Hello Western Racquet members! My name is Taylor Erholtz, a Dietetic Intern through the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay. Upon completion of my internship at Western in May, I will be able to take the Registered Dietitian Exam and become a Licensed Registered Dietitian. I love all things nutrition and hope to make an influence in whatever route I take in my future career in nutrition. I have had the amazing opportunity to intern at Western for 4 weeks. By the time you read this post I will be gone, however I hope my time there was as influential for you as it was for me. The atmosphere here is inspiring, not only because of the family-like culture, but because of the strong passion and commitment each member and staff has here.

During my time, I had a discussion with someone regarding their metabolism. Now I know, the word metabolism can be a troubling issue for people. I think in today’s wellness world it is constantly thrown around, when in reality so many people do not even know what our metabolism is and how it is affected by so many things throughout our life. So, I wanted to take this chance to talk about what our metabolism is and how it functions, some of the most common metabolism myths, and what are ways to improve its capacity.

“Metabolism refers to a series of chemical reactions that occur in a living organism to sustain life”. When we eat carbohydrates, protein, and fats, our body converts that food into energy (measured in calories). The energy through food helps support daily life functions and physical activity in addition to digesting food, breathing, eliminating waste from your body, building muscle, and providing nutrients to cells. Our metabolism is what breaks down or builds up the energy given to us through two ways: catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism involves breaking down larger molecules into smaller ones, releasing energy. Anabolism involves building up or synthesizing compounds, requiring energy. The rate at which we burn calories (or energy) is called your metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is what most people think of when references their metabolism. Two numbers that are important are Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the number of calories required to sustain essential body function, and Active Calories, the calories burned during physical activity.

Myth 1: Our metabolisms are permanent

Our metabolism can be affected by many different factors like activity level, hormones, muscle mass, body temperature, food intake, and body size.

Myth 2: Our metabolisms worsens as we age

There is minimal impact on metabolism as we age. I know I have heard many times that someone’s metabolism is slowing down because they are getting older. That is not most likely the case since our calorie needs do not start to change until we are in our 60s, and even then there is not a big change.

Myth 3: Someone with more body fat has a slower metabolism than those who have less body fat.

The larger the body, the more energy it typically takes to support movement and basic functions. To understand, if two people are doing the same exercise, the person with more body mass with most likely burn more calories, in turn increasing their metabolic rate.

Myth 4: Eating breakfast increases my metabolism

Although breakfast is important to start your day with energy, breakfast itself does not increase your metabolism. Your metabolism is more affected by the total amount of food a person eats through the day than by the time those calories are eaten.

With all of this in mind, who do we improve our metabolism?

1. Exercise: Exercising increases the number of calories you burn, thus improving your metabolism. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week (30 min/day), or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week (15 min/day).

2. Eat your protein: Protein has the highest thermic effect of food which refers to the increase in your metabolism after eating. For basic protein needs, we recommend 0.8 grams protein/kilogram of body weight. 1.2-2 grams of protein/kilogram is ideal for recovery and muscle building.

3. Build muscle: Exercise that includes strength-training increases muscle mass which can improve the metabolism. Muscle requires calories to function properly.

4. Improve daily activity: Exercise and physical activity are different. If you find it hard to fit exercise into your day, try to increase the number of daily activities throughout your day like doing chores, walking the dog, laundry, going up and down the stairs, and making your bed.

5. Get more sleep: probably the most underrated aspect is lack of sleep and its negative impact on your metabolism. Lack of sleep is also related to increased blood sugar levels. Try to aim for the recommended 8 hours of sleep, however find what amount works best for your body.

With anything in life, it is always sensible to consult with a professional to help your diet and lifestyle, especially with a certified dietitian. Setting goals will help improve so many aspects of our lives. I hope the information I provided gave you even a tidbit information to help adapt into your life today. Best of luck in your nutrition journey!

Water is key for a healthy body! Hydrate the body for optimal training!
Water is essential for life and it becomes even more important when it comes to exercise. Our bodies are roughly 60% water, so it is no wonder why staying adequately hydrated is so important to overall health. We hear general recommendations to drink eight 8-ounce glasses a day, but that number increases even more when we work out. Water lost during workouts varies, however sweat loss can be tracked by measuring weight immediately before and after working out.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise, to promote adequate hydration and allow time for the body to excrete any excess water. Water helps move waste products out of the joints and from our muscles, in turn reducing pain and improving flexibility.
When you work out, you should add 12-15 ounces of additional water to your daily total for every 30 minutes that you work out.
Benefits of water: 
  1. Improves physical performance - Dehydration during exercise can lead to altered body temp control, increased fatigue, reduced motivation, and fogginess. Since muscle is around 80% water, you can see the impact your hydration status has on your workout.
  2. Effects brain function and energy levels - headaches, lack of concentration, and impaired mood are all caused by fluid loss. Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of dehydration.
  3. Keeps your bowels moving - Constipation can occur when there is a lack of water throughout the day.
  4. Aid in weight loss - Water can help increase fullness and boost metabolic rate. Drinking even a half hour before meals can help you feel fuller so you eat fewer calories.
Water FAQs:
Does water temperature have an effect on your health? Should I drink room temperature water or cold water?
-It all comes down to personal preference. Water in general helps increase metabolism by your body having to work to heat the water you drink. Drinking more water increases blood volume to then get more oxygen and nutrients to cells and carry out more waste. In general, you just want to consume plenty of water to stay hydrated, no certain temperature required!
Is tap water bad for you?
- Tap water is safe and healthy to drink! It is the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and convenient way to stay hydrated. All public water systems are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency which check for contaminants that would pose any serious health risks. You can also add tap filters or buy filtered water containers for an additional level of filtration.
Do filter water bottles really work?
- Yes! Certain filters purify the water directly once you pour it into the bottle, while others do it while you're drinking.
Strength coach Charlies Poliquin says, "Hydration is the greatest determinant of strength. A drop of 1.5% in water levels translates to a drop of 10% in maximal strength." So, get to filling up those water bottles! Happy hydrating! 

Part 3: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you.

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read Part 1 & Part 2 prior to moving on to this section.

With that, read on for the top foundational fitness mistakes and how to fix them:

These next two points (#5 and #6) are often the first things people contemplate and seek advice on when they want to advance their progress in the gym. Note that these points are lower on the list because changes in these will yield little results unless points #1 through #4 are addressed first. It is only after you have established a fitting and sustainable approach to fitness that you can address these following points. Ensure your approach to fitness considers activities you enjoy, goals that make sense, recovery that sustains you, and focus during your fitness routines before being concerned with the following points.

 

Error #5: You make it to the gym, but possibly too much or not enough.

Frequency of your workouts is a major consideration in many fitness circles. When discussing it, the image of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is always comes to mind. You don’t want it to be too much or too little – but “just right”.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Sometimes, it seems the messaging from health and fitness influencers says “more is better”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. With any form of physical activity, there is a point at which increasing your frequency or total volume will not result in any further benefit. In fact, surpassing this limit of maximal benefits can result in regression (not to mention increased risk for injury, illness, and many other issues. Especially if intense activity is overdone). If you recall point #3, recovery is just as important, if not more so, than the effort and activity itself. The point at which no added benefit is gained from increasing exercise frequency/volume is known as “the point of diminishing returns”. In a practical interpretation, this could mean that weightlifting 3-4 times per week is your “sweet spot” for increasing strength, for example. For this individual, lifting weights any more during the week would only interfere with their recovery and likely lead to loss in strength and possibly even injury. While the example I provided is for lifting weights, this principle applies to all forms of fitness.

In other words, there is truly “too much of a good thing”. It’s true. Doing “all the right things” too often can actually hinder your ultimate progress. Spending too much time and effort on “perfecting” a singular piece of your fitness won’t necessarily be the fastest path to results. Sometimes the “scenic route” will yield the best outcomes. For example, a runner may think that the best, and only, way to improve their running pace may be to simply run. It has been shown, though, that performing various weightlifting and agility drills can help enhance speed and power while decreasing risk of injury in runners. From this perspective, including variety in your training won’t just make you a more well-rounded athlete, but a better athlete at your activity of choice.

With that being said, all forms of activity need a minimum frequency and volume of training to result in noticeable progress. While I wish I could give the “magic number” of times you should generally work out each week to maximize progress, any number I would give would be a gross oversimplification. Every person has a different threshold for volume of activity and making progress. This threshold is based on the activity they do, their ability to recover, their genetic potential for said activity, their diet, and much more. To help guide you, I would like to provide you with a rule of thumb: If you currently do an activity or exercise consistently, have not made any noticeable progress within the last couple weeks or month, but also find that you are consistently feeling fully rested and recovered, you are probably ready to explore increasing your frequency. Note: this ONLY applies of you aren’t making progress AND are consistently recovering.

While I know that this is a very broad approach to finding your ideal frequency to train, this is going to be your best method to discovering your individual needs and limitations. Struggling to find that training “sweet spot”? Consider talking to a Western personal trainer about how your current routine could be tweaked to accelerate your progress.

 

Error #6: Your nutrition could be better… and not in the way you think.

“I’d hit my gym goals if I could just stop eating carbs/sugar/junk.”

“It would be so much better if I had more self-control with food.”

“I just need to eat less calories. It’s all just calories in, calories out.”

“I think keto/intermittent fasting/[insert popular diet here] will be the key I’ve been looking for.”

In the fitness community, nutrition seems to be the center of conversation quite often. Just as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, it seems that we also seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when it comes to nutrition. Take it from a dietitian: nutrition does not need to be complicated. In fact, the belief that you just need to cut out a particular food or follow a certain diet to be fit or healthy only serves to overcomplicate nutrition.

It seems that every year is accompanied by the next new “diet hack” that is guaranteed to make you thinner, leaner, stronger, faster, etc. Despite each “diet breakthrough” spreading like wildfire, it seems that it never sticks long before the next is announced. Case in point; For much of the 1980s and 1990s, eating low-fat was the key to ideal health and fitness. Across grocery stores, low-fat versions of everyone’s favorite foods could be found. Now entering the 2010s and 2020s, a diet that is low-carb (Hello, Keto!) is the key to ideal health. Those very same low-fat foods that filled the shelves have now been replaced by high-fat and low-carb alternatives. Anyone else suspicious about the flip in script?

