Our Blog - 50/50 Fitness/Nutrition

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!

Lean Muscle IS Your Friend

Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams

Strength training = Lean muscle tone

I want to take some time this week to talk about the link between strength training and body composition: two of my all-time favorite subjects. During this July, which is body composition month, I want to try to dispel some common myths regarding the effects of strength training. Many people, both women and men, have a fear that strength training will result in “bulking-up”. Unfortunately, there are a large percentage of people who miss out on all of the wonderful benefits of strength training due to this concern. In fact, strength training often results in a leaner more toned look (the opposite of bulky) and will improve your body composition by simultaneously increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat percentage. Strength training even helps you burn more calories when you are not in the gym. How, you may ask?

Cardio or Strength Training for Higher Calorie Burn?

First of all, muscle mass is metabolically active. Muscle burns more calorie pound for pound than fat, some estimates place muscle calorie burn at 50 calories/pound/day while fat only burns 3 calories/pound/day. This is a huge difference! Increasing your lean muscle mass even slightly will have profound effects on your daily calorie expenditure even on days you don’t make it to the gym. Another benefit of strength training is that your body tends to burn more calories for the 24-48 hours after a strength session than it does after a cardio session. So for all of you counting calories, while an hour on the treadmill may look like it will result in more calories burned than an hour lifting weights, the long-term calorie expenditure of strength training will often be greater. I encourage you all to take advantage of these benefits of strength training. Aim for at least two strength sessions a week. We have great options for strength training from Targeted Training to TRX. Your body (and your body composition) will thank you!

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.



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.



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.

The Healthiest Looking Hair For The Woman Living An Active Lifestyle

Written by Jamie Cocco
With Our Instructor and Professional Hair Stylist Sarah Blackmore

The Healthiest Hair while Living an Active Lifestyle

Is the frustration of having healthy looking hair and living an active lifestyle getting to you? Having great hair and an active lifestyle don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In this Community in Focus Article we interview Our Spinning, Barre, Tabata, and Outdoor Fit Camp Instructor and Professional Hair Stylist Sarah Blackmore from Salon Herdis in Northampton about how to find that perfect balance.

What do you do when you are told not to wash your hair every day, but life and fitness say otherwise? Client after client ask our Instructor and professional hair stylist questions like this all the time, and in this article, we give you insights into how to have the healthiest looking hair while living an active lifestyle.

Understanding your Hair

How often should you be washing your hair? This question is not a simple one, so we will first talk about how to target your hair by explaining the different types of hair and how to impact it the most. Breaking it down further there are different types of density thin, medium, and thick. That is the amount of hair that you have on your head. Then we look at hair types, which is fine, medium, and coarse. Essentially you could have a combination of any density with any type such as medium fine.

Knowing your hair type matters

How do you know what combination you have? Hold one strand of hair in between your fingers, if you can’t feel that hair, you have fine hair, if you can feel the hair, then you have coarse hair, and if it is somewhere in between, where you say to yourself that you can kinda feel it, you have medium hair. It is important to know your hair type to help determine the right shampoos, conditioners, and styling products for your hair.

How often do we really have to wash our hair?

Sarah recommends if you are someone who washes your hair every day that a person moves to washing their hair every other day and to use a dry shampoo on the non-washing day. Why is it better to not wash your hair every day? Your body produces natural oils, and those oils protect your hair from outside elements. If you wash your hair every day, you are stripping your hair of that natural protection. Your body will then be forced to produce more oils to compensate for every day hair washing. When you begin washing your hair every other day, you may feel like a grease ball. It’s that feeling when you take your hair tie out and your hair is frozen in place. If you have gone that far, the only thing that will help is washing your hair, but for everything in between, its ok, because dry shampoo exists.

Pro Tip: Washing your hair 3x per week is ideal.  


The miracle known as dry shampoo

In the 1940s a miracle happened. Milk was 34 cents per gallon, 8 cents for a loaf of bread, and dry shampoo was born. Dry shampoo is a powder spray that when sprayed at your root absorbs oils and extends your style by up to two days. So, if you are like me, you may ask, how do I use dry shampoo?

  • Shake the can
  • Hold the can 4″-6″ away from your head
  • Spray in sections around your head focusing at the root
  • Brush through for even distribution of the product

Don’t worry men, you aren’t completely left out, the right hair tie may not be right for you, but you can use dry shampoo too and get the same results as women.

Pro Tip: If you have held it in a spot too long and a white powder circle has formed, take your blow drier out and blow dry that section to boost the absorption of the product.


