How To Eat Clean

Clean EatingThis is the question I get asked all the time. I think people assume it’s really difficult and time-consuming. It’s really just a matter of planning all meals and snacks ahead of time. Here are some basic principles of clean eating that you’ll need to keep in mind:

Eat primarily non processed foods. If it comes out of a box, don’t eat it. If it comes from the earth, eat it.
Eat six times a day. This is to keep your metabolism fired up and it keeps you from getting too hungry.
No alcohol or sodas. Drink lots of water and/or herbal unsweetened tea.
Never miss a meal.
Combine lean protein and complex carbs at every meal.
Avoid all saturated and trans fats.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ideas for breakfast would be:

  • Steel cut oatmeal (not flakes) with berries and 1 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 4-5 scrambled egg whites  with 4 oz. potatoes mixed with red peppers and onions
  • 1 c. yogurt with 1 c. fresh berries, 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • whole wheat pancakes with fruit
  • banana chocolate smoothie

NEVER, EVER skip breakfast!!!! Think about it. You’ve just been sleeping for 7-8 hrs. (hopefully). Your body needs some fuel after not eating for that length of time. Your mother was right. It IS the most important meal of the day!

Lunch:

Okay, here’s where things get a bit more challenging. Most people are home at breakfast time. Not so for lunch. My suggestion would be to pack a small cooler the night before and just grab it when you leave for work in the morning. (This is where the planning comes in.) Anyway, here are some lunch ideas:

  • 4 oz. chicken on whole wheat bread with mustard and avocado slice; green salad with olive oil and vinegar.
  • 4 oz. chicken, 1/2 c. brown rice, 1 c. low sodium lentil soup.
  • 1 c. whole wheat pasta, 1/2 c. low sodium marinara sauce, 4 oz. grilled chicken breast, 1/2 c. broccoli
  • Mexican Chicken Wrap
  • Easy Chicken Salad

Dinner:

  • 4 oz. salmon, 1 medium  baked sweet potato and 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 turkey burger patty, 1 baked potato cubed and roasted with 2 tsp. olive oil and 2 tsp. chopped rosemary
  • pizza made with 1 whole grain English muffin, 1/4 c. part skim mozzarella cheese; salad made with 1/4 c. chickpeas, 2 tsp. cilantro, 2 tsp. minced garlic and 1 Tbsp. honey-mustard vinaigrette

Snacks:

Snacks are NOT optional!!! You will need to eat 3 snacks a day, one after breakfast, one after lunch, and one after dinner. In the beginning you’re going to feel like you’re eating ALL THE TIME but soon you will get used to eating this way. Believe me, it beats walking around hungry all day. Here are some tasty snack ideas. All snacks should be around 200 calories.

  • Larabars
  • 1 English muffin with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 6 whole wheat crackers and 1 oz. cheese
  • 1 c. plain nonfat yogurt with 1 c. berries
  • 1 small baked sweet potato mixed with 1 c. plain nonfat yogurt

Vegan Chocolate Protein Bars

Vegan Chocolate Protein BarsSkip the store-bought, processed protein bars and make your own with quinoa for a yummy, potassium- and protein-packed snack. One bar delivers all the energy you need to fuel your busy afternoon and your workouts.

Ingredients:
¾ cup dry quinoa (or about 2 cups cooked)
½ cup dates, pitted
3 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
½ tsp almond extract
¼ tsp salt
½ cup protein powder (use your favorite brand, Frazier likes an unsweetened hemp version)
½ cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup vegan chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8×8 baking dish lightly with baking spray. Rinse the dry quinoa in cold water, then let sit in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. In the meantime, bring 1 cup of water to boil. Drain the quinoa and add to the boiling water. Cover, and reduce heat to simmer for about 12 minutes. Let cool enough to handle. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cooked quinoa, dates, agave nectar, vegetable oil, flaxseed, almond extract, and salt. Process until relatively smooth (the quinoa is so small it stays slightly lumpy). In a small bowl, stir together the protein powder, flour, and stir-ins. Fold this dry mixture into wet mixture with a spatula. The dough is very thick, like cookie dough, so use the spatula to press into prepared pan evenly. Bake for about 22-25 minutes, until firm. Let cool, then slice into a dozen bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes 12 servings

Per serving (1 bar): 184 calories, 5.4g fat (3g saturated), 29g carbohydrates, 37mg sodium, 113mg potassium, 3g fiber, 7.3g protein

What and When You Should Eat

Clock
It’s not just what you eat but when you eat that matters. The perfect food for one situation may be horrible for another. Nutrient timing is a science that athletes use to try to get the most out of every calorie they consume. Not everyone needs an athlete’s level of efficiency, but all of us will benefit from a basic understanding of nutrient timing.

