Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Tips For a Healthier, More Fit You for Life!

We have all seen the commercials on TV and the banner ads online:

-The secrets to being fit like Hollywood stars
-The Ten Facts of Fitness
-Three stage weight loss formula
-How to get ripped in 25 minutes a day

There is a lot of  people who want you to spend money on their products and you have to hope that what they promise is true for you.  These gimmicks may work, but not for everyone.  Some of these "fitness facts" are manipulative to entice you to buy a product.

The truth is that the real key to being fit and healthy is based in what you do every day, not in the products you take or whose workout program you use.  So instead of trying to sell you on a product or program, let me give you my fitness tips to live by that you can use the rest of your life:

1. Drink More Water!
Did you know that over 60 percent of the human body is H2O?  In fact, your brain and heart are composed of 73 percent water.  But as a society people spend so much time drinking coffee, soda, juice, and alcohol then forget they need clean water for their body to function.  Many people who suffer headaches, dizziness, inability to focus and muscle cramps it's  because they are not hydrated enough.

Here is what I recommend: when you wake up each morning, drink 6-8 oz of water first thing.  This will jump start the re-hydration of the body after hours of your body recovering during sleep.  Just drinking coffee in the morning is not enough because while the caffeine is a quick jump start for increased blood circulation, water first thing stabilizes the functionality of the brain and other organs.  Then through out the day, attempt to consume a gallon of water.  This seems extreme but over the course of the 12-18 hours per day you average being awake, drinking a little every 15-30 minutes some water will go along way to maintaining your body is hydrated through out the day.

2.Eat Good, Feel Good
Sounds too good to be true?  Well the food you eat every day has a profound affect on how your body functions.  The higher quality food you eat can directly correlate the better you will feel.  This sounds simple but in truth we live in a world with fast food places every few miles and "deals" at the supermarket on over processed foods.
So here are my solutions for you to eat better every day:

-If your great-great-grandparents wouldn't recognize it as food, then you don't need it.  There are tens of thousands of food dishes that have been around for centuries that are full of quality foods with macro-nutrients your body needs.  If something doesn't "taste any good" maybe it was made wrong; the solution isn't to drown all your food under condiments that pump your body full of sodium and preservatives it doesn't need.

-The 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the time eat healthy while treating yourself 20 percent of the week.  This method is proven to be healthy and help you with whatever your health and fitness goals may be.  The biggest problem with many of the fad/crash diets is that the initial shock to your system is not sustainable for your health.  But if you "treat yourself" infrequently, your metabolism will recognize what you are trying to do and will learn to function more efficiently.

3. Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, then everything else
When you eat enough fruits, vegetables, and protein you get valuable nutrients your body needs while also eating food that satiates hunger cravings.  When you eat until your stomach is satisfied you will have less room for "bad food" that you have become so accustomed to cramming your meals with.  Protein doesn't have to just be animal products; beans and nuts are also solid forms of protein.  So next time you order out or make a meal at home, make sure you are getting some fruits and/or vegetables along with protein every time you eat.  You will find over time you will feel better and by habit be less likely to grab snacks/desert so quickly

4. Exercise 4-6 days per week for about an hour per day
We all have busy schedules and we tend to think we don't have time for exercise.  The reality is that we have time for what we prioritize in life: our favorite TV shows, going out to the bar, playing Facebook games, etc.  All the stuff we cram into our days, but how much of it is truly "necessary"?  Prioritizing your your health is necessary for living a happy and functional life.  Exercising once a day 4-6 days per week only takes up 4-5 percent of your week.

Also being physically active consistently doesn't mean you have to lift weights or go run every day; do activities you enjoy half of the week then take the other days doing something that is challenging.  If you enjoy running or playing a sport, do that consistently every week, then take a couple days to do some strength based exercises.  Or if you love to pump iron, find a couple days per week to get in some cardio or balance exercises.  The more variety you have in your week with exercise, the more functional your body will be and the better your body will respond to the fitness regimen you are practicing.

