Nutrition

Holiday Season Nutrition

Written by Emily Mailloux
Certified Strength and Precision Nutrition Coach

One of the questions that recently came up was: “What are some tips for staying on track with my fitness and nutrition over the holidays?” You’ve been working hard all year, getting those tough workouts in, eating healthy foods, and drinking your water, and the last thing you want is to undo all of your progress this year. But the holidays are just around the corner, and with them come lots of parties and festivities, a change from your regular schedule, and a whole lotta food (and sweets). I’ve got some tips for you below to help you stay healthy, stick to your goals, and still have fun and enjoy the holiday season.

Prioritize protein

When you’re loading up your plate for that holiday dinner, go for the protein first. Look for turkey, chicken, beef, seafood, eggs, or beans, and get that on your plate first. For women, shoot for at least one palm-sized portion of protein with your meal, and for men, two palm sized portions of protein. (Emily’s tip: During the grazing time before the big meal, I always plant myself by the shrimp cocktail and try to fill up on that, and some cheese, instead of loading up on chips, dips, and sweets. Shrimp is an excellent source of protein!)

Veggies next

After you’ve got your protein on your plate, try to load up at least half your plate with vegetables. Look for Brussels sprouts, green beans, squash, potatoes, carrots, or a salad. (Emily’s tip: Be wary of the “vegetables” that are smothered in sauces or loaded with sugar – marshmallow sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, canned cranberry sauce, cheesy vegetable dips, etc.)

Volunteer to bring the healthy dish

Concerned that there won’t be enough healthy options at your holiday dinner or party? Volunteer to bring a healthy dish to share! That way you have control over what you put in the dish, and you’ll be guaranteed to have at least something delicious and nutritious to enjoy at the party. (Emily’s tip: I don’t know about you, but in my family everyone usually contributes one dish at Christmas and New Year’s. I usually sign up to bring a vegetable – roasted squash or Brussels sprouts are some of my favorites – my famous kale chips, or a box of seltzer. That way I know I’ll have at least one good veggie option for dinner and something calorie-free and delicious to sip on instead of alcohol or high-calorie cider or eggnog.)

Keep an eye on alcohol intake

Speaking of alcohol, keep an eye on your intake during your holiday parties this season. Yes, the holidays are a time for celebration and festivities, but you can easily rake in hundreds of extra calories from wine, beer, cider, and spiked eggnog, and that’s in addition to the giant meal you’ve just eaten. Try to limit yourself to 1-2 drinks per celebration, drink slowly, and alternate drinks with water.

Hydrate!

This brings me to tip #5 – make sure you stay hydrated! Adequate water is necessary for digestion, so sipping on water before, during, and after your meal will help all that food digest more easily, so you’re not sitting there with a big food baby unable to move after dinner. Drinking water can also help you feel fuller, so you’re less likely to overeat. (Emily’s tip: Fancify your water. I like to take a glass of plain seltzer and add lemon and lime wedges and some fresh mint leaves to feel like I’m drinking a fancy cocktail. It’s calorie free and because it’s so delicious, I find myself drinking way more water – and less alcohol – throughout the evening.)

Eat Slowly

The holidays are a time to enjoy the company of your family and friends. I know all of that delicious food on your plate looks tempting, but there’s no need to shovel it down at lightning speed. Slow down, take breaks between bites to wash your food down with water, and engage in conversation with the people around you at the table. Eat mindfully, taking time to notice how each food item tastes and smells, appreciate the preparation that went into each dish, and recall your favorite or earliest family memories of eating these certain foods over the holidays. (Emily’s tip: It takes your stomach 20 minutes to send a signal to your brain that it’s full and time to stop eating. By that time, most of us have already overeaten, which is why we tend to feel stuffed after a holiday meal. Use that 20 minutes wisely. Finish the food on your plate, then talk to your family and friends around the table. Finish your glass of water. When the 20 minutes are up, if you’re still hungry, you can always go back for more. If you’re not still hungry, then you saved yourself an extra 20 minutes of overindulging yourself.)

Get some activity

I know all that tryptophan from that turkey and the wine you drank are probably making you sleepy after your big meal, but try to get up and move around. A post-Thanksgiving dinner family walk is a great idea, and it’s cold out so you’ll want to walk vigorously! Take advantage of having enough people around to form a team and start a game of touch football in the backyard. Or if you’re feeling really motivated, run a 5K, take in an early morning spin class before the festivities start, or go for a hike. (Emily’s tip: I like to hang out with my little cousins or friends’ kids during holiday gatherings. They’ve always got a lot of energy and love to be chased around, so it’s a great way to get some exercise on an otherwise lazy day!)

