna. Use caution when using a sauna however, because you will also sweat out some essential vitamins and electrolytes, so supplement with a daily vitamin and bring water in there with you!
3. Lower your sodium intake for a day or two! Replace it with other spices such as garlic, ginger, black pepper, etc...Mrs. Dash has a great line of sodium-free spices!
4. De-stress! Take a long soak in an epsom salt bath, burn a soothing candle, have a Netflix marathon...whatever it is that gets your mind to stop racing. When your stress levels are high, so are your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and higher cortisol levels are correlated with higher water retention, specifically in the "midsection".
5. Eat/drink more fiber! Fiber cleanses your intestinal tract and keeps things running smoothly, further aiding in the removal of any excess fluid!
6. Cut out alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to urinate, often excreting more water than the beverage itself contains. This puts your body in a dehydrated state, and a dehydrated body desperately tries to hold on to any water you give it...leading to bloating!
7. Last but certainly not least, don't go to extremes with your diet! Get back on track, but don't cut out huge chunks of calories or only drink vegetables in order to slim down quickly. Your body is already trying to combat something "not right", so don't make it try to understand yet another change! Just take a deep breath, give yourself a break, and start fresh!

Here's an illustration of what my post-Thanksgiving "transformation" looked like. No I didn't look terrible on the left, but my face says it all; I was unbelievably uncomfortable (stomach discomfort/rumbling, constant feeling of fullness...etc.)
All I did was hit the gym, increase my veggie and water intake a bit, and get back to my "normal" daily meals pre-feast. Two days later, back to normal!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Myth of "toning"

The number one thing I have clients tell me they want to get out of their training sessions: get more "toned".
While this has become an everyday word in the fitness world, it is misleading.

First of all, your muscles either shrink (from inactivity) or grow (from resistance training). Decreasing overall body fat percentage will lead to more defined muscles, because your muscles will be more apparent when they have less fat covering them. This is not "toning"; you are just exposing the muscle that you already have.
In addition, your muscle shape is largely genetically-based. You're born with it. That doesn't mean there's no hope for you, it just means that doing 1,000 crunches everyday isn't going to give you differently SHAPED abs. That's why when some people have abs they are a "six-pack" and others have more of a hard, flat stomach with little cross-cutting. Either way, you won't see definition through your midsection unless the body fat that is there decreases.

Another really important clarification: your body doesn't spot reduce. Doing ab exercises everyday doesn't mean that your body is going to use that calorie deficit you put it in to reduce your abdominal body fat. Your body is (unfortunately) going to do whatever the hell it wants. Again, largely because of genetics. So even if you're doing more crunches than you are lunges, your body may lose fat from your legs before it does your abdomen...and for your workout buddy it could be the exact opposite! This is why it's so important to focus on overall muscle building and fat loss, not "toning".

Knowing this, it's best to focus on HOW to lose that body fat, build muscle, and uncover those shapely muscles you already have, or are currently working to develop.
8-12 reps is ideal for muscle growth (aka "hypertrophy"), although there are many different opinions on rep ranges. One thing fitness professionals do agree on, though, is that the high rep, low weight or even body weight workouts that claim they will help you "tone"...are BS. What is doing 25 crunches, 20 air squats, 15 burpees, and 10 pushups going to do for you? CARDIO, that's what.You may feel tired after completing one of these fad Pinterest-y workouts, but it's not going to do much for your muscle shape or size.
Generally, I do either 3 sets of 10 reps, 3 sets of 8, 4 sets of 8, or 4 sets of 6. This obviously varies depending on the exercises being performed.
If you're looking to decrease body fat, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great way to go because it is a more intense, but shorter workout that utilizes both oxidative and anaerobic/ATP-PCr systems. (This is generally done in repeating intervals of 30 seconds high intensity and 1:30 of moderate intensity for about 20 minutes.)


