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Entries in body fat (12)

Monday
Feb112013

You Need To Walk More

Yesterday I went back to my college campus for a celebratory dinner to induct a former teammate into the athletic hall of fame.  It was the first time I had walked on the academic and residential areas of campus in almost a decade. The building site for the dinner was located literally within the heart of campus, which meant there would be nowhere to park close to the building. 

 

How sad is it that someone like me, who works out as many as six or seven times in a calendar week, does CrossFit, and teaches fitness classes, was momentarily agonizing over a walk of less than 200 yards, on a gorgeous college campus?

 

What does that say about how my mentality has been changed by years of being a “working adult”, which unfortunately is synonymous with being comfortable, having travel convenience, and being largely sedentary?

 

After the hall of fame dinner, we attended the basketball game, located at the far end of campus. If my college campus was a map of the U.S., my car was parked in the most immediate lot available (let's call that the New York/Pennsylvania area).  The arduous walk I just referenced meant that the dinner occurred in a mid-point building (roughly Kansas/Nebraska). The basketball arena was located on the furthest end on campus (California).

 

 I had a decision to make, and only fifteen minutes to decide.  Do I jump in the car and drive (quickly) around the perimeter of campus to hopefully find a spot in arena parking?  (This would cut down on both my pre-game and post-game walking distances)  But remember...this meant walking the far trip back to the east coast from Middle America.

 

Or, do I just head over to California from the middle of the country and save some time on the pre-game front end, increasing my chances to make it to the arena in-time for tip-off?  Smart on the front end…but this would also mean a cross-country (cross-campus) walk after the game was over.

 

How silly is this?

 

In the end, I chose the cross-campus post-game walk, knowing that it would be the best thing for my health.  As an added plus, there are probably worse things than a (literal) walk down memory lane at my old college on a clear Saturday night.

 

The timing of this walk was fitting, as I’ve been pondering the topic of sedentary adult lifestyles and our lack of “everyday movement”.  Our basketball team was ahead by 36 points (not a typo) early in the second half so I had a chance to get out early and ponder lots of things on the walk back.

 

I was struck by just how much walking we used to do back in college (and our campus isn’t even that big by comparison).  We used to walk a quarter mile (400m) from our dorms to the main classroom buildings in the heart of campus…then back across campus to the cafeteria (yes the same one made famous by NBA star Stephen Curry)…then more walking either back to our dorms or to more classes…then clear across campus to (depending upon your sport) the football stadium locker rooms, or main athletic complex locker rooms or training rooms for rehab treatment.

 

Then more walking to your respective field or court locations for two hours of grueling practice…then after showering, another 0.25 mile walk back to the cafeteria for dinner, and then walking back to the dorms for the end of the day.

 

Tired yet?

 

That used to amount to anywhere from 2-4 miles of walking on-campus, depending on the day’s schedule, not even including athletic activity (or night time partying).

 

Compare that to our lives as working adults.

 

We wake up…drive/ride to our work locations (though to be fair, some in urban cities may walk a fair distance to their respective buildings)…then we sit at desks for close to 8-10 hours of emails, meetings, and conference calls…then we ride/drive home from the office where we sit and eat dinner…sit in-front of the TV or with a book for a short while…then lie down for bed.  Repeat again four more days until the weekend.

 

“Active people” may toss in an hour of activity at the gym, but by-comparison is there really any wonder why we (as a society) are largely obese and out-of-shape? 

Is there any wonder why most of us (myself included) don’t have our college bodies anymore?

 

We blame our metabolisms for slowing down (which is biologically true, to a degree), however there has to be some accountability for our drastic lack of activity by-comparison to our younger days.

 

There are a lot of well-written pieces currently online detailing just how our sedentary lifestyles are slowly killing us.  I won’t attempt to completely regurgitate their work, but you can dive in further here, here, and here.

CrossFit star (and Navy Seal) Josh Bridges has some excellent related thoughts on the matter as well, in regards to not taking the easy way out in life.

