Our Blog - 50/50 Fitness/Nutrition

Time Magazine – How to Eat Now

Eat at home because it’s good for you, it’s good for your family and it’s far easier than you think, says best selling food writer Mark Bittman, in a recent TIME’s cover story.

In today’s fast paced world we consume over 30% of our daily calories away from home. These less-than-wholesome calories are accumulating around our waists and draining our bank accounts.

So why do we eat out and shun the kitchen? Simple: convenience. We don’t have the time to toil away over a hot stove. However, evidence is mounting that we are paying big for the so-called convenience of outside food.

Obesity related diseases are on the rise, as are the number of folks who are just plain unhappy with how their bodies look and feel. Cooking at home seems to be the first step in our road to healthier bodies.

Here are the top 5 reasons that you should starting cooking and eating at home…

Reason #1: It’s Good For You
Hyperprocessed foods are harmful to our health, and that’s exactly where you’ve been getting the bulk of your calories. Even restaurant food that contains fresh produce, chances are high that the produce is not organic, or local or non-GMO. Most of us are eating less than half of the recommended amount of fiber, fruit and vegetables, which eating at home could quickly change.

Simple meals made at home with fresh produce and organic meats or eggs are nutritionally superior to over-flavored, over-processed restaurant food. Not to mention the high calorie beverages and starters that so often accompany a restaurant meal. When you eat at home you take in more nutrient-dense calories that are higher in fiber.

Reason #2: It’s Far Easier Than You Think
Eating out so often has conditioned our concept of a meal to be one with complicated flavors and accompaniments. This misconception has made us fear the kitchen. But I urge you to reconsider.

Meals made at home need not mirror those ordered in restaurants. On the contrary, simple is better when it comes to home cooking. Plan your entire meal around a couple of pieces of fresh produce and a wholesome, lean protein. No need for complicated sauces or sides – these are where the harmful calories hide anyway.

Reason #3: It Costs Less
Fresh, simple ingredients do not cost much. Especially when compared to the cost of prepared meals. Bittman’s advice on ingredient shopping is to, “Buy what you can afford, and cook it yourself. Rice, beans, bacon, salad, bread –few things are cheaper than that.”

Shopping the perimeter of the store is always a good plan. Here you’ll find the fresh produce, meats, dairy and seafood. Venture into the aisles for oils and spices to compliment the fresh ingredients.

Reason #4: It Is Preventative Medicine
In the US the annual health care expenses related to obesity is $150 billion, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide this number is over $1 trillion annually. These numbers are staggering, and sobering when you think of all the individual lives that are being negatively impacted by obesity.

Rather than waiting for you and your family members to experience the health risks related to obesity, start your own mission to cook simple meals at home and redirect your future. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Reason #5: It Reduces Body Fat
Eating at home is also one of the best ways to reduce your body fat. Bittman states that meals eaten at home contain an average of 200 calories less than meals eaten out. Let me tell you, a reduction in 200+ calories per meal will quickly translate to pounds lost!

Start today, and don’t be afraid to start small.

Pick one meal that you’ll make at home either today or tomorrow, and write down your simple menu and grocery list.

And let’s not forget the place that a challenging, consistent exercise program has in your quest for good health and a fit physique.

Don’t let this holiday season get the best of you. Take control of your diet right now!

Hey you, yeah you!

It’s about time you do something proactive. Take charge of your health, your weight, your future… once and for all. The kids are back to school, the holidays are fast approaching, and it’s time to face the music. This is it folks, the calm before the storm.

First, the weather cools down, minimizing outdoor activities.

Then, the students flood the area and everyone either a) trudges back to work or b) goes into hiding. The first round of fitness routines quickly falls by the wayside, just like that (we’ll bring you back!).

Football season heats up and the fridge is stocked up with Octoberfest.

Before you know it, the candy isles begin to pop up everywhere to taunt you with those big, oversized bags.

By now, Grandma surely has her sights set on her famous homemade stuffing and apple pie.

