Yes, You Still Should Eat Carbohydrates

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Due to all of the low carb information being tossed around in the last several years, it has become more and more prevalent for new clients to attempt to completely eliminate carbohydrates in the hopes of losing weight. The truth is you absolutely need glucose for normal body functioning, and eating carbohydrates is the easiest way for this to happen. While it's true that you can make glucose from protein or fat, unless you have a clear reason for eliminating carbohydrates from your diet, it's best to include them. Let's take a look at why that is.

As mentioned above, we need glucose to live. Whether that's from a potato or converted from a protein, it's an absolute necessity. For instance, the brain requires about 130g of glucose per day (1). Outside of our organs requiring carbohydrates, they also provide us with faster-acting energy. Think about activities lasting somewhere in the vicinity of 15 seconds to 2 minutes, such as a sprint. And, many people just function better with some carbohydrate intake. If you've ever cut most out of your diet for a period of time, there's a good chance your were absolutely miserable.

There are some hormone changes that can occur from drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake. Effects such as decreased testosterone, decreased estrogen, decreased progesterone, increased cortisol, increased LDL-cholesterol concentrations, and irregular periods have been shown in several studies (2, 3, 4, 5). Granted, the studies were comparing ketogenic diets versus non-ketogenic diets, but it still can explain some of the effects from very low carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet is one in which carbohydrate intake is so low that the body begins using ketones (proteins) as fuel rather than carbohydrates.

The exact amounts of carbohydrates people intake will vary greatly depending on several factors including body size, amount of lean mass, the activity level, age, genetics, and preference, to name a few. In general, though, 1 cupped handful of healthy carbs for women and 2 cupped handfuls for men are recommended to start with. By healthy carbs, I'm referring to foods that are higher in fiber, which also are slower-digesting. This is completely doable by eating:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Legumes and beans

  • Some whole grains (depending on your goals)

It can't be stated strongly enough, the type of carbohydrate you eat is crucially important. Not all carbs are created equal. For instance, eating an apple is very different from eating a piece of cake. An apple contains fiber (both soluble and insoluble), plenty of nutrients, and will keep us much more satiated than cake, which is devoid of nutrients, stimulates our appetite, causes a spike in insulin (a storage hormone), and leads to greater blood sugar fluctuations. As much as possible, we're looking to get more of the healthy type carbohydrates.  A great rule of thumb is that if it comes out of a box, it's not a great source. 

It's best not to start out by eliminating carbs altogether in your weight loss journey. That is most likely too challenging and usually unnecessary. Plus, there are valuable nutrients in healthy carbs that you should be getting regularly.

 

References

1. Fuhrman, Joel (1995). Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor's Program for 

Conquering Disease. New York, New York: St. Martin's Press

2. Johnston CS, et al. (2006). Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83(5), 1055-61.

3. Lane AR, Duke JW, Hackney AC. (2010). Influence of dietary carbohydrate intake on the free testosterone: cortisol ratio responses to short-term intensive exercise training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 108(6), 1125-31.

4. Brinkworth GD, et al. (2009). Long-term Effects of a Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet and a Low-Fat Diet on Mood and Cognitive Function. Arch Intern Med, 169(20), 1873-1880

5. Soenen S, et al. (2012). Relatively high-protein or ‘low-carb’ energy-restricted diets for body weight loss and body weight maintenance? Physiol Behav, 107(3), 374-80.

Menopause and Weight Loss

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Weight gain, or a difficulty in losing weight, among women in midlife has been a common complaint among clients over the years. Research shows that while this is common, it is more likely a result of aging and lifestyle changes, but menopause does play a role (1). So, let's break that down a little bit.

It's true that estrogen deprivation happens after menopause, which can lead to an increase in body fat combined with a decrease in lean body mass (2). Women do have a tendency to gain weight with age irrespective of their menopausal status, which is typically associated with less physical activity which leads to a decrease in bone mineral density and muscle mass. This is typically true of men too. The older people get, they tend to be less physically active, which decreases energy expenditure. When combined with a similar caloric intake, this decreased energy expenditure leads to weight gain.

You may be surprised to hear it, but sleep loss is also attributed to weight gain in midlife women. We've been preaching it for years, but sleep does have a substantial effect on your weight. Many potential issues contribute to sleep loss in women including night sweats, mood problems, obstructive sleep apnea, and low estrogen (3). As we all know very well, little sleep can lead to less physical activity, sugar cravings, decreased insulin sensitivity, and less caloric output (4).

While we can't point to menopause entirely for the increase in weight, it does affect the distribution of fat on the body. Menopausal women tend to have a greater percentage of body fat on the organs (visceral fat) as compared to women in the premenopausal state (5). This is a big deal. Obese postmenopausal women have higher overall mortality risk with as high as a 4-fold increase in cardiovascular deaths and it raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, and some cancers including uterine and breast (6).

