Monthly Archives: May 2012
A lot of people still buy into the misguided logic that exercise alone is enough to reach your physique goals. To put it plainly, nutrition should be your first line of defense when it comes to fat loss. Consider the amount of time it would take you to expend the calories you ingest in a measly tablespoon of nut butter (or scoop of mint chocolate chip for those not yet on the clean eating bandwagon) every day. How much easier would it be to simply NOT EAT that extra spoonful of nut butter? Clearly your time is better spent planning your meals for the day than slogging it out on the treadmill trying to make up for your nutritional transgressions.
Another trap a lot of gym-goers fall prey to is the idea that a “calorie is a calorie,” and that as long as they stay within an allotted caloric intake they will see their body composition and health improve. But the flaw in that logic is that a calorie is not simply a calorie: it is a product of three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat). Protein and carbohydrate both contribute 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram. For you math minded folks out there it’s a simple formula:
Total calories = (Grams of Protein X 4) + (Grams of Carbohydrate X 4) + (Grams of Fat X 9)
Your body processes each macronutrient differently and they have different implications for your health, energy level, and weight management depending on when and in what ratio they are consumed. You should aim for a proper balance of all three macronutrients, ideally coming from quality food sources. It doesn’t take a registered dietitian to recognize that a diet consisting of nothing but Twinkies is going to have a very different effect on the body than the same number of calories coming from lean proteins, fresh produce, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. So it really isn’t as simple is calories in, calories out as many would have you believe. A few words to help steer you in the right direction…
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”
Francois La Rochefoucauld
“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
“He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician.”
“We never repent of having eaten too little.”
“Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.”
Peter De Vries
Bottom line: Before you eat something, ask what, if anything, it’s going to do for your body. If you’re at a loss, or if you know the food in question is less than ideal for your health, well-being, and/or waistline, try replacing it with a more optimal option. And please, don’t try to justify something you know is junk by lying to yourself about what it provides you. Garbage in, garbage out.
Ok, I’m sure you ladies know there are a myriad of benefits to strength training. You already know it will make you stronger (uh… duh, it’s called strength training). You probably know it will improve your performance in daily activities and athletics. You may have even heard that it will improve your bone density, helping to prevent conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis. But there are a whole host of other benefits that may never have occurred to you. Drum roll please…
Build the body you really want
Most women believe that in order to get the lean physique they desire they need to spend hours at the gym every week, slogging away on cardio equipment. If they do venture out onto the weight floor, it’s usually high rep work with machines or dumbbells that weigh less than their purses. I hate to break it to you ladies, but steady state cardio is not the most effective tool for fat loss. Your body adapts exceedingly well to the demands of aerobic exercise, and as you become more efficient at it, it will take you longer to burn the same number of calories. Also, once you hop off of that piece of cardio equipment, your body is done burning calories. However, following a resistance training or anaerobic cardio session your body continues to burn calories long after you’ve left the gym, through excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (or EPOC). And to burst another fitness bubble, the low weight/high rep business will more than likely lead to a loss of muscle tissue, especially if you’re in a caloric deficit (psst this is exactly the opposite of what you want). If you want to build a lean, strong body you need a balance of proper nutrition, conditioning (both aerobic and anaerobic), and low(er) rep, heavy resistance training. If your goal is to run a marathon or to look like a marathon runner, then by all means continue to embrace the steady state cardio.
But if you’d rather look like a sprinter, you might want to try some HIIT and lifting some heavy weight.
You have absolutely no idea what your body is capable of. Once you start increasing your strength through heavy weight training, you’ll be astonished at your abilities. Picture perfect pushups? An unassisted chin up? Deadlifting your body weight? All possible if you work hard and train consistently. It will take time and diligent effort, but nothing worth having ever comes easily or quickly. Two years ago I struggled to perform a single body weight pull up, and now I can bust out 33 in 5 minutes! Accomplishing physical things you once thought were impossible will have a positive carry-over effect into your life outside the gym as well. Something as simple as knowing you don’t need to rely on someone else to lift that heavy bag of dog food out of your trunk or to open that pesky pickle jar can be very empowering.