Remember that Christmas and New Year’s are only one day

Treat them that way. The holidays have a way of spilling over so they end up lasting from December 24th to January 2nd. That’s 42 days! Unfortunately we all too often allow ourselves to indulge on several thousand calorie holiday dinners, cookies, candy, pie, and sweets for the entire length of the holiday season, so before we know it, it’s January and we feel like crap. Give yourself a day (or two) to indulge and celebrate, but try to stick to your regular healthy and balanced diet on all those other days. (Emily’s tip: I like to stick to the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time I eat healthy, balanced meals with lots of veggies and protein, avoid alcohol, and hydrate fully, and 20% of the time I have fun and eat the foods that make me happy and satisfy my sweet tooth. Apply this rule to this holiday season. 20% of those 42 days is 8 days, which means you get to let loose and enjoy 8 days between Thanksgiving and the day after New Years, but reign it in those other 34 days. Balance is key!)

Have the dessert

Finally, have that slice of pie or cake if you know it will make you happy. Do your best to avoid labeling foods as “good” and “bad” foods. Ultimately, you should be able to enjoy the holiday season without feeling guilty about eating one too many of your mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. If you’ve been eying those double decker chocolate mint brownies all night, have a brownie (just don’t eat the whole tray!) Listen to your body, celebrate, and enjoy some delicious treats this holiday season.

 

Happy Holidays and Cheers to a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Feeding Your Brain: The Food-Mood Connection

Written by our Precision Nutrition Certified Strength, Women’s Bodybuilding, and Nutrition Coach Emily Mailloux

Well everyone, it’s Halloween week, which seems like the perfect time to talk about brains! In my last article we discussed sugar, and how eating a diet high in processed foods can impact your physical health. But did you know that the food you eat can also play a role in your mental and emotional health?

 

Here’s the lowdown

When you eat food, it passes through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is lined with millions of neurons. The function of these neurons is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria (or probiotics) within your GI tract. These bacteria are essential to your health – they protect your intestines by providing a barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria, limit inflammation in the body, improve how well you absorb the nutrients from food, and activate the neural pathways between the gut and the brain.

 

Enter serotonin

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your body that helps regulate sleep and appetite, inhibit pain, and manage mood (it’s known as the “happy-making” neurotransmitter). 95% of your body’s serotonin is made in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, so the production of serotonin is also affected by the presence of “good” bacteria in the GI tract. Poor GI health can prevent the production of serotonin, so you’ll have less of the “happy-making” chemicals in your brain.

 

Still with me? Now, if the bacteria population in your gut is out of whack (too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria), it can lead to irritation, inflammation, or full blown “leaky gut” syndrome (a chronic inflammation throughout the body). A leaky gut can encourage more inflammation in the body, which creates a vicious cycle. The resulting chemical imbalance from chronic inflammation is linked to many health problems, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Now consider that 60 liters of blood are pumped through your body into your brain every hour. If that blood is nutrient-deficient, it interferes with your brain’s function, and its ability to create serotonin.

Food and Mood

So you can start to see that the workings of your GI tract not only help you digest your food, but can also impact your mood and emotions. Without the right nutrients, your brain won’t get what it needs. Studies have shown that eating a diet largely comprised of processed foods and not enough nutrient-dense foods could increase your chances of becoming depressed by up to 60%. That’s a scary-high statistic.

11 Ways to Improve your Health and Mood

So what can we do to improve our gut health, thereby improving our serotonin production and neuron function, and feel better and happier?

  1. First, avoid refined sugars. Multiple studies have shown that a diet high in refined sugars can impair brain function, and has also been shown to worsen symptoms of mood disorders, including depression. These refined sugars also worsen inflammation in the body, which returns us to the vicious cycle mentioned above. Many people have reported that eating processed foods has worsened their symptoms of depression and other mood disorders. Also, simple carbs (high in sugar) can lead to high spikes followed by plummeting energy levels, which has negative effects on mood.

  2. Try to reduce or cut out alcohol, a known depressant, and caffeine, which also leads to energy highs and lows. Caffeine may also worsen anxiety symptoms and promote insomnia (and we all know a lack of sleep certainly affects our mood the next day!)

  3. Increase the presence of probiotics (the “good” bacteria) and decrease the presence of antibiotics (“bad” bacteria) in your gut. You can ingest probiotics from yogurt or from unpasteurized fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and kombucha, or you can take a probiotic supplement. Whenever possible, buy meat that is organic and antibiotic-free. If you have to take an antibiotic from your doctor, increase your intake of probiotics to balance out the bacteria in your gut while on the antibiotic. Studies have shown that when people ingest probiotics, their anxiety, stress levels, and mental outlook all improve.

