Gear up for Summer with These Simple Changes to Your Diet
Living a healthier lifestyle does not have to mean making major changes or depriving yourself of the things you love. Bigger does not always mean better, especially when it comes to your health. Too many changes at once can seem overwhelming, unattainable and you may feel tempted to revert to old habits. It’s about making small, simple changes that are manageable and maintaining those changes until it eventually becomes a habit.
Here are some easy tips that can help you achieve a healthier you for the fast approaching summer.
Planning your meals ahead of time is one of the easiest ways to help stay on track from week to week. Packing lunches for the week saves time in the morning, especially if you are always on the go.
Put a few chicken breasts or pulled pork in the crockpot on Sunday and use the meat to create different meals throughout the week. This also goes for snacks – pre-cutting fruits and vegetables or setting out protein packed snacks the night before, such as non-fat Greek yogurt, will decrease mindless eating and will help keep you satisfied throughout the day.
Looking for a simple crockpot recipe for a protein packed lunch? Try Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Cilantro Lime Quinoa!
Let’s not forget the most important meal of the day – breakfast. Easy, grab & go options for breakfast will set you up for success in the morning and keep you on track until lunch time. Veggie Egg White Muffins are super quick and simple to meal prep. Overnight oats or nutrient dense smoothies are also easy to prep ahead and take little to no time. Traditional hard-boiled eggs is another simple food to prep ahead and can be added to any meal or snack to get a little extra protein.
It is important to stay hydrated, especially now that the warmer months will soon be upon us. Hotter temperatures cause you to sweat at a higher rate, which results in water loss.
We all know water is essential for many important processes in the body. Having a reusable water bottle on hand will make drinking water more convenient. You will be more likely to consume more water if it is always within reach.
More consumption of water throughout the day will increase your sense of fullness and decrease overeating at meal times.
Sugary beverages, such as fruit juice and soda, are full of empty calories and will only leave you bloated and not feeling your best. Don’t drink your calories, and limit sugary beverages if you can.
Add fresh fruit and herbs, such as lemon and mint, to your water bottle for a refreshing and flavorful substitute. If it is the carbonation you are missing, opt for a natural flavored seltzer. Fresh fruit and herbs are also great when making cocktails at home to add flavor and sweetness without all the sugary calories. Replacing syrupy cocktail mixers with flavored seltzer or kombucha will also help cut down on the sugar.
The key to a balanced and wholesome meal: make half of your plate vegetables! Put vegetables as the main star of your dish, or add vegetables to meals you wouldn’t normally such as an omelet or on your favorite sandwich.
One of the simplest meals to prepare if you are lacking on the vegetable front for the week is a lean-meat burger or veggie burger, instead of using a bun, put the burger on top of veggies and greens. Incorporating veggies in each meal will not only add color for a more appealing dish but will also fill you up and decrease the chances of going back for seconds or indulging in dessert.
All good things come to those who wait. Be patient and trust the process. Incorporate these healthful tips to a better you and these changes will become a part of your daily routine before you know it.
What are some of your best tricks to stay on track and prepare for summer? Comment and share below!
Doing things in an efficient way is important. None of us want to waste time on a task. As we pointed out in last month’s blog post, our time is extremely valuable!
But in this age of life-hacks and shortcuts, we often substitute hard work for convenience.
To further accentuate this point, Navy Seal and Ultra-Athlete David Goggins says this in his book Can’t Hurt Me:
As David stresses over and over in his book, the process and struggle of learning, failing, and spending time bettering yourself is much more important than any easy-button outcome. We should look to move beyond the life hack and instead embrace the challenges that come our way.
Sure, if you can do something quicker without sacrificing the quality of your work, then do so. Sometimes just focusing on a task deeply is all it takes to halve the completion time of a task. But for things like fitness, groundbreaking professional work, or even mastery of a skill, there is no such thing as a shortcut or life-hack that will make you instantaneously achieve your goals.
