Sunday, August 20, 2017

Snacks that are power-packed

Most of us work and (in my opinion) that's where we tend to do most of our snacking during the day.  But whether at work or at home, I've got three suggestions for taking the anxiety out of diet-busting snacks.

First of all, snacks are a great option to sustain your body and mind between meals.  Ideally, they should be simple, yet inviting and satisfying.

It can be easy to get stuck in the rut of packing the same old snacks or even grabbing something quick that may not be the most balanced choice for powering your mind and fueling your fitness.  One of my go-to staple snacks is to pair nuts and seeds with fruits or veggies.  They are quick to put together, most are easily portable, and the variety of combinations is endless.

Plus, you can choose from seasonal, local produce to boost nutrient density and flavor.

Quick Tips For Quantity:
¼ cup Raw Nuts & Seeds or 2 Tablespoons Nut & Seed Butter
½ cup or 1 average sized piece of fruit
*Your body may need more or less depending on individual requirements

Here are 3 of my new favorite Fresh Fruit Snacks – twists on many of our old standbys:
  1. Instead of pre-packaged dried fruit and nuts: Make a Fresh Blueberry Trail Mix
  1. Rather than pack a PB&J loaded with sugar: Make Fresh Strawberry & Sun Butter Toast
  1. Love Peanut Butter and Apple but craving a snack on the sweeter side? Try My Walnut Pear Crumble

Each of these new takes on fruit and nut snacks offers a fun way to wake up your taste buds and satisfy your hunger without adding extra sugar or processed junk!

Happy Snacking!

Fresh Blueberry Trail Mix
  1. Mix ½ cup fresh blueberries with ¼ cup raw mixed nuts.
  2. Enjoy!
Fresh Strawberry & Sun Butter Toast
  1. Toast Ezekiel Bread or Whole Grain Bread.
  2. Slice 4-5 Strawberries.
  3. Paint Sun Butter on toast and top with berries.
  4. Enjoy!
Walnut & Pear Crumble
  1. Slice a fresh pear into rounds.
  2. Paint walnut butter on top (I use Life of Riley Walnut butter – it’s excellent)
  3. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  4. Enjoy!
In Love & Gratitude,


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How much weight should I be lifting?

How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting?  It’s a perfectly good question, but the answer is going to vary.  In fact, there are a number of variables that should be taken into account. When you do, you'll be able to customize your training program and ensure that you’re using the right weight every time.

For those of you not interested in details of
How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting...  I can sum it up:  In short, you should always lift as much weight as you can for the number of repetitions targeted by an exercise - without compromising form.  The goal should be to create a burn for the last 4-5 reps or 10-15 seconds, if timed.  If you aren’t doing this, you’re only getting a fraction of your workout’s potential.

So let’s get into the answer of How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting?  Ultimately, the independent variable isn’t the weight you're lifting, it's about the reps or time that you're doing the exercise.  So how do you figure out how much weight to lift, for the time or reps to get the best results?  Basically, you need to fail in order to find out.  Why?  Because failure can actually be good. What I mean is that if you never fail during a set, you never know how much weight you should lift when doing an exercise.  So when you first start out (and at least every 30 days ) it's good to create failure on an exercise. This lets you know what weights to use, and that you’re pushing to your limits. This is important.

How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting?

Now let’s take a look at how the 'failure set' is the answer to How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting. This should be done with a few rules in mind so you don’t injure yourself.  To begin with, you want to start with enough weight to barely reach the targeted repetitions or time.  If you can just finish with maintaining form, then you found your weight.  If you can't, then you need to adjust it back a bit.  Repeat this process through every exercise in your workout.

Most weight training exercises target a certain number of repetitions for each set or a certain amount of time.  If you're using reps, the number might stay constant over the course of a workout or change depending on the exercise.  If you are using time, the reps will vary based on the exercise.  Either way, having an understanding of why this is being asked of you will help you get the most out of your workout program and determine the weight you should be lifting.

Here is a brief physiology lesson. This will help you understand how doing a failure test every 4-6 weeks will help as you train your body differently.  It will help you understand why you will constantly need to change the amount of weight you’re using to get the most out of each workout.

