I went vegan for a month… and lost 7 lbs

I survived!!!

Okay, so it actually wasn’t all that big of a deal. The first couple of days were kind of tricky, but that was on us. We hadn’t really planned it out too well leading into the vegan way of life. However, after we had things figured out it, we found it pretty easy to do. And pretty tasty too.

Tofu is the chicken of the vegan world. It doesn’t have much flavor until you season it. And it’s a great source of protein. And if tofu is the chicken of the vegan world, then tempeh (fermented soybeans) is the ground beef of the vegan world. And it’s heartier than tofu so it works in other dishes where tofu would not. And then there is seitan (pronounced say-tan) which touts itself as the ultimate “meat” substitute. And while I admit that I enjoyed this wheat protein, I didn’t feel it really lived up to its name. And since most of the questions I received were in reference to protein (in that, where did you get it from?), here is a list of the sources of protein we ate. And yes, we got plenty of it.

  • Tofu (love it’s versatility)
  • Tempeh
  • Seitan
  • Ezekiel bread
  • Nuts, nut butters, seeds
  • Edamame
  • Soybeans (roasted these are an awesome snack)
  • Chickpeas/hummus
  • Beans (we had a LOT of beans)
  • VEGA vegan protein powder (my post workout shake)

There are others that contributed in a smaller way, but these were the big ones.

What I noticed and my final takeaways:

  1. It’s best to ease into this slowly. The increase in fiber is larger than you think and we um…. noticed. Things settled down after the first week though.
  2. If you plan this out, it’s no big deal. This includes social situations. You learn after a bit what you like, what’s easy to make, etc. Just not all that hard.
  3. You’ll likely save money. Meat is expensive, man. Beans aren’t.
  4. It’s (probably) healthier than your current diet. We ate tons of varieties of fruits and vegetables and even found myself eating fruit and nuts for snacks and absolutely loving baked carrots. Perfect snack.
  5. You eat more cheese than you think you do. We are cutting way, way back on this moving forward.
  6. It’s easier to get your protein than you would think. See above.
  7. The recipes we made were almost all really, really good. We will continue to make them.
  8. We did miss traditional pizza, but did find ways around it. Shout out to WB pizza here in Indianapolis for their creative ways of making vegan pizza really tasty.
  9. You’ll lose weight…. maybe….

Which leads me to the title of this post. Yes, I did lose 7 lbs in 30 days. Man, that sounds like a headline you’d read on a magazine cover of Cosmopolitan doesn’t it? But it’s true. Here’s the kicker though. I intentionally lost weight. This really ended up being a timing issue. Coincidentally, October 1st not only marked the end of our month of veganism, but it also marked the day of an Olympic distance triathlon I had signed up for a while back. And to prepare for the race, I wanted to get back to what I feel is my best “race weight”. I could have, and would have, lost the weight on any diet really. I simply cut back on calories (mostly from fat as I kept carbs high for training purposes) while simultaneously running, biking, swimming, and lifting weights each week. With the triathlon over (whew), it’s highly likely I’ll creep back up 3-4 lbs…. and that’s okay. Or maybe I’ll stay keen on what I’m taking in and it will stay down. And if you’re wondering how this weight loss was determined, I weighed in on my super cool scale here at my office on day 1 and weighed out on September 30th. Starting weight was 168.6 lbs and final weight was 161.4 lbs. And for the record, I weighed in today at 163.4 (scale tells me thats almost all water though).

Final thoughts here: Megan enjoyed it so much that she is done eating meat. However she will still on occasion eat seafood. This technically makes her pescatarian, or a vegetarian who still eats fish. As for me, I will eat meat again, however it’s pretty clear that I will be eating quite a bit less, and that’s fine with me. The biggest change back from being vegan will be my addition of cottage cheese, eggs, and Greek yogurt. And speaking of eggs, I picked up a carton at the store yesterday… and proceeded to make my tofu/bell pepper/onion/bean breakfast. It’s really good I promise.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t bad at all and I enjoyed many parts of it. I’ll keep many of the pieces I picked up during my time as a vegan and carry them with me moving forward. And I think that’s a good thing.

What do you think?

Guys, I went vegan…. for the month of September anyways

Yes, you read that correctly. And as of tomorrow (Friday) morning, I’ll have been vegan for a week. If you’ve followed me on here since… geez… I think 2010, then you know that me doing 30 day challenges is nothing new. I’ve done vegetarianism, intermittent fasting, etc. and none of them were a big deal. So when Megan suggested we both go vegan for a month I thought, “what the hell, why not?”.

