Calorie Counting - Why It's More Complicated Then Calories In, Calories Out

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Calorie Counting - Why It's More Complicated Then Calories In, Calories Out

Macro counting has become popular in recent years, but with it comes its own unique challenges and inadequacies. You might have seen some impressive before and after photos of clients who are counting macros and lose weight, see drastic transformations, or get ripped. It works for some people, but not everyone. 

This blog is focused on detailing the problem around counting calories, and why it's not always the best option. Full disclosure - I have clients who count calories. They love it and see great results. But I also have clients who do not count calories and still see great results. Counting calories is a big commitment that is not conducive to everyone's lifestyle. 

As a quick background, counting macros and calories means that you are counting and measuring all of your food intake throughout the day to hit certain goal numbers. Your macros are determined based on your weight, muscle mass, and activity level, as well as your body type and goals. For instance, those who are looking to lose weight won't eat the same as someone who is trying to gain muscle. The program is extremely personalized to determine how much of each macro (protein, carbohydrates, fat) you should be eating to reach your goals.

  1. Calorie counts can vary. When counting macros and calories, you become very familiar with reading food labels to find out what is in your food. Even if you're not looking at food labels, you're using an application to determine what macros are in your bacon (for instance). However, the calories on food labels and in these databases are averages. Research shows that the calories of the food you're actually eating can vary greatly with up to 50% error. Five different measurement methods exist for determining calorie estimation, and therefore the FDA permits up to 20% inaccuracy. This means that if the label says you're getting 100 calories, you're actually getting somewhere between 80-120 calories.
  2. We don't absorb everything we eat. Not all food we eat gets absorbed into our body. It actually varies from food to food, and scientists have known this for years. It's pretty common knowledge that 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories, 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, and 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, right? What if I told you that 1 gram of protein actually contains 5.65 calories, but we don't absorb 1.65 of them? It's true for all of the macros actually, and looks like this:


That isn't all. This doesn't apply to nuts and seeds, because we actually absorb fewer calories from them. For instance, we only absorb 68% of almonds and 95% of pistachios. When it comes to food high in fiber, we tend to absorb more than what's calculated. For example, We absorb 28% more calories from kale, 12% more from oranges, and 15% more from black beans. Similarly, we are able to absorb more calories from protein-rich foods that accounted for in those calculations. All in all, this means you're looking at around a 10% error in calorie consumption on average

3. We all absorb food differently. Depending on the type of bacteria in your gut, you may absorb more or less energy. Those with larger populations of Bacteroidetes (a species of bacteria) tend to absorb more energy as these bacteria are better at extracting calories from the cells of plants than other bacteria. Those who have a larger popular of Firmicutes (another specific of bacteria) can absorb an additional 150 calories per day, and these people often have weight maintenance issues. 

4. Energy out varies a lot from person to person. We've covered how the calories you're taking in might be hard to calculate, but what about how much energy you're expending on a daily basis? There are four important pieces to this puzzle:
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) - RMR is the number of calories you burn on a daily basis through just surviving - breathing, living, and maintaining basic bodily functions. It represents approximately 60% of your "energy out" and is determined based on your weight, age, genetic dispositions, and possibly your gut bacteria. RMR typically increases with body weight. For instance, someone who weighs 150 lbs might have a RMR of 1583 calories per day and someone who weighs 150 lbs might have a RMR of 2164 calories per day. However, RMR can vary up to 15% from person to person, even if they have the same weight without expending any more or less effort. 
Thermic Effect of Eating (TEE) - Digestion is an active metabolic process that requires energy. Every had the "meat sweats"? That's TEE. TEE represents the amount of calories you burn through eating, digesting, and processing food. It's roughly 5-10% of your total "energy out." It require more energy to digest protein (~20-30% of its calories) than it does to digest carbs (5-6%) and fat (3%).
Physical Activity (PA) - This is where we commonly thing about energy output in our lives. It's how many calories you burned while running a mile or swimming a few laps. The only way to change this output is through physical movement and moving more.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) - NEAT is the amount of calories you burn due to activity that is not considered exercise but burns a significant amount of energy. This includes holding yourself upright, fidgetting, walking, doing a sit up in bed in the morning, etc. This naturally varies from person to person as well. 
So here's the entire energy out equation:

So, while energy in and energy out sounds very simple, it can become very difficult to actually know not only how many calories you are consuming, but how many you are burning. Therefore, putting yourself in a deficit or gain can become complicated by following a calorie number solely. Here's the entire equation:

In addition to all of this, your body can often outsmart you. When you lower your energy intake, your body can naturally decrease its energy out to compensate for the loss of energy. Likewise, as you begin to increase your calorie intake, it may begin to burn more calories throughout the day.

All of these components to energy intake and energy expenditure create a complicated equation for determining that you're getting adequate macronutrients, calories and still creating change in your body. There are, of course, other ways to measure your food to ensure you're getting what you need to reach your goals outside of counting calories and macros. 

I also want to take a moment to discuss some of the dangers of macro counting as they have become more and more prevalent in the fitness community as the program has become more popular over the past few years. 

As far as physical health goes, sometimes macros can lead to negative effects on the body, particularly for women who have sensitive hormonal systems. Female clients can be eating a solid amount of calories, hitting their goals, and losing body fat (which is a common goal for all clients), and this can occasionally lead to the loss of a menstrual cycle. Any time that a natural pathway in your body disappears, this should be a red flag that something is not right. Lower body fat percentages can lead to the body's inability to produce sex hormones in women, which are comprised of fats, and this can lead to very serious health issues. 

On the flip side, there can be some mental repercussions to counting calories. The people who usually do best counting calories are typically people with detailed-oriented mind, who are goal driven, and who have super analytic brains. They are also the people who tend to have addictive personalities with OCD tendencies, and for this reason can lead to some unhealthy habits for nutrition in the long run. As they reach their goals, they continue to push their bodies to new limits and lower calories, they become obsessed with getting their numbers perfect, and it can overtake their life in a negative way. Some people even experience that after they've decided not to count anymore, they also want to know how many calories they're eating. I think this has become a normal side effect in a society that says someone should eat XXX amount of calories daily, but gets take to a whole new level with macro counting. 

Again, this is something that I do with my clients when it is a good fit for them. But I also recommend against it for clients on occasion, and many clients move away from calorie counting as some point. Sometimes they revisit it, and sometimes they leave it behind for good. It's important to chat with someone educated in the field to make sure you're getting the most out of the plan, and that the plan isn't getting the most out of you.

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 4

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 4

This last week marks four weeks since I have started tracking my food and training / added a little extra in. So I decided it was time to do my third body scan to see where everything is at. Most people enjoy seeing the progress as it happens, right? 

When I started I didn't have any set goals or numbers I was hoping to reach - I was going into it goalless and I think that's okay sometimes since I wanted the behavior change to be the focus.

In four weeks, I have lost 2 pounds, I have maintained my muscle muscle (with a very slight increase), and I've lost 1.5% body fat. I'm honestly pretty happy, especially since this has all been done through eating intuitively - not counting macros, not following any specific portion guidelines, and always eating when I'm hungry. It hasn't been perfect by any stretch of the definition, but it's working and I feel really good. 

Note: It was my birthday, so I ate junk over the weekend. 

