Archive | Healthy Lifestyle RSS feed for this section

How the Trainers Eat, vol. 4

31 Dec

While long overdue, I wanted to share a little dish that is sure to warm the soul and give you the fuel to power through those first few workouts of 2013.  This soup will make a great post-workout dish, as well as something to keep you warm on these cool and damp northern California nights.


20121118_202137

Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash

3.5 lb. sweet potatoes

3 c. chicken or vegetable stock (I used my own homemade pork stock)

1/2 c. half-and-half

1/2 onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 T. coriander

1.5 T. curry powder

1 T. chili powder

Panchetta for garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

Soft goat cheese for garnish

Chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut squash in half and clean out seeds.  Place face down on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Place whole sweet potatoes on the same sheet.  Roast until squash and potatoes are soft, approximately 45 minutes.  Once cool to the touch, remove skin and place the flesh in a large soup pot.  Add stock and half-and-half.  Stir until incorporated.

Add onion, garlic, coriander, curry, and chili powder; bring to a simmer, and maintain for 10-15 minutes, stirring often.

In a small saute pan, cook panchetta over medium-high heat until done, approximately 5 minutes.

Using an immersion or traditional blender, puree soup until smooth.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with soft goat cheese, chives, and cooked panchetta.

Serves 6

 

Cooking note: goes great with grilled meat.

 

Egg Yolk Consumption: Article Review

3 Sep

Spending several years in a medical setting, I have become acquainted with reading research studies and identifying the conclusions and ramifications – even if they are not completely the same as those published by the authors in the paper.  There has been a study discussed in the news recently that has piqued just this interest in me – perhaps you have heard of it: “Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque.”

In this study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, Spence and his colleagues wanted to examine the link between egg yolk consumption and atherosclerosis.  The authors point out that this has, for some time, been a controversial issue, with previous studies falling on both sides of the debate – some state that eating egg yolks raises serum cholesterol while other studies saw no change.  In an effort to identify whether or not eggs are, in fact, deleterious to cardiovascular health, Spence, Jenkins, and Davignon decided to look at a different marker in examining risk for cardiovascular disease: total plaque area.

That’s a lot of science to start out this article, so I’ll back track a little bit.  While we might debate its validity, cholesterol is still a leading indicator for risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.  Generally speaking, cholesterol values can be broken down into high-density lipoprotein (HDL – “good” cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL – “bad” cholesterol).  As LDL increases as a proportion of total cholesterol (or often times as a ratio compared to HDL and/or triglycerides), the risk for disease increases.  Because the effects of egg yolk consumption on cholesterol have been equivocal up to this point, the authors must have wanted to use a different variable, hence measuring total plaque area.  

So why did this study get me worked up?  Firstly, it was the inflammatory headline that ran on CNN: “Egg yolks as fatal as cigarettes”.  Secondly, when I sat down to read the study, the authors made some pretty broad generalizations and gross over simplifications.  To start with, in order to identify egg yolk consumption over time, the authors culled information from “lifestyle questionnaires” from patients “at the time of referral” to a vascular prevention clinic after transient ischemic attacks or strokes.  Simply put, the authors asked patients how many eggs they had eaten through their lives on a questionnaire.  These were patients who had already had an transient ischemic attack or stroke (A transient ischemic attack – or TIA – is when blood flow to a part of the brain stops for a brief period of time. A person will have stroke-like symptoms for up to 24 hours, but in most cases for 1 – 2 hours.  A TIA is felt to be a warning sign that a true stroke may happen in the future if something is not done to prevent it.).  Inferring anything about lifestyle or dietary habits of healthy individuals based on the presentation of sick individuals is extremely confounding and usually not very accurate because of physiological changes brought on by the disease process.

