What is the best diet?

 

Yesterday a friend asked me, “so what do you think the best diet is?”

Talk about a tough question…so why not answer it with the easiest cop out answer.

The best diet for someone is the diet that they can enjoy, stick to, get results on, and maintain an optimal level of health at their current point in life.

What a terrible answer…but it’s really the truth.

To break it down:

Eating what you enjoy.

How many of you have tried some kind of fad diet, filled with foods you never eat, and foods you hate? I’m sure you stuck to it for years, and were a very pleasant person to be around.

You have to eat what you enjoy to be successful.

Does that mean I can have a successful diet on ice cream, bacon and homemade chex mix? Probably not all the time, but I can fit those kinds of things in which gets me to point number two…

Sticking to it.

If you enjoy what you eat (most of the time) you are likely going to keep it up, right?

This is where finding true moderation comes in. Moderation is not drinking one soda a day, and eating dessert only after dinner – that is a little excessive. Moderation is how most people consume vegetables – once or twice a week, maybe…

What you eat 80-90% of the time however should be the foods that we all know are beneficial to our health and especially the ones that we enjoy, because by doing this we…

Get results…

Whether it be fat loss, muscle building, or just maintaining our current shape, results matter – and without an appropriate eating plan, results wont happen. (remember, you cant out train a bad diet)

So you may need to do some tracking, measuring, or have someone keep you accountable – but bottom line is, results matter, and they take some effort.

However, it doesn’t need to be as complex as people make it out to be! Look at what you currently eat. Are you currently maintaining weight, but want to lose some? Then cut out two bites at every meal. Simple and silly? Yes – but it would work.

But what if you eat total crap, but still create a caloric deficit – well, you will lose weight, but you might not feel the best after some time…

Maintain optimal levels of health

Clients are shocked when I look over their journals and tell them “okay, switch your 3 cokes a day to 3 diet cokes”, or “lets switch to eating only one quarter pounder with cheese instead of two”…

Most people expect me to tell them to throw out their current life completely and drink only purified water with pH balanced salts, and cook only the purest organic chicken breasts…not eat one less thing at McDonalds.

Truth is, I would love to EVENTUALLY get people away from fast food, and diet soda…but that might never happen (see reasons 1-3) – but if I can get them to substantially reduce their intakes, lose some pounds, and vastly improve their internal health, then that is one hell of a start.

So look over these 4 points, and figure out if you are currently doing the right things for YOU, or are you trying to follow the latest trend on the cover of the magazine at the grocery store?

 

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Eat Less – Exercise More is WRONG

 

If you read anything today, it should be this.

For years, I myself told people, “exercise more, eat less – thats how you lose weight!”

This is true.

Unfortunately, I disagree with this statement completely now. Yes, I can change my views on things too, I am human.

So why is is wrong, and what DO I suggest?

First lets look at the principles behind the statement.

If you increase exercise, or movement in general – you burn more calories.

If you eat less food, you consume fewer calories.

Thus, you create a caloric deficit. Meaning, you are burning more calories than you consume, and by the undeniable laws of thermodynamics – you should be losing weight!

This is all true.

So what is wrong with exercise more, eat less?

Exercise More

“I need to do more cardio” – ” I need to go to more bootcamps” – “I need to workout more”

Three common statements made by people who want to lose weight. All good statements, but all could be neglecting something important – DIET.

You cannot out train a bad diet. You might be able to at the start, but it won’t last. I promise.

You lost weight by running a bunch and not really looking at your diet. Then all of a sudden life happened and you had to stop running 2 hours a day, 7 days a week. Then what happens?

Or you hit a plateau in your weight loss, so you must add more running! Now you are socially exiling yourself from your friends and family, because you need to run 12 hours per week to maintain your weight loss – that sounds fun.

Exercising more is not the answer.

Eat Less

So you want to crash diet to fit into that dress for the winter ball? Ok. Go jump on a standard cookie cutter diet (which definitely doesn’t include cookies) and starve yourself at 1200 calories a day. You will lose weight.

But then what?

You either have to keep eating so little that you burn out, or yup – you have to exercise more to create bigger deficit.

Man or woman, starving yourself brings about some pretty nasty hormonal side effects – I don’t recommend it.

So what the hell do you recommend?

Exercise More, Eat More.

or

Exercise Less, Eat Less

(but maintain a caloric balance suited for your goals)

What does this mean?

Want to lose weight at a sustainable rate? Then live in a 300-500 calorie caloric deficit for most days of the week, and don’t go crazy on days that you aren’t.