Monday 8/7

Meal 1:
6 oz Gala apple
2 eggs

Meal 2:
Raisin Bran crunch 1 cup
1 cup whole milk

Meal 3:
Cliff bar Sierra Trail Mix
1/4 peach

Meal 4:
1/2 pound ground beef 80/20
1 cup green beans
1 cup potato
1/2 cup brown gravy

Tuesday 8/8

Meal 1:
3 eggs
2 cups fruit mix - watermelon, peach, pineapple, chia seeds

Meal 2:
4 oz chicken breast
1/2 cup Raisin Bran crunch
1/2 cup whole milk

Meal 3:
Banana

Meal 4:
4 oz chicken breast
5 oz broccoli

Wednesday 8/9

Meal 1:
3 eggs

Meal 2:
5.5 oz Silk Almond Yogurt vanilla
5 oz blackberries

Training:
5 x 3 Pause squats @ 125 lb

Meal 3:
1 scoop SFH Recovery chocolate
1 tsp Apple Cider vinegar

Meal 4:
4 oz chicken breast
4 oz rice
3 oz broccoli

Meal 5:
5 oz chicken breast
5 oz brussels sprouts

Thursday 8/10

Meal 1:
3 eggs

Meal 2:
4 oz Chicken breast
4 oz Cauliflower
3 oz Gala apple
2 Tbsp Peanut butter Simple organic

Meal 3:
5.5 oz Silk Almond Yogurt vanilla
3 oz Blackberries

Meal 4:
Banana

Training:
Tabata
Row (meters)
Handstand hold
Row (meters)

Meal 5:
1 Scoop SFH Recovery chocolate
1 tsp Apple Cider vinegar

Meal 6:
4 oz chicken

Friday 8/11

Meal 1:
3 eggs
5 oz Gala apple

Training:
1 rep max Deadlifts
20 min EMOM: 1 DL @ 85%

Meal 2:
Sushi - 2 california rolls, 1 rainbow roll

Meal 3:
Larabar - Apple pie

Meal 4:
1/2 pound ground beed 80/20
1 cup potato
1/2 brown gravy
1 cup green beans
2 glasses Malbec win

Saturday 8/12

Meal 1:
3 eggs
1 biscuit

Training:
Hike/Run - Mt. Flora - 6 miles

Meal 2:
Soft shell chicken tacos - chicken, tortilla, lettuce, tomato
Fudge ice cream bar

Meal 3:
3 eggs
1 biscuit
1/2 cup hollandaise sauce
1 cup spinach

Meal 4:
Birthday cake - Funfetti with Strawberry cream cheese frosting

Sunday 8/13

Meal 1:
1 biscuit
1/2 pound breakfast sausage
1/2 cup milk
1 eggs

Meal 2:
French fries
Deviled eggs (2)

Meal 3:
Burger - Bun, ground beef, lettuce, avocado, american cheese
Potato salad
Deviled egg
French fries

 

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 3

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 3

This week's lesson actually comes from the previous week, and it's quite simple. 

If something hurts your stomach - STOP EATING IT! 

It seems really straight forward, right? But I can't tell you how many times I've had someone approach me to ask if they really need to consume red meat (for example) since it hurts their stomach. To clarify, "hurts your stomach" means makes you bloated, causing physical pain or cramps, gives you gas, or disrupts your digestive system in any way. Anything you have to fight through the side effects of is not serving your body well, and this is the body's way of saying "Hey! That food wasn't for me." 

For me, this is bread. And I can and do eat bread regularly, but I know that when I remove it from my diet and reintroduce it, there can and will be complications. So what are you eating that maybe you should try removing? 

Monday 7/31

Meal 1:
Banana
Red Bull Sugar Free

Training:
Hike - Mount Elbert 9 miles, 4,700 ft gain

Meal 2:
Baby Food - Apple, Orange, Spinach mix

Meal 3:
Gala apple
Luna Protein bar - chocolate chip cookie dough
Duke sausage jerky

Meal 4:
1 scoop SFH Recovery Chocolate
Cliff Bar - Sierra Trail Mix

Meal 5:
1/2 lb ground beef (80/20)
1 cup potatoes
1/2 cup brown gravy
1 cup green beans
3 Dale Pale Ale

Meal 6:
1/2 lb ground beef (80/20)
1 cup potatoes
1/2 cup brown gravy
1 cup green beans

Tuesday 8/1

Meal 1:
3 eggs
1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen
Fast Lane tea

Meal 2:
4 oz chicken
6 oz baby carrots

Meal 3:
5 oz Gala apple
5 oz turkey breast

Meal 4: 
5 oz chicken
3 oz mushrooms
1 cup tortilla chips

Wednesday 8/2

Meal 1:
10.5 oz Silk almond yogurt vanilla flavor
4 oz blackberries

Meal 2:
Banana
1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen

Training:
For time:
35 Front squats @ 105#
1,000m row

Meal 3:
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
3 eggs
5 oz mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil

Meal 4:
5 oz Gala apple
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter (Simply Organic)

Meal 5:
6 oz chicken
3 oz mushrooms
3 oz potatoes

Thursday 8/3

Meal 1:
4 eggs
6 oz Gala apple
1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen in coffee

Meal 2:
4.5 oz chicken
3.5 oz mushrooms
3 oz potatoes

Training:
90 sec ring push up hold
40 DB step ups 25#
30 wall balls 14#
10 box around the worlds

1 min paralette L-sit hold
30 DB step ups
20 walls balls
10 box around the worlds

20 sec ring push up hold
20 DB step ups
10 wall balls
5 box around the worlds

Meal 4:
1 scoop SFH Recovery chocolate

Meal 5:
2 8 pc California rolls - rice, seaweed, crab, avocado, celery

Friday 8/4

Meal 1:
3 oz chicken
Banana
Coffee with 1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen

Training:
Run - Mathews Winters Park 5 miles

Meal 2:
2 links Duke Shorty Sausage
5 oz Galal apple
2 Tbsp peanut butter (Simply Organic)

Meal 3:
4.5 oz chicken
4 oz broccoli
1/2 avocado

Training:
Snatch
2 @ 55#
2 @ 65#
2 @ 75#
1 @ 95#
1@ 105#

Meal 4:
Shredded chicken burrito - tortilla, chicken, beans, rice, lettuce
2 Modelos

Saturday 8/5

Meal 1:
10.5 oz Silk almond yogurt vanilla
1/2 cup blackberries

Training:
100 double unders
5 rounds:
10 ring rows
10 push ups
100 double unders

Meal 2:
Larabar - Apple pie

Meal 3:
3 eggs
5 oz Gala apple
2 Tbsp Peanut butter

Meal 4:
Coffee with 1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen
Cliff bar nut butter - peanut butter chocolate

Meal 5:
4 oz chicken
5 oz broccoli

Sunday 8/6

Meal 1:
3 eggs
Banana

Meal 2:
Egg white frittata with veggies - mushroom, tomato, asparagus, broccoli

Meal 3:
4 oz chicken
4 oz potatoes

 

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Keto Diet - Everything You Need To Know

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Keto Diet - Everything You Need To Know

The Ketogenic Diet is all the rage right now. People are claiming that this diet can be used for everything from getting healthy, disbanded serious illnesses, increasing brain function, and even to lose excess body fat for ripped abs. The basis is simple - eat lots of fat, and as few carbs as possible.

This blog will be covering a variety of things to help you determine whether this popular diet might work for you.

I'll be answering:

  • What does the ketogenic diet look like?
  • What are ketones? What is ketosis? The why.
  • Who does this diet work best for?
  • What does the research say about these claims?

What does the keto diet look like?

The keto diet consists of having large portions of fat, with some protein, and as close to zero carbs as possible in order to allow ketones to be released into the blood stream for energy. A standard mixed meal might look like 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbs. A keto diet looks like 20% protein, 75% fat, and 5% carbs.

The lack of carbs is one of the main factors of a keto meal. The suggested intake for carbs daily is around 10-15g. That's about 10-15 grapes for the entire day, for some perspective. 

The high fat intake is the other main factor of a keto meal. The energy intake of fat should be nearly 90% of the daily intake. This is somewhat easier to manage since there are 9 calories per gram of fat, compared to 4 calories per gram of both protein and carbs. 

As you might imagine, the diet can become very restrictive in order to maintain such low carb intake and high fat intake. It looks something like this:

Here's a quick list of foods that are off limits:

  • Most dairy - except those high in fat, like some cheeses and butter
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Slightly-sweet vegetables (winter squash, beets, carrots)
  • Starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes)
  • Most processed foods 

What are ketones? What is ketosis? The why.

This is going to get a little science-y, but it's important to understand why you're undertaking a diet and what's happening in your body to better understand how to fuel yourself if you choose this route. So bare with me here.

Ketones are organic compounds created by the body, typically in starvation mode, that can be used as an energy source. There are two types of ketones that can be used as energy sources: acetoacetate and D-β-hydroxybutyrate. These are created through a complicated biochemical pathway that we won't worry about discussing here.

The term "keto" was coined in 1850 by Leopold Gmelin, a German chemist. If you thought this was a new diet, surprise! This concept has been around for a long time and was heavily studied in the 1950's. What they found was that in extreme scenarios, such as fasting or starvation for extended periods (2-3 days minimum), the body creates ketones for energy. This process can also be created through nutrition in which carb intake is low with a high fat intake. 