A myth that goes hand in hand with this, is that women who lift weights will get "bulky" and look "manly". This is just. not. true. Seriously ladies...DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE WEIGHT ROOM! Weights are going to give you those "toned" muscles, sexy curves, and ABS. Women just don't have the hormones necessary to bulk up like men do who lift unless they are eating a HUGE surplus of calories in order to purposefully gain that weight.

I did this in only 10 months by lifting heavy A$$ weights and barely doing any cardio. Just cleaned up my diet, and hit the weight room! I promise...weights are your friend.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SMART Resolutions

As the New Year approaches, many people around the world realize that they may not have accomplished as much as they would have liked to this year. "What have I really done in 2013 that I can be proud of?"
And then the inevitable happens: the resolution-ers unite!...for about 3 to 4 weeks. That's right, most resolutions don't last past February. But why? Why are so many people so set on reaching new goals, but when the time comes can't commit and follow through?
Well, I'm here to say that resolutions CAN work. There's a big BUT to that statement: BUT most people don't know how to set a goal that is realistic/powerful enough to stick to. 
Here's a little goal setting advice from a psychology and health studies double major (who took oodles of sports psych and nutrition electives...and is a fitness professional...and former college athlete. I've had to learn how to set goals ALOT😉)

First, let's talk about SMART Goals.
S: specificity. Your goals must be specific to your needs an aspirations. Goals are not universal!
M: measurable. Try to identify a way in which you can measure your goal attainment CONCRETELY. For example, losing X number of pounds.
A: attainable. Most goals are attainable, but first you must recognize what needs to be done in order for you to do so. For example, if you've had problems reaching similar goals in the past because of low motivation, this should be the focus of your personal preparation!
R: realistic. You must be both willing and able to make a change and work towards that goal. 
T: time-based. Set a deadline! And mini deadlines to help you stay on track to meet that longer deadline. For example, if you want to lose 15 pounds in 3 months, you could try to evenly lose 5 pounds each month. If this doesn't go as planned at the end of the first time check (first month), you have time to revisit your strategies to help you get to the end goal!

^you better believe I used SMART goal techniques to make this much progress!

Once you've successfully made a goal that fulfills all the requirements of SMART goals...the next hurdle is actually getting your butt in gear and FOLLOWING THROUGH. You can make goals all day everyday, but they're not going to do you any good in your head. Here are a couple of extra tips for success in 2014:
*Tell someone else about your goals. Hell, tell a TON of people. Point is, when you feel that other people are aware of what you need to do to accomplish your goals, it will keep you accountable. Plus, having friends and/or family in on it could be an awesome support system to pump you up when you're striving for success!
*Write your goals down. WRITE THEM DOWN! It seems so silly and simple...but people have been shown to be more successful at reaching goals if they are literally staring them in the face. 
*Practice/ use SELF-TALK. Self talk is a cognitive technique that many athletes practice so they can use when they are stressed, being too hard on themselves, or using other performance hindering behaviors. An example would be to talk oneself through a tough craving if trying to lose weight! By giving yourself examples of why you're being too hard on yourself (ex: if you call yourself fat for eating too much, say "stop! I'm not fat for eating this one thing, I will just remember this unhappy feeling next time I think I need an extra ____, and realize that losing the weight will make me happier than this extra food").

If you'd like any help setting goals for the new year, especially fitness/health goals...let me know! I'd love to help :)


Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Science of Cheat Meals: Why you NEED them.

First of all: I would like to formally announce that I have joined a competition team and will be competing in the spring! I will be competing in the bikini division, and prepping for it NATURALLY. I know many people are skeptical of this sport because they assume everyone is following horrible diets and using illegal substances...but there are a huge number of people who aren't, and I will be one of them!
Go check it all out HERE!

Now, cheat meals are a topic of mass confusion among many people learning how to eat clean. Many can't understand why you would work so hard to make progress with your diet, only to "ruin" it with a big pizza or plate of cheese fries.
Well there is a legitimate scientific reason behind these indulgences, and why most people do them once per week.

