Category Archives: Fitness

Before You Start Your “New You in 2020” Diet – Ask Yourself These Questions:

This week, and for the next 2-3 weeks, there’s going to be a lot of posts, emails, and marketing pushing different detoxes, diets, fitness challenges, and “New Year, New You” type programs to help you make 2020 your best year ever.

The problem is, when we select a diet, challenge, or program based upon what is trending or what worked really well for Cousin Eddie, we don’t necessarily set ourselves up for success. Unique attributes such as work, family demands, lifestyle, ability/enjoyment of cooking, time, food intolerances and genetics play a huge role in whether or not any diet or exercise program will be successful.

When conducting an initial consultation with a potential client, we always drill in on their past successes and struggles, personal preferences, and lifestyle in order to determine how to best support them through change and to determine what they will best need for success. It also helps us establish whether or not we will be the right health team for them to achieve their goals. At the end of this meeting, everyone in the room has clarity on next steps and what will be foundational to success. If continuing with us in not in their best interest, we do our best to refer them to someone who can better meet their needs.

When considering any program, it’s essential to do a self-assessment to determine if it is even worth your attention. Doing a self-assessment clarifies your individual needs and qualities and will allow you to identify the best plan that will get you to your 2020 goals. To get started, consider the following:

1. What are your food/movement preferences?

2. Is it more realistic for you to follow a specific meal/exercise plan or stay more flexible? 

3. What struggles have hindered you in the past?

4. What are your main obstacles to eating more healthy/getting fit? 

5. What have you tried in the past has yielded the most success? Why?

6. Do you do your own grocery shopping?

7. Do you do your own cooking?

8. Do you have any specific dietary requirements?

9. Do you prefer to exercise at a gym, home, or outside?

10. How much time do you have available to dedicate to the change needed to achieve your goals?

 

Don’t make the mistake of jumping into a program just because it’s popular with others. True success depends upon finding a plan that is based upon your individual needs, dietary preferences and exercise habits. When we jump on the current trend, we aim to fit ourselves and lives into an artificial construct that never took us into consideration to begin with. When it doesn’t work out, it enforces feelings of failure and grinds in ugly beliefs about our abilities, willpower, and overall success as human beings that seed doubt and do lasting damage. All of these plans work for some people, but no structured plan will work for all people. For your health, sanity, and happiness, find what works for you and stick to that. It’s not the easiest solution, but it’s the only one that will work.

Need some help? Contact us for a quick Discovery Call or an Initial Consultation and let us help you find what will work for you in 2020 and beyond!


Fall Off the Fitness Bandwagon? Read This!

On November 2nd, I’ll be running my first half marathon since 2010. Falling off the fitness bandwagon and pretty much staying there has been my closeted shame since my son was born in 2012.
I had spurts and fits of starting up again, but I was pretty inconsistent due to developing a thyroid condition postpartum (Hashimoto’s if you’re curious) and going to grad school when kiddo turned two. Getting back into the swing of things has been humbling and has taught me a great deal. Until I finished school, I had not been able to be reliably active for more than 12 weeks at a time. My greatest success was when I hired a personal trainer, but as soon as that funding ran out, so did my ability to commit to activity. Each start and stop over the years eroded my confidence more and more (can you relate?), but this last time I started up with what had the greatest reward potential and the lowest obstacles: running. I’d had a long, successful history with running and the time flexibility it offers is second only to having an in home gym or class you really like. Here’s what I’ve been learning  about myself over the last 5 months coming back to fitness from “Square One”:

  1. You’ve got to let go of your past Self.  Once you’ve been away long enough, comparing yourself to your past self is just as foolish as comparing yourself to anyone else. Who I am now is nearly a decade older, structurally different after having a baby and losing significant muscle mass, and still navigating a complex medical condition. Each run gave me a humbling lesson in accepting a slower pace, acknowledging that this new body needs more rest and recovery, and that it also needs to beef up the muscles around the joints if those joints are going to last. The more I left Athlete Aimee in the past the more I was able to enjoy and appreciate what I was slowly building up to in the present. This made staying consistent that much easier. One of the ways I protected myself from making comparisons was to run for time rather than distance for the first few months so my Ego could take a chill pill (ie – run for 20 minutes rather than run for 2 miles).
  2. Some is Better than None: Some weeks fatigue took me a step back or life got busy again and my mileage suffered. Because I was focused on creating a habit and not an end goal in mind (like a race) I could adjust as needed and remain flexible yet consistent. Two miles is just as good as five is that’s all I have time or energy for. Once I was imperfectly consistent enough to get in three runs a week for a month and build up to 6 miles, I pulled the trigger and signed up for a half marathon several months out to allow enough time to be imperfectly consistent and still safely run a long distance race.
    Sometimes I’d lure myself out for a run with the promise of coffee. I’m not above bribery, people!