So, what do we do about all of this? The research points to lifestyle factors such as exercise, nutrition, stress, and sleep (big surprise!) as being critical stave off much of the health risks associated with weight gain and health issues with women as they approach menopause (7). For you, this means:
* some kind of caloric reduction
* a diet including meat, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes with a moderate fat intake
* resistance training to improve lean body mass, which will increase basal metabolic rate and energy expenditure
* 7-9.5 hours of sleep per night

Our best advice is to start with one of these areas at a time. Specifically, pick one task you can do that will touch on an aspect of one of the lifestyle factors mentioned. For instance, a great option for increasing the quality of your sleep could be no screens one hour prior going to bed. You would then systematically go through a task or two for each of these, and before you know it, you would be in a dramatically better place.

#References
1. Karvonen-Gutierrez, C. & Kim, C. (2016). Association of mid-life changes in body size, body composition and obesity status with the menopausal transition. Healthcare, 4(3).
2. Leeners, B., Geary, N., Tobler, P., & Asarian, L. (2017). Ovarian hormones and obesity [published online ahead of print March 2, 2017]. Human Reproduction, 23(3), p.300-321.
3. Eichling, P. & Sahni, J. (2005). Menopause related sleep disorders. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 1(3), p.291-300.
4. Wiley, T. & Formby, B. (2000). *Lights Out*. New York: Simon & Schuster.
5. Milewicz, A., Tworowska, U., & Demissie, M. (2001). Menopausal obesity: myth or fact? Climacteric, 4(4), p.273-283.
6. Thurston, R., Sowers, M., Sternfeld, B., et al. (2009). Gains in body fat and vasomotor symptom reporting over the menopausal transition: the study of women’s health across the nation. American Journal of Epidemiology, 170(6), p.766-774.
7. Kapoor, E., Collazo-Clavell, M., & Faubion, S. (2017). Weight gain in women at midlife: a concise review of the pathophysiology and strategies for management. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 92(10), p. 1552-1558.

Second & Third Order Consequences

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I’m a huge fan of reading books that I think will help me or my business make more progress. One of the recent ones I have read was called Principles by Ray Dalio. Ray is the owner of an investment company called Bridgewater Associates.

Among many of the useful concepts, principles, and ideas, second- and third-order consequences really resonated with me and made me think of my clients and athletes. As Dailo states “I've come to see that people who overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions and ignore the effects of second- and subsequent-order consequences rarely reach their goals. This is because first-order consequences often have the opposite desirabilities form second-order consequences, resulting in big mistakes in decision making.”

Considering the greater impact (i.e. second- and third-order consequences) that your decisions can have. It's often the first-order temptations, such as eating junk food or skipping a gym session, that cost us what we want. While this is easy to get in the habit of doing, it's going to be what is standing between you and what you want in the long run. No doubt, this way of thinking takes discipline. In the end, though, you'll find that it's much more rewarding.  #results

Cauliflower Stuffing

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Ingredients 

  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 c. chopped mushrooms
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage (or 1 tsp. ground sage)
  • 1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth

Preparation 

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until soft, 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add cauliflower and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.
  3. Add parsley, rosemary, and sage and stir until combined, then pour over vegetable broth and cover with a lid. Cover until totally tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes.. And enjoy! 

Light & Sleep

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"Not enough sleep makes you fat, hungry, impotent, hypertensive, and cancerous, with a bad heart." - T.S. Wiley, *Lights Out*

Okay, so this quote may be a bit extreme, but it certainly got your attention. Sleep is one of those things we tend to put off for any number of reasons. Working late, watching TV, or just screwing around before going to bed. Regardless of the reason, your lack of sleep may be hurting not only your progress in the gym, but also your overall health.

Sleeping, or lack thereof, can be responsible for a whole host of health issues including weight gain, sugar cravings, elevated cortisol, and depression. Sleep is the time when our body produces melatonin, one of the most potent antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Melatonin, along with other antioxidants, act to protect cells from damage. But more than that, we need melatonin to help put us to sleep. 

Light is very problematic when talking about sleep. With light exposure, melatonin is suppressed. The light and dark cycles that we experience everyday should, ideally, coincide with when we go to sleep and when we wake up. Now, that can't always happen, but we need to make great strides to have clear cut times when we're awake (and around light), and when we're going to sleep (and around low/no light). 