The other problem with how Spence and his colleagues collected the data was with their dietary recall.  The average age of the subjects in the study was 62; how was someone expected to remember how many eggs they had eaten throughout their life, let alone even what they ate last week?  As fitness professionals, we are intimately tuned into our nutrition, but I for one, can’t even recall what (let alone how much) I ate last month.  Additionally, egg consumption was the only dietary variable that the authors examined.  I would highly doubt that most people eat eggs in isolation of other foods, and for that matter, wouldn’t these other foods possibly contribute to – OR – take away from accumulation of plaque in the arteries?

OK so those are the fatal flaws of the study on it’s surface.  What next?  The authors wanted to relate any atherosclerosis brought on by egg consumption to previously known plaque producers.  So what did they do?  They compared eating eggs to cigarette smoking!  How are these two habits AT ALL comparable?  One habit is a known carcinogen, destroyer of lung tissue, and HIGHLY addictive.  The other, however, is a complete food uniquely designed to sustain life.  Can you tell which one is which?

If you’re still keeping up, the authors showed that increasing egg consumption ran almost parallel to cigarette smoking with regard to accumulation of arterial plaque, with both showing a direct exponential relationship as consumption (or smoking frequency) increased.  WOW!  So maybe eggs are pretty bad for you huh?  The general consensus that we, as a staff, drew from this study was that it really only relates to those already at risk for coronary heart disease and/or strokes.  We make recommendations to clients with respect to their nutrition and eating habits for improving their health and fitness.  We do need to keep this study in mind when making those recommendations, but for the vast majority of our clients who have not experienced a cardiac episode or stroke, or are at risk for them, this study is not all that relevant.

What does this mean for all of you?  Keep eating those eggs!  Eggs contain a multitude of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that are hard to come by from other foods (choline anyone?).  Additionally, they are a great source of easily digestible protein needed for recovery from workouts and keeping the body health.  While eggs do contain cholesterol (about 200mg per egg) your body NEEDS cholesterol to function properly.  Everybody needs cholesterol to maintain a healthy balance of all number of hormones, including the sex hormones, which many researchers believe are important for maintaining vitality.  Do, however, make sure that these eggs are part of a healthy meal full of ripe brightly colored fruits and vegetables.  And be sure to peruse the archives of the blog, as there are several great tasty egg recipes throughout.

If this got you all worked up over egg consumption, check the following rebuttals to learn more about it from very well informed scientists, researchers and nutrition consultants:

Mark’s Daily Apple

Zoe Harcombe

Outside Magazine

Chris Masterjohn (Weston A Price)

How the Trainers Eat, vol. 3

31 Aug

And now for another look at my tasty eats…

As summer is winding down (or just picking up here in the foggy environs of San Francisco), I wanted to get as much mileage as I could out of all the wonderful corn from Eating with the Seasons.  It is also the time of year for grilling!

With that in mind, I decided to grill some steaks – my favorite being a marinated hanger cut – as well as grill the corn, and then create a wonderful spicy soup that could be enjoyed either warm or cold.

Ingredients

6 ears of corn

1½ green bell peppers, chopped

3 T. butter or ghee

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 white onion, chopped

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ tsp. chili powder

4 red-skinned potatoes, peeled and chopped

6 radishes, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

3 c. chicken broth (homemade if you can)

4 dried arbol chiles

Directions

About an hour before starting the meal, soak the corn – in husks – in a pot of water.  When ready to cook, place the corn (still in the husks) and peppers on a hot grill over medium heat.  Turn occasionally, letting the husks dry and begin to char.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  Peel the husks off, being careful of any hot water that might drip out of the husks.  When corn and peppers are lightly charred, remove from the grill and set aside to cool.

In a large pot, melt the butter.  Saute the onions and garlic until translucent.  Add the potatoes, cayenne, chili powder, and salt to taste.  Stir to coat the potatoes.  Cook until the potatoes begin to soften and then add 2 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to a light simmer, stirring frequently so as not to burn.

Add the radishes, carrots, and dried chiles and stir.  At this point, chop the green peppers and add to the pot.  Stand the corn cobs vertically on end and slice off the kernels; add to the pot as well.  Continue stirring to incorporate all the ingredients.  When potatoes and carrots are soft, remove the pot from the heat.

