Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fat: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Generally, people have a negative association when it comes to fat in the diet. But some fat is beneficial, essential, and necessary. I am referring to unsaturated fat, otherwise known as the "good" fat. Saturated fat (the "bad" stuff) clogs arteries, raises blood cholesterol, and can lead to disease. However, the body recognizes saturated fat because it comes mainly from animal sources. So you can get away with a little saturated fat and probably still be alright; just limit saturated fat to around 5% of your total daily caloric intake. Trans fat (the WORST fat) can cause all of the same health issues as saturated fat, and then some. Trans fat comes from hydrogenating oils, creating an engineered form of fat. The body does not recognize engineered substances, and trans fat has absolutely no benefit what so ever. It will only be detrimental to your health. I talked about trans fats in a previous post, but as a reminder stay way from anything with hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils!

Lets talk about the "good" stuff now. Unsaturated fat can actually increase blood levels of HDL (or "good" cholesterol), lower LDL ("bad" cholesterol), lower triglycerides, help prevent disease, and keep the body in a more effective fat-burning state. Unsaturated fat comes in the form of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Look for monounsaturated fats especially, as they are the best. Most people are not lacking in polyunsaturated fats, but are lacking in monounsaturated fats (the ones that provide the wonderful Omega-3's the body needs). Great sources of unsaturated fats (esp. mono's) are: avocado, olive oil, and certain types of nuts. You can always supplement with fish oil gel caps to ensure that you are getting enough Omega-3's. Omega-3's are great for immune function and brain function, so don't miss out on them! My favorite source of healthy fats, not to mention a ton of lean protein, is also this Bear's favorite food- Salmon!!

Even though you want unsaturated fat, it still has the same calories per gram as saturated fat, and this number is high- 9 calories per gram (compared to 4 calories per gram for carbs and protein). So if you are watching your total calorie count, just remember to factor this in when choosing your food. Another example is avocado- wonderful food choice, with a good balance of monounsaturated fat, carbs, and protein. However, at around 320 calories per avocado, I would not eat too many in a day!

When making food choices to get your healthy fat for the day, remember to look for unsaturated fat. Use olive oil, canola oil, and other liquid plant based oils when cooking. A handful of nuts such as almonds, is a great snack and can also help you reach your fat goals for the day! I would keep fat around 20% of your daily caloric intake, with the majority of that being unsaturated. Good luck on the journey, and stay tuned!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cardio and Weight Loss

In it's most simple form, losing weight is about burning more calories than you take in, on a daily basis. Most people know that while weight/resistance training burns calories, and is definitely necessary for strength and muscle tone, it does not burn nearly the calories a great cardio session can.

We know that cardio training is great for the heart (after all, the heart is a muscle and needs to be worked also) and cardiovascular system, but just going for a walk or mulling around on the treadmill for a half hour is not going to give you the boost you need on your weight loss mission. Of course, any exercise is better than nothing, so in no way am I discounting the benefits of walking. In fact, just getting up and staying in motion for 30 minutes a day will benefit your body tremendously, especially in comparison to the alternative (being stationary, sitting around, watching t.v., etc.).

That being said, let's talk about some different ways to mix up your cardio and shock your system for maximal results, and so your body does not get too adapted to the same routine (and yes, the body adapts to routine very quickly). The first method I recommend to my clients is interval training. In it's basic form, interval training simply means short periods of exercise at an intensity that could not be sustained for a long period of time. For example, if you are going to run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, every couple of minutes try going at a much faster pace for 60 seconds, then resume your original pace, and so on. This will benefit you in several ways; it will begin to increase your conditioning and aerobic capacity, thus helping you to run at a faster pace for longer periods of time, and it will also have enough variation to make your body work harder and burn more calories. Interval training can be done with any kind of cardio, i.e. treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, and so on.