We are very sensitive to light; much more than you may be aware. It's not enough to wear a sleep mask to block out light that hits your eyes. It's light that hits your body, in general, that is an issue. A study was done to determine if light exposure to your body can affect sleep (1). The researchers took used a fiber-optic cable to illuminate a small quarter-sized patch on the back of each subject's knee. Outside of that illuminated patch, the subjects were in complete darkness. This affected the subjects' temperature and melatonin secretion. Imagine what a bright TV screen would do?

These light and dark cycles control insulin through carbohydrate cravings and stress mechanisms. When the lights are on, your cortisol stays up because it's a blood-sugar mobilizer - it helps you to be ready to run or fight. If you continue this, and levels of cortisol stay high, cortisol, which mobilizes blood sugar, keeps insulin high leading to insulin resistance. 

As we now have been getting to winter, here are some general guidelines to mitigate some of these issues with the days getting shorter:

  •  turn the TV off 45-60 minutes before bed
  •  get up as close to dawn as possible
  •  after dark, keep the lights as dim as possible
  •  keep your bedroom as dark as possible (ZERO light)

 

References

1. Campbell, S. & Murphy, P. (1998). Extraocular circadian phototransduction in humans. Science, 279(5349), 396-399.

2. Wiley, T. & Formby, B. (2000). *Lights Out*. New York: Simon & Schuster

Tabasco Braised Chicken with Chickpeas and Kale

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Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ pounds skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose (gluten-free) flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 2 15 ounce cans garbanzo beans
  • 2-3 cups kale
  • 1-2 tablespoon Tabasco
  • ½ cup water

Preparation 

  1. Season the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven or 8 quart stockpot.
  3. Cook the chicken for 5-7 minutes per side or until nicely browned.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion to the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until onion becomes tender.
  5. Add tomatoes with juice, garbanzo beans with juice, kale, Tabasco and water and stir. 
  6. Nestle the chicken thighs with their juices in the tomato mixture, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes or until flavors have melded. 

Kale, White Bean, and Chicken Soup

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Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups sweet Vidalia or yellow onion, peeled and diced small (about 2 medium/large onions)
  • 1 cup celery, sliced thin (about 2 stalks)
  • 2-3 cups kale, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • 64 ounces (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3-4 cups shredded cooked chicken (or about 1 whole storebought rotisserie chicken to save time)
  • Two 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • leaves from 4 large stalks of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces (discard the center thick rib)
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced small (from about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional (brightens up the flavor)

Preparation 

  1. Into a large stockpot or dutch oven, add the oil, onion, celery, and sauté over medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Stir intermittently.
  2. Add the kale and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until kale wilts and softens. Stir intermittently.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken broth, shredded chicken, cannellini beans, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and boil about 5 minutes, or until chicken is warmed through.
  5. Add the zucchini, & optional lemon juice, and boil 1 to 2 minutes, or until the zucchini has softened.
  6. Taste soup and add salt or herbs, to taste. Amount of salt will vary based on how salty the brand of chicken broth used is, how salty the rotisserie chicken is, and personal preference. At any time while making the soup, if the overall liquid level is lower than you like and you prefer more broth, adding a cup or two of water is okay because at the end you will adjust the salt level. Serve immediately. Soup will keep airtight in the fridge for 5 to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Chicken Cutlets with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
  • 1/2 cup diced peeled ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (4-ounce) chicken breast cutlets
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lime wedges

Preparation 

1. Combine strawberries, avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl; toss to combine.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done.

3. Divide chicken among 4 serving plates, and spoon salsa evenly over each serving. Garnish each serving with a lime wedge.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Pineapple, Corn & Bell Pepper Relish

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Ingredients 

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 cups cubed fresh pineapple (about 1/2 pineapple)
  • 1/2 cup fresh (non-GMO) corn kernels (about 1 ear)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (or not!)

Preparation 

1. Preheat grill on high for 5 minutes. 

2.  Combine garlic powder, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a small bowl; sprinkle over chicken.

3.  Using long tongs, place chicken breasts on grill and cook, covered on high, 3 minutes. Flip chicken and continue cooking on high, 3 more minutes.

4.  Reduce grill heat to low and flip chicken again.  Cover and continue cooking, 3 minutes more. Flip chicken again and cook 3 more minutes on low, or until a meat thermometer reads 160° when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.

5. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pineapple, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve relish over chicken.

Taco Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients 

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. Chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 bell peppers, halved (seeds removed)
  • 1 c. Shredded lettuce
  • Pico de gallo, for serving
  • Hot sauce, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Preparation 

1.  Preheat oven to 375°

2.  In a large skillet over medium heat, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil.

3.  Add onion and cook until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain fat.

4.  Add chili powder, ground cumin, and paprika to beef mixture, then season with salt and pepper.

5.  Drizzle bell peppers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the peppers, cut side up, in the baking dish and spoon meat mixture into each pepper. Bake until the peppers are crisp-tender, about 20 minutes.

