Category Archives: Fitness

How much protein do you really need?

Hello readers and friends!

It has been over a year since my last post and I have MISSED you. Blogging for the medical practice that I work for and other business and creative projects has really sapped my writing-time, but I am back! At least, I am going to try. :)

Today, I want to give a quick summary on how much protein is appropriate for an individual, as this is something that varies based on genetics, height and weight, body composition, goals, and activity level. After reading many studies, it is clear that while we do not know the exact amount or protein appropriate for everyone, the RDA underestimates our needs. The RDA says .8 grams per KILOGRAM of bodyweight is fine, but this quantity leads to negative nitrogen balance in multiple studies. Negative nitrogen balance means that the body is losing more nitrogen than gaining, aka losing muscle mass, which is rich in nitrogen-containing amino acids.

Assuming a person is does not have any confounding medical conditions (like kidney failure), here are the recommendations that the literature points to as the current best guess:

People engaging in strength training:  1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein per kg bodyweight daily. Note: It is important to get this amount even on days when you are not training, as those are the days that muscular repair is occurring.

People engaging in endurance training: 1.2 – 1.6 grams per kg bodyweight daily.

Non-exercising maintenance: 1.2 grams per kg bodyweight daily. For those who are inactive or taking an extended break from exercise.

Calories and protein have interesting relationship. You may be able to ‘get away with’ eating less protein if you eat more calories, and conversely, eating more protein at a lower calorie intake may spare muscle while losing weight. So, the lower you are on these ranges for protein, the more important overall calorie and macronutrient intake is.

How determine what these ranges mean for you: Take your weight in pounds and convert it to kilograms (multiply times 0.453). Then, multiply that number by the  low- and high-end factors to see what your daily range is.

Before weight training and interval training, it is best to get a small portion of carbohydrate in at least an hour beforehand. This will provide glycogen/glucose substrate for a better workout, as these more intense workouts tend to burn more glycogen than fat during the exercise session itself (and more fat in the hours following).

As far as protein timing, protein before a work out is fine, as it will still be digested during and after the workout. The key is to get enough protein each day, regardless of timing. However, there is some minor benefit to getting protein in within the 30 minute window after a workout. If you have muscle gain goals, having a protein shake (or protein rich meal) right after weight training could be beneficial. Protein powders are processed and are utilized more quickly than whole foods, so they are best used during or after workouts rather than before. Studies on supplements are pretty inconclusive or unconvincing, so they probably are not needed. If you really want to, branched chain amino acids have the most science to justify their use for muscular repair and reduced soreness.

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Feed the lifts!!!! 

What you don’t know about personal trainers

I am no longer personal training, but I did put in about 5 months at a large commercial gym chain that most everyone has heard of. I went in excited to help people get stronger and fitter and ended up looking forward to leaving the job, as it wasn’t what I had expected. At all.

1. The certification matters.

When you think of a personal trainer, you probably picture a hyper-fit burly dude whose knowledge does not extend much past the perfect ratio of eccentric to concentric motion during a bicep curl for max muscle gainzz. While there may be a few of those out there, most personal trainers are very intelligent and driven people. Most gyms will not hire you without a certification, and some are much better than others. NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is the best certification and it is not easy to attain. With a BS in biochemistry under my belt, I thought the exam would be a cinch. It was fine, but I certainly had to put in a good amount of studying for it. The level of biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy is surprising – and necessary for the makings of a good personal trainer. There are definitely some good trainers out there without that cert, but if I was going to hire a trainer, I would make sure they had the NASM CPT. If you have a solid personal trainer, there will be a lot of science behind their programming for you.

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2. They are under tremendous sales pressure.

