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Please see my web page at www.aretefit.com for posts!

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Well, at my age…….

After a recent conversation with my mother it made me realize something. As a society we expect our health to decline as we age. My mom is the biggest propagator of this false wisdom, (sorry mom). She had made several comments about not remembering things “because she’s getting old”. In the same conversation she said, “ at my age I can’t do that!”. She was referring to my suggestion of riding a stationary bike for a little exercise. My mother then quickly reminded me that I am not getting any younger….

We pass this school of thought to our children as if it’s normal to have heart attacks and strokes by the age of 50. If the doctor prescribes high blood pressure meds or cholesterol meds at 40 or 50 its normal. Think about how many people you know currently taking a prescription for something that could be easily controlled with diet and exercise.

There have been recent studies pertaining to gluten intolerance and gastrointestinal symptoms, correlations with autism, diabetes and how the protein composite can be related to cognitive function. One study shows large changes in brain tissue, specifically, white matter, in those who are sensitive to gluten. White matter in the brain is actively involved in neurogenesis, or the growth of new neurons. If gluten is possibly disrupting this process, like chemotherapy has been studied to do, then its effects may not be just temporary and transient. Instead they may be both long lasting and potentially damaging. Also stress, sleep disruption, lack of exercise and inflammation have all been linked with regulating hippocampal neurogenesis and implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. But can gluten be linked to mood disorders? The science says yes.

Age is often blamed for hormone imbalances but it’s important to remember that this balance directly correlates with diet. Insufficient consumption of dark leafy greens, brightly colored vegetables, lack of protein, persistent dehydration and stress can all be contributing factors. Hormones influence many bodily functions including metabolism, blood sugar balance, blood pressure, energy levels, kidney function, sleep patterns, aging, and appetite. Signs of imbalance in both sexes include the typical symptoms of fatigue, headaches, digestive complaints, poor sleeping, easy weight gain, increased signs of aging, depression, anxiety, and decreased sexual desire. Cholesterol is also crucial to our wellness and very instrumental in hormonal balance. Many of the most important hormones are actually made from cholesterol. It is the mother of all fat molecules in the body: a cornerstone of normal cell function and mood regulation. It is needed to maintain neurotransmitter and brain function, build brain and nerve tissue, and nourish the immune system. It provides the insulation around nerves that transmit electrical impulses and helps to digest fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. So if you are drinking “green smoothies” for health benefits, add some healthy fat to assist in the uptake of vitamins! My favorites are avocado and MCT oil.

Although much about getting older is controlled by food, exercise is also important. I can guarantee if you fuel your body with good food you will have the energy to move around and be active. None of this “I’m old and tired” crap. There’s no need to run marathons. A simple 20-30 minute walk after big meals is fantastic! Take the stairs, park far away, (unless its dark and not safe…), and go for a bike ride. Just keep moving.

Aging is only a number. If you sit around eating junk and expecting to have some catastrophic health event by a certain age because that’s just what happens, then you probably will. If you choose to eat smart, be active, and empower yourself by researching new health statistics and trends then you’ll be the inspiration a younger generation will want to become!
Soares FL, De oliveira matoso R, Teixeira LG, et al. Gluten-free diet reduces adiposity, inflammation and insulin resistance associated with the induction of PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma expression. J Nutr Biochem. 2013;24(6):1105-11.

Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gluten-free-diet-more-popular-than-ever-but-who-really-needs-it/. Accessed August 3, 2014.

Murray JA, Watson T, Clearman B, Mitros F. Effect of a gluten-free diet on gastrointestinal symptoms in celiac disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(4):669-73.

Buie T. The relationship of autism and gluten. Clin Ther. 2013;35(5):578-83.

Snacks 101

I’ve recently been a little (ok, a lot) irritated by the marketing of so-called “healthy” snacks. There is an incredible amount of information available about food choices and what you should eat, but most of it is straight-up propaganda just to sell a product. I’ve had several discussions with some very confused people about what they considered a healthy snack. The following are a few of the popular choices considered healthy, that really are not:

