Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Struggle is REAL

   I'm human... I know being healthy isn't always easy in a world of temptation. But that doesn't mean it's impossible! I took a poll from friends and family about what they find their hardest struggle to be in the battle of being healthy. Here I'll explain the bigger picture problems, and how to overcome them.

   Problem #1: Sweet teeth! There are ultimately two types of people in this world... those who crave sweets and those who crave salty. If you're my mother, you crave both depending on what time of day it is. The struggle for her is super real... I have to hide things! Having a sweet tooth or a hankering for some salt is not the end all be all to your healthy eating. Often, if you're body is craving something it could be because you need it. Unfortunately, a candy bar has little to do with this unless your blood sugar is dangerously low. The best ways to combat a craving is out of sight out of mind, distraction, or supplementation.
   If you leave your biggest weakness out in the open, of course you will want it. Food companies pay big bucks to people who make their product look irresistible. Keep snacks in a colored tupperware container or in a separate room so you're less likely to see it and then want it, and think about nothing else. If it's truly awful for you... don't buy it! If it's not in the house, you won't eat it. The distraction method works like this; paint your nails or pay bills, build something, go for a walk, read a few chapters in a book. More often than not, you're simply bored, or maybe thirsty, and not really hungry. Get your mind moving, exercise your brain, and it won't linger on the bag of chips you think you want. Supplementation works by switching out what you might want with a healthier option to cut down on the guilt. Craving sweets? Try a piece of fruit, have a yogurt, or have a rice cake with nutella. It will crave the sweet tooth with less of the calories. Really craving a certain thing? Don't deprive yourself but portion yourself; you don't have to eat the whole candy bar. Break off a piece and put the rest away before you indulge and then move on to doing something. Craving salt? Try a handful of pretzels, or some veggies with hummus.
   Problem #2: Healthy food gets boring. EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS! If you don't have a pinterest account, get one... so many ideas in one place. Now when you search healthy meals, will every one of them truly be healthy, probably not, but it will give you ideas. Switch up your salads, soup, and sandwiches. Add some ZING to your dinners and breakfasts. Rotate snacks so you don't get tired of them. I am often away from home for long hours and without a microwave so I've gotten creative with salads and sandwiches so I'm not tempted to hop over to McDevils.
 *Spinach (I prefer the taste of baby spinach) salad variations:
   -Grilled & seasoned chicken, strawberries, walnuts, red peppers, cucumbers, avocado, goat cheese,and raspberry vinagrette. Strawberries not in season? Try clementines or apple chips.
   -Grilled shrimp, peppers, cucumbers, goat cheese, and balsamic vinagrette.
   -Grilled steak, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, goat cheese, and a light peppercorn dressing.
There are 3 salads that don't taste at all similar. While spinach is healthier than other lettuces, if you like the crunch of iceberg or romaine, or the taste of arugula then add some in. Try new things, you might like it!
  *Sandwiches: the options are endless! I like cracked pepper turkey, but with ham, chicken, and roast beef options you can change it up often. Then all the variations in cheese! I often use mustard, avocado, tomato, and baby spinach on my sandwiches as well. Sometimes if I'm home I'll pop the bread, cheese, and meat into the oven to toast it and then add on the extras for a change. Ever toasted the bread for a pb&j? Or try a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a veggie and hummus wrap, or add multiple meats (a slice of ham, a slice of turkey) to add different flavors. Try to stick to wheat bread and whole grain wraps.
    Don't be afraid to try something new and play with old recipes. I keep a food planner on the fridge too and will go back a few weeks sometimes and think oh yea! I forgot about that idea! 

   Problem #3: I can't find healthy snacks. Well, this is just ridiculous. Get out of the granola bar aisle, please and thank you. You just have to get creative, and invest in various sizes of tupperware! My usual snack shelf usually consists of: pretzels (dip them in peanut butter or nutella if you get tired of plain), clementines, apples, and bananas, rice cakes (again I use peanut butter or nutella), belvita bars, a few protein bars, oatmeal ready to go, yogurt, laughing cow cheese, hard boiled eggs, applesauce, raisins, and almonds or pistachios. I love the summer because I live off of fruit, but during the winter I splurge every now and then and get some pineapple or cherries to switch it up. Again, you just have to get creative. I usually plan to have a fruit snack after breakfast, a sweet snack with lunch, and a snack around 2-4 when I start to get tired and hungry. Don't overdo it on snacks, but don't avoid them either.