  4. Shift your diet from a typical Western diet (high in processed and refined foods and sugars) to more of a traditional or Mediterranean diet (high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish, and seafood, with modest amounts of lean meats and dairy.) Studies show that the risk of depression is 25-35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet, as compared to those on a Western diet.

  5. Include protein sources such as turkey, beef, eggs, some dairy products, and dark, leafy greens in your diet, all of which contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin and can alleviate depressive symptoms.

  6. Eat more Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, seeds, and algae), which provide building blocks for healthy brain development and function.

  7. Eat more selenium, an essential mineral that the body can’t make on its own. You can get selenium from cod, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and poultry. Selenium works with other nutrients to create an antioxidant balance in our body’s cells.

  8. Drinking bone broth, a stock made from chicken or beef bones. It contains glycine, which can help heal internal wounds, including those in your gut.

  9. Increase your Vitamin B intake, either from foods (meat, eggs, seafood, green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains) or through a Vitamin B supplement. Some studies have shown that a deficiency in Vitamin B can be linked to depression.

  10. Increase your Vitamin D intake (either through sunlight, fortified grains, milk, or by taking a supplement). Vitamin D is essential for brain development and function and a deficiency can lead to depression.

  11. And finally, pay close attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. Keep a journal of what you ate and how you felt afterwards, both physically and mentally.

 

Challenge Yourself

Challenge yourself this week to eliminate one food from your diet, either a known stomach irritant, or something that you’ve been curious how you’d feel without it (some examples: alcohol, sugar, dairy, gluten). Take it out of your diet completely for one week, and pay close attention to how your body and brain feel during the week.

Happy Halloween! Get out there and eat some brain food this week!

Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Alternatives

Last Week Recap

Last week we answered some of the most common questions about sugar. But, you asked, what about artificial sweeteners or other alternatives to sugar? What are the effects of these sweeteners on your health, and which ones should you stay away from?

Five FDA-Approved artificial sweeteners

Currently, there are five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners on the market: Sucralose, Saccharin, Aspartame, Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and Neotame.

Sucralose (Splenda)

Is made when chlorine is added to sugar molecules. It is approximately 600 times as sweet as table sugar. Splenda is more heat stable than other artificial sweeteners, so it can be used in baking. However, some studies now claim that ingesting Splenda at high temperatures in combination with fat may produce chloropropanols, a carcinogenic toxin. Studies have also shown that Splenda may not support healthy gut bacteria, which are essential for your body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals, hormone regulation, digestion, elimination of toxins, and your immune function.

 

Bottom line: Avoid baking with Splenda to be safe. Using sugar substitutes for baking won’t have the same effect, since real sugar is crucial to things like texture and browning of baked goods.

 

Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low)

Is between 400-600 times sweeter than table sugar, and is often found in baked goods, jams, gum, canned fruit, candy, and salad dressings. Saccharin belongs to a class of compounds known as sulfonamides, which can cause allergic reactions in people who are intolerant of sulfa drugs (a group of antibiotics that includes penicillin). Saccharin can also be found in some infant formula, and some claim that it can cause babies to be irritable and experience muscle dysfunction. It can also leave a bitter chemical aftertaste in the mouth after consumption.

 

Bottom line: It is probably best to limit exposure of babies, children, and pregnant women to saccharin. However, of the five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners, saccharin is often considered the safest.

Aspartame (Equal)

Is made from the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and contains methanol as well. It is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar and is the most widely studied (and criticized) artificial sweetener. It is found in gum, breakfast cereals, gelatins, puddings, and over 6,000 foods. Many diet sodas also used to contain aspartame, but many soda manufacturers are switching to Splenda as a sweetener due to the controversial nature of aspartame. Aspartame should not be consumed by people with phenylketonuria, the inability to metabolize phenylalanine, a molecule found in aspartame. Studies show that high levels of phenylalanine can result in brain damage. Neotame (NutraSweet) is chemically related to aspartame but doesn’t contain phenylalanine. It is much sweeter than aspartame, approximately 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar.

Acesulfame potassium, often listed as Ace-K, is 200 times sweeter than table sugar and is one of the least studied artificial sweeteners. Ace-K contains methylene chloride, a known carcinogen. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver and kidney effects, visual issues, and cancer, and many believe that further testing needs to be done on Ace-K.

Stevia (or Truvia)

Is extracted from the stevia plant and doesn’t contain the same chemicals as the other artificial sweeteners, so it is technically considered a natural sugar substitute, although it is processed before it is packaged and sold. It is 200 times sweeter than table sugar.