The end of that last paragraph is a perfect segue into my next topic; different types of cardio, and which methods are my personal favorites for lower body muscle tone and calorie burning. The first method is the tried and true- running outdoors. Nothing offers you a better calorie burning vehicle than running in the elements. Treadmill running is my second choice, but it is behind outdoor running because on pavement, trail, grass, sand, etc., the ground is not moving backwards while you are running forwards, so you have to work harder. You also have to deal with mother nature, and on those hot and/or humid days, your body will have to work that much harder; just stay hydrated and do not over exert yourself, risking dehydration (esp. in humidity).

As previously mentioned, running on the treadmill is my next choice. The speed can be increased for interval training, and you do not have to worry about the outdoor elements such as weather, or uneven surfaces (a bigger risk for a turned ankle). Another big plus with most treadmills is the ability to walk/run on an incline. When I am on the treadmill, I actually prefer walking on a very steep incline vs running. Living in Florida and having no uphill terrain in site, it allows me that feeling of hiking!

My next choice for an intense cardio method is straight up jumping rope. Try jumping rope for even 2 minutes straight, and see if you can get the same feeling from most other indoor cardio machines. It is intense, and although it is very high-impact (esp. on a hard floor surface), it is an amazing calorie burner and calf toner. Consider this: 10 minutes of jumping rope burns the same calories as 30 minutes on the treadmill at a moderate pace. After rope I would choose the stair climber w/ escalating stairs. Unless you are climbing at a pretty decent pace you wont feel the cardio intensity as some of the other methods, but the stair climber is brutal on the thighs and glutes, and actually my #1 method of cardio for lower body muscle toning. Definitely try this method if your gym has one.

My final two choices are the stationary bike and the elliptical machine. The stationary bike is not going to get the heart rate up like the other choices, but you can do interval training on it by increasing the resistance, and it is a great thigh burner. Most of you will probably be surprised that the elliptical is my last choice among these options, probably because you see more people at the gym using the elliptical over all the other methods I have talked about. If you have joint problems, or need a lower impact form of cardio for whatever reason, then the elliptical does serve this purpose. However, in my opinion, it is just not hard enough and does not require the amount of effort as my first few options. This is partially why I feel so many people use it. It is easy. It doesn't require a great deal of effort or intensity, and most people do not want to have to work as hard as is really needed to get results faster.

Hopefully I have given you a ton of options to choose from when it comes to cardio. Let me also add a few additional things; if using one of these methods is boring for you, try using several in one session! Do ten minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes of jumping rope, and 10 minutes on the stair climber, for example. This is a great way of mixing it up and it will keep your body guessing. Lastly, for those of you who find cardio boring, there is another option- sports! cardio in, and since you are passing the time having fun, you won't be looking at the clock! Good luck on your journey, and stay tuned...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fad Diets: Instant Results, Eventual Letdowns

In this day and age, fitness and nutrition are a billion dollar industry. Seemingly every day a new piece of fitness equipment or new nutritional supplement/diet plan is brought to the marketplace. Millions of people are looking for the next "quick fix" that will offer instant results. Whether it is a piece of fitness equipment that promises "six pack abs" with a money-back guarantee, or a new diet plan/supplement that promises "10lbs of weight loss in 10 days," it is inevitable that millions of people will buy into these offers.

The first problem with these products is the statement of "guaranteed results." It is simply impossible to guarantee results because there are too many variables. Every person has a unique make-up and each body responds differently to exercise. This is why I will never guarantee anything to a client, whether it is fitness or nutrition related. It is unethical and and such claims should be taken with a grain of salt. However, I will give clients my recommendations regarding fitness and nutrition, with the disclaimer that "what works for some, may not work for others."

Regarding nutrition, even though different things work for different people, there are wonderful general guidelines that everyone can follow and have the assurance that they are eating a healthy, nutrient-rich, balanced diet. Eating a balance of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates is a method that you really can't go wrong with.