The best hair tie for your active life

Not all hair ties are created equal, and in this section, we talk about the hair tie that will make a world of difference for your style. Let’s be honest, we have all used the black tie and you probably even have one on your wrist right now and yes, they work great. They hold your hair back, but when you must take your hair out, you have that annoying pony tail crease left behind. And when we are avoiding washing our hair every day, that pony tail crease makes it that much harder.

Sarah says the Goomee hair tie, shown in the picture, doesn’t leave any mark in her hair, holds her hair in place through her entire workout, so she doesn’t have to constantly fix her hair throughout, and she works out hard. It doesn’t cause breakage, and easily shrinks back down to size when you put it in hot water. Sarah can put her hair up in a pony tail with one of these and at the end of the workout when she takes the hair tie out, voila, her hairstyle looks the same as when she started. #mindblown.

Pro Tip: Never put your hair up in a pony tail when your it is wet. Your hair has more elasticity when your hair is wet then when it is dry, and as it dries, it can snap causing that pesky breakage right around your face.

Bringing it all together

It is not healthy for your hair to wash it every day. It is ok to not wash your hair after exercise, and for you, dry shampoo will be your best friend. Not the best friend you stay up all night having heart to hearts with while watching the Golden Girls, but close to that. Washing your hair every other day is key and when aiming to keep your hair style looking its best through a workout, using a Goomee hair tie instead of your old friend the black hair tie will be a game changer. In the next article we will dive into what hair products work best for your hair type and lifestyle. Thanks for reading this article and drop in a comment about what you want to hear in our future healthy hair articles for the active woman.


Your Biggest Questions about Sugar, Answered.

Your Biggest Questions about Sugar, Answered


Question 1: What does sugar do to our bodies?


Sugars are carbohydrates, and they provide quick energy for our bodies (which is why many of us reach for a sugary treat during that mid-afternoon slump at work). However, unlike starches, fiber, and cellulose, which are complex carbohydrates, sugar is a simple carbohydrate. The more complex the molecule, the slower it digests. Since sugar is a simple carb, it digests quickly, while starches and fiber are complex carbs and digest more slowly. This is why eating fiber and healthy starches (think potatoes or brown rice) will help you feel full longer, yet you are often hungry again an hour after eating a bowl of cereal or a pastry.


Question 2: So what about the connection between sugar and our health?


While sugar itself may not be the primary culprit in weight gain, the problem comes from how much of it we consume. Sweet, sugary foods are usually processed and highly palatable (ie. delicious), and since they are digested so quickly, they overstimulate the reward/pleasure centers in our brain, leading us to overeat them (this is why it is so difficult to only eat one cookie out of the box). Therefore, we are likely to ingest more calories throughout the day through overconsumption of sugary foods. Sugar feeds sugar cravings, so if you start the day with a rush of sugar, you’re more likely to reach for a sugary snack at lunch, and a sugary dessert after dinner.


Studies have linked intake of refined sugar with insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of diabetes. A recent study found that for every 150 calorie increase in daily sugar intake (or 37 grams of sugar – roughly the amount in one 12oz can of soda, the risk of diabetes increased by about 1.1%. Eating too much sugar can also increase accumulation of fat in the liver, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.


Question 3: How much sugar should we be eating in a day?


Each of us is different, and each person’s response to sugar will be a little different. Some of us may be able to tolerate higher amounts of sugar in our diet. However, the bottom line is that sugar doesn’t nourish our bodies, it adds little to no nutritional value to our diets, and provides us with no vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water, or fiber. It doesn’t make our bodies stronger, healthier, or more functional, or improve us physically. Simply speaking, even though it tastes good, it is empty calories, and wouldn’t you rather get your calories from foods that will also provide health benefits for your body?


The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sugar to 10% of your daily calories. Do the math – if you’re eating 1800 calories a day, that means 180 calories from sugar, or 45 grams of sugar (180/4, since there are 4 calories per gram of sugar).


Question 4: What are the best and worst sources of sugars?


Here’s a good way to visualize it in order of preference:

  1. The best sources of sugar are the naturally-occuring sugars that come from minimally processed whole foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy.)
  2. Natural sugars in more concentrated forms in foods such as honey, dried fruits, and fruit juices.
  3. Sugar in semi-processed forms such as maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar.
  4. Sugar in processed foods (granulated sugar, high fructose corn syrup).


