Get Your Protein

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Scoop of chocolate whey isolate protein tossed into plastic white shaker, with focus on the protein in the scoop and falling protein blurred

 

No matter what type of diet you practice, most would agree that a balance and variety of foods is key to overall health. Many clients come to us eating too many carbohydrates and not enough protein. Not that protein is more important than carbohydrates, or fat for that matter, but if you lack quality protein, you’ll have a hard time maintaining healthy body composition. Protein is essential for preserving and building muscle and its consumption helps reduce hunger while stabilizing blood sugar levels – all of which help you burn fat while supporting overall health.

We always preach the importance of building your diet on a foundation of natural and wholesome foods, especially protein dense foods such as beef, chicken, fish, and eggs. Additionally, having an alternative option like a protein powder is a great option for a pre and post-workout shake as well as convenient snack options.

So how much protein do you really need? The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that those individuals who are strength training regularly need 0.5 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. You may need more or less depending on your body composition and individual goals, but this is a good rule of thumb.

We recommend the following protein powder supplements if you aren’t getting enough protein from whole foods.

Whey Protein Powder. Whey is a type of protein derived from milk. It contains all the essential amino acids our body must obtain from food so it’s a top choice of many athletes or those wanting to maintain and build muscle. Whey should be avoided by those with lactose issues or those who may have an intolerance to dairy products.

Egg Protein Powder. Egg protein is generally a powdered version of egg whites. It contains all the essential amino acids and many vitamins and minerals so it’s also a great source for muscle-building proteins. Egg protein is lactose free so it may be a good option for individuals who can’t do whey protein.

Collagen Protein Powder. Collagen protein powder is made from the connective tissue, skin, and bones of animals. It might not sound appealing but collagen is similar to gelatin used for cooking and it contains a substantial amount of protein. Collagen has a slightly different amino acid profile than whey or egg, but it can still help repair and build muscle, while supporting bones and connective tissue. A good quality collagen supplement may be an option for someone with both dairy and egg allergies.

Plant-based Protein Powders. Vegetarians as well as those wanting to get more plants in their diet may benefit from a plant-based protein supplement. A combination of rice, pea, and hemp protein will give you a dose of all the essential amino acids and adds the benefit of phytonutrients as well.

With any supplement, it’s important to understand that its safety and efficacy will be dependent on the ingredients. Is the source grass-fed or raised on factory farms? Are the animals treated with hormones or antibiotics? Were chemical pesticides and artificial sweeteners used? Was the protein powder heated during processing or chemically treated? These are all important questions that should be answered before you make your purchase.

So ensure a balanced diet by eating quality protein and supplementing when needed.

 

Try the following shake as a healthy snack option:

Combine in a blender:

1-2 handfuls of fresh spinach

½ frozen banana

1/4 cup frozen berries

1/2 avacado

1 scoop of your favorite protein powder

A few ice cubes

Add water until desired consistency is met

 

Don’t Let Traveling Sabotage Your Health

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businessman at the airport

I’m trying to eat right and lose weight but I travel almost every week. Sometimes I’m in the car for several hours and other times I’m getting on a plane and flying across the country. How can I improve my diet when I’m away from home? -Brett

Hi Brett, eating well and in a timely manner can sometimes seem nearly impossible when you’re out of your element. The following tips will help you take control of your diet when you’re traveling and away from your kitchen.

Do your homework. Once you know your traveling schedule, go online and check out restaurants and grocery stores in that area. Many restaurants have healthy options if you know what to look for. Ask your waiter how the food is prepared and request modifications if necessary. Stay away from sauces, breading, and heavy dressings. A lean meat and a side of vegetables with water or iced tea is obviously a better choice than a combo meal at the fast food drive-thru. Many grocery stores also have lunch or dinner options available as long as you choose the right foods.