 

As you may have also gleaned, just one hour of exercise (even something as intense as my personal favorite, CrossFit) each day is not enough to counterbalance the lack of overall “lifestyle movement” compared to our college years.

 

As an office-dweller, there are several things we can do to fight back.

You can consciously park further away from your destinations.

You could wear a pedometer (as I have been doing the past three weeks).

A few of my co-workers have started holding “walking meetings” to discuss quick matters or to brainstorm ideas, while walking a lap around our building.

Some days I will set a timer to get up each half hour and take two trips up and down the stairs to wake up the legs (and heart rate).

 

Nike’s Fuelband technology has also become popular as an ever-present reminder of well (or not-so-well) you may be doing to generate some movement and activity in your 24 hour day.

 

The point remains constant – our adult working lives typically do not lend themselves to frequent bouts of activity and physical exertion, so we have to fight back.  If you care about your body (both inside and out), then it’s not enough to allow the slowdown effects of office life to destroy your physique.

 

If you miss your old college body (or even just want to get 75% of the way there) – then start today with a strategy and tactics to implement more frequent bouts of “lifestyle cardio” throughout your 24 hour days.

 

(This was a long article, so odds are if you’ve read the entire thing from start to finish, it’s time to get out of your chair and go for a walk anyways.)

Monday
Aug272012

Paleo Diet Update - 45 Day Report

It’s been 45 days since I overhauled my diet to a much more strict Paleo regimen, so I figured it was time for a check in to not only assess how things have been going, but share my key learnings as well. 

Overall, the diet (or “eating lifestyle” as some would say) has worked very well for me.  Like anything else, I have made a few mistakes here and there (some minor, some major) but those mistakes have led to more research, asking more questions, and has been key to finally hitting somewhat of a sweet spot.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have basically eliminated the “healthy” carbs like oatmeal and sweet potatoes.  As a grain, oatmeal has no place in a Paleo lifestyle however sweet potatoes can be fine in moderation, or used selectively if one is a highly-active athlete (think CrossFit or endurance/triathlete).

As written in Robb Wolf’s book, I have limited my fruit intake to one serving per day.  This used to be a banana (pre-workout) or an apple, but those are higher sugar fruits so I have maintained strictly blueberries as my fruit serving, usually as an after-dinner dessert.

Key Mistakes:

1 – Not paying enough attention to protein sources

For years I have kept turkey meatballs from the grocery store as a part of my weekly shopping menu. They are ready-made and convenient, plus they are easy to track when counting calories. When discussing my energy levels with the group at my CrossFit gym, one smart girl questioned whether or not these turkey meatballs contained enough protein.  I checked the ingredients list (red flag: too many “ingredients”) and among the first few elements were enriched wheat flour, and bread crumbs. Same was true for the ready-made turkey burgers I was getting from the store. 

I didn’t eat a single one of them from that point on, and committed to cooking more legitimate and wholesome ground turkey.  Eventually I added protein sources like lamb, bison, and organic grass-fed ground beef.

2 – Not getting enough fat.

This probably should have been #1, as it is the single biggest key so far in making sure that my workouts not only have enough fuel to be sufficient, but can make improvements.  One article helped clearly illustrate for me just how important dietary fat can be in the absence of dietary carbs.  The metaphor I would use is that if the body is a fireplace or grill, protein can be burned for energy (like wooden logs or charcoal).  Dietary or muscular protein can be converted into glucose (fat cannot) but dietary fat is the kerosene or lighter fluid needed to help ignite the process.

One of the single worst CrossFit WODs I’ve had came the morning after doing a horrible job in getting enough fats into my meals.  My performance that day was so sluggish that even I had to laugh and make jokes with one of our coaches after it was done.  But even through the brutality, I had learned a crucial Paleo lesson – if you want to be an active individual, getting enough dietary fat is of maximum importance.

What am I eating?