This is 911, need-to-know info only. To keep you focused on the big picture, I’ll begin with an example at the extreme end of nutrient timing. If the average Joe followed the same diet as an Ironman triathlete, he’d likely have type 2 diabetes in a matter of months. Conversely, if someone tried to complete an Ironman on even the healthiest version of a low-carb diet, that person would either be forced to quit or die. This is not just because either diet would mean eating too much food or too little food. Different foods cause the body’s metabolic process to react in different ways; and various activities should be fueled using various means.

Let’s begin by looking at our possible fuel sources:
Carbohydrates
Are fuel only. They aren’t stored in body tissue, only in the blood and liver as glycogen, which needs to be burnt off. They are essential for high-level functioning like running fast, lifting heavy things, and thinking. They are digested and put to use by your body very quickly. If you eat more than you burn, your body will convert them to be stored in adipose (fat) tissue.

Proteins
Called the body’s building blocks. Hence, you need them to rebuild tissue that breaks down daily. You digest proteins slowly, and at a certain point, your body just can’t assimilate them. Therefore, it’s important that throughout the day you eat foods that are high in protein.

Fats
Help regulate all of your bodily functions. They are dense and contain over twice the calories of proteins and carbohydrates. While they are vital for our health, it’s easy to eat too much of them, which will result in unwanted fat tissue on your body. You digest fats slowly, and fats will also help slow the digestion of anything else you eat. Fats are also your backup fuel source, though they can’t be put to use right away the way carbs can.

Fiber
Categorized as a carbohydrate, it is not a source of fuel as it has no calories. It’s the indigestible part of a plant and is of vital importance in your diet because it regulates the absorption of the foods you eat. It also helps us feel full. Most of us don’t eat enough fiber, and that’s a big part of the obesity problem.

Alcohol
Not really a food source but something we tend to consume. It has nearly twice the calories of proteins and carbs (though it lacks fuel) and digests rapidly. Its only healthy function is that it seems to make us happy. Studies indicate this is a good thing, as those who consume alcohol generally live longer than those who don’t, but from a purely nutritional standpoint, it’s not so hot because you’re getting calories without any upside. Its use should be strategic and regulated for best results.

Now let’s look at the various situations we face daily, at least on most days—hopefully.

Relaxing
This is when we’re sedentary both physically and mentally. In a relaxed state, you burn very few calories because your body is engaged as little as possible, hence the relaxing.

Sedentary work
When we’re at work or school. Our bodies aren’t moving, but our brains are engaged. The brain runs on glycogen, which is blood sugar fueled by carbohydrates.

Low-level exercise
Like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, or going for a walk. This breaks down body tissue, so you’re burning calories, but it’s not intense work. Therefore, it can be fueled by your stored body fat. Your body tries to fuel its low-level outputs by mobilizing fat stores because this saves its limited glycogen for emergency situations.

High-level exercise
Fueled by glycogen. When you really have to get after it, all sorts of hormones go to work, and your body burns its blood sugar. Body-tissue breakdown is rapid, and your stored blood sugar (glycogen) won’t last much more than an hour.

Sleep
A very active time. Deep sleep is where your body works the hardest to repair itself. You need nutrients to make these repairs, but it’s better if you aren’t mucking up the process with digestion. This is why you hear that you shouldn’t eat too much at night. It’s best to eat early to allow most of the digestion to happen while you’re awake, thus allowing your body to use all its energy for recovery during sleep. It is worth noting here that it’s better to eat before bed if you need the nutrients—don’t skip them. Your body can’t repair itself without nutrients, and recovery from breakdown is why we eat in the first place. Next, let’s take a look at an important word you need to know: insulin.

Insulin
Wikipedia tells us that insulin “is a hormone that has extensive effects on metabolism and other body functions, such as vascular compliance. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle, and stopping use of fat as an energy source.” Okay, that’s a little scientific, but look at all the things we’ve already referenced: hormone, glycogen, metabolism, and fat as an energy source. Even if you don’t fully comprehend “vascular compliance,” you can tell that insulin is something important in today’s discussion.