Here's a quick rundown of Weight Training Physiology:
  • Hypertrophy Workouts:  These workouts rev up the metabolism and are the quickest means to change your ratio of muscle and fat.  Whether your goal is to lose or gain weight, beginning with a workout program that focuses on hypertrophy will change your metabolism, which in turn is body transformation.  This will create a fat burn and added lean muscle with strength, which accelerates fat loss.
  • Muscle Mass Workouts:  This style of workout is going to combine low reps (or little time) with very high weights.  This will produce larger muscles, which in turn increases the capacity for strength.  The catch is, the strength doesn't come with size.  To create the strength, the larger muscles have to be trained to be efficient.  This is done with programs that provide eccentric (negative) forces, and plyometric (explosive) forces.
  • Muscular Endurance Workouts:  This is exercise that lasts longer than a minute or over 15 repetitions.  Endurance workouts target the glycolytic energy system, where both glycogen and oxygen are used when doing the exercise.  This creates muscular endurance, which means you are increasing the muscle’s ability to perform for a longer duration.  This style of training is best done when it is in conjunction with hypertrophy training.
So the questions about How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting will have a different answers depending on what style of workouts you're doing.  With that said, keep in mind that the best exercise programs for overall health, weight loss, maintenance and muscular gains utilize all styles of exercise within one program.  This will create the greatest results and benefits from your routine.

When you start a new program be sure to go through the entire program and do a failure test on each exercise to know where you need to start.  This will help you get the greatest benefits from the weight you're lifting and the workouts you're doing.

No matter which of the above styles you’re targeting during your workout, it’s only effective if you have run the failure tests and are pushing your body to those limits.  If the last few reps or seconds are difficult while still maintaining proper form, you're good.  If not, simply adjust. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Cure for Late-Night Cravings (actually, 5 of them)

Satisfying late-night cravings can do real damage to a strict diet.  There are several reasons for this and various ways to address the habit.  I've got five ideas that can help cure these cravings.

First, though, realize that you might not even have a real problem.

For instance, you may have heard that nighttime eating is a no-no, or that every calorie consumed after a certain hour magically turns to fat.  Sure, metabolism slows at night  - but not to a screeching halt.  In fact, there’s nothing wrong with eating after dinner if you’re truly hungry.  The question is... are you? 

Late-night cravings are common in people who don’t eat enough during the day.  Meal timing is also important for those who don't eat much during the day - saving most of their calories for the evening meal - because they often have a difficult time not eating after dinner.  Make sure your breakfast and lunch are rich in protein and fiber and low in sugar - and you may not want nighttime snacks at all.  Problem solved!  However, if you just can’t stop your stomach’s late night grumblings, consider the following strategies:

Investigate Your Hunger

Is your stomach really grumbling, or is your appetite all in your head?  The first step when you think you’re feeling hungry is to figure out whether it’s actual hunger or if there’s something else gnawing at you.  Often the culprit is habit, boredom, or an emotional trigger. 

When you cheat on your diet with late-night eating, ask yourself a few questions in the morning, such as, "What kind of mood was I in when I decided to have cookies last night?  Was I feeling a certain way?  Was I bored?  Was I stressed?  Was I sad or worried about something?”  If there’s a mood-food connection, take a look at the underlying triggers.  Distraction often helps.  Come up with a list of tasks that don’t involve food, such as putting dishes away, texting a friend, brushing your teeth or some form of useful work.  When a craving strikes, do something from the list.  Hang the list on the wall if you have to!

Meditate on Your Cravings

Before you reach for a snack, take a few moments to center yourself.  In a study published in the journal Appetite, people who did a brief meditation called a body scan  -  in which you focus your attention on each area of your body (feet, legs, torso, hands, arms, etc.), noticing and accepting feelings and sensations  - kept their cravings from intensifying.  Over time, such “mindful meditation” can have even greater benefits, according to researchers at the University of California. In their recent review in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, they found that meditation can reduce binge eating.

