Are Carbohydrates The Enemy

Carbs are bad right?

I'm sure you have been apart of a carbohydrate debate before. Avoiding carbs is the go to strategy in most of the diets that are out there today. You see all the celebrities promoting low carbohydrate diets and tons of professionals swearing that sugar makes you fat. More and more health conscious individuals are ditching carbs and opting to eat more fat.

What should you believe and what advice should you follow?

Let's get something straight first. Any macronutrient consumed in excess will result in weight gain. It could be 10,000 calories from the healthiest fat you can find or leanest protein out there. Eating above your maintenance calorie intake over time will start to add pounds to the scale.

Carbohydrates are not the enemy but they get the blame because of there inherent structure.

The conventional wisdom suggests that there shouldn’t be any difference in whether or not weight loss is achieved by cutting calories from either carbs or fat. If a calorie equals a calorie, then reduction of energy intake from either should lead to weight loss. We know that some foods react different in the body. Some foods are more nutrient dense than others. We are just talking about energy balance right now. 

Some have argued that carbs could cause more weight gain due to their effects on insulin. After all, insulin is the hormone that promotes the accumulation of storage of adipose tissue (body fat) as a result of overeating carbohydrates.

But while the carbohydrates effects on insulin propose that replacing carbs with fat should reduce insulin secretion leading to greater fat burning, this logic hasn’t quite held up to scrutiny when put into practice in scientific studies.

Does this mean carbohydrates are off the hook for weight gain? No, because it’s also well known that the majority of expendable calories do come from carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods, drinks, and desserts. You can't eat twinkies all day and not expect to pay a cost for it.

Additionally, there are some individuals who might benefit from low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. There is some merit for those that struggle with Type II diabetes or epilepsy to try a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. But this doesn't mean that everyone should be on a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. 

The research does suggest that it’s important that a balanced approach toward reducing calories is warranted for healthy weight loss. Carbs and insulin are not inherently fat producing on their own. The context in which carbs are consumed matters, in terms of energy balance.

Eliminating an entire macronutrient from the diet not only could have a person miss out on foods with important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber, but also may not be any more effective for weight loss.

Don't Be A Weekday Dieter

The weekday dieter.

That is actually a real thing. I can't tell you how many times I have met someone who eats good on the weekdays and throws everything healthy out the window on the weekends.

Let's talk about reducing calories for the goal of weight loss. 3 things everyone should consider prior to losing weight is:

  1. Not eating enough protein.
  2. Over restricting calories.
  3. Restricting calories for too long.

For today's blog we are going to focus on over restricting calories. The more restrictive you are with your diet, the more likely you are to engage in binge eating and have higher body weight.

What you have to take into consideration is that no matter what kind of diet you’re on, you need to actually be able to adhere to it.

If you can only stick to a your diet during the weekdays then you need to rethink your strategy.

Dietary adherence is the most important determinant of weight loss success.

There is no magic formula out there that is going to elicit some special result. I know that there are pills, powders, formulas, and potions out there that some people claim to be weight loss guarantees. But the truth is they don't exist. The one thing that is proven to give the best results is consistency.

I run into people who feel that they have to restrict calories in the 1000 - 1200 calorie range all the time. These are the same people who suffer from Last Time Syndrome. When the weekends come around they will tell themselves, "This is the last time I will cheat on my diet." or "I'm only going to have one cheat meal this weekend." That last time or that one cheat meal turns into a weekend of over eating there favorite foods and the emotional guilt of throwing all their hard work away.

Have you ever heard someone say this before? “This is the last chance I get to eat this [forbidden food] until next week, so I’d better eat as much as of it as I can!” In a study performed in 2002 researchers found that restrained eaters (those who had been told to diet for several weeks) consumed significantly more of a ‘forbidden food’ during a taste test than unrestrained eating (non-dieters).

Most trainers will tell you "try harder” or “be more strict” when it comes to dieting to your goal weight. But I assure you it is rarely ever the answer when it comes to achieving diet success.

Successful weight loss is about developing new healthy diet habits through conscious patterns of behavior that we repeat frequently, until they become unconscious! It takes a while to practice and develop a new pattern of eating. But you can do it.

A weekend of irresponsible eating can absolutely erase a whole week’s worth of hard work. I’m sure you or someone you know has been through this before. It’s a slippery slope to an endlessly frustrating cycle of restrict, binge, restrict, binge. What’s worse, you don’t make any forward progress. In fact, you may even find yourself regressing. This is why it’s so crucial to keep everything in check.

Choices & Consequences

It's Friday night, you had a long day at work. You skipped lunch and food has been invading your thoughts like a bad dream.

It comes down to good old choices. You inherently have the free liberty to make day to day nutritional choices. Those decisions have consequences regardless if you think about them or not. Everything we eat has a trade off. This means that sometimes the food choices you make could give you substantial energy or possibly make you feel like crap. The choices you make could add to weight gain, weight maintenance or weight loss. The choices you make may ultimately take you down a path of a lower quality of life or they could benefit your health immensely.

The personal conversation of "What am I going to eat and how will it make me feel" needs to happen daily. The hardest part of this question is separating the emotional decision from the physical one. The emotional decision is often times the easiest one, or the decision that speaks to how we feel in that moment. The physical decision can take some problem solving and may require more time. It might be the less exciting one or the least spontaneous choice. But often times it's the choice that will benefit you long term.

These choices could vary but typically look something like this:

  • Go out to eat or stay in and cook.

  • Order take out or eat left-overs.

  • Stop for some fast food or or wait to eat the food you meal prepped.

  • Eat a three course meal with family and friends or watch portions and say no to some possible favorites.

  • Stay out late drinking with friends or limit your intake and leave an it earlier than others.