Yes, there are things you can speed up through deep focus, but sometimes you should remember that all good things take time. If you want to master more skills, learn more, be healthier, become a better person, and achieve more within your life, you need to move beyond the life-hack.
To master anything requires ample time. We need time to make mistakes, learn from them, alter our perception, smooth out the nuances of our craft, receive and integrate constructive feedback, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Robert Greene wrote a book on mastery. In it he says this about this about the subject:
This is eloquently put, and it accurately describes the spirit of our times. Because we expect so much in so little time, we rarely devote the time necessary to achieve a deep set of skills. But this does not mean that if we work on something 12 hours a day, we can shortcut our way towards mastery.
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000 hours rule--that is, it takes about 10,000 hours of marketing, writing, playing basketball, or whatever, to truly master a skill. The science behind the concept is iffy, but assuming there is some truth to it, it really does takes a long time to get good at something. There is no program that can accelerate your learning and your success a hundredfold. There is only good, old-fashioned work combined with a lot of drive and focus. There are no considerable shortcuts to take!
This could be applied to not only artistry or professional work, but also fitness as well. So often the emphasis is placed on achieving a six pack in 6 weeks, or losing 50 pounds in a month via a juice cleanse.
What is lost by taking shortcuts is the discipline, the patience, the toughness, resolve, and skill that is required for successfully maintaining physical wellbeing.And it’s no mystery why so many diets and fitness fads never work.
When you look to find shortcuts for fitness and weight loss, you are skipping the grueling months of hard work. Without the discipline to keep the weight off, you will gain it back. Without the consistency and persistence of going to regular workouts, you will quickly lose interest. Think long term when it comes to fitness and achieving a healthy lifestyle.
Yes, deadlifting 600 pounds is an amazing goal to have, but getting constantly injured and losing progress because you are trying to leapfrog the required time for strength is a recipe for failure. Take your time! It’s funny if you think about it, but you actually save time if you take your time. This is contrasted with wasting time trying to take shortcuts. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up.
Finding a shortcut through town is one thing, but when it comes to your life and potential, there are no substitutions for the fundamentals of hard work.
Next time you are tempted to try the next fitness fad instead of doing what your personal trainer suggests, know that most diets and workouts are designed by marketers and not fitness professionals. Consider sticking to a tried-and-true fitness program crafted by a fitness pro.
Embrace failure and become a lifelong learner. Nothing will guarantee you skip the shortcuts more than becoming comfortable with failure. Likewise, the most effective learners are those who have failed more times than they can count but who still have the grit to push on.
Find a mentor. This means someone who can hold you accountable and make sure you are sticking to the program, so to speak. Don’t worry about being compensated, just know that the knowledge you gain is vital for your continued success.
Next time you are thinking about cutting a workout short or are about to sign off from working, just give it 10 more minutes. Sometimes that’s all you need to catch a second wind, other times that 10 minutes will feel like an eternity. Regardless, you can make a lot happen in those 10 minutes you normally would have just stopped altogether.
Practice these and keep the message of this blog post to heart. And remember, you are only short-changing yourself if you take shortcuts!
There is almost nothing more important than defining a game plan for your fitness regimen, especially at the advent of a new year.
You need a roadmap, an outline, or frame of reference to fall back on. You will want to have clear-cut benchmarks to welcome in 2019; and by extension, you need to have goals to maintain focus.
But before anything is drawn up, questions need to be posed. More specifically, if you are buying a program online, having a personal trainer design a tailor-made schedule for you, or you are flying solo, you should first determine what your fitness goals are.
Let’s look a little further into determining specific fitness goals.
Determining just what exactly your fitness goals are can be a difficult question to answer. Most of us offer vague answers about wanting to become stronger and healthier. That much is obvious! But if pressed any further, we find it very difficult to articulate specific fitness goals. To alleviate the challenge of specificity, start broad and then narrow your objective.
Let’s say that you want to have healthier lungs this year. Your diet is good, your exercise regimen has been consistent, but you have slacked on cardiovascular conditioning. Logically, your next fitness goal is to strengthen your heart and lungs.
