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Green Monster Spinach Smoothies (part II)

In part I, we talked about whether or not you can put spinach in a blended smoothie.  Not only "can" you, but you should.

Dumping as many handfuls of spinach as will fit into a blender is a great way to increase your daily dose of leafy greens.  Everyone has their own special tastes for what works with a blended smoothie, or "Green Monster" - here is one of my recipies:

  • Spinach (2 handfuls)
  • Protein (1 scoop)
  • Oatmeal (1/2 cup measured dry)
  • NAKED juice (1 cup)
  • Blueberries
  • baby carrots
  • Ice

 Above is one of my regular go-to recipes before I have to hit the gym for a class plus longer workout or run.  Sometimes I'll add blackberries, a banana, flax seeds, or almond butter depending on what's available in the kitchen. There are also numerous other resources online for great "Green Monster" recipies.

Here's a recipe from another of the fitness/yoga instructors in Charlotte who you may see referenced again once in a while.  Her site is a firehose of information for you ladies who love yoga, running, and most of all healthy eating.

This woman has a cookies & cream version of a spinach smoothie.


Green Monster Movement is a pretty interesting project that you should check out for yourself when you get a minute.

Overall, the key takeaway is that if you haven't been adding spinach (or other leafy greens like kale) to your blended smoothies, you are really missing out on a great way to boost your daily intake of valuable vegetables and nutrients.

Get on it. 




The Raw Foods Experiment

Former UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar went from unstoppable force after his title unification win over Frank Mir last summer, to laid up in a hospital bed in early 2010.

What finally knocked Brock down to the canvas?  His diet. 

Lesnar developed a bacterial infection that turned into diverticulitis, which eventually ate a hole in his colon, spilling fecal matter into his abdomen (wow.)  The situation compromised his immune system to the degree that he contracted mono, and his loved ones feared the worst.

In the May 2010 issue of Muscle & Body magazine, Brock is fairly open with what led to his illness.

"I have changed the way I eat.  I've really cleaned my diet up.  I've added a lot more fiber to my diet, and also grouping my foods together has really helped.  It's made it easier for my digestive system to do its job and to get the most nutrients out of each and every meal.  This is a sickness that we've done to ourselves.  This is because of our western diets.  Our processed foods, I believe are a huge factor in what's creating a lot of cancer.  This thing has opened my eyes to a whole bunch of things."

Lesnar is fairly open that he probably "ate a whole cow in a year", and nutritionist PR Cole shared the estimation that Brock's meat-heavy diet probably led to his condition.

While I hesitate to use the term "cure", a Raw Food Diet goes a long way in helping the body's fiber requirements, as well as extracting even more of the best enzymes that are lost in fruits and vegetables once they are heavily cooked.

A few key notes from www.thebestofrawfood.com:

  • Cooking food above 115 degrees F kills the enzymes. Enzymes help you digest your food. Your body can create enzymes but that process takes a lot of energy. This makes you tired - remember how you feel after a heavy cooked meal? Further, the enzymes your body makes are not as good as the ones that were destroyed in the food. The food will not be broken down as well and thus harder to digest. 

  • It also changes the pH of the food and makes food acidic. We like to eat alkaline foods. Eating acidifying food makes your body acidic and thus a welcome feeding ground for disease.

    Without trying to download everything here, there is a litany of information on how to implement more raw foods into your everyday habits.  While I hate the term "diet", this eating philosophy has caught on amongst numerous celebrities, not only because of the health benefits, but cosmetic benefits as well.

    I highlighted the "Raw Model" Anthony Anderson previously, but the most notable celebrities who promote this sort of nutrition philosophy seem to be Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore

    There's probably a lot of crossover between raw foods and veganism, here's an article interview with Harrelson's former trainer Jon Hinds conducted an informative interview here.  I also stumbled onto a pretty interesting site - No Meat Athlete.

    Well, if you've read this far I can only assume you hve clicked on a few of the informative links and done your own research by now.  With regards to the question "how do I get started?" it is actually simple (and shouldn't clean eating be simple?)

    Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.  Eat foods as close to their natural states as you can (wash them when necessary of course).  And obviously by now you should have noticed a theme on this site with regards to utilizing the blender to combine your raw healthy foods into a smoothie.

