Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Workout Week: Oct. 20 - Oct. 26, 2013

I had a great week of workouts last week. Getting to the gym isn't usually a problem for me. My challenge is with my eating. For my nutrition last week, I was about 70/30, good/bad ratio. I'm slowly but surely getting closer to not craving high-carb foods, like bread and chips, as much. It has to be one of those things where it has to really, really matter, and for the right reasons. The longer goal has to be bigger than the immediate moment. I'm getting there...

Sunday: off
Monday: Legs & abs
Tuesday: Cardio
Wednesday: Back, biceps & cardio
Thursday: off
Friday: Chest, shoulders & triceps
Saturday: off

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Processed Food and Social Media

I heard an interesting view of social media on a podcast I listened to this week. Tony Federico made the comparison of Facebook/texting/Twitter... to processed food. The points he made were:

Processed Food:
  • Humans are built to use food as fuel. We need it to survive.
  • Real food is top choice for our bodies to be their best and feel fulfilled.
  • Processed food is an altered version of food.
  • Highly processed food provides very little nutrition and leaves us craving more.
Social Media:
  • Humans are built as relational beings. We need relationships.
  • Face to face relationships are top choice for complete fulfillment.
  • Social media and texting relationships are altered versions of real relationships.
  • Social media and texting relationships are not as fulfilling as real-life relationships and leave us wanting more.

The views the author expressed were not that social media and texting are bad. We all use those tools. They're wonderful ways to stay connected to loved ones and friends, and they provide valuable connections to new people we would never have the opportunity to know otherwise. However, our use of social media and texting should not happen at the cost of live relationships.

The same holds true with processed food. We're not expected to raise our own animals for meat, for example. Some processing is required in order to get food from the field to our tables. But processing of food should be kept to a minimum and real food eaten as much as possible.

I love this analogy. Personally, I hadn't thought much about the health and happiness relationship to relationships. Maybe there's something to be said for our parents' opinions of the younger generations spending too much time with technology. 

If you'd like to listen to this podcast, you can find it here

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Quality vs. Quantity of Calories. Which is More Important?

I listened to a podcast the other day while I was driving for work. Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show featured fitness expert Sam Feltham and Sam's 5,000 calorie experiment. Sam's hypothesis is that when it comes to weight and health, counting calories isn't as important as the type of calories consumed.

Sam spent 21 days eating over 5,000 calories a day. The diet was made up of mostly protein, healthy fats and hardly any carbohydrates. He gained around 3 pounds on this diet.

Then he did another 21 day diet of the same amount of calories a day made up of the average American diet - things like pizza, soda, bread, pasta, cereal, hamburgers, etc. On this diet, he gained over 16 pounds. In addition to the weight gain, he felt sick.

On the podcast interview and in these articles, Sam describes the way his body responded to each of these diets: the way he felt, the cravings he had, his energy levels... He goes into a lot of detail that was very convincing. I recommend listening to the podcast when you have a chance, and you can see examples of a day in the life of this experiment on Sam's blog.

Tuckered-out dogs!

These first two days of the week I've been pretty good at sticking with my lower-carb, quality food efforts. Tonight I made turkey meatballs with onion, garlic, coconut flakes and flax seed simmered in tomatoes, broccoli and kale with apple cider vinegar and olive oil.

Tomorrow is going to be a challenge because I'll be in training all day at work, and they always order pizza, bread sticks and desert for lunch on training days. It's tough to be around it and not partake. I might be better off allowing myself to eat it and keep my portions small. Maybe if I read some of my favorite fitness blogs just before lunch I'll be motivated to stick with it...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sugar, Sugar Everywhere!

Are you confused about sugar and alternative sweeteners? With so many choices and so much information coming at you from every which way, how the heck are you supposed to know what to do if you want to cut back on sugar? I did some research to try to understand what it is about sugar that's bad, how it affects the body, what we can use instead, and how our bodies respond when we avoid it.

The sugar compounds most talked about are
  1. Glucose: sugar in the blood
  2. Fructose: fruit sugar
  3. Lactose: sugar in milk
  4. Sucrose: table sugar
When we eat sugar, sugar-laden foods or anything that contains fructose and sucrose, the fructose and sucrose are converted into glucose, and the body reacts by releasing insulin to stabilize blood sugar. (With the exception of diabetics - which is a topic for a different time.)

Our bodies can make the glucose we need, when we need it, from protein and fat. In fact, dietary sugar and most carbohydrates are hardly necessary at all. When we eat food that contains fructose and sucrose, our blood sugar spikes, and if not immediately used by the body (think, high-performance athletes in motion), insulin acts to lower it. These hills and valleys of blood sugar levels are hard on the body, not necessary, and can cause the body to become insulin resistant - which, in turn, leads to a whole host of other problems.