So for those of you who don’t know what veganism is, it is essentially vegetarian to the extreme. Not only do vegans not eat meat or fish, but they also don’t eat anything that comes from animals, often referred to as animal byproducts. So that means no eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, etc. So it’s a fairly restrictive way of eating, but one that also, when done correctly, can be very healthy.

If you were one who followed when I went vegetarian for a month, then you know that I did a pretty awful job on it. I gained weight. I gained fat. I felt pretty lousy.

Why? Because I intentionally did it in a manner in which I imagined a majority of the people who go vegetarian would do it.  I picked up a bunch of processed, pseudo meat alternatives and other junk like that. I didn’t stick to whole foods very much. This time around, however, I’m (we’re) going about it in what I would consider the proper way. So far it has been very whole foods based with only a touch here and there of pre-packaged, processed stuff. So what exactly are we eating? I’ll break it down for you by meal and then I’ll offer up what I’ve learned so far, what I find easy/difficult, and how it has affected our shopping and social aspects of our lives.

So let’s start with what we’ve been eating:

Breakfasts: Now I’m an egg guy through  and through and have them almost every morning, but obviously I had to make a change for this month. A normal breakfast for me is usually some peppers, onion, and maybe some spinach cooked up in a pan and then throwing in 2-3 eggs and putting that on a piece of Ezekiel toast and usually a bit of avocado and hot sauce or salsa. I know to some that might sound like a lot of work, but when you have things pre-chopped and ready to go, it really only takes 5 minutes or less. So my alternative was to simply replace the eggs with extra firm tofu. The texture and nutrition are pretty similar and it hasn’t been a big deal at all. In fact we made breakfast tacos the other day and if I’d had my eyes closed, or just wasn’t paying any attention, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. This has been really easy.

Lunches: This also hasn’t been too hard, but mostly because our routine hasn’t changed all that much. You see, normally we plan out our dinners for the week on Saturday or Sunday. We make a list of what we’ll need for each dinner and then go and pick up the ingredients. We like to try and make dinners that have double what we can eat so that we can simply take the leftovers to work the next day. Same story here. We have just been, for the most part, bringing leftovers to work. Again, no real change here except for the content of those meals. So what are they?

Dinners: Just like I’m assuming it is with you, this varies all over the place. Some examples of what we’ve made so far include the following:

  • Bean and rice stuffed poblano peppers
  • Vegan macaroni and cheese made with macaroni, sweet potatoes, carrots, nutritional yeast, and a couple other ingredients. It was pretty good.
  • Vegan tacos (we also make a really good tempeh taco that we made even before we started this)
  • Beyond Meat, vegan burgers (again, we’d had these before too and they are solid)

We also ordered in one night from Papa John’s a vegan pizza. It came with tomatoes, jalapenos, red sauce and…. that was it. But thankfully the garlic sauce they make is vegan so that helped it out a lot. Also, we had balsamic glaze in the fridge and drizzled that on the pie as well to add some extra flavor. And you guys know I’m a huge fan of pizza, so this one was tough. Or should I say, hard to swallow? See what I did there?

Snacks: Full disclosure, I’ve lost 2 lbs in the first week. And I think a big part of that is snacks. I usually keep my desk and mini fridge stocked with fruit, Greek yogurt, string cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, and beef jerky. And since I knew we were going to be doing this, I hadn’t stocked anything in a while (most of it being on the restricted list) and I simply haven’t had anything to eat. So I just have been hungry during the day. However…. Megan to the rescue. She made this AWESOME trail mix with pumpkin seeds, roasted soy nuts, dried cherries and raisins, and walnuts. Methinks the scale won’t continue trending down anymore.

So what have I/we learned so far?

  • Planning and preparation are critical. It’s not so easy when you haven’t prepared and are limited on what you can eat. You can’t just order up carry out Chinese or pizza. It takes a lot more thought than that (finding the vegan Papa John’s was a chore. We tried other places first, but it was kinda difficult).
  • You learn to read labels… very thoroughly. I was at a convenience store this past weekend and was hungry. Normally I’d pick up cheese and nuts or beef jerky or something to that degree and be on my way. Might even grab a protein bar. That wasn’t the case this time. I was scouring labels to see if I could have a bar and none of them worked. I had been eating a lot of nuts and was tired of them, so I ultimately settled on a banana. This is just one example of reading labels, but you can imagine that our grocery trips take a bit longer these days. And this is also why simply buying and eating whole foods is better/easier.
  • Um…. fiber. There’s a LOT of fiber. I’ll just leave it at that
  • Social get togethers take some thinking through. And it also puts a strain on the others around you. We went to a cookout with friends last weekend and had a great time. Purdue even went toe to toe against the reigning Heisman trophy winner. Well we ended up losing, but it was, for once in a VERY long time, a good showing and fun. Anywho, we made the aforementioned Beyond Meat burgers to be made on the grill and they were great. However, leading up to the party was plenty of back and forth texting about who was making what and whether or not it would accommodate us. That kind of sucked because we don’t want to put anybody out or require any special attention. Just one of those things to think about moving forward should we encounter it again.

