Be Aware of Fake Medical Journal Websites

I follow a lot of health, fitness, and weight loss pages across social media pages. It is always frustrating to see articles promising impossible weight loss results for an impossibly small amount of work, but the most frustrating thing I find is fake medical journals.

It goes something like this. You are on a social media site and you see a sponsored or shared post about how someone found the secret to losing weight. You click the article and it takes you to a website that appears to be a medical academic journal of some sort, complete with other articles, databases, and a web address to tie it all together. The author of the post will likely discuss an ivy league researcher or a medical doctor that found the secret to weight loss and how cheap and easy it actually is! You will then read all about some supplement and the article will conclude with a way to purchase the product.

On the surface, it looks great. But, in reality, it is nothing short of a scam. There are a few quick ways to determine if the health journal or health news website you are reading is a fake:

  1. It is trying to sell you something other than a book or subscription to the journal. Real health journals or health news sites will not try to sell you anything except more information.
  2. The author of the article does not match the author who shared the content. People often make social media accounts impersonating a researcher and pretend their article just posted. If the name of the person in the social media account does not match the author on the website, it is probably not real.
  3. Every additional web page takes you to an order form. Before you buy something from a website, see what else they published. Click other tabs on their website and see if they are publishing real content or if the entire website is a single page.
  4. The URL has multiple web addresses. What I mean by this is the website’s URL might be something like ‘medicaljournal.org-clickly.com.’ If you see something like this, the second URL is the real website you are on. In this example, you are visiting clickly.com and not medicaljournal.org.
  5. It’s too good to be true. On average, healthy weight loss is no more than a sustained 2 pounds per week. Anything more than that should be under the supervision of your doctor and often comes from prescribed medications to supplement your nutrition and exercise plan, or surgery.

Next time you follow a link to a website that looks like a medical journal or a health news website, take a few extra seconds to scan the website for any red flags, it may be a fake. If you are thinking about purchasing anything to aid with weight loss, talk to your doctor beforehand. Some herbal supplements can react with medications you may be currently taking, making it essential for your doctor to clear you to take it.

Advertisements

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Every few years the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) work together to publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This 144-page document is full of medically and scientifically sound information discussing how you can keep yourself and your family healthy. To keep it simple, this document is broken down into 5 main guidelines that anyone can follow:

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

The Dietary Guideline also gives some key recommendations to kick-start your healthy eating pattern.

A healthy eating pattern includes:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils

A healthy eating pattern limits:

  • Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium

Key Recommendations that are quantitative are provided for several components of the diet that should be limited. These components are of particular public health concern in the United States, and the specified limits can help individuals achieve healthy eating patterns within calorie limits:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.

In tandem with the recommendations above, Americans of all ages should meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to help promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Americans should aim to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. The relationship between diet and physical activity contributes to calorie balance and managing body weight.

Who Should Take Supplements?

A common question I receive is “should I take this supplement?” A lot of people want to believe that supplements alone will allow them to achieve their fitness and health goals. My full opinion of supplements can be found in the supplements chapter of 2 Weeks to Health First Edition which is available for free here. But in summary, no supplement can fix an ongoing pattern of poor nutrition and exercise choices.

Taking supplements will not make up for a diet that lacks in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and plenty of water. Also, no protein or creatine supplements will create muscle on their own without completing the adequate exercise. While supplements certainly have their place, I recommend to most of my clients to lay off the supplements and focus on getting their nutrition from real foods. However, there are times when people need to supplement in order to stay healthy.

Who for sure needs vitamin and mineral supplements? A pregnant or breastfeeding woman, a woman able to become pregnant, someone on a restrictive diet (vegetarian, vegan, cultural), someone with limited milk and sunlight exposure, someone with a diagnosed health condition that affects the body such as anemia, elderly adults, and someone who is unable or unwilling to consume a healthy diet (food intolerances or allergies). If you fall into one or multiple of these categories, talk to your doctor or dietitian about which supplements you may want to take. I do not recommend you take any supplements without first consulting a medical professional. For conditions such as these, neither myself nor any other personal trainer is qualified to prescribe these types of supplements for these conditions so it is important to see a doctor.

What is the worst that can happen if you take supplements without a doctor’s approval? Many prescription drugs as well as supplements are plant-based and may react with one another. It is not uncommon for someone to experience side effects after mixing certain supplements and medications. Always ensure your doctor is informed about what you are taking and they give you their approval. And if you aren’t required to take supplements from your doctor, focus on getting your nutrition from real food and use the money you saved from not purchasing expensive supplements on a gym membership.