I had no idea that personal trainers had to meet monthly minimums in multiple categories until I was actually in the position. 500$ a month in supplements, 3,000$ in personal training, and 5 new clients per month or you don’t get your commission. In order to meet these numbers, trainers often bump down the pricing of their training, which means they get paid less for each session. If you are paying 100$ per session, they are only seeing about 20 or 25$ of that. If they lower their price to 80$ a session, a “special deal for you” of course, they are getting even less. And it is not just the personal trainers that are under pressure. The membership team has minimums they need to make by the end of each month too, and the chain manager doesn’t get his bonus if everyone beneath him doesn’t meet their quotas, so he or she is on everyone all the time. If you want to get the lowest price possible for your gym membership, go at the end the month. If you want to take full advantage of the system, you can probably try the gym for free for up to a week during the month and sign up at the end for the lowest price. You will also likely be offered a free personal training session, which you could utilize. Having been on the other side though, if you know for certain you aren’t going to buy a package, it would be kind of you to not use that time with a trainer. They won’t be paid for it and they could use that time training a paying customer or trying to find new clientele.

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3. A good training program may seem easy at first.

Everyone has muscle imbalances and asymmetries that need to be corrected before going hard and heavy. A responsible trainer will identify these weak spots and have their client begin their training program with a stabilization phase. This phase may be short or long, depending on how out of whack the body is and is necessary to correct the body’s alignment and bring it to a state that able to perform exercises with proper, safe form. The stabilization phase is light and repetitive and may not seem like it is doing much. It is, and it’s setting the foundation for a safe and maximally beneficial program to follow. You will never reach your max strength potential if you do not first achieve a base level of stability, flexibility, and muscular balance.

4. The best trainer in the world cannot make up for a shitty diet.

It is okay to not work out and eat tons of sugar and processed foods, just like it is technically okay to harm your own body in every other way. However, if you choose do these things, take responsibility for your actions. I think it is wrong that the government and media push false information about nutrition and health to the public and I want to help make the truth widely known so that each and every person can make informed decisions about their lifestyle. However, once a person has done their homework and knows the full story, whatever they choose to do or not do is fine with me. If you are not meeting your weight loss goals and are working out every single day with your trainer while eating cereal, sandwiches, candy, soda, and other crap – don’t blame the trainer. Your weight and the way your body looks is majorly a function of what you put in your mouth. Working out can alter what your body does with the food that you eat, but that has its limits. (In addition, of course, to the awesome health, mental, physical, and emotional benefits of exercise!)

5. I truly think that everyone can benefit from at least a couple sessions with a solid personal trainer.

Whether you are a seasoned lifter or fitness newb, spending some time with a personal trainer can help you. It is incredibly important to have proper form when exercising, and most people do not. Personal trainers can help you break through strength plateaus, lose weight, learn proper technique, and be there to support you and your goals. They want you to succeed! I know that personal training is expensive for many people, so if you want to get the most out of your 55 minute session, warm up and stretch before you meet with the trainer! These things are required before a safe session, so if you don’t want to allocate paid time to them, be sure to come early and gitterdone!

If you have any questions – leave a comment! :)

Combating holiday feast weight gain

To avoid holiday weight gain, people often make the mistake of under-eating during the day to make up for the feasting of the evening. This is bad because

a) you will likely be extremely hungry and mow down on rich holiday fare

b) the food you will be eating more of is probably less healthy than what you would normally eat

and c) depending on your body type and what you eat that day, you may lose a bit of muscle mass…and gain fat mass.

If you are going to work out before a feast, lift weights. The insulin coursing through your veins after dinner will be anabolic and your muscles will get ample signals to grow.

If you are going to work out after a feast, lift weights or do cardio. Preferably sprints or intervals, but try not to vomit. Doing cardio before a big meal might end up just making you hungrier, but doing it after will stimulate the hormone epinephrine (which tells the body to release fat and glycogen  stores) to balance out the ridiculously high blood insulin and sugar levels.

After our Christmas dinner tonight (Mom wanted to have leftovers for the rest of our family visit), I did a workout that anyone could do – anywhere. Not gonna lie, I started to cramp up at the beginning, but it passed quickly… Worth it.

Download the free iPhone app Seconds and create a high intensity interval timer with 1 minute hard 1 minute easy, 15 rounds, for a total of 30 minutes of work.