I’m sure I’m leaving some things out with this, but my computer just dinged and told me to get off my ass and go for a walk, which I’ll save why I do that for another post at another time. Thanks for reading!

Surviving your diet on vacation

With schools letting out and summer just around the corner, that can mean only one thing (okay, it can mean a number of things)….

Summer vacations!

This is a notoriously slow time in the nutrition and fitness business. And rightfully so I suppose. The weather is nice and lugging your butt to the gym to lift isn’t really very enticing now is it? Farmer’s markets are opening and offering up fresh, local produce (and pizza, tacos, guacamole, dog treats, pretzels, and wind chimes) so eating healthier is easier and typically more palatable due to the freshness of everything. People are also heading to the park and riding bikes and are, in general, more active this time of the year.

I also have been doing this now for just shy of 7 years and so I’ve witnessed how people’s nutritional habits/tendencies vary during different times of year. And they’re exactly what you might think they’d be. From Halloween until January 1st, our dietary intake is typically less than stellar. January to spring break is usually tidied up a bit with some not so great days mixed in there.

And then there’s summer. Summer is a mix of a bit of everything. There’s the aforementioned increased intake of fresh fruits and veggies, but there is also a lot of potato salad made with loads of mayonnaise sitting between potato chips and hot dogs.

So what do summer vacations look like? Well first let me tell you what I tend to hear from clients who are about to embark on a trip.

“Well we’ll be doing a lot of walking!”

“There will be a lot of fresh fruit”

“We’ll be near the beach so plenty of fresh fish”

“The hotel has a gym in it”

“We’ll be so busy we won’t even hardly think about food”

And the list goes on and on, but there is a single recurring theme to each of those statements….

Good intentions.

And that’s cool in theory, right? I mean positive thinking is a good thing. And when you think about it, it makes sense too. Vacations are supposed to be fun, relaxing, getaways so the mood is a positive one overall. The problem lies in what I call the “screw-it-itis” syndrome. It goes a little something like this:

“Yeah, I could get the grilled grouper with a side of rice and pineapple, but screw it I’m on vacation! I’m getting the fried grouper sandwich with a side of fries and a margarita. I’ll get back to eating healthy when I get home.”

Happens all. the. time.

You know you’ve done it. I sure know that I’ve done it. So what do we do about it?

The answer, as is almost always the case, is it depends. However, some people respond well to, and this is typically the first place I go with my clients, but to remember the “why” they are on this health/weight/fitness journey in the first place. Do you need to come off medication? Do you want to be around to watch your daughter grow up and get married? Do you want to be able to complete that half marathon you signed up for in the fall? That “why” needs to be more important than that fried grouper sandwich and fries. There is a great quote by the late Zig Ziglar that reads: “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now”. So by learning delayed gratification, you can really make the change. It just isn’t always easy. In fact, it almost never is.

So the post title is obviously about vacationing, but the meat of this post can be applied to any situation where you’re vulnerable to make a decision that isn’t helping you get closer to your goal. As a matter of fact, I’m looking out over my gym right this moment and I know I have a lift scheduled here in 5 minutes. And I gotta tell you I really don’t want to do it. I’m tired from my lift yesterday. It’s beautiful outside. I need to head home and do laundry/pack/clean for my trip to Chicago tomorrow. But you know what? I’m lacing up and doing it anyway. It won’t be my best, but it will keep the habit. And as a bonus, it will get me one step closer to a goal I set for myself. So I’m just gonna suck it up and bang it out.

Til next week!



The Punch Clock Workout, what is it?

Some workouts, or training sessions as I like to call them, Flat. Out. Suck.

If you’ve ever exercised for any period of time in your life, then you know this to be a fact. Sometimes they get bad enough that you cut the session short and call it a day. Maybe it was because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Maybe you were a bit under the weather from a cold. Or maybe it was self-induced from a night out with friends. Whatever the reason, it was rough, brutal even.

I actually have a rule for this type of session. And I try to pass the rule along to my clients as well. The scenario goes a little something like this….

