Category Archives: Nutrition Tips
It happens to all of us at point or another. We think we are doing everything right.. exercising and eating as ‘clean’ as we possibly can. But then it happens.. you’re stuck and you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong.
Here are the top 3 reason’s that can stop your progress, and tips on how you can move past them.
1. Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep deprivation can affect your concentration and impair your memory; can make you feel lazy and less motivated (the thought of working out will feel like a major hassle); and affect your performance levels.
Insufficient sleep can also cause you to gain weight over time, by decreasing your body’s levels of leptin- a hormone responsible for making you feel full- and by increasing your levels of ghrelin, which increases your appetite and makes you want to eat more. (according an October 2010 article in the journal “Best Practice and Research: Clinical Endrocrinology and Metabolism.”)
Another downside of sleep deprivation is the affect on your body’s ability to release growth hormone. By not getting enough sleep you are limiting your body’s ability to recover and regenerate cell & muscle tissue.
- ensure you are getting good quality sleep, about 7-9 hours will ensure your body will function at its best.
- avoid high sugar, refined carbs before bed time as this can raise your blood sugar & stress the organs involved in hormone regulation. Have a high protein snack instead.
- avoid screen time exposure 2-3 hours before bed as the blue light emitted from your devices can disrupt your circadian rhythm (if not, consider installing a blue light filter app)
If your brain detects the presence of a threat, whether it’s from a dangerous animal, work, or financial troubles, it will trigger the release of a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), and cortisol. Your brain and body are preparing to handle the perceived threat by making you feel alert, ready for action and able to withstand an injury (fight or flight).
The release of adrenaline decreases appetite as blood flows away from the internal organs and to larger muscles to prepare for “fight or flight.” But once the effects of adrenaline start to wear off, cortisol, (the “stress hormone”) remains and starts signaling the body to replenish your food supply. Today we use up a lot less energy dealing with our stress compared to our ancestors (they had to fight off large animals), yet we are stuck with a neuroendocrine system that didn’t get the memo, so our brain is still going to tell us to reach for that cookie.
Besides fighting off large animals, our ancestors had to worry about famine. Their bodies learned to adapt by storing fat supplies for the long haul. Because of this when we are chronically stressed by life and/or work demands, the excess cortisol in our bodies slows down our metabolism, increasing visceral fat (belly fat). This type of fat releases chemicals triggering inflammation, putting us at an elevated risk for developing heart disease or diabetes. As you can see, chronic stress in our lives takes a major toll on our bodies.
- practice relaxation techniques
- find a quiet space & focus on some deep breathing
- learn how to say no. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.
- exercising too much without proper recovery can also impact the body in a negative way. Ensure you allow your body sufficient time for recovery. (Read my post on rest and recovery here).
3. Input vs. Output
By now you should know that your goals (whether its gaining mass or losing body fat) is dependent on whether you are fueling your body appropriately.
If your goal is fat loss then your output (exercise) should be greater than input (food). If you are consuming more than you are burning off, or if the quality of food is poor then you will not lose fat. Be cautious, though, to not restrict your calories too much as this can actually hinder fat loss as well and wreak havoc on your body, especially in women. The safest way to fat loss is learning portion control, eating quality, unprocessed foods, and having a proper weight training program.
If on the other hand, your goal is to gain muscle, then your input (food) should be greater than output (exercise). If you are not eating enough and exercising too much then you will not gain muscle muscle mass.
- for either goal, you should aim for nutritious, unprocessed foods. Include lean proteins, fruits & vegetables (especially greens), and healthy fats.
- limit high sugar, processed foods.
- have a proper weight training and HIIT program to help build muscle.
- be patient, it takes time. If you are gaining or losing too fast, then its likely not happening at a healthy level.. which is not sustainable in the long term.
There are other variables that come in to play, but I believe these are the top ones. Ultimately it comes down to listening to your body. Our bodies will always tell us if something is not working.. you just have to learn to listen.
Happy Training! 😊
Rest and recovery; the R & R’s of the fitness world. Most may think they are the same thing- and while they are both critical elements of any successful training program- they are also the least utilized.