Read your food labels! Sugar is prominent in processed foods, and one of the easiest ways to minimize your sugar intake is to limit your consumption of processed foods. Salad dressings, frozen dinners, and most sauces are full of sugar. Beware of hidden sugars in processed “health foods” such as yogurt, granola, protein bars, and juices. When shopping, try to purchase as many foods as possible without food labels at all (such as whole fruits and veggies, raw nuts, beans, and legumes, and meats and seafood). Transitioning away from processed foods to a diet rich in whole foods without labels is a great way to reduce your sugar intake while increasing your nutrient intake.


Question 5: What are the different names for sugar?


There are a ton! Here’s a sampling to watch for on food labels (this isn’t even all of them!)

  • Glucose (simple sugar that is absorbed by our body – carbs are broken down into glucose for energy)
  • Fructose (found in fruit)
  • Sucrose, aka table sugar (which is glucose + fructose)
  • Galactose
  • Lactose (galactose + glucose, found in dairy)
  • Maltose
  • Saccharose
  • Dextrose
  • Dextrin
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol

Here’s some other ingredients that are essentially just more names for sugar:

  • High fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener
  • Granulated sugar, confectioners sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Caramel
  • Molasses
  • Fruit juice
  • Raw sugar, palm sugar, date sugar
  • Cane juice, cane sugar
  • Syrup
  • Barley malt, malt syrup


Challenge yourself to eat less sugar! Read the food labels around your kitchen, and look for the ingredients from the above list. What items in your house have hidden sugars? Next time you go grocery shopping, which items can you swap out for brands without added sugars?

If you would like Nutrition Coaching with one of our Precision Nutrition Certified Coaches register for a Complimentary Health and Wellness Consult below:

My Half Marathon Lessons in Miami

My Half Marathon Training Lessons in Miami

From the World Spinning and Conditioning Conference in Miami Florida

Written by Jamie Cocco
UESCA Certified Running Coach

Life is Full

In Miami, life is full of moisture in the form of humidity, which I know all too well because I am sweating while sitting in the shade writing this on a lounge chair.  Miami is full of fun, nightlife, got my salsa dancing on, amazing food (Fratelli Milano, best Italian food ever!!), and this weekend knowledge at the World Spinning and Conditioning Conference.  Here are the lessons I learned about running and training for a Half Marathon while I was there.

Enjoy that fullness

All of the amazing master instructors from the Running, Spinning, Yoga, and Conditioning worlds have several things in common, but the one that stuck out the most is to enjoy life to the fullest.  What does that mean?  We are on a journey, whether that journey leads us to that Half Marathon we are training for in October, (hint: Happy Valley Half Marathon) a laugh filled easy run with friends, or that run to the store before it closes for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, because it is a Chunky Monkey kind of day.  Enjoy the process!!  You may ask me, “Jamie, what is the process?”  That process is the small steps you take today for race day.  Each run you take, the moment after you have completed your run, foam rolling session (Scott Samford from Peak Pilates) to recover, and game planning session for the next run. Take a moment to explore, to laugh, and to be in the moment.

Training for a Half Marathon is a Marathon

Improve gradually was one of the biggest tips I received from Jason Karp the founder of Revo2lution Running and author of 8 books, including the Running a Marathon for Dummies, and articles and interviews featured in Runners World, Runners Connect, and so many more.  His advice is to only increase by 1 miles/day/week max.  He goes further by explaining that every 3-4 weeks should include a recover week, where you decrease your total mileage by 1/3.

Comfort in Training

In my training, I want to push the pace every time.  We want to get the most out of every workout, right?  Most of your training should be in a comfortable zone with interchangeable levels of intensity sprinkled in.  If a person pushes the pace every time, they increase their chance of burnout and injury risk.  Jason suggests that we train in the 70-75% of our max range a majority of the time, so we build up our aerobic base.

Increase Distance or Intensity?

You can do both, but not at the same time.  Jason explains that we need to give our body one or the other variable to adapt to, because too much change at once can cause more harm then help.  If you had to choose one of the two, which should you do?  He tells us to focus on increasing distance, because half marathons and marathons are about distance, and setting yourself up for race day is essential.  This does not mean you don’t focus on intensity at all, because a good training program incorporates both to fuel the best adaptation, just not at the same time.  Hill sprints once a month or every other month is a great way to include higher intensity training to your routine.

No surprises

The purpose of training is to eliminate or lessen the opportunity for surprises that can derail your grove and get you away from your Zone, where everything flows.  Throughout your training, simulate race day.  Know what you are going to do to fuel ahead of time, how many water stations there are, what gels you are going to use, and practice.  Tip for gels:  Jason suggests that you don’t use gels too often ahead of time, because you want your body to adapt optimally without them, before using them.