5. Surround yourself with good people who support that you want to better your life
Being healthy and fit isn't a program you do for 90 days, its a lifestyle choice.  With any lifestyle choice your environment has a significant impact on you.  Many times when we want to better ourselves, whether professionally, physically, or socially there will be people who we thought were our friends and supporters who over time show their true colors because they dislike what we are turning into.  Whether this dislike is based on jealousy, insecurity, disdain, or resentment, the outcome is the same: they put us down.  Sometimes its passive aggressive with sarcastic humor or singling us out of the crowd for our lifestyle.  Or it can be overt with criticisms of what we are willing to do to achieve our goals.  These people who are suppose to be friends and supporters now want to bring you back down to their level because you are no longer one of them.

The solution is a hard one: change your environment, socially and privately.  You will never reach your goals of improving your life on any level if you are being held back by others.  You need to surround yourself with people who support you, offer constructive criticism and want the best for you.  If you want to be healthy and fit, you have to socialize with like minded people.  You cant be healthy, both physically and mentally, when surrounded by negative people who constantly criticize you and think your dreams are "stupid" or "unnecessary".  When you remove all the people and environmental influences that hold you back, you can be more clear of mind to make better decisions; then surrounding yourself with positive, motivated, driven individuals will uplift you to want to exceed even your own dreams and expectations.

Following these principles will not just help you to be more healthy and fit, but also will improve your overall quality of life.  And don't we all want to have happier, better lives?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Serving Sizes: The Truth About Getting Daily Amounts of Fruits and Vegetables

We all know we need to eat the right amount of Fruits and Vegetables every day to be healthy.  But for years we have been lied to by the media and advertisements about how "hard" and "difficult" it is to eat enough of these important nutritional foods every day.
What you have not been told is what exactly is recommended that you ingest to reach daily for optimal nutritional value for healthy living.  Many news reports and commercials cite the USDA's recommendation on servings of different Macro Nutrients on the Food Pyramid/MyPlate.  So in order to drive the point home, lets review exactly what the USDA states specifically.

The USDA recommends 5 to 9 servings of Fruits and Vegetables daily.  These serving recommendations are based on measurements in cups.  If you have cooking measurements around the house, you can directly measure your food if you want to meal prep.  But many people do not have the patience or time to measure out all these portions to make sure they are getting the exact amount of fruit and vegetables.

According to the USDA 2010 report, adults between the ages of 19 and 64 need between 17 to 21 cups of fruits and vegetables each week.  This averages out to 2.5 to 3 cups daily.  That is actually very attainable if we think about how much we eat on a daily basis.

Now lets simplify all this information.  As a NASM Certified Nutritional Specialist, I know that these recommendations are what we would call the base minimum of what people need to be healthy.  Getting in just enough good food is not enough for optimal functionality of the human body.  So lets review what you can eat every day to get in the proper amount of fruit and vegetables your body needs to be healthy and function properly.


-1 Medium to Large banana equals one serving of fruit.  Bananas are a great source of potassium and fiber as well as a solid source of vitamins C and A.  Daily banana consumption will help regulate your digestive system while also helping muscular function.  Most people do not get enough potassium in their diet so eating a banana a day will really help ensure you get a solid source of daily potassium and other beneficial vitamins.

-1 Medium to Large size Apple equals one serving of fruit.  Apples a a good source of Vitamins A and C, while the skin of an apple being a great source of fiber.  Also, the natural sugars in apples are fast digesting, which means the sugars are used as an energy source for the body or converted to glycogen for better brain function.  So the old adage about eating "an apple a day will keep the doctor away" isn't far fetched at all!

-1 Medium to Large size Orange equals one serving of fruit.  Oranges are one of the best sources of Vitamin C on earth, along with a good source of B vitamins.  Also, like apples, the natural sugars in oranges are readily usable by the body and are fast digesting, so they do not get deposited as fat stores.  There is no major nutritional difference between Oranges and their relatives Grapefruit and Tangerines.  Tangerines have more sugars but less vitamin C value.
Grapefruit have similar levels of vitamin C but also have more Folate in them for energy production.  One Grapefruit equals one serving of fruit, which 2 tangerines equal one serving of fruit.

