Friday, December 30, 2011

Factoid Friday: The Skinny on Nutrition, Part Two - FAT

I'm very sorry that I have let the holidays keep me from updating! I am glad to get back to Factoid Friday! Today we are continuing the three part Nutrition series on the major nutrients, with FAT!

Is FAT a friend or foe? Well, it just depends on how you have grown up seeing it. I have come to see fat as something I don't worry about much at all. I know a lot of you are going to have a hard time taking in this next sentence, but its very true. Fat doesn't make you fat! I know I keep alluding to a post that is going to explain this very complicated relationship between fat, carbohydrates, and hormones, and I promise it will be coming soon.
Until then, here is a quick overview of fat!

Fat gives us energy, is an essential nutrient, it protects our organs, helps regulate temperature, covers nerve cells and provides the structural material for cell walls. In other words, we need fat to live.
Fat also serves as a back-up storage fuel for carbohydrates. We will burn fat when we do not have carbs/glycogen to burn. This is one of the reasons people have found success on lower carb diets. Most people think protein is what we burn, but it is actually a much weaker source of fuel for our body than fat. We will learn more about protein next week!

Ah, the dreaded word. Cholesterol is not a fat. It is a fat-related compound (a sterol) found in animal foods, such as egg yolks, liver, kidney, and meats. It plays many important roles, such as membrane fluidity and cellular signaling. Our body makes a small amount of it just in case we need it.

It is synthesized in the liver and linked with heart disease when consumed in excessive amounts. If you are someone who is prone to high cholesterol, than your diet should obviously be low in cholesterol. If you are a healthy person who does not already have a problem, keeping your total for the day around 300mg should be fine for you.

There are four classes of fats: (We will be concentrating on fatty acids).
  • Lipids - composed of fat and fat related compounds
  • Glycerides - a.k.a. triglycerides
  • Fatty acids - building block of fats
  • Lipoproteins - help move fats through the blood stream

When fatty acids are metabolized, they produce a large quantity of energy for our body. Many of our cells can use either glucose or fatty acids, and our hearts actually prefer to use fatty acids for fuel. I will explain each type and give you a Daily Recommended Intake value.

  • Saturated fats (<10%) - sources include animal fats, tropical oils - palm and coconut. These will raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and has no real effect on HDL (good) cholesterol.

  • Polyunsaturated fats (<10%) - sources include fish oil, veggie oils, and walnuts. These will lower your total cholesterol and also lower your HDL a small amount.

  • Monounsaturated fats (<20%) - sources include olive oil, canola oil, most nuts, avocado, pumpkin/sesame seeds and Omega 3 rich foods. These will lower your LDL, and have little effect on HDL, but most likely will increase it.

  • Trans Fats (<2g a day) - This is the bad one! The daily value should really be zero. These are basically any kind of processed food, margarine, or fast food that contains artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, etc. They will raise your LDL and lower your HDL. We don't want any of that. PLUS the structure of these atoms are changed from the other fats and because of that, it reacts differently in your body.

I hope you will add some healthy fats to your diet and not let eating fat stress you out so much! As we have seen, your body needs fat to survive and function. Try adding a few monounsaturated fats in your diet this week!

Happy new year to you all!

'Til next time,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead"

You might think I am describing most of the United States with the title of this post, (I could), but I am not. Instead I am going to give you a quick review of a health documentary called, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." While it is similar to all the other food documentaries out there, it is not quite as convincing, though it could be worth your time to watch.

An Australian named, Joe Cross, was tired of living the fast food, overweight lifestyle. He has an autoimmune disease that he takes medication for, which is contributing to his overall unhealthy feeling. He decided to move to the United States to complete a 60-day cross country trip and juice fast. You heard me right - JUICE fast. I wasn't pleased when I heard this because I do not believe that fasting like this is necessary, or good for your body -- but, that's for another post!

I ended up enjoying this documentary. I really liked the approach Joe took while walking around America. He brought a juicer with him everywhere he went, talked to anyone on the street willing to converse with him, and offered them samples. Some hated it, but most thought it wasn't bad. He asked insightful questions to his subjects and didn't judge them for seeing their health differently than he. It was purely to gather information. There were a few interviews that stood out to me. In one restaurant, Joe talked to a family of a dad and son as they were chowin' down on some good BBQ. The dad said he would never change his ways (he was overweight) and he said if he only lived 5 more years, so be it. Really? Are you that unconcerned about your health that you would say something like that with your son sitting right next to you? I realize he may have been defensive because he was on camera, but I hope he doesn't regret saying that later.