Preparation is key. Healthy eating requires you to have food options available so you don’t skip meals. Poor planning and skipped meals during the day will increase your chances of eating too much or the wrong kinds of foods at night. Once you get settled into your hotel, do some grocery shopping and pick up some healthy snack options. Nuts, fruits, and protein powders require no refrigeration and can be taken along in your bag or purse. If you have a small refrigerator in your hotel room, you can pick up some fresh vegetables, Greek yogurt, or sliced deli meat to have around for breakfast or snacking. You could even pack a cooler and take snack options or a salad with you during the day if you know you’ll only have a small window for lunch. If you just go through your day without a food plan, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Avoid temptations. You may find options like bagels, doughnuts, and other pastries available when you walk into early morning meetings or someone may have ordered pizza for a lunch meeting. If you go into these situations on an empty stomach, it’s hard to resist these unhealthy foods, especially when everyone else is eating right in front of you. If you stick to your plan and eat healthy foods every 3 hours, you won’t be taken over by these unhealthy temptations.

Hydrate. You should always have a bottle of water with you at all times. Staying properly hydrated will keep you performing at your best and will make you less likely to reach for a coffee in the middle of the afternoon or a can of cola as you walk by the vending machine. A bottle of water and a healthy snack will keep you energized and productive.

Don’t skip the workouts while traveling. People who exercise regularly also eat healthier. An early morning workout gives you a positive mindset which will keep you focused throughout the day on what’s best for your body. If your hotel doesn’t have an exercise room, get outside for a 30 minute walk or jog. If you’re driving a car for several hours on a day trip, take time to stretch and focus on a few deep breathing techniques. Give your mind a break by moving your body.

So if being away from home is a common part of your job, some careful planning and dedication will help you keep your health in check.

The Healthy Food You’ve Been Told to Avoid

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OliveOil

Fats have had a bad reputation for too long. It’s time to understand the importance of fat in the diet and how to make sure you’re eating the right kinds.

Why are fats so important? First off, fats are an essential nutrient for the metabolic processes of our bodies, such as our ability to absorb nutrients and metabolize energy. Healthy fats support brain, skin, and joint health as well. Including fat with your meals will help you stay satiated longer by helping to control abrupt changes in blood sugar levels which is key for long-term health and weight loss.

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating medium chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil, before your workout will increase fat oxidation during the workout. This means that consuming healthy fats will actually help you burn more body fat as a fuel source, therefore improving your overall body composition.

So what are some healthy fats? Fats found in natural foods are always healthier than processed fats. Eat plenty of natural fats from avocado, coconut oil, nuts, olives and olive oil, fish and fish oil, as well as grass-fed organic dairy products.

If you’re currently on a low-fat diet, chances are you’re eating too many carbohydrates and setting yourself up for failure rather than long-term success. Increase your good fats and you’ll soon see and feel the difference.

Short Workouts Have Their Advantages Too

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How much time must you commit to exercise for it to be effective? This is obviously dependent on your goals, but a recent study found health benefit in as little as 5 minutes a day. Now, I’m not suggesting you cut all your workouts down to 5 minutes, but if you constantly talk yourself out of exercise because you’re short on time, it seems anything is better than nothing.

Our workouts at Push Fitness are 45 minutes, but much of the exercise homework we prescribe to our clients is typically 30 minutes or less. The following is a sample workout we’ve prescribed that should only take you 15-20 minutes and uses minimal equipment for increased proficiency.

Warm-up. Begin your workout with a 5 minute warm-up protocol. This could be anything from walking to jumping rope. Steadily increase your heart rate for the first 3 minutes and then stabilize or bring it back down slightly for the final 2.

The following 4 exercises should be completed circuit style – perform all 4 in a row and then repeat for 3 total rounds. For the first round you’ll perform each exercise for 20 seconds, the second round for 30 seconds, and the third round for 40 seconds. Rest when needed but push yourself to keep moving.

Squat to Dumbbell Press. Hold of a set of dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing together. With feet shoulder width apart, squat down to a comfortable depth while making sure your heels stay planted on the floor. Stand up, exhale, and press the dumbbells overhead. As your arms near extension, pull your shoulder blades back and together to stabilize at the top. Bring the dumbbells back down to shoulder height and drop back into your squat position. Repeat for the appropriate time.

