Monday, March 24, 2014

Fueling Your Workout: Pre & Post Workout Snacks

I would venture to say that everyone knows that working out has a ton of health benefits, but did you know that what you eat before and after you workout could really make or break your workout? The way you fuel your body can be just as important as the actual workout itself. 

First of all, if you're an avid gym goer you should be consuming enough calories throughout your day to support your workout. This is probably the biggest nutrition crime I see out there. Working out a lot and not eating enough doesn't necessarily mean weight loss, and it certainly doesn't mean healthy. If you're wondering more about calories read my previous blog post here.

There's debate about whether working out on an empty stomach is more beneficial blah, blah, blah. Here's what the science says: eating before a workout as opposed to not eating before a workout (the fasting state) has been shown to improve exercise performance. So, I guess if you don't really care about improving your performance then you don't really need to eat before you hit the gym... but honestly, does anyone that works out not care about improving? It's recommended that 1-3 hours prior to your workout you eat a meal or a snack. I know 1-3 hours seems like a big time gap, but that's where individualization comes in. Experiment and see what works best for your body... one hour might be too soon and you'll end up with stomach cramps, three hours might be too long. Play around with it and figure out what your body needs. 

So what should you eat before your workout? Carbs!! You want a little protein too, but carbs should be your main focus. Here's why: carbs fuel your muscles and your muscles fuel your workout. Lets talk about the science for one tiny second (I promise I'll try not to get too nerdy and boring). Carbs are glucose, glucose gets stored as glycogen in your liver and muscle cells. Why does this matter to you? Well, glycogen is the energy source your body uses for exercise. For longer bouts of exercise your body will start using fat for fuel, but it still needs glycogen to help break the fat down into something it can use. Maybe the most convincing argument for needing carbs preworkout for some of you is the fact that without them... your body will use protein to get what it needs, aka you won't see much improvement in your muscle growth. Bottom line: carbs are your friends. 

Pre-Workout Snack Ideas:
- whole wheat bread with nut butter and a banana
- greek yogurt with berries
- oatmeal with fruit
- apple or banana with nut butter

Alright, your workout is over and you're super impressed with how much you killed it at the gym thanks to your preworkout snack, but now what?! Replenish, replenish, replenish! After your workout it's important to restore fluid, electrolytes, muscle fuel (aka glycogen, aka carbs), and protein for muscle building and repair. It's best to have a snack with a 3:1 ratio of carbs and protein within 15-20 minutes after your workout, followed by a balanced meal 3-4 hours later. 

Post-Workout Snack Ideas:
- protein shake (need advice on protein powders? click here)
- low fat chocolate milk
- greek yogurt with berries

Questions? Preparing for a race? Wanting more info on how to up your gym game? E-mail me!


Monday, March 17, 2014

8 Foods You Think Are Healthy, But Aren't

Let's talk about marketing for a second. These marketing people really are geniuses. They know exactly what to say to make an item way more attractive to us, it's almost like magic. I remember when the gluten free trend became big Chex started advertising their cereal as gluten free.... news flash, it was always gluten free because it's corn based. That was just never an important fact to people before they thought gluten made them fat. 

It's really easy to see why people can get so confused as to what actually is healthy and what's not. Here's a list of foods that are commonly considered healthy..... but really they aren't. Thanks clever marketing. 

1. "Fat-Free" items: First of all, fat-free does not mean calorie free. Sometimes we tend to over-indulge because the label says there's no fat... but you're still getting calories. Secondly, when you remove fat from an item that naturally has fat you have to replace it with something. Usually it's replaced with sugar, thickeners, and/or salt. Finally, fat is good for you! Your diet should consist of 25-30% fat. 

2. Nut Butters: Okay, let me explain this one. Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on a peanut butter jar? You're thinking it should say peanuts and maybe some salt, right? Well, if you get the right kind then that's what you'll find... but your skippy and JIF are full of lots of crap. Stick to nut butters that have one or two ingredients and you'll be in the clear. 

3. Flavored Yogurt: This is a big one. Those little flavored greek yogurts that have become popular? Yea, they're junk. Full of sugar which means carbs... and the protein content is laughable. Did you know a cup of plain greek yogurt has about 23 grams of protein and 9 carbs.... if you buy the flavored kind you'll find 9 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbs. My suggestion? Buy the plain greek yogurt and add your own fruit and sweeten it with a touch of raw honey. 

