As you can see, some smart nutrition and exercise has reshaped my body and my life. And it can do the same for you!
Here I am at 17 years old, headed down the path of obesity. Although the style for jeans was rather saggy and baggy, I was wearing a 36 waist size and a XL or 2XL shirt. The reason I am posting this is because most look at me and think I have been svelte and athletic my entire life, but this is not the case. I was overweight and had no confidence in my body throughout my entire childhood; I was so embarrassed through junior high and high school that I didn't even take my shirt off at a pool party. Everything I have achieved has been "against the odds," so to speak, which lets me understand where my clients are coming from. And that's why you can be assured that I implicitly practice what it is I'm preaching.
As you can see, some smart nutrition and exercise has reshaped my body and my life. And it can do the same for you!
Sorry I have not been as active with my blog over the last two weeks, but I have picked up several new clients and have been busy working up my wellness-seminar materials for this Thursday night! I will resume with my posting on nutrition habits later this evening, I hope.
I would like to say that I have had two clients with breakthrough months over the course of February, losing over 10 pounds. In one month! 4-7 pounds would be a more typical loss pattern, but these guys have really worked hard; they really want to make some changes, and when you have a level of great desire and are armed with the tools and knowledge on how to make those changes (Stigletics!), I promise it can happen to you, too.
Now I imagine you are wondering how they survived such starvation and deprivation, and the ridiculous number of hours they must have put into training this month... But you don't have to wonder, because I can tell you it was full of great foods and only 3 hour-long weight-training sessions a week, with some extra walking thrown in there.
One of my clients that has made phenomenal progress over the last month has also been blogging about his journey, and it's very inspiring; I'm hoping he'll let me interview him tomorrow and then share his answers on this site for you!
Habit 4 - Consume at least 5 servings of non-starch vegetables and 1 serving of fruit a day! And by non-starch, I mean fibrous vegetables loaded with fiber, minerals and vitamins, and that have a minimal impact on blood sugar. Not only will these serve to improve mood, body composition, labs at your next physical, and energy, this is also the big trick to eating a higher volume of food every day while your waistline plummets. As far as the fruits, they are important for the same reason, but, again, they are not all considered equal when speaking body composition.
Some examples of vegetables that you simply cannot get enough of: Any and all green leafy vegetables, including lettuce varieties, chives, spinach, kale, bok choy, etc; Broccoli; Cauliflower; Mushrooms; Onions; Peppers; Zucchini; Squash; tomatoes; eggplant; green beans; Eggplant; Carrots; Cucumber; Celery; radishes and parsnips. You could gorge yourself on these foods all day and still couldn't eat enough of them to increase bodyfat, as your stomach would fill up long before - the foods simply have too high a fiber/calorie ratio to be able to consume enough calories, and that's why they are a dieter's best friend. I enjoy these foods raw when I'm on the go or haven't planned properly, steamed or stir-fried when I'm at home and can cook, and I eat massive quantities of all.
Now for some veggies that contain more starch and should be treated as such if body composition is a main goal: Most pea varieties, corn, and potatoes. I typically eat sparingly from this group unless my energy demands are high enough to justify, like after my workout.
Fruits with lower sugar/more fiber if body composition is a primary goal: Apples, citrus fruits, any berries, pomegranates, pears and peaches. Apples, Pears, and grapefruit are my personal staples when I'm in a fat-loss stage.
Examples of fruits that are a bit more sugary would be grapes, bananas, watermelon, pineapple, papaya, etc. I eat these fruits at will when I'm in a maintenance or muscle-gain stage, but limit these when trying to lose bodyfat.
As far as body composition, broccoli and cauliflower can be your best friend, along with apples and grapefruit - these are my four powerhouse food sources when I'm trimming bodyfat for modeling gigs where being ultra-lean is critical.
Some delicious ways to up your veggie intake and replace some common starch pitfalls:
Veggie stir fries with coconut oil, spices, and garlic; fresh salsas; organic tomato sauces; lettuce wraps with fresh veggies and meat inside, whether it be a lunch sandwich, or a lean cheeseburger; omelettes; lean chinese and mongolian stir-fries without the rice (they always bring me an extra side of steamed broccoli to replace the rice); naked fajitas and burritos (without the tortilla); salads with no dressing or very little dressing; raw veggies for snacks.
You cannot successfully implement lean eating or be successful at these nutrition habits if you do not increase your fibrous vegetable content; I can promise you that you will be hungry if you do find some options that fall under the veggies you just can't eat too much of.