Why not some wine by the fire on a cold winter day?

“It’s too cold to food shop, let’s order in tonight honey”.

Finally, we finish with a downright assault of cookies, cakes, holiday party after holiday party, and leftovers galore.

No wonder why so many people tend to struggle, year after year. I don’t want to see another year of inconsistency and frustration with lofty New Years’ Resolutions quickly following suit. I’m sick of that pattern. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Hell, I just outlined half of the issues that strike down each year. So let me ask you this: What do you do when the weather forecasts a major storm? Do you plan ahead, stock up, and dust off the old generator? Or do you keep your fridge full of perishables and your windows open with the dog tied out back?

Maybe you messed up this weekend…ate like crap, drank too much. Maybe you didn’t. You know what? It doesn’t matter. The focus here is on prevention and damage control. Tomorrow, you’re back to work and we’re not about to let another uninspiring week pass you by. You’re stuck in a rut and I hate to say it, but you’re the perfect candidate for winter weight gain. We won’t let you succumb to that, not this year. BUT, it has to start right here, right now, so let’s jump right in.

First step: Print this post.

Next, take a walk to your fridge, open it up and tell me what you see. We’ll keep it as simple as possible…

How many of these items can you find?

  • Salad Greens
  • Three different colored vegetables
  • Three different types of fruits
  • 3 on the go quick protein options (i.e. hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.)
  • Pre-cooked or 5 minute throw-together meal options (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for at least three consecutive days. I can help you with these.
  • Defrosted chicken and/or fish, portioned and ready to cook as needed.

Well, how’d you do? And what does all this mean?

The reality is that if a food is in your possession or located in your residence, either you or a loved one will eventually eat it. If the temptation is there, the decision is easy.

In other words, keep only the food or drinks that you SHOULD actually consume.

In other, other words, enough is enough! Believe it or not, you know enough to be able to begin to identify which foods should stay and which should go, right off the bat. Call upon your own knowledge and judgment and make that initial step. This is about owning up to your decisions. If a food and/or drink isn’t conducive to your goals, why would you keep it? Insert defensive, self-justifying excuse here:

  • I hate wasting food
  • It was on special
  • So and so likes these
  • It’s for special occasions (like this Tuesday, when I’ll have a bad day at work)
  • Etc.

Let’s get real here!

If it isn’t helping you reach your goals, you don’t need it. End of story. So here we go. Perfect day for a kitchen makeover!

  1. A kitchen makeover gets rid of the non-nutritious stuff and/or foods that trigger you to engage in poor eating behaviors. Then it replaces the junk with a plethora of health-promoting foods.
  2. A kitchen makeover helps you stay in control and on track. You don’t want to be deciding between a couple of bites of ice cream and a small salad while getting the kitchen ready, waiting for the rest of your dinner to cook. Food decisions in our kitchen need. to. be. foolproof.
  3. A kitchen makeover helps you plan and structure your healthy eating patterns. You’ll appreciate having a safe home base after returning from the “food war-zone,” also known as modern society.

Here’s how it works…

Start with what you know. Gather all the unhealthy foods from your fridge and pantry. Now, get a few big garbage bags. See, I told you this was simple!

If a certain food has redeeming qualities, then you can take it to a local food bank or soup kitchen. If it’s complete junk, trash it. Get it out of the house.

Rule #1 If you think it’s junk, it is.

Rule #2 “But isn’t this a waste of food?” Nope. It’s junk.

Think about this: Would you dig through a dumpster for dinner? No? Why not? Because the food in there isn’t very good for you. It might be expired, rancid, full of bacteria, or at the very least covered in crud. It’s garbage.

So why would you eat foods that have no nutritional value — and which actively take away from your health? How is that different from dumpster diving? Yeah, that’s right…I called you a dumpster diver. So let’s do something about it. Let’s revisit the fridge and cabinets for round 2 of the action plan.

How many of these do you possess?