Sure enough, it’s the only hundred-dollar word we need to know today. Your body’s insulin response is the main reason you want to eat certain foods at certain times, to do certain things.

Putting it all together
Now let’s take what we’ve just learned and put it to use. For most of us, nutrient timing is pretty simple. The next thing to consider is what you’re going to be doing or what you just did. As I said before, what you eat should be based on this. You’ve probably heard about the evils of sugar, or maybe even the glycemic index. Using the science of nutrient timing, you can turn sugar into something healthy because it’s the only thing that transports nutrients into your blood quickly enough to be of service during and after hard exercise.

Essentially, sugar or other easily digested carbs (the less fiber the better) promote an insulin release. This speeds the transformation of carbohydrates into glucose in your blood. As your glycogen stores are depleted during exercise, recharging them with sugar minimizes the damage done by the breakdown of tissue during exercise. Therefore, sugar, the oft-vilified ingredient, is actually your body’s preferred nutrient during times of excessive stress and tissue breakdown.

Pretty cool, huh? The bad news is that this miracle nutrient is not good for you when you’re not doing intense exercise, which for almost all of us is most of the time. In fact, sugar’s very bad for you because the insulin response that was so fabulous for you when you were bonking (glycogen depleted) is not so fabulous for you when you’re sitting in front of the boob tube.

Remember this from the Wikipedia definition of insulin, “stopping use of fat as an energy source”? That’s bad when you’re sitting around. Remember how one of dietary fat’s responsibilities is to fuel you during low-intensity exercise? Well, when sugar causes your insulin to spike, it cuts off that process. Now not only are you not burning body fat for low-level outputs, you’re trying to force your body to use its glycogen. Double bad.

Unless you’re exercising, sugar intake should be minimized. During these times—which is most of the time—your diet should consist of a mixture of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates. The latter are natural sources of carbohydrates that generally come with fiber, which regulates the insulin response. Whole fruit, a simple carbohydrate by definition because it contains fructose (a sugar), always contains fiber and, thus, can be treated as a complex carb. Fruit juice, and other such stuff, is processed; it, along with processed complex carbohydrates like white rice, can cause an insulin response, so these types of foods should be used more like sports foods than staples.

It’s also important to note that combining all these different nutrients slows sugar’s ability to incite insulin into action. Therefore, a little sugar like a dessert after a well-rounded meal is buffered by the meal. The calories and lack of decent nutrients (processed sugar is devoid of most nutrients, except for energy) still count toward your overall diet, but at least you don’t have to worry about an insulin spike.

So the main point of this article is very simple. You should eat small, well-rounded meals most of the time. These should include some proteins, some fats, some fiber, and some carbs. During (only if it’s a long workout) and after hard workouts, you should supplement your diet with sugar or simple carbohydrates. After this, you should go back to eating well-rounded meals again.

Sports nutrition has evolved this process even further. In nature, foods are generally slow to digest. Nature’s great sports foods are things such as bananas and figs. These are sugary but still contain fiber and other nutrients. Science has found ways to make foods that are even more efficient during sports. These basically manipulate pH levels and process the sugars to speed them into your system. Outstanding when you need it. Terrible when you don’t.

They’ve even taken this a step further by finding a ratio of other nonsugary nutrients (like protein) that can be transported by the sugar to give you a further benefit. Beachbody’s Results and Recovery Formula uses this science. When you’re bonking during a hard workout, it speeds nutrients that are essential for quick recovery into your system as quickly as possible.

I can’t stress how important it is that sports fuels be used for sports performance only. Gatorade, soda, and all sugar candies (hey, no fat!) all function as the poor man’s sports foods. Unfortunately, those perusing the Quick Stop generally aren’t trying to fuel up after doing Plyo X, and therein may lay our obesity trend.

In case the topic is still a bit fuzzy, let’s use the above logic on the examples in the intro: An Ironman athlete is doing intense exercise for 10 to 12 hours or more. During this time, that athlete is mainly burning glycogen, which is gone after an hour or so. The athlete burns stored fat, too, but this is limited in its effectiveness. To race, the athlete must replenish with sports foods because they contain the only nutrients that the athlete will digest fast enough to help. To complete an Ironman, especially at your physical limit, it may take 5,000 calories coming mainly from sugar.

