July 2017 - Studio ME Fitness

July 2017

The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.


Yes, ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.


A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.


The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.


But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will…


Types of artificial sweeteners


Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.


Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.


They’re also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners,” and include things like:


  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),


  • Acesulfame potassium,


  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and


  • Sucralose (Splenda).


Health effects of artificial sweeteners


Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don’t. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.


I did want to point out one ironic thing, to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.


One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.


Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.


While these results don’t apply equally to everyone, they do somehow seem ironic, don’t they?



How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?


Now that’s a million-dollar question!


There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.


  • Is it because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?


  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?


  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?


  • It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.


  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.


  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.




Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners.


I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet.  This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.


Try having ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try reducing a ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Try diluting juice with water.


Your body will thank you!




Recipe (naturally sweetened): Sweet Enough Matcha Latte


Serves 1


1 teaspoon matcha powder

1.5 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (optional)


  1. Heat almond milk and maple syrup/honey (if using) in a small pot.
  2. Add matcha powder to cup.
  3. When almond milk is hot, add about a ¼ cup to matcha and stir to combine.
  4. Add rest of the milk to cup.


Serve & enjoy!


Tip: You can steep a chai tea bag in the milk if you prefer chai tea over matcha.








Train SMARTER, not harder

We’ve become obsessed with the idea that if we aren’t sore we didn’t get a good workout. That is just not true! You don’t need to do more to get the results you want. You don’t need to feel destroyed after each and every workout and guess what? If you always feel destroyed then you run the risk of overtraining which can reek havoc on your body and injuries. Train smarter…not harder!

Ever wonder why, even though you are working out SO HARD that you aren’t seeing results? 

Evaluate your choices.

  1. Fuel your body! Don’t starve it. You can’t out train a bad diet. This is the biggest thing I talk about with my clients. Until you actually sit down and take a look at what you are eating it seems fine.  Try this…create an account with myfitnesspal.com and track for 3-5 days. You will be amazed at what you find. On average, looking at your macronutrients, you want to be sitting at 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 15% fat. Now, this is average. Depending on your goals you will want to adjust your macros. If you have a sensitivity to carbs and tend to pack on the pounds when you eat them then obviously cut back on that and increase your protein intake. Increasing protein will help keep you fuller longer and keep you out of that cookie jar as well as help build muscle which will in turn increase your resting metabolic rate = higher metabolism at rest. When I say carbs I don’t mean processed food or sugar. You want to eat health carbs such as quinoa, brown rice, vegetables, etc. Want to make some changes but not sure where to start? Contact me for a consult and we can get you on the right path and not by cutting calories but properly fueling the body. megan@studiomefitness.com
  2. How much sleep are you getting a night? Sure you can get by on under 6 hours a sleep a night but over time it will catch up with you and put you into a downward spiral. Building up extra fat around the mid section? Try to get 6-8 hours a night! It will help keep cortisol level low and helpfully help trim that waist line. Also, sleep = recovery!
  3. Don’t workout longer or harder to get better results. Thinking adding an extra 15-60 minutes to your workout will help you get where you want to be? WRONG! Workout SMARTER and not harder. Adding HIIT training (no more than 20 minutes) into your routine 2-3 times a week on top of strength training 3-4/week (and I don’t mean endurance strength training with the lighter weights, e.g. 3lbs, and going to exhaustion). Want to see muscle definition? Lift heavy every once in awhile. Challenge yourself! Take a kettlebell, TRX or strength circuit class. Your muscles will tank you! Cardio is great but if you want real definition it won’t get you there and the next time you think about getting on to the treadmill or going for a run think intervals. Trust me! You don’t need to go out and run for 40-60 minutes and burn a measly 200-300 calories when you can do for 15-20 and alternate with jogging, sprinting and walking and burn twice as much and continue to burn for up to 24 hours post workout. Intervals! Intervals! Intervals!
  4. Perform compound movements when working out. Compound exercises utilize multiple joints with free weights and build the most muscle and increase strength the fastest. This means maximal muscle recruitment, high nervous system activation, and more of a stimulus for growth. I’m a big fan of the less is more approach – but not less is easier. This is why kettlebells, TRX and even rowing are my favorite tools. You aren’t just targeting one muscle group. You aren’t trying to be a body builder or entering a competition (if you are stick with isolated exercises to target muscle groups). You are trying to increase strength, look better feel better and perform everyday life activities better. The tools we use at Studio ME are very functional and meet all of these requirements and help you train SMARTER and not harder.
  5. Recovery! Recovery! Recovery! Should I say it one more time? OK…Recovery! It is so important. Your body cannot handle being in a stressed, high inflammation state all the time. You must give your body a break. Take it from me, someone who can teach up to 5 classes a day. You body begins to break down very quickly. You still get results but not the kind you want. Do you want to always feel tired, weak, no energy to do anything, gaining weight? NOPE I don’t think so! Rest and take care of your body. Ways I take time for myself and my body includes foam rolling with either a standard roller, a Rollga, or Yoga Tune Up Balls, stretching, breathing and meditation, yoga, when I have some extra money in the budget going for a massage (oh hot stone how I love the’), and going for gentle and slow walks and spending time with family and friends. Did you know that walks can help lower cortisol levels especially after diner walks?

