Author Archives: Journey Fitness

Pumpkin Pie Super Shake

With the arrival of the fall weather, pumpkin flavored everything is now available. There was a time when I liked pumpkin spice lattes, until I learned more about nutrition… and that they could be 700 calories.  On top of that, I noticed that when I had them, I would get an upset stomach. So now avoid them. You ever notice certain foods just don’t get along with you, but you like them anyway? That’s another topic, but to get my pumpkin fix other than pumpkin pie or beer, here is a recipe I made this morning in the form of a super shake.

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree – not pumpkin pie mix (1 fist)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/8 cup walnuts (1 thumb)
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein of your choice (I suggest one that has at least 20g of protein per serving and not much sugar or fat)
  • 1/2 banana (cupped hand)
  • pumpkin pie spice to taste
  • 4-6 ice cubes

I use the fist, cupped hand, and thumb in reference to the hand method for portion control. You can learn more about that here: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/calorie-control-guide-infographic

Take all ingredients in a magic bullet type blender, turn it on. Once it’s smoothly blended, enjoy!

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Estimated nutrition facts:

371 calories, 15g fat, 29g protein, 30g carbohydrate (15g sugar)

So as you can see, this has calories equivalent to a small meal, so this is not a “free” meal in your daily routine. Think of this as a meal replacement. This is great if you want something different for breakfast or if you’re crunched for time.

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the Precision Nutrition “super shake” template. I followed that template to make this shake. You can find that here: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/super-shake-creation

If you are interested in more nutrition knowledge, I now offer nutrition coaching. I am Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified.

 

No Effort Is Too Small

We often get in a mindset that if we can’t do it perfectly, then why do it at all? Nothing could be further from the truth. Pretty much doing ANYTHING is better than nothing when it comes to getting more fit, losing fat, getting stronger, etc.

Let’s use the example of my lunch time walk with my wife and dog today. Using a Garmin vivofit (basically a fancy pedometer), at the start of my walk I had 3,258 steps for the day and burned 1179 calories (resting metabolic rate + activities for the day so far). At the end of the 35 minute walk, I had a total of 6,421 steps and 1,347 calories. So that walk added 3,163 steps and 168 calories to my day.

If all I did was walk 35 minutes a day at a leisurely pace, I would lose a pound every 20 days. That would be 18.25 lbs a year! That’s no small number. Now those numbers would be different for you unless you’re a 210 lb dude, but I think you get the picture.

The moral of the story is tell the perfectionist in your head to be quiet and just do something.

 

 

 

Deadlifts…. Everyone can do them.

When people hear the name “deadlift”, they have one of two reactions: you either get excited like me, or you are intimidated because you think it means that you are going to do this:

Eddie Hall is a beast, Eddie also has trouble putting on his own shoes. I watched a documentary on him. His wife seemed to be a good sport about helping him with it.

Now if you have the second reaction (intimidated), don’t be. You don’t have to do them for a world record. Deadlifts are great for everyone. I often find that people with a bad knee that can’t squat without pain, can deadlift. When taught how to get into proper position, breathe correctly, and engage your core, I’ve had success with getting people with low back pain to deadlift (assuming they don’t have something serious going on). They can be done with Kettlebells, Barbells, and Trap Bars; there is a way that everyone can do them.

The deadlift is categorized as a hip hinge movement. It places the load on your hamstrings and glutes. There isn’t much change in the angle of your knee compared to a squat. After learning correct deadlift form and doing it for weeks, I’ve even seen women in their 60s with bad knees transition into squats, and then split squats. Strong hips help your knees from caving inward, providing better alignment of your knee with your foot when you squat or lunge. Working the hamstrings gives better balance of your muscles around your knee, making it more stable, and those cranky knees might just feel better (assuming no major underlying orthopedic condition like a shredded up meniscus).

How do you start? The kettlebell deadlift. It places the load directly under your center of gravity (good for those with low back pain), they don’t have to be very heavy (although there are very large Kettlebells), and they are the same height off the ground as a barbell. You can do the “normal version” where you bend your knees some, or the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) aka Stiff-Legged Deadlift with this.