  1. Going for a run or to go lift (or whatever you do) is the LAST thing you want to do.
  2. Lace up and get your butt out there anyways (unless you’re truly really sick or injured or something).
  3. Do at least 5 minutes of your workout.
  4. If after 5 minutes it is clearly not going to work, then go home.

So why do I have this rule and why the hell haven’t I told you what a punch clock workout is yet? Just hold on a second, I’m getting to that.

So first, why do I have this rule? It’s pretty simple, really. For starters, it keeps you in the HABIT. Just the act of lacing up and heading out is a success because you didn’t break the cycle. I can’t tell you how important this is. I’ve witnessed far too many clients or acquaintances not feel like working out one day and then the next thing you know, 3 months has passed and they’ve fallen out of the habit. You see, I was actually corrected by my girlfriend, Megan when I did one of my Talk Back Tuesday segments on Facebook. I had mentioned that whoever said it takes 3 weeks to build a habit is full of shit. And I stand by that. But here’s where I was wrong and she was right (sounds familiar). I then stated that it takes upwards of 6 months or a year or something to that extent. She corrected me and said, “no, changing a habit is a life long thing. It never really ends”. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that was the gist of it. And yep, nail on the head. Couldn’t have said it better myself… because I didn’t, but anyways…

This goes for nutrition as well. I’ve seen so many people eat what they considered to be a “bad” meal or have a weekend binge only to think that they’ve blown the diet. They then go the next week, 2 weeks, or months and beyond eating poorly. Now, did that one meal or poor weekend of eating ruin their diet? No, of course not. Did it help them get closer to their goal? No, but one or two “off” meals won’t really derail you either. The habit that was broken here was not hopping back up on the horse. You need to have amnesia in these situations. You ate it. It was delicious. Don’t feel guilty. Just hop back on and move forward. It’s as easy as that. And yet I still see people falling into the “I’ve blown it” trap. The habit should be to go right back to eating well most of the time. We all have those meals, it’s natural. But the successful ones forget it and move on.

“Okay cool Alec, thanks for the sage advice. Now what the frack is a punch clock workout?!”

I’m glad you asked! The punch clock workout is a term I picked up from Mike Robertson. In essence, it simply means grinding through a training session that totally sucks. You aren’t feeling it that day, but you want to get the workout in. You aren’t able to put full effort into it for whatever reason, but maybe you’ve missed a few sessions lately or you’ll be going on vacation soon. Whatever the reason, you just grit your teeth and bear it. So this obviously comes from the workers who aren’t particularly found of their jobs and more or less go through the motions. Just get through the 9-5. And to be clear this isn’t just for jobs that require your to literally punch in and out, but it seemed to come off the tongue better than “the office assistant who can’t stand his boss, but drudgingly comes in and does the work anyways” workout.

So that’s kind of how I came up with my rule. I was training back in 2011 for the Muncie Half Ironman and was getting some really crappy sessions in. But I figured out that if I had at least put on the shoes and gotten a half mile or so out, that I could grit my way through it. If however, I could tell this was NOT gonna happen, then I’d turn around and head home. But I had to keep the habit, or the cycle, going. And what I found was that I could count on one hand the times I stopped and came home. And this was during a 12 week training cycle that had me doing up to 10-12 training sessions a week. So I didn’t miss very many. And I’d argue strongly that if I had felt like crap and DIDN’T lace up, that I would have needed more hands to count my missed sessions.

So that’s the post this week. Sorry I left you hanging until the end there on the punch clock thing. Hope you picked up a thing or two. Let me know in the comments section if you have any tricks you’ve come up with to keep consistent with either diet, exercise, or both.

Til next week!

Guys…. I bought a Fitbit

So as the title says, I caved and bought a Fitbit. It all kind of started because my girlfriend, Megan had one for work. It was the clip to your waistband kind and she ended up losing it and was looking for a new one. We came across the Fitbit Flex 2, which is worn on the wrist and is very small and lightweight. I decided I’d go ahead and get one as well because this one is waterproof and it tracks your swimming. I typically swim 2-3 times per week, so I thought “what the hell”.