What it all means

Training for a half marathon is a marathon, metaphorically.  You improve gradually with distance and integrate intensity changes all the way until taper.  Don’t worry, we will talk about the taper in a following article.  You prepare yourself mentally and physically for race day throughout your training by simulating the environment.  You fill your training predominantly with easy runs and all of your runs are part of the process to race day.  Take a moment throughout the process to be in the moment, right now, yes, this moment, and during each run.  Because, in the end it is all about enjoying the work you put in today, and the journey of getting to where you want to be.   Some days it is also about the Chunky Monkey Ice Cream.

If you would like running coaching with our team or Certified Health and Fitness specialists, register for a one on one consultation below

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 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 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 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 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!!

It is a BIG one

It is a BIG one

Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams

Guess what? It’s my favorite month of the year….. STRENGTH MONTH! If you have been following my newsletters, you know how important full-body resistance training is to achieving all of your health and wellness goals. The benefits are countless: from increased metabolism, to decreased risk of fractures, to better cognitive function. If you do one thing for yourself this year, make it adding two to three days of strength training to your routine. A new 8 week cycle of Targeted Training is beginning May 28th, and this is a great way to begin a consistent strength routine. Please find below a description of Targeted and some answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

Targeted Training provides a middle ground between personal training and group classes, by offering strength training in 8 week programming cycles, in a well-planned progression to groups of up to 6 participants. You will receive the attention to detail, individualized coaching and support found in training, while still enjoying the camaraderie of a small tightly knit group, all at a much more affordable price tag than personal training. Each 8 week progression offers full-body strength training using a variety of equipment, including barbells, cable-machines, kettlebells, dumbbells, and resistance bands. You will track your progress over the course of the 8 weeks on a personalized tracker sheet. Most participants are able to see concrete improvements in strength over the course of the program. In fact, the majority of participants continue with the program for months to years and continue to reap the strength benefits. After the 8 week cycle of training, there will be an additional make-up week; to allow those who had to miss 1-2 sessions during the program a time to make-up these work-outs. At that point current participants are allowed to sign-up for the next cycle before it opens up to the general community. To maximize the benefits of the program, we highly recommend twice a week attendance, but once a week attendance is possible. Each session allows a maximum of 6 participants, ensuring a good training environment and plenty of one-on-one coaching from the trainer.

Targeted Training Frequently Asked Questions:

I am a beginner at strength training, is Targeted a good fit?

Yes! Targeted has the ability to be much more customizable than group classes and all levels, from beginner to advanced, can work out together and challenge themselves appropriately. One of the most rewarding aspects of Targeted is seeing your progress over the 8 weeks, which we track on a strength training tracker sheet. Beginners will be shocked by how much they can progress in these 8 weeks, and often report feeling encouraged and inspired by more advanced participants. It is a warm and compassionate environment with everyone supporting each other.

Do I really need to attend twice a week?

The program is designed for twice a week attendance and you will get the most out of the program if you are able to attend twice per week. However, if this is not possible in your schedule, you can attend once per week. If you are only coming once per week, it will be critical to complete 1-2 days of full-body strength training on your own outside of class.

Why is this an 8 week program?

We have found that eight weeks is a good amount of time to focus on a “micro-cycle” of training progressions, and this provides an easy way to allow new participants to enter the program at designated times. However, most participants continue to attend Targeted training for months to years; there are some members who have been doing Targeted twice a week steadily for three years and they have the strength gains to prove it! The program is designed to be used as a long-term progressive strength training program divided into 8 week cycles.

I have an injury I am rehabilitating from, is Targeted right for me?

Targeted training has worked wonders for many participants with injuries and physical limitations. The small group environment and one on one coaching allow for safe effective strength training for those with some limitations. Personal training may be a better option if you are very restricted by your doctor or physical therapist, or if your goal is a more specific rehabilitation program for a certain body part. But, if you are looking for full body strength training while working around an injury, Targeted is a great option.

Why is there an additional cost for Targeted?

Targeted training fits more in the realm of small group personal training than group classes, and due to the small group size and level of attention it is an excellent value. At less than $20/session it is a fraction of the cost of personal training. You will also have the opportunity to utilize equipment that is not available to group class participants. We encourage you to speak with current Targeted participants and ask them about the value of the program.