As for sugar, yes, it's found naturally in some foods, like fruit. Fruit is traditionally known as a good food that we need. The thing about fruit is it contains other nutrients we need, like fiber and vitamins. Fruit should be consumed in moderation, not as an eat-all-you-want food.

Other sources of sugar in our food are primarily added for flavor. It's not necessary, nor is it desirable for good health. So what can we do if we don't like the taste of some foods and drinks without sweetener? For instance, I LOVE my coffee habit and would hate to have to give it up. But I don't like the taste of it without some added sweetener. I'm sure you can think of many examples like that.

Here are some common sweeteners:
  • Table sugar: Will spike blood sugar; should be avoided
  • Agave: Even higher in fructose than table sugar; should be avoided
  • Corn Syrup: Will spike blood sugar; should be avoided
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup: Will spike blood sugar; should be avoided
  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin: avoid at all costs - these are chemical based and not food
  • Honey: Will spike blood sugar but is a better alternative than sugar because it contains some antioxidants that are good for you
  • Xylitol: This is a sugar alcohol; does not raise blood sugar; a good alternative sweetener
  • Stevia: A natural sweetener that does not raise blood sugar; a good alternative sweetener
In my opinion, based on my recent research, for a sweet ingredient to food and drinks, the best choices are stevia, xylitol and honey. Honey may have some of the negative blood sugar effects described above, but there are some health benefits of honey that make it a good trade-off. To absolutely avoid blood sugar spikes, stick to stevia and xylitol.

There is SOOOOO much information out there about the effects of sugar on the body, some of it contradictory. Science is science, but some of the published information can be interpreted differently by different people. And food manufacturers can manipulate the information to their favor. Please take what you read in this article and any that I write as my opinion based on what I learn as I pursue better health.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Workout Week: Oct. 13 - Oct. 19, 2013

It's been a quiet week around here - the blog, I mean. Busy week everywhere else. I managed to get in a workout on all but one day, though.

I'm the nerd who listens to podcasts instead of music while working out. I've heard a few really good interviews on topics I'm getting excited about. I have ideas for some articles I'll write here soon.

This was my workout routine this week:

Sunday: off
Monday: chest, shoulders, triceps, cardio
Tuesday: cardio/circuit
Wednesday: legs, abs
Thursday: back, biceps
Friday: off
Saturday: chest, shoulders, triceps

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Workout Week: Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2013

This week was skimpy on workouts. I over-trained my back early in the week and ended up with a very sore lower back by mid-week.

If you know what it feels like to have pulled a muscle in your lower back, that's what I was feeling. I don't think I pulled it, though, because the pain came on hours after my last workout instead of immediately after a movement. By the end of Wednesday, I could hardly stand up straight or do anything that requires the lower back muscles without cursing my Wednesday morning workout. You don't realize how much you use the muscles in your lower back until you feel each thing.

I took the rest of the week off from the gym. I'm feeling much better now. I'll re-start my workout routine, picking up where I left off, tomorrow morning.

Sunday: off
Monday: legs & abs
Tuesday: core builder/cardio
Wednesday: back & biceps
Thursday: off
Friday: off
Saturday: off

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Good Friends, Books and Wine

Today I was able to stay in Jackson for work, so since I didn't have that longer commute, I slept in until 6 am. I ate a granola bar before heading to the gym with my amino energy drink for weight training.

The granola bar wasn't the best choice since three of the first four ingredients are bad for the body (sugar, canola oil and brown sugar oil). I don't know if I can directly blame my sluggish performance on that, but it's a likely culprit. I planned on doing 20 minutes of cardio after weight training, but I didn't have it in me. I stepped on the treadmill and felt foggy, like my limbs were too heavy. So I skipped it.

Amino Energy
If you're curious about the amino energy drink I talk about often, this is what it is:
I get it at GNC. I like it because it has caffeine and other energy-boosting ingredients, and branch chain amino acids. And it tastes great.

After the gym I made scrambled eggs with turkey sausage and cheese for breakfast. And of course I had my coffee with honey, almond milk and cinnamon.

For lunch I had the last of my turkey rice veggie stuff from the weekend, and followed it up with a chocolate cupcake that a co-worker made. I also had a cup of hot green tea with my lunch today. I haven't had tea in a while. It was perfect for today.

Mid afternoon I had an iced latte and an apple. After work I hurried home and ate some left over hamburger helper (made with turkey) that the kids had for dinner a couple of nights ago. Again, not the best choice, but it was quick and easy before heading back out the door to book group.

Our book group meets once a month. Tonight we met at the home of one of our ladies, and I enjoyed a glass of red wine and some cashews. I love my friends in this group.