First of all, cheat meals will only benefit those who are in a calorie deficit (ex: burning more than they are consuming). This doesn't mean they're necessarily restricting their calories to a super low amount, but rather that their diet plan allows them to have enough carb, fat, and protein to keep a certain deficit after working out everyday. For example, my current prescribed deficit is 500 calories per day, and I do this through carb cycling for my upcoming bikini competition.
Second, cheat meals are working to effect Leptin: a hormone circulating in the blood that helps regulate (suppress) appetite. Leptin levels decrease when you are in a calorie deficit, so cheat meals will increase your leptin levels for a short period of time, and your metabolism will respond positively to expend these additional calories. However, this metabolism spike doesn't immediately disappear after you are done eating your cheat continues at an elevated level afterwards leading to an even greater energy expenditure and often, fat loss.
Food in general also has a thermogenic effect (the thermogenic effect of food, or TEF), which simply means that your body increases energy expended in addition to metabolism after you eat food in order to aid in digesting that food. This is related to, but independent from leptin levels.

These physiological upsides to cheat meals do not mean everyone who is practicing clean eating should take one day out of the week and eat whatever they want to the point of being sick. Instead, they should be a planned, "responsible cheat" MEAL. Not day.

(The Rock knows how to cheat^)

There is one thing that people should beware of when using cheat meals in their diet plan: the psychological aspects of food. As we know, food is addictive. So if cheat meals aren't controlled enough, they can become mentally degrading, as people will either start to feel like they can't continue their diet without one, or the opposite effect; they may dread them and choose to skip.
Remember that they should be fun and enjoyable. Pick something that you love, that doesn't totally fit your macro nutrient goals, but that won't make you sick. For example, a stack of cinnamon roll pancakes and a side of bacon for a cheat "brunch" (the best meal of any day) will leave me feeling full and satisfied. But if I follow that up with a huge creamy pasta dish with garlic bread and dessert for lunch...I would most likely feel very sick and the whole essence of the cheat meal would be lost. Everyone should follow their own intuition when it comes to choosing a cheat, as not everyone will respond the same way to the same foods. John can eat an entire large pizza to himself when he's hungry for a cheat meal...and I would probably be rolling in pain after half of one.

I hope this helps!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Gallon a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

Sorry for being MIA for the entire month of September! Jeez, that's a long time. Mainly I've kept busy with new clients and classes, but I have finally found a semi-permanent schedule (T-GOD).

I know that I've previously mentioned that part of my clean-eating lifestyle is drinking a gallon of water per day, but I thought I'd explain a little deeper into why I (and many other body builders) do this!

1. The majority of the human body is water. If you don't actively refill your water stores, you will suffer the effects of dehydration which is harmful in MANY ways.
2. Your skin will thank you. Hydrated skin is happy skin. You will breakout less, have better color, and toxins that exit through the skin will be unhindered.
3. Drinking water will help you lose weight. When you are dehydrated, those toxins that are trying to exit your body are stored in fat cells until the fat can be released safely (under hydrated conditions). Also, drinking water speeds up metabolism for a short period after ingesting; therefore if you are constantly drinking water over the course of the day, your overall metabolism will increase.
4. Water aids in carrying nutrients to the parts of your body that need them! AKA less nutrient deficiency.
5. Water is an energy source for the human body! Want to feel less sluggish and get through the day without passing out at your desk? Grab a gallon and CHUG!
6. Staying properly hydrated can actually decrease your blood pressure, at the least keep it from increasing. Here's why: blood is almost completely composed of water (over 90%) when adequately hydrated. If the body becomes dehydrated, so does your blood, which increases its thickness, leading to increased resistance to blood flow from the surrounding vessels. This increased resistance (or pressure) leads to an increase in the overall blood pressure.
7. Digestive health digestive health digestive health! Do you like being constipated? ME EITHER.
8. Water is zero calories. What more explanation do you need? Not only is it full of health benefits, but it won't effect your calorie intake from foods...AKA being able to eat more...BONUS!

These are just a few of the many reasons I drink a gallon a day. Other than the excessive trips to the bathroom (guilty), I have led a happier, healthier life since starting this regimen.