The other interview that stood out, was one with Phil, an obese and completely unhealthy truck driver. As fate would have it, he has the same autoimmune disease that Joe does (and it is not very common). Very uncanny if you ask me. He gives Phil a taste of the juice, asks him about his lifestyle and how he feels, and gives Phil his number in case he ever decides to try the Juice fast.
A month or so later, Phil calls Joe and almost sounds suicidal, so Joe is able to help him start getting his health on track. He hit bottom and was ready to change.

The documentary goes on to show the progress of both Joe and Phil, which is pretty amazing. Phil ends up doing it for 60 days also, and influences many people around him.

After watching I still had a few concerns. I still cannot get on board with the juice fast. Adding it in with a healthy, clean diet, is one thing, but doing it for any stretch of time by itself is dangerous. I know they lost plenty of weight and felt great, but did they (especially Phil) get any nutrition education on how to eat afterwards? They both changed their eating, but without proper nutrition knowledge, would they eventually turn back to what they knew for so long?

Knowing that eating clean, pure foods, can have the same effect on your body as a "cleanse," is something that doesn't make sense to a lot of people. Your body will naturally do this when you stop eating processed foods. It takes more time to plan meals, cook and keep the motivation to eat right. I think it hits most people when they have a serious health event in their life. But, why not before?

So, in the end, I liked the message of this documentary. It wasn't a mind-blowing film, but more thought provoking. If you have a chance, check it out on Netflix and let me know what you think!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breakfast, Anyone?

Today's post is going to be about breakfast. Why? I have heard from many of my friends that they don't have time for breakfast, or they don't really know what to eat. I have also heard WHAT they eat and it kind of makes me want to kick them.
So, I am here to offer you some suggestions.

Breakfast is THE most important meal of the day. Especially, with what you put in your body after basically fasting the whole night. Your metabolism needs a kick-start for the day, and it also will help you not overeat at lunch or dinner. I can hear you all saying, "Well it makes me feel sick to eat early..." "All I need is coffee...", or "I can't eat before I workout..." All to which I say, WELL EAT ANYWAY! Just do it, like the Nike saying. Just do it. You will eventually get used to it. Your body needs fuel to get you going.

Here are a few of my favorite breakfasts, and some come with pictures! :)

1) Omelettes
Now, I know most of you don't have time to make a full omelette in the morning, but on the weekends, try to make some. Experiment with different ingredients, too. You do not have to be a professional omelette maker to get them looking all perfect. Egg scrambles are basically the same!

My favorites:
Avocado/onion; Bacon/onion/green onion; and Sausage/onion

2) Whole wheat english muffin with Almond butter/peanut butter and honey
This one is easy and quick and you can take in the car with you! My favorite kind of almond butter is MaraNatha.

3) Greek yogurt with almonds or walnuts (or any other). I love greek yogurt. I eat it everyday. My favorite kind is Oikos by Stoneyfield. I eat plain, but there are multiple flavors, but watch out for the sugar content. (I also like it for a snack by adding chocolate chips in...shhh!)

4) Whole grain (frozen) waffles with peanut butter OR with greek yogurt, walnuts, honey on top. I just say "yum, yum" to this.

5) Oatmeal! Watch the ingredients, though, if you eat instant oatmeal.

If you eat whole grains for breakfast, with some protein, you should feel fuller longer than just eating something like cereal or fruit, but experiment and see what keeps you full longer.

Now, go experiment! Happy eating!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Factoid Friday: The Skinny on Nutrition, Part One

CARBS, FATS, and PROTEIN: What do you know about these nutrients?

We are switching gears for this edition of Factoid Friday and diving into nutrition.
I am going to explain the three major nutrients over the course of the next three weeks. Today we are starting with Carbohydrates. Check back the next two friday's for Fats and Protein. They all do pretty amazing stuff for the body!

When wanting to lose weight, most people think of carbohydrates as evil. But, the problem is most people associate carbs with simple sugars like cookies, breads, chocolate, candy, etc.
Did you know that carbs serve a multitude of functions in the body? They provide energy for physical activity, energy for the cells in the body, provide a reserve fuel supply, help protect and fuel the liver, heart, central nervous system, and regulate protein and fat. That's a lot for one nutrient!