Drink Some Tea

Stress often triggers late-night snacking.  After a long, tiring day, it’s common to seek out a reward in the form of a late-night nibble.  How about pouring a cup of decaf herbal tea instead.  It’s calming, and it fills your stomach.  Pick a flavor you like enough that you’ll look forward to drinking it.  Some brews, like passionflower,  might even help you snooze.

Eat Dessert

Some people are hardwired to want sugar.  A study published in Twin Research and Human Genetics shows that our perception of sweetness is largely determined by a single set of genes.  If you tend to crave dessert at night, finish your dinner with a low-calorie sweet treat, suggests Gerg.  This will help prevent you from bingeing later on a quest for sweetness.  Try 10 frozen grapes or a clementine, or for a creamier option, try Chia Pudding.

Consume More Protein

Sometimes you really are legitimately hungry in the P.M. because you didn’t eat enough earlier in the day - or you trained hard enough for your muscles to need more fuel for recovery.  A high-calorie nighttime meal isn’t the solution, but a dose of protein is.

Some research suggests that consuming casein, an easy-to-digest milk protein, at night has several fitness benefits.  In one study in young men, nighttime casein boosted morning metabolism.  In another study in obese women, casein improved morning fullness so long as participants also worked out three times a week.  All these threats  - ‘don’t eat after 7, don’t eat after 8,’  - really don’t make sense in the context of making a smart food choice.  Just keep the snack below 150 calories.  Our recommendation: Beachbody Performance Recharge, which will supply you with 20 grams of casein for just 100 calories.  In a pinch, a couple of scrambled eggs or ¾ cup cottage cheese or also good options.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Carbs before heavy exercise: Does it help?

I've always believed that you should load up on cards before heavy exercise, like a trail hike (for example).

While a popular belief is that carbs are the enemy, it’s just not the case, especially when it comes to heavy exercise.

Carbs before heavy exercise:  Does it Help? 

In fact, pre-workout carbs can help.  If you’re looking to improve your athletic performance, they’re a potent ally.

Fat is not the only macro-nutrient used for fuel.  Carbs are a primary source as well.  Providing your body with proper carbohydrates will provide fuel through exercise, as well as aid in recovery and muscle gains.  The body stores both fat and glycogen for fuel sources.  Glycogen is stored in lower quantities.  Low-to-moderate levels of exercise will utilize fat as fuel, but exercising at higher levels of intensity causes the body to shift its energy source from fat to glycogen.  That’s one reason regularly including proper carbohydrates in your diet is an essential part of athletic training.

So yes - carbs before heavy exercise can help if it is a carb source that will provide proper energy levels versus a spike and later drop in energy.

The three main sources of carbohydrates are starches, sugars, and fiber.  If you eat a lot of starches and sugars, you get the spike and drop in energy.  If you eat more complex carbs that are mixed with some more starches or grains, you will get a more even energy expenditure.

When you eat carbs your body stores glycogen for energy use.  When you exercise, your body uses these energy stores and the glycogen is pulled into the muscle to be used as fuel.  If you are not getting high quality carbohydrates for fuel then your levels will be low.  For an example, if you’ve gone on a long bike ride or a long run and suddenly lost your energy (or felt like you hit a wall), you’ve experienced what it feels like to have depleted your available glycogen stores.

A review by the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine showed that consuming carbohydrates prior to and during exercise “has been shown unequivocally to extend endurance performance.”

How Many Carbs Do You Need Prior To Heavy Exercise?

The body can't store glycogen in large quantities.  If you're consuming the proper calories within your daily nutrition, you could do about 90 minutes of hard effort on your glycogen stores.  The nice thing is that your body can replenish this store fairly quickly and easily.  Plus, as you get more fit, your body becomes more efficient at storing and utilizing glycogen.

So the real answer to 'Carbs Before Before Heavy Exercise:  Does It Help?', is yes - if in the right amount.  It varies based on the exercise that's being done.  The recommendation is typically 30-60 grams per hour of exercise (up to two hours).  Go beyond two hours, and you might need to up it 60-90 grams.  It really comes down to the need for balance to provide the most efficient energy.