 

Pros

So what are the pros to using artificial sweeteners? First, the above artificial sugars can add sweetness to foods without actually adding sugar, and because they are so much sweeter than table sugar, they can be used in much smaller amounts. They also contain negligible amounts of calories (they are essentially calorie-free), which can be helpful for those trying to reduce their overall calorie consumption. They can be used as a temporary solution to wean people off of sugar, particularly among those trying to lose weight. Artificial sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar like regular sugar does, so they can be useful for people managing diabetes or pre-diabetes. Finally, they don’t contribute to tooth decay like regular sugar does, so they are safer for your teeth.

 

Cons

Although artificial sweeteners can be useful as a bridge to help people looking to lose weight reduce their sugar consumption, studies show that this actually may lead to more sugar cravings. When artificial sugar is consumed, it is recognized by the taste buds as sweet, but it confuses the brain, which expects calories after that initial sweetness. When the body doesn’t receive those expected calories, it causes the body to crave more sugar to get those expected calories. This often leads to overeating or binging on sugar after consuming artificial sugars to satisfy those cravings.

 

The above artificial sweeteners (with the exception of Stevia) are made from man-made chemicals that the body wasn’t biologically designed to process. The body is unable to absorb most of these chemicals, so they sit in your GI tract, causing gas, bloating, or diarrhea. If they are absorbed, the body recognizes them as a foreign substance or toxin, so they are sent straight to the liver for elimination. The liver treats and processes these chemicals much like the way it processes your alcohol intake. Too much of these chemicals can inhibit the liver’s ability to process fats, which can raise cholesterol levels.

 

Although more research is needed, some experts believe that artificial sweeteners can cause neurological problems, and link them to cancer and other diseases. This link hasn’t yet been proven, and the FDA currently recognizes artificial sweeteners as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) for human consumption. However, most experts agree that more research needs to be done on the health effects of artificial sugars.

 

Natural sweeteners

So what about natural sweeteners? Natural sweeteners include honey, agave nectar, pure maple syrup, molasses, raw cane sugar, date sugar, and fruit juice concentrate. They are plant-based, so they don’t contain the chemicals found in artificial sweeteners. However, they are much higher in calories than artificial sugars, so they won’t help with weight loss. Nutritionally, these natural sweeteners are similar to table sugar in terms of vitamin and mineral content. Agave nectar may be safer for diabetics to consume – because of its low glycemic index it doesn’t spike blood sugar in the same way as other sugars. However, honey actually has a higher glycemic index and is higher in calories and carbohydrates than regular sugar, so it’s actually a worse choice for diabetics.

Bottom line

Make a treat a treat. Foods or drinks containing any of the above sugars or sweeteners should be consumed in limited amounts. Stevia may be your best bet for a sweetener. It doesn’t negatively impact your gut health, doesn’t contain chemicals like the other artificial sweeteners, is plant-based, and is calorie-free, so it’s a good choice for those looking to lose weight. However, if you’re using sugar substitutes to save calories, be careful not to replace these saved calories with a treat later in the day. Just because a food or drink is sugar-free doesn’t mean it’s calorie-free, and you can still gain weight if you eat too many sugar-free foods. Your best bet is to limit processed foods, which often contain artificial sugars, and focus on eating whole foods instead.

Top 10 Super-foods for Optimal Health and Weight Loss

Written by our Precision Nutrition Certified Coach Emily Mailloux

 

As a coach, I’m frequently being asked by clients which foods to eat to burn fat, lose weight, and have more energy, so I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 superfoods that I recommend to all my clients and are staples in my regular diet. These 10 superfoods are not only fantastic for managing weight and promoting fat loss, they also provide a wide range of other health benefits including eye and skin health, cancer prevention, strong bones and teeth, and a healthy and robust immune system. Check out my list below of the top 10 superfoods you should be regularly consuming as part of your healthy diet!

Salmon

Salmon is a rich source of protein, vitamin D and vitamin B, and omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are important because they help with cognitive function, keeping your mind sharp, improve memory, and may even help to combat depression. They also lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, and can prevent vision loss.

Tip: Always opt for wild caught salmon over farm-raised for higher nutrient density and better quality.

Blueberries (and other berries)

Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, which help with brain function and motor coordination. They also reduce inflammation, which is a leading cause of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Berries can also reduce high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

Tip: The darker the color of the berry, the higher it is in antioxidants.

Cruciferous veggies/leafy greens

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can prevent heart disease and cancer. They are also an excellent source of fiber, which regulates your digestive system and helps you feel full longer, which is great for weight management. Cruciferous veggies, which include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy, have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. They also stimulate the immune system, killing bacteria and viruses.