  • Hang out with friends at happy hour or eat your scheduled snack and get to the gym.

We tend to not weigh those decisions but they accumulate into something negative or positive depending on what we decide. Often times they are the deciding factor if we reach our goals or not.

When your willpower is depleted, you are even more likely to make decisions based on the environment around you. After all, if you’re feeling drained, stressed, or overwhelmed then you’re not going to go through a lot of effort to cook a healthy dinner or fit in a workout. You’ll grab whatever is easiest.

Set yourself up for success with these decisions so you're armed to face them head on.

Here are 5 tips that help me fight off giving into food choices that don't benefit my overall goals.

  1. Have a healthy snack alternative to hold you over on your ride home.

  2. Pace healthier foods in more visible spots in your refrigerator, pantry, and around the kitchen.

  3. Tuck away cookies, treats, and other unhealthy choices down on the lower shelves.

  4. Have your meal already waiting for you in a container so it is easy to grab and less time to wait when you get home.

  5. Plan out a day or two that you will have a treat so it's worked into your week. That way you aren't going over your allotted calories for the day or week and you have something to look forward to instead of feeling guilty about.

5 Tips To Help Stay On Track While Traveling

Is there a trick to traveling and managing your nutrition?

Many of my clients travel often for work. They say, "I can't be healthy this week because I have to travel for work". Or "This week is going to be rough because I have to go out to eat a lot for work."

Of course when you are thrown into the unknown things will be challenging. I know it will not be easy for you to stay on track with nutrition but it is doable.

Here are 5 tips to help stay on track while traveling:

  1. Be prepared.
    By planning ahead you will find yourself staying much closer to the path of wellness when on the go. The first stop you should make is at the grocery store. There are tons of great snacks that travel well so you can have nutritiously dense food to take with you. I've brought protein bars, raw nuts, fruit, and my empty water bottle so I can fill it up once through security that way I have more than enough. Those tiny little cups they give you on the plane might as well be a shot glass.
  2. Be boring when choosing your meal.
    Eating out at most restaurants can be very difficult. The portions are likely too big, the healthy options are limited, and they cover just about everything in inflammatory oils. When your calorie friendly choices are limited order a salad with dressing on the side. I dip my fork in the dressing then take a stab at the dry salad and I typically use about half as much if they poured it over the salad for me. Pay the extra money to add protein if it doesn't come with it. The extra protein can be satiating and may keep you from ordering dessert or eating too much past what you should. Steamed vegetables with lean proteins like chicken or fish are available at almost any place you go.
  3. Keep tracking.
    If you're already tracking your food in some sort of log or app keep doing it. Don't stress out if you go over your normal amounts but by tracking you will be more cognizant of what you're doing and you will inevitably make better decisions or choose smaller quantities. You may not hit the target carbohydrates, protein, and fats you want but you can make sure that you don't go over the allotted calories you have during that time.
  4. Fast food.
    Sometimes we simply can't avoid it when traveling. You're with 3 co-workers who all could care less about the things they put in their bodies so you're outnumbered. Don't freak out and don't starve yourself in this situation. One of the few changes we have seen in recent years is restaurants actually telling us the nutrition info. Keep an eye on the fats and aim for something that is high in protein. The fats is where they tend to get us because they douse the food in the worst kind of oils imaginable. If you do happen to overeat because you had a lack of choices then consume it guilt free and move on with your day.
  5. Enjoy it.
    We can't expect to be perfect and life is all about controlling the flow. I try living by the 80/20 rule. Make good nutritional decisions 80% of the time and the other 20% I enjoy life! Exploring new cities is fun so don't let it go by without having one mouth watering meal, beverage, or both!

How To Avoid The Diet Hamster Wheel

Unhealthy lifestyles create a self-perpetuating and vicious cycle. It begins with feeling like you don't have enough time, energy, strength, or emotional wellness to make any lasting changes. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle seems like a daunting task. Diving into a journey of uncertainty is challenging. I get it.

But when you neglect healthy living you end up feeling even worse. And of course, feeling worse makes it harder to exercise, take time to cook, and make other good choices. Thus by abandoning healthy living, you can find yourself trapped in a cycle of plummeting health. I call it the diet hamster wheel.

The only way out of this is to find a way to incorporate healthy changes, however small, over time.

I understand that 30 minutes of exercise or taking some time to prepare meals ahead for a few days is plain hard in some cases. Sometimes it's helpful to envision the benefits though. A healthier lifestyle could afford you the possibility of living a longer, pain free, enjoyable life.

The flip side of that would be the person that tells me, "Kelvin I'm living my life to the fullest already. I eat what I want, do what I want, and we all have to die sometime. I might as well go out on my terms."

If you are wondering if someone has told me that then the answer is, Yes. I have actually heard it many times. And to some degree I understand it. Truth is, a unhealthy lifestyle takes up more time than you might realize. The doctor's appointments due to being over weight and poor lifestyle conditions can take a toll on you. Being slowed down because chronic pain due to a sedentary life, and getting sick more often takes away time as well. Unhealthy habits such as emotional or stress eating, endlessly refreshing social media feeds can also eat away at time that could be spent doing something more useful.

If you want to make lasting lifestyle changes then you have to be prepared for it to take time. Contrary to what you may have been told, you don't have to join a gym, devote two hours a day to cooking, and spend all your time exercising. Instead, small decisions can add up to big changes over time. Focus on achieving your health goals in small, manageable chunks.

Here are 5 of my favorite tips for helping people start improving their lifestyle.