This is a sports-specific diet only. Someone trying to eat that way during a viewing of the Lord of the Rings trilogy would be lucky to stay out of the emergency room. Conversely, if you tried to maintain a 25-mph speed for 8 hours on your bike while munching on raw spinach and lean steak, you’d bonk so hard you’d be praying to get yanked from the race at the first checkpoint. That should cover your 911 on nutrient timing. Next time, we’ll move on to the topic of supplements. Are they magic pills, overhyped placebos, or something in between?

Pre-Workout Eating

Pre-Workout Food
How much you should eat before your workout depends on the type of workout that you plan on doing: high, moderate, or low intensity. If you’re going to do a low-intensity workout, don’t eat before your workout because it will just make you feel sluggish. On the other hand, for moderate to high-intensity workouts, you’ll want to have some reserve carbs in your system to perform the best.

Here are some caloric guidelines:

If it’s 3 or 4 hours before your exercise, eating a large meal is OK (600 calories or more).
If it’s 2 or 3 hours beforehand, a smaller meal is better (400 to 500 calories).
If it’s 1 or 2 hours before, a liquid meal is a good choice (300 to 400 calories).
If it’s an hour beforehand, a small snack will do (200 to 300 calories).

Try not to eat during the last hour before you begin a workout because it floods your system with too much blood sugar during those initial stages of your workout.

What To Eat Before The Gym

(Full Spike) The pre-workout meal is probably one of the most important meals of the day. The pre workout meal is the fuel your muscles need to get through your exercise. Eating before working out also provides energy and can help increase performance.

If you want to get better workout gains then you should definitely add pre-exercise food to your daily workout plan.

Pre-Workout Energy

Glucose is the preferred energy source for most training routines and the pre-exercise meal should include foods that are highest in carbs and easiest to digest. High carb foods might include:

  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Energy Bars
  • Pre-Workout Energy Drinks / Shakes

When to eat before a workout

It’s not recommended to work out on a full stomach. Working out with food in your belly can cause cramping, nausea, and an upset stomach / stomach aches. No one wants to be hurting during their workout so give it time to digest. Typically it takes 1 – 4 hours for food to digest, depending on what, and how much you eat. Digestion also varies from person to person, so a little trial and error will be required to figure out how much time it takes for your food to digest. Regardless, the minimum waiting time after a meal is one hour.

Building Muscle Mass

If your goal is to build muscle, then you should eat foods high in carbs and protein before workout. High protein / high carb foods include:

  • Chicken pasta
  • Tuna sandwich
  • Peanut butter sandwich (PB without the J)
  • Turkey sandwich
  • Chicken & potato
  • Weight gain protein shake

Fat Loss
The pre-workout meal of choice for people trying to lose fat, would be a small carb meal. This will supply you with the energy you need to get through your fat burning exercise routine, such as cardio and anerobic activity (hard sprints for 30 seconds – 1 minute). Remember, the body can continue to burn fat up to 6- 8 hours after cardio or workout.

The worst thing you could possibly do is workout on an empty stomach. While the body will in fact use fat stores to supply energy to the body if on an empty stomach, thus burning fat, this is not the preferred method to lose weight. This only ensures you of maximum muscle loss, and short term gain; No bueno.

What you do want, is to eat more small meals per day, which will speed up your metabolism and help you shed those calories. Eating too few calories per day will deprive yourself of energy, and your body will start hoarding calories that you do take in as fat so that it can survive these starvation episodes that you put yourself through. This also makes it harder for your body to use these calories.

Regardless of what your doctor told you, or what you have read, if they said to workout on an empty stomach, then they are 100% wrong. Working out on an empty stomach sends your body into a panic state, and you will, I repeat, you will…store…fat.

5 Rules for Post-Workout Nutrition

Get the Most Out of Your Training!

After exercise, your muscles are completely depleted of the nutrients they need to begin the recovery process. But the good news is they are also highly receptive to take up nutrients, refill glycogen stores, and restore protein balance to kickstart muscle protein synthesis or muscle building once again. So if you are serious about building muscle tone and reaping the benefits of your hard work in the gym, then it is absolutely critical that you fuel your body with the right post-workout nutrition.