Change your mindset from negative to positive
All too often a woman’s primary objective when she sets foot in the gym is to burn calories and reduce body fat. Having this kind of negative motivation may work in the short-term, but it will leave you burned out and disappointed over the long haul. By constantly striving toward performance based goals, strength training will give you something positive to focus on, making your workouts more meaningful and hopefully more fun! This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improved body composition. But giving yourself a positive goal to work towards will impart you with a sense of purpose, keeping you coming back to the gym day after day, week after week, month after month. By staying consistent with your training and achieving your performance goals, the physique goals you have your sights on will naturally follow suit.
It’s arguable that pretty much any type of physical activity will bring you some degree of stress relief through the release of endorphins, those “feel good” chemicals your brain releases during a workout. Strength training is the best outlet for turning your daily stressors into something positive. Had a bad day at work? Kids refusing to cooperate? Husband being less than appreciative of all you do in a day? Take it out on the weights. Use your stress to fuel your training session, push yourself to beat last week’s workout, and set a PR. Once you finish, you’ll likely leave the gym in a much better mood than when you arrived.
Set a positive example
Take a moment to imagine your little girl, all grown up and plodding away for hours on an elliptical trying to lose the last ten pounds. Now imagine your little girl busting out her first strict body weight chin-up or setting a PR on deadlifts. Which image do you want to see in her future? Intentionally or not, our actions and ideals transfer to our children, and the mother-daughter dynamic is particularly important. The way a mother treats her body, her attitude towards fitness, and her motivation for going to the gym becomes ingrained in her daughter’s subconscious. If you think your daughter hasn’t picked up on the fact that your only reason for going to the gym is to lose weight, you’re kidding yourself.
Why not show her a more positive and rewarding reason, like building strength and improving performance?
Because what you’ve been doing is no longer working (or never worked to begin with)
This one should be fairly self-explanatory so I’ll keep it brief. How long have you been doing what you’re doing? And how’s that working out for ya? Obviously, if the approach you’ve been using for years has left you dissatisfied, something about it is inherently flawed. My suggestion? Change. Get out of your comfort zone and get on the weight floor. Don’t be intimidated by the men there, 99% of them don’t know what they’re doing anyway (I’m talking to you, mister 40 inch waistline doing 10 sets of bicep curls and calling it a day). Don’t worry that you’re going to get “big and bulky,” you simply do not have the anabolic hormones (hello testosterone!) to support significant muscle gains (more on this in a future post).
Not comfortable on your own? Not sure of your form? Hire a trainer to coach you through the basics (compound movements like squats, deadlifts, pushups, etc.) and to set up a simple but effective program catered to you and your goals. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and train!
When it comes to exercising and eating right, a lot of people overlook the importance of commitment and consistency. It’s easy for most people to be consistent for a week, a month, even a year. But when you feel you’ve started to stagnate, your commitment to your goals is called into question. Maybe the fast clip at which the scale had been dropping has slowed to a crawl. Maybe your deadlift numbers have stalled for months on end. Maybe spending Sunday afternoons prepping food in an effort to eat clean throughout the week is starting to feel like a chore. It becomes imperative at times like this to remember exactly what it is you’re striving for and why you’re striving for it. A few words to keep you on track…
“Do not lose hold of your dreams or asprirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”
“Experience has taught me that there is one chief reason why some people succeed and others fail. The difference is not one of knowing, but of doing. The successful man is not so superior in ability as in action. So far as success can be reduced to a formula, it consists of this: doing what you know you should do.”
“You must have long term goals to keep you from being frustrated by short term failures.”
Charles C. Noble
“Most of us serve our ideals by fits and starts. The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.”
Cecil B. De Mille
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
Bottom line: Having a clear vision of your goal and why it’s important that you achieve it will make staying consistent more manageable and, hopefully, enjoyable. You need the what and the why to commit to the how. Take a moment today to reflect on your goals, why they are important to you, and what you’re willing to do in the present to make them a reality in your future.
Looking for a clean source of protein that won’t blow your grocery budget? You probably already stock one as a pantry staple: canned tuna. I know, it’s not the most exciting food in the world, but with a little creativity you can take your tuna to another level (without the mayo usually used in tuna salad). With roughly 30 grams of protein per four-ounce serving, canned tuna is one the best bargains for a clean eater.