The idea of this blog is to talk about all things healthy, which includes taking care of our emotional and spiritual health. Getting together with a group of good friends talking about a common love of books and catching up on each others' lives is very good for helping me step outside of my hectic life for a little bit.

I hope you're having a wonderful week!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Veggie Delivery and Today's Diet

Today was a busy, productive work day. I started off right on track, so no rushing around, and I managed to remember to bring my lunch from home.
I headed to the gym at 5:15 am with a half banana and my amino energy drink. My workout today was mostly cardio - a "core builder" circuit routine (be sure to check out my post on Saturday for details).

After the gym, I came home and made oatmeal with protein powder, peanut butter and honey... and a cup of coffee with almond milk and honey.
For lunch I had two chicken drumsticks left over from last night's dinner, followed by an oatmeal butterscotch cookie (eek! - it's been an oatmeal kind of day).

I worked in Lansing today again, and I chose the worst time to try to head home: straight up 5:00. It was after 6:00 by the time I got home. Trying to get out of Lansing, traffic is totally different fifteen minutes on one side or the other of 5pm. When I got home, Scott had pork chops and baked potatoes ready for dinner. (Yes, he's a keeper!) I topped my potato with broccoli and cheese.

Did you see my post on Door to Door Organics a few weeks ago?  They deliver organic vegetables and fruit on a regular basis (every week, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.). I got a delivery today, which included the broccoli I used on my potato. If you haven't checked this out yet, it's definitely worth a few minutes:

I ended my day with a glass bottle (there was only a few drinks left in it - why dirty up a glass?) of wine.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"One of Those Days"

I did pretty well with  my eating today. I felt like I was running behind the entire day. It was one of those days that started out with me feeling rushed and leaving the house without taking my lunch, then running almost late for each appointment I had for work. Ever have one of those days? Ugh!

I ate half a banana as I was driving to the gym for my weight training at 5:15 am. When I got back home I had a protein drink made with whey protein powder and almond milk, then I got ready for work and headed out the door.

I did have time to grab a latte to sip on during our morning staff meeting (I get a 16oz. latte made with whole milk, 3 shots of espresso and honey).

Around 11:30 I walked down the street to Grand Traverse Pie Company (I was working in Lansing today) and got a spinach and goat cheese salad for lunch. Yum! I had two appointments outside the office with clients and made it back to Jackson around 4:00.

I came straight home and worked the rest of my day from my living room. When I got home I warmed up some of last night's turkey/rice/veggie stuff to hold me over till dinner. Scott baked some chicken drumsticks for dinner, and I paired that with red wine and a small piece of chocolate. 

That was my day. It's almost 7:30 pm as I write this, so I still have the evening munchies to fight off, but I'm hoping my avoidance of most carbs all day will keep the cravings at bay tonight. So far so good.

Monday Moment, 10/7/13

Me and my kiddos!
Core Builder
I'm going to try this out this week.

Fall Preview: This Season's 30 Coolest Books
I see some great titles here.

Living Cube: Space Saving Loft
Very cool way to use a small space!

Everyone You Meet
This article is a great reminder for all of us. Please read.

The 5 Pillars of Health
Food for thought.

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
-Thomas Dekker

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Creative Cooking

Tonight I got creative with some things I had in the kitchen to make a healthy meal and use up some of the vegetables I still have in the fridge from last weekend.
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup cut-up veggies: celery, red and yellow peppers, green beans, fresh garlic
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup 3-pepper peach sauce 
  • 1/2 brown rice
I cooked the turkey and garlic until the turkey was browned and drained the grease off. Then I added the tomatoes and other veggies and cooked for about 10 minutes. I added the 3-pepper peach sauce and cooked another 10 or so minutes. The rice was cooking during all this, and when it was done, I added it to the turkey/veggie mixture for a one dish meal.

The 3-Pepper Peach sauce is something I brought home with me from a visit at my mom's house in Tennessee. I'm not sure where she gets it, but she keeps it around to mix with cream cheese for a yummy dip. I've had this jar in my cupboard for a few months and pulled it out tonight when I was looking for something to pull this meal together. It added a delicious, sweet taste. I was able to find a link to the sauce online here.

I'll be taking left-overs for lunch tomorrow.

I love it when a plan comes together!

My Workout Week: Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2013

I left some things unfinished from the past week, as far as recording my daily nutrition goal progress. Thursday evening I was having some issues with my internet connection and didn't end up posting anything from that day. I thought I would do both days on Friday, but I didn't get to it. Yesterday was a busy Saturday, so here it is - Sunday already....