4. Smoothies: This one kills me you guys. Every time someone posts a freaking 32oz smoothie from Jamba Juice thinking they're being healthy I die a little inside. Their SMALL Strawberry Surf Rider smoothie packs 320 calories and 78 carbs. What. The. Heck. And I don't mean to just pick on Jamba Juice, you can add the Starbucks smoothies and anywhere else to that list. Unless you're making your own and adding some serious greens and a tiny bit of fruit, don't do it. 

5. Sports Drinks: Another one of my favs. Here's the thing... serious athletes need sports drinks. When you're sweating beyond belief you're losing electrolytes and those need to be replaced. However, it kills me when I see people run two miles and down a gatorade. Your sports drinks have calories, and they probably have more calories than you just burned on your run... so you kind of end up shooting yourself in the foot. You really don't need to replace electrolytes unless your workout is longer than 60 minutes. Once you hit that 60 minute mark you can alternate between a sports drink and water. 

6. Granola: Eat this and you'll be consuming a whole bunch of trans fat and sugar. Yea, that's right... this stuff is jam packed with it. However, there are some healthy options out there... check your ingredient list, if you see sugar as the first two ingredients, just say no. 

7. Wheat Bread: Yes, you read that right. Here's where more of that tricky marketing comes in. You have to read ingredients (if you haven't noticed that's been a common theme with the entire list). If it says bleached or unbleached enriched wheat flour you're not getting a whole grain, which means you may as well be eating white bread. Look for something that has 100% whole grain wheat listed in the ingredients.  

8. Agave Syrup: This one might be surprising. This bad boy acts functionally and nutritionally pretty much just like high fructose corn syrup. It's highly processed and definitely not the best choice. Stick to raw honey, raw sugar, or natural stevia. 

That's it guys. Reading your food labels is probably the most important thing you can do for your health. Look at the ingredients, take notice to what you're putting into your body. The fewer the ingredients, the better. The more natural, the better. 

Until next time,


Monday, March 10, 2014

Toddler Nutrition

Hello parents of toddlers! So, I write this blog with a little bit of caution. Obviously I know what to do professionally but.... I myself don't have a toddler yet. What I plan on doing with this post is giving you the tools you need to set up a healthy diet for your child and some tips and tricks for picky eaters. Even though I don't have a toddler of my own yet, I have used these techniques on kids and they've worked. If you go through this post and still feel like nothing you're doing is working feel free to email you and I can help coach you through some other ideas. 

Lets start with a couple of really good resources you can use. MyPlate is a great site that's full of meal plans, recipes, and health related info for everyone from preschoolers to adults, click here to check out their site. Another really great website is Kids Eat Right. This is a joint initiative with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). They definitely know what they're talking about and it's a great site to go for when you're not sure what to do in the kitchen for any of your kids from babies to teens, click here to visit their site. 

So what should a toddler's diet look like? Every day your toddler should eat veggies, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and dairy products. If you're vegan and avoid dairy that's okay... just look for other foods that are high in calcium (like broccoli or kale) so you can help those bones grow nice and strong. When it comes to your fruits and veggies choose a variety of colors, you can even try to have some fun with it by making a game of saying the names of the colors and of the foods. 

Kids should learn to listen to their bodies' signals. Forcing your kids to finish all their food could teach them to overeat. Instead, give them small servings of a few different foods. If they finish, they can always ask for more. Starting with small servings and not forcing your kids to finish could help them a lot later in life. Speaking of starting good habits now, encourage them to drink water. Make water the first choice at meal times... if your child refuses to drink water add a little juice to give it some flavor. You can even freeze juice in ice cube trays and add the cubes to the water. Just remember, overall it's best to limit juice to 4-6 ounces a day. 

Eating healthy is key for the right kind of growth and development. However, there's a thin line that you have to be careful with.... forbidding sweets and treats might make them more attractive to your child.  I'm totally a toddler in this regards, the second I tell myself I can't have something it's all I want. The best thing to do is to not purchase junk food on a regular basis and limit your trips to fast food restaurants. I'm not saying never... but I am saying not often. On that note, try not to use food as a reward (this one is hard, I know). Use praise, hugs, special activities, stickers or quality time instead. I promise you this is a pattern that is hard to break later in life. It's better to just not start it at all. 

Now lets shift our attention to picky eaters. Most toddlers are picky eaters, it's just a fact of life. I think it's a stage where they're really trying to push every boundary and give their parents a few more gray hairs. Stay strong!! The Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study of toddlers. The study found that the average toddler might need to see a new food on their plate TEN times before they will eat it! TEN TIMES. Don't give up. Encourage them to try new foods, but don't force them. I've found that sometimes kids just need to play with their food a little first, then eventually they'll put it in their mouths. This works best when there's no pressure involved. For example, give them a piece of banana and let them hold it in their hands and squish it and do whatever their little toddler heart desires with it. If they end up putting it in their mouth, great! If not, that's okay. Try again another day. Sometimes it's a texture thing... try softening, or partially mashing things that they're refusing to eat. Other times it can be a temperature thing... sometimes very young children just prefer things (even milk) at room temperature. A change in texture or temperature might change their minds. 