Working in batches, carefully ladle the soup into a blender or food processor and puree to your desired consistency.  Add the pureed soup back into the pot and add the remaining chicken broth to get the thickness of soup you would like.  Serve hot or cold with a garnish of fresh cilantro and a dollop of whole milk sour cream.

How the Trainers Eat, vol. 2

9 Aug

So it’s been a while since I posted any of my culinary explorations, but here is the most recent:

Curry Carnitas & Indian Style Corn

While we here at FIT generally recommend staying away from grains, this corn might be an exception. It comes courtesy of our wonderful CSA friends over at Eating with the Seasons so we know that it is not genetically modified and comes pesticide free.  And since corn is not a gluten-grain, I can safely say that it won’t trigger any digestive distress for those who are celiacs, or others with wheat intolerances.  We usually advocate for a lower carbohydrate intake, but there’s just something great – maybe it’s my Midwestern roots – about fresh corn on a warm evening in the summer (it was even rather warm at my house in SF!).

The corn recipe comes from the wonderful Sally Fallon cookbook “Nourishing Traditions”.

And to go along with the Indian flavors, the pork was rubbed with a Vadouvan curry spice, kosher salt, and white pepper.  It was then cooked “carnitas style,” meaning that it was braised in lard (about 3 cups) with aromatics for several hours (in this case chopped red onions, garlic, and cilantro stems).  Keep your oven low, and let it cook for several hours (250deg. for 3-ish hours for a 3-lb. bone in pork shoulder).

I hope you enjoy!

Jeff P. Embraces New Strategies for Fat Loss

5 Jun

At FIT, our trainers take their education seriously. We pride ourselves on seeking out the best information available to continually serve our clients better. On occasion, our trainers take time to attend education. Today’s post is brought to you by Jeff P. who recently attended a seminar by well-respected strength coach Charles Poliquin.

 

Last month, I spent 7 days at the Poliquin Performance Center in East Greenwich, RI to take the Biosignature Modulation course, as well as attend the 3rd Annual Eleiko Strength Summit.

Developed and taught by Coach Charles Poliquin, Biosignature Modulation (or, biosig for short) is an individualized method of body fat loss. Basically, specific receptor sites on the body are blocked and lead to dysfunction- that is, there is a relationship between where you store body fat and your hormones. Technically speaking, there actually is such a thing as ‘spot-reduction’ in fat loss.

For example, that stubborn tummy-fat is an indicator of prolonged exposure to the hormone cortisol (a.k.a. low grade adrenaline). Cortisol stimulates abdominal fat synthesis by inhibiting growth hormone. The good news is that this can be reversed through recommended dietary and supplement intervention.

During class we discussed the relationships of 6 key hormones and 12 sites on the body as well as the methods for modulating these sites. For example, increasing magnesium intake has shown to improve insulin sensitivity, improve quality of sleep, and improve cortisol management (anti-stress).

We also practiced measuring the sites 3 times a day for 30 minutes each. Coach Poliquin’s teaching method is geared for 70% retention: 40 minutes lecture, 10-point review, 5-15 minute break, repeat with or without 20-30 minute practice. With over 100 pages of notes, I’ll testify that it is quite effective and consequently very helpful!

 

If you’re interested in finding out how Jeff’s Biosignature practice might be able to help you, feel free to contact him at jeffery@focusedtrainers.com.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Jeff’s experience where he shares his insights from the Eleiko Strength Summit.

How do the Trainers Eat

18 Apr

Here are a collection of my more recent culinary endeavors to get your mind going in the kitchen.  Please email me at matt@focusedtrainers.com for recipes or for nutrition/cooking consultations.  Enjoy

Chimicurri Salmon with Sauteed Cabbage

Sirloin Strips and Braised Greens

Garam Masal Pork Chop with Cumin Spiced Boc Choi and Asparagus

Roast Leg of Lamb with Tarragon Mint Butter served on Garland of Spring Vegetables

What lessons do we teach our kids in the cafeteria?