My lack of reporting affected my eating habits those days. That's really one of my challenges each week: I start off the week with great intentions, and I stick with it well until Thursday or so. Then I begin my old habits of grab-n-go. I'm going to work on a better way of posting and sticking with it for this week. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here is what I did for exercise this week:

Sunday: off
Monday: Chest, shoulders & triceps
Tuesday: off
Wednesday: Legs & abs
Thursday: Back, biceps & cardio
Friday: off
Saturday: Chest, shoulders, triceps & cardio

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Halfway There, 10/2/13

So far, so good this week. I was craving sweets this afternoon though. I haven't splurged on any so far this week, so I indulged tonight in a double chocolate chip cookie. Mmmmm.....

Today's plan:
Today's reality:
Breakfast: pre-workout amino energy drink and post-workout protein smoothie w/mango, banana, yogurt, almond milk and protein powder.
Lunch: sushi left over from last night and some raw broccoli and carrots
Snack: granola bar with peanut butter (didn't end up getting the go-green juice smoothie today like I hoped)
Dinner: baked turkey drumstick, chocolate cookie, red wine

  • Pre-workout: Amino energy drink
  • Weight training 
  • Breakfast: Oatmeal w/protein powder, peanut butter, honey and cinammon; coffee w/honey & almond milk
  • Lunch: BBQ pork w/tortilla chips; salad
  • Snack: Protein shake
  • Dinner: ??? not sure what tomorrow evening will bring for dinner; I have a hair appointment at 5:30 that will last a couple of hours... 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Today's Diet, 10/1/13

Today wasn't exactly as I planned, but I'm happy with what I ended up eating.

I didn't end up going to the gym this morning, so I skipped the amino energy drink. For breakfast I had a 2 egg cheese omelet and coffee with honey and almond milk.
Around 10 a.m. I had a granola bar for a snack (one of my unplanned eats).
For lunch I had the BBQ pork and baked potato I planned for, but I skipped the salad.
I ate an apple around 2:30 for a snack, but didn't have the cheese with it.
I had another snack a couple hours later of a home made flour-less peanut butter krispie bar that I was craving from my favorite coffee shop.Yum!
For dinner I had sushi. Double-yum!
So that's it for today. Not bad.

  • Pre-workout:Amino energy drink
  • Weight training workout
  • Post-workout/breakfast: 
    • protein shake with whey powder, banana, mango, almond milk and yogurt
    • coffee w/honey & almond milk
  • Lunch: Sushi (from tonight's dinner)
  • Snack: Go Green juice smoothie from Juice Nation
  • Dinner: 
    • Turkey drumstick: baked
    • Salad: spinach, cucumber, green beans, broccoli, raspberry vinaigrette dressing
  • Bedtime snack/desert: wine & bite of chocolate 

3 Reasons the Low-Fat Option is NOT Always the Best Choice

  1. Your brain needs fat. The working part of your brain is made from fatty acids. Your brain uses the fatty acids you digest to help move the macro nutrients it needs to function into the cells. It also helps to remove waste so that the cell won’t be bogged down by its own byproducts. The kind of fat the brain needs can be found in milk, olive oil, almonds, pecans, avocados and peanuts. So avoiding these foods because they’re high in fat can be counterproductive. 
  2. Many low-fat foods are full of sugar and fillers. When food manufacturers started to cater to the quick-forming popularity of low-fat diets, they did so by replacing the good fats with altered oils, processed sugar and other modified ingredients to improve the taste and texture so that we would buy them. We, the consumers, were trained to believe if the label says “low-fat” or “fat-free” it must be good for us or ok to eat. Neither is necessarily true. If a food is naturally fat-free, that’s one thing. But if it’s been altered to remove the fat but still taste good, beware!
  3. Fat is needed for your body to absorb certain vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins. Their ability to dissolve in fat is the reason they can be absorbed into the blood stream. Without the right amount (and right type) of fat in your diet, your body is unable to absorb all the vitamins from the food you eat.

This is not a free pass to eat high-fat food without regard to other factors like the type of fat it contains and the amount of sugar and artificial ingredients. 

Unsaturated fat is the best type of dietary fat you can consume and is found in food like nuts, avocado and fish. 

Saturated fat like that found in eggs, dairy and meat is necessary in your diet, but it’s easy to get too much, so a good rule of thumb is these should make up no more than 10% of your daily calories. 

Trans fats are a big no-no. This is the type of fat found in processed food and junk food, commonly known as ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’. This is a man-made ingredient used help the food have a longer shelf life, among other things. 

When choosing dairy, you're usually safe to consume the real, full-fat version in moderation. It's not wise to switch to low- or no-fat versions of this food just so you can have more of it for fewer calories. It's also not a good idea to make low-fat choices with everything you buy so that you can afford to eat more calories from other sources. The best choice is to stick with the real thing and consume moderate portions.