   Problem #4: Eating when bored. This is definitely not good, but very common. To break this habit, stop eating while watching tv, driving, or doing something else. You aren't paying attention to how much or what you are even eating and therefore you tend to overeat. Eating is part mental as much as physiological. People get a lot of comfort and enjoyment out of food these days, not only nutrients. We use food as a way to celebrate, go on a first date, meet up with friends, or even to console our feelings. Keep food in the kitchen or dining area so you'll be less likely to eat during a movie. If you're in the middle of something and you're hungry, take a break. If you know you are simply bored out of your mind, use the distraction method from Problem 1... take your mind off of it and try to drink at least a glass of water. I doubt you will still feel so ravished afterwards, but if you do, eat... in an appropriate place.

   Eating healthy doesn't have to suck, it can actually be quite enjoyable. Does it take planning and a little extra time? Yes, usually. Is it worth it? Absolutely, always. When you fill your body with good stuff, it doesn't need as much to carry out the processes it needs the food for. When you eat junk, a lot of that can't be absorbed or used by your body, and it starts signaling you need more food because your body has a lot of work left to do in the day. The biggest use of calories in your body goes toward your Basal Metabolic Rate; this is what keeps you alive. Your BMR burns more calories then your workout will, so don't starve it, fuel it!

Food is Fuel!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Healthy Eating

   Exercise is great, but it has been scientifically proven that to really lose weight and keep it off, you have to get your eating habits under control. You should not have the attitude that since you work out, you can eat whatever you want. Food is fuel, you have to fuel your body with healthy food if you expect it to perform and feel at it's best. Eating junk will make you feel like junk... easy enough to understand!
   Many people think healthy food doesn't taste good. In a way, this is true. Because all those fatty junky foods are designed to make food taste good, and to make you crave them. Once you stop eating them though, you won't miss them- I promise! You will crave milk and water instead of soda, a salad instead of a greasy cheese burger, grilled chicken over fried, fruit instead of candy. I know many of you don't know where to start and that's where I come in... here are a few simple and healthy meal ideas to get you started.

First I want to start with small cheats! Stop using butter in the skillet- use olive oil or olive oil cooking spray. Eat less butter! Things that are 0 calories are not a healthy cheat... they have 0 calories because they're made with chemicals that you're body cannot process and therefore cannot absorb. So using 0 calorie things is not a way to be healthy; it's a way to put chemicals in your body that don't need to be there. This includes diet soda! Need the caffeine... black tea with honey or coffee. 

   Breakfast! The most important meal of the day. Seriously. Eat it. Don't skip it. This ideally should be your biggest meal of the day; you have all day to metabolize it and it jump starts your metabolism after a period of fasting (you aren't eating while you're sleeping!). You should plan to eat within an hour of waking up. Some quick and healthy breakfast options:
   *Whole grain waffles with natural peanut butter. This will give you a dose of fiber, carbohydrates, and protein to jump start your day and help keep you full longer. Whole grain waffles will pack more fiber and you should aim for your carbs to come from whole grains when you can. Natural peanut butter has no trans fats or oils. The only ingredient is peanut butter. It doesn't taste weird, I swear.
   *Yogurt with quinoa granola. Yogurt has protein and dairy, and the quinoa granola will add a little crunch and a dose of fiber.
   *Egg Sandwich on whole wheat bread or english muffin, turkey, and low fat mozzarella cheese. You can cook the egg any way you like, but limit the cheese and stick to just a slice or two of turkey or low fat ham.
Always aim to add a glass of milk or tea with your breakfast and a piece of fruit!

