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

overweight.jpg

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.

 

5 Ingredient Acorn Squash Breakfast

Ingredients  

  • ¾ lb sausage 
  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Place acorn squash cut-side down onto your baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until your acorn squash is soft when you press on the skin.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.
  • While your acorn squash is cooking, add a tablespoon of some kind of fat to a large pan over medium heat then add your minced garlic and diced onion.
  • Stir around to keep from burning.
  • Once your onions become translucent, add your sausage to the pan.
  • Once the breakfast sausage is almost all the way cooked through, turn your heat to low and add your inside of your acorn squash. Do this by using a spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving just the skin of the acorn squash. Be careful not the tear the skin!
  • Mix the acorn squash and the breakfast sausage together then add it back to your acorn squash skin
  • Once both of your acorn squash halves are full, press into the middle with a spoon to breakfast a little resting spot for your egg.
  • Crack an egg on top.
  • Place back in the oven to cook for 10-15 minutes or until egg-cooked preference.
  • Serve!

Chicken & Cauliflower Rice Slow-Cooker Casserole

Ingredients 

  • 1 Cauliflower (chopped into small diced pieces, the size of an almond or just cauliflower rice)
  • 1 Fennel Bulb (cored and diced)
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-½ lbs. chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin
  • ½ cup diced Onion
  • ½ cup diced Celery
  • 2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 1-½ cups long-grain white rice
  • 8 oz. sliced Brown Mushrooms (baby bellas or cremini)
  • 3 cups hot chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped Parsley for garnish

Preparation 

  1. Add cooked bacon to 4-½ quart Crock Pot slow cooker. Add olive oil to crock pot. Place chicken in crock pot, skin side down.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except parsley in order given.Cover Crock Pot and cook on low for 3 hours or until rice is tender.
  3. Uncover Crock Pot and let stand for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper if desired. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Baked Stuffed Pumpkins

Ingredients 

  • 4 oz. sweet Italian sausage (or Apple Chicken Sausage found @ Trader Joe's)
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 pumpkin
  • ½ c. chopped Granny Smith apples
  • ¼ c. white wine
  • 1 c. quinoa 
  • ¼ c. dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. fresh oregano
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 4 small pumpkins

Preparation 

  1. Make the stuffing: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Decase and crumble the sausage meat and place it in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the sausage until it is almost done -- about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan, increase heat to medium, and add the onion and 2 cups of the chopped pumpkin. Sauté until the pumpkin begins to soften -- 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped apple and sausage and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the wine, cook for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside. Combine the quinoa, dried cranberries, olive oil, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add meat mixture to the bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Bake the pumpkins: Evenly fill the hollowed-out pumpkins with the stuffing mixture and place the pumpkins in a shallow baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for 10 more minutes. Serve immediately.