Tip: Don’t like eating your greens? Try tossing some spinach or kale leaves into a smoothie with fruit and Greek yogurt for a nutrient-packed refreshing drink.

Avocados

Avocados provide a whole bevy of health benefits. They are a great source of healthy fats, and can aid in blood and tissue regeneration, eye and skin health, and stabilize blood sugar, which can prevent diabetes. They provide a great source of fiber and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Tip: Avocados are great for breakfast! Try spreading mashed avocado on a piece of whole grain toast, or add sliced avocado to an omelette.

Nuts and seeds

This category of superfoods includes almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Like salmon, walnuts provide heart-healthy omega-3’s, which protect your body from heart disease and improve brain function. Almonds have been shown to lower cholesterol, and their protein, fiber, and monounsaturated fats can aid with weight loss and management, since they provide the feeling of fullness and can prevent overeating. Chia seeds are the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and are high in protein, minerals, and antioxidants. Chia seeds are also an excellent source of fiber, and can absorb liquid and swell to more than 5 times their size, so eating these seeds can help you feel fuller for longer. In addition to providing fiber, omega-3’s, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and zinc, flaxseeds are also a highly usable form of protein for the body, and have been used for centuries for medicinal and health reasons.

Tip: Try sprinkling a small handful of almonds or walnuts or a tablespoon of chia or flaxseeds to a salad or bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese for a crunchy treat to help you feel full and satisfied.

Eggs

Eggs provide the highest quality protein you can find from food sources. They contain all 9 of the essential amino acids, and are full of valuable nutrients. And don’t forget the yolks! Egg yolks have been found to prevent buildup of fat and cholesterol in the liver, and protect heart and brain function. The yolks also contain lutein, which protects the eyes and reduces the risk of macular degeneration, which can cause blindness. Eggs have also been found to aid in maintaining a healthy metabolism and memory function.

Tip: Eggs can be prepared in lots of different ways. Try incorporating other superfoods such as avocado, spinach, or broccoli into an omelette, or hard boil a few to pack for lunch on the go.

Greek yogurt/Kefir

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein- an average 5oz. serving contains 12g. It is also full of probiotics, the good kind of bacteria that boost your immune system and improve digestion. Lower in lactose than other dairy sources, Greek yogurt is easier to digest and is ideal for those who are naturally sensitive to dairy, and may even reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. Kefir, a fermented milk product (like a drinkable yogurt) contains highly beneficial microbacteria, yeasts, and probiotics, as well as essential vitamins and minerals that help your body heal and repair itself. Because kefir is a fermented product, the proteins in it are already partially digested and are therefore more readily absorbed by the body. Additionally, kefir can protect the body against gastrointestinal diseases, regulates the immune system, and provides a good source of calcium for strong bones and teeth.

Tip: For an economical approach, buy a large tub of plain Greek yogurt and dress it up yourself with berries, nuts, chia seeds, or other fruits, or add it to a smoothie with leafy greens and fruit.

Beans

Beans provide a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B, calcium, potassium, and folate, which help with skin health, cell growth, and brain function. Eating beans also raises levels of the hormone leptin, which curbs appetite and prevents overeating. Beans can also lower blood pressure and the risk of stroke, and are an excellent source of fiber.

Tip: Opt for fresh or dried beans (soak in water overnight before preparing), as canned varieties tend to be much higher in sodium.

Green tea

Green tea contains EGCG, a powerful antioxidant known for its cancer preventing properties. Studies have also shown that drinking green tea regularly may lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of heart disease and stroke. Green tea also contains low doses of caffeine, which can provide a natural source of energy throughout the day that is less irritating to the stomach than coffee. Bonus: drinking green tea throughout the day also contributes to your daily hydration needs.

Tip: Try replacing all sodas and sugary drinks with a cup of green tea, and drink a cup first thing in the morning to kickstart your metabolism and start the day feeling energized.

Dark chocolate

I’m sure you’re all as excited as I am to see chocolate on this list. When eaten in moderation, dark chocolate can reduce unhealthy cholesterol in your body and prevent plaque from building up in your arteries. It also contains many powerful antioxidants, which can prevent cell damage and diseases such as cancer. Dark chocolate has been found to boost mood, improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure.

Tip: Since only real cacao contains these antioxidant benefits, opt for dairy-free dark chocolate that is at least 60% cacao, and limit yourself to a 1oz. serving, 2-3 times per week. The darker the chocolate, the lower the calories, fat, and sugar content too.

Do you need nutrition coaching to help you with your Health and Wellness Goals?

Starts on June 3rd!!