Hidden underneath the shouts of these “revolutionary diets”, you may have heard the quiet but unchanging mantra of many nutrition professionals, “eat a balanced diet, including a variety of fruits and vegetables.” Is this advice revolutionary, breakthrough, or grabbing any headlines? No. But it never changes, and that is for good reason. This advice, though not exciting, is consistently true. I hate to break it to you, but there is no magic pill, no revolutionary diet, or perfect food. Our human biology has developed over many, many years. As a result, it is unlikely that we will simply discover a way to “hack” our incredibly smart, complicated body. For some, this news may be disappointing. You may not even want to believe it and continue to hold on to hope that the next new diet will be your secret key. Perhaps for some, though, this may be a relief. It may be reassurance that you can stop your searching and rest easy knowing that eating doesn’t have to be complicated.

Despite this, I can still assure you that there are tips and tricks to change your diet for improved fitness and even just general health. Thankfully, these points are short and simple enough to fit on the following bullet points:

Nutrition can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. Know that there’s no such thing as a “bad” or “wrong” diet. There are certainly different ways to eat that may or may not support whatever outcome or goal you desire, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with any particular food choices. When in doubt, the smallest and most sustainable changes to your current nutrition habits will have the longest-reaching and most significant impacts.

Part 2: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.  

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you. 

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read part 1 prior to moving on to this section, which you can find here.

Error #3: You aren’t chasing your dreams.

Now that you’ve chosen workouts that you love and have goals that align with these activities, it’s time to start focusing on how to continue fueling yourself for these activities. Points #1 and #2 focus on the fitness activities and goals we choose, because this sets the course for our fitness journey. If we are consistently active and working towards goals we care about, we have the foundation needed to make progress. From here, we need to consider other factors in our days and lives that will either accelerate or hinder our fitness progress.

There are many different variables that may come to mind when I say that recovery is critical to making fitness progress. Many health and fitness experts would agree that the quality of your recovery matters more than the actual effort made in they gym when it comes to making progress. This point should not be overlooked, so read it again if you need to. It is very intentional that this point is the very next fundamental to follow up your activity and goal selection.

Don’t believe that your recovery is just as important, if not more so, than your effort in the gym? Consider this: all forms of exercise are a physical stressors. The common lesson many of us receive regarding how a muscle grows and gets stronger stands as an excellent example. As you may have heard, damage is done to a muscle as it works. This damage is known is “microtraumas” or “microtears”. When the body repairs this damage, it is supposed to grow back bigger and stronger. While this is an oversimplification of the process, at its core it is true. Considering this, you may realize how significant recovery is. Without the recovery or repair process, the muscle simply remains damaged. In this case, you’re not just delaying progress but possibly causing regression. It is for this reason that significant progress in any fitness endeavor demands adequate rest and recovery.

With that in mind, we must address sleep. Sleep is the cornerstone of our health. Without adequate sleep, nearly all your health and fitness efforts will be more like an uphill battle. During sleep, your body and brain are restored and repaired from a full, exhausting day. The more you miss out on this opportunity to reset and recover, the less motivated you’ll feel and the less energy you will have for nearly anything else.

Unfortunately, there are many different things that can interfere with our ability to get a good night of sleep. Stress, blue light from screens, caffeine intake, or any number of factors can seriously hinder our ability to drift off to dreamland. Feel like your sleep needs some improvements? Check out this link to find tips for improving your sleep from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Error #4: You make it to the gym, but you aren’t present for the workout.

At this point, you are certain that you have picked forms of exercise you enjoy, you have set goals that keep you coming back to these activities to seek progress, and you are getting enough sleep to recover from all the hard work you put in. This next rule focuses on your mindset in the gym. More specifically, we are concerned with the principle of prioritizing ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you spend in the gym, but how intentional you are about working towards your goals. To put it bluntly, nobody ever hit their fitness goals staring at their phone. Distractions during our workouts diminish the quality of our workouts and the benefits we will receive from them. Among the top offenders for distractions: phones and stress.

If you find yourself getting sucked into your phone during your usual time for fitness, it may be time to find ways to distance yourself from the phone. If that isn’t a possibility (perhaps you listen to your music through your phone or need to be close to your phone for work), it may be worth at least exploring options to reduce distractions. For some, putting the phone on ‘airplane mode’ or silencing notifications is enough. For others, it may mean putting the phone in the locker or the gym bag. Can’t quite part with your phone during a workout? Try to at least leave it on the other side of the gym. This way, you may be less tempted to pick it up as often.

If you find stress is the main culprit distracting you during your workouts, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with balancing busy schedules and various responsibilities, more than a few of which tend to creep into our mind during our fitness time. In this scenario, having routines or strategies to create a ‘mind-shift’ into fitness mode can be very helpful. Sometimes it may be as simple as having a favorite playlist of music to blast in your headphones. Other times, it may require some creativity. Having a routine or ritual to your workout can help you get into the proper headspace. Some people feel they need an activity that is mentally challenging and stimulating, like boxing or playing basketball with someone else, to pull them out of their headspace and into the present. Other people sometimes find that changing the time of the day that they workout can be a simple fix to stress-levels and distractions. For some, the morning workout is too stress-inducing to squeeze into an already-packed morning schedule. For others, the evening workout is too difficult, as they still have thoughts from work swirling in their head and find they can’t focus. Finding your sweet-spot may take some trial-and-error.

Still feel that you’re struggling to manage your stress and finding that it is hindering your fitness goals? Contact a Wellness Coach here at Western to see if we can help you find effective stress-reducing strategies!

Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!

What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.

In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.

Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.

Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.

  1. Start with small, short-term goals. They’re easier to achieve and create momentum for the next one.
  2. Set reasonable goals and write them down.
  3. Create a schedule. Come to the gym on a set schedule. Consistent routines are key to forming a habit.
  4. Utilize Western’s registered dietitian! He has expert knowledge that can help set you up for success. (Learn more about Tad at westernracquet.com/wellness-coaching)
  5. Speak with a personal trainer. It’s not just a workout you’d be looking for; it is a partner who holds you accountable, creates a personalized workout plan to match your goals and lifestyle, and makes sure you exercise with correct form to minimize risk of injury. In my experience, nothing derails progress like pain and uncertainty. Speak with one of our great trainers to make sure you’re moving in correct movement patterns and using a plan that makes sense for you! (Visit westernracquet.com/personal-training to get matched with the right trainers for you!)
  6. Go to group classes. Western's group fitness classes have a reputation for being fun, energetic, and taught by excellent, passionate instructors. A team dynamic is very motivating and going each week will give you a set schedule. And even better? There are over 40 group fitness classes at Western that are completely FREE with your membership! (Visit westernracquet.com/group-fitness to see a full schedule of classes.)
  7. Workout with a friend. You hold each other accountable and push each other. Also, people tend not to skip workouts because they don’t want to let their friend down. Tip: Choose a friend who pushes you or has similar goals as you. You'll be that much more motivated!
  8. Keep your weekly goals in a visible place like your refrigerator or somewhere you’ll see it daily.
  9. Do you have to make dramatic, life altering changes? No. The key is small changes and moderation. Remember to take things slow!
  10. Do what you like to do. Do you hate running? Don’t do it. Does the thought of hopping on the stairmill for an hour give you anxiety? Don’t do it. Do you like walking your dog outside in the evening? Do that! Do what you like because you’re more likely to continue doing it. Fitness isn’t a cookie cutter lifestyle. Do what you enjoy so it becomes fun.
  11. Most importantly, ask yourself "why" and then keep asking "why". Get to the bare root of why you have this goal. If you ask yourself "why" enough times and it triggers an emotional response, you’ve found your reason. When the going gets tough, you can always look back on that core reason to help keep you motivated.

 

Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!

When it comes to literally anything related to nutrition, protein seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds. When it comes to fitness and performance nutrition, it’s not a matter of if, but when, protein becomes a part of the discussion. While there are 3 different macronutrients (i.e. “macros”), carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, it seems as though protein gets a disproportionate amount of attention. Today, I’d like to clear the air related to some of the common misconceptions I hear regarding protein. Along the way, I’d like to make the argument that this macro isn’t any more important than carbs or fat, regardless of your health and fitness goals.

That being said, let’s get started…

Myth #1: Eating more protein means building more muscle

This is possibly the most common mistake I see, particularly among the weightlifting community. The thought-process behind this is actually quite logical: muscles are damaged during exercise… muscles are made of protein… protein is needed to help repair muscles… thus, MORE protein will repair muscles BETTER and FASTER. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. Our body can only rebuild muscle as fast as it is genetically programmed to. Providing adequate protein is obviously important so that the rebuilding of muscle can occur, but extra protein does nothing to help the process. For example, imagine you are the boss of a team of construction workers building a house. You can continue buying and stockpiling all the supplies you want to build the house, but your workers can only build this house so fast. The exact same is true for muscle.

To take this argument one step further, I would argue that overdoing it on protein intake can actually hinder muscle-building and other fitness goals. Protein is a highly-satiating macronutrient. In other words, foods that are high in protein are typically very filling. With this, a protein that is very high in protein will crowd out other foods that carry other important nutrients, leaving you too full to consume a balanced meal. While a balanced diet filled with vitamins and minerals is essential to performance and recovery, the main nutrient that I see get left out in favor of protein is carbs. When you fill up on protein and don’t take in enough carbs, your energy levels are going to suffer. If you get in the habit of under-fueling for your workouts, you aren’t going to be truly pushing your limits and actually experiencing any kind of genuine progress. It may not be a surprise to hear, but a diet that balances all nutrients without prioritizing one over the others is going to yield the best results for performance and overall health.