This may become a balancing act.  It's about choosing high quality foods and/or supplements that provide real food carbohydrate sources (in the proper ratios) to keep the energy levels and recovery optimal for performance.  So the suggestion is to eat balanced meals, but also supplement with high quality products that already have the balance created for you.  One of the best nutritional supplement lines on the market is the Beachbody Performance Line.  This line provides excellent support for heavy exercise routines - both before and after.

Here's the thing:  if you are working out regularly, ignore the headlines suggesting that you need to go low-carb.  Carbs before heavy exercise:  Does it help?  YES IT CAN - If you give your body the fuel it needs, keep a clean and portioned nutrition plan and use high quality supplements.  You’ll feel better during your workouts and see better results!

Cooking for better nutrition

If you like to cook, you like to cook your way.  I understand.  Since you're here, you also know that cooking your own food is the key to a flat belly - and (no doubt) you've been trying to eat the best you possibly can.

Here are ten ideas for changing what you might be doing in order to be cooking for better nutrition.

Some might call these 'ten cooking mistakes', but I would call them 'ten cooking suggestions'.   Cooking for better nutrition can be hard or time-consuming if you don’t know the proper techniques.  It doesn't have to be.  A few easy-to-do changes really add up over time.

If you goal is fat-loss, then consider these ten simple concepts when preparing meals:

1)  Cook with whole-grain (and generally choose whole grain)

It can be hard to change, but it’s still best to buy whole-grain as opposed to white pasta, rice, bread, etc… Why?  Simply because whole-grain has more fiber than white.  Fiber is essential to weight loss.  Check labels for added ingredients such as sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

2)  Don't overcook your vegetables

Overcooking spinach won’t be that dramatic.  Just realize that the more you cook vegetables, the more they lose their vitamins - and then essential fiber breaks down.  Some vegetables, like carrots or sweet potato, actually become problematic if you’re trying to lose fat.  Their glycemic index increases as they cook.

3)  Don't juice away the fiber

Sure, juicing is good.  But the reason you need to eat vegetables is to eat more fiber, which is linked to effective weight loss.  Most blenders break down fiber and you end up with only part of what you need the most.  As an alternative, try a high-density super-food shake.

4)  Try a better kind of rice

Short grain (Arborio, sushi, risotto) isn't the best.  Extra-long grain is great (Basmati, Jasmine).  If you can find a whole-grain basmati or Jasmine rice, it's even better - you’re all set.

5)  Don't overcook pasta

The more you cook pasta, the more its glycemic index increases - which leads to gaining fat.  Try to cook pasta 'al dente'.

6)  Make wise substitutions 

Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners or eating gluten-free pasta may be making things worse for you.  Gluten-free pasta, for instance, is made with high-glycemic flours that are best to avoid if you are not gluten-intolerant and are trying to lose weight.

7)  Steam vegetables, rather than boiling

Vegetables leech color, vitamins and lose some of their texture when they boil instead of steam. If you have the choice, always steam in order to guarantee optimum nutrition.

8)  Don't throw away the good parts 

Stalk and leaves of broccoli, chards, kale and other green vegetables are some of the most nutritious parts - so is cucumber or potato skin.  It’s a common 'mistake', but just think about all the nutritious fiber you’re throwing away.

9)  You peel your vegetables

Most vitamins are located just under the skin of vegetables.  And, of course, the skin if full of fat-burning fiber.  Suggestion:  don’t peel cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, turnips or fruits like apple or pears - or at least don't peel them as much.

10)  Use the best oils

I always use coconut oil, avocado oil, or extra-virgin olive oil.  While oils have little impact on your weight loss efforts, some can be really unhealthy.  Avoid canola, vegetable, or sunflower oils when you can .  They're just not the best.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

How drinking can affect your health and fitness goals

We all like to go out with our friends and have a few drinks.  In fact, there's nothing wrong with drinking - so long as it's not harming your relationships, your work or your health.  I know plenty of people who are in good shape, eat a proper (and well-supplemented) diet and drink all the time.  They're fine - but it's not that way for everyone. 

In fact, it's rare.

Overall, though, when you're trying to obtain various health goals, your habit might get in the way.  So, how drinking can affect your health and fitness goals really needs to be something you understand.