You have just determined a goal. Better lungs? Check! Stronger heart? Check!
You saw room for improvement, and so, you prioritized more cardio. Now, after determining your general goal, you need to narrow it enough to be effective.
If you tell yourself something general like, “I am going to run frequently for stronger lungs,” you are not establishing a fitness failsafe for yourself.
You might buy some great shoes, plan out your route, get up earlier before work, the whole nine yards. Eventually though, if your plan is not specific enough, you will probably grow bored and quit. A day, a week, a month later? If your goal is not focused, you are probably not challenged or stimulated enough to cultivate the necessary motivation to continue running regularly.
Narrowing it Down!
What if you tried to run a faster mile every week? Even more specifically, let’s say you wanted to run an 8-minute mile. That’s very doable! And now you have a target to hit, which means you are strengthening your lungs with more purpose, more oomph.
Yes, cardiovascular health is extremely important on its own, but without specific goals, it is hard to stay motivated. Training for an 8-minute mile--or dare I say, a marathon--can keep you effectively engaged.
And even better, this model can be repeated for other aspects of your fitness lifestyle: if you want to fit fit into smaller-sized clothes, that’s a very specific goal you can achieve with a healthier diet. Just telling yourself you will eat healthier is an absolutely great thing to tell yourself. Confidence is key! But will you follow through if you don’t have a specific goal in mind? Probably not.
With all of that in mind, being realistic about your goals is extremely important as well.
Most of us want six pack abs and chiseled features. That’s a specific objective and very important! Sometimes being too specific can be detrimental though. Instead, we should try to find a sweet spot between general and very focused goals.
If you want six pack abs, that’s a very admirable goal. Go get it done! But before you take the six pack plunge, assess how realistic the undertaking will be for you. If after you have assessed how realistic the goal and effort, you still think you can stay focused enough, then there is nothing stopping you.
But keep in mind that six packs are the product of low body fat percentage, just training your abs to death won’t give you the results you are looking for. A balanced diet and consistent workout regimen will get you closer to the desired six pack look than isolating the abs or focusing on abdominal work.
Just be realistic and find the sweet spot between being specificity and generality.
In summation, there is no one more qualified to keep you dialed-in than a personal trainer. When it comes to investing in yourself, you don’t want to take any chances. Especially if you are lost and having trouble determining what your fitness goals are, having an expert guide you and ask the right questions can make all of the difference.
Hire a personal trainer to make a routine, program, and give dietary advice. And remember to be realistic and specific with your goals. Stick to them and you’ll be so glad you did!
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Two Versions of the 80/20 Rule Explained
Written by Kristen and Travis Gil
This article is going to briefly explain the 80/20 rule as it pertains to both nutrition and one’s overall fitness. To start, let’s explore the nutritional side of the concept!
The principle at play here is that one should eat “clean” 80% of the time, and the other 20% can consist of anything (within reason). Now, what is meant by eating clean? This means that your diet should be high in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy carbs and any other food that isn’t processed.
To not eat clean is, you guessed it, to eat “dirty”. Eating dirty means you are hitting up the burger joint on the way home from work, or finding every excuse to taste-test your famous Philly cheese steak recipe. But come on, we all need to indulge every now and then, right? Absolutely!
If we apply the 80/20 to a standard, 7-day week: 80% of 7 is a little over 5 ½ days of clean eating. And then, essentially, the rest of the time you are allowed to eat whatever you want. That means you have multiple meals you can devote towards eating out, desserts, or high-sodium foods. Of course this all depends on any dietary restrictions you may have, as well as any existing health conditions. And while we are on the topic, it might be best to spread the 20% free-for-all throughout the week. Let’s say, eat at a restaurant for a couple of meals, once on Monday and another on Friday, and then go out to ice cream on Sunday (as an example). And of course, the rest of your energy should be devoted towards eating the proper amounts of healthy foods.