6.  Top each pepper with lettuce and serve with pico de gallo, hot sauce, and lime wedges.

How To Sneak More Vegetables Into Your Diet

The subject of eating more vegetables comes up all the time when taking on a new client. We ask clients to eat 1-2 fist-sized portions of vegetables with every meal, which typically results in an "are you serious?" type of look. We certainly get that, as vegetables aren't generally something for which we get cravings. That may be, but they provide us with phytonutrients and fiber, which are very healthy and beneficial for staying healthy and keeping weight at a healthy level. It's very rare that we come across someone looking to lose weight that loves vegetables and eats them with every meal.

So, here are some strategies for you to sneak more vegetables in your diet.

1. Smoothies

Eating vegetables for breakfast is the toughest thing to do for most people, but this is usually our first option, as it's the simplest and you literally cannot taste the vegetables. Spinach is easy to throw into a smoothie, as is an avocado, which will thicken it up and make it more like a milkshake. Start with one handful of spinach, and go up from there. Some other options of vegetables could be kale (de-veined to reduce the bitterness), or romaine lettuce. Add the right amount of healthy protein powder (1-2 scoops) and possibly some berries and/or 1-2 dates for some more flavor. Try this first for a solid breakfast.

2. Cauliflower Or Broccoli Rice

Avoiding more traditional sides like mashed potatoes or rice is a bit of a challenge sometimes, and stumbling across this at the grocery store was a great find. Cauliflower rice definitely tastes better, but either of these (with some seasoning) is a great side in lieu of something worse. Experiment and see what you like best. The feedback from clients has been great.

3. Experiment With Lesser Known Root Vegetables

Okay, so this might not be a way to sneak in vegetables, but there are definitely some that you probably haven't tried, which can be great to experiment. Root vegetables are a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins A and C. Often times, it's vegetables that you're familiar with that you might not like, but trying something new can easily change the game. You may just come across a great new vegetable to add to your meals. Some of these lesser known root vegetables include celery root, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, yuca, jicama, and parsnips.

4. Substitute Vegetable Noodles For Traditional Pasta

The spiralizer has become a necessity for many of our clients for one simple reason: it's fantastic for making vegetable noodles. If you've never done this before, it may seem odd, but using a spiralizer to make noodles out of vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, winter squash, beets, carrots, or sweet potatoes provide a great alternative to refined carbohydrates like pasta. 

Outside of the spiralizer, squash works perfectly for a traditional pasta substitute, and tastes great. There are two options you can use right away: spaghetti squash in place of traditional pasta and butternut squash instead of lasagna noodles. Trust us when we say many of our clients love both of these. 

5. Mix in scrambled eggs or frittatas

The beauty of making scrambled eggs or frittatas is that you can throw just about anything in there and it'll still taste great. We usually recommend spinach to start with because it's relatively tasteless and ends up condensing down quite a bit. Other vegetables like bell peppers, onions, or chives make great additions. Topping it off with a sprinkle of cheese, hot sauce, or salsa can be a nice addition to keep it tasting great.

Wrap Up

Look for the opportunity to get vegetables in any way you can. They are a necessity to healthy living, and will certainly help you lose weight and rid yourself of many health ailments. Experimenting can be a great way to continue making nutritional changes for the better and keep the weight coming off. 

Need Some More Help?

Achieve offers nutritional coaching for those of you that need a little more help in making the right nutritional choices. Work one-on-one with one of our coaches and get easy, step-by-step guidance to reach your goals and create lasting change. For more information, please visit our nutritional coaching page or contact us.

How To Use Your Phone To Lose Weight

You read that right. Your phone can be a powerful tool in your weight loss journey. What we can now use our phones for is nothing short of amazing. Sure, you can use it to troll Facebook countless times per day. You can also use it to keep you on track and make sure your environment is setting you up for success. We like to incorporate the thing that is on our clients all the time (the phone) to help them be successful. It can remind you to take your vitamins, track your calories, record your steps, and let you know to get up and move around. For now, let's take a look at three ways you can use it to lose weight.

 

Track Your Habits

Habits are what shape our lives. We are defined by our habits. These things we do everyday without thinking can largely determine what our life is like. If you master good habits that are conducive to positive change, then you'll be well on your way toward success. On the other hand, negative habits that pull you away from your goals are going to have the opposite effect. 

We talk about habits all the time with our clients because they're that important. Our nutritional coaching clients are given new habits when they've mastered other ones to keep them on the right track. Your phone can also keep you on track by reminding you to complete habits like drinking water, exercising in the morning, or eating breakfast. 