First, a little math
- The average person may train about 4- 8 hrs/ week
- This leaves you with 152-156 of non-training hours/ week to rest & recover
You would think that’s more than enough time to recharge and be ready to hulk-smash that next workout, yet there are some that will be walking into the gym and dragging through their workout.
Rest: according to Merriam- Webster
1: repose, sleep; specifically: a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities
2a: freedom from activity or labor
b: a state of motionlessness or inactivity
c : the repose of death
3: a place for resting or lodging
4: peace of mind or spirit
Most of these (except for 2c) are a combination of time that is spent sleeping and not training. It is also the easiest to understand and implement.
Recovery: encompasses many aspects and refers to techniques and actions that are taken to maximize the body’s repair. Recovery involves different systems in our body that require time to repair, these include muscle repair, chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, and mental & spiritual.
For most, the goal should be to have a a good balance between exercise, nutrition, and rest & recovery. Make heath and fitness a priority without personal sacrifice. Don’t be afraid to enjoy a night out with friends, or a piece of your own birthday cake. Unless you are a professional athlete, don’t overwhelm yourself with perfection.
- Get enough sleep. Although different for everyone, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours. Sufficient sleep helps to with mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery.
- Here’s some tips on improving your sleep quality
2. Keep Hydrated. Water is critical to our bodily functions. It aids in nutrient uptake, helps regulate body temperature, protects and moisturizes the joints, and aids in riding the body of toxins. Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to health, energy, recovery, and performance. The easiest way to check for dehydration is in the color of your urine. If it is a dark yellow, then you definitely need to increase your intake.
3. Nutrition. Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to hurt it. Eating clean and balanced meals in moderation, and reducing the amount of processed foods is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance. Pay attention to how your body reacts to the types of foods you consume. I believe that unless you have a reaction to it or an underlying issue, there’s no need to cut out specific food groups. Including variety in your food choices will make it easier to eat healthy.
4. Stretching. You should be able to move your joints through their full range and be pain free. If you can’t then that means that your flexibility is being compromised. Having a desk job can contribute to tight hip flexors and bad posture, so be sure to include dynamic stretching in your warm-ups and save the static stretching for after your workouts. Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility.
5. Self-Myofascial Release. This works by finding tight muscle areas, applying pressure to those trigger points to release the tightness, and then ahhhh!! This can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or your hands. (Just an fyi if you’re new to it: self-myofascial release is painful at first, but so, sooo good afterwards)
6. TLC For Those Injuries. It goes without saying that if you have an injury, your rest and recovery will be longer. Remember to use the typical heat, ice, compression, elevation for any injury you may have. The more tlc you show it, the faster your recovery.
And that’s it. Ensure that your body gets the care it needs. The fact that you are already exercising is great, and with enough time to recuperate, your hard work in the gym will surely show!
Happy Training 🙂
To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
In Canada the winter months may seem ENDLESS, the layers of clothes are many and most people tend to go into some type of ‘hibernation mode’ (too much food, too little exercise). More often than not you might have experienced some weight gain. Or you could be in a building phase, which is typical during the winter months, and your intake has purposely been higher & workouts scaled back to allow for some gains/ growth. In either case you will have found yourself to be carrying a bit more cushion than you might like.
At the first sign of spring, the gyms seem to come alive with those looking to perfect their ‘summer body’. The average person will spend hours on end on their cardio machine of choice in hopes of shedding unwanted weight gain and/or reduce their food intake way too much. This will only work against your body by killing your metabolism resulting in little to no change at all.
Here are some tips to help rev up your metabolism so that you can shed those last stubborn pounds and reveal your summer physique.
Better Food Quality. Your meals should consist of nutrient dense, whole foods. Cut out sugar & high processed foods as these do nothing to promote optimal body composition and only put you at risk for metabolic diseases. Be sure to consume a lot of dark leafy vegetables (aim for 1-2 cups per meal), anti-oxidant rich fruits and beneficial fats.