A standard day’s eating looks something like this…

Breakfast: 4 scrambled eggs + ½ avocado

Mid-morning: ½ avocado + 4-5 pieces turkey bacon

Lunch: 8oz ground turkey or lamb + vegetables (mixed greens, asparagus, broccoli, etc) with LOTS of olive oil. May also add ½ avocado if training later in the day

Mid-afternoon: repeat of lunch, with ½ avocado

*If there is a training session scheduled later (usually 5:30 or 6:30pm), the last bite of the mid-afternoon meal goes down no closer than 2 hours before my WOD begins. Through trial and error I have discovered this is the window of time when my body can completely digest a solid meal and be ready to train without issues.

Pre-CrossFit WOD: 5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil and/or almond butter

*Taken usually 90 minutes before I train, this has become a great way to top off my energy stores heading into an intense training session.  It usually takes 45 minutes before my body feels the energy surge from something being ingested, but I allow an hour and a half due to fat being slower digesting/loading than fast-acting sugary carbs would be.

Post-WOD: Protein shake + amino acids

Dinner: Rotisserie Chicken + vegetables

*If still hungry close to bed time I may down 1-2 tbsp of almond butter and half a protein shake.

 

Thanks to the above, my energy levels have never been better.  While I am tired at points from the intense training, I no longer have the sleepy energy crashes I would get at my office desk after polishing off one of those giant 32oz smoothies that I loved so much.

I’ve also lost an inch from my abs (read: gut) and waist since a measurement 5 weeks ago.  People claim that I look leaner, and I do seem to fit better into shirts that were too tight before I started. I have also lost 8 pounds since I first began.

As previously mentioned, I’ve tried almost every dietary philosophy out there.  This is the first time I have experienced success in all phases (workouts, body composition, scale weight).

Some say that this diet is too restrictive, but personally I am enjoying the fact that grocery shopping is very simplistic since I know exactly what to buy. There is very little guess work.  There is also no time spent worrying about portion control as one would on Weight Watchers or similar philosophies.  Lowered carbohydrate eating (with an assumption of a reasonably-active lifestyle) allows a person to take in a greater volume of food than they are typically used to, as the body metabolically processes protein, veggies, and good fats differently (read: more efficiently) than heavier foods like grains, dairy, or lots of sugars.

Needless to say, things have gone very well thus far in the first 6 weeks and I am excited to see what happens both in-terms of bodily changes, and my CrossFit training as things continue to get dialed in. 

I don't foresee abandoning the Paleo lifestyle any time soon, and look forward to another check-in or status update a couple months from now.

Saturday
Jul142012

Paleo Diet - Revisited

As you may know from reading, I've tried (or experimented with) quite a few dietary philosophies. 

 

I've done Intermittent Fasting...Low Carb...Vegetarian...Vegan/Raw Foods...and also Paleo.  

 

I've been eating a Paleo style for probably 8-10 months, but still haven't seen the changes in my body or weight that I would like.  As is usual case, the first step is not to analyze what might be wrong with the diet, but what's off-center about my discipline.

 

Thanks to a few friends (yes they're CrossFitters) I've come to realize that the carb intake in my diet is still too high.  To fuel for the brutal CrossFit WODs, I've been eating close to 2 sweet potatoes, 1-2 bananas, an apple, and occasionally 1 cup of oatmeal on an average day.  The leap of faith I've struggled to make with true low carb Paleo eating is to reduce the carb intake down to 1 fruit serving per day. 

 

The biggest question, at least for me has been - where does my energy come from?

 

Low carb Paleo eating relies much more on health fats (increased volume) to re-train the body from being a sugar burner (carbs in the system become glucose in the blood stream, to be used by our active mucles) to becoming a fat burner.  Most of us carry around many extra pounds of stored energy on our bodies (hips, belly, thighs, etc).

 

The tough part of this eating style is that it takes a while for the body to acclimate from receiving so many carbs/sugar calories for energy.  One of the best metaphors I heard was to think of it much like a computer trying to download new software or a spyware virus firewall.  There is a measure of time required for the system to register the update before it becomes new and improved.  Typically this time period sounds like 2 weeks on average, but obviously everyone's body and metabolic system differs,

 

I read "Paleo Solution" by Robb Wolf on a plane trip this past week, which was a great source in trying to figure out where to begin. Robb is one of the preimenent sources on Paleo eating.  He also pointed to a colleague, Charles Poliquin who advises his beginner Paleo clients to go with a "meat and nuts" breakfast (ex: deli turkey + almonds).   Mostly this is to ease in simplicity of execution for beginners.