Want to gain muscle at a sustainable rate without gaining tons of fat? Maintain a caloric surplus of 200-300 calories for most days of the week that you train.

So say you want to lose some fat.

Here is what your week might look like:

As exercise increase, this allows you to eat more – which will help maintain muscle mass, and your sanity – and as long as you stay within a deficit, you are golden.

So how do you figure all this out?

That is way beyond a blog post – and unfortunately it isn’t as simple as just plugging in numbers to a formula. For in general, if you live by being aware of 1) Did I exercise today? and 2) Did I eat a little more today? and 3) Am I still losing/gaining weight (dependent on goal) – then you will have your answers.

This is my goal for everyone. Stop this trend of eating less and less and less, and exercising more, and more – and find a sustainable process that works for the long haul, and you can switch it on and off like a faucet – with very little problems.

 

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You Can’t Run Away The Fat

 

Sure, go from zero running to some running to lots of running and you will probably lose some weight. But then what?

I’ve seen it, in people I know, in people I read about, in people I see out in public…the weight loss stalls.

Now, I used to be that meat head that would say “cardio is dumb, you don’t need to do cardio, just lift and diet and you will be good”.

While I partially still agree with this – I also don’t think cardio is dumb. It is very important to make sure your heart is strong and functions well or, well, you die. If you ENJOY running – or more traditional cardio, and it doesn’t harm you – then more power to ya, run run run!

However, using cardio as a sole means of fat loss with complete ignorance of diet and some cross training is a recipe for disaster.

The three common traps that cardio lovers seem to fall into are:

  1. Weight loss stopped? Time to run more.
  2. I run a lot/train for marathons – I can eat whatever I want.
  3. I want to be better at running – so I will run more!

When weight loss stops on a pure cardio routine, many peoples first instinct is “I need more cardio”. Here why that might not be the best idea.

www.active.com

When you live by the cardio – you die by the cardio. Meaning that the more cardio you add and add and add to your week, as soon as something happens in your life that doesn’t allow you to run 10 hours per week, your progress will backfire and your weight will rocket back.

Without paying any attention to creating a slight caloric restriction through food instead of just trying to run more, you set yourself up for trouble when trouble strikes in your life.

Your body also becomes very efficient at running at a slow and steady pace. Meaning you CONSERVE calories so you can last longer on your run, but at a slightly slower pace. When fatloss is the goal, efficiency sucks.

Crank up the intensity, hit some sprints (on a bike especially) and turn your body into a furnace in a shorter amount of time.

This is where problem 2 comes in – the “I run a lot therefore I can eat whatever I want”.

There is a generic statistic that says you burn about 100 calories per mile traveled while running so lets just use that for an example.

Say you run 10 miles one day – so “burn” 1000 calories. Then you go to Olive Garden to celebrate with friends and get the biggest past dish you can find because you “earned” it.

Well that dish is 2500 calories, plus the 4 breadsticks you ate – so there you go, you now cancelled out your run plus jumped into a surplus.

The main point being – its very easy to supplant the caloric burn of a cardio workout if you blindly eat whatever.

You must still pay attention to diet, and eat enough for performance – but also if you goal is fat loss, you must be in a slight deficit.

And the last trap – more running = better at running, its not always the case.

Yes, you need to practice any skill to get better.

But for runners, don’t forget strength!

You need to build up the muscles through strength training so they can endure long runs, and the pounding on the pavement.

Strength training not only builds muscle (which boosts your resting metabolic rate) but it also helps build BONE.

How many cardio lovers do you know who have gotten stress fractures? I know a few.

Heavier loading of the bones and especially the axial skeleton greatly improves bone density. This means squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts, all those good lower body exercises should be done 2-3 days per week. 

So if your goal is to lose some fat here’s what I would recommend:

  • Don’t rely solely on running- if you enjoy it, cool, but you don’t NEED to run. Biking, swimming, hiking, circuit training, are all great ways to get cardiovascular improvements as well.
  • Don’t ignore diet. Your goal should be to lose fat at a pace of 1-2 pounds per week with as little change to your normal routine as possible. So don’t just add in 10 hours of cardio per week because that wont last. Start with bodyweight x 10 for your calorie goal.
  • Weight train – not only to help prevent running injuries, but also to improve your metabolism, your muscle tone, and to improve your mood and energy.