We like the applications Habit List, Coach.me, and Momentum. These applications allow you to enter whatever habits you would like to begin implementing or even habits you would like to stop doing. Sometimes, removing a destructive habit is the best course of action. 

They'll remind you to complete a habit and keep track of how many times you were successful in doing it. The little reports that you can see are a great way to determine if perhaps a habit that you chose was too difficult, and choosing something else may work better. 

One key tip in implementing habits is to only go after one at a time. Any more than that and you decrease your chance of success. Start with one, do it consistently for about two weeks, and only then should you add another one. 

 

Improve Your Sleep

We have talked about it a bit before, but sleep is absolutely crucial to your health and wellbeing long-term. This includes weight loss. It's very challenging to drop weight when your hormone levels are off and you're exhausted all the time. It makes having the willpower to eat healthy and exercise that much more challenging. Lack of sleep can lead to sugar cravings too. Not a good thing. 

So, one of the tools we recommend to improve our clients sleep is the Bedtime feature within the Apple iOS Clock application. It's very easy to use. Just set your bed time, your wake time, and which days of the week you'd like it to remind you to go to sleep. The other great part of this app is that the sounds it wakes you up with are not only much more pleasant than a regular alarm clock, it gradually gets louder. You won't be startled as with many other alarm clocks. 

 

Log Your Food

While we consider food logging a higher level activity, in very small doses, it can be beneficial for almost anyone. At any given point, you may wonder why you're still not losing weight even though you've changed your diet for the better. You can recall eating all the good stuff like lean chicken breasts, salads, raw nuts, and fruit, but the scale doesn't reflect this. 

Typically, when a client says something like the above statement, one of the things we usually ask is "show me." Now, it's not that we don't trust people. It's that recalling food from memory, especially if you're really focusing on eating well, will typically result in you remembering all of the good food you ate that was consistent with our advice without the other food that wasn't. That's great to hear that you were really focused on eating well, and it shows you've been working hard. What's challenging is figuring out why you may not have lost weight. When we can take a look at your food, or when you can see it laid out, it's much easier to pinpoint the weak spots. On the other hand, when you're very successful, it helps to review those times to see what you did right.

Enter the food log. Often, just using it for one week can make a large enough difference to kickstart your weight loss. We have found that most of our clients find the task of recording their food either on paper or with apps like My Fitness Pal to be tedious. In order to make the process easier, we like photo food journals. They tend to have the highest adherence and the lowest barriers to entry. We like MealLogger the most, which you can get HERE.

 

Wrap Up

As smart phones continue to get better and better, there will be many more opportunities to use it to your advantage in your health and fitness journey. Everything you can do to hold yourself more accountable or keep you on track will increase your odds of success. It's about making things easier, and your phone is just another tool to help you along.

The Meal Plan Mistake

It's not uncommon to join a gym to start training and be handed a meal plan. This has been a mainstay in the fitness industry for a very long time. We get asked all the time for meal plans when we initially get started talking to our clients about nutrition. Much of the time, this is rooted in the idea that if they are just told what to eat and when, this whole weight loss thing will be a piece of cake. The problem with this method is it's extremely difficult for people to sustain long-term.

Meal plans are simply too rigid for the majority of people to follow for any length of time. You're told what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. Regardless of how easy this sounds, life tends to happen and very quickly this perfect meal plan has become unrealistic. You have a work meeting that came up, your kid needs to be picked up from swim practice early, or, for some reason, chicken and broccoli for the fourth time this week just doesn't seem appetizing. These are all normal things that occur in everyone's lives. You can't always meticulously plan out your day and expect everything to fall into place. What happens when this occurs? The inflexibility of the meal plan doesn't adequately prepare you for any variables that may come up and you may derail a little bit.

All of the aspects of following a meal plan almost ensure it will be very challenging to follow. There are so many habits involved with following a meal plan such as preparing your kitchen, cooking, food preparation, and clean-up, that many people will be adopting several habits at once. With each additional habit you attempt, you decrease the likelihood that you'll be able to follow it. It's best to focus on one thing at a time, master that, and then move onto the next.

If you do happen to follow a meal plan very strictly, and complete it for the recommended length of time, this can cause some serious disordered eating further down the line. Most of these meal plans are supposed to be temporary, meaning you don't continue doing them after a clearly defined length of time, which is typically a few weeks to a month or two. For a shorter period of time, you may be able to complete the nutrition plan and lose some weight. If you happen to continue it for longer, based on some results you got, you can have other issues that come up whether they be behavioral, metabolic, or hormonal.