I’ve only been wearing it now for 3 days, but as far as I can tell, the following are my takeaways so far:

  • It’s really lightweight and small. I usually wear a watch on my left wrist, so I decided to put this on my right wrist. I thought it would bug me or get in the way when I’m say, typing on a keyboard. But you know what? I hardly notice that it’s even there. Well done, Fitbit.
  • It can tell that you are swimming. I thought I’d have to plug in some shit to get it to know that I was about to do laps, but it automatically could tell (via accelerometers I assume) that the way it was moving, I must have been swimming. And not only that, but it was “to the freaking T” accurate in how many laps I’d been swimming. To be frank, that was pretty awesome… or was it creepy?
  • As accurate as it was for the swim, it’s kind of wishy washy in terms of tracking steps. For example, I had the app open on my phone and walked around and counted the steps in my head as the ticker on the phone also tallied them. That part was fairly accurate. However, I did the same thing while sitting and just waving my arm around and it counted steps too, so it’s not perfect. This is cheatable, no doubt about it.
  • Somehow it knows how you sleep. Again, I thought this would bother me by having to wear it to bed, but I didn’t notice it. I’m guessing it knows you’ve gone to bed when it stops moving for a while? Anyways, I’ve only worn it one night because I needed to charge it for another night. The battery life is just “meh” in my opinion. I’d like to see it go straight through for at least 3 or 4 days, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Anyways, the night I did wear it, it said that most of it was sound sleep. I was “restless or awake” for something like 16 minutes total. I guess that’s pretty good. The second part was how long I slept. Now, I have a good idea of how many hours I get and the Fitbit essentially verified that. And i’d imagine that if you’re a parent to young kids, the number will piss you off,  but I got 8 hours and 16 minutes of sleep. And I feel my best when I get at least 8, but 9 seems to be my best number.
  • Last, but not least in what I’ve noticed in these last few days is that I get more steps in than I thought. Yes, I do own a small gym, but a lot of my day is spent sitting, unfortunately. Or so I thought, anyways. I truly believed I’d maybe rack up between 4,000 and 6,000 steps a day, or the equivalent of 2 or 3 miles. So far I haven’t had a day under 12,000 steps. And I haven’t worn it on a run yet, so that was pretty eye opening.

So there you have it. My take so far on these wearable fitness doohickeys. Overall the technology is pretty neat. And I didn’t think I’d ever wear one or care for them, but here I sit (or maybe I should get up and start walking….). One last thing of note though before I get off my butt. If you are looking to become healthier by walking more, then you absolutely should because as I’ve written about before, it’s one of the best things you can do for your body. However, with that said, if you are looking for walking more to really make changes to your body (at least aesthetically) then it probably won’t do too much. Hit the weights, hit the pool, or hit the pavement with some gusto for that.

Ok, that’s all for today. I’m gonna go for a short walk because it’s beautiful outside and I’m going to Costco tonight for pizza. Seriously. And I’m excited about it.

Til next week!

Nutrition and Exercise: It’s a game of inches

You’ve maybe heard that football is a game of inches. And I suppose that’s true to a point. I guess whenever I think about football being a game of inches I always think back to the late Steve McNair throwing to Kevin Dyson (had to look the receiver’s name up) on the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV (yeah I had to Google that one as well). If you’re not familiar, McNair threw near the goal line and Dyson caught it, but he was tackled literally 1 yard short of the goal line for what would have been the game winning score. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be and the St. Louis (now LA) Rams won the Super Bowl.

1 yard short.

So this got me to thinking about how this relates to the world of nutrition and fitness. And actually the more I think about it, how it really is relative to most anything we do. It’s just that last little bit of effort. That extra 2 percent.

I was working with (training) a client a couple of weeks ago and he was doing step-ups onto a box. He had dumbbells in his hands and I was instructing him to focus on lowering himself to the floor as slow as controlled as possible. Ideally, I’d be aiming for him to lower on a 3 second count. As the exercise rolls on this becomes more difficult, but we’ll not address that stuff in this post today. Now fast forward 2 weeks and I see him again for the same program. He’s a former collegiate athlete and has a good training background which makes my job easier because he remembered my cue to lower slow and controlled. After a couple of sets he tells me that the difference in how much more difficult the step-ups are because of this is extraordinary. He also noted that after the session 2 weeks ago he felt it made a big difference in how his legs were getting bigger and stronger (spoiler alert: he’s correct).

Now I’ve been in a lot of gyms over the years and I can tell you I’ve seen some really poorly performed exercises. And the step-up is certainly one of them. Nearly ever time I see it performed, the person is stepping up and then…. smack! That’s the sound of their foot contacting the floor. They plop right back down. No control. No slowing down. And you know what? It’s why they aren’t getting any stronger too. That 1 second fall to the floor as opposed to a 3 second slowed descent to the rubber is all the difference.

The last 2 percent.