Simple and Complex
They are found in grains, legumes, veggies, and fruits. The two basic types of carbs are complex and simple. Complex carbs are the whole grain foods, like whole grain breads, whole oats, and brown rice. These whole grains retain the bran layer, inner germ and endosperm of the kernel. They keep the natural nutrients. Simple carbs are what's found in fruit (fructose), milk (lactose), processed foods, and white breads (flour). They are the quickest to breakdown in the body. Also included are "enriched grains" - which means they are refined grains and have the nutrients added back to them.

Why would anyone want "refine" a grain and rip off the bran layer and germ layer of a whole grain? Then further refine the grain by mixing, bleaching, brominating, and THEN add in (less than half of) the nutrients that the kernel already provided?? That's a great question, folks! Well, there are a few reasons that I know of, but I can't speak for the big processing companies of today. The processed grains have a longer shelf life, make bread softer, and it makes the flour very white. Stupid reasons? I think so.

So, now, if the first/second ingredient on a product listed is 'Enriched Flour' you now know exactly what they did to get it that way. How can you make a change in your pantry to add more whole grains and less refined grains?

Fiber is a complex carb that is not digestible; therefore, it moves food through our systems. It is found mainly in the structural parts of plants, and in whole grains.
The daily recommended intake is 35g for men/25g for women. Generally, our diets are pretty low in fiber (considering all the processed foods we eat). Fiber aids in digestion, lowers cholesterol, lowers the risk of colon cancer, and lowers blood glucose spikes. It is good for you!

  1. From the carbohydrates we eat in the United States, 39% come from grains, 39% from added sugars, and 22% from other sources.
  2. How much should you eat? The Dietary Reference Intakes set by the government say that we should have 45%-65% of carbs in our diet.
  3. What is considered an added sugar? We definitely eat enough sugar, but most products have extra sugar added to them - meaning not found naturally in the product. Here are names of some of those added sugars:
  • brown sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • glucose
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • sugar
  • syrup

Which products do they add the most added sugars to?

  • 33% in soft drinks
  • 16.1% in candy
  • 12.9% cakes, cookies, pies
  • 9.7% fruit drinks
  • 8.6% dairy desserts/milk products
  • 5.8% other grains - cereals, waffles, etc

I hope you have learned something new today about carbohydrates. They are not all bad for you, but what can you do to make a change in your eating habits if you find yourself eating a lot of simple carbs? I hope you have begun to make your health a priority, and one big step is to eat more healthy and complex carbs.

Please check back next friday for the skinny on FAT!

Source: Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 13th edition textbook

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What's it Like to Workout with Jillian?!

Hey Everyone!
I am excited to write this post because I want to share my experience of meeting Jillian Michaels (JM) and my experience going on The Jillian Michaels Fitness and Wellness Cruise in October 2010. I apologize to my friends who have heard this already. I did talk about it a lot! :)

I have heard from others who were on the cruise that it was a life changing experience for them. I am not sure I would go as far as saying that for myself, BUT it did solidify my love and appreciation of fitness and of Jillian and "her world." Her world consists, of course, of high intensity exercise and eating organic, keeping things chemical free, and really caring for the well-being of her fans and followers. Basically, an all-around healthy approach to life. If you refer back to my first post, an integral part of my change was Jillian and her way of explaining and being a no-nonsense kind of person. I needed that to kick my butt into gear!

We arrived in Miami and had to wait in about 50 long lines to finally get on the actual ship, where we were greeted with another long line to wait to meet and take a picture with Jillian. This was the only line I was okay with waiting in :) I was a total nerd and didn't even talk to her! I just said 'Hi" and introduced myself. I was mad at myself for that! My mom on the other hand, got right up there, told her some secret and then Jillian looked at me dead in the eyes and mom wouldn't ever tell me what she said to her! No fair. Here is our fun picture!

Anyway, this cruise was packed full of exercise and four days of awesome activities, seminars, and speakers. We were able to hear from endocrinologist, Dr. Van Herle, train with Hollywood trainers Jeanette Jenkins, Marco Borges, Steve Lee (JM's trainer), and Basheerah Ahmad. Singer Michael Tolcher and DJ Frankie kept us hoppin'. Jillian also did three speaking engagements and the one we got tickets to was supposed to be on nutrition, but ended up being a fun Q&A session. We had team challenges throughout the time on the ship, and everyone got to participate in a beating, I mean a workout, with JM. :-)

(Pictured: JM speaking at our speaking engagement - we sat in the 3rd row! ;)

So, what's it like to workout with Jillian?