And lastly, meal plans are truly a one-size-fits-all approach. Every client is handed the same meal plan. There may be some differences on whether you're a man or woman, but for the most part, these are extremely similar. What if you don't like broccoli? Or you're a vegetarian? Or making an omelette isn't feasible for you in the mornings? You're not learning the right ways to eat; you're just following along. Behavior modification is the key to creating lasting lifestyle change.

So what do you do instead? Rather than give our clients a meal plan, we like to work with them and create outcome based strategies for them to do each week. Involving our clients in the process creates much more buy-in and increases the likelihood that they will complete these tasks successfully. It is key, though, that we choose one task at a time. Any more than that decreases the likelihood that the client will be successful at adopting this new way of eating. 

We all know what we should be eating. We regularly ask our clients if they know what food is good for weight loss, and what foods would cause weight gain. Nearly 100% of the time, they get the answers correct. This means there's not necessarily an educational issue here. It's largely behavioral. People know what they need to do to lose weight; it's getting them to do those things that is the challenge. This is why many of the habits and tasks we give our clients are based on behaviors and habits around eating. It's not necessarily what they're eating, but what they're doing when they're eating, who are they eating with, how much are they eating, etc. 

Some examples of behavioral or habit-based tasks we give our clients include chewing their food slowly, stopping eating when they're 80% full, eating protein with every meal, eating 5 to 7 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables everyday, or eating away from distractions. Each of these is teaching the client strategies that go much further telling them exactly what to eat and when. It allows them to be somewhat flexible and make choices for themselves that will still lead to their goal.

So, don't necessarily look for what appears to be the quick fix. Think of what is going to make you successful and stay successful both in the short term and several years down the line.

Kung Pao Chicken

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or coconut flour)
  • 2 Tbs light sesame oil (or 2 teaspoons vegetable oil)
  • 3 Tbs green onions, chopped with tops
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4- 1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (to your own taste)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon  powdered ginger (can use fresh grated if preferred)
  • 2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce 
  • 1/3 cup dry roasted peanuts 
  • 3 cups of cooked cauliflower rice 

Preparation 

  • Combine chicken and cornstarch (or coconut flour) in small bowl.
  • Toss to coat.
  • Heat oil in large non-stick skillet or wok on medium heat.
  • Add chicken.
  • Stir fry 5- 7 minutes or until no longer pink in center.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add green onions, garlic, red pepper and ginger to skillet.
  • Stir fry 15 seconds.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Combine vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in small bowl.
  • Stir well.
  • Add to skillet.
  • Return chicken to skillet.
  • Stir until chicken is well coated.
  • Stir in peanuts.
  • Heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve over cauliflower rice.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 4 strips of thick-cut bacon (preferably nitrate free)
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation 

  • Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy  
  • Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, then roughly chop.
  • In the same pan with bacon fat, melt butter over high heat
  • Add onions and Brussels Sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are golden brown (8-10 minutes)
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Toss bacon back into pan
  • Serve immediately.  Enjoy! 

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Ingredients 

  • 15 dates (we used the Fancy Medjool dates from Trader Joe's)
  • Package of Bacon (we used classic sliced uncured bacon from Trader Joe's) 
  • 30 toothpicks 

Preparation 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees 
  • Cut the dates in half and take out the pit 
  • Wrap with half of a piece of bacon
  • Secure the bacon with a toothpick 
  • Place on a baking sheet
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (depending on your bacon crispiness preference)
  • Let cool for 10 minutes and enjoy! 

Fast Fat Loss Factors

When we're talking about losing weight, there is a lot more to it than just eating less and exercising more. We've all heard of things like taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or parking far away from a building to get some more physical activity. The truth is, there are a bunch of other ways that calories get used throughout the day. Let's take a look at several other factors that also should be taken into account. 

1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

When you're literally doing nothing, lying around, not moving, digesting, anything. Literally nothing. This is referred to as your basal metabolic rate. This, essentially, is the minimum energy requirement to continue living. An interesting point, the basal metabolic rate account for about 70% of our oxygen consumption every day.

2. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)    

While it may sound exactly the same as basal metabolic rate, the resting metabolic rate is a little different. This takes into account a little movement, a change of environment, digestion, etc. Basic functions throughout the day. While not exactly the same, the BMR and RMR are typically only about 10% different.

How do we improve this? While it may seem that muscle mass would account for the most calorie consumption, it is, in fact, not. The brain, heart, kidneys, and liver require a substantial amount more than muscle. That being said, more muscle mass is still going to require more calories to maintain. So, make sure resistance training is in your plan, and don't be afraid to put on a little muscle mass. Those of you who may be afraid of "looking like a bodybuilder" should not at all be worried. It takes a lot of time, energy, planning, and eating (and usually drugs) to look that way. 