  1. Yogurt. Oh I know about the probiotics and protein certain companies push as healthy. However, they fail to mention the probiotic strain is usually only a single strain. This is a common strain, lactobacillus, found in most yogurt. If you eat a lot of this strain you could eventually develop an overgrowth. Why is this bad? Its bad because it “kills” off the other strains you need for your gut to function properly. You could develop gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis manifests itself commonly as digestive symptoms, including (but not limited to) gas, bloating, heartburn /GERD, constipation, diarrhea, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, among others). If that wasn’t enough check out the sugar content. Certain flavors of Dannon, Stoneyfield and Yoplait have 18 grams or more of sugar.
  2. Died Fruit. Yes its fruit. I am not a huge fruit fan simply because of the amount of sugar. But if its calories your worried about, dried fruit has 3 times the amount of calories as its fresh counter part!
  3. Reduced fat anything. Why would you take the fat out of something and add a chemical? First of all, the fat is what will satiate you longer. Fat is a good thing if its a healthy fat. Bacon, coconut oil, avocado….eat up! (That’s another discussion though). Reduced fat peanut butter is a go-to for some people. Here is what is in a jar of Jiff reduced fat:PEANUTS, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, SUGAR, PEA PROTEIN, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, MOLASSES, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, NIACINAMIDE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, ZINC OXIDE, COPPER SULFATE, FOLIC ACID, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE. Seriously-this is not peanut butter…..
  4. Trail mix and granola. These aren’t the worst, but rarely does someone eat either of these without the added chocolate pieces, candied nuts or dried fruit (see above). Again, the calorie content in 1 cup is approximately 300-500 calories, which are mostly sugar. Your body burns through sugar faster than protein and fat. Hence, you will be hungry 30 minutes later…..

The next time you are overwhelmed with “healthy snack” advertisements and commercials stop and think, why are they pushing these things as healthy so desperately? Do some research, read the ingredients, and step away from the 100 calorie packs-of-crap!

Recovery is not just for addiction

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So I know everyone who read my last post rushed out and set up a workout routine (or at least thought about it). One of the most important factors when working out is an often misunderstood one….recovery.

Recovery is extremely important when exercising because that is when the body actually changes. Your body will go through EPOC ( excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This is the replacement of ATP and muscle glycogen (fuel) used during your workout. Your oxygen levels and body temperature will restore and muscle tissue will be repaired. Exercise that uses more oxygen burns more calories! So think HIIT training or high intensity strength training, not running on the treadmill for hours and hours. EPOC is actually influenced by the intensity, not the duration of the workout.

If you strength train a muscle/muscle group, research has shown you need 48-72 hours before you train those muscles again. Age, intensity, experience, diet, stress and rest are all factors that work with or against your recovery period. Pay attention to your body during your training. Are you super tired all the time? Are you not sleeping at night? These are signs of over-training. Are you not gaining muscle or strength? You may need longer rest days between workouts or you may not be eating enough. Some people are influenced by the “more-is-better” belief. I’ve witnessed people injured, tired and sick dragging themselves to the gym because they truly believe if they miss a workout their routine will completely fall apart along with their body….seriously….I’m all for dedication, but if you are walking around like a grumpy zombie it’s no longer beneficial.

Sleep is very important for every fitness goal. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, run a marathon or gain some mass muscle, sleep is required. I’m not talking about a good 5 hours either. You ideally need 8-9 hours! A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people ate an average of nearly 300 fewer calories per day when they were well rested. A solid night of sleep may provide extra willpower to resist those cookies or chips. David M. Rapoport, MD, the director of the Sleep Medicine Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, has discovered a part of the brain that controls sleep also plays a role in appetite and metabolism. Rapoport says “when you skimp on your ZZZs, your body makes more ghrelin and less leptin. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone, and leptin is a hormone that tells you when you’re full”.

Last major topic for recovery is food. Your goals and how you feel are really going to dictate what you should be eating. Nutrition can be overwhelming and confusing with mass marketing and misinformation but there are ways to make things easier. First, eat real food. Real food does not have an ingredient label. Real food grows, walks or swims…..real food also doesn’t require pesticides or hormones. If you are putting time and effort into being fit please don’t ruin it with chemical additives. If there’s a bug in your lettuce think of it as a protein bonus! Second, pay attention to how you feel. If you are starving every morning you may have a hormone imbalance or be eating way too many carbs throughout the day. Last, you do not need workout supplements. Yes I’ve said it…..If you are working out to be fit and healthy and living a pretty normal life then you do not need a supply of mass marketed kidney killers. Real food will do everything you need it to without all the side effects.

So remember, breathe deep, sleep long and eat great.

Lift for a goal

I’ve had a lot of questions about weight training and programming from people so I thought I’d try to break it down to the basics. These are just the basics, nothing fancy, however you don’t need fancy to be affective!

What is your goal?