Not sure where to start? Need some help or want some advice? Contact me at megan@studiomefitness.com or 612.656.9306. I can provide a Health & Lifestyle Assessment as well as a workout program either at Studio ME in our small group classes, bootcamp or private training or something you can do at home with minimal equipment to help you reach YOUR goals.


Stop training longer!  Use some of these tips to train smarter and achieve the results you’ve always wanted. 


Natural Deodorant That Actually Works!

Ok guys…I’m getting real with this post…

I have tried a ton of different deodorants. Like a ton! I sweat a lot and get a lot of underarm sweat to where can show through shirts. Image being at work and giving a presentation and afraid to lift your arms because you know you have wet spots under your arms. This was a problem I experienced when I was still working in corporate world because I trained staff so I was always giving presentations in front of large and small groups. Meeting with executives would also make me sweat. Not just a little bit. I had to be careful on what type shirts I wore and the material so it didn’t stain. No silk shirts for me and lots of black. I tired DrySol (MD prescription required) which is all aluminum, the prescription strength ones, and about every type on the market but nothing really worked. I even changed some things in my diet and nothing really worked so I pretty much gave up and would switch my deodorants every month or so to get a few days of relief. Oh and natural deodorants…HA! Those never worked!!!

Every natural deodorant I have ever tried either doesn’t work at all or works for maybe a day or two then stops as my body adjusts.  I saw Piperwai on Shark Tank and thought no way but still gave it a shot. I have to say that it actually does work! I have not been paid or receive no benefit for reviewing this product. Because it has worked for me I wanted to share it with all of you in case you wanted to get away from the toxic deodorants on the market.

My experience with natural deodorants…

I have found that I have a reaction to baking soda which is in practically EVERY natural deodorant because it keeps you dry (absorbs moisture). The first week I used Piperwai I noticed that I wasn’t as wet under the arms as usual and didn’t stink. Win win, right? Then I noticed the tiny red bumps that comes with the baking soda that I am use to. I decided to keep using it making sure to not put it on directly after shaving and adding some unscented lotion to see if it would help…well…it did. I am glad I kept using the product as now I am completely off of my regular deodorant and am very happy with Piperwai.

Piperwai has activated charcoal in it which helps with moister WAY better than any other deodorant that I have tried. I can say that I haven’t sweat through shirts but I also haven’t worn a typical (work) shirt in a while either but still fell dryer. The smell is pleasant like a spa smell almost a little more masculine. Both men and women can use it.

It comes in both a stick form which I am using now or a jar where you need to wipe it in place. I have used both. The stick is less messy and since I do reapply a few times a day it just works better for me. It is a little pricey up front at $11.99/jar or $16.00/stick but it lasts me about 4 months. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you.


Here’s the link to purchase: https://www.piperwai.com/products/piperwai-natural-deodorant

*I do not receive any incentives for referring this product.

The Coconut Oil Craze – Should You Jump on the Bandwagon Too?

Yes you should (end of post).


But what exactly is it about coconut oil that makes it so healthy? And which type is best?


Let’s dive into some of the fascinating research and find out.


Coconut oil is a special kind of fat


Coconut oil is fat and contains the same 9 calories per gram as other fats.


It is extracted from the “meat” of the coconut. Coconut oil is a white solid at room temperature and easily melts into a clear liquid on a hot day.


The idea of adding coconut oil to your diet is NOT to add on to what you already eat but to substitute it for some of the (possibly) less healthy fats you may be eating now.


