Food, glorious food! Food is fuel for your body. Your car doesn’t run without gas and your body won’t run without food. So EAT! We’re talking about the real stuff – fresh, natural, minimally processed foods – not the garbage that’s being shoved down your throat by the mega markets, fast-food behemoths and mass media. Don’t diet. The word diet implies that you are reducing your consumption. No need to reduce if you are putting better food in your body. Change your habits to make better decisions about what you are eating. Increase your knowledge about the sources of your food and the nature of the ingredients that make up your meals. You’ll feel better and you’ll enjoy food more than ever before!
OUR RECENT HEALTHY EATING POSTS
So you wanna make a smoothie? I've been mixing up protein shakes for a post-workout boost and sometimes just as a breakfast replacement. Ingredients are important, of course, but you won't get very far without a quality blender. I started out with a Ninja that served me well for a couple of years before it started to break down. Fortunately, I was gifted a Vitamix, one of the premier blenders out there. I was a bit skeptical because these things are EXPENSIVE. I wondered if it was really worth the investment. Could it really make a great shake? Here are some quick thoughts on my Vitamix experience...
- Power, power, power - There's no questioning that this blender could crush a Cadillac if you could fit it inside the pitcher
- Super smooth blending - Much better than a blender you'd find in the $100-$200 range
- Easy clean up - A few drops of dish soap, water and run the clean cycle, rinse and air dry. No need to dismantle and run through a potentially damaging dishwasher - might be the best feature
- There is a learning curve - it takes some time to find the right ratio of ingredients to get a really smooth smoothie
- It's loud - sounds like a jet engine but what blender doesn't
- Cost - Even though it was a gift, I know it was expensive - it's worth the cost of entry though as it will serve you well for many years (hopefully) vs. having to replace a lesser machine every year or two
That's about all I have to say here. Love my Vitamix. Go for it if you do shakes or smoothies once a week or more. You won't regret the decision.
Just wanted to whip up a quick post about supplementation. It seems like there is a new product popping up everyday promising to help you burn fat, increase energy or build strength. I'm a believer that you should seek these benefits from natural sources as part of a healthy lifestyle. (i.e. Eat your veggies!) That being said, I do like to keep an open mind and learn about what's out there. I've been hearing some buzz about Advocare products recently so I did some quick research.
The first question I always ask is "What's in it?" I was disappointed to find that when researching Advocare products, I was unable to find a complete listing of ingredients in their supplements online. Advocare operates under a multi-level marketing model so perhaps they leave that information to their consultants to disseminate but it does seem a bit shady to me. After some poking around I did find the list of ingredients clearly offered on their corporate website - kudos Advocare - but my point is that you need to make sure you read and understand those ingredients. If you've read any of my other posts, you'll know that I'm a big fan of Onnit and Legion products. One of the main reasons is that both companies clearly share complete listings of ingredients backed by thorough information about how and why the products work.
I don't recommend that anyone use the products that I talk up on my website... Why? Because I am not qualified to do so. You need to do your own research and may even want to consult your doctor or a nutritionist. Yes, I'd be happy to have you purchase any of the products that I use through my website because that will help keep Bob Betterman up and running but don't do it just because I said I use them.
Bottom line, know what you are putting in your body and be skeptical of products that are not completely transparent about their ingredients. You need to figure out what's right for you!
P.S. Also be skeptical of anyone offering a time-based solutions. (e.g. "24 Day Challenge" or "10 Day Cleanse") The only timeline you should be concerned with in your quest for better is "forever." Be better every day.
Counting calories? Keeping an eye on your carbs? Upping your protein? Eating only "good fats"? Sounds like you're on top of things but if your results are missing expectations, you need to look beyond these traditional measures. I think most people know that counting calories is a mostly fruitless endeavor. Why? Calories come from vastly different macronutrients. There is something else. Lurking in the shadows. (Queue theme from Jaws.)
Sugar. One of the often overlooked culprits, slowing our progress and negating our progress in other areas. Sugar is a carbohydrate and carbs are essential for your body to function but some types of this macronutrient are better than others. What's wrong with sugar? In short, if you take in sugar and it is not immediately used for energy then it's sent to your liver and turned into fat - your body's way of saving that potential energy for later.
For more on sugar: http://www.livestrong.com/article/408673-does-sugar-turn-into-fat/
Think you know how much sugar you are eating? Think again and read your labels. Clif Bar? Sounds healthy but 23g of sugar. Wine must have tons of sugar since its made from grapes right? Not always true. Most red wines have very little sugar - sugar is converted to alcohol. Beer? Some have no sugar some have 10+ grams per serving. Fruit? Did you know a banana has 14g of sugar? Of course, fruit is good for you but my point is that it is very important to know how much sugar is in your diet. (Don't eat 5 bananas!)
