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Keeping on track through the holidays

I know that someone out there must also feel this indulgent tendency to overeat this time of year. It sucks: you want to sleep more, eat more and be less active.
You know how hard it is to shed the winter fat layer. It takes a lot of hard work and strict eating. Avoid putting on those extra 10 pounds in the first place, by just being a little less indulgent at your next holiday party. And by following some simple tips.fitnessSanta

1. Drink more water. About 8 x 8 oz glasses per day. Add a little mint sprig or lime slice to jazz it up.

2. Track What You Eat. The only way to improve upon your diet is to actually know what you’re currently eating. Keep a food journal, or download a free food tracker app, and input all of the calories that you consume over the course of a week. This will give you a broad look at where your low quality calories are coming from (high sugar, empty calories).
Your first step will be to eliminate these fattening calories and to start replacing empty calories with nutrient-filled whole foods.

3. Space Meals Apart. Much has been said over the past decades about the importance of eating small frequent meals throughout the day. This is old, outdated science. New research has proven that there’s more harm than good to eating more frequently than every 4 hours.
Stick with 3 meals each day, and fill in a protein-based snack if your meals are going to be more than 4 hours apart.

4. Prioritize vegetables. When you first sit down for a meal, eat the vegetable, salad, or other plant-based foods first, before moving on to the rest of the meal. The reason for this is to fill up on the higher fiber, higher nutrient foods first before eating the less-healthy items at your meal.

5. Lastly, have an attitude of gratitude. Eating well and being well studies have shown are linked to a healthy mind. Therefore lift your spirits, just by being grateful. The more you are grateful, the better you’ll feel, the better you’ll eat, and you may even go do that jog you’ve been wanting to do.

Have a happy Healthy holiday season!


Eating at the right time

Having a hefty meal for dinner, after skipping lunch and barely eating a sufficient breakfast seems to be what many Americans do in their busy lives. Eating a nice piece of chocolate cake at the end of dinner also goes along with this routine. Then a few hours later after consuming 90 % of his/her calories for the day, it’s bedtime.

If you’re gonna eat a donut, do it in the morning!

Is this possibly why we are getting a poor night’s sleep after we just loaded up on fat, sugars, carbs, etc.? How can we run around all day long and forget to eat properly? Easy, life is busy and eating isn’t always at the forefront of our mind. However, our bodies go without food as we sleep at night and when we awake it’s the best possible time to pack it full of calories and nutrients to be productive and burn more calories efficiently. Breakfast is crucial. Numerous studies have linked breakfast-eaters with a lower body fat percentage. Next, lunch is the second most important meal of the day. Try to eat a nice filling lunch full of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and plenty of vegetables. Then, make dinner your smallest meal of the day. If you’re at a restaurant for example, just eat an appetizer.

Another big mistake with the right timing of meals is just after a workout. No appetite after your workout? Try drinking a smoothie, or a protein drink such as Kefir. Drinking flavored kefir, like blueberry, pomegranate, strawberry, etc, is full of the protein and carbs your body desperately needs after working out. If you deny your body the post-workout food, you’ll have a much more difficult time losing weight. In fact, some studies show that if you don’t have a post-workout meal, your body goes in to a sort of “starvation mode” and stores more fat out of a survival instinct.

Lastly, the further time goes by after your workout, the less junk food you should eat. That means, no late-night desserts if your workout was at 8 AM. Are you just dying to eat a piece of pie? Then eat it first thing in the morning! Right before or right after your workout! I know it seems crazy, but think of food as fuel. You start out the busy day with no fuel in your tank, things could get ugly. On the flip side, you fill up your tank right before you turn your car off for the day the fuel will not get burned up and will just sit in your tank turning to fat. It’s all in the timing.

Post-exercise food power-up!

Eating berries keeps ya healthy!

Often we exercise to look good and lose weight. Therefore, the thought of eating a brownie after a good workout seems ridiculous! Not so. If you are going to have any junk food throughout the day, the best time would be immediately after you finish burning calories versus eating the brownie at ten o’clock at night. If you are in the habit of having a tasty treat at night, it can be very difficult to break the routine. But once you’re weened off the midnight sugar-fix, you may find it easy to resist temptation. We are creatures of habit. So, try forming a healthy habit. It’s possible to metabolically re-program your body by learning to love vegetables and hate brownies! Another good eating habit is learning to eat most of your calories in the first half of your day when you’re more likely to burn them off.

