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Sunday
Oct212012

Should You Be Skipping Breakfast Everday?

Sometimes you can stumble onto a key learning by accident, and that has been my experience the past week with the notion of meal/nutrient timing.

One of my goals over the next few months is to (constructively) shed a few pounds and that led me to question the effectiveness of the amount of meals I was eating everyday.  Eating anywhere from 5-7 meals each day (depending on hunger) meant my body was almost constantly breaking down food and would usually not have much opportunity to feed off of stored body fats.

I've written on the benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF) previously, and still believe in its benefits with a targeted approach to fit within your schedule (both work/life schedule and training schedule).

After consulting with a few friends and one of my coaches at CrossFit Dilworth - I was led to a strategy that both combines the benefits of IF, as well as something called "Carb Backloading".

The simplest explanation of Carb Backloading (CBL) is that you save your carbohydrate meals for the end of the day, usually post-intense resistence training workout in an ideal scenario.  To optimize this sort of approach, Intermittent Fasting would also be employed, anywhere from two to four hours after waking.  Using IF first thing in the morning has benefits, minimizing the fat-storing effects that early morning cortisol has on your body. Conversely, eating a large meal (particularly one with sufficient "breakfast carbs") upon waking halts the fat burning enzymes present in the body in morning hours and primes the body to store fat soon thereafter.

I certainly don't expect anyone to take my word alone on a controversial topic like this one, so please begin with this article as you work to develop an opinion.

Common opinion has always been that one needs a "hearty breakfast" to "jumpstart your metabolism".  This has been my experience as well - however articles such as the one above (including the scientific data behind it) has caused me to rethink things.  Many people can't spend their days within 50 feet of a kitchen to eat every 2-3 hours.  IF and/or CBL gives people with busy schedules a certain degree of freedom from constant meal prep and eating throughout the schedule.

It is important to note that skipping breakfast does not mean going without the caloric allotment or macronutrients that would have been included in that meal.  When done correctly, IF/CBL mean that lunch and dinner will be sufficient enough to cover the calories and nutrients that would have previously been ingested at breakfast.

Old habits and lines of thinking die hard, so I would encourage anyone with doubts or fears to simply do what I did, and consume the research, articles, and testimonials with an open mind.  Even if still not converted, it's good to learn a little more about the nuances of the human body, particularly the interplay between fat burning harmones vs fat storage harmones, and how times of day affect both harmones.  It is never a bad thing to have a more strategic approach behind the foods we put into our bodies.

To get you started, I've included a few other write-ups here, here, here, and here.

 

Monday
Aug272012

Paleo Diet Update - 45 Day Report

It’s been 45 days since I overhauled my diet to a much more strict Paleo regimen, so I figured it was time for a check in to not only assess how things have been going, but share my key learnings as well. 

Overall, the diet (or “eating lifestyle” as some would say) has worked very well for me.  Like anything else, I have made a few mistakes here and there (some minor, some major) but those mistakes have led to more research, asking more questions, and has been key to finally hitting somewhat of a sweet spot.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have basically eliminated the “healthy” carbs like oatmeal and sweet potatoes.  As a grain, oatmeal has no place in a Paleo lifestyle however sweet potatoes can be fine in moderation, or used selectively if one is a highly-active athlete (think CrossFit or endurance/triathlete).

As written in Robb Wolf’s book, I have limited my fruit intake to one serving per day.  This used to be a banana (pre-workout) or an apple, but those are higher sugar fruits so I have maintained strictly blueberries as my fruit serving, usually as an after-dinner dessert.

Key Mistakes:

1 – Not paying enough attention to protein sources

For years I have kept turkey meatballs from the grocery store as a part of my weekly shopping menu. They are ready-made and convenient, plus they are easy to track when counting calories. When discussing my energy levels with the group at my CrossFit gym, one smart girl questioned whether or not these turkey meatballs contained enough protein.  I checked the ingredients list (red flag: too many “ingredients”) and among the first few elements were enriched wheat flour, and bread crumbs. Same was true for the ready-made turkey burgers I was getting from the store. 

I didn’t eat a single one of them from that point on, and committed to cooking more legitimate and wholesome ground turkey.  Eventually I added protein sources like lamb, bison, and organic grass-fed ground beef.

2 – Not getting enough fat.