You have to know if you want to build muscle, lose weight, lean out etc. YOU CAN’T DO ALL OF THESE AT ONCE! Yes you will have a body changes happening together but you can’t have 100 goals if you are a beginner. Set a goal, stick to it for at least 4 weeks, (6 weeks if you slack!)

Programs:

5 Sets of 5 Reps

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Goal: Strength
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: At least two reps shy of failure

5×5 is an old-school strength method that works incredibly well for adding pounds to the bar. Low-rep sets of five let you go heavy, but 25 total reps give you enough volume to add some muscle mass, too. For safety’s sake, stop each set shy of failure to maintain proper form. I recommend 2-4 compound exercises, 2-3 times a week with this method. How you feel the following day or two after will determine how many times a week you should train (i.e. your recovery). NEVER (yes it’s all caps for a reason), train the same muscles back-to-back. Meaning two days in a row. If you are performing compound exercises this usually means skip a day or two before you train again. Compound means you are using more than 1 muscle to complete the movement.

1 Set to Failure

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Goal: Muscle gain
  • Equipment: Machines
  • Intensity: Failure

Using a single set to failure can spark quick muscle growth, especially in beginners. Research suggests that experienced lifters need more volume, but rookies can use machines to safely exhaust their muscles. But be careful—this method will leave you sore and tired. Also, I am not a fan of machines. They do not allow your body to work your stabilizer muscles for balance.

4 Sets of 8 Reps

  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Goal: Muscle gain
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: One rep shy of failure

Intermediate lifters with more muscle mass need more volume to keep growing. Four sets of eight reps allows for heavier loads to add mechanical stress, while stopping one rep shy of failure adds a solid amount of metabolic stress to force muscle growth. This method is one of my favorites. You can easily use this method with an upper body, lower body split. Meaning you’ll work your upper body muscles one day, then your lower body the next. You can skip a day in-between (or two depending on how many exercises performed), which easily fits into busy schedules! This method also works well for a triple split. No-I’m not referring to giant scoops of ice cream in a plastic boat split, but 2 upper body and 1 lower body workouts. The upper body is split into pushing or pulling exercises performed on separate days with your lower (leg/back) day in the middle.

10 Sets of 3 Reps

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Goal: Maximal strength
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: Two reps shy of failure

Strong athletes can handle more volume with heavy weights. Ten sets of three reps allows for lots of heavy, low-rep sets to build massive strength and keep perfect form. This rep scheme works best with barbell lifts like the Squat, Bench and Deadlift (compound exercises). This method is generally used by body builders and people wanting to gain extreme strength.

Whatever option you choose, keep track of what you’re doing. Write down how much weight you used for each exercise and how many times you completed the exercise (sets and repetitions). Don’t expect to have huge changes in anything either. This can be discouraging to people at first, but you’ll quickly learn 2.5 pounds added to the bench press bar after a few weeks is a great accomplishment. You will never see experienced lifters trying to stack an extra 10 pounds on, because they think they can! This goes for weight loss also. As long as you are losing, you are doing things right. You may have a week go by with no changes. Don’t get discouraged.

So yes there are options, lots, and it can be overwhelming. Just remember these 3 things; pick a goal, keep track of what you do and switch it up every 4-6 weeks.

See you in the gym!

a super hero in training

Image result for funny super hero

Being healthy. What does that mean to you? Is it fitting into a size 2? Running a ultra-marathon? Looking like you should be participating in a body building contest? Everyone has different ideas of what “being healthy” is, but have you ever thought that being health is just simply feeling great? I know a lot of people that look like they stepped out of a magazine but can barely make it out of bed in the morning.  I believe in America today our sense of health has been wrecked by unrealistic images and expectations. We will eat less than 1000 calories a day, run on the treadmill for hours, hate everyone around us (mostly because you’re starving), just trying to look like the models from Abercrombie and Fitch. In reality all this does is break our willpower, damage our metabolism and create a sense of failure. The crazy thing is, we will do this over and over expecting a different result. Why?