 

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 14: Permanently Changing Your Lifestyle

This is day 14 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“The body is a mirror of how we live our lives.” – Lisa Rankin, MD

The road to health is not a sprint. It is not a secret diet nor a special workout, it is a marathon. You need to plan on this lasting the rest of your life, because as soon as you stop caring about your health, your health will degrade. That is why it is important to make everything you have learned in this two week course a lifestyle.

That means you will need to sacrifice some of your sedentary hobbies, like watching hours of TV per day, and adopt challenging habits, like maybe waking up before the sun rises to sneak in a run. When you go to the gym you will often see the same healthy people there every time you go, and you will soon learn that they are healthy because they are always there. Those people make working out and eating healthy a hobby and a part of their existence, it’s just who they are, and the best part is they enjoy doing it. If you keep up your momentum and stay mentally strong, soon you will realize that everything you are doing no longer becomes a temporary fix to improve your heath, but a permanent change that helps define who you are. Health isn’t just a byproduct of exercising, it is a lifestyle that millions of people have decided to adopt.

As you continue your path to better health, periodically ask yourself “is my diet and exercise program working for me.” If not, then revisit the foods you are eating and your exercise routine. Try new foods and workouts until you find something that you enjoy and gives you the results you are looking for.

I have a secret for you, there is no secret to living a healthier life. If you follow what this course suggests, take it to heart, and start applying it to your life, then you will be on a path to a healthier life. But, your learning isn’t over. Always seek new knowledge for how to live healthier, especially healthy recipes because we all love food. All I want from you now is to keep setting goals and reaching them, continually creating a healthier version of yourself.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 13: Staying Active Around the House and at Work

This is day 13 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“Limiting the time you’re inactive is even more important than exercise.” – Tom Rath

Small changes can make a big difference. If you consciously think of ways to make yourself more active throughout the day, then you can improve your health by changing only small things in your everyday life.

Desk jobs will often require you to sit for 8 hours per day, and humans are not made to be sitting down for that long. There are a few tricks to get yourself moving during the workday. First, park far away from the entrance. Force yourself to walk a little bit from your car to the office, the parking spot right by the door is not the best one for your health. Instead of sending an email or calling someone you work with, walk to their office and see if they are available to talk. If not, ask when they are and walk back to their office later. When you have a quick break, spend it doing a couple exercises or stretches instead of checking social media. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, even if you work on the 10th floor. Organize your workspace so that you are required to stand up when you need to use the printer, file documents, or answer the phone. Start by implementing a couple of these and turn them into habits, then add more as you see fit. Sitting all day is horrible for your health, so forcing yourself to move around a little bit more will help with your fitness and weight loss goals.

There are also ways to stay more active at home. On average, American adults watch about 5 hours of TV per day. Just imagine what you could accomplish with your health if you just cut back on one of those hours, or exercised while watching TV. Think for a second about what you do when you are at home or with your family. It probably involves a lot more sitting, right? Just like at work, at home the small changes can make a big difference to your health. Walking your dog, playing outdoors with your kids, cleaning your house, playing active video games such as Dance Dance Revolution, and even cooking can get you up and moving around at home.

Becoming and staying healthy requires a lot of work, at least at first. Once you get into the habit of eating healthy, going for long walks with your dog, working out 5 days per week, and however else you choose to live healthier, it is no longer a lot of work, it becomes a lifestyle.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 12: Creating a Detailed Workout Plan

This is day 12 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” – William James

By now you probably have a workout routine somewhat in place whether it’s classes, a trainer, or a home DVD. Today’s lesson is all about giving you the information you need to plan your own workout. My goal is by the time you are done reading this, you can create a good workout plan for yourself without needing anyone’s help. I still recommend you use a trainer and to attend any classes or at home video programs you enjoy using, but you will inevitably have days where it’s up to you to get a good workout in.

The first question to ask yourself is ‘how many days should I exercise?’ Shoot for at least 3 days per week with 5 being the ideal amount to begin. With work, school, kids, dinner with friends, and whatever you have going on, you can choose what days those 3 to 5 days happen, but ensure you are fitting in good workouts no shorter than 30 minutes in length. If you still feel short on time and 3 days a week sounds like too many, then do what you can. If you  are only working out 3 or 4 days per week, keep working on your time management to fit in 5 days per week. If you continue to struggle to find time to work out do not feel discouraged, because even one day per week is better than none.