This probably should have been #1, as it is the single biggest key so far in making sure that my workouts not only have enough fuel to be sufficient, but can make improvements.  One article helped clearly illustrate for me just how important dietary fat can be in the absence of dietary carbs.  The metaphor I would use is that if the body is a fireplace or grill, protein can be burned for energy (like wooden logs or charcoal).  Dietary or muscular protein can be converted into glucose (fat cannot) but dietary fat is the kerosene or lighter fluid needed to help ignite the process.

One of the single worst CrossFit WODs I’ve had came the morning after doing a horrible job in getting enough fats into my meals.  My performance that day was so sluggish that even I had to laugh and make jokes with one of our coaches after it was done.  But even through the brutality, I had learned a crucial Paleo lesson – if you want to be an active individual, getting enough dietary fat is of maximum importance.

What am I eating?

A standard day’s eating looks something like this…

Breakfast: 4 scrambled eggs + ½ avocado

Mid-morning: ½ avocado + 4-5 pieces turkey bacon

Lunch: 8oz ground turkey or lamb + vegetables (mixed greens, asparagus, broccoli, etc) with LOTS of olive oil. May also add ½ avocado if training later in the day

Mid-afternoon: repeat of lunch, with ½ avocado

*If there is a training session scheduled later (usually 5:30 or 6:30pm), the last bite of the mid-afternoon meal goes down no closer than 2 hours before my WOD begins. Through trial and error I have discovered this is the window of time when my body can completely digest a solid meal and be ready to train without issues.

Pre-CrossFit WOD: 5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil and/or almond butter

*Taken usually 90 minutes before I train, this has become a great way to top off my energy stores heading into an intense training session.  It usually takes 45 minutes before my body feels the energy surge from something being ingested, but I allow an hour and a half due to fat being slower digesting/loading than fast-acting sugary carbs would be.

Post-WOD: Protein shake + amino acids

Dinner: Rotisserie Chicken + vegetables

*If still hungry close to bed time I may down 1-2 tbsp of almond butter and half a protein shake.

 

Thanks to the above, my energy levels have never been better.  While I am tired at points from the intense training, I no longer have the sleepy energy crashes I would get at my office desk after polishing off one of those giant 32oz smoothies that I loved so much.

I’ve also lost an inch from my abs (read: gut) and waist since a measurement 5 weeks ago.  People claim that I look leaner, and I do seem to fit better into shirts that were too tight before I started. I have also lost 8 pounds since I first began.

As previously mentioned, I’ve tried almost every dietary philosophy out there.  This is the first time I have experienced success in all phases (workouts, body composition, scale weight).

Some say that this diet is too restrictive, but personally I am enjoying the fact that grocery shopping is very simplistic since I know exactly what to buy. There is very little guess work.  There is also no time spent worrying about portion control as one would on Weight Watchers or similar philosophies.  Lowered carbohydrate eating (with an assumption of a reasonably-active lifestyle) allows a person to take in a greater volume of food than they are typically used to, as the body metabolically processes protein, veggies, and good fats differently (read: more efficiently) than heavier foods like grains, dairy, or lots of sugars.

Needless to say, things have gone very well thus far in the first 6 weeks and I am excited to see what happens both in-terms of bodily changes, and my CrossFit training as things continue to get dialed in. 

I don't foresee abandoning the Paleo lifestyle any time soon, and look forward to another check-in or status update a couple months from now.

Saturday
Jul142012

Paleo Diet - Revisited

As you may know from reading, I've tried (or experimented with) quite a few dietary philosophies. 

 

I've done Intermittent Fasting...Low Carb...Vegetarian...Vegan/Raw Foods...and also Paleo.  

 

I've been eating a Paleo style for probably 8-10 months, but still haven't seen the changes in my body or weight that I would like.  As is usual case, the first step is not to analyze what might be wrong with the diet, but what's off-center about my discipline.

 

Thanks to a few friends (yes they're CrossFitters) I've come to realize that the carb intake in my diet is still too high.  To fuel for the brutal CrossFit WODs, I've been eating close to 2 sweet potatoes, 1-2 bananas, an apple, and occasionally 1 cup of oatmeal on an average day.  The leap of faith I've struggled to make with true low carb Paleo eating is to reduce the carb intake down to 1 fruit serving per day. 

 

The biggest question, at least for me has been - where does my energy come from?

 

Low carb Paleo eating relies much more on health fats (increased volume) to re-train the body from being a sugar burner (carbs in the system become glucose in the blood stream, to be used by our active mucles) to becoming a fat burner.  Most of us carry around many extra pounds of stored energy on our bodies (hips, belly, thighs, etc).