  • Chips
  • Cheesy snacks
  • Chocolates or candy
  • Soda/sweetened drinks
  • Alcohol, especially flavored/sweetened mixed drinks
  • Instant foods like cupcake mixes and mashed potatoes
  • Margarine and other processed fats
  • Most frozen dinners
  • Most take-out or restaurant leftovers
  • Bowls of candy or other snacks sitting around
  • Flavored nuts

Take a look back at our initial assessment… The percentage here is much higher, isn’t it? You know what? Forget it! It doesn’t matter…just get rid of it!

Ok, so we’ve established some things and made some progress. Great. Now, what’s left? There must be some foods that maybe you just aren’t sure about? Maybe you have a “maybe” pile, per say?

Here are some tricky foods that can seem healthy, but usually aren’t. They’ve gone from something good (whole, unprocessed food) to something that a machine barfed out, something that’s full of sugar and chemicals, and/or something that’s had all its original nutrients stripped out. (No, it’s not “healthy” because it says “fruit” – Check the label.)

Here we go on round 3…weeding out the tricksters!

  • Sweetened yogurt (yoplait) and frozen yogurt (excess sugar!)
  • Breads and bagels, unless they’re made exclusively with whole grains and 100% organic!
  • Breakfast cereals (see above comment)
  • Other baked goods
  • Crackers, even the whole grain ones – too tempting!
  • Granola bars – too many excess carbs
  • Regular peanut butter – difficult to control
  • Fruit juice – don’t need it, no fiber!

A good rule here is to check the labels. Look for forms of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup as well as hydrogenated oil, fractioned oil, and other preservatives with long, difficult to pronounce names.

Ok phew, we’re done.

Wait a minute! – We forgot about the refrigerator door! Here you’ll find some straight chemical and sugar BOMBS.

Maybe it’s time to take a second look? Here are the biggest culprits…

  • Condiments such as BBQ sauce and other sweetened sauces
  • Sweetened relishes, mustards, and ketchup
  • Salad dressings
  • Bread crumbs, croutons, and other dried bread products
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats
  • Spreads or cream cheeses

These are the types of things that tend to stay in the fridge a while. So why not spend the extra dollar or two on a quality product?

So there you have it! If you’re still in doubt at all, you can ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Does this food come in a bag, box, or plastic package?
  2. Does it have more than a couple of ingredients on the label?
  3. Can you pronounce all of those ingredients?
  4. How far away is this food from what it used to be? (And do you even know what it used to be?)
  5. Is this food perishable? Just about anything good for you goes bad quickly.

Obviously, there are exceptions to all of the above. But if there’s uncertainty, would you really want to test your willpower with them around? Obviously, it doesn’t work…especially with the holiday season just around the corner. There’s no room for error! At this point, to set yourself up for success, the best thing you can do is start fresh. Eliminate the temptation early and get yourself in the right mindset. Remove the obstacles before you even reach them.

Tips for Eating Out

It should be no secret that going out to eat can completely derail an otherwise successful fitness plan. Let’s face it, restaurants want food to taste good… fat tastes good, is cheap, and can be hidden very easily. Why would any restaurant, for example, use high quality, expensive, tough, lean meats? Especially when their counterparts are juicy, more flavorful, and much cheaper. Chain restaurants are the worst culprit. As an exercise, take a look at the nutritional facts of the chain restaurant you frequent most. They can typically be found right on the website. Try and find an item that you have eaten or pretend like you just sat down and are getting ready to order. Pick a few items and then see how you did.

Today, we’re at T.G.I Fridays, and you order a pecan crusted chicken salad. 1,360 calories later, you may be holding the dessert! 

Save some trouble:

  • Ask for fat free or low-fat dressings
  • Choose oil bases instead of cream.
  • Ask for it on the side! Then use only as much as you need.