Now how about nutrition? What’s the tie in with the whole “game of inches” when it comes to diet? Well this kind of coat tails off of the last post I put up regarding the difference between intensity and consistency where I explained that someone who puts in decent effort over the long haul will have much better results than someone who “kills it” for a few weeks, then wears out and reverts back to poor eating and exercising habits before “killing it” again a couple of months down the road. I could get deeper into that, but I already have so I’ll move on. The way I see that last little bit of effort with nutrition is all over the place. It could be not having that last bite of food on your plate “because it’s there” when you’re already satisfied. It could be opting to use spices on your chicken as opposed to slathering it in sugar-laden BBQ sauce. Maybe it’s ordering a 6 oz filet instead of the 8 oz.

Now none of these things seems like a big deal. I mean, what’s the big deal with an extra 2 oz. of steak? It’s only about 150 calories or so. And so what if you have 50 or 60 calories coming from BBQ sauce as opposed to 0 from the spices? Who cares if you finish off the last bite on your plate? It’s only 1 bite!

The last 2 percent.

The devil is in the details…. done consistently over time. Is anybody else seeing a pattern with these blogs lately or is it just me?

Til next week!

Intensity vs. Consistency with your training and diet

I wonder how many of you guys are tired of hearing me talk about consistency. I’ve certainly covered the topic A LOT in the past, but that’s because it’s so damn critical to success in your health and fitness journey. Anyways, I thought today that I’d look at consistency, or lack thereof, from a different perspective.

You know why Whole30 is so popular? Or 21 day fix? It’s because anyone can slam the gas pedal to the floor for 3 or 4 weeks. And there is likely to be some progress that’s seen. But nobody can can go all out all the time. You burn out. Break. Wear down. It’s science (probably). And the progress that you saw will wane. You’ll only be left with that “after” photo and the feeling of shame and guilt down the road when you realize you’re back to square one… or worse. Which leads me to the title of this post…

Tortoises can be found, but are pretty rare, because most people I see, act like the hare.

I literally just made that up. True story.

But it’s true. The successful people are the one’s who grind day in and day out. Some meals aren’t great, but most are pretty good. Some workouts or training sessions get shorted or skipped altogether, but most don’t. Even when they feel like just going home and plopping on the couch, they do it anyway. Even if they’re a bit under the weather, they do it anyway.

I’m going to take a minute and give an example here. There’s this girl I know who gets up around 5 am(ish) every weekday. She often works until 5 or 6 pm. So far, this may sound like a lot of you out there. Here’s where she stands out. After work, she will come home and take care of some things (walk dogs, start laundry, etc), but then she has the audacity to lace up the sneakers, go back out to the gym, get in a training session, and then come back home to cook, clean, and prepare for the next day. I don’t know about you, but after a long ass day of work and knowing what still lies ahead at home for the night, I’m not sure I’d have it in me to consistently lace up and go back out to the gym. Now sure, it may not be the greatest of workouts, but it’s better than not doing one AND… it maintains the habit. That last bit is key by the way. I often tell people that even when I don’t feel like getting in a lifting session or a swim at the pool, I at least make sure I show up and give it a try. And you know what? There have been times where I’ve gotten to the gym to lift or swim, got through my warm-up or a couple of sets, and packed up and went home. It wasn’t there for whatever reason. BUT… and this is a big BUTT (see what I did there?)… I still went and kept the habit.

Unfortunately, what I see far too often are people who take the hare’s approach. And we know how that one turned out, don’t we? They go for a couple of weeks at full throttle. Killing it! Woooo!!!! Then they fizzle out for a few weeks or months. Then they realize they’ve gotten lazy about their diet and exercise and….

Wooooo!!!!! #killingit

And the cycle continues. But that won’t cut it. What you need to find is something that you:

  1. Enjoy
  2. Can do easily on a consistent basis

That’s it. There is no number 3.

So stop the full on, full off cycle and get consistent already. You’ll likely finally see the results you’ve been looking for all along.

How it feels to really be healthy

“It’s not something I can explain. There aren’t any words for it. Without experiencing it for yourself, you’d just never have any idea.

And that’s a shame. I sometimes wish there were words for it so I could get some extra motivation and excitement delivered to my clients. But then again, I also think it’s important for them to discover it on their own. It’s almost certainly different for each of us. Just like your favorite food might be amazing to you, it might only be just okay for me. I’m only speculating here of course, but I like to think I’m right…. or at least close.

To date, the closest comparison I have to telling people how wonderful it can feel when you exercise regularly, eat well, and get good sleep is that feeling you get when you finally wake up after having say, the flu, and you feel human again. Then I say “that’s a pretty awesome feeling, huh?” to which the obvious reply is “oh yeah!” “Well what if I told you that you could experience that almost all the time?” are usually the next words out of my mouth. “Oh, that would be wonderful!” And yet for whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to take hold for some. It just doesn’t resonate well enough and I can’t figure out why. How can that not be enough?