     

  3. Acknowledge and Respect the Hand of Chaos: Mom Aimee has to be much more flexible and forgiving with her training schedule than Athlete Aimee did. While I could have trained for a half in 12 weeks, I gave myself 16 weeks to make accommodations for the hand of chaos which is an inevitable part of the landscape now. Sometimes my training schedule called for a 5 mile run one day that ended up being a 2 miler and a 3 miler over two days. For a couple weeks work pushed out activity and threatened to derail my efforts but I recommitted and set firmer boundaries around my running time, enlisting the support of my partner. Once I accrued enough endurance, I paired my workout with a family errand (I ran to the Farmer’s Market and they met me there) to both motivate me and eliminate the temptation for what I wanted (this race) vs what needed to get done (weekly food shopping).
  4. Once the habit is established, begin to branch out. I’m now in the habit of exercising 3-4 days a week, which honestly still astonishes me because that hasn’t been the case for years. After my half, I’m going to shake things up by adding weights back into the routine to build up that muscle mass I lost and give my 40-something knees more support. I’ll be playing with high intensity intervals and heavy weights, cycling them with my hormone status. Even though I’ve done this with clients, my own fitness has been inconsistent enough that I’ve not yet fully implemented this in my own regimen. I have a base of strength and endurance now to play with some more complex training and that is sparking my excitement enough I believe I’ll stay consistent post-race. Having a plan post-race will keep me moving forward. This is a strategy I’ve implemented with all my runners to help prevent the post-race blues.

 

Have you ever fallen off the bandwagon and stayed down for a significant period of time? What worked to get you back on track, or are you still struggling? Comment below and let me know!

Blasphemous Thoughts on Sports Nutrition

NOTE: This post was authored by Aimee Gallo and originally appeared in the Athleta Chi Blog in 2013. It has been slightly edited from the original post.


Chocolate Milk is Crap.

Yes – I said it!  I think chocolate milk is crap. The recovery food hailed by the world as the perfect post-workout replenishment falls far short of it in my book. Before I fully step upon my soap box, let me explain why chocolate milk rose to fame.

The key nutrition components to a complete recovery can be summed up in two categories: 1) nutrition repletion and 2) hydration. Here’s why the Dairy Council and many coaches and sports nutritionists are pushing milk at the finish line:

  • Chocolate milk contains the ‘ideal’ ratio of carbohydrates to protein. The 1:3 – 1:4 ratio not only replenishes glycogen, but also provides protein for tissue repair and transport of the carbohydrates more effectively into the cell walls.
  • Chocolate milk is liquid – therefore it contributes to rehydrating the body.
  • Chocolate milk is tasty – I mean, really! Who on earth doesn’t like chocolate milk?!?!
  • Chocolate milk is cheap, convenient and accessible. You can find it anywhere – even along a highway in rural Kansas at a truck stop or gas station.

The above facts are exactly why you are thinking chocolate milk sounds good right about now! However, I take the viewpoint that the human body is a miraculous vessel. When you think about all it does for you and all it puts up with, it’s not hard to understand on some level that it is an incredible machine – not unlike a Ferrari, Tesla or Lamborghini. Chocolate milk is like putting the cheapest diesel fuel you can find into your half-million dollar sports car. Here’s why:

  • Chocolate milk is a dairy food – and dairy foods come with a host of potential problems. They are highly allergenic (an estimated 60-75% of the adult human population exhibits signs of dairy intolerance) and often laced with excessive hormones from the conditions in which cattle are raised. Excess estrogen is already of great concern to many individuals as it is linked to hormone imbalances and possibly cancer in humans. Dairy products may exacerbate that. (My former teacher Dr. Mark Hyman has a compelling piece on dairy and the Food Guide Pyramid here if you want more info.)
  • Chocolate milk’s carbohydrate source comes exclusively from lactose (potential allergen) and high fructose corn syrup or sugar. HFCS is strongly suspect as being a contributor to diabetes and non-alcohol related fatty liver due to how it is digested in the body. Corn syrup and table sugar are, of course, the most nutritionally devoid form of carbohydrate on the market. Regardless of where any nutritionist or dietitian is on our highly political food spectrum, we all agree that sugar and corn syrup are not ideal sources of carbohydrate. So my question to you is, are they the sources you want to be pumping into your cells to repair them after a hard workout? Do you want the construct of your muscle tissue to come from vitamin-devoid sweeteners?

This stance alone has some of you wanting to squeeze the remainder of your milk carton in my face. I get it. I’m not taking a popular stance here. If milk judgment were my only offense, you might forgive me. But I have more blasphemy for you.

CARB LOADING

Our mainstay and go-to, the absolute foundation of endurance sports nutrition lies in carb loading. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of pancake feeds, pasta feeds, thai food feasts, and other meals I’ve had after long runs over the last 15 years. This was a myth I bought hook, line, and sinker. It made sense. It was widely backed by research. The entire sports nutrition community did it and backed it. And pancakes and pasta sound AWESOME after two to three hours on the road. Another easy sell! I began to question this logic though when it became more and more challenging to maintain my weight. I struggled to prevent weight gain when my training was at its highest – ten hours a week or more! At 5’2″ my stomach doesn’t hold enough food to make up for the calories I was losing, yet I was still challenged. Working with other endurance athletes – I saw the same struggles in them. It wasn’t until I understood the hormonal impact of carbohydrates in relation to fat burning and left the caloric model completely that I was able to lose the seven pounds I gained for my last races in 2010 AND be able to help other runners and triathletes lose the spare tire that refused to go away.