During a workout, there is an increase in oxidation or a breakdown of the critical components that drive muscle function and energy production, including glycogen and essential amino acids. Exercise causes muscle protein turnover, which is the rate at which protein degradation or muscle breakdown increases, and the rate at which skeletal muscle protein synthesis decreases— essentially resulting in catabolism of muscle mass. The aminos, more specifically the branched-chain amino acids, are involved in the exact pathways that stimulate muscle building and the recovery process. As glycogen is depleted and used up, the body will switch to using the essential aminos to maintain energy and make glucose, and even after a workout, breakdown will continue until the right nutrition is received. Therefore, in order to halt muscle breakdown and ensure all your hard work in the gym doesn’t go to waste, you need to get the right post-workout nutrition, and what’s more, you need to ensure you get the right mix of macro and micronutrients at the right time!

Some people call the time after the workout the “window of opportunity.” As time elapses, this window begins to close, ruining your chances for a full recovery. Research suggests that consuming your post-workout meal within 30 minutes to one hour of training will ensure you are getting the most benefit out of your time spent in the gym! Consider the following five rules for post-workout fueling to enable proper muscle recovery and repair for a lean and firm hard body!

Rule #1: Make it Liquid. The key to your post-workout nutrition is ensuring a fast delivery! Therefore, it must be liquid; this will ensure rapid digestion and delivery of the important hormones that are necessary to stimulate the muscle growth and repair process.

Rule #2: Pack it with Protein and BCAAs. Following an energy-draining, muscle-tearing workout, one of the most important nutrients you need to consume post-workout is protein. In terms of quality and bioavailability, whey protein isolate (WPI) or whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) are excellent choices. Both are extremely fast-digesting proteins and highly soluble, which means they can kickstart the repair process quickly!

WPI and WPH also contain a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, which are considered the building blocks of muscle. They are critical for driving protein synthesis, reducing protein breakdown, and stimulating the release of insulin. Insulin is an anabolic hormone responsible for building various energy molecules in the body and preventing the breakdown of muscle following a hard workout.Several studies suggest that BCAAs can help delay fatigue and the onset of muscle soreness, as well as the markers of muscle damage associated with intense exercise. By ensuring that adequate amounts of the branched-chain amino acids are available to your muscles after training, you can delay fatigue, guard against training-induced muscle breakdown, and expedite recovery. WPI and WPH also contain a high proportion of the BCAA leucine, which is one of the most important because of its ability to directly stimulate muscle building by activating a major complex in the protein synthesis pathway called mTOR. Research has shown that leucine has a positive effect on protein metabolism, increasing the rate of protein synthesis, and decreasing the rate of protein degradation after intense training. Aim for a serving of 20 to 30 grams of whey protein that offers up a high concentration of essential BCAAs in every serving.

Rule #3: Become a Sugar Baby. Although you might be tempted to skip out on the carbohydrates, especially straight up sugar, it is actually necessary to drive protein and nutrients into your depleted muscles! Your post-workout meal should contain a source of high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as dextrose, sucrose or straight up table sugar! Sugar is easily digested and can quickly raise blood sugar and, hence, insulin levels. The elevated insulin levels will help to drive fuel into the muscles to help replenish lost muscle glycogen, and will also stimulate muscle synthesis and repair! Try a carbohydrate powder that can be easily mixed with your protein powder. Consume a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein for best results.

Rule #4: Hold the Fat and Fiber. Simply put, fat and fiber slow down digestion. Therefore, if you combine fats or fiber with the two needed components of your post-workout meal as mentioned above, protein and simple carbs, you will only be slowing down their digestion— which, of course, is the exact opposite of what you want to happen.

Rule #5: Grab Recovery Essentials. Be sure to add glutamine and vitamins C and B to your post-workout recovery plan! Supplementing with glutamine can reduce the amount that is robbed from the muscles during training. It has also been found to decrease neutrophils, which cause cell damage, and preserve muscle tissue and have a direct effect on protein metabolism.

As for vitamin C, multiple studies have found blood and plasma levels of vitamin C to be diminished in those who exercise regularly. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect muscle cells from free radical damage by acting as an antioxidant itself and by helping generate other antioxidants.