Another variation:

With a barbell, you can also do the traditional deadlift.

But not everyone will have the same hip mobility to do so. If you cannot achieve a neutral spine at the bottom position, you may be better suited for one of these alternatives.

Semi-Sumo Deadlift. Placing your feet out wider, just a foot width each way might just be the trick (you have to move your grip to inside your stance). Some people can achieve more hip flexion out a little wider due to the orientation of their hip socket on their pelvis.

If you still have a hard time, I have had success with taller individuals using the trap bar, if you flip the bar so the grips are high, you can get more leverage because you don’t have to bend down as low. I’ve also had success with this for those with back pain for the leverage reason and because they can get the load through their center of gravity because they step inside the bar.

Did I mention that deadlifts can make you really strong???

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got Time for Breakfast???

The answer is, you do. Everyone can find 10 more minutes.

I often hear from clients that it’s hard to make a balanced breakfast in the morning. I just wanted to prove that it doesn’t take much time, and can taste really good too! Here is one of my go to meals in the morning.

Poached eggs, whole grain toast with butter and honey, and berries.

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First step, oil your pan with canola oil or olive oil. Turn on the heat!

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Crack some eggs. Remember the hand method, one palm-sized serving for women (~2 eggs), 2 palm-sized servings for men (~4 eggs)

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Cover the eggs after you add whatever you want to them i.e. hot sauce or pepper. While you do this, put your bread in the toaster. The hand method for carbs is one cupped handful for women, 2 for men. I figure that 1 slice of bread is a 1 serving. This is just a starting point, obviously don’t overeat if you’re too full with 1 slice.

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Once your eggs are cooked, toast is done (with a little butter and honey), add some berries (1 fist), and you’re done!

Oh, and by the way, it only took me 8:55 to make it all including heating up my pan. So my point is, everyone can squeeze in 10 extra minutes to make a good breakfast. No excuses, this was done at 5am!

Holiday Eating

 

christmas vacation dinnerWith Christmas and other holidays gearing up, you may be traveling or attending several holiday parties. One thing I want you to know, it’s ok if you decide you’re going to take a little break from your normal eating habits and enjoy yourself a little. However, here are my tips for not completely derailing the train:

  1. Aim for better, not perfect. It’s ok to have Christmas dinner and eat richer foods. Maybe just don’t have a roll AND mashed potatoes. Pick one.
  2. Still eat slowly and mindfully. Just because some delicious food is in front of you doesn’t mean you can forget the basics and start inhaling food like there’s no tomorrow. Eat slowly, until ~80% full. Also, don’t keep eating just because you haven’t tried everything on the table yet.

elf-eating

  1. Still plan ahead. If you’re out getting your last minute shopping done, don’t let yourself get to a point where you’re starving and the first thing in sight is Cinnabon in the mall food court. Keep a bar or two in your purse or pocket. A couple of my favorites are Lara Bars and Kind Bars.
  2. Still get in some exercise. If you’re traveling, you may not have access to your normal workout equipment, but even a brisk walk outside or 10 minutes on a hotel treadmill doing intervals will keep you feeling better and battle some of the food and drink you’ve been consuming.

 

Merry Christmas,

Richard

Interval Training

A recent study was published that is now making its way around the news lately, and I thought I would touch on that. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The study had 4 groups:
    • Vigorous Resistance Training (RT) only
    • High Intensity Interval Training only (HIIT)
    • Combined light RT and moderate cardio
    • Control group (that did nothing)
  • The population was sedentary adults 30 or younger or older than 64
  • The study was done for 12 weeks
  • Variables that were measured at baseline and after 12 weeks:
    • Insulin sensitivity
    • Aerobic fitness
    • Mitochondrial respiration
    • Lean mass

So here’s what happened:

  • The group that did vigorous RT had more lean mass gains (duh)
  • The group that did HIIT improved their aerobic fitness the most (also duh)
  • The group that did both had modest gains in aerobic fitness and lean mass
  • Everyone experience better blood sugar levels (insulin sensitivity)

These were observed in both age groups

What was surprising:

  • In the HIIT group, the older group saw changes in over 400 genes, while the younger group saw 274 genes change. Most of this was due to changes in the number and health of their mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). Aerobic fitness is heavily dependent on enzyme activity in the mitochondria, so many genes are involved. HIIT by far influenced the most genes compared to the other groups, see table below if you’re interested:

 

# Genes Δ HIIT RT Combo
Young 274 74 170
Old 400+ 33 19

 

So what is High Intensity Interval Training exactly? We hear that term thrown around a lot. Interval training is just alternating periods of work and rest. High intensity is a relative term. How intense the work is relative for the individual. What might take a 25 year old athlete to get to 90% of their max heart rate will be way more work than a sedentary 65 year old. The general recommendations are to start with a 1:3 work to rest ratio, and as you progress, work to 1:2 and 1:1 ratios if using time based intervals. So let’s say you sprint on the treadmill for 30 seconds, then hop off onto the sides and rest for 90 seconds, repeating for a set number of repetitions. Another method is to sprint as fast as possible for a given distance, time, or reaching a target heart rate, then resting until you reach 60% of your predicted maximum heart rate (or true max if you have had it measured), then repeating once we know from a heart rate monitor that you are recovered to go again. That is the basics of what it is.

Interval training does not have to be done with sprinting. You can also use an exercise bike, such as an airdyne or a spin bike, you can use the stairmill, rowing machine, swimming, etc. In fact, for most beginner clients with no real exercise history, I would not start them with sprinting. Same for people with orthopedic issues, I would use the rower or bike instead and even start with low intensity intervals. Interval training does not have to be done with just a traditional cardio method either. It can be done using other methods, or even combined. For example, you can use battle ropes, push-ups, kettlebell swings, burpees, etc., all combined in timed circuit.

So, we know that interval training influences a lot of genes with sedentary people, young and old, but why else do it? HIIT is far superior to steady state cardio when it comes to fat loss. HIIT is also very effective at improving aerobic fitness capacity. So if your goals include becoming more fit and losing fat, HIIT would be a great part of a well rounded workout program.

All or Nothing

Does this situation ever sound familiar: “It’s Monday, I don’t have any meals planned, the fridge is empty, I guess I’ll just eat out and I’ll start over next week.” In my experience, I have noticed that many people are all or nothing when it comes to their nutrition habits. What I hope to teach people is that it doesn’t have to be so drastic. Instead of an on/off switch, try to be more like a dimmer. According to Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, most people will benefit if they can stick to doing just the basics 75-80% of the time. Let’s see what that looks like: say someone averages 5 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks), 75% adherence to sticking to the basics would be 27/35 meals. That leaves 8 meals to have some wiggle room. I hardly ever see depriving yourself of “bad foods” work more than just the short term. If you want to yo-yo less, learn some habits that are sustainable. Here are some of the basics:

  1. Eat slowly, only until 80% full
  2. Eat less processed foods and more whole foods
  3. Eat more lean protein (1 palm sized portion for women, 2 for men)
  4. Eat more veggies (1 fist sized portion for women, 2 for men)
  5. Drink more water (half your weight in ounces, 200 lbs = 100 oz)
  6. Eat more healthy fats (1 thumb sized portion for women, 2 for men)

Focus on one behavior change at a time; you can measure your adherence to each using a chart like this:

Meal # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Consistency
Monday __/__ = _%
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Total __/__ = _%

From week to week, you can measure if you are getting better at changing your behavior, and if you’re landing in the 75-80% range. So I guess my point is that if you mess up Monday, doesn’t mean the whole week has gone to crap. Plan out a menu for the week, when you’re going to the grocery store, and when you’re going to cook, and do it! Same for workouts, there is still Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday left. If you don’t have time, be honest with yourself. Do you really not have 30 minutes somewhere you can squeeze in?