 

 

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5 MORE Quick Calorie Cuts

For the first article click here: https://mgfitlife.com/2017/02/28/5-quick-calorie-cuts/

Still looking for more tips and tricks to cut back on those calories huh?

Well, just remember that if you aren’t consistent with your day to day intake, these “simple” cuts won’t make much of a dent, but they could help you get started.

1. When eating out, NEVER clean your plate

I stole this from a friend I had dinner with last night who said he has lost about 10 pounds recently by just cutting back on fast food, and by never cleaning his plate when he eats out.

I loved this idea. If you think about it, even if you leave a few french fries and a few bites of a ‘sammich, that could easily be 300 calories. If you eat out daily, this would be cutting out 2100 calories per week!

Not to shabby.

2. Slow DOWN When You Eat

Set a stop watch next time you eat. See how long it took you. Now double that time the next time you eat a meal.

Yes, I know we are all super stressed and crunched for time – but if you aren’t currently measuring your food, and have no clue how much you eat – then eating too quickly can really add up fast.

By taking your time, you are giving your hunger signals more time to tell your brain that you are full.

3. Use a smaller plate at home.

Still load it up with protein and veggies, and then the rest of the space with “other” stuff.

By reducing the volume of food you eat – you will reduce your calories (go figure!)

Plates and serving sizes have actually gotten bigger over the years, and so has your countries average waistline (also, go figure)Image result for portion sizes over the years

4. Set a time frame to eat. Also know as intermittent fasting.

 While this may not work for all, intermittent fasting has is proponents.

Essentially you just set a time window that you eat, and a time window that you don’t. Usually the feeding window is anywhere between 4 and 8 hours.

I would recommend starting with 8 hours. So say you wakeup at 6AM, then as soon as you have your first bite of food, then you start your “8 hour clock” when you can eat. As soon as your 8 hours is up, no more eating.

5. Feel Hungry Before Eating

This is a big one, as many people have never experienced hunger.

It is important to eventually get to the point of intuitive and mindful eating – when you don’t have to track things, and can maintain your progress made.

Feeling physical hunger before eating is a big step towards mindful eating.

So, give it a try – no matter what time it is, if you don’t feel hungry – then don’t eat. Wait until you FEEL physical hunger.

*PHYSICAL HUNGER comes on slowly, feels like a dull stomach ache, then leads to a little headache, and eventually dizziness. (don’t get to THIS point – but when you start feeling it in your stomach, wait about 30 minutes – then eat)

*STRESS HUNGER comes on quickly, and often comes back quickly after eating, because food doesn’t fix your problems.Image result for physical hunger

Hopefully one of these might give you the extra push you need – or some ideas to try.

However, if you are already trying one tactic (say tracking macros) don’t think you need to jump to a different strategy right away. Things like fat loss and muscle gainz take time – and consistency (AGAIN WITH THAT WORD!)

Make sure whatever strategy you are trying works best for YOU, and you do it with consistency and to completion.

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What is Carb Cycling?

The skinny on carbs.

Carbs are everywhere. We hear about them being bad, we hear about them causing all of our problems. But do they really?

The truth is, they are not inherently bad. In America we tend to eat more of the processed, junk carbs than anywhere else in the world – and on average we do eat too much of them.

However, carbs are important for fueling out intense workouts and giving us the energy we need. Think of carbs as your gasoline for your car. If you are following a super low carb diet, your body cannot perform optimally and can eventually burn out. You need them as fuel to power through workouts with the right level of intensity.

Who could try carb cycling?

If you have been very consistent (including weekends) with your food intake and have been making solid progress for some time. Or if you are you are numbers person and you have your macros and calories in the right ballpark and have been doing well with counting and tracking, you may want to add a little bit of an advanced technique to your eating known as carb cycling.

Essentially, on your high activity days (workout days) you need more carbs.

***High activity days meaning tough workouts, around 60 minutes, at a hard intensity***

On your less active days, you don’t need as many carbs. This also means less calories on these days.

***This would be rest days, recovery days, or light workout days***

Carb cycling works very well for anyone looking to lose fat, and minimize muscle loss – or even gain muscle and minimize fat gain (all dependent on your calorie levels).

It also helps to control your insulin sensitivity, which is great for your internal health – especially if you have some weight to lose.

So how many carbs do I eat on workout days?

This is variable based on goals, body fat levels, gender, and even ethnicity (yes, genetics plays a role in how your body handles carbs). If you know your calorie level, then start around 40% of your calories from carbs.