Now, this is just one of the facets of the 80/20 rule, but there is another that is just as important. Basically, when it comes to one’s overall level of fitness, 80% of your total results will come from diet alone. This means that your diet can make or break your overall fitness goals. The other 20%? That has to do with working out/proper rest and recovery. So, the means for achieving your fitness goals largely hinge on the quality of your diet. Don't waste a great workout!
The problem though is just how difficult it can be to stringently follow a structured diet on one’s own. It is not impossible by any means, but the best intentions of following the 80/20 rule can quickly become derailed. Soon, the 80/20 guideline can begin to look more like a 50/50 rule. Heads = ice cream. Tails = celery.
Avoiding these types of slip-ups are certainly tough. And it is definitely much easier when one has a helping hand when trying to follow a diet or nutrition program.
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For dieters, the holiday period from around October through to January can be a true minefield. Between the specific holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with endless goody baskets and parties, folks can run into problems maintaining the habits they strive to follow the rest of the year.
A lot of strategies exist to deal with this time, although I’d consider few of them particularly healthy from a mental or psychological standpoint. One is to skip all food during the holidays. While this might avoid food issues, it’s also a way to make sure you won’t fully enjoy the holidays and the time with your family and friends.
I’ve even heard the need to take a meal or food with you in a Tupperware bowl. Newsflash folks, not only are we talking about a borderline eating disorder at this point, that kind of insanity just makes your family uncomfortable. So don’t do it. Better to stay home than be that person.
Of course, at the other extreme are the eaters who just go completely crazy and eat everything in sight, gaining a considerable amount of weight and fat in the three months of holidays. It can happen and I’m not saying that it can’t. Of course, if you’re a bodybuilder or powerlifter, you can just say “I’m bulking” as you shovel down the third piece of cake but I’ll assume that you actually want to keep a lid on weight/fat gains during this time period. Balance please.
As always, being a middle of the road kind of guy I am, I’m going to suggest some strategies that, while not quite as disturbed as taking broccoli with you to Thanksgiving, also doesn’t put you in the trap of gorging on fudge. In no particular order of importance, here are some tips to deal with holiday eating to not let it get out of hand.
1. Make Better Bad Choices
I forget who I stole this this idea from offhand but it’s nothing new. The simple fact, and I’ll come back to this point later, is that many people fall into the trap of “If I’m going to eat junk, I might as well jam as much of the worst stuff I can down my food hole.” That’s silly.
Instead, try to make better bad choices. Limit portions (you know that you don’t really NEED three pieces of cake to be satisfied). Pick the lower calorie or lower fat/high-carb stuff at the dessert table. People training hard can handle an influx of carbs acutely better than fat so pick that stuff. Maybe have a little bit of two or three different desserts, just get a taste and move on. You get the idea.
2. Take a Lowered Fat/Calorie Dessert or Dish to the Party
Whether a work party or holiday dinner, it’s not uncommon for people to bring their own thing to add to the food table. So make something that you’ve de-fatted or lowered in calories, there are zillions of recipes out there. And, please, I’m not talking about black bean ‘cake’ that you think tastes like the real thing.
Find a happy medium between the high-sugar/high-fat stuff and clean eating. Most American desserts have about twice the sugar and butter that they usually need and, who knows, you might even convert someone into realizing that they can eat sweets without it having to be 1000 calories per piece.
3. Train with a Bit Higher Volume Prior to the Event
One of the best ways to increase the ‘sink’ for incoming calories is to deplete muscle glycogen. When you do that by using a higher volume (more sets, higher reps) of training, not only do you increase fat oxidation, you give incoming carbs somewhere to go for storage instead of being use for energy.
You can simply bump up your volume a bit in the days before a specific event where you know there will be junk. Even a heavy training session on the day of the party can be beneficial here.
Train in a nice hypertrophy zone (get about 40 reps per muscle group) and you’ll increase protein synthesis so that incoming calories will support recovery. Training also tends to acutely blunt hunger so if you train right before the party, you’ll be less likely to overeat. Well, unless you’re a dis-inhibited eater who falls into the trap of “I trained, I deserve 10 pieces of fudge.”