Build Muscle and Lose Fat article

Build Muscle and Lose Fat article

By Emily Mailloux

We all want it, right? We’re all after that elusive goal to increase our muscle mass while decreasing our body fat percentage. Changing your body composition can be challenging and requires a lot of hard work and patience, and losing fat while gaining muscle tone is even harder. However, it definitely can be done, if you make sure to follow the guidelines below.

 

While exercise plays an important role in body composition (and we’ll discuss that more in a minute), changing your nutrition will have the biggest effect on your body’s ability to lose fat while simultaneously building muscle.

 

First, increase your protein intake and decrease your carbohydrate intake, particularly those carbs found in processed and sugary foods. For the best body composition results, aim to get 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. Sound like a lot? Start by getting a minimum of 25% of your daily calories from protein, and make sure to space the protein out evenly throughout the day. Shoot for a minimum of 25-30g of protein per meal.

 

Next, make sure you’re eating a lot of good, healthy fats, particularly for breakfast, which will help you feel full for longer. Swap out your carb-heavy breakfast (cereal, granola, pancakes, waffles, scones, etc) for a breakfast high in protein and fats (eggs, avocado, salmon, turkey or chicken sausage, cottage cheese). Save the bulk of your carb-heavy meals for right after your workout, when the body needs to replenish its glycogen stores.

 

Also, make sure you aren’t in too great of a caloric deficit. While it is tempting to drastically cut calories to lose body fat, remember that you can’t grow muscle in a caloric deficit. Instead, keep your calories at a maintenance level but adjust where those calories are coming from by changing your macronutrient ratios as discussed above – increase protein intake, make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, and decrease carbohydrate consumption.

 

Finally, watch your alcohol consumption, and set a goal to cut down or cut out alcoholic drinks from your diet. Not only is it empty calories with no nutritional benefit, but alcohol also alters your sleep and decreases your body’s ability to recover from your tough workouts. Alcohol also increases cortisol levels, your body’s stress hormone. Prolonged increased levels of cortisol have been linked to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, slowed metabolism, and degradation of muscle mass. Increases in cortisol also cause increases in ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. This is why the more stressed out we are, the more likely we are to binge on food. Engage in stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or even a walk outside, to keep your body’s cortisol levels in check.

 

Now that you’ve got your nutrition in check, let’s talk about the most effective training to rev up your body to burn fat and build muscle!

 

First, train with short, intense bursts. This includes sprinting (one of the most effective workouts to burn fat quickly) and high intensity interval training (HIIT workouts). You can create your own interval workout pretty simply: choose three exercises (let’s say a goblet squat, a push-up, and a kettlebell swing) and do 30 seconds of each exercise alternated with 30 seconds of rest (30sec squat, 30sec rest, 30sec push-up, 30sec rest, 30sec KB swing, 30sec rest). Repeat this circuit 3 times for a total of only 9 minutes.

 

Another way to train with these intense bursts is to utilize supersets in your training. Superset two opposing movements, for example, an upper body pull (pull-up) with a lower body push (squat), and perform them back-to-back. This helps to keep the intensity of your workout up and minimize rest time, but still allows each muscle group time to rest. Don’t check your phone during these supersets, switch quickly from one to the other to keep that heart rate up!

 

Performing complexes is another excellent method for burning body fat while building muscle definition. Complexes can be performed with a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell, and the goal is to complete all exercises within the complex without putting the weight down (for example, a kettlebell clean, squat, and overhead press, repeated 10x, never putting the KB down until the end of the set).

 

Finally, lift heavy and lift often. Strength train at least 3 times a week, and prioritize the big, compound movements that work all the major muscle groups and movement patterns. And don’t forget to take ample time to recover! Take at least 24-48 hours of rest between training the same muscle group so your muscles have time to rest and grow. Sufficient sleep is also crucial to muscle recovery and growth, so aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. When you’re sleep deprived, your body craves glucose (aka sugar) in an attempt to find energy, so you’re more likely to consume more calories, particularly the sugary empty calories, on days when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.

The Importance of Pre and Post Exercise Nutrition

Here at 50/50, our members take their exercise seriously. Between spin classes, bootcamp-style group fitness, strength training, and training for 5Ks and triathlons, our members definitely know how to stay active. However, how often do you stop and think about how you are fueling these workouts? Are you getting adequate pre- and post-workout nutrition? Are you eating enough calories to sustain your energy through your weekly workouts?