In my experience as a personal trainer I’ve witnessed people focusing on the negative to achieve something positive. Sometimes it works, but not for everyone and not long term. Yes, it’s good to learn why you do something damaging (binge eat, smoke etc.), but learning why does not give you the “tools” to move past the problem. I often suggest to people to focus on the positive. Focus on how much steady energy you are going to have if you eat better. Focus on the fantastic day you will have if you get 7-8 hours of sleep. Focus on that accomplished feeling you will have when you squeeze a 30 minute workout into your busy day! These positive rewards build up over time empowering you to continue making better choices. Don’t use the words “ I can’t eat that” say “ I don’t eat that”. Don’t use the excuse “ I don’t have time”. Give yourself the power and say “ I’ll make time “. In an earlier post I discussed the power of choice. The power becomes even stronger when rewarded with something positive. Use this power to influence others when in difficult situations. For example, if you are out with friends having dinner and everyone is ordering deep fried, sugar filled, plates of “I’m gonna hate myself after I eat this”, be the empowered one and order something you know will make you happy after you eat it. Your friends may snicker and make fun of you or they may just change their food choice because you influenced them!

Being healthy shouldn’t just be a number on the scale or a dress size. It should be in how you choose to live. It should be that moment you look in the mirror and say “I feel great”! Let the positive effects from making healthy choices be the power for change. However if you feel so great you decide to wear a super hero costume everywhere you may have missed the point……

Have you heard about this fantastic supplement?!?

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Over the past few weeks while working out I couldn’t help but notice all the brightly colored beverages in everyone’s water bottles. Even scrolling through social media I discovered friends promoting and even selling the latest fat loss, muscle gaining, appetite suppressing and anti-aging supplements on the market. Hell, if all I have to do is drink a “special” shake in the morning to lose weight I’m buying the company! I honestly don’t know why people haven’t caught on to all the weight loss scams. If there truly were a supplement to help people lose weight it would be headline news for weeks.

Do you ever wonder what is so special about a particular product? Have you flipped the package over and actually looked at the label? I digress to an earlier post regarding ingredients. My first (of many) issues with these products are the sweeteners used; saccharin, sucralose and aspartame. These sweeteners will disrupt your good gut bacteria. In a study last year conducted by Israeli scientists using mice, they concluded artificial sweeteners changed the population of “good” gut bacteria leading to metabolism changes. These metabolic changes enhanced the way our bodies pull calories from food leading to more fuel from food stored as fat. Yes, this study was performed using mice, however this is just one of hundreds of studies reporting similar findings.

My second (again of many) issues with these big named supplement products are the quality of ingredients. Are the vitamins and minerals contaminated with lead or arsenic? Do you even know what some of the ingredients do when mixed together? Mixing vitamin E and iron results in the destruction of the vitamin E, by the iron. L-carnitine should never be taken with yohimbe as they both cause elevated heart rate. Are you taking a calcium supplement? It shouldn’t be combined with zinc or magnesium as it will block the absorption of both! If you’re taking a prescription please consult a doctor or pharmacist before trying any supplement!

My third (I’ll stop at three), issue with most supplements and weight loss products is the targeting of specific populations. Everyone has specific individual needs, deficiencies, underlying health problems, lifestyles etc. How can one “fat loss” shake possibly help everyone? If you are unusually fatigued or are having brain-fog issues and are having problems losing weight this could an underlying medical issue. Again, there isn’t a magic shake or pill that will fix everyone’s health problems. On the opposite end, the “muscle building, make-your-workout-better” supplements are not formulated for the 210 lb guy AND the 130 lb girl trying to gain muscle and have killer workouts every day!

In conclusion, if you are taking or are considering supplements PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH. Google is fantastic at providing information. Check at least 3 up-to-date sources to get the most definitive information. But remember, don’t believe the manufacturer’s web-site for god’s sake. They aren’t going to tell you why you shouldn’t buy their product, only why you should….

Scientific America, Artificial Sweeteners May Change Our Gut Bacteria in Dangerous Ways, Ellen Ruppel Shell, Mar 2015.

step away from the cookie….

I remember as a kid standing at the checkout in virtually any store in America and feeling like I was in candy heaven. All the choices; gum, mints, chocolate…..it was blissfully overwhelming. I would grab one or two candy bars and argue endlessly until my mother gave in. Have you ever wondered though, why is so much sugary junk food placed in such strategic areas? Did the American Dietary Association think we needed to “refuel” after strenuously shopping?

A few days ago I was standing in line at CVS watching a gentleman in front of me purchase a bag of chips, a candy bar and a soda. I thought “wow that’s a lot of sugar”! But what is a lot of sugar? Does anyone really know how many grams of sugar they should eat per day? America has guidelines for protein, dairy, vegetables, grains…….but what about sugar?

According to Euromonitor (a global market research company), Americans eat approximately 120 grams of sugar a day! That’s 17.5% of your 2100 calories per day. What I could not find though were any US guidelines for sugar. Denmark, Sweden and Iceland all suggest less than 10% per day. Italy and the Czech Republic suggests less than 15% per day. There are still several countries including the United States without guidelines though.