Myth #2: Too much protein is bad for your kidneys

This misconception seems to take the polar-opposite stance to the first. Instead of trying to get more protein in, I hear some people share that “too much protein is bad for your kidneys”. A quick Google search using terms like “kidney function” or “kidney disease” and “high protein diet” will yield a variety of results that seem to say that high-protein intake is detrimental to kidney function. What’s more, these results have connecting links to peer-reviewed, scientific, sound research. Based on these results, it is very easy to conclude that too much protein will wreak havoc on your kidneys. Rest assured, this is also not the case.

As a dietitian, I’m rather defensive about definitive recommendations related to diet and health. In this case, making conclusions based on Dr. Google’s quick search results undermines the work and experience needed to truly read, understand, and implement research. In this case, many of the studies that populate in this sort of search are referring to individuals with kidney function that is already compromised. In other words, it is true that high-protein intake can be detrimental to kidney function, but only those with kidneys that already don’t work properly. I feel this study by Martin et al., 2005, says it quite well: “Although high protein diets cause changes in renal function (i.e., increased GFR) and several related endocrine factors that may be harmful to individuals with renal disease there is not sufficient research to extend these findings to healthy individuals with normal renal function at this time.” To wrap up this myth-busting, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to eating protein so long as your kidneys are healthy.

Myth #3: Protein from animal sources is superior to plant sources

This argument has some pseudoscience roots that makes it seem like a rather strong point. The basis of this myth comes down to the difference between “complete” versus “incomplete” proteins. Complete proteins are proteins that have all essential amino acids, or amino acids that our body needs to function but cannot make on its own. On the other hand, incomplete proteins are proteins that are missing one or more essential amino acid. Animal sources (e.g. eggs, meat, dairy, etc.) of protein are considered complete, while plant sources of protein are considered “incomplete” (with a few exceptions, such as quinoa). The important distinction here is that our body is able to convert some amino acids into other amino acids, based on what it most needs, but it is only able to do this with non-essential amino acids. For example, your body can convert alanine (a non-essential amino acid) into glutamine (another non-essential amino acid). What your body CAN’T do, is convert something like alanine (a non-essential amino acid) into tryptophan (an essential amino acid). In this case, you must get tryptophan in the diet. From this understanding, the animal protein source, containing all essential amino acids, is always superior to the plant-based protein.

While the perspective of this argument is logical, it is a very reductive perspective when nutrition should also focus on “bigger picture”. In this case, this ignores all other nutrients within the food supplying the protein. In other words, a steak will provide high levels of protein, but it is usually high in saturated fat, relatively high in cholesterol, and low in fiber and vitamins and mineral. On the other hand, plant sources of protein, like black beans, are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals while also delivering next to no fat or cholesterol. If you’re concerned about getting all essential amino acids, you can rest assured knowing that having variety of protein sources throughout the day (e.g. oatmeal with breakfast, rice with lunch, beans with dinner) will meet, if not exceed, all essential amino acids you need in a day. With that, you can feel confident about meeting your protein needs whether its from animal or plant sources (or ideally, a mix of both!) as long as there’s variety.

Myth #4: A high-protein diet is the key to successful weight-loss

This myth also has some roots in truth, but unfortunately it is often misconstrued and taken to extremes. As I shared under Myth #1, protein is a highly-satiating nutrient. Eating protein helps aid with feelings of fullness. If you’ve ever eaten a big helping of beans, eggs, or steak, you might agree. With this understanding, the perspective for weight loss is often to eat as much protein as possible to stay full as long as possible while eating as little as possible. While this is logical, it is again missing the “bigger picture” of nutrition. First, refresh yourself on why eating too much protein is counterproductive for fitness goals by reading my debunking of Myth #1. In short, excessive protein intake means deficient intake of something else. It could be carbs, fats, vitamins… take your pick. If you have a weight loss or body composition goal, you need to provide your body with the healthiest, most balanced diet possible. If your diet is not balanced or sustainable, you’re going to quit on whatever changes you’ve made. Further, weight loss is much more complicated than “calories in, calories out”, and you can’t just “cheat the system” by eating a diet heavy is one nutrient while lacking in others. Weight loss is a subject much too complicated to be distilled into a couple short sentences. Suffice to say, any diet that requires you to take in high levels of something while restricting something else is guaranteed to be unsustainable and will, eventually, fail.

If you want to be your healthiest and happiest self, find a dietary balance of nutrients that nourish your body while satisfying your cravings. If you don’t know how to find this balance, talk to a licensed or certified health or nutrition professional.

Myth #5: Your body can only use a certain amount of protein in one sitting, anything more is wasted

This myth is my favorite to debunk, as it assumes that the body is “incapable” of using food you give it. To bust this myth simply, your body does not waste any food you eat. Regardless of how much protein you eat in one sitting, your body will metabolize it all and find some way to use it. I do believe that this is sometimes thought in the context of whether the protein will be used for muscle-building or “wasted” by being used by the body for something else. When it comes to eating more protein and whether it will help build more muscle, you can refer to Myth #1. In addition to overdoing the protein daily, it is possible to take in more protein than is helpful for muscle growth in one sitting. Will the extra protein be harmful? Not necessarily. It simply won’t speed up your recovery any faster after reaching a certain threshold. Beyond the threshold of protein needed for repairing muscles, the remaining protein will mostly be burned for energy. With a much greater excess beyond use for muscle-repair and energy-production, some protein might be converted and stored as fat for energy later on. With that answer, most people want to know, “So what is that threshold? How much protein should I have in one sitting for the best recovery without going over?” To give you the most honest and accurate answer anyone could possibly give: I don’t know. That’s the unfortunate truth. I don’t know because nutrition recommendations can’t be made as generalizations. Every body and lifestyle is too diverse to be making nutrition prescriptions in a public blog. If there is a public article claiming exact numbers for how much of anything you need nutritionally, they’re making grave generalizations and are definitely not accurate for your individual needs.

With that, allow me to climb down off my soapbox and give you an answer that might be helpful in some way. Now that I’ve established that I don’t actually know how much protein your body needs and that generalizations aren’t accurate… allow me to make a generalization. Based on research of averages of body weights and body sizes, it seems that 20-30g of protein, depending on how large your body is and how active you are, seems to be the ideal range for optimizing protein use for muscle-protein synthesis (or building and repair). In addition, the metabolic and recovery benefits of consuming this amount of protein after a workout is enhanced when also eaten with carbs.2 This range of protein can apply to meals or snacks throughout the day, as well as after workouts. Note that despite using averages and making a generalization, it is still a range. My hope is that these numbers help you at least make ballpark estimates when it comes to nutritional planning.

Busting nutrition myths takes a lot of “bigger picture” views because understanding our body requires a “bigger picture” perspective. When it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition, it is easy to get caught up in the details and nuances while forgetting our fundamentals. While some of the info I might be sharing is not earth-shattering, it is based in fact and proven itself for many, many years.

Our bodies are incredibly efficient and incredibly resourceful. The body is not wasteful. Years of our ancestors surviving famines and droughts has taught our body that any food that comes in is more valuable than gold. Further, our bodies are much, much smarter than we are. Years of research on the human body has turned up as many (if not more) questions as it has answers. This fact remains, there really isn’t a diet we can choose that will “outsmart our biology”. Recent years have shown a dramatic uptick in extreme diets, choosing to cut out entire food groups or revert to extreme restriction. Whatever diet you may think of, it simply can’t account for all that isn’t known about the human body and nutrition. Every day, research discovers something new about the human body. Every year, dramatic progress is made in nutritional research and developments. Despite every major discovery made from year-to-year, one truth remains: The body functions best with a balanced diet rich in a wide variety of food, including foods from plant and animal sources.

As Western Racquet’s Fitness Consultant I am in a position to talk with many of our new members about their goals when it comes to their health and fitness. I typically hear many of the same responses with weight loss being the number one desire for many out there. Weight loss isn’t easy and it tends to become more difficult for most of us as we age. It definitely doesn’t help that we see a plethora of commercials daily advertising silly things like lose 30 pounds in 30 days when most of us in our heart of hearts know that isn’t reasonable. These ads give people unrealistic expectations that can often lead to them giving up way too early when the end goal of losing significant weight feels unattainable. As someone who lost 40 pounds over an 18 month period, I am here to help you find some practical ways to make this dream a reality.