Looking around we all know that some people stay slender and others have to fight for it. The answer, however, isn’t in hours logged and miles run so much as it is in the food choices we make on an hour-to-hour basis. I, and other endurance athletes, find better results in carbohydrate moderation rather than continued carbohydrate loading. I discovered that there was no need to carb-up to the extent that I had been taught. Many runners will only lean out when they start moderating the quantity and timing of their carbohydrate intake. If you are burning loads of calories and still struggling with weight you’ll want to explore this possibility immediately. This holds especially true for females, as our cycling hormones heavily impact how we utilize carbohydrates during different times of the month and carbohydrate utilization changes again (not in our favor) after menopause.

My final blasphemy for the day is a hybrid of the above two. The pre-race spaghetti feed. For races less than two hours long, it is unlikely you will need to consume extra carbohydrates than you typically do unless you are on a carbohydrate-restricted diet. For many events such a feed is simply unnecessary. Events lasting longer than two hours are best fueled with moderate carbohydrate consumption the day before and with amino acid and carbohydrate replenishment during the event. Another consideration with the pre-race pasta meal again lies in food intolerances and digestive upset. Gluten intolerance is very common in my practice and increasingly common in the general population. Thus the pasta feed can lead to digestive upset during the race, increased inflammation and decreased recovery, poor moods, decreased alertness and motor skills (I kid you not), and overall lowered performance. Many clients have had a significant shift in performance simply by shifting the pre-race meal to sushi, brown rice pasta with loads of vegetables, or including a baked yam or potato with dinner the night before. Give it a try before your next race and see if you feel a difference! If you already have a gluten-free pre-race meal, I’d love to know what it is so I can share with my gluten-free athletes!

It is not my intention to create enemies with this post – only to open up the possibility for alternatives if what you are currently accepting as appropriate is, in fact, not working for you. Each person is unique and therefore requires a unique formula to achieve success on and off the trail.

For more insights into race recovery (including my favorite recipes), fat loss for endurance runners and using real foods to fuel you active lifestyle, sign up for our newsletter and receive tips directly in your inbox!

The Scoop on Protein Powder: Processed Junk or Useful Life Hack?

Protein powder.

Some people swear by the stuff. Others can’t stand the thought of choking down a gritty, highly processed powder and calling it a ‘meal’.

As one who is a staunch proponent of food first, I completely understand those who take the latter position. The reality is all protein powders are highly processed. Whether it is whey from a cow or sprouted hemp seeds, what you buy in the jar no longer resembles its original form. It has been radically altered to be shelf stable, dissolvable in water, and somewhat palatable to boot.

That does not make it inherently bad though.

We live in a culture that asks us to fill our days with tasks other than cooking. Certainly, one’s boss isn’t likely to approve of saying you’ll be into work an hour later than expected because you need to make breakfast (and clean the kitchen afterwards). Protein powders have a place in the diet not so much because they are a superfood, but because they offer a very effective solution to common challenges such as:

1) I don’t have time for breakfast.
Skipping breakfast, or grabbing a coffee instead, can exacerbate hunger and cravings later in the day and perpetuate a cycle of overeating or excessively snacking at night. This is bad for cholesterol, inflammation, and weight. A protein-rich breakfast in the morning will often completely decimate food cravings for the rest of the day. Since few people have the time to make a frittata or whip up some turkey sausage and eggs in the morning, a smoothie made with protein powder can get slow-burning, appetite stabilizing nutrition in first thing in the morning. And that is a net win, my friends.

2) The narrow window athletes have for optimal refueling.

After a workout our cells are primed to receive nourishment. The sooner we feed them the greater the impact on post-workout strength, recovery, and energy. My clients who run marathons and refuel immediately with at least 20 grams of protein coupled with quality carbohydrates feel a huge impact on the following 48 hours post-race. Often times this means bringing protein powder along with you to consume after crossing the finish line. Post-race snacks provided are so focused on carbohydrates that the key component of protein is often left out. Men have a 45-60 minute window to refuel and women only have 30 minutes to get the most bang for their buck. Therefore protein powder is my top choice as an athletic recovery food on race day.

3) Mid-day munchies

This is another time of day when it is very easy to get up from one’s desk and grab a quick sugar-laden snack or coffee drink to power through the rest of the work day. Protein and some fruit is often a better choice, but requires more planning and prep than running across the street to Starbucks. Using protein powder instead for a quick shake does a much better job at restoring energy and clarity to finish the work day strong and saves time to boot.

So let’s say you decide that having protein powder around is a useful thing for you. Not all proteins are of equal quality and not all proteins provide the same benefit.

Some things to consider when choosing a protein powder:

A) Protein powders have wildly varying quality of ingredients. You can head to the local supplement shop and pick up WEIGHT GAINERZ 2000 in a tub the size of your torso and take home a hodgepodge of cheap milk proteins, artificial flavors and sweeteners. You can also find organic, grass-fed whey from New Zealand goats who grazed on pristine pasture for the duration of their lives and are never separated from their offspring for the sake of milking. Quality varies wildly, so educate yourself and be a savvy consumer who inspects the label rather than falling prey to marketing tactics.