Here's what it looks like, in the case of fasting/starvation, or a ketogenic state:

  1. The body releases fatty acids from stored body fat.
  2. These fatty acids enter in other cells, and are combined with co-enzyme A to form acetyl-CoA chains.
  3. These chains move into the mitchondria of our cells (the energy plants of the cell) and are broken down into acetyl-CoA units by a sequence of reactions known as β-oxidation.
  4. This is where the magic happens. Acetyl-CoA forms the ketones: acetoacetate and β-hydroxybutyrate, as well as acetone.
  5. The ketones are released into the blood stream by the liver and are then available for any cell to use the energy from the ketones. The brain loves these and usually absorbs most of them. (Think about being in starvation mode - you need to preserve the brain first and foremost).

Ketosis is a state of being when this process happens in the body. Ketones must be present in the blood stream to be in a state of ketosis, and this is usually measured through keto sticks (sort of like pregnancy sticks that you pee on to measure if your body is excreting ketones). This measurement can be somewhat faulty in that it measures if you are excreting ketones, not whether the ketones are present in your blood stream. 

So how do we get into ketosis? There's a few ways.

  1. Ketogensis - Simple, starvation. This energy creating pathway came about through our ancestors starving, since food was not always readily available. It takes about 72 hours to reach ketogenesis. This is basically our body's back up system to helping us maintain the health of our brains in times of low food intake. Glucose (carbs) is the standard energy source for our body. 
  2. Ketogenic diet - This is the nutritional course of action, since starvation isn't exactly appealing. By removing the carb intake form the diet and focusing on high fat intake with some protein, the body goes into the same mode as starvation and ketosis is achieved. 

Who does this diet work best for? And what does the research say about these claims?

It's important to know that the ketogenic diet is not beneficial for everyone. This section will cover some known benefits and some populations who see now added benefit so that you can make an educated decision when deciding whether or not to implement this if your life. 

Metabolic Diseases

Research suggests that the ketogenic diet may be beneficial for a short-term treatment or a "boost" for returning metabolism back to a normal state in the case of type-2 diabetes. This does not mean that the diet is a cure all, but that it should be conducted in conjunction with medical supervision and possibly in addition to medication. Conducting this diet for this purpose, should be clearly defined and well-monitored, rather than a cure for most people

Neurodegeneration and Brain Injuries

The ketogenic diet originally came about as a result of the search for curing and moderating epilepsy. Recent research shows that neurogenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) are related to metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity through inflammation of the gut. Alzheimer's is now being referred to as "diabetes of the brain" or "Type-3 diabetes." By removing carbohydrates and introducing high levels of fat, the brain is able to have amble energy in addition to the presence of ketones. In the case of epilepsy, seizures have been dramatically reduced through the ketogenic diet. 

The presence of ketones have also been shown to improve the outcomes of traumatic brain injury, though it's important to note that most studies have been conducted on rats.

Even so, the presence of ketones looks to be a low-risk treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, and even prevention, for improving brain health.

Longevity

One of the claims surrounding the keto diet is that if will improve lifespan and keep you healthy. Studies have shown that calorie restriction and fasting are beneficial for the lifespan of cells, but it's unclear if ketosis works the same way. And the real question is, who's willing to maintain this diet for their entire lifespan to find out. In addition to this, it's difficult to prove that the keto diet is the only variable between two people to truly test the outcome. 

Athletic Performance

Athletes need fuel to perform. You've probably seen me talk about eating carbs for pre- and post-workout meals in order to not only perform well, but recover well. So how does this work with ketosis?

Ketosis avoids glycogen depletion (that point where you feel like crap or muscles stop functioning properly), because you aren’t using glycogen (from carbs) as your energy source. Instead the body uses fat and ketones for energy. In the process, fat oxidation increases, you produce less lactate and use less oxygen at submaximal rates. Sounds great right?

Unfortunately, the consensus from exercise psychologists is that the problem with fat and ketone bodies as fuel, you won't be able to perform as well as when you are using glucose and carbohydrates as fuel. If your purpose is to be an athlete, you want to perform well. This might not be the best diet for you. There has, however, been one study released that shows a small improvement in cyclist's performance with ketone supplement in combination with carbohydrates. 

Losing Fat and Weight Loss

One of the benefits to the low-carb approach is that your intake reflects higher levels of satiating food (aka the stuff that keep your brain happy and telling you that you're full). If we're hungry less often, it means we will eat less. Eating less in general will lead to some weight loss.

When beginning this diet, you might also notice an initial weight drop. This is due to the depletion of glucose and glycogen happening in the body. Storing glucose is a relatively heavy compound to be stored in the body, which is why our body converts it into body fat for later energy use. For this reason, when we deplete it through not getting carbs in the diet, you'll see an initial weight drop. 

This doesn't necessarily lead to long-term weight or fat loss results. Chances are you'll grow tired of eating a very restricted diet of protein and fat. 

It's also important to note that eating low-carb can be particularly harmful for women. Women's bodies are much more sensitive to the depletion of energy and nutrients. In many cases, women see the disappearance of the menstrual cycle in this process. 

So here's the recap:

  • If you're an athlete, you need to be in tune with your body and it's energy needs. Unless you're an endurance athlete, there's a good chance that this diet won't be beneficial for your performance. 
  • If you're a regular person look for weight/fat loss, the keto diet is not a sustainable long-term solution. You might find short-term results and an initial weight loss, but these will likely plateau. 
  • If this is something you want to try, nutrition coaching is strongly recommended to ensure a smooth transition. Have you ever stopped eating carbs outright? Spoiler alert, it's going to feel rough, so having a coach help ease you into the process can be a game-changer.
  • If you have a neurodegenerative disease or brain injuries, this might be a good resource for experimenting with your diet to help mitigate certain effects. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new nutrition plan.
  • If you have type-2 diabetes, this might be a good jump start for creating a healthy metabolic system, but consult your doctor to ask make sure this won't interfere with any current medications. 

 

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 2

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 2

Week two! The week felt a little lighter in regards to the volume of food. This is in part due to a decrease in training, as well as the conditions of the week (it was rainy most of the week). I intended to have a higher training volume over the weekend (with two 14er summits), which resulted in both less training later in the week to save my legs and a lower metabolism. I also camped over the weekend, which is why there are so many straight forward foods like Cliff Bars included.

One of the concepts behind Always Growing is that nutrition plans should be sustainable and balanced. When I think of this, one thing comes to mind - you should never be hungry. I tell all my clients this. My goal is for them to never be starving throughout the day or going to bed hungry, and this is something I've been making as a priority in my own nutrition as well. Sometimes I get picked on for it, i.e. "Wow, you eat a lot."

You can follow any nutrition plan you want, but if you're hungry and starving yourself, you're ignoring a basic primal pathway in our bodies and our brains. When you're hungry, you should eat. It doesn't mean you'll gain weight. It doesn't mean you're too weak to resist. It means your body is asking for some energy, vitamin, or nutrient that it needs to function well. And fueling your body properly means you'll likely be happier in the long run.

Monday 7/24

Meal 1:
3 eggs
1 cup Tortilla chips

Meal 2:
4 oz chicken breast
2 cups carrots

Meal 3:
Boar's Head Beef Frankfurter's (2)

Meal 4:
4 oz steak
1 cup sauteed spinach
1 Tbsp butter
5 oz steamed carrots
5 oz. Gala apple

Tuesday 7/25

Meal 1:
10.5 oz Silk almond milk yogurt vanilla flavor
1 cup strawberries
Coffee with 1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen

Meal 2:
3 eggs
2.5 oz breakfast sausage
4 oz potatoes

Training:
Split Squats
5 @ 65#
5 @ 75#
5 @ 85#
3 @ 105#
3 @ 115#
1 @ 125#
1 @ 135#
1 @ 145#

15 cals Assault Bike
50 Jumping lunges

Meal 2:
Banana
1 Scoop SFH Recovery chocolate
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar

Meal 3:
Boar's Head Frankwurter's (2)
5 oz carrots

Meal 4: 
6 oz chicken
2 tortillas
1/2 cup spinach
2 cups tortilla chips
1 mini Wholly Guacamole cup
2 square dark chocolate w/ almonds

Wednesday 7/26

Meal 1:
3 eggs
Fast Lane tea
5.5 oz Gala apple

Meal 2:
3 oz chicken breast
4 oz potatoes
1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen

Training:
3 rounds:
200m run
With what time is remaining of 2 min, perform:
AMRAP GHD sit ups. 
Rest 1 min

3 rounds:
400m run
With what time is remaining of 4 min, perform:
AMRAP slamballs. 