  1. Replace one unhealthy snack with a healthier option each day.
  2. Commit to cooking at home at least two days per week.
  3. Dedicate five minutes a day to exercise. You can increase this number over time. But you may also find that after a five-minute workout, you're motivated to go for 10, 20, or even 30 more minutes.
  4. Be mindful of your automatic negative thoughts and focus on re-framing them into more positive ideas.
  5. Schedule some "me time" each week so you can decompress in ways that make you happy and recharge your batteries.

Our society is busier now than ever before, so no matter how committed you are to living a healthier life, odds are good something is going to rob you of your time. One of the most important keys to long-term health is finding time for healthy choices even in the midst of chaos. The demands our world places on us are bigger now than ever before, but this doesn't mean you have to give up on healthy living. Indeed, making healthy lifestyle choices may be the best thing you can do to manage the chaos of an increasingly challenging world.

Are You Stuck With Your Current Body?

The human body resist weight change. Losing weight disrupts your bodies ability to maintain balance. 

As you get older your body settles into a comfortable weight. This is called your body weight set point. The body weight set point theory is simple: it hypothesizes that the body uses hormones, hunger, behavior changes, and other physiological mechanisms to “defend” a certain range of body weight (and body fat in particular). A simple way to think of this is as a “thermostat” or “cruise control” system for body weight and fat levels. Whatever numbers are set are what your body strives to maintain.

If you've ever tried to 5 pounds or 60 pounds you have experienced this resistance in some form. The further we push our weight away from our set point, the more intensely the body fights its way back. This isn't solely the reason for yo-yo dieting but it is definitely part of the conversation. 

The command center for the body's weight management system resides in the hypothalamus. The argument could be made that it wants to preserve fat, not eliminate it. Leptin is produced by the body's fat cells and signals the brain to regulate your appetite and satiety. Since leptin has that responsibility in the body we can conclude that this has a lot to do with our weight. 

If you lose body fat, leptin triggers hunger and the urge to eat; if you gain fat and increase leptin, you eat less. The more leptin your body produces, the leaner you tend to be; the less leptin you make, the higher your set point and the fatter you stay. 

The bottom line is it’s well established that our bodies do have a complex system for regulating body weight. I like to use a slightly different term than "set point" because "set point" implies that your body weight is fixed when that is not the case. A more accurate term would be "settling point." 

What are the factors to this "settling point"?

  • Yes, there are genetic variants that can predispose us to higher or lower body weight set points, but their effects are small. Research shows that certain “obesity genes” can be “turned off” through exercise alone. While genetics can predispose you to a certain amount of fatness, you can overrule them with the right behaviors.
  • If you chronically feed your body more (food) energy than it expends you will create weight management issues. Even if only by 200 calories per day which is an apple and banana. If it is more than you expend you will slowly but surely gain weight.

Lowering your body weight set point takes patience, discipline, and consistency, but it isn’t particularly hard. Just takes work!

One of the best ways to combat this settling point and change your body weight for good is to increase your muscle mass. Nothing helps maintain a low body weight set point like adding a substantial amount of muscle to your frame. Muscle is a “metabolically active” tissue, meaning it increases the basal metabolic rate. The increase may not be much, but even if it is 100 extra calories burned per week, it is worth it. At the end of the week that is an extra 700 calories burned while doing nothing. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body burns while at rest. And the more energy your body burns while at rest, the more food you get to eat every day without gaining fat. Research shows that the more muscle you have, the less fat you gain in response to overeating. This means that the more muscle you have, the less you’re “punished” for eating too much. I call it 'wiggle room". If you have a little too much at your parents house over the weekend then you might be able to get by because a large amount of muscle allows you that freedom. Simply put, the more muscle you have, the easier it is to get and stay lean.

Adding more muscle to your frame and coupling that with a nutritional program that allows you to be in a calorie deficit is your best bet. They key here is that you have to consciously manage your energy balance because your instincts are likely to lead you to overeating. Practicing and getting better at proper meal planning and discipline to avoid overeating is key. 

The longer you remain at a given body weight, the easier it becomes to stay there. The healthier your body is, the better its hormones will support your efforts to stay lean. Use your exercise and nutritional regimen to maintain health and body composition.

Becoming More Self-Aware

Do you think that you are self-aware? I find that there are a few categories that most people will fall in. Some people either don't give self-awareness any thought or think that they are perfectly self-aware when in fact they are very much the opposite. Many avoid any thought or mention of self-awareness because they are aware of their short comings and don't want to be reminded of them.

Self Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.

As you develop self awareness you are able to make changes in the thoughts and interpretations you make in your mind. Self awareness is one of the attributes of Emotional Intelligence and an important factor in achieving weight loss success.

I believe that it is safe to say that most of us live our lives on autopilot. In a way it makes a complicated and busy life easier to deal with. In a world where we have so much going on around us and it is hard for us to be present, we seek out ways to help us stay on autopilot. We allow ourselves to develop habits, many of them don't improve our health, in order to cope. In a lot of what we do we become automaton like, and life floats on by. We get up in the morning and take stimulants to get us through the day. We go to work and sit for 8 hours, come home and sit for another 4 hours and then go to bed only to start over again tomorrow. We fail to notice what's going on around us. We don't notice very much at all, particularly about ourselves. Things just happen to our health and we seem to lose track of them. Something common I hear when talking to a client who wants to lose weight is, "I don't know how I got overweight, I sort of woke up one day and knew I needed to make some changes."

When occasionally we are made to confront the real world, or the world we have unknowingly created for ourselves, it makes us so unhappy that we usually crawl back into our shells and continue on as before. It can be scary for someone to hear they are prediabetic and it is easier to just stay on the course that they are on and hope for the best rather than trying to change.

The secret of successful weight loss, and permanent weight loss in particular, is self-awareness. The only way to lose weight permanently is to make personal change. If you are not aware of your bad habits and of what has to be changed, then the task is almost impossible. If food is a coping strategy for when you are stressed but you haven't been real with yourself and admitted that, then true change can't take place.