 

B) What’s the Best Protein Source for My Needs? 

If you are looking to gain muscle or body weight you’d do best with a high quality whey protein containing at least 2 grams of leucine per serving after a hard workout and a casein protein to take in the evening. Whey is absorbed pretty rapidly and is perfect for refueling while casein provides a slow burning protein source that can be used to fuel growing muscles while you sleep.

If you do not consume dairy products my best advice is to try single serving packets of various proteins from egg or vegan sources until you find one that works for both your tastebuds and your digestive system. This can take a while. Of note – leucine is an amino acid especially high in undiluted whey protein that stimulates muscle growth and recovery. If you are a vegan or you are dairy-sensitive and looking to build muscle your best bet is to supplement with branched chain amino acids containing at least 2 grams of leucine after your workout and using your protein of choice as well for refueling or energy stabilization. Some vegan proteins, like VegaSport, add branched-chain amino acids to their protein for athlete’s needs. Just check the label for the leucine amount to ensure it is adequate.

A third option is what is called ‘Medical Food’. These are protein powders with specific supplements added to them to essentially provide a drinkable supplement. Offered by high-quality supplement companies like Thorne and Metagenics, their medical foods are designed to help stabilize blood sugar, assist in the body’s detoxification pathways, lose weight, or curb systemic inflammation (depending on which you are prescribed). They are typically only available from healthcare providers and are an excellent alternative to taking handfuls of pills each day for a specific medical condition or health goal.

 

What’s your take on protein powder? For those of you who consume it regularly – do you have a favorite brand?

 

Chocolate Milk is Crap! (and other blasphemous thoughts on sports nutrition)

Yes – I think chocolate milk is crap. The recovery food hailed by the world as being the perfect post-workout replenishment falls far short of it in my book. Before I fully step upon my soap box – again! – let me explain why chocolate milk rose to fame:

The key nutrition components to a complete recovery can be summed up in two categories: 1) food and 2) hydration. Here’s why the Dairy Council and many coaches and sports nutritionists are pimping milk at the finish line:

  • Chocolate milk contains the ideal* ratio of carbohydrates to protein – the 1:3 – 1:4 ratio that not only replenishes glycogen but also provides protein for tissue repair and transport of the carbohydrates more effectively into the cell walls. *ideal if you are male. Women do better on a 1:2-1:3 ratio
  • Chocolate milk is liquid – therefore it contributes to rehydrating the body
  • Chocolate milk is tasty – I mean, really! Who the heck doesn’t like chocolate milk?!?!
  • Chocolate milk is cheap, convenient and accessible. You can find it anywhere – even along a highway in rural Kansas at a truck stop or gas station.

The above facts are exactly why you are thinking chocolate milk sounds good right about now! However, I take the viewpoint that the human body is a miraculous vessel. When you think about all it does for you and all it puts up with it’s easy to understand that it is an incredible machine – not unlike a Ferrari or a Tesla or a Lamborghini. Chocolate milk is like putting the cheapest unleaded fuel you can find into your half million dollar sports car. Here’s why:

  1. Chocolate milk is a dairy food – and dairy foods come with a host of potential problems. They are difficult for many to digest (an estimated 60-75% of the adult human population exhibits signs of dairy intolerance) and often laced with excessive hormones from the conditions in which cattle are raised. Excess estrogen is already of great concern in many individuals and is linked to hormone imbalances and possibly cancer in humans. Dairy only exacerbates that. (My former teacher Dr. Mark Hyman has a compelling piece on dairy and the Food Guide Pyramid here if you want more info).
  2. Chocolate milk’s carbohydrate source comes exclusively from lactose (potential allergen) and high fructose corn syrup or sugar. HFCS is strongly suspect as being a contributor to diabetes and non-alcohol related fatty liver due to how it is digested in the body. It also must be metabolized through the liver before getting into cells so it is not appropriate for optimal glycogen replenishment. Corn syrup and table sugar, are of course, the most nutritionally devoid form of carbohydrate on the market. Regardless of where any nutritionist or dietitian is on our highly political food spectrum,  we all agree that sugar and corn syrup are not ideal sources of carbohydrate. So my question to you is, are they the sources you want to be pumping into your cells to repair them after a hard workout? Do you want the construct of your muscle tissue to come from vitamin-devoid  sweeteners?
  3. Chocolate milk doesn’t have enough protein to repair muscle. Period. We need about 25-30 grams of protein post-workout (that includes at least 3 grams of leucine) to stimulate muscle building and repair. Chocolate milk does not provide this.

This stance alone has some of you wanting to squeeze the remainder of your milk carton in my face. I get it. I’m not taking a popular stance here! If milk judgement were my only offense, you might forgive me. But I have more blasphemy for you.

You Know You Want To.