For myself this would be 310 grams of carbs. Remember, this is an intense workout day. Lifting heavy, minimal rest, over 30 sets of strength training for over an hour.

No clue where to start? Email me.

Carb Cycling on Non-Lifting Days

Remove 50-75% of your starchy carbs on non-lifting days.

I recommend removing your starchy carbs from whatever meal(s) is easiest for you.

Example: I workout at 11AM on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays

 Normally I have 50 grams at breakfast with my eggs. Cut those.

 My lunches usually contain a sandwich with fruit or rice on my lifting days. By turning this into a huge salad with tons of veggies, protein, and a little healthy fat, I am cutting out another 80 grams of carbs. 

 This equals 130 grams of carbs, so I will usually eat about half the amount I would normally have at dinner to get my total intake as low as possible.

So this would mean that I cut out 155-232 grams of carbs (and also 620-930 calories).

On a low carb day, I will also get a higher percentage of calories from fat – BUT will not eat more grams.

This will still keep me in a 500-800ish caloric deficit for the day, which is right where I want to be when on maintenance.

So why not go low carb all the time?

Because you NEED the carbs for fuel, and to keep your metabolism running and healthy.

Yes, I know there are people who go full low carb all the time and run on ketones, but that isn’t most people.

Realize, me needing 310 grams per day is not just a random number, and I have literally worked up to it.

If you are a small female, looking to lose 10 pounds of fat, your HIGH carb days might only be 125-150 grams of carbs per day, and your low carb days might be 30-40 grams (pretty much your veggies and a piece of fruit).

So be consistent with your food for a while, and then if you want, give carb cycling a try!

Key takeaways:

  1. Before trying carb cycling, make sure you have been good with your tracking and following plan.
  2. Cut back your carbs from starchy foods on non-workout days.
  3. This definitely applies to weekends, especially if you have big plans for the night!

So…You Already FAILED at Your New Years Resolutions?

If that title resonated with you, then we already know your problem – your mindset.

Its only a few weeks into the New Year, no matter what you have or have not done, you definitely haven’t failed.

Your mindset is EVERYTHING, and it takes work but you can easily switch it around.

Self talk, motivation, positive thoughts, etc. can all get you back to moving in the right direction. You ultimately decide how things affect you.

Example: A client was all set to start of her New Year with a great workout, and she had to cancel last minute for a work meeting. She texted me and said “It literally ruined my day”.

I get it, she was excited to get back to the gym in the New Year, but ruined your day?

I responded with “Bummer! But you have two options here: let it ruin your day, and sit around and mope on the couch, or say ‘it is what it is’ and get in a great walk or bodyweight workout later that evening”

Mindset is everything – you can talk yourself in and out of things much easier than you think!

Maybe you decided to cut out all sweets from your life as a resolution. But then a beautiful cookie magically appears on your desk at work…

You decide to eat it because heaven forbid it goes to waste, it probably cost someone about 5 cents to make…

Then what? Two paths that will most commonly be taken here:

1. Well I already failed and had sweets, maybe I’ll try next year (continues to eat more and more)

2. Okay, that wasn’t part of my resolution to myself, but time to get back on track right now.

The difference here is person one is expecting perfection, and thinking in an all or nothing mindset. This rarely works for people, especially with sweets, treats, booze, and other “junk” because parties, weddings, social events, sports all happen.

Person two is striving for consistency, but not perfection. Maybe week one consistency is having a sweet treat only on days of the week that end in “day” 😉

Maybe week two is consistently only having treats on 3 days per week of your own choosing – or only having treats when you really want them and think mindfully about it.

Maybe week three is consistently having a sweet food only if you are out and about, but not having any more in your house.

Maybe by week 4 you are consistently not even thinking about treats unless you are at a friends wedding, and damn that cake looks good so you will have a piece there, and then get right back to consistently not really eating them at all.

See the difference?

Strive for consistency with goals, not perfection – take baby steps as needed.

Whatever you set your goals to be, give them TIME and EFFORT. Without one or the other you are bound to be upset in the end. If you give it ALL your effort, but no time – you are likely to burn out and not see results fast enough and give up.

If you give it ALL your time, and little effort, well, frankly you won’t get anywhere.

Find the balance: MINDSET + time and effort (and consistency) = RESULTS

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Beware Of These Superlatives When It Comes to Exercise/Nutrition Advice

 

Ok, slow down with the School House Rock terminology for just one second…

What I mean is, be weary of words like “always” or “never” or phrases like “you must”, “the best”, the “worst” when it comes to fitness and nutrition advice.