Becoming more self-aware is not difficult but it does take work. Here are a few helpful tools that could help you improve your self -awareness.

1. You should develop a daily practice of setting aside at least twenty minutes to reflect on your life. This practice enables you to focus on the important things in your life, not just the immediate. Reflection takes many forms. Some keep a journal, some pray, and others take a long walk or jog. I use my workout time as a time of reflection.

2. Ask friends to call you out when you are doing a behavior you already know you want to change. For instance, “Look, I know I will be motivated to go to the gym on Monday but by Wednesday I will make excuses not to go. Can you text me and ask me if I have exercises Wednesday through Friday?"

The more self-aware you become, the more self-confident you will feel. You will be in a far better position to take informed, responsible decisions about your health and your weight. Being able to lose weight and keep it off will very soon become a reality.

How To Prevent Weight Regain

Weight regain seems to be something that is more prevalent now days. If you have ever had a personal conversation with me you will know one of my sayings is, "It is relatively easy to lose weight, but the journey begins in keeping it off.

It is no secret that people have a tough time keeping it off. It has been well researched that only 17% of Americans are able to maintain a 10% weight loss after 1 year. Many people have repeatedly lost weight, only to regain it again and again. I meet people all the time who have lost the same 25-50 lbs all the time. Dieting to lose weight only to regain it is a common occurrence in America.

Change in body weight is caused by an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. Your body loves to stay in balance. We also know that your body tries to resist weight change and correct this energy imbalance. For example, if you eat 2000 calories per day and suddenly decrease it to 1000, you will lose weight, but you will also get hungry in the process. This hunger drives you to eat more to bring you back into energy balance. This is one of the reasons why maintaining long-term weight loss is so difficult.

Your body has some other protective mechanisms. Your body can resist a negative energy balance by not only making you more hungry, but by decreasing the number of calories you burn. The extent to which this happens in humans is not clear but studies show that it does occur. One of the challenges of successful long-term weight loss could be partly because our bodies reduce their energy expenditure to the point that it makes it very easy to regain the weight.

When you lose weight the amount of energy you use decreases because you have less weight to move around. That is pretty easy to understand. But what if the body becomes more efficient as a whole because of weight loss. This means you could expend less calories for maintaining the proper function of your organs and you could expend less calories for the same movement(s) that helped you lose weight in the first place.

It is clear from research that metabolism (in terms of resting metabolic rate) slows with weight loss. This means if you were to sit on the couch and not move all day, you would burn less calories than when you were heavier. This decrease can even be present even when someone has maintained weight loss for more than a year. However, the slowdown of metabolic rate is not the primary culprit for why it's so easy to regain weight, but it does play a major role.

The main reason why we have the decrease in energy expenditure with weight loss is because we become less active. This doesn't mean we exercise less, either, as exercise is a conscious choice. It means we unconsciously reduce our NEAT and spontaneous activity. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, washing dishes and fidgeting.

We also become more efficient in the activity we do; we expend less calories for the same movement. In fact, 35% of the decrease in activity energy expenditure can be attributed to an increase in efficiency. Overall, we move around less, and we become more efficient at the movements we perform. This is not only why weight loss eventually plateaus, but also why weight is so easily regained.

So how do you combat this? How do you make sure that the weight you lose stays off? How do you break plateaus when weight loss stalls?

You have to remember that physical activity doesn't have to include formal exercise. NEAT makes up the majority of your activity energy expenditure, and thus has the greatest ability to impact it. In fact, walking at only 1 mile per hour will double your energy expenditure over sitting. Anything that you can do to accumulate physical activity throughout the day will dramatically improve your chances of maintaining weight loss long term. Small things add up. Here are 5 things you can put into practice today that will improve your NEAT:

1. Park further away from your destination.

2. Take the stairs rather than an elevator.

3. Work in the yard a couple times per week.

4. Take a short walk during lunch break.

5. Talk on the phone at work while moving around.

Since activity can decrease on an almost unconscious level, you need to make a deliberate conscious effort to get as much activity as possible in throughout your day, every day. Or you will notice weight regain and more weight loss plateaus.

What You Can Do To Help Fight Childhood Obesity

I need for you to know the shocking statistics that face children today. Not to make your jaw drop. But I do want to bring about some awareness of the issues children face and how we, as adults owe it to them to guide them through such troubling times. The mental disorder with the highest mortality rate isn't depression. Nor is it schizophrenia. It's eating disorders. Up to 20 percent of those with eating disorders cave in to their illness.

More than 90 percent of those who develop bulimia or anorexia, or some combination of the two, are young women in their teens and 20s. The sad part is that most develop the disorder in adolescence (ages 13-19). American colleges report that all three disorders are growing on campus, oppressing up to 40 percent of students at some point during the student years.

At any one time, about 2 to 3 percent of adolescents have bulimia, and 0.5 to 1 percent of adolescents have anorexia. According to child psychiatrists, 13 percent of high school girls purge.

Eating disorders have doubled in incidence since the 1960s, and increasingly they are striking in younger age groups. They also increasingly occur in diverse ethnic and sociocultural groups.

I'm starting to see weight issues arise at a younger and younger age. I'm sure you know that self-esteem issues go hand in hand with having weight related issues. Studies show that girls as young as 5 are affected by how others perceive them.

When children start to experience weight gain parents often restrict the child's food choices because they are trying to "help" them in their weight loss efforts. I understand the premise behind it. But what ends up happening to the child as a result is quite sad. They start learning to place labels on foods. They will repeat what is being taught at home. Since they have restricted nutritional choices they will start to label foods as "healthy" and "unhealthy". Sure, you would think that is a good thing, right? But what happens when that child grows up and then binges on that food choice that was labeled "unhealthy" all there life. Can't this behavior be avoided by parents being more inclusive rather than exclusive? Would it be beneficial to teach children what portion control is?