    As for me, I will likely be combining my two "experiments" into one.  The early parts of the day will be largely raw foods (grapefruit, almonds, sunflower seeds, salad, whey protein) until dinner time.  Dinner will then be vegetarian (beans, brown rice, egg whites, oatmeal) though in the interest of full disclosure, there will probably be a few peices of fish eaten during the week.

    My hope is to stick to this, at least for a month into July and see how it goes.  Hopefully both the health results and performance results will be positive. 



    The Vegetarian Experiment

    If you've read this site frequently enough, you can probably tell I am one for dietary experimentation.  Well, my current experiment has taken me to a place where I am interested in learning more about the "herbivore vs carnivore" debate. 

    Within a week, I realized that quite a few of my friends (4-5) were vegetarians, not including my own dad.  Each of these friends were what I would consider to be "healthy/athletic" people, both in-terms of lifestyle and body types.  This caused me to want to investigate things a little further (which is why Google is my favorite website).

    Rather than re-state all of my interesting findings one-by-one, and turn this into a scholarly research article, I'd rather give the top-line, most interesting findings, and share my sources.

    I found out that our human bodies have much more in-common with herbivores (plant-based eaters) than carnivores (meat-based eaters).

    Intestinal tract - carnivores have intestinal tract lengths almost twice the length of herbivores.  This is relevant because lots of times, meat can turn rancid after 4-5 days, thus the longer an intestinal tract...the longer it sits in your system....possibly turning rancid.  (Eww.)

    Acidity - it requires more acidity to break down meats for digestion.  Carnivores have much more acidic stomachs and saliva than do herbivores.  Apparently that of humans falls more in-line with herbivores.

    Teeth - most carnivores (wolves, lions, bears, etc) have sharp front teeth and powerful jaws, but no flat molars meant for chewing. Carnivores have the inverse teeth description.  Guess which matches human beings more closely.

    As I said, rather than attempt to re-state every interesting finding, I'd prefer to point you to a few of the notable articles and websites and let you gather your own conclusions.




    As I've written previously, I was also influenced by the story of Atlanta Falcons' all-pro tight end Tony Gonzalez.  You can read the details here, but basically he had a couple health scares years ago while playing for the KC Chiefs.  On a plane ride, he was turned onto the book, The China Study and had his entire attitude towards meat as a part of his diet changed instantly.  While Tony Gonzalez is not a "strict" vegetarian, I am always a fan of people (athletes especially) who are willing to experiment and have open minds in the pursuit of the best health practices possible. His learnings eventually led to co-authoring a book based on his nutritional findings for athletes.

    There are also other high-level athletes who have decided to jettison meat from their diets, like Milwaukee Brewers all-star Prince Fielder and UFC's Mac Danzig.

    Danzig isn't the only mixed martial artist having success with a meatless lifestyle, Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields is also a vegetarian.

    It's not just athletes who have found health and performance benefits in eliminating meat from their eating habits.  A few of my favorite music artists like Common, Erykah Badu, The Roots, and Andre 3000 are vegetarians to one degree or another.

    As I've maintained, this is far from a finished conclusion in my eyes.  I don't really have a stance on things like activism or PETA necessarily. However after having a family member battle a form of cancer that is often-times attributed to dietary habits, the benefits of eliminating (or at least reducing) meat from my diet are tough for me to ignore.  As I touched on earlier, a meat-heavy diet can be very acidic and harmful for the digestive system.  I'll get into some pro-active measures and how they've helped the former UFC heavyweight champion in my next article.


    How did you get fat?

    Maybe this is the most interesting title I've had so far, but it's a bit misleading.

    Basically I'd like to take you through the eating habits I had until the age of 25 that caused me to gain weight and get fat.

    Like most people who were competitive athletes their entire lives, I never gave any consideration to food choices or portion control.  I ate what I wanted, whenever I wanted, and as much of it as I wanted.  I always burned everything off playing sports (basketball, football, track & field).