While there is great debate over the pro's and con's of fad diets, there is one common theme I feel lies within all of them; that they cannot be sustained for extremely long periods of time. Sure, you may find an extreme diet that causes you to lose 10lbs in one week, but more often than not, you will go back to your old habits and gain the weight back. We all would love to lose 10lbs in a week (if weight loss is our goal), but I think most of us would rather take a month or two to lose that weight, if it meant that we would keep the weight off permanently. The point I am trying to make is that good exercise and eating habits should be part of a  lifestyle we hope to maintain  for the duration of our lives. Sure, the results may not be as rapid, but when the results do come, they will be easier to maintain and manage.

With consistent exercise, and a diet balanced with lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats, you simply cannot go wrong. It will be easier to maintain, and you will not suffer the letdown of losing a quick 10lbs only to gain it back (and possibly then some) as quickly as it came off. Dismiss claims of "guaranteed results," and find a balance in your methods. Your body will thank you, and you will be rewarded in the long run! Good luck on the journey!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Know Your Body Type Part 2: What Works Best For Each Body Type

In my previous post, I broke down the 3 body types, and what characterized each of them. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what body type you mostly resemble. What you probably want to know most is what works best for your body type, and I am going to tell you now! As a disclaimer (and an important one), let me state that the information I am about to share is based solely off of what has worked for me, and the clients I have worked with. There is no guarantee that these methods will work for you, they are simply a guide, and ideas for you to try. Here we go...

  • The ectomorph has very little fat and does not have to worry too much about gaining fat. If you are looking for fat loss, you are not an ectomorph, and you can skip over this section. The ectomorph, or "classic hard gainer" is usually focused on putting on muscle, since this is the biggest challenge for an ectomorph. With a super fast metabolism, it is hard for the ectomorph to keep weight on, regardless if it is quality lean muscle or fat. Since most people are looking for ways to speed up their metabolisms, this next statement will probably sound crazy; in order to gain quality muscle, the ectomorph needs to actually slow down their metabolism to a degree. This is done by high calorie intake, and burning less than is consumed.
  • Ecto's have very different nutritional needs than an Endo (other end of the spectrum). While all body types need sufficient lean protein to build and maintain lean muscle, the Ecto actually needs a very high carbohydrate intake, and a moderate "good" fat intake. If an ectomorph does not ingest enough quality carbs and fat for energy, the protein ingested for muscle growth will end up being burned off for energy requirements. After that protein is gone, the body will start breaking down muscle to use for energy (since there is little stored fat available), and not only will an ecto not gain muscle, but they will also lose some of their current muscle. As an ecto myself, when adding mass I try and consume 20 calories per pound of body weight. Of course the overall number will go up as my weight increases. I also try to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
  • Ectomorphs who are trying to gain muscle need to be very cautious of the amount of cardio they do. Of course we know that the heart is a muscle, and the way we exercise the heart is done best with cardio. Unfortunately, cardio is just going to have to be set aside for the time being, if an ecto wants to gain weight. Ectomorph's need to burn as little calories as possible, and excessive cardio is just going to burn more calories, causing the already high calorie consumption to have to be increased even more. I tell ecto's "put the cardio on hold for now, and when you reach a desired weight, then you can slowly implement cardio into the routine." By cardio, I am referring to heavy cardio. An ecto can still do light cardio and warm ups (in the range of one hour per week) and still be ok.
  • Ectomorph's need to lift heavy in order to gain muscle (this usually goes for all body types, but more so with the ecto). The muscles have to be broken down significantly, and nourished with quality nutrients in order to stimulate growth during the repair process.
  • I won't spend a ton of time here, since meso's have a fairly easy time of putting muscle on, and stripping fat away. If you are a meso, experiment with calorie ranges until you find what works. If you put on a little fat during the muscle building process, you should not have too much trouble stripping the fat off with extra cardio. Just make sure to keep the protein intake up, so you do not burn muscle also. If you are unsure if you are a mesomorph, or for more information regarding  mesomorph's, contact me with any questions you may have.
  • Endo's have the hardest time losing weight and keeping fat off, so many of you will show the most interest in these tips. For the endo, "I can just look at fatty/sugary foods and gain weight" is a classic statement. It is true, that as an endo, you do not have the luxury of eating whatever you want. But like I have said in previous posts, decide where your priorities lie. If you are determined to lose weight and tone up, then you are just going to have to accept the fact that heavy carbs, sugars, and fats will not be a part of your diet for a good while.
  • Endo's need to do a lot of cardio. Calorie burning is a top priority, because you don't want to give your body any extra chance to store unnecessary calories. Keep the cardio way up, and no less than 3 days a week. This does not mean walking at a leisurely pace for an hour. You need to shock your system, and make your body work harder than it is used to. If you are not, at the very least, breaking a sweat and have an elevated heart rate, you are certainly not working hard enough. Try interval training when running or biking. Keep carb intake low, with carbs coming from quality complex sources such as whole grains and vegetables. Absolutely no "white stuff," i.e. white rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, and so on...
I am sure I have probably left some stuff out on accident, so if you have any questions whatsoever, please contact me so I can address them! Hopefully you have a much better understanding of some things you can try to reach your goals, no matter what they are. Good luck on the journey, and stay tuned....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Know Your Body Type: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph

When consulting with a client regarding weight loss/weight gain, cardio, nutrition, etc., the first thing I make sure to say is "do what works for you." If there were one magical solution to any of these desired outcomes, everyone would use the same method. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. One minute we may be told to eat 3 square meals a day. The next minute we are told to eat 5-6 small meals every few hours. The truth is, everyone will respond differently to these methods.

If I have a client who is successful at losing weight by eating 3 meals a day, then I will tell them if it is working, why switch to 5-6 small frequent meals? This is just one example, and the actual bigger picture is that you need to know your body, and your body type. When trying to reach your goals, it is imperative that you learn your body and what works and does not work. Getting dialed in with ones body is a science. People have different metabolisms, genetics, hereditary factors, etc., that will provide varying degrees of success with different methods. You could look at two people who are seemingly identical in appearance, i.e. weight, height, age, etc., but if they utilized the exact same fitness and nutrition plans, they may have completely different results. This shows us that each person is unique, and has a body with inner workings that are specific to that individual.

A very effective method in helping to reach your fitness and nutrition goals is to understand what general category you fall under in terms of body type. Lets discuss the ectomorph first. The ectomorph is characterized as a lean individual with very little body fat. They usually have longer limbs with a smaller torso and smaller overall frame. The ectomorph is blessed with the metabolism of machine, as I like to say, and they can pretty much eat anything in site without fear of gaining unwanted weight and very little fat. I fall into this category. Sure, most people on the other end of the spectrum (who have a very hard time losing weight/fat) don't want to hear me complain about being an ectomorph, and for good reason. What is not understood though, is that I have to work extremely hard to put muscle on, and keep it. If I do not eat excessive calories consistently, I am in danger of burning muscle for fuel, since my body has very little stored fat and sugar that can be used for energy. So even though my goals are vastly different from an overweight individual, the overall theme of having to work equally as hard to achieve my goals remains the same!

Now lets discuss the mesomorph. Mesomorphs are usually the envied ones. This is because mesomorphs have the best of both worlds! They can put muscle on and gain weight fairly easily, but have a fast enough metabolism that they are not in much danger of putting on fat easily. If they do put on some extra fat while gaining muscle, they can usually burn it off pretty easily. Mesomorphs are the lucky ones in this regard, and I do not have much else to say about them!

Last but not least, the endomorph. The endomorph is usually characterized by a larger frame, a slow metabolism, and can usually withstand a long workout because of having plenty of energy stored in their body by way of glycogen and fat. Endomorphs usually have to do a lot of cardio, eat very strictly, and burn a lot of calories daily in order to lose unwanted weight and keep it off. Of course, it is not cut and dry with the 3 body types, and you can have an ecto-meso, or a meso-endo for example. Now that we have discussed the 3 body types, lets recap:

  • fastest metabolism of the three
  • little body fat
  • known as the "hardgainer" in terms of muscle building
  • can eat pretty much anything and not gain any weight
  • characterized by a smaller frame with longer limbs
  • "best of both worlds" in terms of muscle building and fat loss
  • has a considerable amount of muscle, and can burn fat fairly easily
  • Slowest metabolism of the three
  • has to work hard to burn fat and lose weight
  • characterized by the largest frame of the three

After reading about the 3 body types and looking at the bullet points, you may find yourself clearly falling into one of these three categories, or you may be a mix of 2. The main thing to take away from all of this is to be in tune with your body. Learn what works for you and what doesn't. Do not worry about what someone else is doing, because even if your goals are the same,  their methods in reaching the goals may not work for you! Reaching your goals is about dedication, determination, and desire, but it is also a science that requires trial and error. If you implement a new strategy to reach your goals, i.e. more cardio, less calories, different foods, etc., don't give up on the method if it isn't working after one week! Give your "experiment" a month to yield positive results, and if at that time you are unhappy with your progress, then you can go back to the drawing board and move on to something new. Good luck on your journey, and stay tuned for my next post where I discuss fitness and nutrition techniques that have shown to be effective based on body type!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Goals, Priorities, and Motivation

Unless you are part of the 1% that eat, sleep, and breathe fitness, you have a life full of commitments that occupy your time. These commitments may be work, school, family, etc. These commitments will always be there, and you cannot use them as a popular excuse for not having time to dedicate to fitness and nutrition. If you are looking to get in shape, you should first decide what your goals are, and there a many of them. Whether it is losing weight, gaining muscle, increasing strength, increasing cardio endurance, eating healthier, or simply maintaining your current fitness and nutrition level- define your goals.

The first step to reaching your desired outcome is to set goals; both short term and long term. You will then have something to strive for, and it will be easier to track your progress, see your improvements, and see what needs work. A long term goal could be to lose 30lbs. A short term goal could be to lose 2lbs a week. A long term goal could be completing a 5K, 10K, marathon, etc. A short term goal could be to increase your running distance by a half mile every week. These are just a few examples, but they are all goals you can set for yourself to track your progress.

Once you have set fitness and/or nutrition goals for yourself, you need to get REAL with yourself and ask yourself where these goals lie on your list of priorities. Of course you have a commitment to work, school, family, etc., but the only way you are going to reach your fitness goals is to place them high on your priority list and accept the fact that no matter what other obligations you have in life, you must create space and time for your fitness/nutrition goals, or you will never reach them- plain and simple. It is much easier to get in a routine of saying "you don't have time," or your "too tired" to focus on exercise and nutrition, than to actually make the time and commitment, so naturally, this is what you do.You create excuses. The fact of the matter is that until you make the change and commit mentally, the physical will not change. You will not lose weight, you will not gain muscle, you will not eat better, you will not increase your cardio endurance...you get the picture.

Find your motivator. Maybe you want to look better on the outside. Maybe you want to feel better on the inside and know that you are making healthy choices. Maybe you want to get stronger, faster, etc. Whatever it may be, find your driving force. Make a plan of action. Place this plan high on your list of priorities. Use your motivating factors to follow through and achieve your goals. If you have never worked out, or are currently on a long layoff, your goals are going to seem like they are miles away at first. Working out and eating right is not going to be fun (especially if you do not naturally enjoy them). This is the reality, and something you are just going to have to deal with. But let me tell you, it WILL get easier. It WILL become part of your routine, your lifestyle, and easier to manage, if you set short term goals for yourself, prioritize, and follow through. When you achieve a short term goal, set a new one. Reaching your short term goals will eventually lead you to success with your long term goals. Do not ever stop striving for success, and do not ever think of fitness and nutrition as a means to an end or a quick fix. It is a lifestyle. It is something that you should incorporate into your life and never stop. Your body will thank you, and you will reap the benefits. Don't forget, there are always people like me to help you along the way. Set goals, make them a priority, and get motivated. Good luck, and I wish you nothing but the best on your journey!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Grocery List Part 3- Animal Product Alternatives, Plus Additional Info