Protein With Every Meal. High-quality, high-protein intake keep you feeling full longer. It also sustains lean mass which in turn increases your metabolic rate (more muscle mass= more calories burned at rest). This is very important if you are trying to lose body fat. Also, don’t make the mistake of cutting calories without increasing protein as this will cause you to lose muscle mass along with fat mass, lowering your metabolism. Include lean red meat, fish, eggs in your meals. A clean, low-carb protein powder can help supplement your diet.
Include 4-5 Days of Weight Training. In order to look lean & tight you need to increase your muscle mass and reduce body fat. To do this you need to make sure you are really stressing out your muscles. Repeated tension or load on the muscles will cause the muscle to adapt and grow over time. Most people don’t lift heavy enough, or they continuously lift for the same amount of high reps and only 3 sets per exercise. Proper stress will only occur if you vary your training; ex: High-volume training (high reps, mod weight), high-load training (4+ sets, 4-6 reps, 85-90% of 1RM), varied tempo. Also be sure to include big compound movements (squats, deadlifts, pulls, presses, chin-ups) as these are multi-joint exercises and recruit major muscles.
Sprints vs. Steady State Cardio. While distance running (steady state cardio) has its benefits (heart friendly), if you are looking to seriously burn off body fat, incorporate sprint training into your workout regime. The high intensity of sprint training causes the same metabolic stress on the body as weight training. Just take a look at a sprinter’s body vs a marathoner. Have you ever seen a sprinter who carries extra cushion on them? Nope, neither have I.
Reduce Stress. High levels of stress from work/ every day life will result in high levels of cortisol being released into the body. This will actually lead to an increase in fat mass especially around your mid-section. Take time to unwind & reduce your stress levels. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga are just a few ways you can reduce stress levels.
Recovery. Give your body rest. All the hard work you put in the gym, although beneficial, is still a stress placed on your body. Too much of a good thing can ultimately lead to overuse injuries, fatigue and even weaken your immune system. Allow your body time to repair & rebuild, and always listen to your body.
Happy Training 🙂
So you’ve probably heard alot about the different body types and might be confused as to what this all means ( don’t get confused with body shape, ex: hourglass, pear, apple, square..etc).
THE 3 SOMATOTYPES
In the 1940s Dr. William H. Sheldon introduced the concept of body types, or somatotypes. Since then, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and even doctors have used it as an aid in designing effective, individualized fitness plans. The concept is that we all fall into the three categories below (although you can possess attributes of two different categories or even all three). Keep in mind that these are generalizations on basic skeletal somatotypes.
The body type that we are born with is based on an inherited skeletal frame and body composition. Most people are unique combinations of the three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Some typical somatotype combinations include pear-shaped ecto-endomorphs (thin, delicate upper bodies & high fat storage in the hips and thighs), and apple-shaped endo-ectomorphs (high fat storage in the mid-section & thin lower bodies).
The “I” Type
• Aka: Ectomorph
• Are thin, with smaller bone structures and thinner limbs ( Ex:typical endurance athlete, basketball players, runway models).
• Low body fat & low muscle. They have a hard time gaining mass.
• Have a fast metabolic rate.They’re high-energy and tend to burn off excess calories with near-constant movement throughout the day.
•High tolerance of carbs. Can eat almost anything without affecting their weight.
Nutrition & Training for ” I ” Types
• Higher carbohydrates in the diet + moderate protein + lower fat intake.
• Limit cardio to 1x/ week or even eliminate if possible
• Train each body part 2x/ week
• Vary your rep range. Train in the 5-8 rep range for your compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.), but go up into the 8-15 rep range with smaller muscle groups.
• Ensure proper rest & recovery as this body type can easliy overtrain.
The “V” Type
• Aka: Mesomorph
• Athletic, solid, and strong. Not overweight and not underweight,
• Can gain and lose weight without too much effort.
• Usually have a considerable amount of lean mass (Ex:explosive athletes like sprinters, wrestlers and gymnasts).
• Are built to be powerful machines. Excess calories often go to lean mass and dense bones.
• Tend to be testosterone & growth hormone dominant. If active this type can easily gain muscle and stay lean.