Upcoming Targeted Schedule

Targeted Strength Training: Traditional Program

Monday/Wednesday: 8:30-9:30am, 5:30-6:30pm, 7:00-8:00pm

Tuesday/Thursday: 6:30-7:30am, 11:30-12:30pm, 6:00-7:00pm

Introduction to Weight Training (Female only)

Saturday 12:00PM

This class is designed for women who are new to strength training and are interested in learning the fundamentals of the three primary barbell lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Taught in a supervised and small group of women only, this class will help you find your strength and properly and safely execute the major barbell lifts. No prior weight training experience is required. If you’ve ever been curious about powerlifting and wondered, ‘can I do that?’, then this is the class for you. Come learn how to lift with the camaraderie and support of your fellow strong women! Each class will begin with a warm-up to properly prime your movement patterns and work on mobility prior to lifting. This class will follow a workshop-style – the first half of the class will cover the basic cues, setup, and execution of the lift, and the second half will include a weightlifting circuit incorporating the lift of the week. We will learn the basic movements using kettlebells, dumbbells, and resistance bands, and work our way up to the barbell lifts.

Women’s Intermediate Weight Training

Saturday 11:00AM

This class will cover the fundamentals of the three primary barbell power lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Taught in a supervised and small group of women only, this class will help you find your strength and properly and safely execute the major barbell lifts. In addition to barbells, this class will use a variety of equipment including kettlebells, dumbbells, cable machines, and resistance bands for a well-rounded full body strength training program. Come discover why so many women are switching up their old gym routines and changing their body composition with barbell training! This class is recommended for those who have some prior weight training experience but are looking to take your experience to the next level, or fine tune your barbell lifting techniques and increase your strength.

Once you have registered, we will email you with instructions to either sign up for Targeted on your own, or set up a one on one consult to discuss the targeted program and figure out if it is the right fit for you.

My Four Lessons of Running 

My Four Lessons of Running

Written by Jamie Cocco

The birds are chirping, the sun is beaming through the trees, and you pass by a cow who stares at you right before you have to convince yourself for the tenth time that there is light at the end of this running tunnel.  Running is not easy!  Whether you are a seasoned runner, have a couple half marathons under your water bottle belt, or have written down on a piece of paper somewhere, you can’t remember where, but are pretty sure it is in the kitchen, that you are going to complete your first 5K this year.  So where do you start, where should you be, or where are you going?

As a certified running coach who is also on a running journey, here are four lessons that I have learned so far:

Meet yourself where you are but push a little further each time.  Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle or your middle to someone else’s 15-year journey.  We get stuck in the rut of seeing someone who inspires us or a friend who has been doing it for a while and try to match them.  I catch myself trying to push too far too fast to keep up with more experienced runners.  Running is a marathon, literally and metaphorically.  Some days you just have to drag yourself out of the house and do your best.  When you get to the place where your body pushes back, push a little bit further, and you will get so much out of it.

Gradually increase your distance and speed.  In the past as a runner, I have pushed myself to injury because I am too competitive with myself and progress.  If you are a beginner, go down the street to the nearest stop sign, farm, crossing, 10thmailbox, ding dong truck, or something close enough to be achievable, don’t stop, walking counts, and head back home.  The next time go 10-20% further.  Then the next time go 10-20% further.  That means if you go out for 10 minutes today, then go for 11 minutes on your next run.  It is the small steps in the right direction over a long period of time that make the difference.

Make every third week a recovery week, where you don’t increase distance or speed.  It took me awhile to understand that shifting my focus from always gaining on my run to flexibility, balance, and strength can improve my running.  Our muscles adapt faster then our connective tissue and injuries can occur when we don’t adequate recovery time.  So give your muscle a short vacation, not to Fiji with those fruity drinks and colorful umbrellas in them, more like a relaxed binge watching session of Stranger Things, where you maintain your distance and speed, focus on flexibility through stretching, one of the other focal points to holistic health, and do some myofascial work (foam rolling).

Before, sometimes during, and after running, hydrate.  I have been caught on both ends of the spectrum with dry mouth, wondering if the water station ahead is a mirage or not, and standing in line for a porta potty when I could be running.  It is important to drink a lot of fluids the night before a big run, the day of your every day run, during a long run, and always after a run.  Drink about 16 ounces of water in the 1-2 hour before you run and start to slow down your water consumption to 8 ounces during the final 30 minutes before your run, to avoid bathroom breaks.  Drinking 5-15 ounces for every 15-20 minutes of running is recommended by Runner’s World.  Click here to read more about hydrating from Runner’s World.  More likely than not, if you do a road race, there is going to be a beer waiting for you at the end.  Don’t worry.  I am not telling you to not drink the beer, just drink water slowly first.

Remember, you can do it!  Running is hard, so use these lessons I have larned to make it a little easier for you today.  Please comment and let us know what worked for you.  Thank you for reading my lessons and stories!

Jamie Cocco
UESCA Certified Running Coach (United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy)

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.