B vitamins are highly involved in protein metabolism by aiding in the manufacturing of amino acids and are also involved in carbohydrate utilization. Research has shown that athletes have an increased need for B vitamins and that performance can be improved with supplementation. Supplement with 3 to 5 grams of glutamine, 500 mg to 1 gram of vitamin C, and stick to the daily recommended dose of  B vitamins.

Sweeteners

Sugar
In this tip, we’ll look at sugar and fake sugar, and then try to come up with a reasonable strategy to deal with our sweet teeth.

Sugar
Remember, this class is the ultra basics, so instead of using words like saccharide and galactose, let’s just say that sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrates. It’s sweet, yummy, and easy to crave. In nature, it’s found in plants. As you recall from Part I, plants have fiber, and this minimizes sugar’s impact on your system by causing it to be digested slowly. Carbohydrates, whether from potatoes, lentils, or bananas, all break down into sugars in your body, and you use these sugars as fuel when you do stuff. So, if done right, eating carbohydrates is a good thing, especially when you’re active.

Refined sugar, the white grainy stuff you’ll find in gummy bears, chocolate, Coke, and most desserts, is sugar minus the fiber that surrounds it in nature. What you’re left with is a sweet but highly caloric food that your body absorbs very rapidly, causing a “sugar rush.” This “rush” is a temporary imbalance in your system that your body tries to regulate—a spike of energy followed by a lull.

But your body hates the lull, so to bring you back up, it’ll crave, you guessed it, more sugar. It’s an ugly cycle, considering refined sugar’s only nutritional value is similar to a nitrous injection in a race car—a quick burst of energy that burns right out. This might be a good thing if you’re in a drag race (or, in human terms, if you need an extra burst of energy during a workout), but it’s a bad thing any other time because, if you don’t put that excess sugar to use, it gets stored as fat.

Bottom line: Refined sugar is okay for sports performance (while you are skiing, bicycling, running, and so on), but it’s bad at all other times. Unfortunately, we tend to want it at all other times. Therefore, straight sugar consumption should be limited. Now you’re probably wondering, “So the best time to eat gummy bears would be during a marathon instead of at night in front of the TV?” The answer is yes, absolutely. And now you’re probably thinking, “But I want dessert after dinner!” Right, we all do. Something sweet after a meal is pretty darn ingrained in our society.

Artificial Sweeteners
I’m not going to do a breakdown of the artificial sweeteners on the market—because we already have. I recommend that you read “Sweet Nothing,” issue #58 (refer to the Related Articles section below), which will only take you a couple of minutes. Essentially, there are a bunch of different artificial sweeteners to choose from. Most are made of various chemical reactions that your taste buds think are sweet but aren’t used by your body and have zero calories.

There are also some, called sugar alcohols, which have fewer calories than regular sugar because they’ve been combined with an artificial fiber that you can’t digest. These have “-tol” at the end of their names, like “xylitol.” One, Stevia, or “sweet leaf,” is natural. It’s basically a, well, sweet leaf that you can chew on or that we can grind into a powder, like sugar. Now you might be thinking, “This all sounds great! What’s the catch?”