Ingredients (4 patties):
- 2 (5 0z) cans water-packed tuna, drained
- 1 Tbsp (1 oz) spicy brown mustard
- 1 Tbsp (1 oz) hot sauce
- spices of choice (I used several shakes of garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, and plenty of cayenne)
- 2 Tbsp oat flour (I ground rolled oats in a food processor, but you could use quick oats)
- 3 Tbsp liquid egg whites (or one whole egg white)
- 3 oz broccoli, finely chopped (you could use any combination of veggies: celery, onion, bell peppers, etc.)
- cooking spray
Ok, these instructions couldn’t be any easier…ready for it… Mix. Divide. Cook. Serve.
Seriously? You need me to elaborate?
MIX all ingredients.
DIVIDE evenly into fourths and shape into patties.
COOK in a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.
I placed mine atop a bed of baby spinach and topped it all off with avocado. You could add any of your favorite toppings: salsa, Greek yogurt, guacamole…or if you’re anything like me, extra hot sauce 🙂
Idiot proof, easy on the wallet, easy on the waistline. What more could you ask for?
Wandering through my local grocery store a few days ago, I noticed a disturbing trend among the products displayed on the aisle end-caps. Products that for all intents and purposes are nutritional wastelands are being marketed and labeled making them appear wholesome choices for you and your family.
Big food companies (the likes of Kellogg’s, Nabisco, Post, General Mills, etc.) have grown wise to the fact that Americans are becoming more health conscious and are attempting to improve their diets. Seeing an opportunity to cash in on the trend, these processed food companies are slapping nutritional buzz words like natural, organic, and most recently gluten-free onto product labels, in a feeble attempt to make their “food” appear more nutritious. Let’s get a few things straight here folks. The FDA has no clear cut definition of the term natural, and as such a company can label virtually any product all natural. The term organic refers to the manner in which a food is produced (i.e. without the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and additives), not necessarily how nutritious it is.
Case(s) in point:
Simply Natural White Cheddar Cheetos from the kind folks at FritoLay…
So they’re made with sea salt…they’re still Cheetos, just as devoid of quality nutrition as the original.
Looks like fat laden, cheese-flavored air…but hey, they’re natural.
Nutella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread from Ferrero (yes, that Ferrero)…
Nutella’s manufacturer recently got into a bit of hot water over misleading the public to believe that their product carries nutritional and health benefits, marketing it as part of a nutritious breakfast, leading to a $3 million settlement and an agreement to change the product labels and some marketing statements. Of course the current label still reflects Ferrero’s idea of a “balanced breakfast”: slapping Nutella onto whole wheat bread and paring it with both skim milk and orange juice.
Sounds like a whole lot of simple carbohydrates, very little quality protein, and virtually no healthy fats…very balanced indeed…
WhoNu? Nutrition Rich Cookies…
Newsflash: the vitamins and minerals these nutritional wastelands contain were added by way of fortification. In other words, the company synthetically added vitamins and minerals into a food that does not naturally contain them. Kind of like justifying eating a handful of Skittles by following it up with a multivitamin.
Lest you think you’re better off with the nutritional powerhouses in the “natural and organic” section of your local grocery store, the innovators at Earth’s Best Organic bring your family these Letter of the Day cookies…
Whether you call it organic evaporated cane juice or just plain sugar…it’s still a simple carbohydrate, devoid of any nutritional value.(Sidenote: I thought Cookie Monster was no longer all about the cookies…)
Now you can find MilkBite Milk and Granola Bars in the refrigerated section from the masterminds at Kraft Foods…
Placing them along the perimeter of the store…clever move Kraft. But you aren’t fooling anyone.
Don’t even get me started on the claims about providing the calcium of a glass of milk, vitamin D, protein, and fiber. They fail to point out the whopping 10 grams of sugar, the fact that the measly 3 grams of fiber and the paltry amount of vitamin D are both fortified (read: not naturally occurring). Here’s a thought: instead of relying on a food loaded with fractionated palm kernel oil and soy lecithin for your body’s calcium requirements, try incorporating more greens like broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, and kale that provide more absorbable forms of calcium along with a slew of other important, naturally occurring micro-nutrients (think vitamin K, C, magnesium, manganese, and boron).