Okay, maybe you didn’t choose Fridays. Maybe you chose Panera Breads. You are debating ordering one of their signature sandwiches. Unfortunately, not one of the delicious sandwiches hits the mark at less than 700 calories and 30 grams of fat. Go for the ‘you pick two’ option and you just bought yourself an extra 100-200 calories (on average) and a day’s worth of fat.

There are so many deceptions out there, making it virtually impossible for us to make good choices. The best advice is to ask questions and come prepared. Know where you’re going and try and take a look at the menu ahead of time. Do a little research and see what you can find by comparison. Finally, take a look at these guidelines to help ward off unnecessary calories and stay on track:

  • Start with water, low fat milk, unsweetened coffee or tea, or other unsweetened drinks. Stay away from all soft drinks!
  • Ask for whole wheat bread and wraps. Try not to be too tempted by the pre-meal bread/rolls that you get at most places. These can be dangerous!
  • Start off with a small salad loaded with veggies. This will help you to feel satisfied much sooner when it comes time to dig in to the main course.
  • Steamed, grilled, baked or broiled. Not deep fried, pan fried, or sautéed.
  • Order an appetizer or a side dish or two instead of a meal.
  • Share a dish with a friend. Sometimes you can find quality meats for a price. This is the perfect time to split!
  • When your food is brought to the table, ask for a to-go box or set half aside right away so you aren’t tempted. Eat it for lunch the next day.
  • Order foods with light oil/vegetable based sauces, not creamy gravies.
  • Avoid adding butter and excess condiments to your food.
  • While travelling, commuting to and from work, and going on shopping trips, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-fat string cheese sticks, unsalted nuts, or fiber/protein bars to help reduce the urge to stop for a sweet/fatty treat.

Practice using these tips–even a couple at a time–and they will eventually become second nature to you. Don’t deprive yourself of going out; just don’t sabotage your health while enjoying time with friends and family! 

Food Journaling

Food journaling is a critical component to weight management.  Documenting what you eat throughout the day makes you more accountable for the choices you make. The simple action of tracking your food intake is a constant reminder that you are choosing to pay attention to your health and well-being. In time, you’ll start to understand where your calories are coming from and the nutritional balance of your meals and snacks. This knowledge will make it easier to make the necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle. Then, if your stomach is upset, you feel unusually tired or sluggish, bloated, unsatisfied, etc., you can look back and see which foods made you feel this way.

Directions: Journal everything including water. Make sure to note portion sizes and calories if this information is readily available. You can include any comments or questions next to the “time” column.

 Did you know? A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that dieters who kept food journals six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who kept food journals only one day per week!

Eliminating the Confusion – Everyday fitness definitions for beginners

Metabolism – The sum of all physiological processes in which matter is produced, maintained, and destroyed. The ability to burn and utilize energy (calories) is a factor of metabolism.

Calorie Deficit – The difference between the amount of calories you take in and the amount of calories you burn. If you create a daily deficit of 500 calories, you are on track to lose one pound of body fat per week.

Body Mass Index – A comparison of weight to height used to estimate body fatness. It does not, however, distinguish between fat and fat free mass (muscle). Thus, someone with lots of muscle may be falsely represented as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’.

Basal or Resting Metabolic Rate – The amount of energy you expend just functioning from day-to-day. This number does not reflect any type of physical activity whatsoever. It is generally represented in calories.

Strength Training – Using an external load while isolating different areas of the body, to evoke a muscle response and adaptation over time.

Interval Training – Strength and conditioning using intervals of time rather than a set number of repetitions. A great way to mix in cardio with your strength training!

Repetitions – A rep is a single isolated movement from start to finish. Generally, any given number of repetitions forms a set.

Compound Set – Performing two exercises within the same muscle group with little or no rest in between.

Superset – Performing two exercises of opposing muscle groups with little or no rest in between.



Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

To lose weight properly, the kind of weight loss that is long-lasting, you need to exercise.

Diets alone that severely restrict energy intake (which most do) trigger compensatory mechanisms that slow the metabolism and increase appetite.Your body wants and needs fuel. If it’s unsure when the next meal will come, it will look to conserve everything.