Squat_to_press

Plank Hold. Assume a plank positon with elbows bent 90 degrees and positioned directly under your shoulders. You are looking to maintain a straight line from your ears, through your shoulders and hips to your ankles. Maintain a slight natural curve in the low back and keep your knees unlocked. Tense your abdominals inward towards your spine and continue to breathe as you hold the position for the desired time. If this basic plank is too easy, raise one leg or extend one arm out in front of you.

Lunge with Arms Overhead. Grab a set of dumbbells and press them overhead and lock out your arms. Step back into a staggered stance but keep about 60% of your weight on the front leg. Bend both knees equally as you inhale and let your hips drop straight down, pausing when you have a 90 degree bend at each knee. Tighten your legs and hips as you exhale and step back to your starting position. Repeat on the other leg and continue alternating legs for the desired time.

Overhead_Lunge

Pushup. Assume a pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Tighten your core, and make sure you have a straight line from shoulder to ankle. As you inhale, slowly bend your elbows and let your body drop down until you have a 90 degree bend at each elbow. Exhale as you push back to your starting point. Repeat for the appropriate time. You can make the pushup easier by elevating yourself on a bench or pushing off from your knees rather than your toes.

After your third round, recover for a minute and then perform at least two minutes of cool-down stretching. The following 3 stretches will target tight areas of the hips, legs, back, and shoulders.

Back Stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch

Lying Hamstring Stretch

So if your schedule is tight and you’re short on time, even 15-20 minutes of exercise is time well spent.

 

 

5 Foods You Should Never Eat Again

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White_Bread

 

1)      White Bread. From a nutritional standpoint, white bread is nothing more than a filler. Bleached, enriched, and highly processed, there isn’t much left but a simple carbohydrate that’s ready to spike your blood sugar and cause you to store fat.

2)      Margarine. Okay, wasn’t this touted as a healthy alternative to butter? Problem is, trans fats are far worse than any natural saturated fats you might find in butter. Many processed foods use margarine as a key ingredient so beware.

3)      Artificial Sweeteners. Designing a food that tricks your body into thinking its sweet may seem like a good replacement for sugar but in reality it just makes the problem worse. These false sweeteners can still have a negative effect on blood sugar levels and cause you to crave more sweets. And on top of that, some are loaded with chemicals that may cause brain damage.

4)      Soy. Unless you’re consuming organic soy that’s in its natural state, you’re probably better off avoiding this food. Much of the soy used today is genetically modified and chemical laden. Processed soy can have negative effects on natural hormone levels and cause a myriad of problems.

5)      Low-Fat Yogurts. Many low-fat yogurts are nothing more than whipped fruit syrup and are very high in sugar. In addition, many contain filler ingredients and chemical additives. If you can’t live without yogurt, you’re better off with a natural full-fat or Greek style yogurt.

Stretch Relief

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If you’re sitting most of the day, you know how tight and fatigued your body can become. Being slouched in front of a computer or stuck behind the steering wheel for hours on end is not an ideal posture for the human body to be positioned in. Our bodies are meant to move!

In addition to consistent physical activity, the following 5 stretches will help you feel more energized while helping to alleviate muscle tightness and stress. Take 5 minutes a few times throughout the day and recharge with this stretching routine. These stretches are intended to work with your natural range of motion, so you should feel a stretch when you perform them, but never push it to the point of discomfort or pain.

Standing Shoulder Stretch. Stand upright with your arms extended out in front of you with your palms down. Reach your fingertips as far forward as you can and allow your shoulders and upper back to round a bit. Swing your arms out to your sides in a controlled manner while you squeeze your shoulder blades together. You should feel a slight stretch across the fronts of your shoulders and tension between your shoulder blades. Continue to controllably swing your arms front to back for 30 seconds as you take deep breathes.