I have seen it all over, and frankly, I’m sick of it. Trainers telling clients that they must always do this, never do that, always eat this, never eat that. This is all bogus advice.

Every single human is different, and every single human will respond differently to different food and different exercises. Some of the most commonly quoted phrases by fitness and nutrition “professionals” can be some of the most damning phrases that might just add more stress to your life.

1) Need to lose more fat? You NEED to start doing more cardio!

100% bull. If you need to lose more fat, you need to make sure you are creating a caloric deficit. There are plenty of people, myself included, who have lost lot’s of fat without doing “cardio”. Do you enjoy going for jogs, and this is how you choose to try to create your deficit? Great! Go for it!

However, this is not something that you HAVE to do. Often times people will use the line “I just need to do more cardio” as a band-aid of sorts, to cover up nutrition or lifestyle choices that maybe need to be addressed first.Image result for tired runner

Sometimes the honest truth hurts, but you might just need to audit yourself first and explore what else might be going on.

Cardio is fine, but it is not the holy grail of losing more fat.

If you are someone who doesn’t enjoy running, or traditional cardio, what should you do?

  1. Look at you TOTAL daily activity. How many steps do you take? Try figuring out your daily average over the course of a week and increase it by 10-20%. Change nothing else, and you may be shocked. When I entered my dietetic internship, I went from being on my feet all day as a trainer (averaging 12,000 steps) to mostly sitting (4000 steps) and gained 10 pounds, without changing anything else. Once I made the conscious effort to get back up to a step level that the rest of my lifestyle (workouts and diet) agreed with, the weight came back off.
  2. Audit your diet. Do you know how much you are truly consuming in a day? It is always helpful to track and measure, but especially if you are hitting a plateau of sorts. Don’t go TOO low however, as your body will not be able to sustain your current workouts and may actually stall out more. Find the sweet spot that keeps you energized for workouts, but also leads to the body you desire.

2) You don’t EVER need cardio, you can get your results from lifting and diet alone.

“What?? Didn’t YOU just say this above?” Yes, but I put “cardio” in quotes – as I was referring to slugging away on a treadmill, or heaven forbid the elliptical.

What I mean by this is: cardiovascular training in an aerobic state is very important for heart health, and this is something that cannot be ignored. It is crucial to a healthy internal system and life.

However, I do feel that everyone should do some form of resistance, because having a strong body helps maintain a level of independence into our old age, and that is the ultimate goal of staying strong. Do you need to train like a powerlifter, bodybuilder, athlete? NO! Image result for fun workout

Find what you enjoy, and give it your all.

Same thing goes for cardio.

However, you don’t need to necessarily do the traditional, boring cardio that we all think of to get these benefits.

  1. Try hiking, or biking. These are two great ways to get fresh air, explore the world we live in, and get your heart rate up a little. Plan out a hike on the weekend, so for a bike ride.
  2. If you live in a climate like Wisconsin, you know that this cannot be done year round* – snowshoeing is a great alternative. Take to the gym and do some circuits, or mix up your workouts with some timed sets, or join a group fitness class that keeps your heart rate elevated. Anything that gets you breathing a little heavier and sweating is a great option.
  3. One of my favorite options is a dumbbell complex. Take an upper body, lower body, and a weighted carry and do them circuit style for a few rounds. This can be anything, but keep rest to a minimum.Try:
    1. 10 Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    2. 15 Dumbbell Squats
    3. 1 minute farmer carry
      1. Repeat 5 times, minimal rest between.

3) Never eat _____, Always eat _____ (especially if there is time involved)…

“Never eat carbs after 3 pm”

“Always slam a protein shake within 30 minutes of your workout”

Here’s the deal. You can fit ANY food you want into you eating plan. It all depends on your goals, and how quickly you want to reach them.Image result for boring diet

Want to eat ice cream once in a while? Do it – just make it work within your calorie and macronutrient goals.

Want to eat carbs after 3pm, and you are afraid? Non-sense. The little insulin fairy won’t appear out of nowhere and automatically send all your carbs to fat storage. What matters more is your overall, daily intake – not your nutrient timing (for most people).

If you are SO concerned about getting a protein shake in right after your workout, but are only consuming shakes, and getting 50 grams of protein a day, your timing of your shake is not your biggest issue that you need to enforce.

