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

Sugar vs. Fat: Which Is Worse?

Sugar
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we bring you The Thriller in Vanilla, the long-awaited fight to crown the World Obesity Federation’s heavyweight champion. It’s the battle to decide, once and for all, which contender is most responsible for making us fat. In one corner, we have our long-reigning champion, The Heartbreak Hammer, Fat! In the other corner, we have the up-and-coming challenger everyone’s been talking about, The Soda Pop Kid, Sugar!

As the undisputed nutrient kings of our fast food world, this is the bout that everyone’s been waiting for. Fat has been the people’s champion for a long time. Sugar, on the other hand, has only been around as long as humans have been altering foods from natural sources. Lately, a lot of money and science have changed our challenger’s traditional fighting style, leading to a string of TKOs (technical knockouts) en route to its shot at the title. Going into tonight’s fight, however, the experts still favor The Champion by 2-to-1 odds.

The tale of the tape
Sugar—Weighing in at 4 calories per gram, the challenger is slight in stature compared to our champion and will look to speed to gain an advantage. Sugar is a carbohydrate, but the form we consume it in is much different than how we find it in nature, where’s it’s surrounded by a fruit, grain, or other plants. The Soda Pop Kid is synthetic crystalline sugar—the kind that goes into soda, candy, and many convenience foods. Its main weapon is the speed with which it rushes into your system.

Fat—At 9 calories per gram, Fat outweighs its challenger by more than double. Unlike Sugar, Fat is its own food group and an essential part of our diets, just like carbohydrates and protein. It’s easily found in nature in many forms and doesn’t need to be processed. This, of course, doesn’t mean we don’t process it when it’s convenient or cost-effective. As opposed to Sugar, Fat moves into your system slowly. Then it remains there for as long as it can. In abundance, it clogs things up. Its main weapon being bulk, its goal is to wear you down.
As you can see, we’ve got a classic tortoise-vs.-hare matchup between these two heavyweights.

A brief history
Sugar—Since all carbohydrates are broken down into sugars in our blood, it’s always been a part of our diets. However, when eaten as a complex carbohydrate or encased in fiber (as in fruit), it affects our bodies differently than it does as processed sugar. Bees were the first sugar producers, and humans have been eating honey for about as long as bees have been making it. However, it didn’t become a major part of our diets until thousands of years later. Westerners began the production of sugar around 1500 BC. Originally made from sugarcane and sugar beets, it’s now manufactured from other crops, like corn and wheat, which makes up the bulk of the sugar consumed in the U.S.

Modern technology has enabled us to tamper further with natural sugar. Traditional sugar, like honey, had a much lower glycemic index (GI) than many modern variations. Since the higher the GI number, the quicker the sugar rushes into your system, we are now essentially able to have sugars affect the body like a drug, creating exaggerated hormonal responses, particularly the hormone insulin. You may have heard of insulin because, when we have trouble producing it, we have a disease called diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the result of eating poorly. It’s also the fastest-growing disease in the world, which, in Sugar’s camp, means they think it’s time for a shot at the title.

Fat—Like we stated earlier, fat is dense—it has a lot of calories for its size. It’s also an essential nutrient and helps us feel satiated or full. Therefore, when we’re hungry, we tend to crave it. And since we don’t really need much of it, it’s very easy to overeat. When we eat more food than we can put to good use, our bodies store it in adipose tissue. We call this tissue fat, or fat tissue. But it’s not really fat, as in the kind we eat. It’s something else. Well, it’s adipose tissue, but we’ve always called it fat. Anyway, the point is that we call it fat whether we get it from eating too much fat, too much protein, too much sugar, or too many carbs, or by drinking too much alcohol. And because of this, Fat gets a worse rap than it deserves.

But make no mistake, fat is formidable. We like fat. We like it a lot. Many fat-laden foods are considered delicacies. And we like fat so much that we’ve found ways to consume just the bad parts of fat that serve little to no dietary purpose. Stuff like butter, margarine, lard, and trans fats are completely unnecessary for our survival. Yet, somehow, our culture has taught us to crave such things. And these cravings have led to heart disease becoming the planet’s most popular way to kill people. Fat has been the undisputed champion of the obesity world for a long, long time. It’s not going to relinquish this title easily.