The Shut Up and Do It Workout

  • 10 minute jog

Choose whichever of the following exercises you feel like at the moment and do it for 1 minute, repeat with different exercises until the 30 minutes are up. If you don’t have dumbbells or something heavy, just do the ones you can.

  • Jumping jacks
  • V-ups
  • Box jumps
  • Mountain climbers
  • Fire hydrant kicks
  • Squat jumps
  • Lunge jumps
  • Booty leg lifts
  • Lunges
  • Dumbbell swings
  • Bridges
  • Dumbbell snatches
  • Alternating crunch up-toe touches
  • Leg lifts
  • Pushups
  • Pull ups
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep dips
  • Dumbbell flys
  • Jumping jacks
  • Butt kicks
  • Long jumps
  • Step ups (one leg at a time)

GO DO IT!

‘duck liver mousse?’ ‘omg so much vitamin A!’

It is almost Wednesday and that means I get to go home to Texas for a week! I’ve been looking forward to seeing family, high school friends, and eating Tex-Mex and BBQ for months now.

Today, though, was wonderful as well. I started the day off with the usual coffee and greek yogurt bowl and then headed to Crunch to workout.

This workout killed my glutes. If you want to build a booty, do this workout 2x a week and get at least a gram of protein per pound of goal weight per day.

  • Barbell squats, 5 sets 0f 15, 95#
  • Barbell lunges, 5 sets of 15 per leg, 65#
  • 100 incline situps
  • Barbell thrusts (where you do a bridge with a barbell laying over your hips), 4 sets of 15, 115#

For lunch, I made a quick, easy and paleo…

bacon butternut squash soup

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Recipe: serves 1

  • 2 cups roasted butternut squash
  • 1/2 tbsp grass fed butter
  • 1 slice bacon, crispy
  • 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth (or more if desired)
  • 1 tbsp yellow onion
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • shake of salt
  • shake of freshly ground pepper
  • optional: for protein, once the soup is prepared, feel free to throw in grass fed beef, chicken, turkey, or even eggs!
  • optional: 1-2 tbsp almond or peanut butter to top (I loved the soup with almond butter)

Directions – Combine the squash, butter, bacon, broth, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. Heat and add your protein and/or nut butter topping and enjoy!

After lunch, two my my closest friends from UC Davis came to visit and we went for a walk along the coast.

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nutrition biochemistry nerdz 4 lyfe.

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golden gate bridge

Afterwards, we went to State Bird Provisions for dinner. It is New American fusion served dim sum style, so you order lots of smaller plates. Very cool! I didn’t take any photos of dinner, but it was insanely delicious. We got

  • almond biscuits with duck liver mousse
  • hamachi spring rolls with persimmon
  • garlic bread with burrata
  • seafood salsa with avocado cream
  • glazed pork ribs with chard and togarashi (my fave!)
  • red trout with hazel and mandarin brown butter

Gah, I am salivating just rehashing the details. I should go pack. Have a wonderful  Wednesday!

mongolian beef

Happy Monday dear readers! I hope your weekend was both relaxing and fun and that all of you on the East coast are safe! 

My weekend was packed. Between going out dancing in costume, helping a friend move, going for a lap swim (with my Olympic qualifying room mate…), and watching the Giants win the World Series, I did not sit down! Unfortunately, the state of my room and laundry piles are extremely compelling evidence to the craziness of the weekend. Usually Sundays are devoted to things like cleaning, laundry, and food prep, but I decided to go watch the Giants game at a sports bar in the Marina. I am so glad that I went. I have never seen so many strangers bond, dance, jump, and scream like that. 

The bar after the Giants won. Champagne showers… 

making new friends!

the streets post-game

I have to admit though, I am happy it is the workweek where I can sink into my schedule, work out, and eat healthy, homemade food all week. Today’s workout is going to look something like this:

Booty Building Workout

The squat pyramid

  • 5 squats, 95#
  • 5 squats, 105#
  • 5 squats, 115#
  • 5 squats, 125#
  • 5 squats, 135#
  • to (almost) failure, 155#
  • to (almost) failure, 145# then 135#, then 125#, then 115#, then 105#, then 95#

3 sets of 8-12 at a challenging weight

  • lat pull downs
  • walking lunges holding DB in each hand
  • rows
  • incline sit ups

The recipe for today is not completely paleo but is far healthier than your typical takeout version of Mongolian beef, which is usually loaded with sugar!