 


You may ask - "So what are you now eating?"

 

Gone (for the intermediate future) are the bananas, apples, and bowls of oatmeal.  The Green Tea smoothies are also out (this is the toughest sacrifice to make).

 

In their place, I am eating 1-2 avocados each day (usually cut in half with each meal). I'm also trying to up the amounts of almonds, and olive oil (or similar-based dressings on salands).

 

There are literally hundreds of diet books and websites out there, but what does it for me is Real World application.  Two of my training buddies from CrossFit Dilworth lost close to 50 and 80 pounds respectively by eating Paleo style.

There are also several others I've met who report lost pounds of body fat, in addition to having much more stable and consistent energy levels during the day (versus the energy crashes that come with insulin drops from relying on carb sugar).

 

The goal is to stick with this plan of relying on healthy fat calories for energy through the 2 week "download" period and analyzing how I feel.  If things seem fine, the goal then becomes sticking with it  for the next two months throughout the summer.  I did one CrossFit WOD on this diet last week and reported a fine performance, the WOD would have been difficult with or without fruits and carbs for energy. I actually saw a few Paleo Food Trucks at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games this weekend, which was encouraging.

 

If things work out as well for me as they have for my friends, I'll be sure to follow up with results.  I also hope to do a separate post where my friends who have lost amazing amounts of weight share their strategies and hopefully help to inspire anyone else who isn't quite happy with what they see in the mirror, or how their clothes are fitting lately.

 

Until then, wish me luck every time I walk through the fruit isle at the grocery store or drive past the Smoothie shop.

Sunday
Jun102012

Fitness Spotlight - Dana Sorensen

Recently I traveled out to San Diego for business, and had the chance to catch up with a grad school friend -  Dana Sorensen. 

Dana always was a workout fanatic (I can call her this because it's something we have in-common) and it was great to see what she's been up to.  We hadn't caught up in-person in six years, but I caught some recent photos of her on Facebook and was blown away.

Dana was always an extremely fit person - but she has recently put her workouts in overdrive and looks fantastic.  For the rest of us who have miles to go to improve our bodies, I asked Dana to take a minute and help spell out some of the tactics that have helped her get into such amazing shape.

----------------------------------------------------------------

 

What’s your athletic background?

   I am a former softball player. I pitched at the Division I level for Stanford University.

I was lucky enough to have a successful college career which enabled me to compete for the women's national team. Following college I spent the next 6 years playing professional softball.

 
 

What is your coaching background?

I spent 5 years coaching Division I softball at UC-Davis and Oregon State. I was a volunteer for UNC while attending grad school there. Now I currently coach younger kids as a personal fastpitch pitching coach.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start my weekdays with my morning workout, which goes from about 9 - 11:30. we do a variety of exercises from TRX, kettlebells, pull ups, push ups, box jumps, battling ropes, prowler and much more. after my workout I usually have a couple hours off before I go to work. I teach kids from about 4 -8   every afternoon / evening. Sometimes if I am feeling up to it I will hit up the gym again before work for a quick bike or treadmill sprint workout. I have about 50 clients so my work schedule keeps me busy and on my feet a lot! 

 Credit: Talitha Noel Photography
 

What is your diet like most days?

I wake up and take my multi vitamin pills, followed by a protein shake with almond milk and usually a rice cake with almond butter. After breakfast I take my amino acid pills, with my Spark energy drink from Advocare. Post workout I have another protein shake. Lunch is usually eggs, cottage cheese, fruit and some almonds and sesame seeds. During work I take down a 3rd protein shake, or protein snack bar. Dinner is typically fish, veggies or a broth based soup of some sort, and of course after dinner is my chocolate treat of dark chocolate!