Here's the deal, and we're going to be real here.  Not all drinks and beverages are bad for you.  Yes, many are filled with sugar or corn syrup - and these will not help you reach your health goals. There are also some drinks that won’t hurt your waistline or health and fitness goals quite as much, especially if consumed in real moderation.  They can actually have some benefits.  Again, I want to remind you that this is in moderation.

How drinking can affect your health and fitness goals

How drinking can affect your health and fitness goals comes mostly when you over indulge, meaning more than 7-14 drinks per week. Mixed drinks are among the worst alcohol beverages you can drink because of the juices, sodas, and other sugary substances that make a mixed drink just that - a mixed drink.  If you're consuming more than 7-14 drinks per week, this can pack on a lot of calories - and calories that your body has a more difficult time processing.  When your body struggles with processing calories, they become sugars and can be stored as fat.

Here are some side effects of those over indulgences and mixed drinks:

  1. Alcohol has more calories per gram than the macro-nutrients protein, carbohydrates and fats.  Therefore, you are consuming less in quantity but far more calories.
  2. Drinking decreases your inhibitions, which means the wisdom in your decision making is decreased and you are more likely to make poor food choices.
  3. Chronic alcohol abuse has the potential to damage your liver, kidneys, heart and digestive system - all things we need running at their best to have a more balanced health.
  4. Alcohol lowers testosterone levels in both men and women.  It is never good to have lowered hormone levels for any reason.
  5. Alcohol has been found to increase your appetite because it triggers the brain to send the signal that you are hungry - again striking up the possibility for over indulgence of food.
  6. If you drink too much, you're probably not exercising very much.  This should be obvious.
  7. Many people only smoke when they drink, so now you're adding a second bad habit that will work against your health and fitness goals.
Obviously, the best overall advice would be to totally abstain in order to keep peak performance and hit your weight loss goals.  Once your goals are obtained, it would be highly recommended that you stick to the best choice - which would be red wine.  Beer is okay, but if you consume more than 12 ounces 3 times a day and/or 7-14 times per week, your love for beer would be added to the How drinking can affect your health and fitness goals list (see above).

Here is the news that I know most of you want to hear…

You can see that red wine has been mentioned as a better choice.  However... wine can still be on the How drinking can affect your health and fitness goals if the consumption surpasses the 14 drinks per week rule, or you binge drink it.  But, if consumed appropriately, it can have many health benefits.  If you have reached your goals, then wine could be something you add back into your life in moderation.  It would still be recommended, if you are training for something specific, that you keep it to the bare minimum.

Red wine contains a chemical called Ellagic acid.  This acid can actually slow the growth of fat cells and stop the formation of new ones.  It can also help burn more fatty acids in the liver cells.  Now this doesn’t mean go drink a bunch of wine.  When people do that, it's a problem.  Keep it in context, because creating too acidic of an environment in the body creates fat and water storage.  Even with this new research, you still need to keep it to 7-14 drinks per week and at the appropriate portion.  Remember, a 'glass of wine' is really about 4 ounces.

The other benefits of red wine are that it contains active antioxidants like quercetin, which may kill cancer cells.  Tannins in red wine (that give it the red color) contain procyanidins, which have also been known for protecting against heart disease.  Resveratrol - also found in red wine - can help to remove chemicals responsible for causing blood clots and aid in general heart health.

Clearly there are many benefits to drinking red wine.  The thing to remember is the “How drinking can affect your health and fitness goals.”  The list above is a good one to remember.  If you keep that list in mind, choose wine over other alcohol, and maintain a higher level of moderation, you can still drink without ruining your health and fitness goals.

Of course, the biggest recommendation is to abstain and focus on your health and fitness goals through proper nutrition, high-quality dense nutritional supplements, portion control (not over indulging), and proper exercise and fitness.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Which nuts are the healthiest to eat?

The nuts that are not the healthiest ones to eat are those packaged/canned with unhealthy fats and salt.  Yeah, I know, they taste great that way!   I'm suggesting that you quit eating those.

