Health and Nutrition Archives - Studio ME Fitness

Health and Nutrition

Common Weight Loss Myths…Busted!!!

Weight loss advice is so common (and contentious) now. There are competing opinions everywhere.

 

I say, forget about “who’s right” and let’s focus on “what’s right.” Because what gets results is what I’m focusing on in this post.

 

I respect you too much to make empty promises and try to sell you on something that doesn’t work.

 

There are too many weight loss myths out there. I’m going to tackle the top ones I come across in my practice.

 

Myth: Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss

 

Calories are important for weight loss. If you eat and absorb a ton more than you use, then your body’s wisdom will store some for later. Calories matter.

 

But, they are not the “be-all and end-all” of weight loss; they’re important, but they’re the symptom, not the cause. Let’s think about the reasons people eat more calories. Let’s focus on the causes.

 

People eat too many calories, not because they’re hungry, but because they feel sad, lonely, or bored. Or maybe because they’re tired or stressed. Or maybe even because they’re happy and celebrating.  And all these feelings interact with our gastrointestinal, nervous and hormonal systems; all of which influence our calorie intake.

 

Myth: “Eat less move more” is good advice

 

Well, then we’re all in tip-top shape, right? Because people have been doling out this advice (myth) for years.

 

The premise of this is based on the above myth that calories in minus calories out equals your weight. So, eat fewer calories, and burn off more calories (because human physiology is a simple math equation, right?).

 

Even if people can happily and sustainably follow this advice (which they can’t!); it completely negates other factors that contribute to weight problems. Things like the causes of overeating we mentioned above. Not to mention our genetics, health conditions we’re dealing with or our exposure to compounds that are “obesogenic.”

 

Myth: A calorie is a calorie

 

Can we please put this one to bed already?

 

Science has confirmed several caloric components of food differ from others. For example, the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is that some nutrients require calories to be metabolized. They can slightly increase your metabolism, just by eating them.

 

For example, when you metabolize protein you burn more calories than when you metabolize carbohydrates. Proteins and carbohydrates both have 4 calories/gram; but, the TEF of protein = 15–30%; and the TEF for carbohydrates = 5–10%.

 

Here’s another example of a calorie not being a calorie. Different fats are metabolized differently. Medium chain triglycerides (fats) (MCTs) have the same 9 calories/gram that other fats do; but, they’re metabolized by the liver before getting into the bloodstream and therefore aren’t utilized or stored the same way as other fats.

 

#acalorieisnotacalorie

 

Myth: Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight

 

There is no magic pill for weight loss. No supplement, tea, food, or other potion will do the trick.

 

There are products that make these claims, and they’re full of garbage (or shall I say “marketing gold?”). The only thing you will lose is your money (and possibly your hope). So, please don’t believe this myth. There is a reason most people who lose weight can’t keep it off. The real magic is in adopting a sustainable holistic and healthy approach to living your life. What you need is a long-term lifestyle makeover, not a product.

 

Conclusion

 

Weight loss is hard! There are too many people out there trying to make it sound like they have the simple solution (or the latest and greatest!).

 

Don’t fall for the myths that say:

  • Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss.
  • “Eat less move more” is good advice.
  • A calorie is a calorie.
  • Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight.

 

 

Now check out my magical “weight loss salad” recipe below (just kidding!)

 

Recipe (Myth-free salad, filling and nutritious): Kale Cucumber Salad

 

Serves 2

 

Salad

 

4 cups kale, divided
1 cup cooked beans of your choice (white beans, chickpeas, etc.)

1 cup cooked quinoa, divided
1 cucumber, sliced and divided

 

Cucumber Dill Dressing


½ cup tahini
½ lemon, juiced
2 tbsp dill
½ cup cucumber, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
½ tsp maple syrup
2 dashes salt

2 dashes black pepper
¼ tsp garlic, minced


Instructions

 

Divide salad ingredients into two bowls.

 

Add all dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until creamy. You may need to add water to thin. Add it slowly, a tbsp at a time until desired thickness is reached.

 

Add dressing to salads and gently toss.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Extra dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-12-biggest-myths-about-weight-loss/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/metabolism-boosting-foods/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/5-chemicals-that-are-making-you-fat/

Nutrition Labels

How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables

 

The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.

 

The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?

 

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!

 

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

 

Step 1: Serving Size

 

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it’s tricky.

 

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

 

Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

 

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).

 

Step 2: % Daily Value

 

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.

 

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

 

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.

 

You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

 

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it’s missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

 

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

 

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.

 

Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

 

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

 

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

 

Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

 

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

 

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.

 

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

 

Conclusion

 

I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

 

Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.

 

Recipe (walnuts): Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack

 

Serves 1

 

8 walnut halves

4 dates, pitted

 

Instructions

 

Make a “date sandwich” by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Try with pecans instead.