Meal 3:
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar in water
Banana

Meal 4:
4 oz steak
5 oz aparagus
5 oz strawberries

Thursday 7/27

Meal 1:
3 eggs
Banana

Training:
5-4-3-2-1
Rounds of CIndy
200m farmers carry

Meal 2:
1 scoop SFH Recovery Chocolate
5 oz Gala apple

Meal 3:
5 oz shrimp
3 oz broccoli
6 oz potatoes

Friday 7/28

Meal 1: 
10.5 oz Silk yogurt vanilla flavor
1 cup strawberries

Meal 2:
4 eggs

Meal 3:
4 oz chicken
5 oz broccoli

Meal 4:
Garbanzo plate - chicken, rice, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, hummus, garlic sauce

Saturday 7/29

Meal 1: 
Banana
1 scoop SFH Recovery Protein Chocolate

Training:
Hike/Run - American Lake 6 miles

Meal 2: 
Orange
Cliff bar - Sierra Trail Mix

Meal 3:
2 eggs
4 oz salmon
5 oz potatoes
1/2 cup hollandaise

Meal 5: 
2 oz chicken
Larabar Apple Pie

Sunday 7/30

Meal 1:
Banana nut muffin
Coffee

Meal 2: 
5 oz steak
6 oz broccolinni
5 oz potatoes + green onion, mint

Meal 3:
2 craft beers
Cliff bar - Sierra Trail Mix

Meal 4:
4 oz chicken
2 pieces small Naan

 

 

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 1

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Nutrition & Training Log - Week 1

I decided to start being a little more "strict" in my nutrition and training leading up to two events: the Imogene Pass Run and Girls Gone Rx. During the last three years, I have not been on a SINGLE strict nutrition plan. My good friends and family know that I notoriously eat well, but I eat whatever I damn well please at all times. I have a burger with a beer, I eat ice cream, and bread is not off limits. But I also eat really well a lot of the time and I fuel my body to perform above all else - I don't want to feel crappy when I workout or hike. By the same token, I'm guilty of prioritizing work over working out, and there have been times when I don't break a sweat for 2 weeks. 

Here's what I decided I want MY nutrition plan to look like. It's Paleo-ish - meaning that I'm eating mostly meat, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, but I'm also including some grains and starches that would not typically be considered part of the paleo diet (like white potatoes, rice, oats). I'm doing this because of being an athlete, and due to the intensive training schedule, I want to ensure that I have enough dense carbs in my diet to not only perform, but recover well. I also am not a big fan of sweet potatoes, so that pretty much cuts out a large carb for me doing strict paleo. 

This week I felt really good for the most part. I was extremely hungry in the first few days and then adjusted. Measuring everything was also difficult since I'm familiar with what portion sizes are good for me, but to help be as detailed as possible, I tried to measure almost everything exactly. This may be in part due to training more and adjusting to a heavier vegetable intake. I also had a wedding this weekend (which rarely happens) so I accepted that there would be some compromises made there. 

Here's what the week looked like:

Monday 7/17
Meal 1:
Banana
Fast Lane tea

Meal 2:
2 eggs
2 oz breakfast sausage
2.5 oz white rice 

Training:
3 rounds:
20 Push ups
20 Inverted ring row
20 Lateral jumps over bar
10 Paralette pass throughs

Meal 2.5:
Red Bull sugar free

Training:
Phillip S. Morris Park "Mini Incline" 2x

Meal 3: 
4 oz chicken breast
4 oz potato
2 oz mushrooms
1/2 Tbsp olive oil

Meal 4: 
3 eggs (cooked in basil olive oil mix)
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup Crunchy Curls (potato lentil chips)
 

Tuesday 7/18
Meal 1:
3 eggs
2 oz breakfast sausage
1.5 oz mushrooms
Coffee with 1/2 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen 

Meal 2:
Chicken breast
1.5 oz baby carrots
4 oz zucchini
1/4 Tbsp olive oil
4.7 oz Fuji Apple 

Meal 3:
1 cup Crunchy Curls (potato lentil chips)

Training:
Row 5k

Meal 4:
1 scoop SFH Pure Churro 

Meal 5:
4 oz chicken breast
4 oz potatoes
1 oz mushrooms
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 oz plum 


Wednesday 7/19
Meal 1:
3 eggs
3 oz breakfast sausage
4.5 oz potatoes
1/2 Scoop Perfect Keto Collagen in Coffee

Meal 2:
1 scoop Xtend BCAA's

Training:
5 rounds:
3x8 box step ups - weighted 20# DB each hand
100m 25# plate carry on back

50 Weighted sit ups 20# slam ball

Meal 3:
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar in water
1 scoop SFH chocolate Recovery
5 oz Fuji Apple

Meal 4: 
5 oz baby carrots
California roll
Salmon roll

Meal 5: 
3.5 devil eggs with 1 tsp olive oil mayo
5 oz Fuji Apple


Thursday 7/20
Meal 1:
10.5 oz Silk almond milk yogurt vanilla flavor
1 cup strawberries
Coffee with 1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen 

Meal 2:
4.5 oz potato
1.6 oz zucchini
3 eggs
2 Tbsp ketchup

Meal 3:
5 oz Fuji Apple
1 hard boiled egg
4 oz chicken breast
4.5 oz potatoes 

Meal 4:
Banana
4 squares Dark Chocolate w/ almonds

Training:
Run Wash Park (2.5 mi)

Meal 5:
4 oz Steak
2 oz Turnips
2 oz Rutabaga
2 oz Mushrooms
2 oz Carrots
1 oz Onion


Friday 7/21
Meal 1:
2 eggs
Banana
1/2 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen in water
Coffee

Training:
Run Wash Park (2.5 mi)

Meal 2:
Cliff nut butter bar - peanut butter chocolate
Boar's Head Beef Frankwurter's (2)

Meal 3:
3 hard boiled egg whites
1 packet tuna
1 Tbsp Olive oil mayo
1 cup baby romaine 

Training:
"DT"
5 rounds: 
12 Deadlifts 85#
9 Hang Power Cleans
6 Push Jerks

Meal 4:
Orange Chicken - Rice, broccoli, chicken 


Saturday 7/22
Meal 1:
3 eggs
5 oz Gala apple
Coffee with 1 scoop Perfect Keto Collagen

Meal 2:
2 oz Steak
2 oz Turnips
1 oz Rutabaga
1 oz onion

Meal 3 (Wedding): 
Red wine (3)
Chicken + Steak w/ Mashed potatoes and squash


Sunday 7/23
Meal 1:
3 eggs
2 oz Gala apple
1/2 Banana
Fast Lane Tea

Meal 2:
1.5 cup almonds (throughout hike)

Training:
12 mile hike/run at Centennial Cone park

Meal 3:
Oats and Honey Nature Valley Bar
12 oz Apple Juice

Meal 4: 
Chicken breast (4-6oz)
2 Tortillas
1/2 cup Guacamole
1 oz onions
 

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Mushrooms - Underrated Health Food

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Mushrooms - Underrated Health Food

Mushrooms may be one of the most underrated foods when it comes to overall health and wellness in the field of nutrition. At their core, mushrooms are edible fungi that contain a host of proteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antibiotics and antioxidants. They are categorized as Saprophytes, plants that do not contain chlorophyll and extract the nutrients from dead/dying plant and animal matter in order to grow. 

While there are around 140,000 species of mushrooms, not all of them are safe for human consumption. Those that are, however, has a variety of health benefits.

Cholesterol: The fiber and enzymes contained in mushrooms have been shown to help lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. They also contain high levels of lean protein, which promote healthy utilization of cholesterol in the body. 

Diabetes: Mushrooms contain natural insulin and enzymes to aid in the breakdown of sugars and starches in the bloodstream. They also aid in the proper functioning of the pancreas, liver, and other endocrine glands, thereby promoting proper insulin production and regulation.