ChestShoulder_Stretch

Hip Flexor/Abdominal Stretch. From a standing position, take a large step forward with your right leg. Allow both knees to bend slightly but keep 60% of your weight on the front leg. Slowly reach your left arm up towards the ceiling while keeping your right knee bent. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

HipFlexor_Stretch

Neck Extensor/Flexor stretch. Rotate your head 45 degrees to the side. Slowly drop your chin towards your chest until you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly tilt your chin upwards and look towards the ceiling while still keeping your head rotated 45 degrees. Hold for another 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Standing Side bend stretch. Place feet hip width apart while standing with arms extended overhead. Reach your fingertips upwards and sideways to your left while pushing your hips sideways to the right. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

SideBend_Stretch

Kicking Hamstring stretch. Stand upright with both legs straight. Kick your right leg forward and upward in a controlled manner while keeping your left foot tight to the floor as an anchor. Your right leg should act as a pendulum swinging front to back. Don’t let your kick get too high or out of control but aim for a comfortable stretch in the back of the leg every time the leg swings forward. Continue for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg.

So if you find yourself in a sedentary workplace, take 5 minutes a few times every day to give your body a break from the stress associated with physical inactivity. Give it a try and you’ll feel the difference immediately.

 

Tips to Boost Your Vege Intake

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Box with fruits and vegetables

 

Eating a variety of fresh foods is a great way to ensure your body is getting well-rounded nutrition. What better food than vegetables to deliver many of these much needed nutrients? But wait, aren’t vegetables boring, tasteless, and unsatisfying? If your vegetable preparation relies on the microwave, it’s time to expand your options to get more out of these powerhouse foods.

Use your blender. Smoothies are a great way to make a quick breakfast or snack. A fruit and vege smoothie tastes great and is even better for you. If you’re new to smoothies, add the following to you blender: 2 cups fresh spinach, ½ banana, ¾ cup frozen mixed berries, ¼ cup sunflower or flax seeds, and 1-2 cups of water or coconut water. This nutrient dense shake packs more punch than any breakfast bar or cereal. Enjoy the smoothie by itself as a snack or have it with a side of eggs or lean meat for a well rounded breakfast.

Include a vegetable in at least one of your daily snacks. Cherry tomatoes, snow peas, baby carrots, celery, and peppers are great grab-and-go snacks that add nutrients without adding extra calories. Pair them up with some hummus, Greek yogurt, or almond butter to add more flavor.

Have a side salad with your lunch. Rather than having a typical appetizer or bread before lunch, have a fresh salad with a variety of vegetables as a healthy alternative. Cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, zucchini, onions, arugula, spinach, and romaine taste great in a fresh salad. Choose a healthy dressing such as a balsamic vinaigrette or just add olive oil and spices.

Double up your vegetables for dinner rather than having a starch such as rice or potatoes. Two servings of veges along with a quality protein source is a well-balanced meal that doesn’t load you down with calories at the end of the day when you’re least active. When choosing your two vegetables, pick two different colors – such as broccoli and parsnips. The more color variety, the better.

Learn how to cook and be creative. It’s amazing how many great dishes include vegetables, you just have to take the time and learn the skills to create healthy options. Foods such as meatloaf, burgers, meatballs, and casseroles can have grated zucchini, chopped spinach, or diced peppers baked right into them. Baking and grilling vegetables can really bring out the natural flavors and make for a great meal. For example, asparagus and chopped peppers grilled on a cedar plank with a bit of coconut oil and spices will really wake up your taste buds. Pair with a grilled salmon filet and you have a meal that will truly satisfy.

So start adding more vegetables to your diet and move one step closer to taking control of your health.

 

Try this tropical smoothie recipe for a taste of summer.

Serves 2:

2 cups kale, fresh
2 cups water
2 cups pineapple
1 banana
2 tablespoons coconut oil

Blend well and enjoy.

 

Exercises to Avoid – Try These Instead

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Any exercise is better than no exercise, but if you’re taking the time to work out, make sure you’re choosing exercises that will truly improve your health and fitness.

The following exercises are too commonly performed in hopes of measurable results but often lead to injuries or disappointment.

The crunch with hands behind the head. The crunch is a staple exercise in many people’s abdominal routine, but there are just so many better options out there. Lying on the floor and pulling the head forward while rounding the torso a few degrees may create quite a muscle burn if done long enough, but it does not strengthen the core as many may think. Crunches performed incorrectly can actually strain the neck and accentuate poor posture, which is all too common in today’s population.