Now that you have your 5 days set, just remember that on your rest days you have more to do than just sit around (see day 7). But what should you do during those 5 days? That will depend on a lot of factors such as your SMART goals, but there are a few things that everyone, regardless of their goals, can focus on. In any given week you want to make sure you workout each muscle group in your body, and that you get plenty of cardio. The main muscle groups fitness enthusiasts recognize are abs, legs, back, arms, chest, and shoulders.  Each week you want to work out each of these muscle groups, but each muscle group has several muscles in them that need to be worked out individually.

When you are planning what to do during your 5 days, I recommend doing 20-30 minutes of cardio, 20-30 minutes focusing on your muscle group of the day, and then some time to warm up, cool down and stretch. Cardio exercises includes swimming, biking, elliptical, stair climbs, running/jogging, and essentially anything that gets your heart run up for an extended period of time. If you have 5 workouts per week and you lift every muscle group and do some form of cardio each workout day, your weekly schedule might look something like this:

Monday: Legs, stairs

Tuesday: Chest, walk/jog

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Back, walk/jog

Friday: Shoulders, arms, bike

Saturday: Abs, walk/jog

If your goal is strictly to lose weight, you should still work each muscle group but your focus should be more toward calisthenics rather than lifting weights. For example, instead of going to the bench press to work your chest, it may benefit you more to do push-ups and burpees to work your chest. Also, classes at gyms often focus on the full body. I still highly recommend you hire a trainer so you can know what is best for you, and then you can branch off and do your own workouts based on your own plans. Even if you do not care about building muscle, resistance training (weight lifting) is still very important for your overall health. It has been proven to increase your metabolism, increase bone density, and slows down muscular degeneration which naturally happens with age. Do not just do cardio and neglect the weights.

Now that you made a plan to know what you are doing each day of the week, the next goal is to go into more detail about what you’re going to do when you show up to your workout location, be it your local gym, your living room, or a local track. Let’s say you are planning your own workout for Friday and Saturday, and the rest is with your trainer, and you decided to do yoga on one of your rest days. Now your week is all scheduled, but you just need to make sure you don’t lose any momentum toward your goals on Friday and Saturday. Friday you are planning on going to the local gym, and Saturday you will stay at home and run around the block.

For Friday you decide you need to work your shoulders and arms, and you plan on doing a stationary bike. First you should ensure you are going to work all of your muscles in your shoulders and arms. Your favorite fitness website or application can break down the different exercises for you. You see what exercises are available to exercise your shoulders, and decide to do the shoulder press, and the side lateral raise. You check arm workouts and decide to do hammer curls for biceps and bench dips for triceps. For abs on Friday you decide to do planks, sit-ups, leg lifts, and Russian twists. On the bike you decide to do a 30 minutes interval workout, and the jog will be a 1 mile jog/walk around the block. Now you know all the exercises you’re going to do, and you’re making sure you do cardio, and that you are working out every muscle group this week. If you can do this much workout planning for yourself, you are on the right path and you will learn much more with time. And by the way, your weekly workout plan now looks something like this:

Monday: Legs and stairs with personal trainer

Tuesday: Chest and walk/jog with personal trainer

Wednesday: Yoga Class

Thursday: Back and walk/jog with personal trainer

Friday: Workout without trainer – shoulder press, side lateral raises, hammer curls, bench dips, 30 minutes on the stationary bike with sprint intervals

Saturday: Workout without trainer – planks, sit-ups, leg lifts, Russian twists, walk/jog around the block

Sunday: Rest, stretch, hydrate, recover, motivation, and goals

If all these exercises sound like a foreign language then don’t become discouraged. There are plenty of websites and videos that show pictures and videos of these different workouts, how to do them, and what muscles they target. It will take some time to learn them, and to learn which ones you enjoy doing the most.

At this point in your weekly workout planning you have a trainer or instructor taking care of 4 of your days, and you planning the 3 others. Remember, Sunday may be a rest day in this example, but it doesn’t mean it is an off day. The next question is how many repetitions and sets should you do of the exercises you planned? Individual exercises are broken into sets and repetitions. A repetition is the completion of an exercise when you do it one time. One bicep curl is equal to one repetition. If you do multiple repetitions, let’s say 12, then those 12 repetitions (or reps) make up one set. So if you do 4 sets with 10 repetitions per set, that means you did 40 repetitions total. Another way to measure how much of an exercise to do is by time. For example, you can do planks for 30 seconds or as many sit-ups as you can in a minute.

Any exercise will commonly be 3-6 sets, with anywhere from 5-50+ reps per set depending on the exercise. For shoulder press, and most exercises that are considered weight lifting, you should choose a weight that allows you to do about 8-10 reps before your muscles do not allow you to do any more. The number of repetitions will change depending on your goals, but 10 is a good number. Then depending on the length of your workout, you can choose to do that number of repetitions 3-6 times. You may need to reduce the weight after each set, you will get tired, and that is okay. Allow your body to slightly recover after each set by resting 1-3 minutes.