Immune system: One of the antioxidants contained by mushrooms is Ergothioneine, which is beneficial in boosting the immune system as protecting the body against free radicals. Ergothioneine is an amino acid, and also contains sulfur which is often deficient in most people. 

Weight management: In a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, trading one portion of red meat for one cup of white capped mushrooms lead to significant weight loss. In fact, mushrooms are one of the only foods that can be eaten in excess with not negative side effects due to their plant protein content, low carbohydrate value and non-existent fat content. 

Anemia: Anemia is characterized by someone who has low levels of iron in their bloodstream, which can result in fatigue, headaches, reduced neural function, as well as possible digestive issues. Mushrooms are a good source of iron, making them particularly beneficial for vegetarians and vegans. In addition to this, the body is able to absorb over 90% of the iron found in mushrooms.

Breast Cancer & Prostate Cancer: Mushrooms have taken on a medical role when it comes to the prevention and treatment of both breast cancer and prostate cancer. They contain Beta-Glucans and conjugated Linoleic acid, both of which have anti-carcinogenic effects. Linoleic acids suppresses the effects of excess estrogen in the body, which can lead to the expression of breast cancer cells. On the other hand, beta-glucans inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells. Several studies show the benefits of introducing mushrooms medicinally to the diet in both scenarios. 

Bone health: Mushrooms also contain high levels of calcium, which are important for bone strength and the prevention of osteoporosis. 

 

Not sure how to cook mushrooms? Check out this recipe for sauteed mushrooms with a just a few ingredients that you can add to just about any meal. 

 

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"Coconut oil isn't healthy."

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"Coconut oil isn't healthy."

This article has been floating around and it's creating a lot of confusion. Part of the problem with nutrition is that there is so much information out there - how are you supposed to know what to believe?

This article talks about how coconut oil contains a lot of saturated fat, which is known to increase LDL (bad cholesterol). So the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Advisory states that it is unhealthy. Before you jump to throw it away, here's the FULL story when it comes it coconut oil and other saturated fats.

Saturated fats have become the scape goat for heart disease since the 1950's when scientists fed rabbits high levels of cholesterol and it caused arterial damage in their hearts. We aren't rabbits, though, and the last time I checked rabbits don't eat meat (which is where most saturated fats come from - animals fats).

In case you missed it, it recently came out that the sugar industry paid off Harvard researchers to blame fat for heart disease.

Read here: http://www.npr.org/…/50-years-ago-sugar-industry-quietly-pa…

In addition to this, the body creates cholesterol whether you eat it or not. The less you consume, the more it creates and vice versa, as it is needed by every cell in the body while also being vital for the immune system. Your body is a smart and adaptive.

You can learn more through the link to the Pursuit of Thriving blog below, which details how cholesterol got it's bad reputation and why cholesterol (like that found in egg yolks) is good for you:

http://www.always-growing.com/…/eggs-how-healthy-are-they-r…

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Tracking Exercise from a Macro Standpoint

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Tracking Exercise from a Macro Standpoint

When it comes to tracking your macros, you put EVERYTHING into your tracking application - and I do mean everything. You track your proteins, carbs, fat, fiber, the oils you use to cook, your water intake, etc. 

But there are some varying schools of thought on whether or not you should track your exercise when it effects your macros. At Always Growing, we say no tracking of exercise in the apps, but encourage you to always track your workouts for fitness purposes such as improving your weights/benchmarks over time.

In apps like My Fitness Pal, when you add your exercise to your daily tracking, it converts that exercise into an estimated amount of calories burned during that period of exercise. When this happens, it adds more calories to your daily intake allowance. So if you started with 1,500 calories allotted to you for the day, and you burn 250 calories on the elliptical that morning, you're now able to consume 1, 750 calories that day. 

This becomes a problem when the macro calculations have already taken into account your average exercise levels. Our macronutrient profiles take into consideration your current body weight, your body type, your goals and your exercise levels already without you tracking them based on the average number of hours per week you are active. By adding exercise and calories burned, you can significantly skew and overestimate the calories you should be consuming daily.

Not to mention that these are estimations only. As unique individuals, we burn calories at different rates and all machines are making estimated guesses on how many we have burn - aka they aren't always accurate. When you're doing an activity such a CrossFit, the app can't take into account how many pull ups and cleans you did at what weight, or how high your heart rate was. When you're climbing a mountain, the app can't determine what grade increase there was or again, how high your heart rate was. 

Therefore, tracking your exercise can negatively affect your results, especially if you're goal is to lose weight. Your coach has taken all of this into account already for you, and we love that you're hitting an extra round of cardio on any given day, but let it be an extra bonus for you and leave the adjusting of macros to us. 

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Training Day Macros & Non-Training Day Macros - How Glycogen Actually Works

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Training Day Macros & Non-Training Day Macros - How Glycogen Actually Works

I get this question a lot from clients - Should I have a different set of macros or calorie intake for my non-training days? But the answer may not be as simple as most think. To understand better, it helps to know how glycogen works in the body through what you eat.

What is glycogen?
Glycogen is a polysaccharide (a sugar) which is the body's main way of storing energy in the muscles. When carbohydrates are present in the diet, the liver converts the glucose (sugars) of the food into glycogen to be stored in the liver and muscles for exercise use. These are our energy stores for movement. When we exercise, we deplete our glycogen stores over time. Think about doing a large amount of push ups - at some point you can no longer push yourself of the ground and your muscles begin to fail. This is glycogen depletion. Your muscles no longer have the energy needed to perform the movement. 

When it comes to macronutrients in athletes, carbohydrates are our main source of fuel for energy in our workouts. It can, of course, become far more complicated by introducing nutrient timing, though we won't touch on that right now. 

The common misconception is that for days where you aren't using as much energy in the form of exercise (aka rest days) you don't need to eat as much energy in the form of carbohydrates. 

If you're doing this for physique purposes ONLY, this ideology works. If you're looking for performance improvement or to simply be fueled for your workout (i.e. CrossFiters and most of my clients), however, this does not work.

The human body functions on mildly deficient stores regularly. Glycogen is synthesized and re-synthesized within a 24-36 hour window. This means that what I eat today with my synthesized into glycogen in the next day to day and a half.

So let's say Thursday is your rest day. If you eat less carbs on Thursday, when you go to workout the following day on Friday, you will be very glycogen deficient, likely performance poorly, and well like crap through your workout.  So now you're thinking, in order to have lower glycogen levels on rest days, it would benefit you to have lower carbohydrate intake the day prior to your rest day (Wednesday). This however can also directly effect your workout that day and not allow you to recover properly from your workout if you're not refueling your muscles directly following your workout. 

The best option is to have the mindset that your rest days are re-feed days and treat these as recovery days where you are not lowering your caloric intake, but ensuring that you have sufficient glycogen stores for training in the upcoming days.

For this reason, I don't prescribe my performance-based athletes training day macros and rest day macros. For personalized nutrition plans, including macronutrient profiles to incorporate nutrient timing to fuel your workouts, click here or email me at deidre@always-growing.com

 

 

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My Fitness Pal vs. Personalized Coaching

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My Fitness Pal vs. Personalized Coaching

Nutrition is complicated.

There are a few ways that macronutrient levels are determined in the world of nutrition. Applications like My Fitness Pal use factors such as your age, weight, height, gender, and normal daily activity level to calculate your calorie level per day. They also ask how much weight you would like to lose or gain per week in order to determine what type of calorie deficit or increase your total calories should reflect. This is not an indicator of how much you should expect to lose each week, since everyone is different and your calorie intake does not take into account different factors like exercise type, nutrient timing, food quality, etc. My Fitness Pal also asks for your goal weight, solely for the purpose of sending you reminders regarding how much weight you gain lost/gained. Spoiler alert: everyone gets the same macro ratios through MFP. The only thing that changes to personalize it to you is an increase of decrease in calories. 

Other popular macronutrient calculations incorporate your lean body mass to determine your protein intake first and foremost. Following this, carbs and fats are calculated to fill in the remaining caloric intake. 

At Always Growing, your macronutrient profile is based off several factors, including your current weight, goals, body fat percentage, body type, genetics, activity levels, and the type of training your doing. Everyone is unique when it comes to the proper nutrients their body needs to perform optimally as we all metabolize foods differently. For instance, someone who is tall and slender will metabolize their food at a different rate than someone who is short and curvy. Likewise, men and women tend to metabolize nutrients differently, which leads to storing body fat in different parts of the body. Someone who works out more often will have different energy needs than someone who is just starting out and working out less often.