A recent study by the University of Copenhagen revealed that in groups of sedentary men, there was a significant advantage to incorporating moderate aerobic activity into the daily routine (just 30 minutes or about 300 calories). Interestingly enough, a similar compensatory mechanism was exhibited by those who exercised at a higher intensity (60 minutes/600 calories).

The group that exercised twice as long actually lost less weight than those who were placed on the moderate intensity regime, even though they burned significantly more calories.

Hmm. The problem is that these previously sedentary men now became too active for their own good.

How is that possible? Without an adjustment period, these new stressors place a significant toll on the body. It’s reluctant to break down too much, too quickly, and compensates by slowly putting the brakes on these processes.

In time, you can burn out, get sick, risk injury, or lose motivation. No one wants to feel physically and mentally depleted. Finding a new exercise routine can be invigorating…finding a way to utilize it in a way that makes sense for you is the challenge.

Maintenance Mode – Initiating a strength training program post weight loss

Gone are the days of eating 1200-1500 calories, struggling to create a daily deficit that will allow the scale to budge. You’ve lost the weight. By now, you’ve adapted to eating 5+ meals per day, you’re making good choices, and you understand the meaning of portion control. Now, it’s important to begin to identify new goals for yourself. To keep the weight off, it’s essential that you continue to strength train. Doing so will facilitate further increases in metabolism and will ultimately allow you to eat more while sustaining your weight. How much more? We will work on this in a few. The most important thing to remember is that your body, your muscles need these calories to thrive. If you’re coming off of a program in which your goal was to lose at least 1 pound of body fat per week, you’ll automatically be consuming a minimum of 500 calories more than you were before. Those looking to increase muscle mass will generally require an additional few hundred calories/day on top of that. All of a sudden that 1200 calorie diet turned into an almost 2000 calorie ‘diet’ just like that. Scary right? It doesn’t have to be.


Let’s work it another way. The most essential nutrient for sustaining and building muscle mass is protein. Protein requirements for sedentary individuals are typically seen between .6 and .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Since we aren’t sedentary, we won’t worry too much about these numbers.  A more active adult may require up to 1 gram/kilogram or .55 grams of protein per pound. For a 150 pound individual, the protein requirement is roughly 82.5 grams. Time for a little math…

Protein has an energy density of 4 calories per gram.

82.5 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram yields 330 total protein calories.

The average active adult should consume roughly 20% of their daily intake in protein alone.

Multiply the total number of protein calories by 5 (20% x 5 = 100%) to determine your estimated caloric intake. In this case, 330 total protein calories x 5 = 1650 calories, which represents your total daily allowance.


For those looking to increase muscle mass, protein requirements are even higher. Research has shown that requirements increase up to 1.4 grams/kg or .64 grams/pound (sometimes even higher in strength athletes). For that same 150 pound individual, using the same equation yields a total daily expenditure of 1920 calories. So there you have it, a range of 1650 – 1920 calories, depending on goals (plus a little extra when you exercise!).


How about the other nutrients? Carbohydrates, like protein, have an energy density of 4 calories per gram. Fat is more than double at a whopping 9 calories per gram! Alcohol is the only other energy yielding substance (not a nutrient) and produces 7 calories for each gram, still more than carbs and protein. In any case, recommendations are typically to sustain a total fat intake of less than 30% of your daily allowance. Using the example above and a daily fat intake of 25%, you get 412.5 total fat calories. Divide this by 9 calories per gram and you are looking at a daily allowance of about 45 grams of fat. Still try and stay away from saturated and trans fatty acids as much as you can. Finally, running the same breakdown for a daily carbohydrate intake of 55% (the remainder), you get 907.5 total carbohydrate calories or approximately 227 grams.