There is so much nutrition based research why haven’t any guidelines been established for sugar consumption? I believe people understand frequent consumption of sugar is not healthy but how many people actually know how much they are eating on a daily bases? Do you know there is sugar in certain vegetables? How about the giant glass of juice you have every morning? Bread, cereal, peanut butter……all have sugar and it adds up!

So in conclusion of my sugar rant I have a challenge for everyone. Download a nutrition app. I personally like MyFitness Pal, but there are many others. Start logging your food. Yes it can be tedious, but just try it for 2 weeks. I guarantee you will be surprised by some of the numbers and hopefully motivated to improve your nutrition!

source: Euromonitor.com

 

if i had $1…….

The title of this weeks post pretty much says it all. I’m certain I’d be a millionaire by now if I had $1 for everyone that has said to me, “I just want to lose weight in my stomach” or “I really want a six-pack”. The issues most people deal with during weight loss is patience and understanding. You didn’t gain weight overnight therefore you will not lose it overnight. Also, there isn’t a supplement on the market that will speed things along. However, I’m sure some scientist somewhere is feverishly working on it (and all the ugly side effects that will come with it).

I always tell people to remember the 75/25 rule. Your diet is 75% of the solution and exercise is 25%. Tracking what you eat is crucial to understanding the cause and effect of what you eat. Just because you think you don’t eat that much sugar doesn’t compare to actually seeing a daily number. And for God’s sake please don’t obsess over calories. (I will tackle the calorie conundrum next week). Take small steps every week with your food and before you know it you’ll be on the fast track to healthy! Stop drinking sugar filled drinks, slowly cut back on the gluten and processed franken-foods, try some new veggies and add some healthy fats to keep you satiated.

Exercising is the other smaller part of the equation. Don’t feel like you have to be in shape in order to go to the gym. That’s what gyms are actually for-to get you in shape. One of the best things you can do is talk to people either at the gym or in a class. Talk to the people working out. If they are in good shape, (you can easily spot the sleek muscles or matching tights and tank). These people work to look good and chances are they’ve been where you are. Also, PLEASE DO NOT GET STUCK IN THE CARDIO RUT. Yes cardio is good, but not 5 days a week for an hour. Your body will adjust to cardio quickly especially if it’s the same type of cardio (i.e. dreadmill or elliptical). As we age we lose muscle and balance. It’s extremely important to stimulate muscle growth to slow aging and regulate metabolism. Weights can seem confusing to most people who do not lift-again ask someone, talk to people, step out of your comfort zone and I guarantee you will not regret it!

your special power

As I entered the grocery store this week I grabbed the same “compact” style cart I always use and headed down the same produce aisle I usually start my shopping trip. As I looked around I realized the amount of choices people make every day. Everything we do is basically a choice. So why did I gravitate to the same aisle with the same size cart as countless times before? The simple answer is habit. Think of how many things you do just out of habit. Have you ever stopped and thought for a moment, “what if I take this route instead of the usual route today?” or “what if I eat this instead of that?” You truly have all the power when making choices. So why not choose the best possible option?

When the choice involves eating it’s very easy to mindlessly grab something and quickly ingest it without any thought. At the 2011 American Psychological Association’s annual meeting psychologist Dr. Brian Wansink, described one of his experiments into mindless eating.

“We asked 150 Parisians how they knew they were through with dinner and they said, ‘When we’re full.’ When we asked 150 Chicagoans the same question, they said, ‘When the plate is empty,'” Wansink says

Eating shouldn’t be viewed as an everyday mindless task. YOU have the power of choice when food is involved. Most people have become so accustomed to grabbing something quick that they sacrifice taste, nutrition and quality. How often do you think about the nutritional content of what you’re eating, or the amount of what you are eating?

If you stop for a split second and think about how you feel, actually listen to your body, most unhealthy nutritional habits would become obsolete. The snickers bar you habitually retrieve from a machine mid afternoon, with 27 grams of sugar, wouldn’t be considered because you would know 30 minutes after eating it you’d want something else. So many healthy choices are just as quick and easy. But, you have to use your power and choose. Candy, chips and cookies or almonds, avocados and veggies? Throwing some almonds in a container is just as easy as pushing coins into a machine!

So next time you are hungry just pause for 15 seconds and remember, YOU HAVE THE POWER OF CHOICE! Every small positive mindful choice leads to big positive changes…..