Needless to say, there are A LOT of factors outside of your weight and your lean body mass. 

This means that there is not a one-size-fits-all macro plan. There is no ratio designed for everyone and what works for one person will not always work for everyone. Often times, tweaking a macronutrient profile is necessary to find the perfect combination of nutrients for you. Furthermore, different types of athletes have difference carbohydrate needs - ultra runners need different fueling than powerlifters. 

In addition to this, where you store fat on your body and how to lose it can give clues to hormonal imbalances resulting from poor or inadequate nutrition. When your nutrition does not fuel you and compliment your unique needs, it can lead to hormonal imbalances in not only cortisol (the hormone responsible for your response to exercise) but also more serious imbalances in sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen.

When it comes to your nutrition, getting coaching from someone who knows the in’s and out’s of human physiology becomes detrimental to not only your success but your long-term health.

In addition to years of experience, Deidre holds various certifications in nutrition as a trainer and health coach. She studied at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a holistic health coach to provide overall nutrition guidance to athletes, while also acknowledging that everyone is different and has different needs. Here she studied not only the importance of a whole foods diet, but also alternatives diets such as veganism/vegetarianism, ketogenesis, and paleo. She also studied through Precision Nutrition to develop her coaching to be more scientifically based and customizable for each athlete.

Always Growing offers a wide range of nutrition plans to achieve your goals - whether that’s to perform better in the gym or just look good naked. Coaching makes all the difference.

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Supplements - Our Top Recommendations

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Supplements - Our Top Recommendations

At Always Growing, we recommend supplements to client to do just what they are intended for... SUPPLEMENT a balance and healthy nutrition plan. We don't have a long list of supplements to take to get results fast, fat burners lose 10 pounds in a few days, or even excessive natural supplements. We do, however, recommend a few key vitamins to most clients. 

  1. Fish oil - Fish oil contains omega-3 fats, which are beneficial not only for heart health, but brain health due to their anti-inflammatory effects. While most people know that they should be taking a fish oil, not all products on the market are created equally. When buying a fish oil, check the label to see how much EPA and DHA is in each serving. We recommend a daily dose of 2-4 grams. Labels will typically list EPA and DHA levels in milligrams (mg) and there are therefore 1,000 milligrams in each gram. Many popular fish oil pills contain very little EPA/DHA, which is the stuff that benefits you, so make sure to get fish oil that is highly concentrated. Our favorite it SFH Fish Oil - it's a liquid that you refrigerate after opening and doesn't have a fishy taste. In fact, their fish oils come in a variety of flavors (orange, lemon, chocolate, berry).
  2. Vitamin D - Vitamin D is important for absorption of calcium to our bones. Typically we get Vitamin D as it is synthesized through our skin from sun exposure, but we don't always get out 30 minutes of exposure per day. If you've ever felt a little down on cloudy days, you're lacking your Vitamin D! This vitamin is also linked to depression and mood, so adding it to your supplement regimen benefits most people. 
  3. Post-workout Shake - Some sort of protein shake is important if you are active. Most people aren't dying for a meal after their workout, so a shake is the perfect way to get nutrient quickly into your bloodstream post-workout to recover properly. Look for a protein shake that contains both protein and carbohydrates, or be prepared to add a carbohydrate to your post-workout routine. 
  4. Magnesium/ZMA (only if you have trouble sleeping) - For those who have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, there are two options. First, try taking magnesium 30 minutes prior to bed. Studies have shown that magnesium decreases cortisol (your fight or flight hormone) and can help relieve insomnia. If this doesn't seem to do the trick, the next option is ZMA (Zinc Magnesium Aspartate). This all-natural supplements also contains magnesium to help you fall asleep and achieve REM state longer. Fair warning here, when taking this supplement you will likely experience very vivid dreams. 

That's it. Eat well to get lots of nutrient-rich foods into your diet and mix up the sources of your food often (aka don't only resort to chicken and broccoli), and you'll be getting everything you need. 

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Are You Eating Too Much or Not Enough?

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Are You Eating Too Much or Not Enough?

When I meet with clients looking to cut weight or body fat, they are often concerned they're eating too much and are nervous about how I'll ask them to eat less and how that will effect them. The truth is, however, that most people are not eating ENOUGH food. I hear more clients than not say they didn't think they could eat as much food, and then they see their unwanted weight disappear.

You see, the media and general culture has taught us that we are probably eating too much and this leads to body fat accumulation and weight gain. While this is certainly a real outcome, it's often not the case. When we put a general guideline on how much we should be eating as a population, we lose the customization that each of us need. By saying that everyone should consume roughly 1,200 calories per day leads to a lot of room for error, especially as most Americans eat primarily carbohydrates which the body converts to fat when eaten in excess. 

Each of us has unique energy needs to survive - for our body to function normally, and to sustain the lives we lead. These energy needs are based on not only the mass of our bodies (our weight) but also the tasks we perform throughout the day. The energy spent by someone who works on a construction site for 10 hours per day is going to be largely different than someone who sits at a desk in front of a computer. Their needs are different, and if these two people ate the same amount of food (even if their weight was similar) would have two very different experiences in terms of hunger and energy levels.

To take things a step further, our bodies are composed differently genetically, and we therefore metabolize foods differently. Tall and thin males can notoriously eat endlessly without gaining weight or body fat, whereas women who are short and curvy don't see the same outcome. These differences make our dietary needs unique.

So what happens when you aren't eating enough, or even not the right amounts of nutrients to sustain your body's needs? Your body turns your food into fat, it pulls energy from your muscles, and depletes your cells of nutrients to continue to function as best as it knows possible. When you get your nutrition aligned with the energy and macronutrient needs of your body, you'll be able to optimize your body fat percentage, support your every day functions and energy levels, and help with any training you're doing. 

Food in excessive is not the enemy it has been made out to be. By eating enough food, you'll feel better and likely look better. For help determining your unique energy and macronutrient needs, check out my custom plans

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H2O - Staying Hydrated

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H2O - Staying Hydrated

Whether you're exercising daily, running a marathon, doing a one-day obstacle course or not being active at all, hydration is one of the most vital things for overall health. 

With up to 60% of the whole human body being composed of water, to say that you need it to function properly is an understatement. When you're even mildly dehydrated ,your body is unable to function properly and can slow down different function to preserve itself. Not to mention if you're trying to lose weight or gain muscle mass, it's nearly impossible for your body to purge itself of waste without being properly hydrated. 

Without considering exercise in your lifestyle at all, I always recommend drinking 50-75% of your body weight in ounces minimum.

This means if I weigh 150 pounds, I need to be drinking between 75-112 ounces of water daily.

Plus, if you live in a high and/or dry climate (like Colorado) you should be drinking an additional 32 ounces daily. 

If you exercise, you should be drinking even more water since you'll be sweating and losing water. Sweating is the body's natural method for cooling down. The average person loses between 0.8-1.4 liters (or 27-47 ounces) of water per hour of exercise. During exercise, we need more water. The enhanced metabolic rate of muscle contraction requires a larger delivery of nutrients and oxygen along with faster waste and heat removal form the body.

I often tell my clients that if they've ever been knee deep in a workout and started feeling really crappy, chances are they were not properly hydrated going into the workout. If you've ever felt like your face and body are unable to cool down while you were exercising, that's dehydration. Without proper hydration, your body isn't able to sweat and you start to get that "I can't breathe, I'm so hot, my head might explode" feeling. 

Here are a few tips to make sure you're hydrated leading up to your workout:

  • One to two hours before your workout, drink 20 ounces of water. Then, 15 minutes before you begin, drink another 8 ounces of water.
  • During your workout, you should be drinking approximately another 8 ounces.

Fun fact for you - losing just 2% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25%. So if the goal is to perform well and increase your capacity for work, you need to prepare by hydrating well.

A well-hydrated athlete feels stronger and can work out longer and more effectively.  The heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood to the body, and oxygen and nutrients can be transported more efficiently to the muscles you’re working during exercise.  That means you’re going to have more energy, and the same exercises you struggled with when dehydrated will seem much easier.