And here’s why – Because not all calories or fats are created equal.


Coconut oil contains a unique type of fat known as “Medium Chain Triglycerides” (MCTs). In fact, 65% of the fat in coconut oil are these MCTs.


What makes MCTs unique is how your body metabolizes them;  they’re easily absorbed into the bloodstream by your gut, where they go straight to the liver, and they’re burned for fuel or converted into “ketones.”


This metabolic process, unique to MCTs, is what sets coconut oil apart from other fats.


Coconut oil MCTs may help with fat loss.


Coconut oil’s MCTs have been shown to have a few different fat loss benefits.


First, it can help to increase feelings of fullness, which can lead to a natural reduction in the amount of food you eat.


Second, because of their unique metabolic route, MCTs can also increase the number of calories you burn;  this happens when you compare the calories burned after eating the same amount of other fats.


In fact, a few studies show that coconut oil may increase the number of calories you burn by as much as 5%.


Third, some studies show that eating coconut oil can help reduce belly fat (a.k.a. “waist circumference”).


Just remember not to add coconut oil to your diet without reducing other fats and oils!


How much coconut oil should I eat?


Many of the studies that showed increased fullness, increased metabolism, and reduced belly fat only used about 2 tablespoons per day.


You probably don’t need any more than that.


What kind of coconut oil is the best?


There are so many coconut oil options available in grocery stores these days that it can make it difficult to know which is best.


I recommend you stay away from “refined” ones, and opt for “virgin” coconut oil. That is because it is processed at lower temperatures and avoids some of the chemical solvents used in the refining process;  this helps to preserve more of the oil’s natural health-promoting antioxidants.


Pro Tip: Always (and I mean ALWAYS) avoid “hydrogenated” coconut oil. It can be a health nightmare because it contains the infamous “trans fats.”


One thing you should also consider is that each oil has a specific high temperature that you should avoid surpassing (e.g. its “smoke point”). For virgin coconut oil, that temperature is 350F. That means you can safely use it on the stovetop on a low-medium setting, as well as in most baking.




Substitute some of the fat you eat with virgin coconut oil;  this may help you to lose weight and belly fat by naturally helping you to eat less, as well as slightly increasing your metabolism.


Oh, and it tastes great too!


Recipe (Coconut Oil): Homemade Healthy Chocolate

Serves 12


⅓ cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup cocoa/cacao powder

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 dashes salt

4 tablespoons slivered almonds


Melt coconut oil, and whisk in maple syrup, salt, and cocoa/cacao powder until smooth.

Stir in slivered almonds until evenly distributed.

Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Store in fridge or freezer to avoid melting.

Serve & enjoy!


Tip: Substitute other seeds, chopped nuts, or dried fruit instead of the almonds if you wish.









The Gut-Brain Connection: How To Feed Your Brain

If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” this is it!

Yes, it’s true. Your gut is considered your “second brain.” There is no denying it anymore.

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.


I find it amazing (but not too surprising).



What exactly is the “gut-brain connection.”


Well, it’s very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it!


There seem to be multiple things working together.  Things like:

  • The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain
  • The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain
  • The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut
  • The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body and
  • The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.

This is complex. And amazing, if you ask me.


I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe (of course!)


Vagus nerve


There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain.


And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…


Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!


The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters


Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord?


I knew you would!


And that’s why it’s referred to as the “second brain.”


And, if you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty “smartly”…don’t you think?


And guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called “neurotransmitters.”


In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!


The immune system of the gut


Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!


And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?


Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.


Gut microbes


Your friendly neighborhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!


But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.


How do these all work together for brain health?


The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don’t know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.


But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!


So, how do you feed your brain?


Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.


But two things that you many consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.



Recipe (Gut food fibre, Brain food omega-3): Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats

Serves 2


1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 cup oats (gluten-free)

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon chia seeds

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 banana, sliced

¼ cup chopped walnuts

optional: bananas (add morning you plan to eat)



  1. Blend blueberries in the food processor until smooth.
  2. Mix blueberries, oats, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds in a bowl with a lid. Let set in fridge overnight.
  3. Split into two bowls and top with cinnamon, banana, and walnuts.


Serve & enjoy!


Tip: Your gut microbes love to eat the fiber in the blueberries, oats, seeds, and nuts. Meanwhile, your brain loves the omega-3 fats in the seeds and nuts.