Saving the best for last, the lovely people at Kellogg’s bring you Eggo FiberPlus Chocolate Chip Waffles…
Providing 35% of your daily requirement of fiber (in the form of added oat fiber) and “rich” in antioxidants, vitamin E, and zinc (all by way of fortification)…along with a laundry list of ingredients ranging from soybean and palm oil to soy lecithin and various forms of sugar. Looking for the convenience of a frozen waffle but want actual nutrition? Make a batch of these over the weekend, freeze, and thaw when you’re ready for them.
So the question is, are consumers actually falling for this blatantly deceitful marketing? Unfortunately it appears as such. According to a 2010 study published in the psychology journal Judgment and Decision Making, the majority of subjects believed that organic cookies were lower in calories than conventional cookies and could be eaten with greater frequency. Similarly, when considering a woman with a weight loss goal, the subjects believed forgoing her planned exercise regime was more acceptable solely because she opted for an organic rather than conventional dessert. It seems the “halo” of buzzwords like natural, healthy, and organic lead people to believe a food is lower calorie and therefore more acceptable to eat with reckless abandon. Marketers take full advantage this misinformation among consumers, simultaneously expanding the wallets of big food corporations and the waistlines of well-intentioned consumers. Don’t let the labels fool you, that organic Oreo is still an Oreo and has no business being in your grocery cart.
Bottom line: Don’t buy into the hype and marketing on the front of the package. Turn it over and read the nutrition label and the ingredient list. (Hint: if it has more than two ingredients, chances are it isn’t real food and will do nothing to support your health.) Better yet, try to avoid foods that come with a label and a bar code. Instead, opt for whole unprocessed foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
A few motivating words to kick start your week…
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.”
“A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.”
— John Henry Newman
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
“If we wait until our lives are free from sorrow or difficulty, then we wait forever. And miss the entire point.”
— Dirk Benedict
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
Bottom line: stop looking for the right time to start a healthy habit, you’ll be waiting forever. Stop talking about your fitness goals…make them a reality!
“I don’t have time to eat well.” “Eating clean is way too complicated.” “It’s so much easier to head to the drive-through.”
Clean eating doesn’t have to be time consuming, complicated, or intimidating. Case in point: my crock-pot pork tenderloin. The actual prep time is very minimal and you’re free to go about your day while the slow-cooker does all the work for you!
- 1 large pork tenderloin, trimmed of visible fat and broken down into chunks
- 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 Tbsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- salt&pepper to taste
- cooking spray (go for an olive oil or coconut oil)
- 2 c water (or low-sodium chicken stock)
Blend the seasonings (garlic powder through pepper) in a small dish. Rub the pork with the prepared seasoning mixture.
Brown the pork in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Note that the goal here is not to cook the meat all the way through, just to sear the outside. Do not crowd your pan; work in batches if necessary. Once all the meat has been browned, transfer to the bottom of your slow-cooker and then cover with water (or stock). Cook on high for about 2 hours, then reduce the heat to low for an additional 3 to 4 hours.
Now you could stop there…and believe me, with the smell emanating from your kitchen, it’s going to take some serious willpower not to just dig right in. But with a little extra effort you can mimic traditional southern pulled pork barbeque.
Preheat your oven to 425, or for the brave and impatient preheat the broiler.
Pour off the cooking liquid through a sieve, reserving about a cup.
“Fork” your pork!
After “forking” your meat should look like traditional pork barbeque. Pile into a foil lined baking sheet and then cover with your reserved cooking liquid.
Roast the pork, flipping every five to ten minutes (more frequently if you opt to use the broiler). Continue until the liquid evaporates and the edges of the pork become crispy. Set a timer and keep an eye out so you don’t burn the meat!
Once it’s finished, just add some fibrous veggies (yay broccoli!) and a quality fat source (avocado, anyone?) for a complete clean meal!
If you’re feeling really ambitious you can make your own vinegar based barbeque sauce:
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (go for the good stuff, raw and unfiltered)
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less depending on how spicy you prefer)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Stevia extract (or Splenda or a bit of honey can be substituted if you prefer)
Whisk ingredients together until well mixed. Serve over your pork! If you wind up microwaving leftover pork, the extra liquid will help to keep it from drying out.
If you don’t bother with the second step of the process, this meal will take you no more than 10 minutes of prep time.