Let me start off by saying I am not a vegetarian, nor have I ever been. Being a bodybuilder, especially when I am in a bulking phase, I simply cannot get enough quality protein daily without meat. This is just my opinion, and what works for me. I do try and pick the healthiest options when buying meat though, and I limit my amount of red meat intake. Beef that comes from grass fed cows (not corn fed), chicken and turkey that is free range, with no hormones or added preservatives if prepackaged (usually in the form of nitrates/nitrites), wild caught fish (not farm raised), and eggs that come from free range chickens. I did however, grow up in a home with parents who were vegetarians and/or vegans for many years, and my wife is also a vegetarian, consuming only seafood but no meat or dairy products at the moment.

Being in households with family members that only ate organic, all natural, and/or vegetarian/vegan foods,  I do have a great deal of experience with options for non animal product consumers. Lets talk about a few options, so you know they are out there! These days, there is practically a non meat substitute for most kinds of meat, i.e. beef, turkey, chicken, etc. Simply look in the organic refrigerated foods section of your supermarket and you will find them. As for dairy, there are a slew of choices; soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk to name a few. You can also find dairy free cheese. Then there are good meatless protein options such as tofu and tempeh. Chick peas are also a great option. Most products with nutrition labels will say at the bottom if they contain any type of dairy ingredients, so if you are trying to stay away from all animal by products, this is also something to look for. The point is, there are so many great options out there, and with more people becoming food conscious, the variety and choices will only increase.

One last thing I wanted to include in the Grocery List that I mentioned I would get to is complex carbohydrates vs. simple carbohydrates. Basically, a simple carbohydrate is going to give you an energy burst sooner (but a short one), and cause a spike in blood sugar release. Usually when we eat these items (many of them referred to as "comfort foods"), we feel pretty good after wards. Here is the problem though- when these foods are digested, and a surge of blood sugar is released into the body, this sugar likes to store itself in the form of fat when it is not burned off. Another downside of simple carbs, from a nutrient stand point, is that simple carbs have the important nutrients stripped from them before you eat them! Complex carbs provide the body with short amounts of sustained energy, without the heavy blood sugar spike, so the body can make better use of these carbs, and gains more from a nutrient stand point.

Stick with complex carbs such as sweet potato, brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, etc., and avoid simple carbs such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, white potatoes, etc. Your body will thank you in the long run! Until next time, thanks for tuning in...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Grocery List Part 2- The Healthiest Options

Now that the Grocery list is up, lets take it a little further- The main reason you choose foods from the outer ring of the grocery store, is because these are where the majority of the whole foods are found. What is a whole food? A whole food is something that is free from processing, or very minimally processed, unrefined, with no added ingredients. Lets take an apple for example. An all natural apple has one ingredient- apple. It is a whole food. A box of cereal usually has many ingredients that aid in, and are a result of the processing it goes through to make the product. A box of cereal is not a whole food. Hopefully with these examples, it is now understood what it is to be a whole food.

The easiest way to eat healthy and keep track of what is going in your body is to eat as many whole foods as possible. Of course there are going to be exceptions to this. Lets take dairy for example. Milk obviously has to go through processing in order for it to be on the store shelves and ready for consumption. If we want to drink milk, but want to eat whole foods as much as possible, lets choose the best milk possible. Buy certified organic milk- that way we are ensuring minimal processing, and milk that does not come from cows treated with any externals such as hormones, etc. Buy a gallon of certified organic milk and try it- you will notice a difference in taste as well (and it tastes much better in my opinion). Of course we want to stick with low fat or skim milk whether it is organic or not, to keep the saturated fat content at a minimum. Milk is just one example of something that has a degree of processing, but if we consume it, we can make wiser decisions on the type of milk we choose.

The big picture we are looking at is consuming foods with the least amount of ingredients as possible, and if you buy 100% all natural and organic, you are buying foods with far less added ingredients. Moving along, we find that when buying foods that are 100% all natural and/or organic, we also eliminate other ingredients that you never want to see added in our foods. When you look at the ingredients label on a food product, there are several items that you should teach yourself to immediately identify as no-no's. Artifical colors, flavors, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils. These are all ingredients that you will not find in natural and/or organic foods, because they are not...natural! They are chemically engineered ingredients added to prolong shelf life, manipulate taste, color, appearance, etc...

