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How do the Trainers Eat

18 Apr

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

Chimicurri Salmon with Sauteed Cabbage

Sirloin Strips and Braised Greens

Garam Masal Pork Chop with Cumin Spiced Boc Choi and Asparagus

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

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Getting over the Lethargy

8 Oct

We are now 1 week in!  How is everybody doing so far?  Found any great new recipes?  How have you found the cravings? – if any?

There has been a good amount of discussion (during the last go-round as well) about energy levels dropping off and general fatigue during the Whole 30.  This can be caused by a number of different things, but I am here to tell you that these are NOT long-lasting effects.

First off, many of you are eliminating caffeine during your 30 days.  This will, obviously, have a considerable impact on your daily feelings of wakefulness and alertness.  Please know what with the right amount of sleep, caffeine is not needed.  I agree that a warm cup of coffee in the morning is a great sensory experience (warm mug, great smell, delicious taste), but it definitely isn’t a necessity to get my day going.  Also, by eliminating those foods that are insulting and pro-inflammatory from the diet, your body has more energy to contribute to restoration, and you will wake up with more energy.  The Whole 30 foods will also provide for more steady energy levels throughout the day.  Just remember that it takes some time to get over that caffeine dependence.

Secondly, after eliminating breads, rice, pasta, beans, etc there is often a large empty spot on your plate.  This isn’t the goal of the Whole 30, but often what happens.  It is a bit of a paradigm shift to think about the amount of vegetables that you will have to eat.  It seems that most people forget about this, and instead end up eating less than they actually need.  Remember to keep that plate full with at least 2 different vegetables at each meal.  If after satisfying the vegetable and animal protein requirements you still feel hungry and lethargic, make sure that you are adding some fat to your meals.  This can be done in the form of avocado, coconut, garnishing a dish with salad, or even dressing your vegetables with some oil (olive, macadamia, truffle are all good dressings).

Finally, while the Whole 30 is not intrinsically a “low-carb” diet, it often times ends up that way because of the foods that are eliminated.  By removing bread, rice, pasta, etc. that leaves a large carbohydrate void on the plate.  Carbohydrates are not, in and of themselves bad, it is more the source of those carbs that we are trying to change.

Having some sweet potatoes after a workout is a great post-exercise meal.

Adding some roasted beets to a dinner salad contributes flavor, color, and texture.

What happens, though, when the carbohydrate content of your diet decreases, is that your metabolism has to catch up to the new dietary environment.  If eating a diet with a considerable dose of carbohydrates, you body prioritizes using them as its primary fuel source.  While carbohydrates are easy to use as a fuel source, they aren’t those most productive – fat contains 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in carbohydrates and protein.  What makes fat harder to use is that it requires oxygen to consume for energy.

In the course of the Whole 30, most of you will most likely transition from using predominantly carbs for energy, to using more fat for energy.  This is not just from the fat that you consume, but also from your bodily fat (read: decrease in body fat %).  Unfortunately, however, the process of switching to a more fat burning individual takes some time – time for carbohydrate stores to decrease, but also for hormonal and enzymatic changes to take place within your cells.  It can often take as long as two weeks.

So what happens during this two weeks?  Well, for starters, you might feel a little lethargic.  Also, your performance in the gym will often dip a little bit.  Fear not, though, as these changes aren’t permanent.  What is happening is that your body is trying to find new strategies for fueling your endeavors (exercise, daily activity, work, etc) in the absence of that carb flood it was used to receiving.  After the two week mark (sooner or later for some) everything changes.  Most people will report increased energy and vitality.  What also starts to happen is that gym performance (or any other physical feat your test yourself in) goes through the roof.  PRs get shattered right and left, and recovery improves.  What is happening is that your body has figured out those new strategies – utilizing fat (both dietary and bodily) for fuel – and providing you with more energy than the simple carbohydrate metabolism was able to.

I hope that helps as you all make your way through week 1.  Congratulations on sticking with it this far.  Remember that we are having our second meeting/snack this Wednesday, October 12, at 7pm.  Keep up the questions and comments.

Couple resources:

Should you be eating like a caveman?

Metabolism and Ketosis

Welcome to the Whole 30!

1 Oct

Alright Folks, it’s begun!

Since we are almost a day into the Whole 30, how was that kitchen clean-out been going?  Have you gotten rid of all those breads? Or just hid them in the back for the future?  I would recommend getting rid of them completely – all the less tempting if they aren’t even in the house.  What did you have for breakfast this morning?  This seems to be a meal that many people have a problem with, as many of the quick staples have been removed.  What did we all do before the invention of the bagel and toaster?

Well I’m here with an alternative.  Never a big egg eater as a little kid, I have grown to delight in the simple pleasures of eating a well cooked hard boiled egg.  You know the one: when the whites have taken on a nice solid consistency that gives to your bite, with vibrantly yellow yolks just solid enough to stay whole when you bite into them.