 

Carb loading. Our mainstay and go-to: the absolute foundation of endurance sports nutrition lies in carb loading. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of pancake feeds, pasta feeds, thai food feasts and other meals I’ve had after long runs in the last decade. This was a myth I bought hook, line, and sinker. It made sense. It was widely backed by research. The entire sports nutrition community did it and backed it. And pancakes and pasta sound AWESOME after 2-3 hours on the road. Another easy sell!  I began to question this logic though when it became more and more challenging to maintain my weight. I struggled to prevent weight gain when my training was at its highest – 10 hours a week or more! At 5’2″ my stomach doesn’t hold enough food to make up for the calories I was losing, yet I was still challenged. Working with other endurance athletes – I saw the same struggles in them. It wasn’t until I understood the hormonal impact of carbohydrates in relation to fat burning and left the caloric model completely that I was able to lose the 7 pounds I gained for my last races in 2010 AND be able to help other runners and triathletes lose the spare tire that refused to go away. Looking around we all know that some people stay slender and others have to fight for it. The answer, however, isn’t in hours logged and miles run so much as it is in the food choices we make on an hour to hour basis. I, and other endurance athletes like myself, find better results in carbohydrate moderation rather than carbohydrate loading. I discovered that there was no need to carb-up or recover to the extent that I had been taught. Many runners will only lean out when they start moderating the quantity and timing of their carbohydrate intake. If you are burning loads of calories and still struggling with weight you’ll want to explore this possibility immediately.

My final blasphemy for the day is a hybrid of the above two. The pre-race spaghetti feed.  For races less than 2 hours long, it is unlikely you will need to consume extra carbohydrates than you typically do unless you are on a carbohydrate restricted diet. For many events, such a feed is simply unnecessary. Events lasting longer than two hours are best fueled with moderate carbohydrate consumption the day before and with amino acid and carbohydrate replenishment during the event. Your pre-race meal is to top off the tank, not fill it to overflowing.

Another consideration with the pre-race pasta meal again lies in food intolerances and digestive upset. Gluten intolerance is very common in my practice and increasingly common in the general population. Thus the pasta feed can lead to digestive upset during the race, increased inflammation and decreased recovery, poor moods, decreased alertness and motor skills (I kid you not!) and overall lowered performance. Many clients have had a significant shift in performance simply by shifting the pre-race meal to sushi, brown rice pasta with loads of vegetables, or including a baked yam or potato with dinner the night before. Give it a try before your next race and see if you feel a difference! If you already have a gluten-free pre-race meal, I’d love to know what it is so I can share with my gluten-free athletes!

It is not my intention to create enemies with this post – only to open up the possibility for alternatives if what you are currently accepting as appropriate is, in fact, not working for you.  Each person is unique and therefore requires a unique formula to achieve success on and off the trail.

What fueling strategies have you found to be successful for your long workouts?

Best Health Apps of 2012

Sleep Cycle – This iPhone app sounds amazing! It actually monitors your movement and uses this data to determine an appropriate time to wake you so you are not in deep sleep. I’ve heard first hand accounts of its effectiveness, and is very highly rated. To learn more, and purchase this app, click here.

Android users do not have this app available, but Sleep as Android is available. I downloaded the trial of this app and tested it out – it very effectively measures movement in the bed as an indicator of depth of sleep. Data collected showed what percentage of my sleep was ‘deep sleep’, the average amount of sleep debt I accumulated each night as well as total sleep debt during the course of the trial. Using this app I discovered that some reliable, consistent factors that were inhibiting sleep and used the data to make some changes. There is now an add-on for $1.79 that is called Sleep Stats and has more in-depth tracking as well as advice to gain more deep sleep. Well worth checking out if this is a concern for you.

my Fitness Pal – I hate calorie counters. Like nearly all other food trackers, My Fitness Pal focuses in on the archaic “calories in, calories out” model (which is really dieting and which we all know doesn’t work). This is the most comprehensive app I have found, however, for tracking food intake, water and exercise intake. What I would LOVE to see is the ability to adjust the nutritent ratios on the app so that I can focus more on protein and carbohydrates rather than calories. The only reason I was compelled to download this to test it out is the scanner option that allows you to scan the barcode of that food bar or box of cookies you just picked up to add it to your daily food log. That saves oodles of time searching through a comprehensive database on the phone, and consequently makes this app a winner. My advice: log your food, water and exercise as a tracker, ignore the calorie warnings, and use the info you gather to meet your goals. By clicking on the “daily” assessment you can take a look at a pie chart which gives you a breakdown of your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake by percentages, which I find much more useful. Because the app syncs with an online site, you have the ability to use the information from your PC and laptop as well as print out your logs. Click here to download MyFitnessPal for an Android phone, and click here to download it to your iPhone

Out of Milk – I am using this all the time – I can keep track of what’s in my pantry, what I need to purchase, AND create additional lists – to do lists for business, restaurants to try out, movies to see, etc. The big sell on this is you can scan the barcode of an empty box to add it to your shopping list AND sync your list with your partner’s or email it to him or her so that you both don’t go to the store and double up, or you can make sure everything on the grocery list gets purchased! There is also an option to set reminder alarms for those items on the list, move things between lists, and see what you previously had on your grocery list so you have a running idea of frequent purchases, as well as their cost. Price: FREE, with $1.99 for an upgrade that allows online syncing and back-up, list sharing on multiple devices, and a coupon tracker. Out of Milk is free, then click here to upgrade to Out of Milk Pro for Android users. Apple users, fret not – Out of Milk is developing an iPhone app; in fact, they are looking for beta testers if you want to be one!