    I began literally EVERY day with a giant bowl of cereal.  Cereal was my favorite food.  Frosted Flakes, Cap'n Crunch, Wheaties, Lucky Charms, the entire Cheerios family, Frosted Mini Wheats, I ate it all.  Plus I used the largest bowls I could find, a popcorn bowl or salad bowl was barely big enough.  Add in the fact I always used either 2% or Whole Milk and it isn't tough to figure out why I battled allergies and severe nasal congestion until my late twenties.  If somehow I wasn't eating cereal, then it was either a stack of Eggo Waffles (tons of syrup) or my mom's pancakes, which really are worthy of some sort of pancake-tasting contest if such a thing exists.

    Snacks were nothing original - Pringles potato chips (Sour Cream & Onion), Doritos (Cool Ranch), Oreos, Pop Tarts, Skittles, Jolly Ranchers, usual "junk food".

    My meals (if you can even call it that) were also junk-heavy.  My Mount Rushmore of Junk Food looks like this:

    • McDonald's Quarter Pounder w/ large fries & Coke
    • Domino's pizza (cheese & sausage) w/ dozen buffalo wings + 2 bottles Miller High Life
    • General Tso's Chicken w/ steamed white rice
    • Bojangles' chicken supremes w/ seasoned fries, sweet tea

    *If Mount Rushmore had 5 heads I'd add a Philly cheesesteak from East Boulevard Bar & Grill in Charlotte.

    I also LOVED fries.  Love might even be too mild of a term.  It wasn't unusual for me to be on a car trip and decide halfway down the highway that a large fry and chocolate or vanilla milkshake would make a good "snack" during the drive.

    Wendy's deserves lots of credit too.  Their "Late Night Menu" became a good friend my first few years after college, I'd drive 2 miles to the next exit and get an order of nuggets, fries (of course), and a Biggie Frosty.  For a change of pace some nights I might just eat a handful of little marshmellows out of the cabinet before bed.

    This is getting like an awards acceptance speech, since I am forgetting too many old friends. 

    Ramen Noodles were a big staple during the post-college years.  I learned a trick from my college girlfriend about making "baked spaghetti", so I used Ramen along with sliced chicken nuggets, a handful of mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce to make a type of lasagna.

    Please don't over-look the shoutout to sweet tea earlier.  Bojangles' had the best (read: sweetest) tea with Chick-Fil-A pulling in second.  I actually used to have my mom make a half gallon of sweet tea and bring it back to college.  If I had no sweet tea in the house, I'd keep an empty Gatorade bottle of Kool Aid in the fridge so I could get my liquid sugar fix that way.

    This is probably gratuitious at this point - but I think you get the general idea.  People (especially co-workers) wonder why I am such a healthy eater, and why I am so disciplined about what goes into my body.  The reason is because of 25 years' worth of piling garbage into my body with no regard for health or athletic performance.  Who knows what type of athlete I could have been with even a rudimentary understanding of nutrition, or conversely the hazards of a diet heavy in starchy grains, sugars, dairy, and fried things.

    It wasn't until during my first year in graduate school that roommate and friend (yes I am name-dropping here) Wes Miller told me "Dude, you're getting fat!?"  I couldn't believe it, but the mirror rarely lies, and the truth hurts.  Friends don't tell you what you want to hear, they tell you what you NEED to hear.  And I needed to hear that.

    I didn't look like the Nutty Professor (yet) but I was surely headed there.  My six-pack had disappeared and my waist size was up to 36.  When I left grad school I weighed in at 193.

    Today I'm back to a 32 and weighing between 178-180.  The points I wanted to make with this post were that we're all human and love crappy foods.  I was no different.  However please use the above eating lifestyle as a sample of how easily nutritional ignorance and lack of discipline can have you standing in-front of the mirror wondering how you got fat, just like I did.


    How do I get lean? Part 3 - Intermittent Fasting

    Today I started a dietary adjustment called Intermittent Fasting (we'll refer to it as IF moving forward).  There is a TON of information available through Google so I'm going to stick to the broad strokes here. 

     In simplest terms, IF (as used and coached by Martin Berkhan) consists of 16 hours of fasting, with an 8 hour "eating window".  Most people completely freak out when the topic of fasting for fat loss (or cleansing for that matter) comes up, so I won't spend time trying to dispel any of your previously-held concerns or fears.  What I'll stick to here is (1) sharing some of the information I've found on the topic (2) the points of interest I've discovered and (3) my plan. 