I’m going to add the reps and sets to the workout plan for Friday and Saturday which now looks like this:

Friday: Shoulder Press 6 x 10 (6 sets, 10 reps), Side Lateral Raises 3 x 10, Hammer Curls 4 x 10, Bench Dips 4 x 10, 30 min bike w/ intervals at an average level of 4

Saturday: Core Workout Circuit repeat 5 times: Planks (1 minute), Sit-ups (1 minute), leg lifts (1 minute), Russian twists (1 minute), once the circuit is complete, jog/walk around the block, 3 minutes of walking with 1 minute of jogging for 30 minutes

You can also add the weight you plan on lifting when you go workout. It is always good to add the extra weight goal into your plan, but it is not required.

 All this workout planning can be done in your food/workout journal, and you can make notes on how you felt, whether you should increase or decrease the number of sets or weight, or anything else that could help you during future workouts. It is also good to do a warm up set with lower weight when you start an exercise. If you are planning on doing 6 sets of shoulder press, then actually do 7, but your first set will be a much lower weight so you can warm up your shoulders before doing a heavier weight.

The Friday workout shows how you might structure a workout at the gym when you have machines available to help you. Saturday shows how you might train at home which includes bodyweight workouts and a jog around your neighborhood. So which one is better? In my opinion neither is better, a balance between the two is what will get you in great shape. If you want to build muscle faster or spice up your cardio life, then a gym is needed. But, becoming stronger, thinner, and healthier can easily be done at home through calisthenics and outdoor cardio. Some of my most difficult workouts use no weights or equipment, and I move no more than a couple feet, so there are no excuses for not getting a great workout in when you are confined to your living room.

Planning can be a lot of fun because you know that the plan you are creating will push yourself to be healthier. It might take a little bit of time to learn and get used to, but once you become more knowledgeable about workout planning, you will be able to walk into the gym without writing anything down and know exactly what to do. That might take a few years, but it’s a great feeling when you reach that point. Next time you do a workout on your own, I challenge you to put some additional thought into your workout based on what you learned today, and ensure that even though there is no trainer there to push you, that you create a plan that pushes yourself.

Your daily workouts are extremely important, but so is what you do every other part of your day that will tip the scale and help you become healthier. If you work a desk job and then come home and sit on the couch and watch TV, even if you workout every day your lifestyle is still fairly sedentary. Tomorrow we will briefly discuss the benefits of staying active around the house and at work.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 11: Staying Motivated

This is day 11 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

What goals did you have for yourself when you started this course? It has been 11 days, so I bet some of you wanted to lose 20 pounds by this point. Some of you would be ridiculous because that is not at all attainable. Your sense of accomplishment all boils down to your expectations. If you set your expectations too high you will never feel accomplished, but if you set them too low, you will not accomplish anything. When you are setting your goals, make them SMART! Smart stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Specific – When setting your goals, make sure you specify the who, what, when, where, why, and how of what you are doing. Instead of saying ‘I want to run faster’, say ‘I want to run my hometown’s 5k with my husband and finish 1 minute faster than I did when I was in good shape 5 years ago, and I’ll get there by running 3 miles, 3 days a week’. Another example might be ‘I want to walk my dog for thirty minutes every other day around the block to strengthen my legs and burn calories’.

Measurable – Avoid setting goals that you can’t measure or track. It’s great to say you want to eat fewer carbs, but if you don’t make it more specific and add the number of grams of carbs and then monitor your carb intake (day 5), you won’t know if you have reached your goal.

Attainable – It is good to be ambitious, but do not be so ambitious that your goal becomes impossible to achieve. If you currently can only walk a mile before you are winded, it is not a great idea to say you are going to run a half marathon in 2 months, you will fail and become discouraged.

Relevant – Ask yourself if your goal is worthwhile and worth your time. While a goal to eliminate red meat from your diet will help with your overall health, eliminating all meats may not be relevant to your overall goal of improving your health.

Timely – Set a time frame for when to complete the goal. Will it take a month, a year, a lifetime? It is up to you to decide, but a goal without a deadline will never be achieved.

Now that you know how to make SMART goals, I want you to sit down with a pen and paper, your tablet, or whatever you take notes on, and think of some SMART goals to improve your health. Pin them up on your refrigerator, your desktop, your bulletin board, or somewhere that you will see them on a daily basis. This will keep the goals in your mind and motivate you to never miss a workout, or not take that cheat meal.