Nutrition & Training for “V” Types
• A mixed diet, with balanced carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
• Cardio should be 3x/ week or less. Mesomorphs will benefit most from HIIT
• Due to rapid adaptation to conditioning, the body should be constantly hit with a combination of slow & moderate exercises, focusing on full ROM with weight training exercises that use fast reps produce good results.
• Hitting compound muscle groups with heavy weights followed by targeted isolation and definition exercises at a mid rep range of 8-12 works well. Legs should be hit with both low and high reps.
The “O” Type
• Aka: Endomorph
• Larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass. (Ex:Football linemen, powerlifters, and throwers).
• Have the slowest metabolism
• Are built for solid comfort, not speed.
• Naturally less active, which means excess calories are more likely to be stored as fat.
Nutrition & Training for “O” Types
• Endomorphs don’t tolerate carbohydrates well, especially if they are sedentary.
• Do best on a higher fat & protein intake with a lower carbohydrate intake being properly timed (typically post-workout).
• Cardio should be about 3-4 sessions of cardio per week of about 20-30min
• Training should include high intensity exercises with minimal rest periods between sets (60sec or less).
• To achieve maximum muscle mass, push every set for as many reps as possible, increase weight when you can to maximize progressive overload. This will keep you within hypertrophy ranges (muscle building rep ranges) & help you burn off fat & build more lean mass.
So I think I’ve covered the basics. Hope this helps you understand your body so you can adapt your eating and training to best suit your goals.
For more detailed information on nutrition for your body type (which includes some nice infographics) click here.
So you decide to try that new workout routine you found online. You start off great, working out steadily but a week (or two..or three) into it you realize it’s not working for you, so you stop.
Maybe a month later you find a book that promises to ‘melt that belly fat’ and you have all intentions to clean up your eating, and you do…for a week. But then you get frustrated because this book is just the world’s biggest ‘foods you can’t eat’ list and you give up.
You then buy a special on 3 months of boot camp or kickboxing classes and go religiously..till you feel burned out.
Another few weeks go by and you decide enough is enough and you spend serious money on some fancy detox and meal plan given to you by a holistic nutritionist and you couple that with working out almost every day…But
NOTHING. IS. HAPPENING!!!! (sound familiar?!)
Short Answer: You’re doing too much at once and not giving your body a chance to adapt.
Lets start with the nutrition aspect:
Save yourself money and and time and avoid getting sucked into these fancy diets, detoxes, and pills. You may think that they’re working at first but any weight lost is most certainly water weight.. and it will come right back.
The best and most effective way to lose body fat is to have a meal plan that works for you! Not a meal plan that you find online or borrowed from a friend. Everybody is different. With different metabolisms, different body compositions, different caloric needs. What worked for Joe or Sally will not work to the same effect for you.
Most people are misinformed and think that in order to lose weight you need to stick to a mere 1500 calories a day and eat chicken & asparagus day in and day out (I’m being dramatic I know :()
But if they only knew that there’s more to life than just eating chicken & asparagus!,
Quick Fact: Being on a low calorie diet for too long will sabotage your metabolism, prevent you from building muscle tissue, cause hormonal imbalances, seriously affect your energy levels..and so much more. (Learn more about effects of eating too little here)
The best way to go about losing body fat without compromising muscle tissue is by eating more. For someone who is just starting off, if your goal is fat loss multiply your current weight by 10-12 to give you a caloric range you should aim for. Start at the higher end of your caloric range as you want to be able to eat as much as you can while losing body fat.
(For building, multiply your body weight by 16-18)
Ex: using my weight of 142pds and taking into account the number of times I workout, my caloric range for a deficit phase would be 1988-2272 calories/day
From there make sure to include a lean protein, complex carb, and a healthy fat with your meals. The frequency of your meals should be roughly every 3-4 hours.. which works out to 5-6 times a day (your main meals, with snacks in between).