11 Apr

We tell our kids to go to school to learn. And they do. Even in the cafeteria.

In a TED talk a few years ago, renegade lunch lady, Ann Cooper made an impassioned appeal for attention to the lessons we actively and passively teach our kids every day in the school cafeteria. Cooper, the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District, is on a mission. When she was hired only two years ago, she had 90 employees and no one knew how to cook. How is this possible? Literally everything served in the school cafeteria came packaged in plastic, a can, or frozen. Burritos, pastries, canned fruit medley, peculiar dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.

Salad Bar Revolution

Cooper shifted the entire paradigm. Instead of cheap, pre-packaged, processed and frozen foods, Cooper set out to teach kids the value of eating regional foods that are organic, sustainable, and fresh.

This meant eliminating all foods containing high fructose corn syrup, using organic produce, and cooking everything–yes, everything–from scratch. But a shift in thinking about food requires more than just changing the menu. So she instituted cooking classes in all the schools in the district to give the kids hands-on experience cooking and preparing these foods for themselves to support academic classroom curriculum to tie it all together.

What inspires Cooper’s mission? This issue is not just for the schools, it is for us because, simply put, it is about us. There is a great need in most schools to change the way we teach our kids about diet and lifestyle. And when we change what we feed our kids, we start to change what kinds of foods our kids think are healthy and acceptable.

Knowing that change is possible, we also know that it doesn’t happen overnight. Perhaps then we should begin with small steps.

Fresh is always better!

First, a good place to start is by finding out what is served regularly in the school cafeteria. Most schools usually have a printed menu available for the week. Stay up to date on what is being served. Compare the number of items on the menu that are fresh versus the number of items that are packaged and frozen.

Second, voice your opinion to the school board or PTA. These bodies exist to support the child’s development in every way possible and this topic is definitely worth the attention and discussion.

Third, model these lessons in the home. The parent and family unit are the most significant influences on the child’s development. Model healthy eating choices in the home by feeding your kids healthy, sustainable, fresh foods that are rich in colorful vegetables and clean proteins.

And if you have already implemented other strategies for fostering healthy habits, please share that with the rest of our FIT community by posting to our comments section along with any other thoughts you may have on the topic. Happy eating!

Less sedentary time crucial for children’s health

3 Apr

When you teach high schoolers, as I did for a number of years, there are very few things that they do that will really surprise you. But spend a day shadowing any student and you will be astounded at how much sedentary time they have: they sit on their way to and from school, they sit for hours on end in class after class, they sit down while they eat lunch with their friends, they go home to sit down and spend hours cranking out homework and updating their Facebook status.

Play time!

Perhaps the student gets a moment of rest from all this sitting to spend an hour or two at a team practice for a sport. Perhaps not. But with how much sedentary time children and students have, we have to wonder how this affects their health.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the association between vigorous physical activity and sedentary time amongst healthy children. Examining cardiometabolic measures–i.e. waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, fasting lipoprotein, and fasting insulin–across more than 20,000 children and adolescents, the study suggests that minimal sedentary time, or more movement through the day, is more important to health than brief bouts of formal, intense exercise in the gym, during a practice, or in a PE class. In other words, time spent in sedentary behavior all day can undo the benefits gained from formal exercise.

The point? Moving more throughout the day–even slow and unstructured movement–is more important to your child’s health than living mostly sedentary with occasional exercise.

It’s important to note that activity is not necessarily just another thing that we do–another box we check off from our to-do lists–but a way of living. Activity is an underlying characteristic to the things we do day to day. To live an active lifestyle does not necessarily mean joining all kinds of teams and clubs and gyms, thus making ourselves even busier than we already are. Living actively means enjoying movement throughout your day.

But what do we do with this? With the pace that we can run in life and the number of things on our plate, sometimes it feels like it is all we can do to get our children out of the chair for those few moments of activity during their PE classes or team practices.