You will also not receive the wellness benefits of the nutrition strategies without working these in to your daily routine, as you will be lacking vitamins and minerals and lots of soluble and insoluble fiber.
So, study this post and get in your veggies! The more you consume, the leaner and healthier you will be at your next doctor physical!
Habit 3 - Limit starches to breakfast and/or immediately post workout. This habit is more geared toward a leaner body composition or maintenance phase; if you are trying to gain weight, or you have a very active job or physically demanding daily activities, then more carbohydrates are necessary... The main point I want you to take with you on this is: carbohydrates are simply an very rapid fuel source for the body, and if you don't need that instant fuel replenishment, or if you aren't actively working immediately after ingestion, I can guarantee you that your blood sugar will shoot up, facilitating an insulin response that will drive any remaining sugars that cannot be utilized right then and there by the body, straight into your fat cells for use at a later time. So, Habit 3 is really geared more towards eating based on your daily energy expenditure. Considering the vast majority of jobs in the market are classified as "sedentary," I have geared Habit 3 to this population that sits at a desk for most of the day.
We'll tackle morning starches first. Since you have been asleep, and sugars have been depleted early in the sleep cycle, you can safely ingest some starchy carbs without much fear that any will be stored as bodyfat. Morning carbs are more likely to be shuttled by insulin into the muscle cells of the body, and/or the liver. For maximum fat loss during the course of the day, I suggest minimizing morning starches, and obtaining your sugar sources from non-gluten sources that are rich in fiber and will disperse more slowly into your blood stream. I really like beans as a morning carbohydrate source, as beans typically have around 15 g of fiber in a serving, some additional proteins, and break down more slowly in the stomach and facilitate slower absorption. Fruit is another great fibrous carb source for breakfast, and contains more good stuff than, say, some wheat toast or other gluten containing breakfast fare that will just leave you hungry again in a few hours. I will go further to say that even on my very active days, I rarely consume any starches in the morning; I opt for some healthy fat choices to beef up my caloric intake, as this is a much better way to keep blood sugar stable and under control, which is listed in more detail under Habit 2.
That improved insulin sensitivity upon waking is like a window of opportunity to ingest carbohydrates, and once that window closes, it should be protein, fibrous veggies, and healthy fat sources primarily throughout the remainder of the day, unless some bout of intense energy expenditure is commenced. Which brings us to, hopefully, our workout on the way home from work. If you are trying to lose bodyfat, I recommend some protein before workouts, but really no carbs to speak of; any carbs that are ingested immediately prior to the workout will simply be utilized as fuel for the workout, and it will increases the time before your body starts breaking down it's own fat stores for energy. I mean, why go through the trouble of oxidizing fat for energy when there's plenty of sugars floating around in the bloodstream? Your body is always trying to do things along the path of least resistance. So, ingesting some protein will boost your blood amino acid levels and can deter the body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy. If you are an athlete trying to maximize performance, then starches would be great prior to training, but if you are trying to shed fat and maximum performance is not your primary goal, ditch the preworkout carbs.
So, this brings us to the other time when carbs are indicated: post workout, or after any other bout of moderate to high-intensity exercise lasting more than 30 minutes in duration. After periods of activity, the glycogen or sugars that are stored in muscle tissue will become depleted, and you will have another window of opportunity to ingest starchy carbs. Since you have depleted the muscle tissue of energy, that same insulin response that stores bodyfat most of the other times in the day will be more likely to actually drive the sugar molecules into the muscle cells instead of the existing fat cells. This is going to be true any time of the day that there has been a significant energy expenditure. When society was farming, walking everywhere, building their own homes, taking care of livestock, etc., that would facilitate a great caloric expenditure, necessitating more foods like potatoes, Rices, Breads; since the most work we do is walking from our car to our office, we simply don't need all of that instant fuel source, and that is why it all just gets stored away as bodyfat for later use. And this is why nutrient timing, especially with carbohydrates, is imperative to lean body composition. With most clients, limiting the starches to these two times of day produces rapid and consistent bodyfat loss, since we are eating the carbs when needed and only when needed, thereby stoking the metabolic furnace, managing blood sugar, and creating an environment that is still conducive to gaining lean body mass, if that is your goal (should be everyone's!)...