Moving on to the exercise part, again you want to make sure that you stick to one program..and one program only… and give your body a chance to adapt. Ideally you want to include 3-4 workouts per week (it goes without saying that I am a die hard fan of the iron, so I will always be an advocate for it!). Your workout program should incorporate compound movements as these engage alot of muscles and you get the most bang for your buck. Also any exercises to strengthen any weak areas should be worked into your program as you dont want to have any muscle imbalances as this could lead to injury.
The funny thing about the human body is that it likes to be in a state of balance. So any time that you upset that balance..in this case with exercise.. it will quickly work to repair itself and return to homeostasis. The result would be a leaner, stronger body that will have you smiling from ear to ear.
So to sum it all up, if you’ve been trying to lose body fat (or gain muscle) for a while now, and you have not seen the changes you had hoped for, maybe it’s time you step back and re-evaluate what you are doing. Going from one thing to another is just causing chaos on your body and making you miserable. Focus instead on following a well balanced nutrition & workout program and STICK TO IT.
And then your body will thank you 😉
If you walk into your local GNC, Popeye’s, or any other supplements store, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the products on their shelves. You will find row after row of bottles all claiming to ‘help burn fat’, ‘increase muscle mass’, ‘increase metabolism’.. etc. They are aimed at attracting your attention, because who doesn’t want to look lean & tight?
But do you really need all that stuff?! The answer is: NO.
The average person (non-athlete/ competitior) does not need to spend an insane amount of money on supplements that really are not needed.
The truth is, if you are eating healthy.. chances are your food is providing you with the majority of the nutrients your body requires to be at it’s best. But for someone who is in a caloric deficit, the following are some supplements which will help ensure you are running on optimal.
1. Fish Oils
Two out of three essential omega-3 fatty acids are found in the oil of fish. These are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) & EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Together with ALA ( alpha-linolenic acid , found in things like flax and walnuts), the three fall under the subheading of omega-3 fatty acids which are crucial for brain function, normal growth and development, and inflammation. Deficiencies have been linked to a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, mood disorders, arthritis, and more. But that doesn’t mean taking high doses translates to better health and disease prevention.
Aim for 3-9 daily grams of total fish oil (about 1-3 grams of EPA + DHA) per day (make sure their primary source isn’t fish discards).
Look for small-fish-based formulations (e.g. herring, mackerel). Since smaller fish are lower on the food chain they are less likely to accumulate environmental toxins. Or choose krill oil or algae oil.
Avoid cod liver oil.
Trans-fats can interfere with EPA & DHA in the body, so try to avoid consuming too much trans-fat.
Choose liquid over capsules as they will be of higher quality.. and you will also avoid the dreaded ‘fish burps’.
Most of us will have a small deficiency of vitamins and/or minerals in our daily diet. These deficiencies can affect mood, energy levels, slow down our metabolism, affect how we burn fat..just to name a few. It’s important that we fill this gap with a good multivitamin.
How Much To Take?
Always stick to the recommended dose as overdosing of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) can build up to toxic levels in our bodies.
Learn all about the role of vitamins and minerals in our bodies here.
3. Protein Powder
Although not really necessary if you are consuming a diet high in lean proteins such as lean red meats, chicken, fish.. it is more of a time saving option since most people have busy schedules that prevents them from getting in an adequate amount of protein.
Dietary protein is broken down by our bodies into amino acids acids to produce important molecules in our body – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies – without an adequate protein intake, our bodies can’t function well at all.
Protein also helps replace worn out cells, acts as a transport system throughout the body, and aids in growth and repair.
Consuming protein can also increase levels of the hormone glucagon, which helps to control body fat. Glucagon is released when blood sugar levels drop. This causes the liver to break down stored glycogen into glucose for the body.
Protein also helps to liberate free fatty acids from adipose tissue – another fuel source for cells which in turn results in a leaner appearance.
How Much To Take?
Consuming higher levels of protein (~1g- per pound of body weight) may help you feel satisfied after eating as well as maintain a healthy body composition and good immune function. Aim to consume some protein before and after training to ensure adequate recovery.
Limit your consumption of protein powder to 80 grams/day (about 4 scoops)
If you’re consuming a high amount of protein and not getting in your recommended amount of fruits & veggies (5-6 servings/ day) then you are creating an acidic environment that will affect your muscle & bones.