Here’s what matters more:

  1. Focus on mostly quality nutrition. Nutrient dense foods are good for you – that’s pretty hard to argue with. Get your veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and quality carbs at most meals of the day and you well generally be on the right track.
  2. Kids baseball team going out for ice cream? Join them. Family matters, and it’s important that you are there for your kids, and you don’t make a big fuss about the “morality” of good and bad foods. Foods don’t come with morals (even though we are constantly taught that). Just be mindful. Do you want a little ice cream? Have you followed tip #1 all day? Do you still have some calories to spare? Okay, then get a small cone – this doesn’t been you need to go gangbusters and get the large chocolate soaked 4 scoop sundae.You can make food like this work, if you are on top of tracking, and know your calorie and macro goals.
  3. There is no one food that makes us fat, or no one food that we must consume to be fit. If you absolutely don’t like a food, then find a substitute.
  4. Remember that you are also ultimately in control. You decide what you use your own hand to move food from a plate into your own mouth. The freedom to choose is yours, embrace it, and enjoy it.

Find what works for you, give it your all, and don’t look back. You will find it freeing, and much more fun than following what the gurus tell you that you must/cannot do.

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Add Tons of Flavor, and NO Calories With These Seasoning Combos

Plain chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and brown rice…aka “The Bodybuilder Diet”

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be this boring and bland. Food is supposed to be enjoyable, pleasurable, and believe it or not, it’s easier to eat when it tastes good.

The following blends of herbs, spices, and other flavor boosters will give your chicken, beef, fish, or veggies a kick that will make them much more palatable.

There are two ways I recommend using these blends; as a large marinade/dry rub or on a “per meal basis”. You can either cook up a ton of chicken using these flavorings, or do what I prefer – make a ton of plain chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper, then add the flavors when you reheat the chicken for the given meal.

If you decide to add the flavors to the individual meats/veggies at the meal, you will obviously cut down on the portions to your liking. To do this, I like making different dry blends and storing them in labeled Tupperware containers, so all it takes is one little spoonful every time you want that flavor. You will then add a squirt or two of any of the liquid flavorings to the pan you are using to reheat your meat in.

Lets get to the flavors.

The Basics

Minced Garlic

Garlic adds a ton of awesome flavor to anything. I personally use it in a ton of dishes, and it works with any cuisine. You can buy jars of minced garlic at the grocery store. Simply add a teaspoon to your roasted veggies with some olive oil, salt and pepper and they become 100x better.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper can also be added to anything to give it a little kick. If you are looking for something quick, just do some cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt and you instantly get a little more spice in your life. Awesome on eggs.

Lemon Juice and Lemon Zesthttps://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjq1MXXo4zPAhVL02MKHfUpCskQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefreshloaf.com%2Fnode%2F45079%2Fbest-lemon-zest&bvm=bv.132479545,d.dmo&psig=AFQjCNF6GAsGr97ocvAQ2IoZGWyZ3vYowg&ust=1473853874812125

Lemon juice and zest adds a little bit of sour to your meats. Combine with black pepper and you have a nice lemon pepper blend that goes well with chicken or white fish. For zest, you can just use a small cheese grater to get some of the lemon rind to add more intense lemon flavor.

Killer Combos (4 servings per)

 Southwest Blend

 Combine 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl, stirring well.

 Chinese Marinade*

Combine 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, ½ teaspoon onion powder, pinch red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, pinch sugar.

*If making for just one dish, add this at the end of cooking/reheating, so the garlic doesn’t burn in the pan.

Thai Flavor*

 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 Tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of diced cilantro, 1 tsp. Thai chili oil (this can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)

This chili oil is my #1 favorite thing to add to cottage cheese as well, just a 1/4 tsp changes the entire game!

*If making for just one dish, add this at the end of cooking/reheating, so the garlic doesn’t burn in the pan.

 

Italian Blend

 Dry blend: 1 tablespoon garlic, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon thyme,

For cooking, add: 2 Tablespoons red cooking wine, 1 tablespoon olive oil, diced cherry tomatoes. Cook down into a very light red sauce. 

I use this combo often when making vegetables to add to a pasta dish, or if trying to limit carbs, go with a spaghetti squash.

Indian Blend

 1 Tablespoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, 1 Tablespoon garlic, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder

Mexican Blend

1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 2 teaspoons paprika, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Use this blend with ground turkey or 93/7 beef for some amazing, lower fat tacos.

Give these a try, and stop eating boring, bland food!

Sleep: Needed? Miracle? Overrated?