Lunch! This meal is also important to staving off binge eating! You want a meal that will give you energy for the rest of the day but keep you full until dinner... aim for lots of fiber (fruits and veggies!).
  *Turkey sandwich: use low fat cheese, baby spinach (or a spinach mix) and add your favorites. I like to add a slice of tomato and a little bit of avocado with a bit of mustard so that my sandwich is nice and filling. Baby spinach packs more nutrients than iceberg or romaine lettuce. The more nutrient dense your meals, the better.
   *Salad. I prefer baby spinach, but if you prefer a mix do what you have to do. Add as many veggies as you like, and a hard boiled egg, grilled chicken, or steak for some protein. I like to add avocado, tomato, colorful peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and clementines with grilled chicken and a raspberry vinagrette to keep my sweet tooth at bay.
If you're going to have left over dinner, make it a small portion. You don't want to get so full that you're tired. Often I'll have soup too if I need a break from sandwiches or salads.

Snacks! Many people lead very long and busy days, often on the run. You have to fuel a long day or you will crash and burn. Try to fuel it with healthy snacks in between meals. Almonds, raisins, or a trail mix are good to keep on hand. Fruits and veggies can never go wrong. Hard boiled eggs, half of a sandwich, or a glass of milk may help to keep the hunger pains at bay. If you have a sweet tooth, like myself, keep healthy sweets on hand; apple oat muffins, a serving of dark chocolate covered pretzels, yogurt, or half of an english muffin with honey and cinnamon. 

Dinner! The meal that brings many families together; you eat it together, celebrate with it, and entertain with it. Nothing says it can't be healthy. Follow the My Plate guidelines and you can't go wrong. Try to limit red meat and pork to once a week, and aim to have chicken and fish fairly often. Don't be afraid to try other things to keep it fun!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reward Yourself!

   So you set some goals and you're working your butt off towards them... now to set some rewards. Every challenge or goal you complete should be rewarded! It'll make you look forward to reaching your goals and keeping you on task. And who doesn't like rewards! You can start small or big, but write them down as a constant reminder for yourself.
   Rule #1: don't reward yourself with food. At least not often. I don't like the idea of depriving yourself but if you constantly reward yourself with food, you are more likely to over indulge. Instead, reward yourself with exercise or nutrition things.
  -Buy yourself a new workout outfit, new running shoes, or buy a rock climbing package. Don't be afraid to pamper yourself too; a pedicure or a massage are very acceptable choice rewards!
   Rule #2: Small goals; small rewards and large goals; large rewards. Start your goals off small and work your way up. No goal is too small, but make yourself work for the big stuff.
  -Say a starter goal is to try a new workout class; reward yourself with a new exercise top. For bigger goals such as running a 5k or losing 15 pounds may earn a reward like new running shoes or a few new pieces for your wardrobe.
   Rule #3: Throw in a few fun rewards. Every now and then throw in a mani/pedi with your girlfriends, or a massage.
  -Try to avoid a fancy dinner night out or happy hour; save those rewards for other accomplishments in life that deserve celebration. Keep your exercise goals and rewards revolved around fitness and health!

   Make sure you stick to this! Any form of incentive will help keep you on track and you've worked hard to get where you are. Its Classical Conditioning at it's finest and has been proven to work. You create your goals and your rewards that fit your lifestyle but I also know a few people "pay themselves" by putting a dollar in a jar for every workout and at the end of the year, they buy a swanky new outfit and plan an exciting night out for a year of hard work and dedication.
   When you take care of yourself, you feel good about yourself. When you look good and have more confidence, it changes your whole perspective so don't be afraid to reward yourself with things you once thought you might not enjoy.
   Now go, write down your goals and rewards, put them somewhere you will see them everyday and get to work!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why Men Need Cardio and Women Need Strength Training