So let’s get ready to rumble!
Round 1: Smaller but faster, Sugar comes out in a rush and pummels Fat mercilessly. Because of The Kid’s smaller stature, Sugar’s punches seem to have little effect on The Champ. But Fat hardly lands a punch himself and is looking old and slow. Could The Hammer’s reign be over?

Round 2: The Sugar rush comes to a quick crash. The Champ, in no rush himself, seizes control of the pace and takes the round.

Round 3: All of our sponsors are major lobbyists on the side of Sugar. The Kid replenishes with some Gatorade and responds in another flurry of activity. The Champ is back on his heels, waiting for The Kid’s next inevitable crash.

Round 4: The Kid jabs, moves, and controls the pace, but The Champ seems unfazed. Fat knows that Sugar is only an effective nutrient during and immediately after activity, when blood sugar is being used up. So Sugar must keep moving, otherwise it has no nutrient value. The Hammer, being experienced, is willing to bide his time and wait for an opening.

Round 5: Sugar bobs and weaves, employing a psychological game that confounds The Champ. Complex carbohydrates and the simple carbs in fruit break down slowly and provide sustained energy during performance. This gives Sugar an advantage of public misconception because the junk food sugar can be lumped together with healthy carbohydrates. This underhanded attack is clearly something Fat hadn’t counted on. It seems to anger The Hammer.

Round 6: The Champ counters, big time. Two can play the public misconception card, and Fat uses its adipose tissue to absorb all of The Kid’s body blows. The statement that size matters seems to be holding true. In spite of nearly unending corporate support, Sugar seems to be tiring and its punches are growing less and less effective.

Round 7: Fat is now clearly in control of the bout and uses a cholesterol combo to further weaken The Kid. The Hammer’s corner men, Meat and Dairy, are loaded with it, and too much cholesterol is a major cause of heart disease. Could this spell the end for the gallant challenger?

Round 8: A savvy move saves The Kid, who notes that cholesterol is a necessary part of a healthy diet, and that with a proper ratio of fiber and complex carbs, it will have little negative effect. It’s a beautiful defensive move, but how long can it work? The Hammer just seems to be warming up his arsenal.

Round 9: Offended by The Kid’s trickery, Fat comes out smokin’ and unloads an entire 7-Eleven of chips, whipped cream, hot dogs, margarine, and even “vegetable” oils at The Kid. Since they all lead to heart disease, now the leading cause of death in the world, Sugar’s only defense is the rope-a-dope. He’s clearly in serious trouble.

Round 10: Down goes Sugar! The Champ plants a trans fat to the head and levels the challenger. This could be it, folks. The Kid staggers to his feet, but the referee has stepped in. He seems to be holding up a can of Crisco to see if Sugar can identify what hit him. If not, he’s going to stop it. Oh, but wait a minute! The Kid seems to be okay, and even looks to be smiling. The ref flashes a thumbs-up and the fight continues. Sugar dances away from a series of haymakers. The Hammer obviously wants to end the contest right now. But he can’t connect. The Kid survives! In his corner, he’s given a Coke.

Round 11: His face is bloodied, but The Kid is back at work. The Champ’s attack has been slowed with the news that the Food and Drug Administration has required that trans fat be listed on the side of every food label, while sugar, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and glucose syrups can be used with virtually no regulation. This tactic has clearly befuddled The Hammer, whose punches are beginning to miss more often than they connect.

Round 12: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a new fight! Left for dead just a few rounds ago, Sugar is now controlling the pace. Still a long way behind on points, the challenger is using an intriguing combination that’s hurting The Champion. But The Champ fights back. The Champ first points out that many fats—the type in nuts, olives, seeds, avocados, fish, and many other foods—are essential for optimal health and then notes that nothing in sugar is needed for human survival; he then combines that with the fact that a “no fat” label can be on a food containing 100 percent sugar. Then he uses the fact that sugar alters the body’s pH levels, a clear example that an all-sugar food is far worse than a no-fat food. That’s gotta hurt.

Round 13: The credit probably goes to The Hammer’s corner men, all major corporate CEOs, but Sugar has got to be one of the craftiest fighters in history. He comes after Fat with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fibromyalgia, an offensive that clearly caught The Champ off guard. Apparently, they’re illnesses attributed in part to excessive sugar in one’s diet leading to insulin-resistance problems. The Hammer may have amassed enough points to win a decision but is now clearly on the defensive and reeling. Who knows what The Kid’s got up his sleeve at this point?