The catch is that a lot of recent science is showing us that calories might not be the only reason we’re fat. In fact, a handful of studies cited in “Sweet Nothing” concluded that those using artificial sweetener regularly tended to be more obese than those who used regular sugar. Then there’s the little fact that sweeteners may not be safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some, but given their track record (Vioxx, etc.), we can easily—and should—be a bit skeptical. With a cursory search of the Internet, you can find both pro and con studies for each alternative sweetener. The FDA is highly influenced by lobbyists and does not accept all viable studies, meaning that you might want more than FDA approval before blindly trusting what you put into your body. So let’s use some logic to try to assess how best to choose a sweetener. By adding two and two together, we should be able stack the odds in our favor.
Time. Saccharin is the most maligned of this bunch, yet it’s been around for more than 100 years and is still on the market. Sure, there is some negative research out there, but it can’t be that bad! A lot of people consume a lot of different artificial sweeteners. If people were dropping like flies, we’d probably hear about it. In fact, sweet leaf has been used for thousands of years. FDA approval or not, that’s what I call time-tested.
Research. If one of these sweeteners were so good, why would other people keep trying to come up with better ones? From this fact alone, we know that at least some of those negative findings must have an inkling of merit.
Money. The influence of big business can keep need-to-know information from the public (again, Vioxx, etc.). Most sweeteners have become American staples, such as aspartame in diet soda.
Artificial or natural? “Artificial” sounds bad and “natural” sounds good. But just because something is natural does not mean it’s good. Tobacco and opium are natural. So, the claim that Stevia is good because “it’s natural” bears little relevance. Many very beneficial drugs are artificial. However, you generally don’t want to take them habitually, which is how some people use artificial sweeteners. Artificial doesn’t mean bad, but it should mean caution.
Anecdotal. I’m going to share two quick stories: First, my sister is a sweet leaf proponent. It’s time-honored and natural but lacks FDA approval. She lobbied Starbucks for a natural alternative to Splenda (chlorinated sugar). She got a long line of positive responses up the chain of command until, finally, they stopped returning her calls. A short time later, her local market (a chain that she used as an example for Starbucks) was forced to stop offering sweet leaf with their coffee and only sell it as a “supplement.” Coincidence or a blatant case of big business (Starbucks and/or the folks who bring you Splenda) using strong-arm tactics against someone who truly cares about your health? In the wake of the FDA scandal, it’s hard not to at least harbor a little suspicion.
Next is a female athlete whom I trained; she could not lose weight, despite being in great shape and eating a strict diet. Her vice was about 100 ounces of no-cal soft drinks per day. She would eye double Big Gulps like a junky does crack. When we were able to get her off the stuff—she even drank some sugared soft drinks to do so—she lost 15 pounds. This example is now being echoed with science. Two large-scale studies spanning many years have shown a link between artificial sweeteners and obesity.
Bottom line: There is no hard evidence that any one sweetener is better than the others. Most likely the stuff won’t kill you, at least not quickly. But given that we also know it’s not 100 percent safe, it would seem wise to limit your consumption as much as possible.

So now that we understand that sugar should be limited, let’s look at some ways to do it.
5 Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
So what’s a dessert-loving health seeker to do? Here are my five favorite ways to cut your sugar consumption without ruining all of your fun:
1. Portion control. I recently saw a sign in a Denny’s window saying, “Remember, an apple a day.” The sign was of an apple surrounded by about 2,000 calories of sugar and fat. Our society has gone crazy for “bigger is better.” After dinner, your body is not hungry. You don’t need 2,000 extra calories. You don’t need 200! If you savor a square of chocolate or a tablespoon of Ben & Jerry’s slowly, it will curb your cravings without a noticeable effect on your diet.

2. Don’t snack on artificial sweeteners. Gum is probably the worst snack because it creates a stimulus-response action that causes you to crave sweet stuff constantly.

3. Add some fruit to your sugar or artificial sweetener. Fruit is both sweet and good for you. However, I realize an apple might not be enough all by itself to satiate your sweet tooth. But you can dress up fruit with a very small amount of a “real” dessert and make it pretty darn decadent.

4. Make sure you have some complex carbs in your diet. This sounds boring, but complex carbs, like whole grains, sweet potatoes, rice, beans, ‘n’ stuff, all slowly break down into blood sugar. If your blood sugar is steady, you won’t crave sugar. You might still habitually crave it, but that’s a ton better than a sugar-crash craving, which will likely lead to bingeing.

5. The protein powder trick. Most protein powders have a small amount of sugar and a touch of artificial sweetener, and are 90 percent protein. If you can find one you like (our Whey Protein Powder is fantastic, ahem, ahem), you might be able to curb your cravings with a high-protein snack. Chalene Johnson, the creator of Turbo Jam®, uses chocolate protein powder as a base for pudding, and Beachbody® advice staff member, Denis Faye, sprinkles it on cereal. If you get creative, the possibilities may be endless.

8 Great Fibrous Foods

High Fiber Foods
How much fiber should we be eating? If you believe the television commercials that run during the nightly news, we’re not even coming close to getting what we need.
First off, let’s look at why fiber is such a big deal. I used to think of fiber as stringy, ropy stuff, like the threads in celery or cabbage. But fiber has actually become a catchall term for any indigestible material that we consume, not all of which is actually fibrous. Cellulose, the building block of much of the fleshy part of fruits and veggies, is an example of non-fibrous fiber. There is soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and helps stabilize blood sugar by slowing the rate of digestion. There is also insoluble fiber, which, as its name would suggest, does not dissolve in water—although it does attract water in the intestinal tract and, well, without getting too graphic, is responsible for the trains running on time, keeping the mail moving, releasing the payload, etc. Most importantly, more and more studies are linking a high-fiber diet to a decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

For optimal health, nutritionists recommend 30 to 38 grams of fiber every day for men and 21 to 25 grams of fiber every day for women. You can find the fiber content of labeled food as a subcategory under carbohydrates. If you’re counting carbs, you can always subtract the amount of fiber from the total number of carbs, because the fiber will only be visiting your body for a little while, unlike the sugars, which, if not burned for fuel, will likely end up stored as fat.