From what I can tell, the answer, according to the food logs I see, appears to be the following:

  • chocolate
  • wine
  • cheeseburgers
  • pizza
  • doughnuts
  • fried chicken

Well…. you get the point. For them, it just isn’t worth it. They’d rather choose the food over the mood. And you know what, I like food as well! I can see where they are coming from. I used to be that kid too (hint, hint for an upcoming post). But the good news is that I’ve had some pretty good success with clients who used to be that way and have since changed their tune. I wish I could say my success rate is 100%, but it’s not. Sometimes people think they are ready to make the change when in reality, they aren’t. Or sometimes I like to word it like this: “Everyone wants to be a beast…. until it’s time to do what beasts do”.

So, think you’re ready to wake up feeling like a million bucks almost every day? I can help you learn the tools that can make that happen. It doesn’t come easy. It will take quite a bit of time. But as I like to say, nothing worth while ever came easily.

Get in touch with me at: asmith@fgnutrition.com

Or if you want to learn more about me and what I do here at Feel Good Nutrition and Fitness, check out the website at: www.fgnutrition.com

Til next time…

What the deuce is the Glycemic Index?

Maybe you’ve heard of it and maybe you haven’t. About 5 or so years ago I predicted it would be the next big “thing” in the diet world. Since the tabloids and celebrities are always trying to make a buck off the next big thing I thought it would be  a pretty good one for them to piggy back off of. Turns out I was only partially correct. It didn’t really blow up like the low fat phase in the early to mid 90’s. It certainly didn’t become the heir to Atkins. And it didn’t receive the same reception as the oh-so-glorious gluten free diet. But books were written nonetheless and I receive questions about high and low glycemic foods pretty regularly so I decided it would be a good post to write about.

So what is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index was originally created to aid diabetics in better controlling their blood sugar levels via their diet. Makes sense. And it works pretty well too. But as with gluten, it’s really only applicable to a certain population group. A gluten free diet is necessary for those with Celiac disease. It must be avoided so as to not destroy their intestinal lining. The glycemic index is designed, as I said earlier, to help diabetics. However, it has little carry over to the general healthy population. Here’s how it works: foods are arraigned on a scale from 0-100 with the score representing a certain food’s impact on blood sugar. The higher the score, the more the food raises blood sugar. So for instance, a pop tart would be very high on the scale, likely in the 90’s but I didn’t check. Another example would be rice cakes, white bread, or pineapple. However, on the other end of the spectrum you’d find foods like almonds, green beans, or spinach.

How does the glycemic index work?

Foods receive their scores by having healthy individuals consume 1 portion of a food after an overnight fast that is at least 12 hours in duration. Then, after ingesting the food, the blood sugar of the person is checked to see how much it was affected from their baseline, or fasted, blood sugar level. I’m dumbing this down a bit, but this is the gist of it. But one last (and I think really important) thing to note here is that each food is eaten individually. That is, they are not eating a meal, but rather just a relatively small portion of just one food by itself.

How then, is the glycemic index flawed as a diet?

Well, it just doesn’t translate to the general, healthy population. The reason is that when we eat, we don’t just eat one piece of white bread. Well maybe some of you do on occasion, but it’s extremely rare in what I witness among my clientele. So if you are consuming a high glycemic index food, but it is paired with foods containing fat, fiber, and protein (which almost every meal has), then it doesn’t really matter. This is because fat, fiber, and protein all slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream thereby pretty much rendering the glycemic number of the food useless.

But what about insulin?

Ah, insulin. Poor insulin. I think the perception of this happy little hormone would be different if people knew it was an anabolic hormone. I also think people would think differently about gluten if they knew it was a protein, but that’s for another post. So here’s the deal with insulin. When we eat, our food gets broken down into small molecules that our bodies can use for energy (and many other things), but for now we’ll focus on energy. Trouble is, these little molecules need help getting into our cells so that they can be utilized. Well, insulin is like the Uber that gets you to your destination. It picks up the molecules and transports them into the cells. And for this discussion, we’re referring specifically to sugar, or glucose. Now our cells are happy and have plenty of energy available to them. However, since you also ate a meal containing protein and fat, those molecules are floating around in your blood too. But since the cells are happy with the energy they have at their disposal, the body decides that it should probably store these fat molecules for later just in case there’s a period of time in which we can’t eat. This is where insulin gets a bad rap. People assume that because this process is occurring, then that must make us gain weight. Trouble is, this is no big deal (and normal) as long as we are not overeating. It still comes down to calories in vs. calories out. You see, you’ll use it later and maintain or lose weight as long as you eat at or below what your body needs in a day. It doesn’t matter that you store it. What matters is if you eat above your caloric needs and store too much of it over a period of time.