 

References:

 

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/changes-modifications-eng.php

 

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html

 

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/regulatory-guidance-directives-reglementaires/daily-values-valeurs-quotidiennes/guide-eng.php#p1

September Spotlight

I am super excited about this months spotlight. This lady has really kicked some a$$ and taken names in the process these past few months!

Back in July Jackie came to frustrated with where she was and like most had plateaued and couldn’t get out of her rut. I had her keep a food log which we then sat down and reviewed. This was the first step in breaking through that plateau. She cleaned up her eating habits and started being more active which included lots of walking and taking a specific load of classes at Studio ME.  We planned on Jackie starting in on the MEfit Bootcamp in August but we had time to fill so, based on her goals, we planned out her workout routine.  Within the first two weeks of healthy eating (included Origin Meals) we saw some pretty amazing results. She was already down 9.4lbs and had lost 3″ on her waist. This is crazy results for just two weeks. Goes to show how those 2-3 lattes/day really add up!  August 17th rolled around and MEfit bootcamp began. Throughout the 8 weeks Jackie increased her lean muscle mass, has lost 18lbs and 4% body fat, dropped another inch on her waist and 2″ on her hips, and an inch around her arms and thigh and 3″ around her chest. HOLY MOLY! This girl is on fire. She has done all of this without dieting or following some of those stupid (sorry personal feelings here) diet trends where you restrict yourself or starve yourself- all she has done is eat better and more balanced meals with the appropriate macronutrient (protein, carbs, and healthy fats) breakdown and move her body daily!

What I am most proud of Jackie for is the strength to share her story. She has nearly destroyed all pictures of her from the past and has agreed to allow us to help her share her story and tell everyone that it is possible, yes, it is hard, yes, you will be a roller coaster ride and, yes, it is a lifestyle change but it is worth it! fI have seen Jackie’s confidence sky rocket over the past few months and you can totally see it in the recent pictures (make sure to read the entire story to see the pictures).

 

Are you ready to read her story??? Make sure to read to the end to see her AMAZING transformational pictures!

 

“I was an athlete and very active growing up playing volleyball, softball, track and basketball. Unfortunately, after leaving high school, I ended up living an unhealthy and sedentary life for most of my twenties.

In January of 2012, I made the official decision to overhaul my life and began down a wellness journey.  I didn’t know where I would end up, but over the course of the next two years, I lost 148 pounds through various nutrition and exercise “experiments.”  I have yet to read a nutrition theory I don’t love or want to test out.  You name it; I’ve tried it, sometimes successfully.  I’ve counted points and carbs, cut out processed foods; avoided anything white, quit dairy, drank kale, did a few whole30s, committed hardcore to living like our prehistoric ancestors with the paleo diet.  I tried ketogenics, juice cleanses, supplements, intermittent fasting; became a vegetarian then vegan for a hot second, and even believed for a while “food pairing” was the answer to all of my problems!

I disagree with the common saying that diets don’t work.  Every theory I’ve tested out works.  However, where they fail is in thinking that you’re going to be able to live the rest of your life worrying about the carb count of cruciferous vegetables or if the banana you ate for breakfast had too much sugar.  In 2014, I was eating a very strict diet and decided I wanted to take my fitness routine to a new level and began a short stint with Crossfit.  I barely lost a pound in the eight months I did it, but my body composition changed dramatically and I got to the fittest I had been since high school.

However, as it will- life happened; and in August of 2014, I hit a bump in the road with my health that knocked me off my center.  I had to put my fitness goals on the back burner and hit a plateau with my weight loss which caused my weight to fluctuate for almost two years.  If there’s a Wikipedia page anywhere with common weight-loss terms listed, I can guarantee you to find a picture of me listed next to the phrase “yo-yo” dieting.

About a year ago, I began looking for a new gym close to me in NE, and Studio ME came highly recommended by my friends Tram Nguyen and Molly Strong.  I was looking for a gym that allowed me to commit to an active lifestyle, but with a more laid-back, maintainable approach to fitness.  Studio ME seemed to embody that and I found with the smaller class sizes it was impossible to get lost in the crowd.  The atmosphere is the opposite of intimidating, and all the members go out of their way to make you feel welcome.  I started out slow as a member with a busy work schedule and was still trying to find my footing back to making a commitment to an active lifestyle.

In May of this past year, I felt like I was hitting another brick wall with my health.  From everything I had learned about nutrition, and my years of multiple dieting personalities, my metabolism and body were left confused more than anything.  Megan, the owner at Studio ME is very passionate about helping her clients achieve their goals so I reached out to her to see if she could give any insight into what I was doing wrong with my current nutrition plan.  Megan immediately agreed to meet with me, but only after I kept a food journal for a week.  I had told her, “I eat pretty clean, mostly a modified paleo diet and have no idea what the issue is!”  Writing everything down and having Megan review it forced me to be honest with myself and allowed her to give me solid advice in areas I could improve.  She broke down a simple, healthy way to approach meals and showed me how to allow it to fit in with my lifestyle and not have it be an obsession.  Sitting down with Megan also reminded me of some things I knew but had forgotten.  It’s completely true when they say that weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise, and that you can never out work an unhealthy diet.  One of my all-time favorite sayings still is, “you can get fit in the gym- but you get thin in the kitchen.”