Another way to keep yourself motivated is to make it fun! To a lot of people exercising and eating healthy is a fate worse than death. It really does not have to be painful, and should be a lot of fun! Becoming a healthier person doesn’t mean you need to go out and run for miles or eat tofu for every meal. One of the best ways to improve your health is to find a hobby you are passionate about that is also a great exercise. Then any time you go have fun, you are improving your body. Some fun and healthy hobbies are hiking, swimming, and most sports will make the list.

Keep the ‘why’ in mind. It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it. The ‘why’ is the core of intrinsic motivation. For some people, knowing why they want to get fit is an easy answer, for others, it is a bit more difficult. An easy answer may be to look good for the summer. A more difficult answer may be they want to feel better, but ‘feeling better’ is hard to measure. So the ‘why’ should be SMART just like your other goals. Regardless of your reason for wanting to live a healthier life, hold onto it. Add it to your vision board and look at it every chance you get. It’s the people who never lose the sight of why they are exercising and eating healthy that will ultimately reach their goals.

When you achieve a goal, make sure you reward yourself. There are a lot of different ways to do this, and they range from small items such as being allowed to watch your favorite TV show after exercising, or large items such as once you lose 40 pounds you will go on a cruise in the Bahamas to show off your new body. Regardless of the method you choose, set rewards for yourself for each of your goals or milestones and do not let yourself get the reward until you reach the milestone, no cheating. This will motivate you to keep working to perhaps eat some ice cream for dessert or go to the movies and get popcorn and soda as a reward.

Lastly, do not underestimate motivational videos. It is amazing how much motivational videos can alter the way we think. They discuss the core of our desires and the difficult actions that it takes to get there. Every motivational video is different, but after watching any of them I always have the desire to reach my goals and start right after the video ends. Watching a motivation video before a workout will put you in a mindset of action to achieve your goals. You can click here to view the top motivational videos on YouTube.

I hope you are continuing to exercise, and have a basic workout plan that you are starting to follow. Tomorrow I am going to discuss some details about workout planning, and how to plan workouts on your own if you do not have a personal trainer.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 10: Supplements

This is day 10 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” – Haruki Murakami

Dietary supplements can be tricky. There is so much marketing around dietary supplement such as protein powder, fish oil, vitamin C pills, etc., that it is difficult to know what to take and what not to take. Dietary supplements are something that requires a lot of science to get to the bottom of.

If you don’t care about anything sciency, the bottom line is if you are eating a healthy diet, unless your doctor or dietician specifically says to take a supplement for an illness (such as an iron supplement for anemia), then you do not need to take any supplements to improve your health. I am going to go down the line and discuss common supplements and why you should, or why you shouldn’t, take them.

First is protein, the most common supplement you will find in sports and fitness. Protein can be bought almost anywhere in several different forms. The most common are pre-made drinks, powders, and bars. We have already talked a lot about protein because it is one of the macronutrients. So wait a second, if you are trying to cut back on your macros and calories, why supplement your diet with more protein? Protein is needed to rebuild your muscles, and consuming protein after a workout helps with muscle recovery. But, if your protein supplement is putting you over your daily recommended protein value, then you should not supplement protein. A typical protein shake will have about 200 calories, 20 grams of protein, and plenty of sugar. Instead, I recommend planning your meals and workouts so that you can eat some of your daily protein after your regularly scheduled workout.

Amino acids are another supplement you will hear people talk about. Amino acids are the byproduct of proteins once your body breaks them down, so your body does not need amino acid supplements when you are eating enough protein. With all the crazy names of amino acids such as L-Cysteine and L-Lysine, it can get confusing which ones to take. Most people who decide to take amino acids resort to buying an amino acid blend that contains about 20 different amino acids. If you decide to take amino acids, it shouldn’t hurt your goals like protein can, but it might hurt your wallet. Especially when you’re first starting out, the results of supplementing amino acids may not make a difference to your fitness, but you are still paying for the product.

Many of the amino acid blends you can buy have caffeine in them. I am sure you know what caffeine is and its effects, but a lot of people take caffeine before workouts for the boost. My advice, do what you need to do to wake up and get a good workout. That being said, stay away from excess doses of caffeine. A lot of pre-workout powders have two or three times the amount of caffeine per scoop than a cup of coffee. If you drink ten cups of coffee (roughly 1000mg of caffeine), that could be enough to overdose on caffeine. So if your pre-workout powder has 400mg of caffeine per scoop, you need to be careful not to overdose. Some sources of caffeine, such as energy drinks and soda, should be avoided all together.