Even if all of your nutrition is out of whack, start with water. Allow your body to function the way it was meant to and build on that hydrated foundation.

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Energy and Immune Boosting Shot

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Energy and Immune Boosting Shot

I concocted a little shot today that I wanted to share with everyone. 

I initially made this mixture as an energy shot and have done so in the past by juicing ginger root. Ginger root is a warming remedy as it increases blood circulation and lowers blood pressure. It will also put some pep in your step if you shoot it straight. I'm personally not a big fan of the taste of ginger, so I wanted to add something naturally sweet with it. 

Not everyone has access to a juicer. They're wonderful and I highly recommend using them for adding vitamins and minerals to your diet without having to eat loads of vegetables. But expensive and timely to use and clean up. So instead, I wanted to create a juice shot that didn't require a juicer but merely a hand juicer for the oranges. 

Here's what I put in it:

  • 2 small oranges hand juiced (approximately 1/2 cup of orange juice)
  • 1/2 inch ginger root finely grated by hand
  • A pinch of ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon or less of raw honey

Easy as that. Mix and enjoy.

 

While I made this for energy, I realized these ingredients also have a lot of immune system support benefits, as well as anti-inflammatory qualities. The ginger root is a natural herb for inflammatory and is recommended for fighting colds/the flu. Turmeric is one of the most powerful herbs around with its anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies show that turmeric is as powerful as many prescription level medications on the market for anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants, pain killers, arthritis, cholesterol fighters, etc. The bottom line is this: a pinch is a good addition no matter who you are. Oranges contain a ton of Vitamin C, which we know is vital for supporting our immune system in fighting away illness. And the honey is just in case you're not a fan of the bitter taste of ginger. 

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Are You Sleep Deprived?

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Are You Sleep Deprived?

With all of the commitments in our lives - work, family, friends and play - we often find ourselves utilizing an "I'll sleep when I'm dead" mentality to overcome how tired we are. I'm certainly guilty of this at times, but sleep is one of the most important factors to your overall health. In fact, it may be more important than your nutrition and exercise. 

First, ask yourself a few questions:

Are you always sleepy?
Do you sleep soundly at night or wake up through the night?
When is the last time you remember dreaming?
How many hours of sleep do you get every night?
Do you go to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time?

Sleep deprivation has become such a widespread issue in our society that most people don't even realize there's a problem. As we've come to used to being sleepy or falling asleep at our desk, we've just accepted that this is how life feels. But it's not!

When you're not getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night, you're essentially shooting your health efforts in the foot. When we sleep, our brain waves slow down allowing us to relax and recover. The brain waste management systems are very active during our deep sleep as they remove toxins to improve cognitive function. This is also when muscles and tissues repair themselves, which is why sleep is so vital for building muscle and exercise.

When these things don't take place during your sleep, sleep deprivation can become a chronic issue, leading to consequences including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Obesity
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Mental impairment
  • Higher possibility of injury
  • Poor quality of life

Many studies show that sleep parallels the success of both muscle building and weight managements plans. In other words, if your goal is to build muscle or lose weight, you should also set goals for getting enough sleep nightly. Without sleep, you'll be limiting your success or completely hindering it. 

Here are few easy tips for resolving sleep deprivation in your life.

  1. Make sleep a priority. Invest the time in yourself to get enough sleep!
  2. Start winding down before it's time to get into bed and don't fight your circadian rhythm. Turn off electronics and dim the lights. Many electronics now have a night setting to help your brain adjust for sleep. 
  3. Go with the flow of light as much as possible - a.k.a. wake up with the sun, and go to sleep when it gets dark. If this doesn't work for your schedule, set times to be up and go to bed, and try to stick with it even on the weekends.
  4. Avoid drinking caffeine late in the day. If you have trouble falling asleep at night or wake up throughout the night, try removing caffeine from the second half of your day. You could be caffeine sensitive and not realize it.
  5. If you have trouble sleeping at night, try bedtime teas with natural herbs or taking a magnesium pill.
  6. For athletes, I recommend trying ZMA. Zinc Magnesium Aspartate is widely used in the athletic community as a recovery method. It's all natural and will help you get into a deep sleep and REM state. Be warned, it will give you vivid dreams. Everyone reacts differently, so start with a small dose.

When it comes to your overall health, sleep is one of the biggest factors. So take care of yourself, allow your body to recover fully, and get rested up so you can be fully awake to enjoy your life.

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Balance and Alcohol

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Balance and Alcohol

There are few cardinal rules when it comes to my coaching:

  1. You should NEVER be hungry.
  2. Your diet is what you eat day in and day out, and it does not have a deadline.
  3. Practice balance. 

Today I want to talk about the third rule: Practice balance. When I refer to balance, I'm talking about your nutrition (and really anything in life) that you could potentially get burnt out on. When it comes to our diet, we want to eat well as much of the time as possible, but sometimes things come up that try to derail our nutrition. 

This could be cravings from day to day. For the most part you want to steer clear and re-learn ways of dealing with your cravings, especially sugar cravings, as you clean up your diet. It could also be going to a new restaurant and wanting to try a delicious sounding plate, but unable to do so because it contains something you've vowed not to eat anymore. And this is where balance comes into play. 

I recommend an 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, you should be good - eat clean, eat what you've dedicated yourself to eating, get in the veggies, your supplements, your water, etc. The remaining 20% of the time (or less if you have superb will power), BE BAD. Indulge and treat yourself to things you've always loved to eat (ahem - chocolate), try something new at a restaurant even though it has something noncompliant, order dessert. Your nutrition is hugely important to your health, but so is your happiness. Remember to practice balance and be bad every once in a while without guilt. 

This brings us to today's topic - alcohol. I'm going on a bachelorette party this weekend, so festivities are on my mind and I know this is something that comes up often as indulgences

"Can I still drink a beer?!"

Here are a few important facts about alcohol to keep in mind, as well as the best and worst picks for your adult beverages when keeping your diet in mind. 

  • Alcohol has almost twice as many calories per gram than carbs and proteins. For example, a 5 oz. glass of wine contains 110 calories, 91 of which come from the alcohol itself. 
  • Alcohol can damage the stomach, kidneys and liver due to often being a yeast by-product, which can cause inflammation of the gut lining and lead to serious kidney and liver diseases. 
  • Alcohol provide empty calories - a.k.a. lots of calories but very little nutritional value.
  • Alcohol inhibits fat loss and can cause fat gain. When you drink alcohol, your body uses it as fuel first (when it should be using fat as fuel) and does so until it's out of your system. 
  • Moderate alcohol consumption in healthy adults has shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Having a glass of wine with your meal can help you live longer - in fact it reduces the risk of death 18 percent. 
  • Red wine contains antioxidants, resveratrol, and polyphenols that are good for heart health. 

Alcohols From Best to Worst

1. Tequila - This should be distilled 100% agave tequila, otherwise tequila often contains a huge amount of refined sugars. Many tequilas made in the U.S contain other alcohols besides tequila (up to 49%) while still being labeled as tequila. The agave plant is not a grain, and contains simple sugars like fruits. 

2. Red Wine - If you're not a liquor person, red wine is the best choice for you. Because of it's heart health benefits, it's one of the best alcohol options when drunk in moderation. Red wine trumps white wine, because white wine removes the skin of the grape (and consequently the resveratrol) and contains more sugar, hence the sweeter taste. 

3. Beer - Beer is made from wheat, barley, and hops. If you're among the paleo community, it should be a dead giveaway that this isn't the best option for you. Beer also contains a ton of carbs, and while there are low carb options, are you really going for low-carbs foods or whole foods? Think about it.

4. Mixed drinks - Many spirits are okay on the rocks, but that's not how they're typically served. If you mix anything with a sugary soda, mixer, or fruit juice, you'll be getting a large amount of carbs and sugars in your drink, leading to huge calorie intake in the form of a drink with no other nutrients. 

Obviously this list isn't exhaustive, but it provides your best and worst options. That being said, remember that balance is key to the happiness and sustainability of any diet. Choose wisely, indulge every now and then, and create the nutrition plan that suits you best. 

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Eggs - How Healthy Are They With All That Fat and Cholesterol?

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Eggs - How Healthy Are They With All That Fat and Cholesterol?