3. Thermic Effect of Feeding

This is an interesting one. The Thermic Effect of Feeding is quite simply the increase in metabolism as a result of eating. Thermic relates to heat, so it's describing the literal production of heat as a result of eating. This heat depends on what we are eating, with protein have the highest effect because it requires the most energy to breakdown and process. Interestingly, this can account for 10% of total daily energy expended. That's pretty substantial.

How do we improve this? We discussed that what you eat can have an impact on your metabolism, and it's certainly true. If we're going to maximize weight loss here, we want to eat foods that are going to increase the thermic effect of feeding the most. To do this, include generous amounts of protein in your diet. We like to follow the general guidelines of 1 palm of protein per meal for women, and 2 palms for men as a good starting point. Even when guiding clients on losing weight, we rarely find anyone who needs less protein in their diet. 

4. Exercise Activity

It should come as no surprise that purposeful exercise (going for a run, workout at Achieve, etc.) can result in energy expenditure, and weight loss. There are many variable with regard to exercise, with some being more effective than others, or lasting longer than others. Regardless, this always should be weighted heavily. While it completely depends on the person and the activity completed, exercise can (and should) account for 10%-30% of total daily energy expenditure.

How do we improve this? When we're looking at weight loss, generally speaking, we'll benefit most from higher-intensity exercise for shorter durations as opposed to slow, steady exercise for a much longer duration. The most effective ways of losing weight involve resistance training circuits with shorter rest periods (30-45 seconds) and high-intensity interval training, where you'd alternate between high-intensity and low-intensity exercise over the course of 20-30 minutes, for example. The one caveat to this is that you're only going to benefit from exercise from which you can recover. So, be sure to have some days mixed in that are lower intensity to give you a chance to recover more before going at it hard again.

5. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

This is basically everything else. Fidgeting around at your desk, house work, walking the dog, or any number of things that you may do consciously or subconsciously throughout the day. This is completely dependent on the person, and can range substantially. Some people can burn up to 700 calories per day through this!

How do we improve this? This one is pretty easy to stack in your favor. Park your car far away, drink more fluids throughout the day to go to the bathroom more, walk your dog longer, play outside with your kids, or use the stairs instead of an elevator. These all increase calorie usage throughout the day, and should be some easy ways to burn more. A great way to monitor this is through your smartphone or a FitBit type of product. Hitting 10,000 steps is typically the daily standard, but by all means, don't stop there.

6. Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

When we add up all of the above sources of energy expenditure, we're left with the total daily energy expenditure. 

How do we improve this? When all of the above are maximized, we'll see some pretty solid improvements in TDEE. 

Putting It All Together

Taking all of the above avenues into account, see what you ca do throughout the day to get more physically active andburn more calories. Keep in mind, too, that physical activity and burning calories are just a part of the puzzle. What you eat plays a SUBSTANTIAL role in weight loss. Be sure to emphasize a quality diet in conjunction with what has been discussed to really see some progress.

Vikas's Oven Baked Drumstick Recipe

Ingredients  

  • 6-8 medium sized skinless chicken drumsticks

Marinade

  • 2-3 tsp per drumstick-olive oil 
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper power
  • 1-2 tsp turmeric powder
  • juice of 1 medium lime
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt to taste  

Optional

  • 1-2 per drumstick-crushed cloves
  • crushed black pepper to taste (can be used instead of cayenne pepper)
  • 2-3 tsp crushed dried mint leaves
  • 3 tbsp meat masala (a mix of spices like a 'rub' available in Indian stores) 

Preparation 

  • Mix all the ingredients together to make the marinade. 

    • You can taste the marinade before mixing it with chicken to make sure it has the desired taste. It should taste a little bit saltier and spicier than how you would want the chicken to taste as it will tone down after mixing with chicken and cooking. Once you are satisfied with the taste, coat all the drumsticks well with the marinade and let it rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours in a covered container or a ziploc bag. 

  • Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you start baking. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line the drumsticks side by side on a baking sheet/pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Check for the color and done-ness and adjust the time accordingly. Once done take them out let them rest for about 5-10 minutes. Enjoy these warm with or without a dipping sauce.

Cauliflower Stuffing

stuffing.jpg

Ingredients  

  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 c. chopped mushrooms
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c. Freshly Chopped Parsley
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp. ground sage
  • 1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until soft, 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Add cauliflower and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 5 to 10 minutes more.
  • Add parsley, rosemary, and sage and stir until combined, then pour over vegetable broth and cover with a lid. Cover until totally tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy! 

3 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

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Back when I first started training, I always thought people just needed some education on what to eat, and everything would work out. After doing this for a while now, education on what is good to eat, and what should be avoided, is not as much of an issue as I previously thought. People, for the most part, know what types of food aren't healthy just like a smoker knows that smoking isn't good for his or her health.