I brought up pre-workout powders when discussing caffeine, but I do not recommend you use pre-workout supplements. Pre-workout powders often have dozens of individual supplements in them at 2000% of your daily recommended value. In short, they are not healthy. If you want to have something before a workout to give you energy there are natural, healthier alternatives. I recommend eating some fruit before a workout, the carbs/sugar will get you going and give you the energy you need. I always keep a banana in my gym bag. If you want caffeine, you can drink your favorite coffee (hold the cream and sugar, you don’t want to ruin your carbohydrate and fat values) an hour before you go, or drink an amino acid blend that contains caffeine.

You will hear a lot about many other supplements while at the gym or reading nutrition websites and blogs. Multivitamins, vitamin C, Fish Oil, CoQ10, and Iron are a few you will hear about. If you have a healthy diet, you do not need to spend money on supplements. You should only take what your doctor or dietician recommends, because often time your body won’t need any supplements, and you will get rid of them in very expensive urine. Even vitamin C which is supposed to stop colds has been proven to not have any effect on shortening the symptoms of the common cold.

My common stance on supplements is that if you are eating healthy, you do not need them, they are just going to burn a hole in your wallet. Supplements are marketed to make you think you need them, but typically you don’t, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Only take supplements if your dietician or doctor puts you on a supplement plan. Be skeptical if your personal trainer tries to put you on a supplement plan, they are not trained the same way as dieticians. If you take everything yourself, you will probably be disappointed in the results. So save your money and buy some fresh fruit instead of pre-workout, and chicken instead of protein powder. If you think you might be lacking in some areas, there is no harm in taking a multivitamin, but you don’t need to try to get specific with your supplementation.

Hopefully you learned something about the hype behind supplements, and why they may or may not be for you. Tomorrow is a short lesson about setting goals, a somewhat obvious but important part of losing weight and getting healthier.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 9: Improving Your Diet # 2

This is day 9 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

If you get 1% better at something every day then it is a successful day

After yesterday I know some of you are thinking “I’ll just limit myself to eating one Big Mac meal and a couple frozen dinners today so I don’t go over on carbs and fats”, or something along those lines. On day 4 we discussed the MyPlate model, and your diet should look similar to how that plate looked, roughly 25% vegetables, 25% grains, 20% fruits, 20% protein, and 10% dairy, these number do not need to be exact. First, make your diet resemble the MyPlate model, then adjust your portions to meet your macronutrient needs. A well balanced diet is paramount, and often time when someone switches from a fast food diet or a meat and potatoes diet to a MyPlate diet (balanced died), they will automatically fall near the amount of macronutrients they need.

I won’t talk a lot about what to eat, but here are some examples of my favorite (simple to cook) meals that together make up the MyPlate model:

Breakfast – Egg White, Bell Pepper and Onion Omelet: Cook a couple egg whites in a skillet with olive oil, and sauté a cup of cut bell peppers and onion in another skillet. Add the peppers and onion to the eggs and you have an omelet. This recipe will give you some of your daily protein from the eggs (contrary to what some people believe, eggs are not dairy), and veggies from the peppers and onion. This makes for a pretty good sized omelet that has less than 200 calories. Add a little bit of cheese to get a serving of dairy, or a piece of whole wheat toast for some grains.

Lunch – Italian Chicken Salad: When you are making dinner the previous night, knock out lunch for tomorrow and throw some chicken in the oven for the next day, marinate with Italian seasoning. Then for lunch pull out some romaine lettuce, the chicken from the night before, Italian dressing, and any other veggies you might want. If you are going to eat pasta for dinner like in this example, be careful that your croutons don’t put you over your limit!

Dinner – Whole Wheat Pasta: Whole wheat pasta in moderation is a great food. Boil some whole wheat pasta and add mushrooms and onions to some crushed tomatoes. Cook ground turkey or chicken in a separate skillet and add to the sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy. This meal gives you grains from the pasta, vegetables from the sauce, protein from the turkey, and a bit of dairy from the cheese (dairy isn’t really necessary but tasty). Just make sure you don’t go overboard with the eating, just like all foods, watch your portion size. Many people believe the carbs in pasta are what make you fat, this is not true. A sustained calorie surplus makes you fat, so pasta/carbs will only make you fat if you eat too much of it, just like any other food.

Snack – Fruit Smoothie: I love making smoothies as a snack or sometimes for breakfast. You can put almost anything in a smoothie, but personally I prefer a tropical blend. Add a banana, a couple strawberries, some pineapple, mango, and orange slices into a blender. Add some spinach (it’ll turn it green but you won’t taste it), ice, and milk or water. Blend and enjoy! Commercial smoothies will often add simple syrup or sugar to their smoothies, so be careful when you buy smoothies from a restaurant or store. Adding sugar isn’t necessary because the natural sugars from the fruit will make it delicious without additives.