  • Artifical Preservatives- Keep an eye out for terms that have the following words: Benzoates, Sulphites, Nitrates/Nitrites, and Parabens. All chemical additives to preserve shelf-life/storage life, but not needed. Sure, your all natural, and/or organic foods will go bad faster without these additives, but at least you will be ingesting real food!
  • Artifical Colors/Flavors- you can immediately spot artifical colors like Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, etc. Artifical flavors may be harder to read on a label. Your best bet? Make sure a product says it is free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives! 
  • Partially/Fully Hydrogenated Oils- This one sticks out like a sore thumb, and is usually the first thing I look for, and spot on a label. Oils are liquid at room temperature. By chemically adding hydrogen, they can remain solid at room temperature. A perfect example is peanut butter. You can notice an all natural peanut butter easily, because you will see the oil separation at the top of the jar. But look at a jar of Skippy, or JIF, or Peter Pan, and guess what? All smooth! This is done because that all natural peanut butter with oil separation doesn't look as appealing, but it is FAR better for your health. Companies add hydrogenated oils for appearance, and to prolong shelf life. But it is a chemically engineered ingredient, and the human body is not designed to know what to do with it. Yes, saturated fat in excess is unhealthy; but since saturated fat comes from animals, and humans have eaten animals forever, at least the body can recognize what it is! Stay away from anything hydrogenated.
In closing, we want to try and eat as many whole foods as possible. But if we have to buy something pre-packaged with an ingredients label on it, lets buy something with the least amount of ingredients, and with no added artificial or chemically engineered ingredients. Stay tuned for my third and final installment of the Grocery List, where I cover food options for non meat and non animal by product consumers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Grocery List

You have probably heard it a time or two before, and it is true- when grocery shopping, try and stay around the outer ring/square of the grocery store. This is where you are usually going to find your whole food sources. Meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, eggs, etc. There are a few exceptions to this, i.e. nuts, coffee (if you like), and your grains (these need to be complex, and limited in consumption in my opinion- we'll talk about this more later). Now lets discuss these food sources in further detail...