 

“All you need is more sleep, and you will lose 10 pounds, easily” – Overheard at the airport.

Yes, I was eavesdropping. I can’t help it. Every time I’m in a public place, and hear people talking about fitness or nutrition topics I become intrigued. How do you think I come up with half of my blog topics?

I ESPECIALLY tune in where I hear people talking about fads, guru logic, and quick fixes. Part of me wants to interject and save them from their own demise, but more importantly, it is essential as a fitness and nutrition professional to know what the average person is hearing about health through the pop media sources.

When I heard this person say the previously mentioned sleep line, I started instantly internally debating the topic. Can more sleep, in itself, lead to fat loss? Maybe…but highly unlikely from JUST adding more sleep.Image result for sleep

However, sleep IS very crucial to optimal fat loss, performance, and well-being. It can often times be a missing piece of the puzzle when everything else seems to be in check.

Will Getting More Sleep Alone Lead to Fat Loss?

Short answer, NO. A caloric deficit will lead to fat loss. However, there may be some less obvious added benefits of getting enough sleep…

From a hormonal standpoint:

Studies have shown that when sleep is deprived, less than 6 hours per night, the bodies levels of ghrelin increase. Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, plays a huge role in how much we eat, and thus overall caloric consumption. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin and thus makes us want to eat more.

From a Captain Obvious Standpoint:

This may be a no brainer, but we also cannot eat when we are sleeping – thus less time for caloric consumption. We have all had those nights, drunkenly mindlessly eating popcorn, chips, ice cream…just because. Or is it because we are tired, but really need to see how the re-run of “Naked and Afraid” ends? (spoiler – they get out okay 90% of the time, still naked, lose 10-20 pounds, and get some arbitrary number increase in Primal Survival Rating (PSR))

By staying awake 2-3 hours longer than we probably should, we are leaving the door wide open for more mindless caloric consumption.

From a body composition standpoint:

In a very interesting study done in 2010, researchers found that when overweight participants were put on a hypo-caloric diet (only 1450 calories per day) for 2 weeks, they lost the SAME amount of WEIGHT (6.6 pounds!) regardless of sleep (Group A averaged 7.5 hours, Group B averaged 5.25 hours).Image result for sleep for fat loss

HOWEVER! The adequate sleep group lost 3.1 pounds of fat and 3.3 pounds of muscle, while the sleep deprived group lost 1.3 pounds of fat, and 5.3 pounds of muscle.

The take aways of this small study are:

  • Losing 6 pounds in 2 weeks is very fast, and will likely result in some muscle loss… (no bueño)
  • More importantly to this article, sleep deprivation can inhibit fatloss, and lead to more muscle loss.
  • This may be due to the importance of sleep, and it’s relation with growth hormone production, and thus muscle protein synthesis and muscle anabolism aka #GAINZ

From an exercise standpoint:

To be blunt, when you are sleep deprived, you can’t perform at your best during workouts. When you can’t perform your best you run into:

  • Fewer calories burned
  • Increased risk for injuries
  • Increased risk for even more burnout

When you aren’t getting the most out of your workouts, you aren’t stimulating your muscle to maximal potential and thus priming it for development. More muscles = higher metabolic rate = more fat burning at rest, and throughout the day (see above in regards to GH, muscle protein synthesis).Image result for sleeping in the gym

From a short-term standpoint, it’s just harder to get amped up for a workout when you are tired and feel like napping instead!

So going back to the line, “All you need is more sleep, and you will lose 10 pounds, easily”.

Is this true? Maybe.

Is sleep important for fat loss and reaching your desired body composition. Heck yes!

While it may not be as simple as JUST getting more sleep, it may be the missing piece of the puzzle, that will lead to more pieces nicely falling into place (less mindless snacking, more intense workouts, more muscle gain…)

Get your sleep, make it a priority, and no, coffee is not one of the main food groups 🙂

 

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Stay healthy my friends,

 

Ladies, Don’t Let Aunt Flo Hold You Back

While this might be one of the more obscure posts I write, it may also be one of the most important. The female menstrual cycle is a very serious thing, and in fact, can have a huge effect on women’s bodies, their minds, and their overall well being.

You might be saying right about now, “Mike, what do you know about it? You have never experienced it firsthand!” – that would be correct. But I have also learned about it from a nutrition standpoint and from a human physiological standpoint throughout my years of education, and continuing education. So there’s that.

The female menstrual cycle can be a very daunting experience for many women, often crippling them around the time of their period, and making it tempting to eat anything and everything in sight.