Another important habit is what you do directly after exercise, besides re-fueling with a decent amount of water, protein and carbohydrates, a very important post-exercise food is a good dose of antioxidants, most commonly from berries or beans. Why antioxidants? During exercise we have a lot of oxidative stress released in our body.  This stress which damages cells in our body has been linked to many diseases including Alzheimers, cancer and heart disease. But, berries, beans, and spices pack a mean punch of antioxidants to fight the oxidative stress!  According to researchers, the top ten foods highest in the antioxidants are:

  1. Small red bean
  2. Wild blueberry
  3. Red kidney bean
  4. Pinto bean
  5. Blueberry (cultivated)
  6. Cranberry
  7. Artichoke
  8. Blackberry
  9. Dried prune
  10. Raspberry

So, enjoy your beans today, knowing that they keep the balance of the oxidation and free radicals from harming your body on the cellular level, and potentially ward off diseases. Try eating red beans and rice as a dish served after a hard day of training. Stay healthy and as we say: eat to train, don’t train to eat.

What Are Putting in your Mouth?

Food. We have to make decisions every day about food. What if food is challenging for you to deal with? Many people don’t really know what to eat. Others know what to eat, but simple snack unconsciously. Others are tortured by eating disorders, sadly. I am no psychologist, but I do know a few things about eating healthy. I have established a great “diet” or nutrition plan that works for me and while not everyone needs the same things as I do, I’ll share a few tips and hints I’ve learned.

  1. Portion control. When loading up your dinner plate, remember that 50% of the total meal should be fruits & veggies at least. If you can make it more, great! But, beware of meals that are predominantly just meat and bread or pasta (I’m not pointing fingers, but peperoni pizza?!!). So, take a large helping of the broccoli and lean protein, like salmon. And a smaller portion of the rest of the meal, and skip the butter, eat olive oil instead.
  2. Healthy carbohydrates. Carbs are OH so important! But, really be picky about the type of carbs you’re eating. The more you can eat vegetables as your source of carbs the better! That means sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, corn and squash (acorn, butternut, etc). Here’s a good chart to track them. Next best are the whole grains, for example quinoa, brown rice, and steel cut oatmeal.
  3. Bad carbohydrates. Refined flour lacks nutrients and fiber and will leave you craving more. So try to avoid breads, baked goods, pastas, crackers, and other foods made of refined flour. Also, refined sugar is a bad carb too. So get your sweeteners from honey, maple syrup and agave INSTEAD of sugar. When I do a long bike ride, I simply mix honey in the water bottle and it’s really tasty and better for you than any premixed powder!
  4. Make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, so you don’t crave the bad ones. That means olive oil in your salad, instead of regular salad dressing. Nuts like almonds, cashews and walnuts are also an excellent source of HEALTHY fats that are very important for a variety of reasons, including reducing of inflammation. Not to mention they’re all anti-oxidants!
  5. Last but not least, if your nutrition is still out of control, ask yourself, what am I putting in my mouth? and write it down! Write it in the notes on your phone, each and every thing. Don’t forget to write down the doughnut you ate at Starbucks! Or if writing it down takes too long, simply take a quick photo of it with your phone and at the end of the day log it all. Do your homework. Take this seriously, it’s your health and your life and the longevity of it! It’s preventative healthcare and a good diet I believe will keep your medical costs down!

Also, keep in mind the less you eat out at restaurants and the more you cook at home or pick out healthy options at the grocery store, the easier this is. So go crazy at Trader Joe’s and pick up a box of quinoa instead of a box of salty crackers! Good luck.

One final note regarding eating disorders. If you have a very difficult time with your nutrition and need more serious attention regarding a possible eating disorder, here’s some options in the Bay area.

  • The Body Positive: A great org in Berkeley that offers workshops and lectures, personal coaching, and continuing education. This place seems much more focused on the creation of a positive body image! Their Mission: The Body Positive’s mission is to implement educational programs that transform individual and societal beliefs about weight, body image, and identity. The result is a growing national movement of healthy, confident individuals contributing to positive change in the world.
  • Woodleaf Center: I have heard really good things about this place in Hayes Valley, in San Francisco. They have a twice monthly Free Support Group that might be helpful for you. They also offer outpatient services and accept the following health insurance: Aetna, Cigna, UBH, United Health Care, Great West, Value Options, California Blue Cross, Blue Shield and more. (Please note we do NOT accept Kaiser).
  • Beyond Hunger: This is a place in Marin that has a pretty good reputation as well, and they have a Drop-In Group on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month at 9:30am on 4th St. in San Rafael.