There's much information in the media about childhood obesity. Parents should spend more time finding ways for their kids to be more active, what a portion size is, how to include more nutritiously dense food and enjoy the more refined options in moderation. This behavior wold be more beneficial for children in the long term.

How Sleep Deprivation Effects The Waistline

Since when did not getting enough sleep become a bragging right? "Dude, I only sleep 4 hours a night!" Congratulations. While it may be needed to skimp out on sleep from time to time because of your lifestyle. Let's not make it a habit of choice.

Inadequate sleep doesn't make you tough, but it certainly affects your efforts in the gym. While you may be able to "function just fine" on a few hours of sleep, doing so still short changes your body composition goals.

It is easy to overlook sleep as being important for you reaching your health and fitness goals. When you have a tough work schedule, children at home, or school deadlines to meet, sleep is put on the back burner. Did you know that not getting enough sleep might affect your waistline?

Current research suggest that on average, those who are sleep deprived consume about 385 calories more than they normally would per day.

The researchers found that not only did subjects consume more calories the next day after being sleep deprived, but they also found that the majority of those calories came from foods that were proportionally higher in fat and lower in protein.

The extra calories a day is equivalent to topping off your normal daily nutrition with four and a half slices of bread. Or eating a slice and a half of pizza, two servings of ice cream, or a few candy bars. With no offset from physical activity you can guarantee that the added scale weight is coming.

Research also suggest that chronic sleep loss could be a driving force of obesity across the country.

A lack of high quality sleep appears to impact on physiological drivers of energy balance. Specifically appetite, hunger and energy expenditure. Along with this, sleep deprivation adversely affects the body’s ability to handle glucose and may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

So what is considered sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation defined in most studies is getting only three and a half to five hours of sleep per night.

Seven to nine hours of sleep is the optimal amount one should get each night. If you have trouble sleeping you may need a little help by making better sleep habits and maybe taking quality supplements like melatonin every night.

4 Reasons Why Smoothies Are Amazing

When was the last time you had a smoothie? And I'm not talking about one from Smoothie King or some milkshake-like dessert from your favorite fast food joint. If the first thing that came to mind when I mentioned smoothie is ice cream then shame on you.

I'm talking about a whole food nutritiously dense smoothie!

Smoothies alone won’t fix a poor nutritional habits. But they can be an amazing addition to your diet. Smoothies offer a lot of great benefits, but one of the best things about them is that they are awesome for people who may not be consuming enough fruits and vegetables. They may be helpful in upping fruit and vegetable intake as well. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 4 great facts about why you should consider adding a smoothie to your meal plan.

1. A Variety Of Fruits & Vegetables
Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables. When was the last time you met the USDA recommendation of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can incorporate a cup or two of greens and a serving or two of fruit easy. Fiber is an important part of any nutritional regimen. It prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol and makes you feel full longer. Fruit or vegetable juices can sometimes have a lower fiber content for various amounts of reasons. But the fiber in a homemade smoothie is still in tact.

2. High Amounts Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are involved in the prevention of cellular damage. That sounds like a big fancy term but it's not. Cellular damage is a common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases. Point being, you don't want cellular damage on a large scale. The goal is to prevent it. You can pack plenty of vegetables and fruits which are rich in antioxidants into your smoothies.

3. Fun Experiment That The Whole Family Can Enjoy
When I was younger there were certain vegetables I just didn't want to eat. Texture was a major thing for me then. But when my mother started making smoothies for me and hiding the spinach, kale, and other nutritious vegetables I had no problem chugging it down. Smoothies can be a fun way to get your family to eat whole foods and can be a fun experiment for the entire family. If you don’t normally drink green smoothies, try starting off with incorporating just a little bit of greens with a lot of fruit, and increasing the amount a little bit over time.

4. Unlimited Add-On Options
I love to use smoothies as a way to throw in extra nutrients that I might not be able to get in during the day. Things like honey, greek yogurt, flax seeds, hemp seeds, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Of course there are many more you can add in that list but those are just some of my favorites.

Smoothies are great drinks filled with fruits and/or vegetables and other nutrient dense ingredients.  They make wonderful options for a meal or a snack when made with natural items. When you have a good blender and quality ingredients, making a delicious, healthy smoothies is simple and easy.

Your Willpower Isn't Enough

Your capacity for self-control is similar to the muscles in your body.   Like biceps or quads, willpower can vary in its strength. Not only from person to person, but from moment to moment.  Just as well-developed muscles sometimes get tired and feel like jello after a strenuous workout, so too does your willpower "muscle."

Even everyday actions like decision making or trying to make a good impression can sap this valuable resource. The coping with the stresses of your career and family can sap you of your energy.  When you tax it too much at once, or for too long, the well of self-control strength runs dry.  It is in these moments that the doughnut  or cake wins.

So the first thing you are going to want to do, if you are serious about resisting temptation, is make peace with the fact that your willpower is limited.  It is not an endless resource. If you've spent all your self-control handling stresses at work, you will not have much left at the end of the day for sticking to your goals. 

Check out the new video on why I believe Willpower Isn't Enough.

4 Different Ways to Enjoy Eggs

I love eggs! I have had eggs in some form or fashion almost every day since I was a kid. I'm that guy that goes and buys 5 dozen eggs when I go to the grocery store.

Eggs aren't some miracle food. They do have some nutrients that provide some great health benefits. They’re an excellent source of protein. They provide 7 grams in a single egg and delivering all the essential amino acids needed to retain and maintain a lean muscle. They also deliver a rich source of vitamin B-12, vitamin D, iron and vitamin A.