 

Credit: Talitha Noel PhotographyWhat are the significant changes you made in your diet that have given you such great results?

I think its the combination of less carbs later in the day, lots and lots of water, increase in protein, and supplements that have all combined to help me lose about 7% body fat over 2 months. 

 

Any workout or health supplements that have been a great benefit as well?


I use Advocare products and I think they have really helped me shed those last stubborn pounds and helped me put on a significant amount of muscle.  I have also become really addicted to HIIT training, especially anything involving Burpees or a Tabata of any kind. I love the TRX suspension straps for my ab work, never thought I would have defined abs.

 

 

Do you ever count your calories or monitor carbs?


I don't count my calories, but I do avoid high calorie items. my diet is protein heavy and nutrient heavy so I don't worry to much about calories. I have been a fairly healthy eater for years, now I just do a better job of limiting my cards and keeping my protein intake up to the level that my lean body mass needs. I am a Pescovatarian so red meat and poultry are off the table for me. that helps keep my calorie consumption lower.

 


What’s the one cheat/reward food you can’t live without?Credit: Talitha Noel Photography

 Sweets! Chocolate hands down! Me and my whole family are "chocoholics", and I refuse to let go of  enjoying that, ha ha.


 

Any role models or heroes in the fitness industry?

Jillian Michaels has been a big one for me, her intensity and commitment to being healthy and strong has really inspired me.  Other than her I guess I am lucky enough to have some friends that I look up to and aspire to be as disciplined as.

 

What’s your favorite exercise/activity?  What’s your least favorite?

I love but also equally hate Burpees, I think they are the single greatest exercise you can do. I have become obsessed with push ups and pull ups, I think moving your body weight is so crucial in training.  I don' t think I could live without my TRX or kettlebells. They both give you so many different training options.

 

Credit: Talitha Noel PhotographyWhat's your favorite workout apparel brand?

Hands down I am a Nike girl! I have played for and coached teams sponsored by Nike so I have plenty of Nike clothes and really like their dri-FIT line.

I wear Lunar Glides for training, but do use New Balance Minimus for kettlebell work.

 
 

 

 

 

If you could send a message to women out there about eating right, being afraid of weight training, taking more classes etc. what would it be?

My advice is to let go of the insecurities and get in there with the boys and throw some weight around. resistance training combined with HIIT is the way to go, the less attached you are to the machine the more fun you will have working out.

I think the class setting is a great way to get in good workout, I love to socialize like most women so its the best of both worlds.

As for eating healthy, I can say I spent too many years counting calories and it was way to stressful. learn about the nutrients in food and how it fuels you and let go of the numbers. 

Sunday
Feb122012

6 Keys To Losing Bodyfat

In the past two weeks, three different women have separately asked me for tips on how to reduce their bodyfat.  I'm not sure if everyone is envisioning bikini season despite the freezing winter temperatures, but this seemed like a perfect time to record some of the keys I see as essential elements in any fat loss program.

These tips are meant to be (somewhat) simplistic and easy-to-follow, but as always you can find much more in-depth scientific research by Googling any of the key terms to follow.

The first axiom that helps plot the course to fat loss is to remember that DIET IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EXERCISE.  I'm sorry for yelling, but often that point gets missed and requires loud tactics to drive home the point. I've used this saying before, but it bears repeating - great abs are made in the kitchen.

Now that we've successfully established that when it comes to fat loss, diet is more important than exercise, we can move on to some of the micro-level details:

#1 - Cut out the junk.

In-case you are puzzled as to what constitutes "junk", it would be any of the following: sugars, sodas, fried foods, white carbs like breads, pastas, white potatoes, and heavy dairy like cheeses or most regular milk.  None of these sorts of foods belong anywhere in a fat loss program.

 

 #2 - Keep it clean.

After eliminating the "bad", begin to focus on the good.  Your daily eating habits should be focused around solid clean food sources.  Base your grocery shopping and meals around lean proteins, LOTS of vegetables (particularly leafy greens and colors), moderate amounts healthy fats, low-to-moderate amounts complex carbs (more on this in a minute) and some select fruits.