My goal of this article is to help explain why certain things happen, and what you can do to stay on track, and make the most of that often miserable time. Guys, tune this one out – or not – listening to the science here might help you better understand what she’s going through, and maybe you can score some bonus points 😉

The menstrual cycle is purely controlled by hormone fluctuations and cascades, and can essentially be broken down into two phases: the follicular phase (Day 1 of menses, ending at ovulation) and the luteal phase (ovulation to the first day of menses).

So from a hormonal approach, what happens?

  • The follicular phase (Day one of a woman’s period) – rising to high estrogen, low progesterone
  • The luteal phase – high estrogen and HIGHER progesterone
  • The premenstrual period (late luteal aka “leave me the hell alone phase”) and menses – rapid drop in both hormones

By looking at the effects on the two sex hormones, this really doesn’t help explain much in regards to how they affect the body composition, and especially fat storage or loss. We need to look deeper into the hormone effects on our main anabolic (building) hormones.

  • Estrogen makes women more insulin sensitive (less insulin needed to store glucose)
  • Progesterone make women more insulin resistant (more insulin needed to store same amount of glucose)
  • Both and anti-cortisol (anti stress)

So what do these mean for muscle building, fat loss, and over all well being?

  1. Follicular phase has higher estrogen, therefore more insulin sensitive, meaning less fat storage, some fat burning and is primed for muscle gain.
  2. Beginning luteal phase is for less muscle building, but good fat burning – as we see a 2.5-11% RISE in metabolism
  3. Later luteal phase is a more catabolic time (burning fat and muscle).
  4. In the later luteal phase, ie. premenstrual phase, the steep drop off in both estrogen and progesterone cause increases in stress, and drops in positive neurotransmitters (thus leading to PMS and sweet/carb cravings)

How to tailor your workouts and diet… (what you have all been waiting for!)

Starting off, I want to say that not all women are exactly alike, and by no means are these blanket statements that cover everyone – but they should be helpful in understanding your body better, and how you could potentially adapt your training plan around your phases.

First, don’t weigh yourself around your period. The bloat from water retention can be very unsettling, and can really mess with your head. It’s not uncommon for women to gain 5-10 pounds around their period.

  • Avoid salty foods
  • Drink more water (yes, that seems counter intuitive)
  • Sip herbal teas

Second, looking at how the sex hormones affect insulin sensitivity, there may be some recommendations to be made based off of carbohydrate intake. While carbs alone don’t cause weight gain (excess calories do) they can lead to greater water retention and thus lead to a lower psychological well being based off of weight (remember DON’T weigh yourself) or even appearance (belly bloat).

Remember, estrogen makes a woman more insulin sensitive, and estrogen and progesterone are both anti-stress hormones, so most women can better handle carbs in the follicular phase and be less tolerant in the luteal phase, mostly in the late luteal phase.

For exercise purposes, one of the most hormonally stressful forms of exercise is long duration, medium intensity cardio (your daily jogs).

Because of the anti stress properties of both sex hormones, long steady state cardio may be best when performed during the follicular phase, and early luteal phase (when both hormones are higher) – and estrogen will help maintain muscle, especially during the follicular phase.

Think of the follicular phase as a time to focus on muscle building, and the late luteal to premenstrual as a time to tighten up your diet and really focus on getting the most out of your fat burning hormones.

Breaking up your cycle may look like this:

Follicular Phase –

  • Weight training focus 3-4 days per week, and long duration cardio 2-3 times per week (as it will be better tolerated)
  • Keep diet the same as you have been doing, with normal or even slightly higher carb intake around workout days.

Luteal Phase – 

  • Weight training 2-3 days per week, and shorter duration – higher intensity cardio, with plenty of rest – 2-3 days per week
  • Focus on adding on some VERY low intensity, relaxing exercise – walking, yoga, meditation
  • Keep diet roughly the same, but be more aware of cravings and overall carb intake (first and foremost, maintain a caloric deficit if fat loss is goal)

In dealing with cramps (late luteal):

  • If you know you react more to carbs, AND have bad cramps, focus on limiting sugars and white breads leading up to your period, as these can contribute to worse cramps.
  • Also, if menstrual cramps are bad, try supplementing with Vitamin D3 – 2000 IU – year round (helps with inflammation), not just during your period!

If anything, I hope this post helps women better understand what is happening in their bodies, and how they can make the most of certain times during their monthly cycle.

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Stay healthy my friends,