First, with nutrition as with exercise, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind. If you’re looking to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit, meaning you are burning more calories than you’re consuming. However, it’s important that this caloric deficit isn’t too large, or it will have negative impacts on your energy levels, training results, recovery, and metabolism. If you’re trying to build lean muscle or gain overall size, you need to be in a caloric surplus. If your goal is to lose body fat while building muscle, eating at a maintenance calorie level while adjusting your protein, fat, and carb levels can help you attain this goal. If you’re training for a marathon or other endurance event, it is imperative that you take in enough calories, particularly carbohydrates, to fuel your long training runs. The moral of the story – the outcome goal matters.

It’s also very important to eat the right foods before and after your workouts to maximize your results. How many times have you had a workout that didn’t quite feel like your best effort? Maybe you felt a little lightheaded or sluggish, or maybe you experienced muscle cramps during the workout. Your nutrition plays a huge role in all of these! It’s important to ingest a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before your workout to ensure you have enough energy to complete the workout. You should eat something that will sustain your energy, improve your performance, help you recover quickly, and hydrate your body. Signs that you haven’t had enough to eat before your workout include lightheadedness, dizziness, and slow recovery. Eating protein in the few hours prior to your workout will boost your muscle-building capabilities, help you recover faster from workouts, and provide sustained energy. Ingesting carbs before a workout, such as a piece of fruit, will enhance your energy, particularly for high-intensity or longer endurance-type workouts.

Finally, what you eat post-workout also plays a huge role in your ability to recover and bounce back for your next workout session. It is also important in achieving the goals you set out to accomplish during your training sessions. Post-workout nutrition should help you rehydrate, recover and refuel, build muscle, and improve your future performance. Most importantly, eat a meal high in protein right after exercise to prevent the breakdown of proteins in your bloodstream and stimulate protein synthesis, which leads to increases in muscle tissue. Eating protein post-workout will also help alleviate some of the delayed-onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) that you may feel after a particularly challenging workout. Second, your body tolerates and processes carbohydrates most efficiently in the 3-hour window post-workout, so this is your best window to eat your starchier carbs. Eating carbs after exercise will replenish your glycogen stores, which have been spent during your workout, and will also improve your ability to bounce back and come back stronger for your next workout. And last but not least, staying hydrated and drinking sufficient water before, during, and after all your workouts is one of the most important steps you can take to properly fuel your body and achieve the results you’re looking for.

Real Results Start with Consistency

Real Results Start with Consistency 

Health and Fitness Specialist, Emily Mailloux

You’ve probably heard the saying, “you can’t out work a bad diet.” Here at 50/50, we have a wide array of group fitness classes, strength classes, personal training, and opportunities to be active out in the community. Unfortunately, even if you’re taking full advantage of these options every week, if your diet isn’t where it should be, you may be struggling to see the results you hope for. While exercise is important for many reasons, most body composition changes don’t occur until you start to make lasting changes to your nutrition. It’s a crucial piece of your overall health and wellness, and one of our most important focal points here at 50/50. Here’s how to approach a healthy diet that will support your exercise routine without driving yourself crazy.

First, prioritize protein. Make sure that you’re getting protein with every meal. Healthy protein sources include poultry, fish, lean beef and pork, eggs, beans, and dairy sources such as cottage cheese, greek yogurt, and milk. For a handy reference guide, look no further than your own hand. Men should aim to have two palm-sized portions of protein at each meal, and women should have at least one palm-sized portion per meal.

Next, add your vegetables. US dietary guidelines recommend that you fill half your plate at each meal with vegetables or fruits. Try to get a wide variety of vegetables each day – dark leafy greens such as kale or spinach, starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash, and red and orange vegetables including carrots, tomatoes, and peppers. Be creative with your veggie choices! Sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and onions go great in an omelette or with your morning eggs. Add lettuce, tomato, or sprouts to your sandwich at lunch, or have a big salad with lots of different veggies and protein on top. For dinner, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower roasted with olive oil and a little salt and pepper are a great addition to any meal.

The US dietary guidelines also recommend that half of your daily grains come from whole grains. Whole grains are present in either their whole form or are ground into a flour, without losing any part of the seed. These grains are higher in fiber, potassium, iron, B vitamins, and other important nutrients than refined grains, which have finer texture and longer shelf life. Some of the best sources of whole grains that should be a part of your daily diet include brown rice, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, oatmeal, and whole wheat breads. When shopping, be sure to look for whole-grain breads, cereals, or crackers instead of refined grain options. Try cooking barley, bulgur, or brown rice with your protein and vegetables for a balanced dinner, have oatmeal, bulgur pancakes, or whole-grain toast for breakfast, and use whole-wheat bread or wraps for your sandwiches at lunch.