Check out the link to Mark Sisson’s Bacon Egg Avocado Tomato salad.  While not technically a breakfast dish, I think it makes for a great start to the morning.  It can be made in bulk, and holds up really well in the fridge.  If you’re turned off by avocados that have turned a little brown though, I would recommend adding the avocado right before serving.  I have also experimented with some subtle changes to this dish:

Crumbled sausage or seasoned ground beef instead of bacon

Salsa instead of fresh tomatoes

Diced zucchini or broccoli added as well

Experiment with this simple riff on egg salad, and you will find a whole new delicious way to eat eggs.

Till tomorrow!

Scott Gets His Blood Checked

10 Feb

After a discussion with my mother concerning my family’s health history and heart disease, I did some investigating into heart healthy diets.  I was influenced by the low-carbohydrate research referenced in Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, and the Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain.  According to these books, and a recent review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March, 2010, in order to decrease cardiovascular risk we should reduce excess body fat and limit refined carbohydrates in our diet, such as processed starches (i.e. crackers, pastas, breads) and sugar.  That sounded like an interesting proposition to test for myself.  In addition, I wanted to challenge the notions that 1) dietary fat does not raise LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), 2) that sugar and refined carbohydrates do raise LDL cholesterol, and 3) a high saturated fat diet would actually increase HDL (the “good” cholesterol) .

I have followed the guidelines of a low-carbohydrate diet for approximately two years that kept overall carbohydrate intake (including fruit and vegetables) to approximately  100 grams per day, ate little to no bread, and consumed a higher-fat diet, especially saturated fat.  While I am at work, with poor meal-preparation and needing to eat between clients, I have two Muscle Milk shakes and/or a protein bar(s) per day.  During the week, I eat an assortment of meat, seafood, nuts, fish and whole eggs.  As for vegetables, I eat primarily dark green veggies, such as broccoli, spinach, arugula and asparagus, but I also include cauliflower and watercress. Additionally, I exercise 4-5 times per week with at least 3 intense Crossfit routines ranging from 8-30+ minutes and 2-3 heavy lifting exercise routines.  I am 35 years old, with two children (4 & 7 years old).  My current body fat is around 10%, I average six hours of sleep six days per week, and I sleep in on Sundays.

There has been an extensive amount of research concerning the benefits and consequences of a deficiency in vitamin D.  With the importance of an adequate vitamin D level in mind, and because I go to work and return home in the dark during the winter (vitamin D is called the “sunlight vitamin” because our bodies make it from sunlight), I inconsistently supplement with 5,000-10,000 IU of vitamin D3.  Unfortunately, a specific test needs to be ordered to determine an individual’s vitamin D level – it is not a part of a regular physical exam blood profile.  So, I was looking forward to seeing my lipid profile and vitamin D level in order to determine how healthy my blood might suggest I am.  Otherwise, exercising regularly and eating a specific diet is not worth missing the lounging around, consuming pies and doughnuts, and watching television. ☺

Here are the results of my lipid profile:

Component                            My Value                        Standard Range*
CHOLESTEROL                        144                                      < 200-  mg/dL
TRIGLYCERIDE                        79                                        < 150-  mg/dL
HDL                                              69                                        > 55-65-  mg/dL
LDL CALCULATED                  59                                        <100-129-  mg/dL
VITAMIN D, 25-HYDROXY    34                                        30-100 ng/mL

*Standard range based on desirable or optimal ranges http://www.reducetriglycerides.com/Arisksheartattacksblp.htm

My physician said my laboratory tests all look great.  At one time, the cholesterol ratio was considered better for physicians to assess a patient’s risk of heart disease, but it appears times have changed.  Physicians are more interested in the raw numbers.  However, my lipid profile is unique in that my HDL cholesterol is actually higher than my LDL cholesterol.  I attribute this aspect of my lipid profile to my higher-fat diet.  Short-term and long-term low-carbohydrate studies consistently show to increase in HDL cholesterol with increased saturated fat intake.

As for the vitamin D results, although I am in the “normal range”, I am alarmed that I am in the low normal range after supplementing with vitamin D3.  The conversion of vitamin D3 in the body is dependent on the concentration of a certain enzyme, and the concentration varies among people.  Although controversial on the optimal level, evidence suggests vitamin D3 level should be above 50 – 80 ng/dL.  Therefore, either I need to increase my vitamin D3 supplementation, get more sun, or a little bit of both.  Either way, I need to have another vitamin D3 test in another three months to see if I am increasing my levels effectively.

In conclusion, I am happy with my results, but the vitamin D test was a novel piece of health knowledge. Everybody should have a yearly physical to record personal markers of health, and identify detrimental changes.

So, when is the last time you had your blood tested?