So with all this said, there are certainly cases to be made for say, whole wheat bread over white bread or whole grain rice over white. You get the nutrients that are stripped out of the refined versions (white bread and rice). You also get the fiber from the bran that was removed from the stripped down versions as well. Obviously fiber aids in digestive health and most Americans don’t get nearly what they need. The point of the post wasn’t to say that it doesn’t completely matter which foods you choose, but rather to point out that the glycemic index concept, as it applies to healthy individuals, is flawed. I’d argue that we need to focus on more important things such as eating at or slightly below our caloric needs. We need to eat more fiber, fruits, and vegetables. That’s where I think we’ll see the most success. Let’s focus on what really matters instead.


Are you working out or training too hard?

Over training. The idea that the weekend warrior somehow isn’t losing weight because he or she is training too hard seems to be all the rage in the magazines and online articles these days. Trouble is I’m not buying it. I’m calling bullshit.

This is one I’ve kind of been putting off for a while because I wasn’t sure just how relevant it might be to you guys, but it’s now something I need to get off my chest as I can see it spreading and becoming detrimental to society.

Yes, I believe over training exists. And yes, I believe it can occur in people who are not professional or Olympic athletes which is where you might expect it to pop up more frequently. I recall working with a mother and her 17 year old daughter back when I worked at Life Time Fitness. This girl had some pretty serious issues going on and not only from a diet standpoint (while not officially diagnosed, she was anorexic). I worked briefly with her near the end of my time there, so I didn’t get much of a chance to intervene. And looking back that’s maybe a good thing because I was a noob who had literally just obtained my RD less than 6 months prior and didn’t really have any business dealing with the issues she had. If she were to come to me today I’d refer her right on to a more qualified RD who specializes in eating disorders.

Anyways, it wasn’t so much that she was limiting her food (which was evident in food logs assuming she was being honest, which… let’s be real… she probably wasn’t), but rather she exercised for hours and hours on end. I’ll never forget her mom explaining to me that she would slap on her Garmin and literally run circles around the house. This sounds odd enough to begin with, right? But here’s the kicker. She would do this for up to 17 or more miles at a time!!!!  This type of anorexia is classified under the “binge/purge” title. The other is just extreme limiting of calories and nutrition overall. Either way I’ve always hoped she eventually got the help she needed.

But back to this idea that those of us who are exercising hard for a few or even most days of the week and are inducing over training is down right silly. That’s called being healthy and normal. Although as I write this I realize that it, unfortunately, isn’t normal. Most people don’t exercise consistently or at an intensity necessary for optimal health. And that’s sad. And it’s extremely costly too. But that’s another post for another time. The bottom line is if you think you’re not losing weight because you’re body has been working too hard and needs time off, you’re likely kidding yourself and need to look at other factors.

For example, I do have some clients who train hard and work their butts off. There are plenty of people out there who do that and eventually stall in their progress. They usually think the answer is to go even harder. And that can be true up to a point. However, I’ll ask them this question: “You train hardcore, but do you recover hardcore?”. Quite easily the most overlooked aspect of changing the body is the recovery period. And yes, nutrition plays a huge roll in that, but there’s more to the story. Are you constantly stressed and can’t shut down (turn off the sympathetic nervous system) thus having chronically elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body? Are you not getting enough quality sleep at night? Because 7 hours of tossing and turning doesn’t count, brofessor. Is every single one of your training sessions pedal to the metal (very rare, mind you)?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you’ve not planned out this fitness journey very well and that’s why you’re stalling.

So to answer the question in the title, “are you training too hard”, the answer is almost 100% “no” in what I’ve found in the people I work with. Not that that isn’t the case in other populations, but just my observation. I often tell people to forget what your Fitbit, Garmin, or treadmill tell you about your calorie burn because for one, it’s likely way off. And for two, who cares? Don’t eat based on what some machine thinks you might need to take in. Eat based on how you feel. Are you hungry? Ok, go eat something until your satisfied. Then, wait until you’re hungry again and repeat for the next 70 years.

Sorry about that last bit of tangent, but those things just really get under my skin. But again, no, you’re probably not working too hard. Then again, I could be wrong. If you want to set up a time to meet with me however, we can come to a more conclusive answer! Just email me at asmith@fgnutrition.com

Til next week!

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