Eggs are so versatile. When you think about eating eggs, it is typically for breakfast. But there are many more ways to enjoy eggs. Here are my favorite 4 ways to enjoy eggs.

#1 Boiled Eggs
Boiled eggs probably isn't the most exciting way to eat eggs. However, they are very convenient. Boiled eggs can last a long time in the refrigerator after being boiled (3-5 days), they are easy to prepare, and provide a little protein bump when you are in need. They can be consumed in a variety of ways. You can chop them and drop them on a salad, eat them on top of bread with avocado, or add them to a skillet dish.

#2 Baked
A frittata is a traditional egg-based Italian dish similar to a quiche without the crust coming from carbs! Frittatas are usually cooked in a skillet using a lot of oil. Of course there are ways to bring the calories down of one of your favorite dishes. I like to bake the eggs in a muffin pan. You could use a variety of ingredients to prepare this dish. You could chop up zucchini, onions, mushrooms, spinach, kale or even broccoli. Sautee your selected veggies and add to egg mix, using a combination of whole eggs and egg whites. You can also bump the protein content if desired, adding chopped chicken breast, ground turkey or beef, and even bacon. Take your egg mixture and place in non-stick muffin tin, place in the oven and bake. When done, you’ll have egg frittata muffins that you can portion for a few meals!

#3 Topped On Your Favorites
Top your favorites with eggs. Try a pan-fried egg on top of a burger or sandwich with your favorite toppings. Eggs can also top a healthy a rice cake, with smashed avocado and tomato.

#4 Scramble
Of course this is the go to for most people including myself. I love scrambled eggs. It reminds me of eating pancakes, eggs and bacon when I was a kid on my grandpa's ranch.

Eggs will always be a favorite of mine. The are so versatile. You may or may not like eggs the traditional way but you should at least venture out and try making them a few different ways. It might add a new flavor to your dish.

Is Fasted Cardio The Answer?

I see a ton of people on social bragging about fasted cardio. You would think that the cardio kings are passing out medals of honor for these people getting up before they eat to get on a treadmill. It has become a real popular fat loss strategy.

The thinking around fasted cardio sort of looks legit when you hear it broken down from someone. But I want to tell you the truth and the science.

Most people think an overnight fast brings about a reduction in circulating blood sugar levels, reducing the amount of carbohydrates stored in the body. Your body is supposed to be forced to used fat for fuel rather than carbs to fuel your workout.

Seems like an ideal way to help with fat loss, right? Unfortunately, logic doesn’t translate into practice. There is a lot wrong with this logic. I'm going to give you 3 reasons why fasted cardio isn't what it has been glorified to be.

#1 EPOC
Fasted cardio blunts the special part of exercise that most researchers call the "afterburn". EPOC stands for excess post exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function (called homeostasis). It also explains how your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout.

Eating before exercise has been shown to increase the magnitude of EPOC. And guess where majority of calories expended in the post-exercise period come from? Your fat stores. This means that more EPOC equates to more fat being burned. This clearly shows why you should eat before you do cardio.

#2 Available Energy
Doing a cardio session after not eating for 8 - 12 hours is rough. If you have never experienced it, take my word for it that you will hit a wall pretty quickly. To perform well at high exercise intensities, your body needs a ready source of glycogen. When those stores are depleted you can't sustain training intensity. And when you hit that all you can bet that fewer calories will be burned both during and after exercise, blunting total fat loss.

#3 The Big Picture
Your metabolism doesn't operate in a vacuum. It would be nice for our body to burn fat like a machine but it doesn't happen that way. This is actually the most important point of all. A huge mistake made during exercise is worrying about the number of fat calories burned during an exercise session. Because you can't assume that lost body fat as a result. The body continually adjusts its use of fat and carbohydrate for fuel depending on a variety of factors.

As a general rule, if you burn more carbohydrates during an exercise session, you’ll ultimately burn more fat in the post-workout period and vice versa.

Who cares whether you burn a few extra fat calories in the course of a workout if an hour later the ratio shifts to a greater carbohydrate oxidation? In the end, the only thing that matters is total fat loss. From a practical standpoint, fat burning should be evaluated over the course of days and weeks. Not on an hour to hour basis.

There is little reason to perform cardio on an empty stomach if your goal is to maximize fat loss. At best, the effects on body composition won’t be any better than had you trained in a fed state. The worst scenario is you’ll lose muscle and perhaps even reduce total fat loss.

So eat something before you go to the gym, go for a walk, or a jog. You will reap the benefits.

What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?

There is always a battle in the fitness community between high intensity exercise an steady state aerobic exercise. I don't know why some experts like to operate on one side of the fence or the other but it is common to hear that one form of cardio is better than the other. But the truth is you need both of them. There is room for both of them in your training programs.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is when you alternate between high and low intensity exercises or between high intensity exercise and a short period of rest. For example, a short sprint up a flight of stairs followed by a walk back down is interval training. Or a sprint on a treadmill followed by stepping to the side and resting for a short period.

High-intensity aerobic interval training (HIIT) is a popular strategy for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and health, as well as reducing body fat levels. High-intensity intervals are typically performed above the lactate threshold. You know that crazy burn feeling you get when you are gasping for air after running up a big flight of stairs? The science of that feeling is called lactate threshold. This high-intensity bout is then followed by a low-intensity recovery period that allows the body to buffer and clear lactic acid from the blood, thereby allowing the individual enough time to recover and perform another high-intensity interval.

Most every high intensity physical activity is a state of “crisis” in the body. It endangers oxygen supply to tissues, increases body temperature, reduces body fluids and fuel stores, and causes tissue damage.