  1. Meal prepping is a key staple of many who live a healthy lifestyle. I am not here to break down what you should be making as those decisions will be personal and vary depending on what you enjoy. I will however tell you the biggest reason it is so important as a staple of a healthy lifestyle. Many of us enter the day or week with very good intentions of eating healthy. It’s good that the intention is there but what happens when you work a 10 hour day, your kids need help on homework, and the house desperately needs to be cleaned? In these situations many people find themselves grabbing food on the go, like fast food, frozen pizzas, or processed food. If your fridge is loaded with grilled chicken breasts, sliced up veggies, and brown rice it’s just easier to throw something together that will be good for you when it’s not too time-consuming. My go-to meal is a taco bowl consisting of chicken, brown rice, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, and guacamole.
  2. Experiment experiment experiment. So you don’t like running, try a kickboxing class. Hate biking? Get on the rower. Tired of doing yoga classes, venture into the weight room. All gyms are filled with people who do the same 3 or 4 things at low intensity and it just isn’t enough for many to create the calorie deficit they need. Play around with different types of exercise and you may find some new things you really enjoy. The same principle applies to healthy eating, experiment with healthy foods you have never tried and you may find some things you actually really enjoy.
  3. Hire a personal trainer! Look, I fully recognize that not everyone is in the financial position to pay for help, but if you can afford this it’s the best route. We aren’t here to yell at you about reps or your eating habits; we want to help! People use trainers for a variety of reasons but a big one is weekly/daily accountability. Most adults live very busy lives and working out falls off their schedule much too easily as other things fill it up. Having a trainer holds you to an appointment and it’s very nice having a friendly face put together your plan so you don’t have to think about what you need to do. Reach out to me at Western Racquet if you would like to discuss details. You can also visit westernracquet.com/personal-training and fill out our inquiry form.
  4. This one is easier said than done but you need to find a way to train your brain to avoid unnecessary calories. I’m going to give you two recent examples from my personal life and while yours will be different you will probably be able to relate. Two weekends ago I stopped by Kwik Trip on a Saturday morning because I wanted a Powerade. As I approached the checkout I was heavily tempted to grab a donut or breakfast sandwich. I wasn’t on the run, I was going back home, there was absolutely no reason I needed these things but the temptation is real. In the back of my mind, I knew I would need to run for 30 minutes to shake those unnecessary calories. Do I really want to run for 30 minutes for 2 minutes of very temporary pleasure?? I was able to say no to this quick fix of happiness and instead, I felt good about myself all day long because my willpower held out over my desire for a quick fix. My habits have not always been like this, for most of my life I would have grabbed that donut. However, the lifestyle change that brought me into this position was all about my own self-control and there is nothing stopping you from doing this. The second recent example I will reference took place here at Western. I walked by the front desk the other day and there were cookies on a platter ready for anyone. While I am strong at the grocery store I am weak when food is right in front of me so the temptation was real. But once again, I allowed my restraint to take control and I walked by those cookies. While that cookie would have made me happy for about 90 seconds the passing of the cookie made me proud of myself and that felt good for the rest of the day. Allow yourself to feel proud when you make these decisions because they aren’t easy!
  5. In my last article, I talked about setting a combination of long-term and short-term goals. A long-term goal for weight loss can be very intimidating. If you are trying to lose 50 pounds you should plan on that taking a year, and that is if you stay on track the whole time. While this long-term goal is great you should also consistently be setting a series of short-term goals. Try this moving forward, on Sunday nights I want you to write down your goals for the week. Make them something that is both attainable and measurable. Try something like I want to attend 2 group fitness classes, do 500 crunches, 200 push-ups, and run 10 miles. While the goals need to be personal, numbers like this are measurable and also give you the ability to start strong or finish strong if you have a rough start to them.

 

I hope these ideas helped and reaching your goals is something you can definitely do with the right motivation, work ethic, and some help from the family here at Western Racquet.

With the recent Labor Day weekend wrapping up we now officially enter one of the busier times of the year for gyms and health clubs everywhere. Many people find themselves overwhelmed during the summer months with an abundance of traveling, sporting events, family activities, etc. and simply fall out of their regular fitness routines. If this sounds familiar to you then there is simply no time like the present to reassert your commitment to your health and fitness. That being said, what is the best way to go about doing this?

There are a plethora of different ways to get back into shape and you ultimately need to do what is best for you. For some people this will mean group fitness classes, others will hire a personal trainer, or people who love running may dust off their shoes and start hitting the pavement once again. No matter which avenue you choose to go down there is one thing all these methods will need in order to be successful - a combination of both short and long term goals.

Long term goals are extremely important because they offer you something you can strive to achieve over an extended period of time. Some examples of long term goals would be: lose 20 pounds, decrease your body fat percentage by 5 points, run a marathon, or increase your squat max by 50 pounds. Long term goals are more successful when they are something you truly care about, so make sure you pick out something that is important to YOU. It’s also important to pick out a goal that is measurable. While “living a healthy lifestyle” is important there is no true way to dictate whether or not you are legitimately achieving this goal. My last point on long term goals is that, while they are extremely important for achieving long term success, they need to be coupled with short term goals. This is necessary because long term goals can be intimidating and overwhelming. There is no way to quickly achieve long term goals and this can create a mental roadblock for many. However, if you also create a series of short term goals you can succeed at in a shorter period of time the feeling of accomplishment will push you and become a motivating factor.

What are good short term goals? Just like long term goals, short term goals will be met with success more often when they are personal and something you care about. Also, just like we mentioned with long term goals, make sure you pick out something that is measurable so you can quantify if you are actually reaching or surpassing these milestones you set for yourself. A good example of long term goals vs short term goals could be, I have a long term goal to run a half marathon (this training could take a year depending on where you are starting) but my goal this week is to run 10 miles over 3 sessions. Never hesitate to give yourself a reward for achieving your milestones, it often time will help to give yourself an incentive to push it harder!

For anyone reading this, I challenge you to take 15 minutes this week and write down some short term goals and long term goals for your health and fitness. You may find this is something that is really helpful for you when it comes to achieving being the best version of yourself!

“It’s all in your head.” Whether you have struggled with anxiety, depression, or even overwhelming stress, this is a phrase you may have heard at some point. Even if it comes from a well-intentioned friend or family member, this “advice” or suggestion is literally less helpful than someone saying nothing at all. If you or a loved one has struggled with their mental health, you might also agree that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. What if I told you that research continues to find evidence that psychological conditions are actually a manifestation of physical imbalance or illness and not simply just a result of “a bad mindset”. You may be thinking of the “chemical imbalances in the brain” often discussed with mental illness, but that isn’t what I’m referring to here. No, I’m actually discussing an imbalance in the body that is nowhere near the brain. Instead, we need to look lower. Much lower. We need to look to the gut.

More specifically, I’d like to focus on the trillions of bacteria that live in our intestines, primarily the large intestine but to a lesser degree the small intestine. The numbers and types of bacteria that live in our gut differ from person to person and changes across the lifespan due to many different factors. Regardless of the make-up, the collective of these bacteria is referred to as the gut microbiota. Some of the variables that influence a person’s microbiota include diet, exercise, stress, sleep, medical conditions, medications, and much, much more! Though they are very small, the importance of these bacteria shouldn’t be underestimated! On a fundamental level, these bacteria ferment many of the different foods we eat. While this sounds insignificant, the byproducts of this fermentation provide our bodies a host of benefits. Some of the direct byproducts include vitamin K and a number of B vitamins, all of which are directly used by our body. Other byproducts help maintain the health of the gut, which in turn helps prevent issues like bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, and malabsorption. Another role of gut bacteria is to assist our immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria and preventing them from crossing the border of the intestines into the bloodstream. Some byproducts even produce a cascade of events in the body that controls the level of inflammation in the body. While all these roles are interesting and valuable, perhaps most incredible is the gut microbiota’s effect on the brain.

During the fermentation of certain foods, the microbiota produces short-chain fatty acids (which I will abbreviate as SCFA). Of these, the most prominent and active SCFA are butyrate, valerate, and propionate. These byproducts have the ability to travel in the bloodstream and impart effects on the brain. Emerging research has been investigating the relationship between certain concentrations of these SCFA in the blood and the presence, absence, or severity of conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and even autism. This isn’t to say that an increase or decrease in certain SCFA is directly related to the onset or prevention of these conditions. Unfortunately, it is a bit more complicated than that. In general, it is more about a certain balance of these different SCFA for ideal health. To achieve that, there is a certain balance of bacteria needed in the gut to produce the ideal amounts of these SCFA. It is often simplified down to a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut. In essence, the “bad” bacteria promote inflammation, weaken the immune system, are harmful to overall gut health, and produce proportions of SCFA that promote mental health issues like anxiety and depression. On the other hand, the “good” bacteria do just the opposite. Throughout your life, these “good” and “bad” bacteria are in a constant battle to populate your gut. The best thing you can do for your health, both physical and mental, is to support your “good” bacteria in consistently winning the battle.

Years are spent by researchers studying the countless strains of bacteria in your gut. They spend immeasurable hours investigating which specific strains have what effect in your body and how various lifestyle factors can increase or decrease the presence of said strains. Despite the seemingly endless research, one resounding message seems to hold true: habits we know as part of a healthy lifestyle also support the healthy bacteria in our gut. In other words, eating plant-based foods (fruit, veggies, and grains), exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress all help support the presence of “good” bacteria in the gut.

Certain foods are particularly good at boosting levels of “good” bacteria in your gut, helping them win the war for your colon. Foods that have prebiotic fiber provide fuel for your “good” bacteria, fermenting these fibers to produce healthy byproducts that fight off “bad” bacteria. In other words, the “good” bacteria are your troops and prebiotic fiber is the supplies and ammo they need to fight. Some excellent prebiotic foods include oats, bananas, berries, apples, and asparagus. On the other hand, probiotic foods are those that already have “good” bacteria in them. This helps to directly add more “good” bacteria directly to your gut. In other words, probiotic foods are like reinforcements for your bacterial ‘army’. Some excellent probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.

Filling your life with healthy foods, physical activity, stress management, and good sleep habits can help create both a balanced life and a balanced gut. In turn, you’ll fortify your gut against the negative effects of imbalanced gut microbiota. Not only will this help minimize inflammation and boost your immune system, it might actually boost your mood and help you stave off anxiety and stress! When it comes to struggling with any number of mental health struggles, whatever level of severity, I can confidently say that, no, it is not, “all in your head.” In fact, one of the best things you can do for your mental health is to take care of your body, and then watch how, in turn, it will take care of you.

 

 

Sugar! People love it and it’s practically found in everything. The average American consumes 47 pounds of sugar and 35 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year! We all know sugar is in foods like cakes and other desserts, but it’s often hidden in other “healthy” foods as well. Cereal, yogurt, Nutrigrain bars, protein bars, Gatorade, and many others, all contain it. Sugar-dense foods, such as these, are linked to heart disease and obesity, but they can also affect your joint health, as well.

High sugar diets spike your insulin levels. This leads to several biochemical reactions that can produce inflammation in the body. For example, when a person consumes a high sugar diet, it can lead to an increase in visceral fat, or abdominal fat. This type of fat secretes inflammatory proteins and hormones that create chronic inflammation in the body. If a person is injured and eats a lot of sugar, the healing process may take much longer.

Sugar also depletes the body of important minerals, like magnesium, calcium, and others. Muscles need these minerals for normal contractions and relaxation. Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and energy production. Some studies show that the body requires 28 molecules of magnesium to break down one molecule of sugar! Therefore, a diet high in sugar can deplete the body of the magnesium needed for muscle contraction.

If you suffer from joint pain or stiffness, try eliminating sugar from your diet and focus on natural foods that haven't been processed. Any questions, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Tad, and he’ll be happy to go over anything with you!