Some of you are probably saying “those foods sound gross”. That is why I don’t want to give recipes or tell you exactly what to eat, we all have our own tastes. But definitely experiment with and try new foods so that you can cook and eat great tasting healthy foods that won’t put you over your calorie and macronutrient counts.

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or another medical condition, you may need to add another layer to your healthy eating model beside just the macronutrients and the MyPlate model. I recommend if you have any questions regarding this area to contact a dietician or your doctor. Your gym probably has a nutritionist or dietician you can talk to, or they can at least can refer you to someone.

I try to only eat ‘healthy fats’ for my daily fat intake. ‘Healthy fats’ are actually needed for our bodies to stay healthy, but what’s the difference? When you read a nutrition facts label, essentially when you see trans fats, those are bad. These fats are found in processed foods and are not naturally occurring. Try to completely eliminate trans fats. Saturated fats should also raise a yellow flag. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as dairy and meats. Try to limit saturated fats due to its high calorie density without added health benefits. Unsaturated fats are often considered to be the good fats, and are often found in vegetables and nuts. Unsaturated fats can decrease your cholesterol and will improve your health if you consume these in place of the bad fats and in moderation. Try to get most of your daily fat allowance from unsaturated fats.

It is also important to plan your meals before you eat them. Before I go to the store each week I have my meals planned for the entire week, this prevents me from buying things I don’t need. Not only does this save money, but it keeps me from buying foods I don’t need for my meals. The more food you have laying around your home, the more likely you are to eat more than you need to. Sometimes I splurge and buy some chips or ice cream (which I never make as part of my normal diet), and before I know it I consumed 1000 calories of ice cream without realizing it just because I can. That is why I only keep the bare minimum at my house. You need to make your environment work for you. If your environment is full of unhealthy snacks, then you will likely eat those unhealthy snacks. If your environment is filled with healthy foods and only the foods you need for the week, then it will be easier to eat healthy.

Meal planning is also important so that when you when you start getting hungry, you know exactly what you are eating for your next meal. Without knowing what you are going to eat it becomes very easy to over snack and then miss the mark for the MyPlate model and your macronutrients for the day.

Eating healthy can be very difficult at first, but once you learn the basics and start experimenting with different foods and combinations, it will be fun. Eventually you will get so good at it that you won’t need to even think about the MyPlate model or even too much about your macronutrient needs, they will just happen. This transition will take some time though. The basics to better health can be learned in 2 weeks, but you will never stop learning new ways to better your health. This process is a marathon, but not a literal marathon, I don’t expect you to ever be able to run 26.2 miles. It takes a while to learn everything and even longer to implement what you learn, so be patient with the process but keep pushing yourself.

I hope you had/have a great workout today. Tomorrow is all about dietary supplements and which ones you should and shouldn’t take.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 8: Improving Your Diet # 1

This is day 8 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.

One of my favorite phrases is ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym’. Today we are going to discuss how to improve your diet starting with your calorie and/or macronutrient analysis from day 5. If you didn’t do this analysis yet, read this article, log your diet, and complete this after you have a solid log to look at. Please do not blow off the diet and nutrients part of this course, it is just as important as exercise.

Grab your food log and look at how many calories and/or grams of fats, proteins, and carbs you consumed each day. First, how do you feel about your diet and your monitoring process? My guess is that you tried to eat a little bit healthier just because you had to write down what you ate. That’s good, but now we are going to compare what you ate with what you should eat. I’m going to have you do another Google search. Search for “macronutrients calculator”. Select a couple calculators that you want to try out, there are a lot of them.

Enter the information it asks for, and click calculate. The output will be how many grams of fats, carbs, and proteins you should be eating per day. For example if you are a 35 year old, 200 pound, 5’ 5” female who wants to cut fat and is lightly active, according to one calculator you should be eating around 1,587 calories, 159 grams of carbs, 159 grams of protein, and 35 grams of fat per day. Every calculator will give you slightly different numbers because different calculators will prefer higher amounts of protein in the diet than others. These estimated numbers will not change as long as you maintain the same weight, goals, and activity levels. If there is any change to those three things, you will need to recalculate your recommended macronutrient values. Keep in mind, even if you have a hard workout and burn 500 calories, you can’t say “well I worked out, so I can eat more”. You need to stay at the activity levels that were calculated, and recalculate the amounts as you change your goals, activities, and weight.