 

The tough part of this eating style is that it takes a while for the body to acclimate from receiving so many carbs/sugar calories for energy.  One of the best metaphors I heard was to think of it much like a computer trying to download new software or a spyware virus firewall.  There is a measure of time required for the system to register the update before it becomes new and improved.  Typically this time period sounds like 2 weeks on average, but obviously everyone's body and metabolic system differs,

 

I read "Paleo Solution" by Robb Wolf on a plane trip this past week, which was a great source in trying to figure out where to begin. Robb is one of the preimenent sources on Paleo eating.  He also pointed to a colleague, Charles Poliquin who advises his beginner Paleo clients to go with a "meat and nuts" breakfast (ex: deli turkey + almonds).   Mostly this is to ease in simplicity of execution for beginners.

 


You may ask - "So what are you now eating?"

 

Gone (for the intermediate future) are the bananas, apples, and bowls of oatmeal.  The Green Tea smoothies are also out (this is the toughest sacrifice to make).

 

In their place, I am eating 1-2 avocados each day (usually cut in half with each meal). I'm also trying to up the amounts of almonds, and olive oil (or similar-based dressings on salands).

 

There are literally hundreds of diet books and websites out there, but what does it for me is Real World application.  Two of my training buddies from CrossFit Dilworth lost close to 50 and 80 pounds respectively by eating Paleo style.

There are also several others I've met who report lost pounds of body fat, in addition to having much more stable and consistent energy levels during the day (versus the energy crashes that come with insulin drops from relying on carb sugar).

 

The goal is to stick with this plan of relying on healthy fat calories for energy through the 2 week "download" period and analyzing how I feel.  If things seem fine, the goal then becomes sticking with it  for the next two months throughout the summer.  I did one CrossFit WOD on this diet last week and reported a fine performance, the WOD would have been difficult with or without fruits and carbs for energy. I actually saw a few Paleo Food Trucks at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games this weekend, which was encouraging.

 

If things work out as well for me as they have for my friends, I'll be sure to follow up with results.  I also hope to do a separate post where my friends who have lost amazing amounts of weight share their strategies and hopefully help to inspire anyone else who isn't quite happy with what they see in the mirror, or how their clothes are fitting lately.

 

Until then, wish me luck every time I walk through the fruit isle at the grocery store or drive past the Smoothie shop.

Sunday
Jun102012

Fitness Spotlight - Dana Sorensen

Recently I traveled out to San Diego for business, and had the chance to catch up with a grad school friend -  Dana Sorensen. 

Dana always was a workout fanatic (I can call her this because it's something we have in-common) and it was great to see what she's been up to.  We hadn't caught up in-person in six years, but I caught some recent photos of her on Facebook and was blown away.

Dana was always an extremely fit person - but she has recently put her workouts in overdrive and looks fantastic.  For the rest of us who have miles to go to improve our bodies, I asked Dana to take a minute and help spell out some of the tactics that have helped her get into such amazing shape.

----------------------------------------------------------------

 

What’s your athletic background?

   I am a former softball player. I pitched at the Division I level for Stanford University.

I was lucky enough to have a successful college career which enabled me to compete for the women's national team. Following college I spent the next 6 years playing professional softball.

 
 

What is your coaching background?

I spent 5 years coaching Division I softball at UC-Davis and Oregon State. I was a volunteer for UNC while attending grad school there. Now I currently coach younger kids as a personal fastpitch pitching coach.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start my weekdays with my morning workout, which goes from about 9 - 11:30. we do a variety of exercises from TRX, kettlebells, pull ups, push ups, box jumps, battling ropes, prowler and much more. after my workout I usually have a couple hours off before I go to work. I teach kids from about 4 -8   every afternoon / evening. Sometimes if I am feeling up to it I will hit up the gym again before work for a quick bike or treadmill sprint workout. I have about 50 clients so my work schedule keeps me busy and on my feet a lot! 

 Credit: Talitha Noel Photography
 

What is your diet like most days?

I wake up and take my multi vitamin pills, followed by a protein shake with almond milk and usually a rice cake with almond butter. After breakfast I take my amino acid pills, with my Spark energy drink from Advocare. Post workout I have another protein shake. Lunch is usually eggs, cottage cheese, fruit and some almonds and sesame seeds. During work I take down a 3rd protein shake, or protein snack bar. Dinner is typically fish, veggies or a broth based soup of some sort, and of course after dinner is my chocolate treat of dark chocolate!