Round 14: With only one round to go, Sugar swings wildly with a combination of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and soda pop. This is one of the most lethal offensive combinations in the history of obesity! HFCS is the cheapest and lowest-quality sugar produced, and is now added to many items that aren’t even sweet—things like salad dressings and peanut butters, items once clearly in Fat’s corner. And soda, a substance with no nutritional value whatsoever, has become the singularly most consumed item on the planet. I don’t see how The Champ can survive this. He’s staggering around the ring, basically out on his feet! Somehow, and it must be experience, The Hammer avoids going down.

Round 15: It all comes down to this: one round to crown the World Champion of Obesity. Fat, the longtime champ, is clearly in trouble but still has enough points to win thanks to his mid-fight dominance. But Sugar has owned the latter rounds thanks to heavy lobbying, effective marketing, deregulation, and public misconception. The Champ was barely on his feet at the end of round 14, and his corner is working furiously to limit the damage. The question is, does Sugar’s corner have one last trick up its sleeve?

And here we go . . .: The Champ still manages to show some swagger, and comes out flashing heart disease as the number one killer, recently eclipsing lung disease and cigarettes—no slouch in the death department. But Sugar barely flinches and counters with type 2 diabetes, the fastest-growing illness in the world, that’s almost single-handedly controlled by Sugar. It’s like Ali’s “anchor punch” against Liston. And it sends The Champ sprawling. Down goes Fat! Down goes Fat!

And I don’t think the Champ will be rising from this one. Nope. Fat is out cold. The Hammer’s reign is over. There’s a new kid in town. Sugar is elated, dancing around the ring and pointing at the crowd, screaming, “I want YOU! I want YOU!” Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the NEW heavyweight champion of the obesity world: SUGAR!

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.

10 Foods You Should Eat

Superfoods
We’ve all heard about superfoods—consumables with mystical powers to cure whatever it is that ails you and that will help you live forever. This list will be different. Today we’ll look at some common items that should be on your menu, even though you probably haven’t heard them touted as the next great miracle cure. In fact, some of these you probably thought were bad for you. I begin this list with a caveat; we’re all different. One person’s superfood is another’s trip to the emergency room (soy comes to mind here). There are some nutritional factors we all share, such as the need to eat a certain amount of calories that come from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to keep our bodies functioning as they should. Beyond this, our exact dietary needs begin to diverge.

There are some obvious reasons for this. Lifestyle and activity level are pretty easy to understand. That someone who is pregnant or training for an Ironman needs more calories than a computer programmer who sits for 14 hours a day isn’t difficult to fathom. Neither is the fact that a 90-pound ballerina uses less fuel than a 350-pound lineman. That we all eat a different number of calories and a different percentage of fats, proteins, and especially carbs is obvious, or at least should be, since the bigger you are and the harder you work the more fuel your body needs to recharge itself.

What’s more subtle are body type differences. These can be difficult to understand, and many people never figure them out. Blood type, heredity, and other factors come into play and make each of us unique individuals. When it comes to eating, most of us spend a fair portion of our lives figuring out just what we should be eating to maximize our life experience (which doesn’t necessarily mean we choose the healthiest options). For this reason, there is no true “superfood.” There are, however, helpful foods that are specific to each of us. By experimenting with our diets, we will all find a course of eating that makes us feel better than anything else.

To help you begin your self-experiment, here’s a list of common foods that you’ll want to try. Most of these are very healthy for almost everyone, even though some have been vilified by society. This doesn’t mean that they’ll transform you into an epitome of health, but they’re certainly worth a try.

1. Peanut butter
I’m leading with this because I’m fairly certain peanut butter single-handedly kept me from getting chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) during the no-fat 90s. In the early 90s, the average amount of fat in our daily diets plummeted while the incidence of CFS* (the colloquial veil for debilitating disorders marked by chronic mental and physical exhaustion) skyrocketed. This was particularly true among the otherwise healthy endurance sports sect. In the early 90s, my body fat was once recorded at 2 percent. Sure, I was ripped. Healthy? Not so much. I’m pretty sure that only my adherence to peanut butter as a healthy fat source kept my athletic obsession intact.