Superman_Plank

Instead of the crunch, try any version of the plank. The superman plank is a great exercise as it strengthens many layers of the abdominal wall along with the stabilizing muscles of the back and hips while helping to improve posture. Set up in a plank and slowly reach one arm forward until it is fully outstretched. The goal is to elongate your body without shifting your center of gravity. Return to the starting point and then alternate with the other arm. Perform for at least 30 seconds and increase time as your strength improves.

Lying or seated chest press machine. This is the machine where you lie on your back and push a weight away from your chest. This is great if you want to add size to your chest, but lying on your back and moving a weight doesn’t involve much functionality. There are many more practical toning exercises out there for the typical person trying to tone up, lose weight, and get healthy. Using a fixed machine can actually limit your body’s natural range of motion and lead to tight joints and muscle imbalances.

Pushup

Rather than performing a chest press on a machine, try any version of the pushup. With a pushup, you are moving your body through space and requiring more total body recruitment. To perform a quality pushup, you must engage your core and stabilizing muscles – you’re in charge of how your body moves rather than the machine allowing you to move a certain way. If a traditional pushup is too difficult for you to perform, elevate the surface you are pushing from or try a pushup from your knees. If a traditional pushup is too easy, there are numerous options for progression.

Seated hip adduction/abduction machine. This is the machine you sit on with knees bent 90 degrees and either push your knees outward against resistance or pull them inward against resistance. This machine can target specific muscles of the hip, but it’s awkward at best. Trying to tone these areas won’t necessarily tighten and shrink the hips as many may think. These machines often lead to tight hips and imbalanced muscles.

Lateral_Lunge

Ditch these hip machines and try a lateral lunge instead. This lateral movement will work the muscles of the hips and upper leg while improving balance and range of motion. Stand with feet wider than shoulder width apart and toes turned slightly outward. Shift your weight sideways as you bend one leg and lunge down. The opposite leg should remain straight. As you near the bottom, make sure your heal stays planted on the floor and push your hips back. Return to your starting point and repeat on the other side.

So, encourage proper movement and overall results by avoiding exercises that are likely to hold you back.

Salads with Sustenance

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Steak SaladSalad. The word itself can conjure up thoughts of dieting and boring lunches, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Salads can be packed with nutrients, flavor, and color while giving you convenient options for any meal or snack.

The key is in the ingredients. Technically, a salad is a mixture of greens that is usually topped with a dressing. But, salads go way beyond iceberg lettuce, croutons, and ranch dressing. The possibilities are virtually endless as long as you understand how to build your salads to include all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Carbohydrates. Build your salad on a foundation of vegetables. Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine, arugula, kale, and collard greens add a ton of phytonutrients while giving the salad plenty of fullness. Additional vegetables such as red, orange, or yellow peppers, onions, beets, carrots, or parsnips will add some crunch and a splash of color. Fruit is a flavorful ingredient, but limit it to one serving or less per salad. Apples, pears, grapes, or strawberries add wonderful sweetness but still pack plenty of nutrition.

Protein. Without protein, a salad is just a salad – not an actual meal. Add a protein source and your salad rises to a new level. Include 4-8 ounces of a meat source such as steak, chicken, turkey, pork, tuna or anything else you desire. Two hard-boiled eggs would also suffice as a protein source. If you’re a vegetarian, you should still focus on getting a serving of protein through beans, legumes, or other acceptable sources.

Fat. A fat source could be as simple as an olive oil based dressing but the options don’t stop there. Toppings such as avocado, nuts, shredded cheese, or olives are all healthy fats that keep you satiated while adding incredible flavor.

Finally, add your favorite herbs and spices or a squeeze of lemon and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how flavorful a salad can be.

Salads work great if you’re packing your lunch because there is no need to heat anything up – you can eat everything cold. Just prep and pack your greens and veges in a bowl – this will later become the base for your salad. Cut up your protein source and keep it in a separate bowl. Pack a side of healthy fats and when it’s time to eat, just add the protein and fat to your main bowl and you have a complete meal that’s ready to satisfy.

So structure your salad in a way that ensures you’re getting complete nutrition while enjoying everything a great salad has to offer.

Try the following DIY dressing:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp honey

Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper (to taste)

Add all the ingredients to a jar and shake well.

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