Estimate of average energy requirements for an active, 150 lb adult to sustain muscle mass:

1650 calories on non-exercising days*

200-300 extra calories on strength days*

83 grams of protein*

45 grams of fat*

227 grams of carbohydrate*


If you made it this far, I applaud you! Email me with questions or for help in estimated daily requirements. You can also check out the BMR calculator in the ‘fitness tools’ section of the personal training tab.

Physical Assessments: calculating body fat

As a trainer, one of the most common questions you hear is “how do I know how much muscle I am gaining when I am working out to lose weight?”. Building muscle and losing fat; it can be a confusing concept, especially when the numbers on the scale aren’t showing what you’d like. Sure, you’d like to believe that any fat loss was off set by an increase in lean muscle but how do you know if that’s really the case?

When initiating a new program, it’s important to take multiple physical assessments to determine a solid baseline from which you can progress. Sometimes, weight just isn’t enough. There are too many factors that can lead to strange fluctuations in your total body weight. Water is a big one. Take the time to snap a few pictures (post them on the site if you’d like!), take body circumferences, or best of all… test your body fat.

Very few like to do it, yet almost everyone gets frustrated with the scale. It’s really a simple process. Using a skinfold caliper, I can measure and calculate your body fat in about ten minutes or less. When you’re done, you’re left with a percentage of total body fat. Multiply this by your weight and we can calculate how many pounds of body fat you have. The remainder will be your fat free mass. From here, we can monitor how your fat to muscle ratio is changing and we can determine how much fat you are losing/have lost at any given point along the way.

The following are a couple of charts that can be used to assess overall progress…

Fat Loss Rates

Excellent: .5-1% loss every 2-4 weeks

Average: .5% loss every 4 weeks

Poor: less than .5% every 4 weeks

Muscle Gain 

Excellent: 1-2 lbs. every 2-4 weeks

Average: 1 lb. every 4 weeks

Poor: less than 1 lb. every 4 weeks

Before you get started in any fitness program, set up a consultation for some fitness tests and measurements. In a few weeks, you’ll be glad you did!

Protein Shakes After a Workout

Protein shakes are often associated with bodybuilding and elite athletes. The reality is that most people don’t consume nearly enough protein or carbohydrate, if at all, after a strenuous workout. There is so much confusion surrounding the question of whether or not to “eat back” exercise calories. In the grand scheme of things, you want to be able to utilize physical activity to create a deficit conducive to a healthy, consistent weight loss. You shouldn’t necessarily consume more because you exercised, but you should consume smart.

After a workout, your body is broken down and depleted of many essential nutrients. The two that require the most attention after any type of prolonged or strenuous physical activity are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy before we get into our fat stores. They drive all of the internal processes that allow us to function and perform on a daily basis. Proteins or amino acids make up the tools necessary to respond, repair, and adapt. They’re used as a building block for muscle tissue. The two go hand in hand. Your body needs the carbs for energy to repair your damaged muscles and the protein to carry out the repairs. If you want to get stronger, boost your metabolism, and generally feel less fatigued, it’s extremely important that you consume both within 30 minutes. This can be a challenge. Whole food choices like your meats, grains, nuts, etc. take far too long to break down. Any added fats will slow down the process even more (fats are metabolized very slowly). On the other hand, protein shakes are already in liquid form and are therefore metabolized and utilized more readily. Many protein powders actually already contain an optimal ratio of carbs to protein.

If you don’t take in the fuel you need to replenish your depleted energy stores, your body can actually begin to break down muscle tissue in order to make more carbohydrates. This can be extremely debilitating and frustrating over time.

I wish there was a simple equation that could tell you how many calories to consume based on the intensity level and overall burn of your workout. In a way, it doesn’t matter as much as you would think. Immediately following a workout, your body is in an extremely anabolic state. This means that you’re burning significantly more calories than you would at normal resting times. It can be scary to workout, see a large burn, and then seemingly take away some of your hard work. Rest assured, it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t always boil down to the numbers. If it was all numbers all the time, it would be much easier to lose the weight! Protein shakes are your friend. Like anything else, consume in moderation!