Do you dread meal planning each week? Here are some easy tips to make this “chore” become a choice you look forward to completing each week or month.

If you choose to try these meal planning tips, you may reap these benefits.

Enjoy! With a little practice, meal planning can become a part of your normal schedule.

Many people in the fitness community fall into one of two categories. The first category is filled with those that view their time at the gym as a necessity. These people feel energized, refueled, and fulfilled by their trips to the gym. A missed session would make for an incomplete day. The second category dreads every workout. The trip to the gym is a box to check off on the “to-do” list, and the workout is anticipated to be long, painful, and unpleasant. These categories are not necessarily distinct from each other. Rather, these categories fall on opposite sides of a spectrum. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you feel you typically fall, it may benefit your fitness journey to consider the following.

Why is it that there can be such dramatic differences in perspectives on exercise? There’s no denying that people are diverse in past experiences and preferences. Further, different physical baselines can make certain ways of being active more or less enjoyable. But what if there was something even more fundamental impacting your enjoyment, or lack thereof, of exercise? What if I told you your diet is killing your exercise joy?

This may be something of an understatement, but weight loss is a common goal among gym-goers. The saying “eat less, move more” is the paramount mantra of the weight-loss industry. Eating in a caloric deficit is touted as the only way to achieve the “ideal” body. But in actuality, how does “eat less, move more” make you feel? Lethargic? Weak? Irritable? This shouldn’t be surprising, as the body doesn’t function properly under circumstances of self-induced starvation.

If you have only ever used exercise as a means to lose weight or prevent weight-gain, you have likely experienced most workouts while in a caloric deficit. In other words, most of your workouts have been spent demanding your body to work harder while being provided less fuel. A workout without enough calories for energy is bound to feel like torture. In this state, it is no wonder workouts would be something to dread.

If you have always associated workouts with dieting, exercise has always been associated with feeling tired and weak. Exercise has always been a means for aiding weight loss and nothing more. Further, the exercise stops when the diet stops. And because diets are not sustainable, they always stop, eventually. Sometimes the break from the diet lasts a week, sometimes a month, and sometimes years. Regardless, the exercise often doesn’t resume until the diet does. If you’ve found that you fall into some iteration of this cycle, you may have not given yourself the permission nor opportunity to find a love for fitness. On the other hand, phases of “bulking and cutting” may be to blame for dips in motivation for the frequent gym-goers. Feel like your drive to be active is less than ideal? Consider the state of your nutrition.

If you forced yourself to go to the movie theaters starving and sit through a movie you don’t care for, you might find that going to the movies is an unpleasant experience. Why would the gym be any different than this? You may find that your time in the gym is much more enjoyable when you have the energy to run, jump, and row. Further, freeing yourself of the weight-loss goal may allow you to find methods of exercise you actually like. Feeding your body the calories it needs and giving yourself permission to do activities that sound exciting, instead of those that “burn the most calories”, might actually spark joy for movement. If you don’t dread the gym, or exercise in general, you won’t find yourself constantly digging deep for every morsel of motivation. When going to the gym is no longer a chore, but instead something to be excited for, you won’t need to dig for any motivation. You’ll no longer need to worry about “falling off the wagon” because you never got on the “wagon”. Instead, your purpose for exercise becomes enjoying the process of moving and feeling better.

At this point, I’m afraid I might have lost you. Whenever the suggestion of “eating more calories” comes out, most people shut down. These blasphemous words go against every tenant of the weight-loss and dieting culture we live in. The truth is, eating more calories may not be the fastest way to lose weight. Despite this, choosing not to starve yourself may give you the energy to explore new ways to enjoy exercise. Choosing to be active while giving your body what it needs may at least provide the motivation to be consistent with a workout routine. Consistency in a fitness routine is much easier to achieve when you aren’t scraping the bottom of your “willpower barrel” for every workout. With enough energy to enjoy every workout, you’re much more likely to stick to your fitness journey and reach your goals.

Have you ever sat down to eat a meal and instantly thought, “I should not be eating this!"?  Or, did you ever think that “My day was awesome! I owned it, I am going to enjoy this cheeseburger, fries and beer!”?  Nutrition is often a love/hate relationship because some foods that you truly enjoy may not be what you ‘should’ be eating.  Yet, who is to say that you should or should not eat a cheeseburger and fries or enjoy a venti peppermint mocha with extra whip and sprinkles? Granted having those high fat, high sugar, highly processed foods daily can lead to some future health concerns, but they may be consumed in moderation. 

I know for myself that when I have a craving, I will give myself a day to see if other foods I eat can provide that fix. If I am not satisfied and the craving still lingers, I will eat whatever it is I am craving. Usually, it is not a specific food it is more of a taste craving; salty, sweet, sour, or bitter.  It could be pizza (maybe a whole one), candy, sugary coffee drinks, chips, or a dessert.  At times, I find that after eating the ‘not so healthy’ food and going back to my usual meals I see results and feel great.  There is nothing wrong with indulging these foods but knowing it should not become a staple in your daily diet is very important.  Many would be surprised to know that people in the health and fitness industry don’t always stay on point either.  After surveying some of the Western staff the following food items were listed as their go-to indulgent foods: ‘pizza, wings and beer, ‘doughnuts’, ‘cereal or Chik-fil-A’, ‘burger and wings’, ‘Culver's', Starbucks cheese danish, doughnuts and coffee, 'candy, tacos, cheese pizza, cake' and ‘protein balls’.

I would like to encourage you to read the article in the linked here, entitled Mind Over Food. Part of it talks about how your mood, brain and hormones can affect your digestion and the other part talks about the power of expectation.  The first portion is very eye-opening and it has me being more mindful about my mood when I am eating my meals.  It is amazing to think, the mood you have about the food you are eating will play a role in your digestion.  

With the holiday season upon us, I encourage everyone to give yourself compassion and grace to eat the cookies and pies (in moderation 🙂), have a second helping of cheesy potatoes or have a glass or two of your homemade baileys.  

Wishing you all a very merry holiday season to you!

Have you found yourself stressed from the COVID-19 pandemic? The virus and many changes over the last few months have impacted all of us in some way. Are you having a difficult time managing your stress during the pandemic? One common reaction to stress is overeating. Here are a few tips to help you turn stress and eating into a positive influence for your life.

 

Knowledge is control. Know your personal triggers when it comes to eating.

 

Resilience. Overeating is bound to happen from time to time and that is okay. Overeating is not desirable, but the self-destructive “after talk” that occurs after overeating can be more damaging. One of the most important lessons to learn is to forgive yourself before you make another unhealthy choice or overindulge.

 

Exercise is a wonderful stress-reliever. Choose the form of exercise you enjoy and do it often. Whether that be a round of golf, weight-lifting, yoga, hiking a nearby trail or walking to your favorite hunting spot. Make it work for you! Even a short walk can get your mind off food and help you deal with what’s stressing you out.

 

Meditation can help you handle stress. Try taking three to five deep breaths before giving in to a food craving. After your deep breaths and taking a moment to pause, ask yourself if you still want that specific food.

 

Mindful eating can help stop stress-eating before it even starts. Slow down and savor the foods you choose to nourish your body. Being mindful takes time, so be patient with yourself. Read these mindful eating tips to help you refresh your eating habits.

 

Sleep may be the answer to deal with stress and overeating. When you repeatedly don’t sleep well or go to bed too late, the lack of sleep can play a role in your ability to fight off infection, keep your weight at bay and feel focused and energetic. By getting the recommended amount of sleep (seven to eight hours per night for adults), you will be able to better manage and likely not overeat. Read these sleep tips to help you get a good night’s sleep.

 

Coloring helps relieve stress as well. And as an added bonus, eating is hard when your hands are occupied! Find adult coloring books online or at your favorite book or craft store!

 

Hope these tips help you manage your stress and eat healthier during the pandemic.

 

 

What are they and why are we afraid of them?
Fats are a macronutrient, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories.

CALORIES are ENERGY.
According to health.org: Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help
protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce
important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat.

WHY ARE THEY BAD?
Fats gained a bad name around the 1980s when professionals became aware of the harms of saturated fat.
From there, food industries started pulling ALL fats from their foods and then adding more products (like sugars) to
alter the taste back to normal!

HEALTHY FATS
Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature. Look for these types of unsaturated fats when purchasing
prepared foods and cooking:
Monounsaturated fats: found in nuts, avocados, olive, canola, and peanut oils
Polyunsaturated fats: found in soybean, corn, sunflower, sesame, and safflower oils
Omega-3 fatty acids: found in fish, ground flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts

REMEMBER...FATS ARE FRIENDS!

Is the answer to the question of what to eat… to eat nothing at all?

Advice for what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat can be confusing and conflicting. I’ve talked to many people that say the amount of nutrition information out there tends to be more overwhelming than helpful. When this happens, it seems easier to simply eat nothing at all than navigate these muddy waters. It’s for this reason that intermittent fasting often seems so appealing. Proponents of intermittent fasting will proclaim the amazing benefits of simply not eating, saying that fasting will make you leaner, stronger, smarter, and even live longer. Are these claims true? Let’s find out!

If you’ve never heard of it, intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves abstaining from food for a particular period of time. There are many different forms that intermittent fasting, but the most popular forms are time-restricted feeding and alternate-day fasting. Time-restricted feeding includes a prolonged period of fasting followed by a shorter eating, or “feasting” period. This can often look like a 16-hour fast with 8 hours to eat, an 18-hour fast with 6 hours to eat, or a 20-hour fast with 4 hours to eat. On the other hand, alternate-day fasting involves eating little to no food for an entire day, while other days involve unrestricted intake.