There are several other factors that hold our clients back from losing weight, and some of them are a lot more complex than a simple food choice. We'll touch on some of the most common roadblocks to success here. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but this will certainly give some of you something to think about. 

1. Not Eating Enough

This is extremely common for clients that just start out training with us. "I don't get it. I've started skipping breakfast, only having a salad for lunch, and I've even cut out my carbs for dinner. Why aren't I losing weight?" This tends to be something many clients learn from past attempts to lose weight. The logic is there; if you intake less food, you'll lose more weight. Popular press has told people this idea for a while now. Calories in, calories out. The body isn't a math equation, which makes this a very flawed concept. The same quantity of calories from cake or a steak are handled very differently, and they each lead to some different types of effects in the body. 

There are certain metabolic adaptations that happen when you continually restrict your calorie intake such as a lack of energy, disturbances to sex hormone production, reduced recovery from exercise, fewer calories burned at rest, and many more. It's doubtful you'll be motivated to exercise, or really do much of anything, when you feel this way. Your body wants to hold on to calories as a survival mechanism when food isn't as plentiful, as is the case for people who don't eat enough.

Unfortunately, these clients often keep their weight pretty steady. We need to get you back to a healthy amount of food. An easy fix for this is to begin by eating three meals per day. Start small, and slowly build to meals consisting of protein, vegetables, healthy carbohydrates (fruit, legumes, sweet potatos), and fat (almonds, avocado, coconut oil). 

A very easy way to get a good breakfast, for instance, is to drink a shake consisting of 1-2 scoops of protein powder, a handful of spinach, a handful of berries, and half of an avocado. You've easily met all of your requirement for a meal, and it took about 5 minutes to make.

2. An Unsupportive Environment

The environment we are in everyday has a significant impact on how we live our lives on a daily basis. This is often one of the first things we look at when coaching clients on nutrition or other lifestyle factors. Being in an environment on a daily basis that takes a tremendous amount of willpower to live a healthy life is what can really hold you back.

First, your network is a huge part of your success. Do you have a spouse or significant other that is supportive of your goals? Are your friends on board? Co-workers? Sure, it's nice when an office-mate brings you a donut in the morning, but it just makes it that much harder to resist. Creating a clear line of communication with those that are able to support you can be key to your long-term success. Explain that you're taking some time and effort to focus on yourself and achieve a goal, and it would mean a lot to you if they also did what they could to help you. 

Secondly, don't keep food in the house that you don't want to eat. This is a big one, especially for people who have a significant other that isn't following their way of eating, or if you have kids. I'm not suggesting you get a new boyfriend or wife. I am suggesting you speak with him/her and explain why you'd like to start making some better choices at the grocery store. There are usually healthier options of some common junk food that you can compromise on if you're not going to eliminate it entirely. Determine your go-to foods that hold you back, and look to eliminate these or replace them. 

3. Using Food To Manage Feelings

This is really one of the hardest habits to break. Often, people use food as a way to self-medicate. It tastes great and can make us feel better temporarily. Food can also be connected to memories of childhood, travels, family, friends, and/or our heritage. Using food in this way isn't necessarily bad on it's own, but when done to excess, uncontrollably, or as a sole source of comfort, it can be very problematic. 

One way to fix this and begin developing a healthier relationship to food is to keep a food and feeling journal. It's a great way to write down what you ate and what you were feeling when you ate it. After getting data over a week or two, you'll begin to see patterns. Particularly, look for links to hunger, anger/anxiousness, loneliness, or being tired. Often times, these are responsible for emotional eating. Even if you aren't able to change the behavior right away, it will still be beneficial to notice why you're doing what you're doing.

Next, when you are ready to start changing the behavior, take five minutes to sit with the urge when it comes up. Notice what you're thinking and feeling. It may be uncomfortable. After the five minutes is up, make the decision that you feel is right. Over time, being comfortable with being uncomfortable in this respect can allow you to not only tolerate it better, but also increase your confidence in yourself to self-regulate.

Lastly, once you have been able to recognize the triggers of emotional eating, and are able to take five minutes and think about why you're getting an urge to eat, coming up with some alternatives can help change the ritual involved (food). Some great options are calling a supportive person and talk with them about what you're feeling, going for a walk, doing some deep breathing exercises, or taking a hot shower/bath. 

Wrap-Up

These three scenarios make up the majority of difficulties with which new and current clients struggle. Being able to take control of these is a huge step in the right direction toward optimal health and weight loss.

 

References

1. Berardi, J., Andrews, R., St. Pierre, B., Scott-Dixon, K., Killias, H., & DePutter, C. (2016). The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Precision Nutrition.