Period Tracker – I have been using this app for over a year, and can subsequently geek out on knowing the exact day and length of my menstrual cycle. This tracker also allows you to log mood changes and PMS symptoms, weight, and body temperature and uses the last three cycles to fairly accurately determine your upcoming cycle date. This is PERFECT for what I call “PMS amnesia”, or that time of the month when you don’t know why you’re so cranky and irritable and sensitive…until you know EXACTLY why. 😉 It is also an excellent tool to monitor your fertility to prevent or facilitate pregnancy.

Back in the day, when we just had calendars, my mom taught me to track my cycle by putting little flowers on the calendar when my cycle began. Seeing the flowers bloom on this app reminds me a little of that, and endears me to this app even more. My only request of Period Tracker: that it also track the lunar cycle so women can begin to see how the lunar cycle corresponds to their own menstrual cycle. Click here to download Period Tracker on the ‘droid for free and click here to download it from iTunes!

There are tens of thousands of health apps on the market now – these are just a few I have come across that I believe offer great value and have proven useful to me personally. What are YOUR favorite health apps? I’d love to hear what else is out there, especially for iPhone users, since I have less exposure to those apps. Comment below and share which apps you find most useful!

Finding Easy Ways to Be More Active

Many people look at their daily schedule and find it impossible to fit in a trip to the gym.  But, this doesn’t mean you have to shrug off exercise all together!  Fitness is so much more than treadmills and weight training; fitness is about finding ways to move your body.

Here are some ways that you can work more healthy movement into your schedule:

1. Add Some Steps to Your Morning: If you take public transportation to work, plan to get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way.  This extra bit of walking in the morning will help get your blood pumping and mind clear for the day ahead.  If you drive, choose to park further away rather than finding a spot right up by the door. 

2. Lunch-break Love:   Take some time for you on your lunch break.  Pack yourself a healthy brown bag lunch and step outside.  Take a quick stroll around your building or to the nearest park and have a breath of fresh air while you eat.  This will also refresh you and help prevent the mid-afternoon slump. Alternatively, you can pull off an exit during rush hour and wait out the worst of it by going for a walk (I’ve done this a few times myself – makes the commute home much nicer!)

3. Choose to Move:  Next time you are making plans for a girl’s night out, why not suggest something new?  Check out a local fitness class (Groupon can be great for these), take in some hot yoga, or even opt for a night out dancing.  If you are a Mom, next time you take your kids to the park, don’t simply sit on the bench responding to emails on your phone.  Instead, get up from the bench and run with them – let yourself feel like a kid again.  It will be worth it for both you AND them!

4. Find a Fitness Buddy: The best thing you could ever do for yourself is to find accountability outside yourself. As social animals, humans work best in collaborative community.  Find yourself someone that you can be honest with about your goals and desires.  Make sure they are someone who will challenge you to reach for them and encourage you when you may fall short from time to time.

These are some simple way to bring for movement and fitness into your life.  What are some ideas you have to find effortless ways to move your body?

VIBRANCE Recommends: The Holiday Edition!

Below are a few of my favorite health and fitness products. I use each of these regularly enough to consider them pretty indispensable, must-have tools in my healthy living toolbox. Consider adding them to your holiday gift wish list or gifting them to others who you know would really appreciate the thoughtfulness!

1) George Foreman Grill: George, I am disturbed that you have named all your children after yourself, but I gotta love your grill. I bought my GFG back in 2005 when I began eating meat again and had to consider cooking it myself. It sat, unused in box, until this fall. Now it is a permanent fixture on my counter and gets used several times a week! 3 pounds of chicken breasts, cooked and ready to go in 30 minutes! Fish fillets, grilled to perfection in 3 minutes?!?!? YES, YES, YES. I no longer have to worry about spills or messy oven clean-up, I can cook a week’s worth of protein in less time, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much easier it is to keep ready-to-eat lean protein in the house now. I only wished I had been brave enough to crack open the box 6 years ago. George has more grill varieties than you can shake a boxing glove at  here.

2) Vitamix: My first kitchen tool and my first big ticket household item, a Vitamix has been an staple in my home since I was 18 years old. I make smoothies, emulsify dressings, grind nuts, and can make my wheat-free flour in 45 seconds at less than half the price. My food processor hasn’t been used in years (probably as long as I’ve had that George Foreman grill) is in a box to be donated to charity. Yes it’s pricey, but it is worth it. Ask anyone who owns one; our pupils dilate a little, our voice gets higher and it’s hard not to get ecstatic at the opportunity to fawn over our high horsepower kitchen tool. You can check out a video on the Vitamix awesomeness here and order one here (use coupon code 06-001737 to get free shipping)

3) Zrii: How is it that I am never sick? How can I wake up refreshed on less sleep than in my 20’s? How is it that I ran 150 miles a month and completed a marathon and three half marathons in 6 months? Zrii. This red bottle of Ayurvedic magic is my primary tool in keeping my body balanced and strong. Deepak Chopra and his colleagues at the Chopra Center for Well-being developed this tonic a few years ago and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s sweet tart flavor and potent herbal formula is kind of addictive. Be forewarned. Learn more about Zrii and try it out yourself by clicking here.  I also share this product with clients and others and am very familiar with the entire line, so you can email me with any questions you have about it!