How Much To Take?
Follow label recommendations, sticking with 1-2 servings/ day.
Use in addition to real foods.
Learn more about greens supplements and their benefits here.
So here you have the supplements that are worth spending money on.. the rest are just going to fill up space in your cupboard and eventually collect dust.
The average person who is trying to lose weight will usually cut out or severely reduce their carbohydrate intake. Sure they will experience an initial weight loss of anywhere between 5 – 15pds within the first 2 weeks. A simple and fast solution.. or so they think. The majority of that weight lost will be from water and mucle tissue.
Energy levels are the first to be affected from low carb diets, followed by headaches, cravings (usually for junk food), mood swings, slowed metabolism. The longer you are on a carb restricted diet the more it will take a toll on your body. Imagine not being able to go up a flight of stairs without losing your breath…or to experience hair thinning/ loss. These serious side effects can be a result of almost non-existent carbs for too long.
Your body cannot function without carbs. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for all of our body’s functions. From muscular contraction, to proper brain function, to immune response.. carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients your body cannot do without.
Simple Carbs vs. Complex Carbs
A simple carb is absorbed by the body quickly (ex: a piece of cake, pasta, white rice) compared to a lower glycemic complex carb (ex: oatmeal, nuts, beans) which is digested and absorbed by the body at a slower rate.
Once broken down and absorbed, these monosaccharides/sugars go to the liver to fill energy stores. After that, they enter the bloodstream and venture out to the other cells of the body and muscle tissue.
That being said, not all carbs are created equal. Depending on whether you are trying to lose body fat, maintain, or build, the majority of your carbs should be nutritious complex carbs.
Carbohydrates & Exercise
When you are weight training, carbs are the main fuel used by the muscles during a workout. Glycogen (carbs stored in the muscle cells) provides energy for workouts, allowing you to lift more and build more muscle. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns alot more calories than fat. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. So if you’re lacking this macronutrient, you’ll run out of gas fairly quickly and your workout sessions will suffer.
The most important time to consume carbs is AFTER training. Since your body uses glycogen for energy during an anaerobic weight training workout, your glycogen stores will be depleted after your weight training workout. By consuming a high amount of carbs right after your session, the carbs will be shuttled directly into the muscle cells instead of the fat cells. The depleted glycogen stores in your muscles will act like a sponge and soak up all those carbs into the muscle cells. The result will be bigger and fuller muscles with a much quicker recovery period. If you do not replace those burned carbs immediately after your training session, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to increase your muscle growth and enhance muscle recovery and recuperation.
How Much Do I Need?
For the average person carbohydrate intake should be about 130 grams per day. Higher amounts of carbohydrates are needed with increased muscle mass and increased physical activity levels. However, excessive carbohydrate consumption will be stored for future use (as fat or glycogen).
So don’t be afraid to consume carbs.. it is an essential macronutrient that your body needs in order to function at its optimal level. Focus on including healthy complex carbohydrates into your meals and your body will thank you!
Ok so here’s the 411 on post-workout meals: THEY ARE VERY IMPORTANT!!!
If you are serious about seeing results & already put in the effort by working out regularly and eating clean..then make sure you are feeding your body properly once you’ve finished killing it at the gym.
Your post-workout meal will depend on your goals..whether you are aiming for fatloss or building serious muscle.
The aim of a post-workout meal is to replenish your body’s energy stores and repair muscle tissue. After a good iron pumping session your muscles are depleted of nutrients..especially carbs & electrolytes (potassium). A good post-workout meal will be high in protein (this helps repair your muscle tissue) and carbs (replenishes energy stores).
Here is my post-workout meal..I must admit that I look forward to it 🙂
- 1 scoop of Diesal Protein- chocolate= 107 calories; 26g protein; 0.5g carbs; 0.5g sugar
- 1 scoop of Mutant Rehab- mixed berries= 145 calories; 9g protein; 27g carbs; 0g sugar
- 2 rice cakes- original= 70 calories; 2g protein; 14g carbs; 0g sugar