HIIT has been shown to improve cardiovascular function and stimulate greater weight loss compared with traditional steady state aerobic training. I believe there should be a great amount of caution exercised when using it if you are a beginner. It is very important that you should establish some type of aerobic foundation before you attempt to try HIIT protocols.

I will cover what an aerobic base is in detail on a later post but I want to give you some context now as well. The more work you perform aerobically, the more efficient you are. Aerobic training produces muscular adaptations that improve oxygen transport to the muscles, reduces the rate of lactate formation, and improves the rate of lactate removal and increases energy production and utilization. These adaptations occur slowly over time.

As a result of that adaptation, you will become more efficient at HIIT training programs. HIIT can be a time efficient means to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and reduce body fat levels over and above what is possible through steady-state aerobic training. But if HIIT is done to much it can be associated with an increased potential for overtraining, especially when combined with regimented resistance training.

It is essential to understand that balance is important. It is great to integrate HIIT training in your program but do it in spurts and not as your training program as a whole.

 

Should You Be Doing Cardio?

The popularity of cardio goes up and down. It really just depends on what the latest fitness trend is. During the 80s and 90s and the era of Jane Fonda workouts and Tae Bo, aerobics were in and weightlifting was out. The tables have turned now. Now it’s all about being strong, not skinny. Having bigger arms, better legs, more definition, and a great set of abs is definitely “in.”

We know resistance training is an essential tool for building muscle and improving metabolism. Plus, who wouldn’t mind looking great for summer vacation?

So, is cardio a complete waste of time? Couldn’t you just invest that time into doing more lunges, bench presses, squats, and crunches?

Cardio is not the enemy. Fitness trends will always change and vary in popularity. But it’s important to remember that all types of exercises have their benefits. Just like your nutritional regimen, variety will always be best.

You should have some cardio in your workout regimen. Everyone needs some light, moderate and high intensity cardio during the week. In fact, cardio itself offers quite a few benefits for your body that exceed that which weight training can provide alone.

Like every other muscle in your body, the more you work your heart, the stronger it becomes. Endurance increases with exercises that improve the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to muscles. The more you engage in this type of exercise, the more blood your heart is able to pump per beat and in turn, your heart rate (even at resting) will decrease. This will make both exercise as well as everyday activities much easier.

Studies have shown that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory have greater volume in people who do regular exercise when compared to those who don’t.

Numerous studies have suggested that increasing physical activity can reduce the risk of multiple chronic diseases and health conditions including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and neurological diseases.

Aerobic exercise or cardio is still king when it comes to driving weight loss. The more we move, the more calories we burn, hence the more potential body fat we can lose.

Remember, the best exercise routine is one that you can adhere to. One of the keys to adherence is to make sure you are having fun and enjoying the exercise you are partaking in. So make sure that your routine is constantly changing and challenging you to improve your fitness level. If you’re someone who only likes weightlifting, try working in some bike riding, brisk walking, or a quick jog a couple of times a week. If you’re someone who runs the same track every day, try hitting some circuit training at the gym or even trying a few body weight exercises in your living room.

Variety is key in exercise selection, and nutrition. With a good amount of variety you might find yourself much more excited about your workouts. The possibilities are endless, so mix it up.

Hunger Is Important pt. 2

IT'S OKAY TO FEEL HUNGRY.

Your body has an incredible ability to store fat. From a physiology stand point your body needs to store fat to survive. The issue we run into when it comes to health and fitness is storing unwanted body fat. Would you agree?

Why do you even need body fat?

Fat cells are formed in the developing fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy, and later at the onset of puberty, when the sex hormones kick in. It is during puberty that the differences in fat distribution between men and women begin to take form. Fat cells generally do not generate after puberty. Your body can store more fat but the number of actual fat cells generally stay the same. Each fat cell simply gets bigger!

Fat is a tissue that is needed by the body for a wide variety of functions such as temperature regulation, proper reproductive capabilities (particularly in women), shock absorption, the regulation of other nutrients and to maintain healthy skin, hair and nails.

Why is hunger a necessary evil to lose fat?

Hunger strikes big in moments where you are going through a calorie deficit to lose body fat. The body doesn't know you are only temporarily going through a few months of cutting your calories back to lose fat or starving to death. It sends the alarm of starvation which is why that hunger signal is so loud and can be overwhelming to you.

You are purposely trying to lose tissue that your body is consciously programmed to hold on to. So if you want that fat to go, you must feel hunger. Simple as that. 

A sound way of losing body fat includes a nutrition structure that will allow you to optimally maintain muscle and strength while losing fat. If you are training with weights and include a good amount of protein in your nutrition then being a little hungry during a fat loss phase is okay. Hunger in this case means you are losing fat and keeping muscle.

So don't give into that feeling of stopping at the fast food restaurant on your way home because chicken nuggets sound good. Don't eat the rest of your kids food just because. Leave that candy bowl alone at work and don't eat the cupcakes that Jane brought for everyone because it is her birthday at the office. You are on your way to being leaner if you are experiencing little bouts of hunger.