4) Garmin Forerunner: I’m an info junkie. I use my Garmin to keep track of my heart rate, mileage, route taken, altitude, direction, and more. It kept me from getting lost running in Paris in the early morning and trekking through small Costa Rican towns. It teases me by displaying my split times so I know if I am going faster or slower than I was the mile before or the day before. And I can download all the data and cross-reference to my heart’s content. I have the 305 – an older model. The 405 is prettier, yes, but consistent in-person and internet reviews indicate that the touch bevel creates more problems than convenience. My advice is to stick with the bulkier but better designed 300 series and opt for the studly, waterproof Forerunner 310 with heart rate monitor.

 The Flavor Bible: A must-have  guide for those ready to delve into kitchen alchemy, this book is probably my top gift giving item every year. Look up apples, see they pair well with sour cream, almonds, and rosemary – then take that to the kitchen and revamp your old sour cream coffee cake recipe. I found persimmons at the farmer’s market last winter and wanted to play with them so I brought a few home and created this recipe. The Flavor Bible is a culinary cheat sheet that allows you to boldly step out of your comfort zone. The pages contain whispers of great chefs and menu-making magicians ensuring you can do no wrong. It’s one of my best (and least kept) kitchen secrets and a treasured gem for any food lover!

Quick Fat Loss Tips!

While living a fat loss lifestyle does take some planning and preparation, it needn’t consume your life! Here are some of my top tips for easily integrating more fat loss habits into your life:

 

1) Keep your workouts quick and effective: You’ll get far greater results if you ante up on the intensity and cut your time in half. Studies consistently show, whether it is high intensity intervals, circuits, or fartleks, you’ll burn more calories during the workout, have a greater afterburn (which means burning more calories after the workout) and get a more lean, toned look if you push yourself to the place where you have to back down and rest, rest, and then push yourself to that place again. How do you know you are at ‘that place’? Your muscles are burning, you are breathless, sweating and it’s HARD. I also tell my clients and cycle participants this is the place where they hate me, or they question their own sanity.

 

2) Get more protein: Take two groups. Put them on the same amount of calories per day and have one group have a higher protein diet (25-40%) and the other a lower protein diet (15%). The higher protein group will lose significantly more body fat, according to a study by Skidmore College. You will also burn more calories throughout your day, says the  European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and not only burn more fat, but reduce your risk for heart disease, according to Nutrition Metabolism. Why? Greater control of insulin levels, for one. Also, protein takes much more effort for the body to break down into usable amino acids, burning more calories in order to do so AND leaving you satisfied longer.

 

3) Mix your cardio with your weights: If you do cardio spurts in the middle of your weight sets, you’ll burn more fat than if you separate the two. Keep your heart rate up and you’ll get better results – guaranteed!

 

4) Fixate on fiber! Fiber is a beautiful thing. It keeps you satisfied, clears out your arteries,  and contributes to fat loss with it’s amazing ability to create bulk in the digestive tract without calories and keep insulin levels stable. Look for a fiber source in every meal! Your best bet: veggies. A close second is fruit, followed by whole grains. Consider adding a fiber supplement to your morning smoothie to get even greater results.

 

5) Make every day casual day – A University of Wisconsin study shows that wearing jeans led study participants to walk nearly 500 steps more than those dressed in normal work attire. That’s an 8% difference, which over time can yield significant results. It makes sense, right? Pencil skirts and stilettos have never made for comfy marathon gear! If you work in an environment where casual day is only on Friday (or never) switch to flat shoes and less constrictive skirts. Opt for layers so you can go for a walk at lunch without getting too sweaty.

6) Lift heavy, ladies! You don’t have enough testosterone to look like a bodybuilder, I promise. What you will do is get that toned look you are after, burn off a butt-load of fat, AND give yourself stronger bones with which to age gracefully. I encourage you to pick a challenging weight that you can lift – with good form – no more than 8-10 times and work with that for a few weeks. Then try for a little more. The key is to shock your system so it adapts. The adaptation process is what we call results.

7. Green tea – drink it! Drinking 3+ cups of green tea boosts metabolism by about 4% – and it isn’t from the caffeine. 4% is not a lot – it certainly isn’t license to eat another brownie – but over the course of a year it can add to additional fat loss you otherwise would not have seen. Metabolic boost aside, green tea has a host of happy chemicals in it that prevent cancer, heart disease, and aging, so drink up!