Healthier Mongolian Beef

Recipe: Serves  2 – HIGH PROTEIN, DAIRY FREE, LOW SUGAR

adapted from very culinary
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup NuNaturals Baking Blend Stevia
  • 1/2 tsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2-2/3 lb flank steak
  • 2 tbsp white whole wheat flour (or tapioca or potato starch)
  • 1 green onion

Directions – For the sauce, heat 1 tsp of coconut oil in a sauce pan over medium low heat. Add the fresh ginger and garlic to the pan, quickly followed by the soy sauce and water. Add the baking stevia (or sugar) to the sauce and raise the heat to medium and boil for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce is thicker. Remove the pan from heat.

Slice the steak into bite size pieces. Lightly dust the pieces of steak with the flour or starch. Let sit for 5-10 minutes so the starch sticks. During that time, heat up 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a pan on medium-high heat, until hot but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and saute for just about two minutes or until the beef is darkened on the edges. Remove the beef and place on a clean towel. Put the pan with the sauce back on the medium heat and put the meat back into the pan to simmer for 1 minute. Add the green onions.

Serve the beef with steamed broccoli and your choice of carbohydrate (like soba noodles, quinoa, rice, potatoes, or more broccoli!). Use the extra sauce for the veggies, etc.

killer bacon broccoli salad.

Hello everyone!

I seem to have a penchant for obnoxiously long domain names, as I have purchased TheInformedHealthNut.com as the new home for this blog!

So much has happened in the last month, I can’t even fathom it. I have now been working in the doctor office for almost two months and have really been enjoying it. Although, I definitely need to go work attire shopping. But with what time?!

Those work flats are not happening anymore, though. I was beginning to experience some foot pain (eek!), so I went to see a new orthopedic doctor here in the city. We determined that it was walking around the city in my work flats and lugging my laptop that was causing the pain. Thus, tennis shoes are now being worn with my work outfits when in public. So fashionable..

Speaking of work clothes, I now get to get paid to wear spandex and knee socks to work! Last night was my first shift at Crunch Fitness on New Montgomery. I will be working there part time as a personal trainer. The vibe is awesome. It is not too frou frou like some gyms in the city, but it is still a nice facility and very high energy. People go there to work out and make changes, not merely see and be seen. I am excited to fill up my schedule with clients and work with them on their fitness and nutrition! If you live in the Bay Area, come see me for a free hour evaluation and work out! One of the trainers asked me to give him a CrossFit style workout for him last night between clients, so I put him through this wretched little number:

5 Rounds For Time

  • 22 wall balls, 20# ball
  • 30 dumbbell snatches (15 per hand), 50# DB
  • 22 box jumps, 24 inches

As far as San Fran living, I have been doing as much as possible. My logic is that if I am going to pay enough in rent to sustain a family of 4 in the Midwest, than I better live the life of four people each month. Activities have included:

attending my first Giant’s game (going to the World Series!!!!) and watching the Blue Angels fly overhead

 Hardly Strictly bluegrass festival

hiking to the beach + exploring the Mission and most of the other ‘hoods

going to the flea market with Natalie + exploring several food and cultural festivals

I have surely bored you all to tears with all my talk of stress fractures, so I am going to sum this up as quickly as possible. At the beginning of October, I got the OK to lifting weights again. Have been loving it. Started to get a bit of foot pain, but not during workouts. Saw a doc and figured it out. Am currently lifting and being cautious. Get to add in some running in November. Get to add in CrossFit style workouts/ lifts in December. Done.