Athletic Nutrition Tips

Sometimes people get really into the idea that they need to diet to be skinny. Occasionally this works, but it doesn’t always make you healthier. What does make you healthier and happier (and more attractive 😉 is doing an activity or sport you enjoy plus getting the nutrition right! You really can’t do them independently.

Exercise + Nutrition = Good health

What I’m talking about is “preventative healthcare.” You’ll have less visits to the doctor and less spending of money! So get outdoors find a fun active hobby-like activity and eat right. Eating healthy while exercising can be challenging at times. Here’s a few guidelines to begin with:

  1. Eat small meals every three to four hours.  Your first meal should be eaten within one hour of waking and before any type of exercise (when exercising in the morning).
  2. Portion Control! A serving of protein and carbohydrates should be the size of your fist and veggies should equal one to two fist sizes (and leafy greens two open hand-sizes).
  3. Of your total daily carbohydrate intake, 20% or less should be from sugar.  This includes fruit, milk and yogurt sugars as well as sweets, alcohol & other beverages.
  4. 25-30% of your overall calories should come from fats of which most should consist of healthy fats like nuts, avocados, olive oil, fish oil, & nut butters.
  5. Always mix carbohydrates with proteins and fats, with the exception being before or during your workout. This helps slow down the digestion of carbs and helps reduce large insulin surges.
  6. Get your fiber!  Fiber-rich foods fill you up and require more energy to break down and pass through the body.
  7. Eat at least 1 gram of protein for every two pounds of body weight.  Protein is needed to repair your muscles and helps keep you full.  Protein is not easily stored as fat if it goes unused like carbohydrates. And that said, you should regularly spread your intake out throughout the day.
  8. Drink at least 8-12 eight ounce glasses of water per day.  Drink more on days when it’s hot or when you exercise.
  9. Take your multi-vitamins and anti-oxidants daily.  Our food is less nutrient-dense these days due to over-processing and nutrient deficient crop soil.  As a result, we cannot get all of the vitamins and minerals we need from food. Fish oil is another great supplement that may reduce inflammation (aka sore muscles).
    Taking supplements ensures that you will get your daily requirements.  Anti-oxidants help rid your body of free radicals produced during exercise, which can be damaging to the body’s cells.  Check out  juice plus website. Juice Plus has loads of antioxidants and phyto-nutrients.
  10. Reduce or eliminate alcoholic beverages.
  11. Never severely cut or eliminate your carbohydrate intake!  40-60% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates.  This is your body’s main energy source.  If you don’t get enough energy from carbohydrates for your activity level, your body will go into starvation mode causing your metabolism to slow and a potential loss of muscle. But eat the HEALTHY carbs: from vegetables and whole grains, yes that means NO PIZZA! Or less pizza anyway. For example, include sweet potatoes, brown rice, and steel cut oats into your daily diet.

These are all just suggestions to get you started off right. Please ask me any questions you may have about how to eat to be healthier and stronger! Let’s all try to avoid the doctor by keeping up with regular workouts and eating right with healthy food!

Protein Bars: Over-rated

Cliff bars, Balance bars, Protein Builder bars, Luna bars, ProMax, Snickers Marathon bar. . . People ask me “which bar is best for me? When do I eat the bar and why?” If ever I’m faced with the option to eat real food vs. a protein bar, I will always choose real food. I eat bars purely out of convenience. Eating real fresh sources of carbohydrates and protein can prohibit refined sugar, refined flour, high fructose corn syrup and mysterious ingredients like whey protein isolate and polydextrose! The bars are essentially a cookie with unknown ingredients. Most protien bars are also quite costly when you consider it’s $3/bar vs. $.75 for a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Eating real food trumps bars any day! There are great whole real sources of protein & carbohydrates (the perfect combination) that can be eaten as an alternative.

  • Peanut butter & honey on whole grain bread
  • Almonds, cashews and dried fruit Trail mix – Trader Joe’s has an excellent selection!
  • Turkey & goat cheese sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Apples smothered with almond butter & 1/2 cup whole grain granola
  • Banana & chocolate milk
  • Hard boiled egg & pre-cooked redskin potatoes

All of these options are a quick fix, grab & go. If you prepare them the night before, all wrapped up and ready to eat immediately after your workout, you can forget that $3 bar! The sooner you eat after training the more effectively the food replenishes your body. Plus, you know exactly what the ingredients are! It’s no surprise.

One Ironman triathlete, Cybil, likes little mini PB&J sandwiches cut up into little chunks for her race nutrition. Nutrition has a huge impact on recovery and how well your body performs and efficiently works. To get stronger and leaner, you must train and eat intelligently.

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