Of course, one of the first things that come to mind with fasting is fat-loss. During a normal eating schedule, the average person eats enough food to provide their body with a consistent supply of energy. The body converts nearly all food to glucose, the body’s preferred energy source. At the same time, the body is able to store some glucose in the muscles and liver as glycogen. This stored energy is there for when you are pushing through intense exercise or go a short period without eating. When you don’t eat for 12 hours or more, though, you begin to drain your glycogen storage. Around the 16-hour mark of no food, give or take, is where the body is out of glycogen and forced to switch to fat-burning. The body is extremely efficient as storing fat (to many people’s dismay) because it wants to tap into using it for energy when food is sparse. This metabolic shift occurs to make the body no longer rely on glucose, but instead use its own stored bodyfat as fuel. To do so, your body breaks apart stored fat and turns it into ketone bodies, or ketones. These ketones circulate in the blood for readily available energy, and they are actually the namesake for the ever-popular “Keto diet”. The ketogenic diet is a whole other conversation, but this diet shares a similar process to intermittent fasting. It is by this mechanism, though, that intermittent fasting has become very famous for burning fat. Truly, there is a variety of research backing intermittent fasting’s ability to aid people trying to leaning out.4 The effect of fat loss with fasting is multiplied with endurance exercise, or cardio. Endurance exercise classifies as longer duration and usually lower intensity. Exercises like jogging and biking would qualify. With this type of exercise, your body actually prefers to burn fat for energy. If you do cardio in the fasted state, your body has already started liberating stored fat and converting it into ketones. As you jog, your working muscles are happy to pick up the fat and ketones circulating in the blood and burn them for energy.4 How can you practically apply this to your own fat-loss journey? If you are able to fast overnight and exercise before breakfast, cardio in the morning will have your body burning fat much more efficiently than after breakfast or any other meal of the day. It’s worth noting these effects aren’t a magic bullet, though. Fat-loss doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you were fasting during that night! There is limited research saying that people didn’t lose fat using intermittent fasting,3 but this research was done over a short period of time and in a very small group of people. In the end of the day, being consistent with your exercise and nutrition will always be the key to leaning out.

What about those of us that care more about living longer? Some research has related intermittent fasting to a variety of general health benefits that fight some of the most common ailments leading to death and disease. Some research has found that intermittent fasting has helped improve cholesterol levels, protect heart health, improve the balance of gut bacteria, and even help to fight cancer. Limited research saw that intermittent fasting actually decreased peoples’ triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol), while increasing their HDL (good cholesterol). Further, different fasting regimens have been found to slow down cell proliferation (excessive growth), decrease inflammation, and reduce hormones that are indicated in uncontrolled growth of cells. All of these processes are related to the belief that fasting can help prevent certain forms of cancer. In the gut, the metabolic changes that occur with fasting influence the “good” and “bad” bacteria. In short, fasting has been seen to increase the good and decrease the bad bacteria, which is a piece in improving digestion and gut health, as well as even helping to reduce and fight obesity. Part of these benefits from intermittent fasting stem from the ability to help the body reconnect with its circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock, telling us when to sleep, wake up, eat, exercise, and much more. Our current lifestyle that involves unpredictable eating and sleeping patterns disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, causing improper brain and hormone signals and patterns. Providing the body with set times to eat, fast, and sleep helps realign this rhythm and can correct the body’s metabolism. In doing so, our ability to regulate our bodyweight, fight cancer, and generally stay healthy is vastly improved. Further, there’s some research beginning to suggest that a properly executed intermittent fasting regimen can even help reduce stress and improve learning abilities.1,2,4

What about working out? Won’t fasting hurt my performance in the gym? Well… it might. Generally, exercise performance during “feasting periods”, or the times that you can eat, is unaffected. Unfortunately, a good number of studies has found that individuals that exercise during their fasting periods usually perform worse.4 In other words, intermittent fasting might help you lean out faster, but you most likely won’t be able to lift any heavier or run any faster. The evidence doesn’t suggest your workouts will be worse, they just won’t likely be any better.

How would you know if intermittent fasting is worth trying? Intermittent fasting may be achievable and sustainable if you’re someone who finds that they “forget to eat” when they’re too busy, has a work/life schedule that makes eating or snacking more difficult, or finds that they simply “don’t get hungry” very often. With lifestyles like this, intermittent fasting may be an easy dietary pattern to adopt. When you don’t feel like eating or don’t have time to eat, just don’t eat! On the other hand, intermittent fasting may not be sustainable if you’re someone who gets very tired or “hangry” from not eating, quickly gets hunger pains, or has better energy levels when they snack on small meals throughout the day. If you’re an individual in the latter group, you might feel like there’s no hope for reaping the benefits of intermittent fasting. Fear not! Even shorter periods of fasting carry their own benefits. Research has found that simply eating dinner at a normal time, say about six o’clock, and not eating the rest of the night until breakfast can have health benefits. Fasting between dinner and breakfast could help improve your quality of sleep and even help regulate blood sugar levels for the whole next day.5 Both of these benefits can lead to sustained energy levels for the entire day, prevent you from feeling the need to overeat, and prevent fat storage during the day. Even if fasting for 16 hours seems quite daunting, refraining from some late-night snacking can impart benefits similar to intermittent fasting without all the hunger pains.

Whew! There’s a lot that has to do with “not eating”! What’s the moral of the story? Intermittent fasting is simply another approach to how we eat, and it may have certain health benefits if you find it to be sustainable. Just as important as how we eat is what we eat, though. Regardless of how you approach nutrition, what matters most is that you eat a balance of food that is good for you and that you enjoy. Food is fuel, true. But food is also emotional. Food is tradition. Food is social, and food is meant to be shared and enjoyed. So, whether you’re slurping a kale smoothie or splitting a pizza, rest assured that you’re living a healthy life if you’re enjoying what you consume without allowing it to consume you.

References:

  1. Longo VD, Mattson MP. Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell Metab. 2014;19(2):181-192. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2013.12.008
  2. Patterson RE, Laughlin GA, LaCroix AZ, et al. Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(8):1203-1212. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018
  3. Tinsley GM, Butler NK, Forsse JS, et al. Intermittent fasting combined with resistance training: effects on body composition, muscular performance, and dietary intake. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(Suppl 1):P38. Published 2015 Sep 21. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-12-S1-P38
  4. Zouhal H, Saeidi A, Salhi A, et al. Exercise Training and Fasting: Current Insights. Open Access J Sports Med. 2020;11:1-28. Published 2020 Jan 21. doi:10.2147/OAJSM.S224919
  5. Wagner S. Diabetes. Medical Nutrition Therapy II; March, 2020; University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI.

 

WHAT ARE CARBS?
Carbs. Aka. Carbohydrates.

What are they and why are we afraid of them? Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories. Yes... CALORIES are ENERGY.

"The American Diabetes Association notes that carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen." - Livescience

Why are they bad?
Carbs gained a bad name when professionals realized reducing carbohydrates in a diabetic diet could make a positive impact on their patient's lives. Soon enough the whole country was in a frenzy of reducing carbs for EVERYONE and many believed it was the magical secret to weight loss.

Shouldn't I cut carbs though?
NO! Reducing your intake of healthy carbs can lead to the following problems:

A slower metabolism
Lower levels of muscle/strength-building hormones
Higher levels of stress hormones

The result? You might find yourself feeling cranky, fatigued, weaker, or even sick at times.

Aren't carbs just sugar?
Yes. Carbs DO turn into sugars in the body, but here's the thing: fiber is one of the things that makes the carbs usually described as "good carbs". Fiber helps the digestion process and gets this human factory moving! According to the USDA, most of the carbs you should be getting from your diet should be complex carbohydrates: the unprocessed, fiber-laden, long chain complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Less than 10 percent should be coming from simple carbohydrates, like table sugar, refined or processed.

Are there "good" carbs?

Carbs are carbs, but some are going to digest much more efficiently in your body than others! Check out a list of some of the most optimal carbs to include in a healthy diet according to Heathline:

1. Pizza

Now that I have your attention — yes, you can eat pizza! If you make it right, that is. Make it with a thin crust (preferably whole grain or gluten-free) and load it up with tomato sauce or pesto sauce, plus lots of flavorful vegetables.

2. Quinoa

This powerhouse seed acts and tastes like a nutty grain, but it’s actually a gluten-free seed. It’s higher in nutrients and protein than most grains, meaning that you can forego the cholesterol, saturated fat, and cancer-causing compounds found in animal proteins.

3. Lentils

Yum! Lentils are quick and easy to prepare in comparison to other types of beans. They’re high in protein and a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, which can be helpful for people with diabetes, as fiber prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. Lentils contain many important minerals including iron, magnesium, and folate.

4. Dates

Dates can help fend off everything from night blindness to anemia, and constipation to seasonal allergies. The significant amounts of minerals found in dates like iron, calcium, and potassium can help with healthy bone development and maintaining a healthy gut. Incorporatie dates into my snacks and desserts!

5. Oats

Oats play a vital role in improving our feeling of fullness, and can be a boon to our digestive, cardiovascular, and overall metabolic health. Oats are rich in a specific type of fiber called beta-glucan known to help lower levels of bad cholesterol.

6. Whole wheat pastas

Yes! Spaghetti, linguine, farfalle. Give pasta a chance, in smaller portions and especially when paired with a plethora of vegetables.

7. Black beans

Black beans are classified as legumes. They’re easy to make, and chock full of protein, fiber, and iron. They also contain many minerals important in building and maintaining bone structure and strength, and contain selenium, which plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps to detoxify cancer-causing compounds in the body.

8. Apples

Apples are one of the best sources of carbs you can eat, since they contain large amounts of pectin, which helps keep you feeling full, as well as vitamin C and potassium. They’re also rich in natural sugars, which digest more slowly than those found in processed foods.

9. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are particularly high in fiber and are loaded with health-building and bone-building minerals, including vitamin K, phosphate, and calcium.

10. Pears

Pears offer a large dose of potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, and fiber. They’re decadently sweet and aid in cleansing the digestive tract.

Did you know that vitamin D is comprised of more than one vitamin? Vitamin D is actually a “family” of vitamins that includes vitamin D2 (calciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is found in animal-based foods and vitamin D2 is found in plants. Although both help to fulfill your vitamin D requirements, research at times has shown that vitamin D3 may raise your blood levels of this important vitamin slightly more than vitamin D2. Keep in mind, both are still needed.