Imagine if you woke up to THIS every morning!
Yea, well that's what I woke up to the first morning of the cruise!

Check out the video below. It is just a taste of what she had us doing. Of course, we were the first workout of the weekend and the workouts just got worse and worse as the days progressed and Jillian got more creative! I am the one in the black tank top and blue underneath. My friend, Amanda, is the one to the left of me in the blue top.

Note: I apologize if my mom's video skillz make you seasick.

JM cracked me up during the workouts. She would dance and sing to the songs and stand on people all the time. The highlight of my trip came during my workout when she walked by and sat on my back during plank pose. I tried to buck her off but no such luck :) It was pretty cool, though.

It was a fantastic four days. I loved that everyone on the boat was there for the same reason. I was in my element and that is how I knew I loved fitness. Jillian is tough, but for a good reason. She wants change. She wants you to believe in yourself enough TO change. I also don't want someone to just throw some exercise at me and not push me or challenge me. I am not going to be a trainer who does that either. She doesn't yell ALL the time, and she is not as crazy as they portray her on Biggest Loser! :)

I hope that in reading this, you can imagine how finding a community of people who are after the same goals as you, really help motivate you, inspire you and encourage you. That's what this cruise was like for me, and that is what my community at the YMCA is like as well.
Jillian is planning another wellness weekend somewhere out west in May(ish) and I will definitely be updating you on that. I am excited to see her again and all the people I met on the cruise!

One last thing, if you are interested, click here to see the Shutterfly book I made about the cruise. I was able to show Jillian this in March when I also met her in Washington, D.C. She looooved it! As you can see by the expression on her face :)

That's all for now, folks! Happy Monday to you!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Factoid Friday: The Movers and Shakers of the Pelvis

Welcome to the second Factoid Friday!

Okay, so today's fact is about your Hip Flexors. These are probably the most over-used and under-stretched muscle in your body. They are located where your hip and legs meet. They sit directly opposite of your Gluteus, on the front side of your body. We actually have four muscles that flex the hip, but we are only going to talk about the main two.

The strongest and main hip flexor is called the Illiopsoas, which is made up of two muscles: the Iliacus and the Psoas Major, but because they do the same actions, they combined the names to get Illiopsoas.

What do they do? Well they flex the hip, bringing your thigh up to your stomach or trunk to your knees, so if you are marching in place with your knees high, doing a knee tuck jump, a situp or a bicycle crunch, then you are using your hip flexors to do those actions.

The Psoas Major helps keep the lumbar curve in your spine. If there is a weakness on both sides, there will be a tendency for your low back to flatten, which will cause walking and posture imbalances.

So, why would they be over-used and under-stretched? Think about your body position throughout the day. Most of us sit all day at our jobs or on the couch. We are bent in the sitting position all the time. Think about the kinds of exercises you do most. Do you ever think about the backside of your body, a.k.a. your posterior chain? The lower back, glutes, and hamstrings get pretty neglected. Therefore, when you sit all day, your hip flexors are tight and then you go exercise and do a bunch of flexion exercises that make them even more tight and sore, and then what happens!? Does anyone think about stretching them? Probably not much.

First: Exercise your posterior chain! Do dead lifts, squats, back extensions, and opposite arm and leg raises to strengthen your back and help correct posture imbalances. Check out the pictures below for some examples.

(Pictured: back extension/opposite arm and leg raise)

Second: STRETCH your hip flexors! I'm sorry I don't have a picture for this, so I will explain the best I can. My instructor taught us an excellent stretch for the good ole flexors. A good way to do this is to get in a lunge position with your back knee/shin resting the ground, like a runner's stretch. Put your arms straight over your head and then turn your torso and lean toward the side of the leg in front, or the one supporting you. You should feel a stretch in your opposite hip flexor, as well as your obliques.

So, next time you have to sit all day, take a minute to get up and stretch your hip flexors and then try to incorporate some back exercises in your next workout routine! I can tell you that mine like me so much better now that I have started doing those stretches! :)

Good luck and go stretch!
See you next Friday with a new fun-filled fact!