4. Start with Lots of Lean Protein and Vegetables Before Hitting the Dessert Table
Lean protein has the highest short-term satiating power (this means it keeps you full) and the high-bulk of vegetables helps to fill your stomach which also sends a fullness signal. I’ve yet to be at a holiday party that didn’t have a vegetable plate (limit the high-fat dip) or plate of cold cuts. Load up on that to get some fullness going before you hit the desserts. You won’t be as hungry and, assuming you don’t like eating yourself sick, this alone will do damage control.
Have a High-Protein Snack with some Vegetables or Fruit about 30 Minutes Beforehand
If you’re in situation where Number 4 won’t work or won’t be available, have a small snack before the party or dinner. Some lean protein, veggies and fruit about 30 minutes will give you a feeling of fullness and help to limit overconsumption of ‘junk’ at the party.
6. Consider Intermittent Fasting on the Day of the Event
Intermittent Fasting (IF’ing) is a recent dietary approach that involves not eating for 14-18 hours per day and then either having an ‘eating period’ or roughly 4-6 hours or even a single meal. There’s some interesting research on it which I’ll save for another article. But it’s one good way to deal with holiday parties.
Know that you’ve got a 7pm dinner party where there will be lots of good food? Try IF’ing (or only have small meals of lean protein and veggies) most of the day. Unless you go completely berserk, you’ll be unlikely to exceed your entirely daily caloric requirement in the one meal. If you can train beforehand, that’s even better.
7. Consider a Short Mini-Diet in the Days Before the Event
Let’s say you have an event or two coming up on the weekend and you know that there will be lots of food and you may have control issues. Well, consider doing a short, possibly hardcore diet in the days before. Four days of a rapid fat loss style diet can actually reduce body fat by 1-4 pounds (depending on your size). Call it pro-active damage control.
8. Ok, I Was Actually Kidding in the Introduction About the Tupperware
Let’s face it, you know that nothing tastes as good as lean feels. You know how good discipline feels. You know the truth. You know that 50 years from now, you’ll know that it was worth it, sticking to your diet 365 days a year and never actually enjoying a moment of life.
So you go ahead and take your Tupperware with chicken breast, broccoli and sweet potato and eat it while everyone else around you actually gets some joy out of life.
No, really, I’m seriously kidding about this, don’t do it.
9. Stay Off the Damn Scale
No matter what happens, we often see the scale spike up after a big party; this is especially true after Thanksgiving. The typical carb-depleted trainee is especially prone to this; the high-carb intake of your typical holiday event along with extra sodium both can jack up scale weight a bit. But you know deep down it’s not really fat. The simple fact is that, unless you go nuts, you can’t eat enough in a single meal to put on appreciable fat. It’s only water and it’ll come right back off in a few days.
But stay off of the scale anyhow.
10. Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy
This goes back to what I alluded to in point 1, a lot of people fall into a dreadful trap over the holidays, figuring that if they’ve eating a little bit a junk food, clearly they’ve blown it and might as well retire to the corner with the entire tray of fudge and eat themselves sick.
The above is amazingly prevalent and exceedingly destructive. Extremely rigid dieters fall into a trap where they let events such as the holidays become a problem because of their own psychology. They figure that one piece of dessert has ruined all of their hard efforts so they might as well eat ALL the dessert. This is, of course, nonsense. Say that piece of dessert has a few hundred calories, or say, 500 calories. In the context of a weekly plan that is calorie controlled with training, that’s nothing.
Unless the person lets it become something. They figure 500 calories is the end of the world and eat an additional 5000 calories. Instead of just taking it in strides and realizing that it’s not a big deal, they make it a big deal with their own reaction.
Simply, don’t do that. Realize that there is only so much damage you can do in the short-term. Apply the other strategies in this article and realize, at the end of the day, what you did for one meal that week simply doesn’t matter if the rest of the week was fine. Not unless you make it.
And that’s that, 10 strategies I hope will help you to enjoy the holidays. Eat a piece of cake for me.