Most studies indicate that Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber, especially with the proliferation of processed foods filled with white flour, which is made only from the fiber-less endosperm of the grain and none of the bran and germ parts that provide the fiber. In fact, if you read labels, it’s pretty rare to find any prepared food that has more than a gram or two of fiber. It can make you despair if you think about having to get to the 21 to 38 grams you need every day. So how can you get your daily dose of fiber without eating yourself into a coma? There are some fiber-rich superfoods that can help get you to your daily recommended allowance, without the coma.

1. Legumes
The humble bean (and also chickpea, lentil, and pea) is chock-full of nutritious fiber. A cup of black beans or lentils contains a whopping 15 grams of fiber—half the daily minimum supply required for a man and more than half the minimum required for a woman. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have 13 grams of fiber. A cup of peas has 9 grams of fiber. The big winner is the cranberry bean with 18 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein. Cranberry beans have a creamy texture and a chestnut-like flavor.

2. Bran
While not as great a source of fiber as beans, they’re still pretty fiber rich, and may not have the unpleasant auditory and olfactory effects associated with excessive bean consumption. A cup of bran flakes has about 7 grams of fiber, and a cup of oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber. Substituting whole-wheat products for their traditional white-flour counterparts is an easy way to work some fiber into your diet without much hassle. A cup of whole-wheat spaghetti has over 6 grams of fiber, and whole-wheat bread has about 2 grams of fiber per slice.

3. Prunes
Not just for old people anymore. Grandpa and Grandma knew what they were doing when they were suffering from constipation. A cup of prunes contains 8 grams of fiber, and the prune’s hydrated counterpart, the plum, is also an excellent source of fiber—prunes/plums contain insoluble fiber in the skin and soluble fiber in the pulp. That’s a two-for-one special!

4. Artichokes
One medium artichoke contains 6.5 grams of fiber. One cup of artichoke hearts contains 14 grams of fiber and only 90 calories. I like to get one of those little jars of marinated artichokes (in vinegar, not oil) and treat myself to eating the whole jar as an afternoon snack or hors d’oeuvre before dinner. Tasty and filling, you’ll eat less at dinner and put a serious dent in your daily fiber tally.

5. Brussels sprouts
Yes, they look like the alien heads from Mars Attacks!, but these little powerhouses pack almost 7 grams of fiber into a 1-cup serving and only about 60 calories. Not everyone is enamored with their slightly chalky taste. I recommend a generous spritz of lemon juice and maybe a dash of soy sauce or Tabasco to enhance the flavor. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is delicious too.

6. Asian pear
According to the Micronutrient Center of theLinus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the Asian pear is one of their five fiber-rich superfoods (legumes, bran, prunes, and quinoa are the others). One Asian pear, about 3 inches in diameter, contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber, the most of any similarly sized fruit. And because it has a higher water content than its European brethren, it only contains around 100 calories. So you can crunch your way to a cleaner colon.

7. Quinoa
Relatively new to the U.S., quinoa has been a South American staple for over 6,000 years. In a 1-cup serving, the edible seeds of the quinoa plant have 10 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein—in fact, quinoa seeds contain many essential amino acids that are missing from rice, proving to be a good substitute for rice. If you check your local health food store, and even some supermarkets, you can find quinoa plain and as a main ingredient in many cereals, breads, and salads.

8. Nuts
Not just filling, heart-healthy snacks, nuts are great sources of fiber (but highly caloric, so nosh carefully). A quarter-cup of almonds has 4 grams of fiber and about 200 calories. It’s another great snack for between meals. Watch out for the salt content in the hickory-smoked varieties. Also, it’s a good idea to portion out a serving size beforehand, so you don’t absentmindedly munch a thousand or so calories from a big bag.