Have you ever thrown away an egg yolk because you were concerned about the cholesterol or fat it contains? Or have you ever considered eating less eggs because of their fat content? Maybe you've questioned how many eggs are too many to eat in one day?

As concerns for heart disease and high cholesterol have become leaders in health concerns for many, eggs have been put on the chopping block as an unhealthy food item. So, how healthy are eggs really?

First, we need to look back in time at how heart disease and the fear for heart disease developed since it's a relatively new occurrence in our history. The first recorded heart attack was in 1912, and by 1930 there had been over 3,000 heart attacks reported. Thirty years later, over 500,000 heart attacks were reported. Needless to say, heart attacks were on the rise and people started to worry.

Two theories developed to explain what was becoming more common. First there was the lipid hypothesis, which stated that high cholesterol in the blood stream causes heart disease. The second hypothesis was the diet-heart hypothesis, which stated that saturated fats and cholesterol that we eat from sources such as animals products raises blood cholesterol levels. These both led to the increase of the pharmaceutical company's role in heart disease through prescriptions for statins and other cholesterol lowering medications. 

There was a lot of research done, but unfortunately it wasn't exactly accurate and became widely distributed as truth in an attempt to decrease heart attacks as quickly as possible. Imagine you're the mayor of town and there's a problem causing your townspeople to die. When any research is provided with a resolution, chances are you'll provide it to your town as soon as possible to help the people and town you love. Right? That's what happened in this case. There was a study done in 1954 where a researcher fed cholesterol to rabbits, and it caused arterial damage in the rabbits. How similar are humans to rabbits, though? Not very similar as it turns out. With different natural diets, digestive systems, and differences in nearly every internal system, the study should not have been concluded to be applicable to the diets of humans. 

A few years later in 1956, a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in crop oils (corn, soybean, canola) was advocated by Irving Page and Jeremiah Stamler in a televised fundraiser for the American Heart Association. These two men also went on to create the nutritional guidelines in 1961 for the American Heart Association. And so, the anti-saturated fat, anti-cholesterol message became ingrained in the mind of Americans despite living healthily for centuries eating these types of foods. As a result, obesity more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2008. 

So if they got it wrong, then what really causes heart disease? If you keep in mind that humans have eaten these foods for centuries without facing heart attacks, saturated fats and cholesterol are likely not the culprits. Research points to sugar, stress, nutrient deficiency, nutrient imbalances, damages fats (like those from processed crop oils), and chronic inflammation as contributing factors to increasing heart disease. Not animal meats and not eggs. 

Okay, so you can eat your eggs but you still don't want to have high cholesterol, right? Not quite. Lots of research shows that people with high cholesterol actually tend to be healthier and love longer than those with low cholesterol. Cholesterol is a lifesaving, health-promoting substance, and it performs incredibly important functions in the body. Every cell in your body needs cholesterol at some point during its life. Cholesterol is important for fighting infections and can disable toxins produced by bacteria to further support the immune system. 

Cholesterol in your food does not determine your blood cholesterol levels either. The body naturally creates cholesterol and creates less when more is introduced through the diet - the body is smart and self-regulates. Furthermore, foods high in cholesterol are jam-packed with other important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. 

Eggs are one of the best foods for you to get plenty of saturated fats efficiently through your food. They're a natural source of both protein and fat, and filled with Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, D, Calcium and Magnesium. Most of these nutrients reside in the yolk. 

Is there a limit on how many eggs you should be eating? Nope. You would have to eat a ridiculous amount of eggs before I would recommend you eat less eggs. That being said, it's important to get a variety your nutrients from a variety of sources. This is also dependent on your personal goals and if you have specific protein and fat content goals for your diet, but in general eggs get the green light. 

 

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White Rice vs. Brown Rice

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White Rice vs. Brown Rice

In the past several years, it's become widely spread that  brown rice is a healthier option over white rice. But is this really true? 

Many clients are shocked when I mention white rice, so let's look into this topic a little bit to help you make the best decision. 

First, what's the difference between white rice and brown rice anyways?

Brown rice is the whole form of rice. The shealth, known as the bran, that covers the grain of rice remains intact in brown rice, which is what gives it the brown color. White rice, on the other hand, is a refined version of rice and does not contain the bran.

Brown rice

Pro's
The bran that remains on brown rice grains contains fiber and is very beneficial for your digestive health. It also contains magnesium, phosphorous, B-vitamins and protein. This is why it's commonly said that brown rice is the healthier option for you. More nutrients = healthier. Brown rice is also lower on the glycemic index and can help decrease the risk of diabetes. 

Con's
The bran often absorbs pesticides and chemicals that are sprayed onto it during the farming process. One of the biggest chemicals to be of concern is arsenic. Some studies show that brown rice contains 50% more arsenic than the daily safety level issued by the EPA, especially when eating more than one serving per day.

White rice

Pro's
As the bran is removed through the refining process, all of the potentially harmful chemicals are removed leaving only the tasty white center of the original rice seed. It's a good source of carbohydrates due to its low sodium levels, especially for those with high blood pressure and kidney problems. 

Con's
White rice does not contain as many beneficial nutrients as brown rice. It does, however, still contain many of the essential amino acids we need in our dietary intake.

So what about taste? There are a few key differences as shown below. 

 

So... which one is better?

Ultimately they both have benefits and disadvantages. The best thing to do is eat both. You don't always have to eat brown rice or always eat white rice. You can both forms of rice to create variability in your diet. It's important to keep your diet constantly varying - if you eat the same thing day in and day out, what vitamins, amino acids, nutrients and fuel might you be missing out on? 

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Depression - Not Exactly a Chemical Imbalance

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Depression - Not Exactly a Chemical Imbalance

Depression effects over 51% of the U.S. population. If you were to ask someone to describe what depression is, the common answer is that "depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that leads to feeling severely sad, hopeless, and unimportant making it often difficult to live a normal life."

This will be hard to swallow, but that's not correct. At least, that's not the actual cause of depression.

YES - There are often outside forces that cause depression in many people. 

YES - There is a chemical problem and something is physically wrong with the brain of those people experiencing depression. 

But chronic depression is a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, namely poor nutrition practices, according to many studies. This occurs through increased levels of systematic inflammation (which is bad for you, in case you missed the blog on inflammation). Endless data exists showing the relationship between diet quality and systematic inflammation, even going as far as to show that higher intakes of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fish and legumes are associated with reduced plasma concentrations of inflammatory markers.

Likewise, traditional Western diets containing high levels of carbohydrates and sugars have shown to increase the inflammatory response in the body. One study went so far as to show that fast food consumers are 51% more likely to develop depression than those who avoid fast food. It consisted of nearly 9,000 participants who had never been diagnosed with depression or taken antidepressants. After six months of examination, 493 or the participants were diagnosed with depression or began taking antidepressants. 

What this all means in layman's terms is the you may be feeding your own depression through the food you eat. Fast food and processed carbs are making you and your brain sick. 

Anti-depressant medications have become widely prescribed and the amount of people taking them has skyrocketed in the past two decades. Between 8-10% of the U.S. population is estimated to be taking anti-depressant medication. This spike does not, however, indicate an increase in depression. These medications treat the symptoms of depression without treating or resolving the cause of the problem. This is important because depression is a precursor to many other serious illnesses caused by systematic inflammation.

Depression increases the risk for:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease

Experts like Daniel Amen, MD believe that depression, obesity and Alzheimer's are all very similar diseases with different expressions in the body resulting from an unhealthy lifestyle. This means that you if currently suffer from depression, the likelihood that you can develop these diseases in the future is significantly increased. 

Here are four ways to fight depression WITHOUT the use of medication:

  1. Diet - Remove excess carbohydrates and sugars (in the form of refined and processed foods i.e. bread, pasta, baked goods, processed junk). Fill your diet with fish, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and foods that fight inflammation.
  2. Sleep - Research shows that getting 5 or less hours of sleep per night may boost our risk of depression to 53%.
  3. Exercise - Getting 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 times per week has been shown to be out of the best antidepressants. 
  4. Sunlight - Serotonin production in the brain is directly related to sunlight exposure.

Depression is no easy disease to overcome. Dietary changes can make a huge difference, but ongoing coaching is likely necessary in many cases. These holistic changes in your lifestyle and nutrition can change not only the inflammation in your body, but the health of your brain and your entire life.

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