 

Credit: Talitha Noel PhotographyWhat are the significant changes you made in your diet that have given you such great results?

I think its the combination of less carbs later in the day, lots and lots of water, increase in protein, and supplements that have all combined to help me lose about 7% body fat over 2 months. 

 

Any workout or health supplements that have been a great benefit as well?


I use Advocare products and I think they have really helped me shed those last stubborn pounds and helped me put on a significant amount of muscle.  I have also become really addicted to HIIT training, especially anything involving Burpees or a Tabata of any kind. I love the TRX suspension straps for my ab work, never thought I would have defined abs.

 

 

Do you ever count your calories or monitor carbs?


I don't count my calories, but I do avoid high calorie items. my diet is protein heavy and nutrient heavy so I don't worry to much about calories. I have been a fairly healthy eater for years, now I just do a better job of limiting my cards and keeping my protein intake up to the level that my lean body mass needs. I am a Pescovatarian so red meat and poultry are off the table for me. that helps keep my calorie consumption lower.

 


What’s the one cheat/reward food you can’t live without?Credit: Talitha Noel Photography

 Sweets! Chocolate hands down! Me and my whole family are "chocoholics", and I refuse to let go of  enjoying that, ha ha.


 

Any role models or heroes in the fitness industry?

Jillian Michaels has been a big one for me, her intensity and commitment to being healthy and strong has really inspired me.  Other than her I guess I am lucky enough to have some friends that I look up to and aspire to be as disciplined as.

 

What’s your favorite exercise/activity?  What’s your least favorite?

I love but also equally hate Burpees, I think they are the single greatest exercise you can do. I have become obsessed with push ups and pull ups, I think moving your body weight is so crucial in training.  I don' t think I could live without my TRX or kettlebells. They both give you so many different training options.

 

Credit: Talitha Noel PhotographyWhat's your favorite workout apparel brand?

Hands down I am a Nike girl! I have played for and coached teams sponsored by Nike so I have plenty of Nike clothes and really like their dri-FIT line.

I wear Lunar Glides for training, but do use New Balance Minimus for kettlebell work.

 
 

 

 

 

If you could send a message to women out there about eating right, being afraid of weight training, taking more classes etc. what would it be?

My advice is to let go of the insecurities and get in there with the boys and throw some weight around. resistance training combined with HIIT is the way to go, the less attached you are to the machine the more fun you will have working out.

I think the class setting is a great way to get in good workout, I love to socialize like most women so its the best of both worlds.

As for eating healthy, I can say I spent too many years counting calories and it was way to stressful. learn about the nutrients in food and how it fuels you and let go of the numbers. 

Sunday
Apr012012

Interview with @FitnessChamp

 

I’m obviously no celebrity athlete or fitness model, but I do get lots of questions around my own eating habits, workout patterns, and which fitness sources have taught me the most. 

This is the only time that I’ll ever “self-interview”, so here you go…

What’s your athletic background?

I was a basketball player growing up, and that’s my first love.  GOD had other plans for my body type and picked up football my freshman year of high school.  I went on to play running back in college, and also ran track for three years, competing in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay.

 

What are you currently training for?

I ran two half-marathons within a month between October and November 2011, but am done with endurance events for the time being.  I trained hard but realized that endurance sports are just not what I am cut out for, both physically and psychologically. Several friends are avid CrossFitters and have been giving me the hard sales job to get me involved. The competitive-but-positive plus testosterone-fuled vibe keeps drawing me in little by little.

 

What does an average week’s workout look like?

I don’t get as much time as I’d like to dedicate toward my own workouts, but I do what I can with the time I have.  I try to go for intensity over duration, so I’m usually hitting some form of HIIT intervals or  tabatas on the bike or rowing machine for cardio.  I’m a big fan of Olympic-style lifts, so each week I try to hit some hang cleans, power cleans, push press, and dead lifts.  I’ll mix in some pull ups, heavy rope  work, and box jumps if available.  

As I mentioned,  I have several friends who are CrossFit addicts and have been giving me the hard sales pitch to join them soon, so this workout approach will keep me in close enough shape to hang with the group (hopefully anyways).  Once or twice each week I also add in some typical standard bodybuilding work, as well as some sprint work (100s, 200s, 400’s, court gassers) to maintain my capacity in that area as well.

 

Describe your fitness classes.