Vitamin D is important to your body because it helps to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D can lead to soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia). Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain and other maladies. These studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease, although they do not definitively prove that lack of vitamin D causes disease – or that vitamin D supplements would lower risk. As with many nutrition findings, more research is still needed.

3 tips to increase vitamin D

1. Consume foods that contain vitamin D. Sources of vitamin D3 include liver, egg yolk, butter, fatty fish, fish oil and supplements. Vitamin D2 can be found in mushrooms (grown in UV light), fortified foods and also in dietary supplements. These foods can easily be added to your diet in the following ways:

*Since vitamin D2 is cheaper to produce, it’s usually the most common form found in fortified foods.

2. Spend time in the sun. Even in Wisconsin, you can get sunlight to help your body produce the necessary vitamin D it needs. However, this works best if you are without sunscreen and lightly clad with clothing, which can be difficult in the winter months. Bottom line, getting outdoors for some vitamin D is always a good idea, but even if you don’t get the formation of this precious vitamin, getting outside and breathing fresh air is never a poor choice. Climates like Wisconsin may require you to take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months.

3. Talk with your physician. Take an active role in requesting that your vitamin D levels be checked. If you need a supplement, the safe upper limit for vitamin D is 4,000 IU’s. Your physician may put you on a dose ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 IU’s or more a day. According to the US Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily allowance is 400 to 800 IU’s. Bottom line, make sure your levels are monitored and check your level before you decide to supplement.

About 1.6 million car accidents, every year, happen because of texting and driving. According to the National Safety Council, nearly 400,000 people are injured and 1 in 4 car accidents occur because someone was attempting to text while driving. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to consider distracted driving an epidemic. Unfortunately, humans are terrible at multitasking. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we spend most of our days looking for solutions to accomplish more than one thing at once.

No two people have the same goals and motivations regarding fitness. Some join the gym with the goals of losing weight. Others lift weights because they want to gain muscle. For some, exercising is therapeutic while for others, making it to the gym is just another check on the “To Do” list. One person may be exercising to stay healthy for their family, and another might exercise for aesthetic goals. Some simply see the gym as a socializing opportunity. Nobody’s purpose in the gym is the same, and nobody’s fitness journey looks the same. Some hit the genetic lottery and see nearly instant results. Others aren’t quite as lucky, and it takes them longer (sometimes much longer) to even start to see progress. No two individuals are the same, but there is one factor that determines absolutely everyone’s satisfaction and sense of accomplishment in the gym: intentionality.

Do you have a sense of purpose when you are in the gym? Are you deliberate about what you do and how you spend your time? It’s time to be honest with yourself. If your goal is to shed some fat but you spend more time talking than moving, it may be time to reevaluate your strategy or change your goal. No single goal is more admirable or impressive than any other. Don’t set goals for anyone but yourself. Regardless, whatever you choose, pursue it with passion and intention. If you want to improve your one-mile running time but spend most of the time trotting at half speed, lost in thought about your day, don’t be surprised when you don’t see progress.

We are all guilty of spending time on “autopilot”. You may often find yourself doing something, but your mind is a million miles away. Maybe you feel the need to multitask, like reply to that one email while you ride the stationary bike. Unfortunately, sitting on the leg press while you catch up on texts will not count towards leg day reps. Many people spend much of their life riding through the present on autopilot while their mind is focused on the past or future. Allow yourself to become distracted, and you will never give your full effort. If you never perform to your full potential, you will never reach your full potential. It’s time to live in the moment. Have a sense of intention for what you are doing and eliminate all other distractions. If you set your life on autopilot and allow yourself to become distracted by something else, you are bound to crash and burn.

“You are what you eat” is a very common phrase used to gently warn people that they should make healthy food choices. Rephrase that a bit and ask yourself, “What are you eating?” This is a simple question, but do you actually pay attention to what you are eating? I mean, really pay attention and think about the aroma, flavor and texture of the food?

A simple approach to being mindful of your eating can be reached by asking yourself these three questions:

Perhaps stopping and asking yourself these questions will help you to choose with awareness and eat with intention instead of mindlessly snacking on your craving.

Mindful eating does not equate to perfect eating. Perfection is not the goal as certain fad diets expect you to be perfect. Instead, mindful eating allows you to eat all foods. Did you read that right? Let’s repeat. All foods are allowed, but being mindful of where you are on the “hunger and fullness scale” is a key component to finding success with this eating style. The goal of this scale is to try and eat when you’re at a 3 to 4 level and to stop eating when you are at a 5 to 6.

The Hunger and Fullness Scale

  1. Ravenous
  2. Starving
  3. Hungry
  4. Pangs
  5. Satisfied
  6. Full
  7. Very Full
  8. Discomfort
  9. Stuffed
  10. Sick

Source: Dr. Michelle May’s book, “Eat what you Love, Love what you Eat”

If the “Eat-repent-repeat” cycle categorizes how you feel on a daily basis, perhaps mindful eating is an option to consider. Perfection is not the goal of mindful eating. Knowing that ahead of time can be so reassuring and comforting.

If you would like to learn more about mindful eating, visit thecenterformindfuleating.org or amihungry.com.

“It’s in the bag.” This is a common expression often used confidently to mean that the results will be favorable. It’s primarily been used to refer to a winning team of a sporting event or perhaps a salesperson may say this right before they close the big deal. A more literal meaning of the phrase, “it’s in the bag”, is the focus for today’s topic. Let’s chat about packing lunches. Currently, what is your present schedule when it comes to packing lunches? Do you pack it every day? Twice a week? Does someone else pack it for you? Do you take mostly cold items or hot? Once you have answered these questions, you will have completed an important step to packing healthy lunches.

How often do you pack a lunch? The benefits of packing a lunch are insurmountable. You have choices that you can make in advance so spontaneous eating is at an all-time low. Second, cold lunches usually help you to be more frugal. This is plain common sense. You can pack at least three lunches for the price of one lunch at a restaurant. Third, planning is KEY for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Notice weight loss wasn’t mentioned as a benefit of this eating pattern, but planning meals/snacks (including and especially those outside of the home) will help with the numbers on the scale.

What are you packing? Is it the same cold sandwich and piece of fruit every day? While there is nothing wrong with a sandwich and fruit, variety is not only the key to life, but the key to gaining valuable nutrients and antioxidants. If you are following a pattern of sandwich and fruit, try these simple tips. Change your protein every other day. Try chicken breast, tuna, canned salmon or nut butters for your protein sources. Make a turkey breast in the oven and use it for sandwiches during the week. Choose whole wheat bread such as Dave’s Powerhouse bread or Ezekiel bread. Switch up your fruit daily, or at the very least, every other day with different colored choices. Also, your spread on your sandwich can change from an olive oil based spread to a variety of hummus or avocado.

When are you packing your lunch? This matters because if you take the time to put some energy and thought into it, chances are it will be much healthier. If you start packing five minutes before you run out the door, chaotic choices usually are not the healthiest ones. Good rule of thumb: pack your lunch with or after your supper meal. As you are putting away leftovers, put some in small containers ready for lunch the next day. Also, when making a dinner salad, prepare two or three salads for yourself or others that need a packed lunch. You have all the ingredients out anyway so making multiple salads at once will cut down on time.

Don’t let packing lunches become a chore. You can make “around the world” lunches. Have you ever attended a party or holiday that had an “all around the world” theme? Choose a country, a region, a state, etc. and choose cuisine from that area for the week, the day or the month. Eating can become mundane if you don’t give it a little spark or change it now and then. What do you have to lose? Well, maybe your packed lunch boredom.

Usually, when one sees the abbreviation “vs.”, it leads us to believe that one is better than the other and that we must make a choice. This is not the case with fermented and fresh foods as both are beneficial to a healthy diet.

Let’s start with the simplest form of foods: fresh. Why choose fresh? Fresh food is food which has not been preserved and has not spoiled yet. For vegetables and fruits, this means that they have been recently harvested and treated properly postharvest. For meat, it has recently been slaughtered and butchered, and for fish, it has been recently caught or harvested and kept cold. These foods are at their finest as they are fresh. Try to purchase fresh foods whenever possible. Perhaps you grow your own vegetables, raise chickens for their eggs, or hunt or fish for lean/healthy protein sources. These are all examples of eating fresh and an excellent way to promote healthy eating.

So what is all the hype regarding fermented foods? First, fermentation uses microbes, such as bacteria and yeast, to preserve food. It is an easy way to add beneficial bacteria to your gut to help support a healthy microbiome. This ancient technique of preserving food breaks down carbohydrates, like starch and sugar, using bacteria and yeast. Common fermented foods include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, apple cider vinegar, tempeh and yogurt. These foods may reduce heart disease risk, aid digestion, immunity and weight loss. Let’s take a brief look at these as they are less familiar to most people.

Kombucha is a fermented tea that is fizzy, tart and flavorful. Since it is made from either green or black tea, it contains all of those health-promoting properties. During the fermentation process, the bacteria turn the sugar in the tea to alcohol leaving a low level of alcohol in this drink. However, commercial-made kombucha tea has less than 0.5% alcohol, so unless pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s usually not a huge issue. Homemade varieties can have up to 3% alcohol in them so be vigilant and ask questions.

Kimchi is a popular Korean side dish and is usually made from fermented cabbage, but it can also be made with other vegetables such as radishes. It is known to help with lowering cholesterol and reducing insulin resistance.

Kefir is a dairy product is similar to yogurt but has a thinner consistency. It can be used as a drink or it can be used with cereal instead of milk.

Apple cider vinegar has been noted to have many benefits. To name a few, besides its fermentation properties, research suggests it may help with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

Tempeh is popular in Japanese cooking. It is a soybean-based fermented food and is a popular meat substitute (similar to tofu). It does contain all the essential amino acids so it is a complete vegetarian protein source.