So, take small steps. Here are some ideas. If your child enjoys video games and you own an Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii, encourage them to take a “brain break” every 30 minutes or so from their homework for a quick game of ping-pong or tennis. Create challenges for your children each month such as walking or riding their bike (if possible) to and from school. Encourage your children to read their school books while standing up for 10 minutes instead of hunched over the text. Or think up quick five minute games to do during the commercial breaks of your children’s favorite TV shows like playing paddy-cake with your feet instead of your hands (don’t laugh, it’s actually quite difficult).

Perhaps you have already taken steps to encourage more unstructured movement time in your children’s daily routines. If so, please post to the comments to share your ideas and keep the dialogue going. Slow and steady wins the race.

Busting through those Late Winter Plateaus!

9 Mar

So you’ve made it to March on your New Years Resolution program of eating better, sleeping more, and getting some exercise, but now you’re running out of steam.  I get it: you put all your gusto into changing all of your habits at once, and you’re just a little bit fatigued at this point.  Yes! You HAVE seen some great results, but you want more!  What do you do when the program you have been so diligently following is getting stale and no longer giving you the results that you want?

This is the perfect time to change things up for the better, adjust your program to jump-start progress, and reinvigorate your enthusiasm for health and wellness.  With the weather warming up, why don’t you take your program outside?  There are plenty of ways to create challenging and fun workouts in the sunshine and away from all of the noise and clutter of the gym.  In addition, you’ll give yourself a needed dose of vitamin D after spending all those months cooped up indoors.

How about a complete change in program? After working hard for the last 3 months, nothing will get your exercise passion back like trying something different.  Personally, I like to completely revamp what I’m working on a few times each year.  This keeps me from feeling stale, as well as gives me new challenges to work toward.  For example, if you recently spent the last few months trying to really increase your strength in the gym with a progressive weight program, why not try a completely bodyweight program?  How do you add resistance you ask?  Well take that push up and invert it – handstand pushups are quite challenging, but work the same muscles that you would with a shoulder press or push press.

 

 

 

 

 

Why not finally master those pull ups you have been working on?  Nothing says I’m ready for the impending beach season like well sculpted arms and a nice strong back.  And I know that too many of you have avoided trying those pistol squats for fear of falling and making a fool of yourself.  Now is your chance to master all those 1-leg exercises that looked too intimidating.

And what about learning a new skill or sport?  I myself have endeavored to become proficient in the competition kettlebell lifts and the Turkish Get-up.  While training with kettlebells is en vogue these days, the competition lifts – and the training that goes along with them – is still something that I haven’t really experienced yet.  Even though I have been using kettlebells in my training for the last several years, I have no idea how many 1 arm snatches I can do in 10 minutes.  Think about something new that you’ve been dreaming about doing, and set your heart and mind to it.  Think of this as your New Year’s Resolution version 2.0!  Find yourself a qualified trainer or instructor in a new discipline and dive in.

Outdoor Workout

Sprint 50 yards

10 x Tree Stump Throws (can use a tire, sandbag, big rock)

10 x Tree Branch Pull Ups

10 x Log Lateral Hurdle Jumps

50 yard Bear Crawl

5 Rounds; 1 min. rest in-between

Bodyweight Workout

5 x Pistol Squats (each leg)

10 x Handstand Push Ups

15 x Inverted Rows on rings or bar

As many rounds in 15 minutes as possible

Kettlebell Workout

5 Sets

5 x Snatch/5 Windmill

10 x Swings

5 x 3 Turkish Get Ups (per side)

 

Let me know how you get through the next 3 months!

Score one for the Paleo Diet

6 Mar

Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet May Help Some Children With Autism, Research Suggests

Research recently out of Penn State University provides more support for some of the therapeutic effects of a Paleo Diet – exclusion of gluten and casein (wheat and dairy protein, respectively).

It seems that exclusion of gluten and casein may be beneficial for individuals on the Autism Spectrum.  The authors also noted that there might NOT be outward symptoms of allergies or food intolerances, but that the negative interactions from these foods still exists.

 

And some general information from WebMD about gluten/casein-free diets for ASD

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,667 other followers