Blog Archives

3 Reasons You’re Stuck

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.

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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.

The Fix:

  • 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)

2. Stress

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.

The Fix:

  • 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.

The Fix:

  • 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 & Recovery: Why You Need It

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.

The Difference?

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

1repose, 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

3a 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.

The Approach

  1. 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.

      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.

 

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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.

-Buddha

Eating & Training For Your Body Type

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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).

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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.

Fruity Chicken Skewers With Stuffed Zucchini

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Ingredients (for Fruity Chicken Skewers)

☆Bamboo skewer sticks
☆Boneless skinless chicken breast (1-inch cubed), 6 oz (170 g)
☆Pineapple (1-inch cubed), 3 pieces
☆Apple (core removed, 1-inch cubed), 3 pieces
☆Red pepper (cut into large pieces), 3 pieces
☆Onion (cut into large pieces), 3 pieces
☆Butter (melted), 1 tbsp
☆Ginger, ½ tsp
☆Salt, ¼ tsp
☆Chili powder, ¼ tsp

Serving Size

•Serves 1 large or 2 small.

Preparation Time

•10 min. Preparation Time
•15 min. Cooking Time

Instructions

• Preheat oven to 350°F. Carefully slide ingredients onto the skewer using lots of chicken. (Ex: chicken-pineapple-chicken-apple-chicken-red pepper-chicken-onion-chicken).
•Continue making skewers until the chicken is used up.
•Combine melted butter, ginger, salt and chili powder in a small bowl.
•Place skewers on a baking tray or in a casserole dish and brush with the butter mixture on all sides. •Place skewers in oven and bake until chicken is cooked through (12-15 minutes).  
•Serves 1 large or 2 small.

Variations & Options

》For a lower-calorie meal, substitute fruit with vegetables. Zucchini and garlic are great options. For a more tenderized and flavorful meat, marinate the skewers for a couple of hours (or over night) in a mixture of 2 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons acidic juice (lemon, lime or orange), ½ teaspoon ginger and salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients (for Stuffed Zucchini)

☆Zucchini (medium, halved lenghwise), 2
☆Olive oil cooking spray
☆Onion (finely diced), ¼ cup
☆Fresh garlic (minced), 1 tsp
☆Shitake or portobello mushrooms (small diced), ¼ cup
☆Tomato (finely diced), ¼ cup
☆Low-fat feta cheese (crumbled), ¼ cup
☆Pecans (crushed), ¼ cup
☆Tomato sauce, ½ cup

Serving Size

•Serves 1 large or 2 small.

Preparation Time

•5 min. Preparation Time
•10 min. Cooking Time

Instructions

•Preheat the oven at 375°F.
•Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. •Using a spoon and knife (if needed) remove all the white flesh (do not discard the skin or flesh). If the green skin breaks don’t worry.
•Preheat a large non-stick frying pan on medium heat.
•Lightly coat with spray and add the white zucchini flesh, onion, garlic and mushrooms.
•Sauté until onions are lightly browned and liquids have evaporated.
•Remove from heat. Add tomato, feta cheese and pecans to the pan. •Stuff the zucchini peel with the heated mixture.
•Reform the peel around the stuffing.
•Add to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
•Remove from oven and serve with warm tomato sauce.
•Serves 1 large or 2 small.

Variations & Options

》For an anytime meal option,
serve with Steamed Halibut.

(Source: Gourmet Nutrition V2)

Supplements… Which One Is Right For Me?

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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’.

2. Multivitamin
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)

4. Greens
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.