If you are not very computer savvy, then you can use these values as a basis for your macronutrients and calories:

  • If you are trying to lose weight, consume 1.1 grams of protein, 1.1 grams of carbs, and 0.2 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day if you are male. Females should consume about 0.8 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of carbs, and 0.15 grams of fat.
  • If you are trying to maintain your current weight, consume 1 gram of protein, 1.6 grams of carbs, and 0.35 grams of fat per day if you are male. Females should consume 0.65 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbs, and 0.25 grams of fat to maintain.
  • To get calories based on these, know that every gram of carbs and protein has 4 calories per gram. Fat has 9 calories per gram. Fun fact, alcohol has about 7 calories per gram. You can calculate the macronutrients you need and then multiply them by their respective calorie densities to get calories.

These numbers are assuming you are working out at least a few days per week. They are also not an exact science. If you are still gaining weight and following this framework, then you will need to keep reducing your calories consumption by perhaps removing a couple dozen grams of macronutrients. If you are gaining weight, you may need to further reduce your calorie consumption.

Now that you roughly know how many calories, carbs, fats, and proteins you should be eating per day, compare what you should be eating with what you actually ate. Does it surprise you? If you found out you are consuming way too much or way too little of something then it is time to start changing your diet so you can achieve your goals. If everything is perfect then that is fantastic. You might not need to change anything, but it will be worth it to continue reading so you can try to better fit your diet into the MyPlate model so you can get all the micronutrient your body needs (have a well-balanced diet).

If you need to cut your fats, proteins, and/or carbs, then the next step is to figure out what to cut, and what to change all together. Just like an exercise plan, there is no perfect plan for everyone, but I am going to attempt to go through some common changes and cuts you can make to get your macronutrient values down to your desired amounts. Some of the sacrifices you will need to make for your health will be tough, but it is the hard decision to reduce or remove certain foods from your diet that will make you a stronger and healthier person.

First, avoid drinking your calories. Whenever you drink soda, lemonade, juice, sweet tea, and other sugary drinks, you are consuming large amounts of carbohydrates due to the sugar. By drinking nothing but water you can easily decrease your carb intake. Second, do not eat fast food, and avoid eating out altogether. For most people, a Big Mac meal will contain all the fat they should eat in a single day. Even the healthier looking meals at nicer restaurants can have a large amount of macronutrients based on the portion sizes and type of food preparation. Third, learn to cook. Having frozen dinners at home can be just as bad for your health as eating out. Also, frozen meals have a lot of sodium, which could lead to high blood pressure and other illnesses. By cooking your own meals you can have full control over what you are eating, and your macronutrient and calorie intakes.

This course is not designed to be about cooking, and I don’t want to tell you what to eat. If you Google “how to eat healthy” or “healthy recipes” you will find thousands of websites. What I want to show you is there is a certain number of calories, fats, carbs, and proteins you should be eating in order to reach your goals, whether the goal is to gain muscle, lose weight, or maintain how you are. If you are serious about reaching your goals, I recommend you constantly monitor what you eat. Since this takes a lot of time, perhaps don’t always do the macronutrient analysis, but keep a food log to keep yourself accountable, then do an analysis a couple times a week to ensure you are eating what you should be.

Even after years of practicing healthy eating, conducting a dietary audit of myself can yield surprising results. I recently ate a couple buffalo chicken ceasar salad wraps for dinner and calculated the macronutrients as well as the sodium in the wraps. Just by eating two average sized salad wraps I had already consumed twice the amount of sodium that the American Heart Association recommends we consume per day. The dressing and tortilla together were close to 1000 mg of sodium and the buffalo sauce was about another 500 mg. The recommended daily sodium intake is 2300 mg or less, with a preferred value of 1500 mg. With two salad wraps that I thought were near bullet proof healthy I had already consumed 3000 mg of sodium, and that was just one meal.

Getting back to calories, a rule of thumb is that it takes a 3500 calorie deficit to burn one pound of fat. This means if you are a female who needs to consume 2000 calories per day to maintain weight, then you need to have calorie deficit of 500 calories per day (3500 divided by 7) to lose one pound of fat per week. This deficit can come from either what you eat, exercise, or both. If you want to lose one pound a week, every day you would need to burn 200 calories exercising, and eat 1700 calories, or any combination of exercise and eating to reach a total intake of 1500 calories per day.

I know I said this course isn’t about telling you what to eat to reach calories or the grams of carbs, fats, and proteins you need, but tomorrow we will talk more about how to improve your diet. Macronutrients are great to monitor until you get all your daily fats and carbs from potato chips, which is not good. The goal is to eat a well-balanced diet while meeting, and not exceeding, your calorie and macronutrient needs.