    Here are a few points to consider when you either think about (or immediately dismiss) IF as a tool in your plan to get lean for the summer.

     1 - There are cleansing benefits to small-to-moderate periods of fasting.

    Since I am not a scientist, I won't attempt to boil down the mountain of evidence and studies to this point.  I'd invite you to perform your own Google search on keywords like "fasting health benefits", "fasting detox", and "fasting+colon+intestines".

    2 - It's not unheard of for active people to remain active during periods of fasting

    I never considered this originally, but many times of active people inadvertently go through periods of Intermittent Fasting while still remaining active.  Surfer Laird Hamilton awoke me to this fact when outlining his training habits and diet on an episode of "Insider Training" on FitTV.  Paraphrasing, he basically said that he only has a shot of espresso before leaving the house in the mornings before his surfing and mountain biking.  He said that digesting food requires energy from the body (true) and whatever foods he attempts to scarf while headed out the door for training won't be absorbed by the muscles fast enough to be of use anyway.

    I also have a marathoner friend who told me she rarely eats anything before hitting the road in the mornings as well.  She places a much greater emphasis on eating a nutritionally substantial dinner the night before. 

    In this same context, think about young teenage athletes who play hours upon hours of basketball during the summers without stopping for a PowerBar or a protein shake.  I also recalled my own experience as a college football player when breakfast would be at 7-8am and I wouldn't have a touch of food (save for a few gulps of Powerade) until close to 5-6pm that evening.

    3 - Psychologically, IF is easier than grazing.

     I have tried nearly every diet and fat loss "philosophy" out there.  Many are more similar than they are different.  But the one consistent between IF-style philosophies like Eat-Stop-Eat and The Warrior Diet when compared against the traditional 5-6 meals per day grazing philosophy is psychological ease.  When I've been focused on "portion control" and monitoring the amount of calories in each individual meal, things are not as difficult as one might think.  However there is a substantial difference in the mental relaxation that comes with knowing I can (within reason) forget about meal size during my 8-hour eating window. Silly example, but I don't have to weigh a "handful" of almonds to make sure it's cut off at 1oz.  I don't need to measure each peice of salmon or chicken or cup of oatmeal.

    4 - Calories in vs Calories out STILL matters

            This is perhaps the MOST important point, and needed to follow the points made in #3.  One of the biggest mistakes people make in any diet philosophy (low carb, low fat, Atkins, Warrior Diet, etc) is that periods of fasting mean they can throw all regard for caloric intake out the window.  I made this same mistake with my first trial of the Warrior Diet.  I forgot what is perhaps the first rule of dieting for fat loss - calories in versus calories out ALWAYS matters.  If you are eating more than your body needs, you won't lose weight.  You will possibly gain weight.

    5 - Food choices still matter

    This shouldn't be a necessary point to make, but I'll make it anyway.  You'll get much further in your quest to have the body you want when eating clean foods (lean proteins, tons of vegetables/fruit, healthy nuts, seeds) versus junk food with lots of white starches, sugars, fried things, and artificial elements.

    There are a number of other sources available online that can help you educate yourself about the benefits of intermittent fasting, both for fat loss and overall health.  Rather than re-word some of the writings myself, I'd rather steer you to sources like Martin Berkhan's Leangains website that have helped me tremendously.  Pay attention to the sections about topics like leptin (basically the hormone that serves as the thermometer for your metabolism) and fat mobilizing hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine.

     As for my approach each day, it will look something like this:

    5am-12noon - Fasting

    12pm - some combination of almonds, sunflower seeds, grapefruit, apple, salad, green beans

    2pm & 4:30pm - same as above (goal is less than 1/2 of daily caloric amount)

    6pm - Workout and/or group fitness instruction

    8pm - Largest Meal: salmon or chicken, brown rice, blended protein drink with spinach/berries

    Tomorrow is day 2 in my second trial with IF, I'll be sure to log progress and follow-up with successes, failures, and key learnings.