A bevy of modern studies now vindicates my opinion with science. Peanuts are high in both fat and calories but their fat has been associated with decreased total cholesterol and lower LDL and triglyceride levels. It’s also high on the satiation meter, meaning that a little can fill you up.

2. Cabbage
Every Asian culture, as well as European, eats more cabbage than we do and it’s time we thought about it more often than when we happen to splurge on P.F. Chang’s. Cabbage is absurdly low in calories and very high in nutrients. Among these is sulforaphane, which a Stanford University study showed as boosting cancer-fighting enzymes more than any other plant chemical.

3. Quinoa
This “grain” isn’t technically a grain at all. It just tastes like one. It’s actually a relative of spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. All of these are extremely healthy from a nutrient point of view, but quinoa is the only one that can fool you into thinking you’re eating a starch. It’s high in protein, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

4. Spelt
This one is actually a grain but its origin is slightly mysterious. Some claim it comes from wheat while others say it’s a different species. Regardless, it has a high nutritional profile and can be eaten by many people with gluten intolerance, making it a good alternative to wheat products. Spelt can be found in many products, but as it’s still considered a “health food,” it’s off the major processing radar. Unlike wheat, if spelt is on the ingredients list, it’s probably good for you.

5. Walnuts
All nuts, really, but walnuts seem to be the king of the nut family. Used in Chinese medicine for centuries, walnuts are becoming more associated with Western health than ever before. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating walnuts after a meal high in bad fat could reduce the damaging effects of the meal.

6. Avocado
Another villain in the old no-fat movement, avocados are now thought to be one of the healthiest fat sources available. Beyond this, they have very high amounts of cancer-fighting antioxidants, and recent research seems to indicate that avocados’ phytonutrients may also help with the absorption of nutrients from other sources.

7. Mushrooms
The more we learn about phytonutrients—those that come in a small enough quantity to be missed on a food label (this is a layman’s definition only)—the more we should admire ancient cultures. These culinary delights have been feuded over for decades until, for some reason, we’d decided they were pretty much empty calories. The study of phytonutrients has taught us that warring over fungi may have held some rationale after all. Mushrooms are loaded with antioxidants and are thought to boost the immune system, help ward off some cancers, and have high amounts of potassium. Furthermore, researchers at Penn State University have found that mushrooms may be the only food to contain an antioxidant called L-ergothioneine.

8. Tea
Despite a ton of positive press over the last, oh, century, tea and coffee are still the devil’s brew in some circles. Perhaps even worse is how many coffee and tea restaurants have bastardized these natural brews into sugar- and fat-filled dessert items. Both tea and coffee, in their basic states, have no calories and many healthy benefits. Between the two, coffee is arguably more popular, most likely due to its higher caffeine content. But tea is probably healthier. Both have a high amount of antioxidants but stats on tea are almost off the charts. A recent study on calcium supplementation in elderly women, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that bone mineral density at the hip was 2.8 percent greater in tea drinkers than in non-tea drinkers.

9. Cinnamon
Maybe the novel Dune was more prescient than we’ve given it credit for. After all, the plot revolves around an entire solar system at war over a cinnamon-like spice. Nowadays, we think of this as little but the flavoring in a 1,100-calorie gut bomb we find at the mall. But Frank Herbert knew a thing or two about history and cinnamon has long been the prized possession of the spice world. It has a host of benefits, but perhaps none more important than this one: USDA researchers recently found that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed one gram of cinnamon a day for six weeks significantly reduced their blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. “He who controls the spice controls the universe!”

10. Natto
This is on the list because, for one, it’s one of the few foods I’ve eaten that I truly don’t like. But mainly, it’s here because we’ve really messed up the way we eat soy. Natto is fermented soybeans and very popular in Japan, which is where I had it. It’s becoming more popular here and this is most likely due to its health benefits. Nearly all the soy options we’re offered in the U.S. are non-fermented. The list of health benefits of fermented soy is a mile long. It’s associated with reducing the risk of cancer, minimizing the likelihood of blood clotting, aiding digestion, increasing blood circulation, an improved immune system, improving bone density, lessening the likelihood of heart attacks, more vibrant skin, and reducing the chance of balding. And it also has strong antibiotic properties, among other things. So you might want to ditch the soy crisps, soy ice cream, and your iced soy mochas and add some natto to your diet.