As far as carbs, I have my weight-loss clients count the starchy ones, and try to keep the number under 100 grams on workout days, and under 50 grams on non-workout days. The extra 50 grams on workout days should all come immediately post workout. If you are trying to pack on some lean muscle too much additional bodyfat gain, you can employ these strategies with a little tweak: Drink a sugar-containing supplement drink during your bout of exercise, and then follow that up with post workout carbs in the 50-100 gram range. This strategy helps me achieve maximum performance during the workout, and achieve muscle gain with minimal fat gain.
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Okay, everyone, so I'm assuming you have been trying to drink more water every day! Now I'd like to talk about the next habit - breakfast!
Even when you are lying in bed asleep, your body is still undergoing a host of processes, albeit with much less energy demand than when you are awake. At some point during the night, your body will have used up any glycogen (sugars) still floating around and will switch over to bodyfat stores, as needed for energy, to keep you living and make sure that you will wake up in the morning. When you wake up and start moving around, the energy demands are increased and the body will begin to speed back up. When the body is not fed upon waking, since most people have rock-bottom blood sugar upon waking, it will try to stay in an energy conservation mode, and will slow down metabolic processes to a minimum to compensate for the lack of fuel, or food, in this instance. If you are trying to lose weight, you want your resting metabolic rate to be as high as possible, so strike one against you if you don't get up and replenish your starving body. And in my years of nutrition coaching, I have noticed a strong trend in those that desire to lose weight - they skip breakfast!
Now, since blood sugar is already low, anything you eat is going to cause it to elevate to a more normal range, whether you are eating a carbohydrate source (sugar) or from protein and fat sources. Since Stigletics is all about controlling blood sugar, most of the time I advise clients to consume some good protein, healthy fats, and a piece of fruit or some fibrous vegetables, instead of the run-of-the-mill high-starch breakfast options that will send your blood sugar skyrocketing and set you up for the inevitable crash and hunger that will hit mid-morning. So, besides eating your first meal within an hour of waking, it needs to be comprised of some protein so that your body will have the amino acids it needs, plenty of vitamins/antioxidents to get your day started right, and some nice healthy fat sources that will keep your blood sugar level and give you a slow energy dispersion throughout the morning. If you are going to sit in a desk all morning at work, you do not need any starchy carbohydrates in your breakfast; if you are heading off to the construction site to toil all morning, you could probably use some.
My two "go-to" breakfasts of choice are:
Omega-3 Eggs, Uncured Turkey bacon, and some vegetables sauteed in a little bit of coconut oil, with a handful of fish oil capsules. I do my eggs over medium, cook the bacon in the microwave, and the veggies take 3 minutes while the eggs are cooking. Total time to cook and eat is 10 minutes, and I've got some great protein from the eggs and turkey bacon, tons of vitamins in the veggies and the egg yolks, plenty of fiber in the veggies, and super fat sources in the omega eggs, coconut oil, and fish oil. When I take my blood sugar after the breakfast, it is still under 100, and it's a LOT of food. If I have a high energy demand for the day, I'll throw in some black beans, lima beans, or butter beans. And for those of you that just can't give up the toast, go for a brown-rice loaf of bread found in the gluten-free section of the store. Still hungry? Finish it off with a grapefruit, apple, some berries, or comparable fruit choice.
Micellar Casein Protein Smoothie made with 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup SO unsweetened coconut milk, a container of Kroger's Carbmaster Yogurt, one scoop (23 g) of protein, a couple of berries, and a handful of ice cubes, mixed in the blender. And, of course, a handful of fish oil! This breakfast contains incredible proteins from the yogurt and the casein, great fat sources in the coconut milk and the fish oil, and some antioxidants and vitamins in the berries. This one takes about 3 minutes to blend up, and you can take it with you in the car to work, so this is my superfast super breakfast on the run! The great thing about the addition of the yogurt, besides the wonderful probiotic cultures, is that you can instantly change the entire flavor of the smoothie depending upon the flavor of yogurt! It's so delicious it will taste like a dessert treat instead of breakfast, and you have my guarantee that it will keep you satisfied up through lunch time.
The only time I cut slack with clients on breakfast is if they are getting up to do a bit of morning cardio, which I can guarantee works more effectively for fat loss in a fasted state. But I do encourage eating immediately after the cardio session. I'll be touching on this great way to burn fat in a later post.
Now I would just like to give a short list of breakfast fare that will wreck your blood sugar and body composition, and just end up in the fat cells on your thighs, buttocks, and stomach: Any and ALL breakfast cereals, cereal bars, donuts, bagels, bread made from gluten, PopTarts, etc.
So, I challenge everyone to find a great breakfast that fits these parameters, and then make it a priority to get it in as early as possible!