Here's some basic guidelines for picky eaters...

Include Them: Children are more likely to eat something they've helped made. Take them shopping with you and teach them how to find and select foods. Try using the color game I mentioned earlier. 

Let Them Make Choices Too: Offer a choice between two healthy items and let them decide which one they want to eat. Simple choices can help your toddler feel in control (fun, little trick huh?)

Set Goals: Start off with the small and simple goal of one bite. 

Don't Give Up!: It takes the average toddler 10 times of being offered something before they'll try it. 

Offer Praise: For a picky eater, even one bite should be celebrated. 

Be Patient: Some kids just need a little more time with new foods and that is 100% okay. 

Hopefully you found this helpful. I feel like I'll have to read this blog once my baby hits the toddler age and see how crazy all of it sounds. If you have more in-depth questions about your child's diet or need other suggestions please, please, please... email me! I'd be more than happy to help out. 

Until next time!


Monday, March 3, 2014


We've probably all had a really terrible headache or migraine at some point in our lives. They're the worst. I don't personally suffer from migraines on a regular basis, but I feel terrible for people that do. That pain is just crippling and sometimes nothing seems to help. 

I have some good news and some bad news when it comes to migraines. I'll start with the bad news: Migraine attacks can be triggered by a range of factors. What does that mean? It means that figuring out what's causing the migraines or headaches in the first place can be a bit tricky. It could be anything from food, drops in blood sugar, medications, odors, dehydration, allergies, stress, tension, and even changes in sleep patterns. The good news is I can help at least in the food, dehydration and maybe even sleep departments. 

First of all lets determine the difference between a migraine and a headache. A migraine is defined clinically as an episodic intense, throbbing head pain that lasts form 4 to 72 hours. It is usually on one side of the head and becomes worse with exertion. Along with the throbbing head pain you might experience nausea and it's usually associated with visual disturbances or unusual smell perception. All of that basically means it freaking hurts, lasts a long time and light and smells can make it worse. Headaches are really just defined as continuous pain in the head. They still hurt, but there's probably no comparison to the pain you feel if you're experiencing a migraine. 

So nutritionally what can you do to help and prevent them? First step, look at your water intake. Not just the amount, but the timing of it too. Wondering how much water you should be taking in on a daily basis? A good place to start is half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds you should drink 70 ounces of water a day. Working out or excessive sweating would cause you to need more, so keep that in mind. And the timing part of it... Try to drink your water pretty evenly throughout the day. It won't do too much good to drink 70 ounces at once. Spread it out and you might see your headaches and migraines disappear. 

So you've looked at your water intake, what's next? Before we get into the food part lets talk about sleep. The lack of sleep can trigger a migraine or a headache. Do your best to get good, consistent sleep every night. Another trigger can be tension and stress, so if you find yourself stressed out try eating little and often and drink that water! Do something relaxing and try to ease your stress as best as you can. 

Finally the food part. If you've looked at all the other angles and are sure you're getting enough water and sleep it could be that something you're eating is triggering those pesky migraines. Start by seeing if you can notice any correlation between the foods you eat and the incidence of headaches. A good place to start is looking at stimulants like sugar, tea, coffee and chocolate. Starting a food journal might help. On the days you get a bad headache write down everything you ate and over time you'll be able to see if there's any kind of pattern. If you think something in particular is causing it try completely eliminating that food from your diet for two weeks, then reintroducing it and see what happens with your headaches. If they go away and come back, that's a pretty good indicator that's a trigger food for you. If they never went away in the first place then you can be pretty sure that it wasn't causing them. The thing about trigger foods is that they're different for everyone. What causes headaches for you might not cause a headache for others so doing an elimination diet is really the only way to pinpoint what your triggers might be. 

What can you do when a migraine hits? Try a dose of vitamin B3 in the niacin form. Start with 100mg and if you don't see improvement try 200mg. Vitamin B3 is a vasodilator (meaning it dilates your blood vessels) and can be super helpful in stopping a migraine in it's early stages. Supplementing with Magnesium has also been shown effective in treatment. A good place to start is making sure you're taking a good multivitamin every day. 

Hopefully this helps you find some relief. 

Thanks for reading!