Now for the good news.  Nuts are nature's perfect snack - packed with protein, healthy fats and antioxidants.  What I'm about to share with you are what nuts can do for your health and which ones offer the best benefits.

You know you need to eat your fruits and veggies - and that whole grains are good for you.  But you might be missing out on another hugely beneficial food group: nuts.  Nuts are the often forgotten super-foods of the plant world.  Nuts have been linked to everything from heart health to cancer prevention, and they could even help you live longer.  One study found that people who eat a handful of nuts a day were 20 percent less likely to die of any cause.

They're also the perfect snack: All nuts contain healthy fats, protein and fiber - the perfect combo for helping you feeling full.  There's no prep work involved either.  Just grab a handful and go. 


See also:  A new and unique anti-aging supplement in its purest form

Not sure which ones to choose?  Here's a list of the seven healthiest nuts...

1. Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the ultimate super-foods, with evidence showing that they play a role in improving heart health and protecting the brain.  They may even help fight breast and prostate cancers.  A 2011 analysis suggested that walnuts have higher quality antioxidants than any other nut, making them hugely powerful against inflammation (the cause of many diseases).  Some research has shown that walnuts could help prevent Alzheimer's, and one study even found that walnuts help the body better deal with stress.  Another bonus?  Because of the way your body breaks down the nuts, you'll get about 20 percent fewer calories from walnuts than it says on the label.

2. Almonds

A small serving of almonds offers lots of healthy fats and fiber, including the kind that act as prebiotics - feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut.  The Institute of Food Research found that eating almonds can increase levels of microbes that improve your digestive health.  Other research has found that the nuts, which are notoriously high in vitamin E and contain polyphenols, have an important antioxidant effect - even when eaten in small amounts.  The combination of antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber is thought to promote heart health, lowering cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow.

3. Pistachios

When you eat pistachios, your heart will thank you.  Not only are they filled with heart-healthy fats, but they've also been linked to healthy cholesterol levels and they contain resveratrol, the same anti-inflammatory that is found in red wine.  Eating nuts in general has been linked to controlling type 2 diabetes, but pistachios (in particular) have been shown to help maintain healthy glucose levels and reduce the effects of stress on the heart in people who suffer from diabetes.  And if you have trouble with portion control when it comes to nuts, pistachios are likely the best nut for you.  They are lower in calories than most varieties and the process of taking the shell off will help slow you down as you eat.

4. Pecans

Pecans are another leader among high-antioxidant foods.  With vitamin E and ellagic acid, both anti-inflammatory nutrients, these nuts have plenty of health-boosting powers - including fighting some cancers.  These antioxidants prevent lipid oxidation in the blood, which can reduce buildup in the arteries.  All of those antioxidants can also benefit the skin, fighting free radical damage to help keep your complexion radiant.

5. Brazil nuts

Like walnuts, brazil nuts offer lots of omega-3s, which are super healthy for the heart.  These fats, as well as the mineral zinc (which is found in brazil nuts) have been associated with healthy, clear skin. These nuts are also a very good source of selenium, which has been associated with fighting bladder, lung and prostate cancers.  Like most nuts, the brazil nut is also heralded as a great food for weight loss.  It has a rich, satisfying flavour and is very filling.  Just don't overdo it, as these nuts are high in calories!

6. Peanuts

These legumes (that's right; they're not technically a nut!) have gotten a bad rap over the years, largely due to sugary peanut butters and allergies associated with them.  But the truth is, as long as you aren't allergic, peanuts have a lot to offer.  Eating peanuts can help triglyceride levels (which are associated with your cholesterol and overall heart health) and their monounsaturated fats are great for your heart.  Research has linked eating peanuts to a lower risk for gallstones and protection against Alzheimer's disease.  One study even found a link between peanut consumption and lower mortality rates (but the same connection did not exist for peanut butter).

7. Cashews

These nuts have a rich and buttery flavor, but are actually lower in fat than most other nuts.  The fat they do contain is the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety - plus they've got a good dose of magnesium, which is important for strong bones.  Research has shown that eating cashews and other nuts might help decrease your risk of gallstones.  They also contain lots of essential minerals, including selenium, copper and zinc.