  • Meats- protein is the essential building block of muscle. The more lean muscle you have, the less fat you have, the better off you will be, and you will have a higher metabolism (muscle is highly metabolic). The right meats are full of lean protein and very low in everything else, which is what we want. I was watching an episode of Dr. Oz one day, and he made a wonderful statement when he said "stick to animals with two legs or less." Reason being, two (or no) legged animals have less saturated fat. Best examples are chicken, turkey, and fish. Make sure chicken and turkey are the skinless, white meat variety only. If it is ground, make sure it is over 90% fat free. Fish is amazingly high in protein and low in fat, with the exception of salmon which is full of HEALTHY monounsaturated fat (a great source of omega 3 oils that are generally lacking in the American diet). Stick with fish that is low in mercury (usually the larger fish are high in mercury because they consume smaller fish, which have consumed smaller fish....you get the idea). 
  • Vegetables- vegetables need to be a staple in your diet, because they provide you with carbohydrates for energy, but not in large quantities, and in my experience, are not stored in the body the way grains tend to be. Of course it goes with out saying that they also provide much needed vitamins and minerals. Stick to dark, leafy greens when possible. Spinach, and broccoli are great choices because they are nutrient dense. There are many other great options as well. When trying to slim down, vegetables will be your primary source of carbohydrates, not grains.
  • Fruits- fruit packs a vitamin punch, but when trying to slim down I recommend keeping fruit intake to the first half of the day. Even though fruit contains all natural fruit sugar (fructose), some fruits still have a lot of sugar in them that you do not want in excessive amounts. There are many great fruits to choose from, and I recommend berries, melons, papaya, peaches, and citrus fruits. Just remember to indulge these earlier in the day. *side note- often looked at as a vegetable, the avocado is a wonder fruit. High in monounsaturated fat (the good stuff), and a good balance of carbs and protein. Just don't eat too many in a day, an average avocado has around 320 calories!
  • Dairy- many people are not dairy fans. I love milk and cheese. Dairy has great things about it, mainly the protein and minerals. But it can be high in saturated fat, so dairy really should be limited to low/no fat products, and if trying to slim down, I would limit intake of dairy altogether.
  • Eggs- If you have heard of the "incredible, edible egg," this is a true statement. Eggs (whole) are a complete protein. They offer the most bio available protein of any food source, meaning they have the most protein the body can absorb and use. When I eat eggs, I will usually mix a few whole eggs with a few whites. There are conflicting ideas on whole eggs. Yes, the yolk contains all of the saturated fat- but it also contains half of the protein, and all of the unsaturated fat, vitamins, and minerals. Yes, the yolk is very high in cholesterol- but I am of the school of thought that thinks if you do not have a pre-disposition to high cholesterol, it will not affect you negatively. So get the best of both worlds- have a whole egg with all those egg whites you are eating!
  • Grains- simply put, grains, potatoes, rice, etc. need to be of the complex carb variety when consumed. Again, if you are trying to lose weight you may want to think about severely limiting these foods, and relegate them to the first half of the day. By complex, I mean whole wheat pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc... Complex carbs are low glycemic; they offer sustained periods of energy and do not cause a spike in blood sugar. I will dive in to this more in a later post.
  • Nuts- try to make it a point to eat a handful of nuts every day. One of the best sources of unsaturated fats, they are also a great source of protein. Stick with unsalted, unflavored nuts. Almonds are one of the best choices. Pistachios are my favorite. If you need them to be lightly salted, make sure it is sea salt. Like the avocado, watch your portions- nuts are high in calories so if you are monitoring your calories, they will add up. 
I apologize for the lengthiness of this blog post, but let it be a reference guide for you. Bookmark it, use it, and it will help assist you in making smart decisions at the grocery store. Now that the Grocery List is up, my next post will dive in to finding the healthiest sources of all of these foods, and help people that are non meat and dairy eaters. Yes, I am talking about all naturals, organics, vegetarian, and vegan options! Thank you for tuning in, and until next time...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My first post and ethical duty to inform

This being my first post to my blog, naturally I wanted to hit the gates running and begin offering up invaluable fitness & nutrition advice. However, before I am able to do so, I must state my disclaimer, as it is my ethical duty to do so. I am not, I repeat NOT, a licensed or certified Dietitian or Nutritionist in any way...on paper that is. My paper certification(s)/degree(s) come in the form of a B.S. in Behavioral, Social, & Health Sciences from the University of Central Florida, a Certification in Fitness Training from ISSA, a CPR/AED certification from the American Red Cross, and a Certification in Kinetic Anatomy from DSW.

While certifications and degrees are great on paper, the education received from a book, taking tests, etc., will never amount to the knowledge gained by actual real world experience. This goes back to my previous statement that I am not a certified Dietitian or Nutritionist on paper. Many of these "professionals" do not in fact apply their book knowledge to real world experiences. I have been immersed in the fitness and nutrition arena for at least 15 years, if not more. I grew up in a household that consumed organic/all natural foods before they were mainstream. I know what it takes nutritionally to lose fat and gain lean muscle, plain and simple. I know what it takes to manipulate a slow metabolism into burning stored fat, so the body can slim down. I know what it takes because as a fitness trainer, I have applied these techniques to myself and my clients.

Now that I have that out of the way, we can move on to all things fitness and nutrition. I will be routinely blogging on anything and everything one could hope to learn about exercise and healthy eating. If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to ask and I will most certainly address them! Thanks for tuning in to this blog, and remember to visit my training website ElectricFitness.Net to schedule a consultation, training appointment, or subscribe for monthly unlimited access to me privately via email, with any fitness or nutrition related questions.