   The resolutioners have hit the gym in full force! I do not resent this surge in gym membership, I simply hope they don't give up after a few weeks or months. I hope they continue to make healthy lifestyle choices even when the going gets tough. I also hope they are doing all that they need to do. As a personal trainer, I hear it all the time. Men: I want to bulk. Cardio won't give me big muscles. Women: I don't want to turn into the hulk. I want to tone up and be skinny. I don't want to lift weights. As someone who goes to the gym regularly, I see it all too much... women spending their entire time on the treadmill, afraid to go towards the free weights and the men avoiding the treadmills and heading straight for the heavy weights. This is wrong, on so many levels.
   Men, you are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than women. I don't know why, but that's what all the doctors say. You want to work those muscles, well your heart is a muscle too! And it needs cardiovascular training to make it perform at optimal levels. You should be warming up before you hit the weights anyways, but an extra 15-30 minutes getting that heart rate up will not ruin all your gains. It has been proven through research, that cardiovascular training will not decrease your muscular performance. If anything, it will help burn more fat. Stop avoiding it!
   Women, you are at a higher risk for osteoporosis than man. Again, it's what the doctors say, especially if you are a Caucasian female over 50, the risk is even higher. The best way to prevent osteoporosis? Weight bearing activities! So yes, walking and running do count but don't let that be the only weight bearing activity your body gets. As you put your body through the stress of weight lifting, it forces your bones to become stronger as well as your muscles. You will not become the hulk. I promise you. Your body does not produce enough testosterone to become the hulk. Toned, you will become toned, from weight training. Muscles also burn more calories at rest. Having more muscle mass, means burning more calories. If you are still skeptical about this, please refer to my blog "A Pound is Not a Pound; Muscle vs. Fat".
   Still hesitant? I have the answer. PLYOMETRICS! Plyometrics are explosive exercises that work your entire body and your heart. Think box jumps, burpees, jump squats.... Any kind of explosive movement. Not only are you utilizing your entire body weight as resistance, you are getting that heart rate up. Do a bunch of box jumps and you will be a believer; not only will you be breathing heavily but the next day your legs, and abs, will be burning.
   Don't skip on something important because of common misconceptions. Always work towards a well rounded workout that includes a warm up, cardio, strength training, cool down, and stretching. This will decrease injuries and increase the positive effects exercise has on your body. Don't neglect something, it is all important! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Love The Burn!

   There are two types of people in the fitness world; those who love the burn and those who dread it. Let's break down what "the burn" is. While exercising, your body creates lactic acid.... this happens during anaerobic respiration. During anaerobic respiration, your body gives off an H+ ion, and without oxygen to take this, your body produces lactate. This lactate is what causes the burn in your muscles while you're exercising. Many people think the lactic acid builds up and that's why your muscles continue to hurt and be sore in the following hours. NOPE. Your body gets rid of lactic acid quickly and efficiently once you stop exercising. The burn you feel the following day or so is from DOMS... Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is most likely caused by microscopic tears in your muscles healing, which is also how your muscles hypertrophy. I say most likely because scientists have a few theories, but that is the most backed explanation for why you cringe when you sit down after leg day.
   Hate the burn? DOMS isn't a sign of an efficient workout... you don't have to feel sore and broken the following days to have gotten a good workout. Love the burn? It's not healthy to feel broken down every day. The body needs time to recover fully, so make sure to alternate body parts and intensity accordingly. If it's sore, work something else. If everything is sore, take a rest day. You don't want to give yourself an overuse injury that can set you back. As for the lactic acid, the lactate threshold can be increased so that you don't feel it as soon into your workout but takes a lot of anaerobic work. What is anaerobic respiration exactly? It's any exercise that doesn't utilize oxygen... so a sprint or a one rep max. Doing sprint intervals will help to increase your lactate threshold but you'll be feeling the burn until you build it up! Bicarbonate buffering has also been shown to help decrease lactate build up.

   If you really hate the burn, avoid it. Interval training can help decrease the amount of lactate you build up but it also travels in the blood so when you start to feel the burn after some squats you can switch to shoulder presses but you'll start to feel the burn sooner as your workout continues. The burn is fairly important... you want to get your heart rate up to maximize calorie burn but something is always better than nothing. So don't think that taking it slow and easy to start isn't worth the effort. Eventually your body will adapt, you won't get as sore, and it will get easier. I promise! If the soreness is going to turn you off from exercising, I would rather see you do less than do nothing. Push your boundaries when YOU are ready.
   If you're like me, and you love the burn, just be careful not to overdo it. Listen to your body. If I'm sore but still want to get a workout in, I'll do low intensity cardio. Always make sure to stretch after every workout and especially a little extra if you're feeling sore. Ibuprofen and ice if you really need it, but DOMS should subside within 24-36 hours :)
   Understanding the burn sometimes helps you appreciate it!