Vegetables are packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidants. Two of the most common fermented vegetables are sauerkraut and pickles. However, other vegetables can be fermented, such as eggplant, ginger, beets, broccoli, mustard greens, carrots, radishes, etc.

If fermentation sounds interesting to you, please note there are many different recipes, blogs and tips available for you. Here is just one basic recipe that you can use to start fermenting vegetables.

Choose fresh AND fermented foods for better health!

Tony Robbins said the secret to happiness in one word. ... “I always tell people if you want to know the secret to happiness, I can give it to you in one word: progress. Progress equals happiness.” That's because reaching a goal is satisfying, but only temporarily. It’s a feeling of satisfaction that needs to be replenished again and again. “Did I get that thing that I want? Yes, Now I’m happy. I didn’t get what I want. Now I’m unhappy.” Happiness doesn’t stay in one place forever and that’s why we need progress over and over because progress is an onward movement towards a destination. And moving forward is the only way to attain goals.

I believe that’s what keeps people coming back to the gym and working on themselves: goals. I don’t think it needs to be totally tangible either (while many are very tangible). Some people come to the gym to work out because they need a social connection every day while some come because they want to lift a particular weight. Some come because they want to make their golf or tennis better and others want to lose 15 lbs. by summer. Some work with a personal trainer towards a specific goal and many others make it a priority to make it to a high energy class a few times a week.

I think having a goal and working towards it is a very important part of progress. And progress leads to happiness.

To everyone out there who makes a goal and is working towards it, no matter what it is, I applaud you. Keep up the great work. If you’re new in the fitness world, my advice is this: Do things you like and keep doing it. If you hate running, don’t do it. Maybe you’d enjoy walking your dog every night for an hour instead. If you want to lose weight but can’t seem to figure out how, start with looking at what you eat. Try eliminating one unhealthy thing like sugary treats, candy, or perhaps cut wine down to a glass per day or every other day. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself with adding things you don’t care for such as grueling workouts. Try the process of elimination. You’re body and mind will respond for the better by default. That’s the start of progress which will lead to happiness.

Hypertension affects millions of people in the United States. Do you struggle with keeping it in check? Rather than first focusing on what foods to avoid, let’s spend some time with what foods you can choose to help combat this condition.

Drinking beet juice reduces blood pressure both short and long term. Choose 1 cup of the juice every day for 4 weeks and keep track of your numbers. If you see them drop, it will be worth the effort.

As if you needed another reason to eat dark chocolate, but this sweet treat may lower your blood pressure. Be sure you choose 70% or greater cacao and consume a single square serving or 1 ounce each day.

Fruits such as berries, kiwis, guava and bananas are all excellent choices when trying to lower those blood pressure numbers. Berries such as blueberries and strawberries contain the antioxidant, anthocyanin, and this nutrient was found to be more prevalent in people with lower blood pressure. Kiwis and guavas are quite rich in Vitamin C with 70 mg packed into one medium kiwi and 125 mg in a guava. Researchers have found a correlation that consuming an average of 500 mg of Vitamin C per day may produce small reductions of blood pressure. Be aware that this far exceeds the recommended daily value of 90 mg Vitamin C, but know that it is a water-soluble vitamin so your body will excrete what it doesn’t use. How does vitamin C help? It may act as a diuretic, removing excess fluid from your body. This may help lower the pressure within your blood vessels. Bananas have long been touted for the potassium they contain. This mineral is very important in managing hypertension. According to the American Heart Association, potassium reduces the effects of sodium and alleviates tension in the walls of the blood vessels.

Speaking of sodium, now that is one nutrient that is usually given the blame in relation to high blood pressure. If you are struggling with hypertension, monitor your sodium levels. The American Heart Association encourages your sodium levels to be no more than 2300 mg (1 tsp.) of salt a day and an ideal limit of fewer than 1500 mg per day for most adults, especially those with high blood pressure.

Alcohol can also play a role in your pressure numbers. While consuming a small amount of red wine has been proven to help with heart health, using too much alcohol can cause havoc on your pressure numbers.

Finally, you know that caffeine is a stimulant. However, let’s think about this for a bit. The caffeine you consume in coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks can cause a short-term spike in your blood pressure. The review of five trials found that drinking up to 2 cups of strong coffee can increase both systolic and diastolic blood pressure for 3 hours after consumption. The good news is that this short-term increase is just that, short-term, and the findings didn’t show that it caused a long-term increase in your blood pressure. At the very least, plan when you take your blood pressure and try to avoid caffeine use a few hours before.

Hope these tips help in keeping those numbers within the normal range.

Debbie Guenterberg MS, RDN, CD
Prevea Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

 

Food additives are very present in our food supply. When is the last time you looked at a nutrition label strictly for food additives? Of course, it is always important to pay attention to the entire nutrition label focusing in on added sugar, calories, saturated fat, etc. However, I want to draw closer attention to the ingredient list on products and provide a few tips.

You may already know that ingredients are listed from the ones with the highest amounts added to the lowest. However, even if they are on the bottom of the ingredient list, there are additives you want to avoid completely. Please refer to the Chemical Cuisine web site and look at the key and the ingredients that are placed within the following categories.

Safe: The additive appears to be safe
Caution: May pose a risk and needs to be better tested. Try to avoid.
Cut back: Not toxic, but large amounts may be unsafe or promote bad nutrition.
Certain people should avoid: May trigger an acute, allergic reaction, intolerance or other problems.
Avoid: Unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk.

If you have specific questions regarding one of the additives, the site provides a relatively lengthy description of why it was placed within a certain category. Too often, in an effort to eat healthfully, you may be choosing chemically ridden foods. I encourage you to use this resource as a reference and to expand your nutrition knowledge.

Debbie Guenterberg MS, RDN, CD
Prevea Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Every year there seems to be a new fad or diet kick that promises big results. Oftentimes the science behind a new diet or fitness trend is not fully understand and we base decisions off what we hear from others (or what we want to believe).  “Diets” seem to be used as a quick fix solution to lose ‘x’ amount of weight quick, but usually quick fixes aren’t the answer to long term success. It is important to remember that diets do end and once we are done, it’s common to find ourselves slipping back into old habits. If we focus on living a healthy lifestyle, we will find a steady improvement ratio with no yoyo effects.

 

Now, let’s take a second to try and understand the goals and the science behind the Ketogenic Diet. The diet requires us to intake low carbohydrates, high amounts of fats, and moderate levels of protein. By eating low amounts of carbs, the body should reach a phase called ketosis which is a metabolic state where the body breaks down fat for energy.

 

If you live a sedentary life, meaning spending long days sitting or never going to the gym, this diet will be the most effective for you. With a low carb intake, the body is creating lack of muscle glycogen, which is not important to a person not using it anyway. It has also shown to possibly decrease inflammation in the body. This diet has also proven to improve the symptoms of some types of epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and diabetes.

 

The downsides of this diet are immensely more intriguing. The brain utilizes blood sugar (glucose) as a main ingredient to focus, help with cognitive work, interpersonal communication, and sluggishness throughout the day. Anyone who is an athlete or avid gym goer is going to have a terrible time on the Ketogenic Diet. Not only will you have no energy to work out, you will start to burn muscle for fuel. People do see weight loss numbers on the scale the first couple weeks of the diet, but it has been identified as mainly water weight being excreted. There is a difference between losing weight and burning body fat. This diet also consists of a very strict eating plan that most people have had a challenging time following and instead end up using this fad as an excuse to eat high fat diets.

 

The takeaway from this is that living a healthy lifestyle will always trump the new diet fad. Do it right and you won’t have to do it again. Be knowledgeable about what you are doing to your body and keep working hard.

 

Alexis Alger-Feser
NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Have you ever thought that in order to be healthy you must give up certain foods? If someone tries one of my prepared dishes or snacks and then states, “it tastes pretty good for being healthy,” I feel I need to change the recipe or buy a new product. News flash…you can have both pure deliciousness AND healthy!

After being a dietitian for more than 20 years, I realize that people have specific foods that they love but they either try to avoid altogether or eat a healthier version of but are not really satisfied with the taste. I want to help you with this dilemma and provide you with recipes and products that I think are pure deliciousness. You may agree or disagree with my selections, but at least it may help you to consider that you can have wholesome and delicious foods at the same time.

Pizza…do you avoid it? There are some healthy, creative ways to make pizza part of your menu, but I wouldn’t be a registered dietitian without reminding you that portion is still key. Check out this pizza recipe from eatingwell.com.

Ice cream is certainly a fan favorite too, especially as we approach a warmer season. A healthier alternative to ice cream is Halo Top since it is very low in calories. They use the zero-calorie sweetener Stevia and for added sweetness, they use organic cane sugar and erythritol (a type of sugar alcohol). I certainly am not stating that this brand is a ‘healthy snack’, but it does have fewer calories and less fat and could be enjoyed in moderation.

Chocolate is another favorite food that people crave. Desserts can be made with healthier ingredients and still satisfy your sweetness palate. If you believe that chocolate should be a part of your everyday routine, then meet Katie by reading her blog. This blog has not failed me, and I have made quite a few of her decadent desserts for guests and cooking demonstrations. She also has many other recipes for breakfast, lunches and snacks.

Additional healthy recipes, including breakfast foods, can be found at:

cleaneatingmag.com
allrecipes.com
foodiecrush.com

I am all about balance. Are you? Aim for eating healthy 85% of the time and 15% of the time you have some of these foods above. Not quite there? Perhaps you are an 80-20 person or maybe you have higher goals and eat healthy 90% of the time and only waiver 10%. Whatever the case, restraining from certain foods can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. Treat food as fuel and just like you choose high-end fuels for your car engine, treat your body the same. Occasionally you can get away with the cheaper choice, but your body will tell you in many ways that it craves the high-end fuel. Choose wisely!

Deb Guenterberg, MS, RDN, CD
Prevea Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Subscribe to get the latest news from us


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Western Racquet & Fitness Club, 2500 South Ashland Avenue, Green Bay, WI, 54304. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact
cross