Examples are as follows:

Lean Proteins: Lean turkey breast, organic chicken breast, Tilapia, Salmon, Egg Whites, organic eggs, Tofu, Bison.

Vegetables: Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, Mixed Greens Salads, Baby Carrots, Red/green/yellow Peppers, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Cabbage.

Healthy Fats: Avocado (this does NOT mean guacamole), extra virgin olive oil, Almonds, Almond Butter, organic Peanut Butter, Coconut Oil.  Eggs and Salmon also fit into this category.

Complex Carbs: Oatmeal, Oat Bran, Sweet Potatoes, Brown rice, Quinoa

Fruits: Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Grapefruit

 

#3 - Reduce carbohydrates later in the day.

It's time to start looking at food (particularly carbohydrates) as fuel.  Carbs make up the body's most immediate energy source (especially fruits, sugars, and non-complex sources) so it makes little sense to load up on an energy source when the remainder of the day will be mostly spent sitting in-front of the computer or television, or preparing for bed.  Replace the space on your dinner plate that would normally be filled by pasta, mashed potatoes, white rice, or dinner rolls with salads and/or vegetables.

 

#4 - Focus carb intake around workouts

To build off of point #3, it makes little sense to continuously fill your body with carbs (think muffins and bagels around the office, lunchtime sub sandwiches) throughout the day if your energy expenditure is mostly walking back and forth to the copy machine or restroom.  One strategy that has worked well for me is to limit carb intake to pre-workout only.  The goal is to fuel up with energy and burn those carbs off during my intense workout.  I've even abandoned the long-held strategy of post-workout carbs (rice cakes, gatorade, bananas, etc) to "refill muscle glycogen stores" after an interesting read which made tons of logical sense. Post-workout carb refilling is appropriate if you are an endurance athlete. It does not fit into a plan focused around reducing body fat.

  

#5 - Limit "Reward Meals" to 1-2 times per week

I use the term "Reward Meals" instead of cheat meals to signify that these meals truly should be a reward for your hard work and diligent eating during the week.  The 90/10 rule applies towards your diet in that if you keep on-track 90% of the time, the remaining 10% may slow your progress slightly, but will not ultimately derail it.  It is important to remember however that a Reward Meal is not an entire Day's worth of gorging. It may also be helpful to plan your reward meals the day before a tough workout so that those extra calories go towards your energy level and performance in the gym.

 

#6 - Intensity of Exercise > Duration of Exercise

The metabolism is a lot like a fire.  Focus on using your brief-but-intense workout to rev up the metabolism for the remaining 23 hours of your calendar day. A fat loss workout does not need to be two hours.  It should not be an endless marathon on the stairmaster or elliptical trainer.  Those machines can have a small-but-focused role in your workout, but they should not be foundation of your plan as I so often see many women doing in the gym.

Those looking to shed bodyfat should instead utilize interval training like Tabatas, or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to get their heart-rate up, which takes advantage of the fat-burning qualities of Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) and Lactic Acid.  Intense resistance training (don't be scared ladies) also plays a HUGE role in priming the body's hormones to burn off stored fat cells.  A targeted clean diet plan sets the stage for the correct hormonal environment within your body.  Intense resistance training brings hormones like testosterone and HGH into the equation, which have proven fat loss attributes.

 

There are other aspects of your fat loss plan that need to be in-sync, such as getting a proper amount of sleep (8-9 hours per night is recommended), and avoiding a stressed daily mindset.  The body will not release stored body fats if your normal temperament is stressed and agitated, as this throws the hormones I mentioned earlier out of balance.

Losing body fat is a process not an event.  It is not a linear, mathematic equation (eat 500 calories less, burn 500 calories more, etc) that happens exactly as it would on a calculator.  It requires patience, perseverance, and a plan.  Life does not happen in a linear fashion, and neither will your fat loss.  But with the right tools in-place, it can be put into action just in-time for beach and bikini season around the corner.