It's not easy. Sometimes the label says sugar - sometimes it goes by other names like high fructose corn syrup. So, what's worse? The fat in your French fries or the high fructose corn syrup in the gobs of ketchup that you are dipping them in? I don't hold the credentials to claim to know the answers but think about it. The high fat peanuts in your trail mix or the sugar-loaded M&M's in that same snack? Kind of getting off point here but I suspect that Trail Mix got its name as an energy booster prior to a long, hard trek down rugged trails - so unless you're heading out on a hike, it's probably not a very good between meals snack.
What I am confident in saying is that if it's a processed food you can count on a bunch of sugar coming along for the ride. Great, you had "fat free" dressing with your salad? Good for you. You also had 3 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Wow, 20 grams of protein in that Power Bar? 12 grams of sugar too. Think about what you are eating.
And now for some musical therapy…
You are what you eat. Overall I'd say that I am on track with my plan for better. I eat well about 80% of the time, workout 4-5 times per week, and I'm generally winning the war against my vices although I lose a few battles here and there. My workouts focus on strength and my diet favors healthful fare over processed junk food.
I feel like I'm on the right path but progress, especially in terms of building muscle, often seems slow and tedious. I wanted to find a way to shift the balance of my lifestyle to accelerate the gains from the hard work that I have been putting into diet and exercise.
Enter the protein experiment. After some casual research, I've decided to experiment with measuring and manipulating my protein intake to make the most of my investment at the gym to help my body build muscle.
I'll continue doing what I have been doing in terms of eating and strength training but with an increased focus on diet. I'm not counting calories and not concerned with the amounts of food that I am eating, although I will continue to keep an eye on things like carbs and sugars - instead my focus will be on measuring my protein intake against my results.
My experiment targets protein intake of 150g per day. 165 is roughly my body weight. How did I choose this number?
How much protein? When should I eat protein? (Source: http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/post-workout-shakes?fullpage=true)
For general health and weight loss for active men, Aragon recommends consuming about 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight, erring on the higher side. (One caveat: Trained athletes cutting calories may need to consume more than 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.) The benefits of eating more protein are great, he says, helping to preserve lean body mass (particularly important if you’re cutting calories to lose weight), raising metabolism, and increasing satiety.
My Weight 165lbs. X .9 = 149g protein/day
Some additional info about protein: http://greatist.com/protein
Can you have too much protein? http://greatist.com/health/how-much-protein-too-much
I'm three weeks in and eating nearly 150g of protein is much harder than I thought it would be. Each meal I am tracking protein content but not calories, or fat or carbs, etc. I'll track my weight once a week with the expectation that weight will actually increase as I build muscle and drop some fat.
So here are some of the tools (foods) that I have been using to up my protein intake daily.
- Hemp or Whey protein - I can get about 15-30g in a shake.
- Fish, chicken and steak - Perhaps the best option for adding 30+ grams of protein to a meal.
- Eggs - 7g per egg
- Seeds and nuts - 10g per serving - raw almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds.
- Protein bars - Some bars have a whopping 20g P each.
- Almond/Peanut butter - about 8g per serving (I really like this almond butter from Zinke Orchards)
This is not an exact science but my measurements have come as shown below.
Like I said, not easy but I am getting closer. The dips happen on the weekends when I tend to focus much less on what I am eating - I guess there isn't much protein in beer! Stay tuned.
I work downtown and pick up my lunch quite a bit... Although I feel that I generally make good choices (the Protein Bar, Pret and Panera are my go to destinations for a quick lunch), there are some downsides to eating out at work. Cost is one of those downsides. I spent over $60 at Protein Bar alone last month. The other pitfall has to do with the lack of planning involved in picking up lunch on the go. If you aren't planning your meals at all, you'll be more likely to make poor food choices.
In an effort to save a few bucks and undertake some short-term meal prep, I headed to the grocery store to pick up supplies for a couple of my favorite lunches. Both of these are inspired by the Protein Bar (let's see how many times I can mention them on this post...). Here's my take on a do it yourself Spinach & Pesto Quinoa Bowl and the Healthy Parm.
I'm not in the business of recipes so the ingredient list is simple, measurements are approximate and your results may vary. The instructions are basically cook it up, pack it up, heat it up. If I can do it, anyone can - probably better.
You'll cook all of the chicken at once and prepare and package both meals. Layer the pre-cooked ingredients and then the rest in the order shown below. If you are really ambitious you might prepare lunches for the entire week. Pack the ingredients into your portable container of choice and keep them in the fridge for up to 5 days max (2-3 days max will taste better). When you're ready for lunch you can mix the ingredients and microwave for 3-4 minutes. HEAT, EAT, ENJOY!
Some of the ingredients you will use for both protein bowls - chicken, quinoa (I ran out of quinoa so I substituted whole grain pasta in the Parm bowl), and Parmesan cheese.
Spinach & Pesto Bowl
1 Cup Quinoa
1 Grilled Chicken Breast
2 Tbsp Fresh Pesto
Chicken Parm Bowl
1 Cup Whole Grain Pasta
Marinara (About a cup? - no need to heat)
1 Grilled Chicken Breast
And there you have it... two quick, easy, portable, healthy, protein-packed and just plain BETTER options for lunch. Happy eating!