During my sit down with Megan, she also recommended a breakdown of cardio, HIIT, and strength training classes I should attend to reach my goals.  Afterwards, I decided to join the eight-week, 3 day-a-week; Bootcamp the Studio offers.  This is what I find so great about Studio ME, despite its small size, it has a wide range of offerings.  I can come in for the 5:45 AM Bootcamp classes and get the intensity I crave.  The Row & Roll class with Siri is one of my favorites as well.  You start out with a hard-core row but end with a yoga routine that allows you to walk out with a yoga buzz forgetting your name.  Samantha’s well thought-out, unique fusion circuit classes always keep you guessing and are equal parts fun.  I have never left one of Liz’s Barre classes without angrily shaking at some point.  Tiffany, the instructor whose workouts I love to hate, leads my favorite class- Strength Circuit, which allows me to get the heavy weightlifting I miss from my Crossfit days.  Megan’s TRX classes feel like a strenuous acrobatic dance of some sorts, where you can’t help but catch on to her spunk and passion for what she does.

I’ve learned very personally through my journey that without our health we have nothing.  My approach to my health today is different than it’s ever been before.  I’m no longer after the 10, the 21-day or the “6 Weeks to a Perfect You” fix.  I’m doing the best to make healthy lifestyle choices one day at a time, and my health goals are no longer solely to have the perfect body, but instead to find overall wellness of body, mind and spirit.  I’m listening to my body more and find although it can be difficult to get into the habit of an exercise routine– once you do, the more you move, the more movement your body craves.

I am loving my life, where I am right now and I feel incredible with how much energy I have.  But, with my personality, I will always have some lofty fitness goals in mind for the future.  Studio ME is the perfect place for me to continue to pursue these goals, and if I’ve learned anything over these last 6 years, it’s that you can make your body (and life) look any way you want it to — if you’re willing to work for it.

– Jackie”

 

 

 

 

How to Improve Gut Health

 

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

 

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

 

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

 

Our gut’s role in our overall health

 

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

 

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

 

For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

 

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

 

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

 

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

 

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

 

How to improve gut health

 

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

 

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

 

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

 

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

 

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

 

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

 

Conclusion

 

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

 

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

 

Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots

 

Serves 12

 

1 L warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

 

Instructions

 

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

 

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don’t float (you can use a “fermenting weight”).

 

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

 

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

Coffee…who should drink it and who should avoid it?

Coffee – Who can drink it and who should avoid it?

Coffee is one of those things – you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream). You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your gut, your mind, etc.).

 

Not to mention the crazy headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it!

 

There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.

 

NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.

 

Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.

 

Caffeine metabolism

 

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.

 

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.

 

This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because we’re all different!

 

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body

 

NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.

 

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.

 

Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):

  • Stimulates the brain
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Boosts energy and exercise performance
  • Increases your stress hormone cortisol
  • Dehydrates

 

So, while some of these effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.

 

Coffee and health risks

 

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

 

Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:

  • Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
  • Increased sleep disruption
  • Lower risk of Alzheimer‘s and Parkinson’s
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of certain liver diseases
  • Lower risk of death (all cause mortality”)
  • Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease

 

Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).

 

NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.

 

Should you drink coffee or not?

 

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.

 

Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:

  • People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
  • People who often feel anxious
  • People who have trouble sleeping
  • People who are pregnant
  • Children and
  • teens

 

If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:

  • Give you the jitters?
  • Increase anxious feelings?
  • Affect your sleep?
  • Give you heart palpitations?
  • Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
  • Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?

 

Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see the difference.

 

Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte

 

Serves 1

 

3 tbsp coconut milk
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree

½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)

 

Instructions

 

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: You can use tea instead of milk if you prefer.

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/coffee-good-or-bad/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/a-wake-up-call-on-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-coffee-habit-help-you-live-longer-201601068938

http://suppversity.blogspot.ca/2014/05/caffeine-resistance-genetic.html

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-coffee-should-you-drink/

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.

 

Conclusion:

 

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.

 

References:

 

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

https://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar-insulin/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-splenda-is-it-safe

https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/

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.

 

Conclusion:

 

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

Ingredients:

⅓ cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup cocoa/cacao powder

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 dashes salt

4 tablespoons slivered almonds

Directions: 

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.

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

https://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-oil-and-weight-loss/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-most-weight-loss-friendly-foods/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/coconut-oil/

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-brain-coconut-oil

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

Ingredients: 

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)

 

Directions: 

  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.

 

 

References:

 

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-probiotics

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-gut-fix-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

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