Finally, getting an adequate amount of healthy fats in your daily diet is an important part of balanced eating. Between 25-40% of your daily calories should come from healthy fats such as avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, nut butters, coconuts, and oils. Some of these fat sources will also come from animal sources, such as the fats found in dairy products, eggs, fish, and meats. Avocados or almond butter on whole grain toast make great breakfast options, add sunflower seeds or olives to your salads, snack on raw almonds or walnuts, and cook with olive or coconut oils whenever possible. Eating healthy fats will help you feel more satiated, provide energy, protect your organs, and help your body burn stored body fat.

Last but not least, drink your water! Maintaining an adequate level of hydration throughout the day is crucial for your organ health, immune system, energy levels, and fat-burning, among many other benefits. To get started, drink a minimum of ½ an ounce of water for every pound of body weight, and add 12 ounces for every 30 minutes you spend working out. Gradually work on adding more water throughout the day until you are closer to one ounce per pound of body weight.

Not all fat is created equal

Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams

We continue on with our discussion of body composition this week with an important but often overlooked subject: the difference between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Everybody has both, but the distribution of fat in your body has serious health implications. Previously when we talked about body composition, we kept things pretty simple: we left it at body fat percentage and lean mass percentage (everything else). But for two people with the exact same body fat percentage and weight, there can be important differences in where the fat is stored.
Subcutaneous fat lies below the skin and above the muscle. This fat is less detrimental to your health (although it may be covering up those six pack abs you’ve been working so hard for). In fact, appropriate levels of subcutaneous fat have been shown to reduce the risk of broken bones in the elderly, simply by providing a cushioning effect. So, remember, leaner isn’t always better after a point. The more sinister fat we all have is visceral fat. Visceral fat resides in the abdomen, surrounding our internal organs, and even invading the tissue of our liver. Visceral fat has more profound metabolic effects on the body than subcutaneous fat, and is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Some people with dangerously high levels of visceral fat are by no means overweight, but the excess fat in the “belly” increases their risk of heart disease.
How do I know if I have too much visceral fat? One simple way to screen for excess visceral fat is a waist to hip ratio. Simply measure your waist just above the navel and your hips at the widest point. The ratio of these two numbers (waist/hip) should be less than 0.9 for women and less than 1 for men. People with a more “pear-shaped” weight distribution are at significantly lower risk of heart disease even if they are overweight. The good news for all of us is that exercise tends to target visceral fat first. So your morning spin class and your evening Tabata are doing an essential job at reducing the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, even if you don’t see the numbers on the scale moving at first.
Keep up the good work people!

How do you feel about food?

Well Cardio month sure went by in a heartbeat, and now it is time for nutrition month here at 50/50. If you look to the internet, the media, or even ask your friends and loved ones you will get wildly different opinions on what constitutes a “healthy diet”.  The subject of nutrition is one of the most controversial and most emotional dinner table conversations, rivaling both politics and religion. Many of us are always looking for the “best diet”. I have news for all of you, there is no one “best diet”. There are many different eating strategies that will meet your nutritional needs and help you reach your goals, be it increasing muscle mass, decreasing body fat, or maintaining your healthy weight. In fact, recent research has found that one of the reasons many “diet plans” are effective is that they result in people being more mindful of their food choices. In some cases, the mindful eating effect may be more important than the particular requirements of the diet.

This week I want you all to focus on how your food choices make you feel. There is no right or wrong. Try to avoid thinking about “eating clean” or “good food versus bad food”, simply observe your choices and your body’s feedback. For example, I have recently cut way back on sugar and have noticed that my energy level and mood are more stable. My Starbucks mocha habit was having a negative effect on my day and my wallet, and to be honest I haven’t been missing them since cutting them out. Simple observations like these can really make a big difference in our daily habits. If remove some of the judgement from our food decisions, we are more open to really noticing how our bodies respond to various foods and tailoring our diet so we feel our best. Some of us feel our best eating eggs and bacon for breakfast and others feel best with a plant-based diet, neither is inherently right or wrong and both can be done successfully. If you feel really inspired, maybe even keep a food journal this week, no, not calorie counting, just an account of what you ate and how you feel. This simple step will result in more mindful eating and most likely better nutrition.

70 Classes?!

With 70 group exercise classes on the schedule, and 9 amazing health and fitness specialists, we have everything you need to reach your true potential. Need some added attention, accountability, and a structured plan inside the gym and out? Give personal training or small group training a try! With so many options, so many avenues, and decisions to make each and every day – why not set up a complimentary consultation? Katie, Jay, Jamie, and Justin are available to meet and mentor you on all of those little decisions you’re forced to come by. They do matter and we’re here to help!

So take advantage and sign-up for your consultation today!

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