The best way to describe my classes would be 45-55 minutes of multi-faceted intervals and running drills, very similar to what you might see on infomercials for “Insanity” and “P90X”.  I try to model the workouts for a demographic that used to play sports in high school or college, and desire that style of training as adults compared to simply running on the treadmill, lifting weights alone, or logging repetitive sessions on the elliptical. I also try to make sure the playlist is continually up-to-date because if the women in class don’t like the music, they will turn on you quickly.

 

What does an average day’s eating look like?

It’s not inaccurate to say that I’ve tried almost every nutritional philosophy out there.  Currently (and perhaps for the foreseeable future) I’m sticking fairly close to a Paleo eating style.  Like I said, I work out in the mornings, so it’s either an empty stomach workout, or possibly a scoop of whey protein in water before heading out the door.  I used to down a banana, Gatorade Prime, and/or a gel before hitting the gym but while this was great for my performance, this was surely killing any fat loss goals I was after (due to the over-reliance on Simple Sugars).

Post-workout is usually another scoop of whey in water, then 3-4 scrambled eggs with some spinach, and a couple slices of lean turkey tossed in.  I’ll usually eat that with half a sweet potato (3-4oz).  Mid-morning snack is a protein shake with almonds or sunflower seeds,  then lunch is usually a few turkey meatballs with some green source like asparagus.  Depending on whether or not I have class in the evening, I may eat the second half of the sweet potato here.

Late afternoon might be some turkey jerky and sunflower seeds, with perhaps a tablespoon or two of almond or peanut butter.  If I’m teaching a class in the evening I’ll either repeat lunch, or go with a tuna pack and an apple. 

Dinner lately has been white fish (tilapia, cod) with steamed shredded cabbage (seasoned with oil & vinegar, lemon pepper seasoning, and mustard). “Dessert” is a blended smoothie with carrot juice, acai juice, whey protein, blackberries, almond butter, half an avocado, and 2-3 handfuls of spinach.  Sometimes I'll swap out the avocado for coconut milk as an alternative healthy fat source.

 

Must-have vitamins and supplements?

Standard: multi-vitamin, fish oil, vitamin B, vitamin D. 

Nice to have: vitamin A, BCAA (Scivation Xtend), chia seeds

 

What’s your favorite cheat food?

There is a local smoothie shop across the street from where I live, they make a Green Tea Smoothie with non-fat frozen yogurt that is my biggest guilty pleasure. I used to go 5-6 days a week, but chopped that down to once a week on Saturdays in an effort to tighten up my diet for fat loss goals.

If I am REALLY, legitimately cheating, I love French fries, pizza, and burritos. The funny thing however, is that once your diet really gets in-tune, these foods stop being as fun once you see them as set-backs from ultimately having the body you want.  You can eat almost anything once or twice a week, but the saying is true – nothing tastes as good as being lean feels.

 

Who are your favorite fitness follows on Twitter?

@JadeTeta, @JillFit, @RobRiches, @cutandjacked, @SPNetwork

Who are your other fitness inspirations?

The Rock (obviously), Greg Plitt (#1 male fitness model in the world), Mario Lopez, Georges St. Pierre, Pauline Nordin (creator of “Fighter Diet”, her dietary discipline is a tremendous motivator) and “normal” people like my friends Demi, Philip, Brendan, and Lyndsey.

 

What’s your biggest motivation?

Aside from the standard stuff like wanting to fit well in my clothes and like what I see in the mirror, long term health is very important.  I had a close relative battling colon cancer several years ago, and a few others with high blood pressure issues.  My eating habits were terrible in graduate school during my early 20’s, and I spend every day trying to undo the fat, unhealthy condition I was creating for myself.

 

What’s the one thing you wish you could share with others at the gym?

I'd tell them that More isn’t necessarily better

I see so many people (often the same faces) logging away hour after hour on the stairmaster or elliptical every week and their bodies never change.  People training for specific  events like a half-marathon or 5K certainly need to get their mileage in, but others wanting to shed pounds, or look good for the beach really need to learn that you can meet your goals in less time, by working smarter. 

For fat loss goals, intensity trumps time spent.  The body is not like a calculator, fat loss is more complex than eating 500 fewer calories and burning 500 calories more per day.  Things like stress hormones and insulin manipulation play a big role in whether or not one’s body will give up stubborn fat.  This is usually sad to see, because I see lots of effort and “want to” from people in the gym (or even jogging down the street), they just don’t have the proper tools and information to accomplish what they are working so hard to achieve.

Will you ever grant yourself another interview like this?

No way. This was an obnoxious thing to do and I'm ready to go back to interviewing other people.