Endurance Focused Lifting Workout

5 sets of:

  • 20 backsquats, 95#
  • 12 military presses, 45#

4 sets of: 

  • 20 deadlifts, 115#
  • 15 lateral DB raises, 10#

Between my two jobs, I now work from 10:3o am to 9 pm with a break to work out in there. Thus, I have to bring both my lunch and dinner with me each day. This is going to make recipe posts more difficult, but hopefully it will be a great way to learn how to make portable meals that are suitable for work  that are actually tasty and healthy. Expect that in the near future! A recent fave…

Addictive Bacon Broccoli Salad

Recipe: Serves 2 as a side

  • 3 cups raw broccoli, chopped
  • 2-3 slices of bacon
  • 3 tbsp sweet onion, finely diced
  • 3 tbsp light mayo
  • 1 tbsp greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • salt, to taste

Directions – Cook the bacon in the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes, until very crispy. Lay on a paper towel to drain. Once cooled, crumble into bits. Combine the broccoli, bacon bits, diced onion, mayo, Greek yogurt, honey, apple cider vinegar, raisins, and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Taste and adjust to personal preference. Enjoy!

What I Ate Wednesday: Moving edition!

Moving time always brings about my most creative, disgusting, and occasionally accidental-genius meals, so this

is all about using up the random ingredients in the fridge. Breakfast has been a desperate attempt to finish up all my various protein powders. I didn’t realize I was such a whey protein ho?…

protein waffles topped with coconut butter, almond butter, brasil nut butter, and suga free maple syrup!

After breakfast, I read for a while, packed more, and then hit the gym. Since studying for my personal training certification, I have realized that I need to change up my lifting workouts! I always was aiming for high weight, low reps in order to get stronger and build more muscle, but now I am understanding the importance of having days that are aimed at muscular endurance. It was so much fun to do something new(ish) at the gym!

Foot Injury Friendly Lifting Workout 

If possible, do each pair of exercises by alternating sets. AKA, do a set of 15 reps of one exercise, then a set of 15 reps of the other exercise, and repeat 5 times. Pick a weight that you can complete the full 15 reps. 

  • Bench press and Leg extension machine
  • Lat pull down and Hamstring flexion machine (where you are on your stomach and pull your feet back) 
  • Back extensions holding weight plate and tricep raises holding weight plate

After that workout I was ready for lunchLindsay inspired me a while ago to use broccoli slaw mixed with canned tuna, greek yogurt, and spices to make a healthy salad. This has turned into a go to meal that is easy, quick, healthy, and satisfying both physically and mentally. The possibilities are endless!

The Go-To Lunch Salad

Recipe: Serves 1 – high protein, low carb, grain free

  • the protein: canned tuna or sardines or salmon
  • the sauce: 1 tbsp mayo + 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • the veggies: my favorite is broccoli slaw + chopped red bell pepper + diced onion. or any salad greens, sprouts, shaved carrots, tomatoes, etc.
  • the spices: my favorite combo is curry powder, salt, pepper, raisins, and a splash of red wine vinegar and worchesire sauce. or mustard, honey, and a dash of red wine vinegar with slivered almonds. or lemon juice, lemon pepper, honey, a pinch of cumin, and a dash of white wine vinegar.

Dinner was left over chicken breast and roasted sweet potato with the a green bean salad on the side. I had this recipe pinned for months now and realized it was the perfect opportunity to use up the rest of my blue cheese and make a dent in my walnut oil and walnut stash. I was not expecting it to be fabulous – but it was. So much so that I immediately made another batch for tomorrow!

green bean salad with walnut oil, black walnuts, and blue cheese

Recipe: Serves 2

slightly adapted from cooking spree

  • 1 bag of green beans
  • 1 1/2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup black walnuts, chopped
  • handful of blue cheese, crumbled
  • salt, to taste

DirectionsHer directions are totally different than mine and will probably yield tastier beans, but I wanted to make this quickly. Add the beans to a large bowl with a drizzle of water, cover, and microwave until softened, about 3 minutes. Drain the water. Add the oil, salt, and blue cheese and toss so that the beans are evenly covered. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts and enjoy!

And we mustn’t forget dessert….

Peanut.

butter.

bacon.

cookies.

Clearly, I can’t contain my excitement.

Recipe to come… ;)