Other fruit options include: Grapes (2 cups equals one serving) & Frozen Fruit (1 cup equals one serving for most fruit)


-One Large size raw carrot or one cup of raw baby carrots equals one serving of vegetable.  I want to specify raw carrots because any vegetable that is boiled in water looses between 33 to 50 percent of its nutritional value.  Carrots are a great source of Vitamins A, B and K while also being a solid source of fiber.  The antioxidants in Carrots (Carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein) are important for your eyes functionality and health.  Study from UCLA showed that people who regularly consume carrots can lower risks of developing glaucoma.  Other long term studies have shown carrots to help reduce risk of developing Cardiovascular Disease and Colon Cancer.

-Four Spears or Two Halves of Pickles equals one serving of vegetables.  Pickles are an excellent sources of Vitamin K, which is important for clotting.  Be careful what pickles you buy because some are made with high amounts of sodium that can sabotage some people's diets.  Please consult your physician if you are on a blood thinner medicine if there are any potential side effects of eating "too many" pickles in one sitting.

-A medium to large size salad equals one to two servings of vegetables.  Different salads have different nutritional benefits.  A Caesar salad only counts as one serving because there is only Romaine Lettuce while a House salad that includes Iceberg Lettuce, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Onions and/or Peppers, and Olives  counts as 1.5 servings of vegetable (Medium size) or 2 servings of vegetables (Large size).
Different types of lettuce of different nutritional values.  Romaine Lettuce is very good source of Vitamins A & K along with high quality folate and fiber.  Iceberg Lettuce is a great source of fiber and vitamin C.  Red leaf Lettuce is very high in antioxidants along with Vitamin A and Lutein.

Other vegetable options include: Peppers (One whole Bell Pepper equals one serving) & broccoli (one cup raw broccoli equals one serving; 1.5 to 3 cups of frozen broccoli equal one serving depending on if it is steamed or boiled in water).

Products derived from fruit:

-All Orange Juices are not made the same.  The higher the pulp amounts in the Orange Juice the higher value of nutrition is in the juice.  Be wary of "No Pulp" oranges juices because the process of removing the pulp and other process the juice is processed through remove nutritional value from the juice while also adding unnecessary flavoring and non-organic sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.  The longer the ingredients list is on the back label that is not actual fruit, the more "junk" has been added to the juice, diluting the nutritional value and making that juice more of a sugar drink than anything else.  These same guidelines can be applied to juices that claim to be derived from vegetables.

-Similar to what I stated above about Orange Juice, Apple Sauces have the same dilemma.  When you go to the local supermarket it is very difficult to find chunky apple sauce without a bunch of "junk" added into the product as "preservatives" to make it last longer.  When looking at the ingredients label, if there is anything else added to the Apple Sauce aside from Apples, Water and Ascorbic Acid, then you know the nutritional value has been diluted.  If you want to be fully sure of what you are buying is healthy, many local farmers markets from May through September have in stock organic chunky apple sauce OR you can buy a couple pounds of apples and make your own homemade apple sauce.

In conclusion, you do not need to buy a powder or spend hundreds of dollars on a juicing or shake diet program to get the necessary amount of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.  The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better your body will feel and function.  Don't be fooled by TV and internet ads making claims that you now know are not true: You CAN get 5-12 servings of fruits and vegetables every day on your own and for half the price of those products that commercials are pitching you on.

Sources/Further Reading:

-USDA Fruit servings Breakdown

-USDA Vegetable servings Breakdown

-Dr. Jim Stoppani: Choosing The Proper Foods for You

-Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State: Potassium Research

-Carrots: What you need to know

-Are Pickles Healthy To Eat?

-Colorado State University: Health Benefits and Safe Handling of Salad Greens