8. Groove to tunes (esp fast ones!) When you have your tunes with you, you are more likely to push a little longer, go a little harder, and get a more effective workout. Some studies indicate it will boost your consistency and make those hard workouts feel a little easier, leading to greater fat and weight loss. One caveat, though! If you are exercising outside near traffic, omit the music altogether or keep it low enough that you can hear traffic and cyclists. Safety first!

9. Contract consciously: Contract your abs when you lift those weights (or that box!), squeeze those glutes when you push off with each step..by using those muscles with awareness you activate them more often, leading to better form, addition muscle recruitment, and greater results overall.

 

10. Get fidgety: Fidgeters burn more calories – keep it moving by toe tapping, taking regular water fountain breaks, stand up when on the phone (or better yet, pace around). When researchers hooked people up to calorie monitors they found that sedentary fidgeters still used an average of 350 more calories a day than other sedentary folk. Not surprisingly, they were leaner as well.

 

11. Believe you can  I underline this because I believe it is the most important one. Without believing in the possibility of your healthy, happy self, you don’t stand a chance. Monitor all the positive things you have done for fat loss; you’ll be more likely to do more of them. And get this – according to a study in Psychological Science, when hotel housekeepers were told that their work was good exercise they lost about 2 pounds and reduced their blood pressure by an average of 10% in only 4 weeks, while those who were not told this had no change.  Whether or not it’s the placebo effect is irrelevant. Those results are noteworthy.

 

12.Learn to love fish oil -  Fish oil is an amazing nutraceutical. It boosts mood, heart health, and fat loss. It’s believed to aid in fat loss in conjunction with a fat loss diet by telling fat cells to reduce or stop replicating and storing additional fat, as well as controlling some of the inflammatory markers that cause insulin resistance and further aggravate fat storage. If fish oil gives you tasty burps, try chasing down your morning dose with a spoonful of nut butter. My recommendation: 4-6 grams of omega-3s a day. If you are taking blood thinners, please make sure your doc is closely monitoring your blood status, as fish oil can have a blood thinning effect.

 

13. Visualize! See it happen in your mind, watch it happen before your eyes! Your subconscious mind does not recognize the difference between fantasy and reality, and seeks to experience externally what it is expecting internally. Visualize your waistline shrinking, your muscles becoming more defined, and your strength increasing. Do this often, and avoid the things and people which may indicate otherwise (this is one reason why I encourage clients to step off the scale – or opt to weigh in every 1-2 weeks if they can’t  kill that relationship completely. Body weight fluctuates wildly due to salt intake, hormones, and other factors and can jack up your mental state and completely derail you).

Think it’s too New Age woo-woo? Check this out: a study in the North American Journal of Psychology reports that those who regularly visualized going through a specific weight workout actually gained almost as much strength as those who actually did it. Even better – when you visualize the workout’s results and THEN do it, your results are even greater than if you just mindlessly go through the motions or don’t do it at all.

 

Exercising in the Rain

Wet stuff has been falling out of the sky! That means exercising outside is going to look a little different! VIBRANCE is an all-terrain, 4-wheel drive, four season experience, so if you willing and able to be in the rain, we will be right there with you!!

That said, exercising in the rain is a little different than the normal San Diego experience, so there are some things to consider:

1) It’s Wet AND Slippery!
If you have old shoes, these end up posing an even greater safety hazard in the rain due to worn treads. Just like your vehicle hydroplanes, your toes or heels can hydroplane on wet roads or grass and cause you to slip and injure yourself. Wear shoes with a good, chunky tread. Light hikers can make a huge difference in your ability to grip the ground.

2) Temperature fluctuations
You will get cold easier in the rain. Dress like we do in the Pacific Northwest to stay warm and dry, even if the streets are flooding:

* Layers Are Your Friend – Moisture wicking clothing is always the best option for exercise. If you are unsure of how warm to dress, layer with moisture wicking clothing as it prevents sweat and rain from being trapped next to your skin as you exercise. It is important to keep your skin dry during exercise because when you are wet, from sweat or rain, you become colder much faster. Avoid cotton at all costs. As it gets wet, it becomes a sweaty, water-logged wrap that adds extra weight and causes chills.

* Protect Yer Noggin! – If you need to keep warm, remember to wear a thin hat or cap to keep heat in. Covering your head will also keep your ears safe from cold wind which can cause unnecessary discomfort and lead to upper respiratory illness, especially for Vata dominant doshas. You may need to take that cap off after 10 minutes, but you’ll be glad you have it until then!

* Warm de Hands and de Feets – Remember to wear gloves and thicker socks when exercising in the cold or wetness, as these areas get coldest fastest. Make sure your shoes have vents in them to let any water that soaks in drain back out.

* Get Slick! – If it is raining outside, a good option is to wear a rain jacket. You can choose between light weight to thicker jacket options, depending on how warm you get and your activity. Generally, unless there are heavy winds, a very light water repellent layer is enough.

While exercising in the rain may seem like torture upon torture, you’ll find it has many benefits. You are far less likely to overheat, you have very little traffic from other runners or cyclists, and neither sunscreen nor sweat sting your eyes. The best part for me is the increased reward of the hot shower afterward!