That all being said, sometimes hunger gets a bit out of hand and you have some desperate moments. Here are some tips to combat hunger without ruining everything:

  1. Sugar Free Jell-O: You would have never thought it, right? But it is barely any calories. And it takes up some of that empty space in your belly. At the end of the day when you are starving it could save you from raiding the pantry.
  2. Caffeine: Research shows caffeine in small doses (under 400 mg a day) can have some positive benefits for suppressing appetite. Caffeine can also help you burn an extra 50-100 calories a day and fuel tough workouts when energy levels might be low. Grabbing a diet soda or having a couple cups of coffee are just fine. 
  3. Sugar Free Gum: Yes, chewing something that is like almost 10 calories can help you get through the day when your stomach is growling but it may not be time to eat. I chew a couple pieces a day and it helps me when my calories are low from a calorie cutting phase.
  4. Dill Pickles: I'm giving away all my secrets. My wife can attest to the fact that I always keep a jar of pickles around. They help me in moments where those bag of chips look so tasty and when I really want to satisfy that salty craving. Don't lose it and eat the whole jar, but a couple will help and serve as a low calorie treat.
  5. Flavored Water: I can save the debate of whether artificial sweeteners are good or bad for a later blog post. But let’s just say that there are no bad foods or ingredients, but there are portion sizes that can be detrimental to anyone. Drinking plenty of water keeps your belly full, and flavored water can give you the feeling that you are getting a treat. Not to mention that you need a good amount of daily water consumption to keep things moving properly through your body.

IT'S OKAY TO FEEL HUNGRY. THE KEY IS TO MANAGE IT DURING A WEIGHT LOSS PHASE. 

Why Hunger Is Important pt. 1

I had a great conversation with a friend of mine about the lost art of hard work when it comes to losing body fat. For some reason the social media era has made it seem like losing body fat is easy.

Most people understand the necessity of sacrifice for gain in other arenas of life. We understand that you have to make sacrifices and work hard to move up in your career of choice. To earn your college degree will take lots of money and a ton of late nights studying in the library. If you want to improve the way you play an instrument or perfect a craft you will have to put in countless hours of what could seem like boring practice. But that is what it takes. 

There is information floating around that makes it seem like losing weight should be a comfortable experience. If you take away anything from this post let it be this: your diet is temporary you are trying to lose body fat. Cutting your calories back to lose weight is not sustainable and it is not supposed to be. It is a state of deprivation. Expect it to be uncomfortable. Expect it to be hard work. In order for you to reach your goal it must be done. Your nutrition becomes comfortable and sustainable after you reach your goal. When you reach your goal of weight loss then you make a shift into maintenance. That is when your nutrition becomes a lifestyle and should be comfortable.

When weight loss is your goal you have to be on top of your day to day. If you plan on being away for the weekend then you have to plan out how you will stay on plan. For example, maybe you plan on having a few drinks with friends, or a date night with your significant other. How will you make the necessary accommodations to not lose track of the goal at hand?

These things can be a part of your lifestyle during the periods you are trying to lose weight but you need to have a plan of attack prior to them coming up. You can't go overboard and lose control because when Monday rolls around you will be practically starting over. And that is not a very healthy cycle to be in. Sometimes you will have to tell your friends you are only going to have one drink. And it might not be your favorite drink because your favorite might be too many calories for you. But staying the course and not throwing your results down the drain for temporary satisfaction is important during a calorie cutting phase.

The people who are most successful at losing weight and sustaining those losses are those that maintain control in different situations. They strictly stay the course of the plan, lose the intended weight and begin a maintenance phase, at which point they develop a healthy lifestyle and can relax some.

Those that try to include little cheats over there allotted calories here and there throughout the calorie cutting phase tend to lose much less. You can have your cake and eat it too. But that slice of cake has to be factored into your day. And that one slice can't turn into two, three and four slices.

Win one day at a time. A temporary state of hunger is necessary and some sacrifices will have to be made. But when you get to your goal and enter a maintenance phase you will be able to relax some and enjoy some of the treats or experiences you have been putting off.

Stay the course.

Using Fitspiration As Motivation

Fitspiration is a term used to describe the inspiration behind someone getting up and working toward their physique goals.

Most of these supposedly motivational memes and pictures portray men and women working out or posing to show off their physiques. They are traditionally in spandex or cut off shirts. They are typically drenched in sweat and sport an amazing six pack or a great pair of legs and butt. They will have some slogan that encourages pushing through pain, exhaustion, and hunger. Some of them sound like this. 

"Suck it up now so you don’t have to suck it in later."
"The only bad workout is the workout that didn't happen."
"No Pain, No Gain."

Is this a good form of motivation?

My answer: NO!

There is no research confirming fitspiration’s role in helping people maintain a healthy, sustainable level of physical activity.

A desire to workout because you want to emulate the toned, muscular individual on a fitspiration meme can be a source of short term motivation. The issue with this type of motivation is that is has a short life span. You may enter the 'grind harder' mentality but lose your stamina after learning how much exercise and time it takes to acquire that physique. It sounds good in theory but what's wrong with staying in your own lane?

A huge component of your success in improving your fitness is for you to develop a good relationship with exercise. If you don’t actually enjoy the gym or exercise in general, your interest in engaging in exercise to lose weight or gain muscle will peter out pretty quickly. 

I see a lot of disordered thinking from people looking at fitspiration as a vehicle to to get to there goals. In most cases it actually fosters the motivation to exercise less because it makes most feel worse about themselves. That ultra-fit ideal may seem so far away from where you are now that it is just easier to stay in the same place and resist change.

Fitspiration could alienate people from engaging in exercise, since they’re led to believe that the only way to do so is some over the top program. Most of those memes portray some high intensity boot-camp program, a workout dvd that looks impossible to complete, or a body builder’s weight training routine from his hay day. These memes make a leisurely stroll, bike ride, or a easy swim look like a waste of time. But they aren't because they can help you improve your health and fitness too.

Let me explain something real plain and simple to you.
Real fitness isn’t about having a ridiculously low body-fat percentage.
Real fitness isn't about being able to run a mile in under six minutes.
Real fitness isn't about being the biggest or the most buff person around.

Fitness involves being active enough to get your blood flowing at least once a day.
Fitness is about maintaining your heart, lung, brain, bone health, and emotional well being.
Fitness is about taking pleasure in the ability your body has to move rather than sitting in front of a computer screen or television.