Let's Make This Fast!

There's a big trend going on right now in the health and dieting world (although the idea of fasting has been around for hundreds of years believe it or not) that is being implemented and it's name: Fasting.  Intermittent Fasting (use the James Bond voice and that sentence will make this more dramatic and totally worth it).  This type of weight loss requires severely limiting the amount of calories taken in during particular days of the week and during specific hours of the day in order to work properly.  This is all meant to decrease your appetite and stimulate your body's metabolism, ultimately, resulting in a weight loss.  While there are a lot of different methods people can use to initiate this, some of the more popular ones are as follows:

The 5:2 Diet:  this one allows you to ingest only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week and then eating normally the other 5 days.

Eat-Stop-Eat: this one has you fasting for a 24 hour period, 1-2 days a week (dear Lord).

The 16/8 Method (aka The Leangains method):  this process has you skipping breakfast but allowing for an 8 hour period where you may eat and then fast (so for example, you may start eating at 11AM and then you would finish eating at 7PM.  The other 16 hour period is strictly a fast) .

So!  What are the benefits and what are the pitfalls?  Let's take a look!

The Good:  What's pretty awesome about these methods is that it doesn't require any calorie-counting or measuring (stuff my patients LOATHE even if they won't admit it).  And let's be realistic-who wants to count their calories or make their portions smaller when they are enjoying something?  A study shown in animals even displays that fasting can help improve your immune system and give reductions in inflammation.  Other perks?  It increases your levels of HGH, improves your insulin levels, and promotes cellular repair.  All of this fab science info basically helps with the improvement of weight loss, better metabolism, brain stimulation, and decreases in aging, all resulting or stemming solely from intermittent fasting.

The Bad:  So what gives?  Listen: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  So here's the deal-this diet attempt is definitely NOT for everybody.  First and foremost, like any other diet, it's great in the beginning but as the weeks go on and on, it becomes like anything else: BORING.  Not to mention, people start to take their periods of eating for granted.  For instance, just because you're allowed to eat for 8 hours in a day, does not suggest that it be an entire pie of pizza; you're still expected to eat healthy foods for that entire duration.  Also, some people felt, that after a fast, they could "reward" themselves with that entire pie of pizza-NO BUENO.  This completely ruins the effect of the fasting and the amount of self-control you will need to administer to go about your regular day without diving head first into a bowl of ice cream is pretty intense, especially when your body hasn't seen food in 24 hours (believe me, I've tried).  Secondly, people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, low blood pressure, a history of heart disease, or poor eating habits and/or people with eating disorders should NOT undergo any types of fasting for fear of having the blood sugar or pressure go too low and the increase of electrolyte abnormalities occurring.  Lastly, and unfortunately (as if we didn't have it hard enough), women are strongly suggested NOT to undergo fasting (particularly women who are pregnant, breastfeeding and/or are trying to conceive for obvious reasons).  Studies have shown, that while intermittent fasting showed improvements in blood insulin in men, it actually worsened in women!  (Go figure).  Fasting in women has also been shown to cause infertility, have irregular menstrual cycles, and essentially, becoming emaciated and gaunt.  (What the hell?!)  

The Alternative:  Ok!  So now that we have all the facts, let's put this in perspective:  as i say with everything else-ALWAYS IN MODERATION.  I wouldn't suggest intermittent fasting all the time-I would rather the patient try this 1-2x a month, not just to keep things more interesting but to also allow your body to really respond to something so drastic, whilst not making any crazy changes to their bodies and lifestyle.  If you have a specific medical reason NOT to engage in this type of routine, please adhere to the warnings: they're there for a reason.  And always, ALWAYS contact your medical professional if you're starting to feel weak, highly fatigued, nauseous, and/or terrible discomfort or pain.  Weight loss is great but not when you're risking your life for it.   

Burn Baby, Burn!

Acid reflux and GERD: There are so many people who come into my office who suffer from one or both of these conditions making it very common and, for those who have it, very annoying.  It's important to understand that acid reflux occurs when your sphincter muscle at the end of your esophagus closes at the wrong time, causing acid to project right back up your body (causing you to re-taste your food giving you a sour after effect) and GERD is the diagnosis doctors use on patients who experience acid reflux all the time while also experiencing difficulty swallowing, engage in a lot of coughing or wheezing, and nice chest pain when they lay down at night.  How exciting!

I will say, it's awesome when patients DO ask about certain foods or dietary changes they can make to possibly help ease the severity of the reflux or try to avoid it all together and the solution is simple: there are some things you can do nutritionally that can help ease or reduce your chances of experiencing reflux!

The Good:  Conveniently enough, the first great thing you can do to help prevent or slow down acid reflux is be on a low-fat, lean protein diet!  Ta-da!  You knew that was coming in there somewhere right?  Sometimes, too much fat can wreak havoc on your body, causing the metabolic breakdown to be painful and time-consuming so watch those fats!  Believe it or not, eating slowly, not talking while you're eating, eating smaller meals (and not eating too close to bedtime) and losing weight can also all be a solution to some crappy reflux problems!

The Bad:  Please try to avoid foods that are too hot (and that can mean temperature hot or spicy foods) or foods that are too cold (ice water being a prime example).  These crazy temps can irritate the lining of your esophagus big time.  Please also try to avoid alcohol, smoking, mints, chocolate, and, as mentioned previously, fried fatty foods.   

The Alternative:  If you've been reading some of my other blogs, you will know that there is no reason why you can't have your cake and eat it too (sort of).  My advice is always to listen to your body and then alter it the way you need to to make it nutritionally sound and a healthy positive to your lifestyle.  If red meat is calling your name, try a leaner red meat such as filet mignon or roast beef (as opposed to a shell steak or rib eye).  If you're looking for a nice bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, try to modify it by using a low calorie whole wheat bagel thin or 2 slices of whole wheat bread with egg whites, one slice of cheese, and a piece of low-salt ham instead!  If only fried chicken will do, at least pull that damn skin off (I know, I know-it's the best part...it's also the going to be the worst part if you eat too much of it).  

This is the one time I'm suggesting you DON'T want to feel the burn!!  Let's keep it away as best as we can!

The Dreaded "P" Word

Plateau.  That's right I said it.  And no, I'm not talking about flat terrain.  I'm talking about what happens when we've been on a roll-losing weight, exercising, and generally feeling and looking great!...until now.  It can get a little frustrating in the office when patients notice this and IMMEDIATELY look and act defeated.  "Well, this is probably just where my body wants to be," or "I don't understand how I can go any further...I can't possibly eat LESS than what I'm eating now!," or "Maybe I'm not eating enough?"  This is usually where I tell the patients to calm down as we start to go over what's been happening to their bodies over the course of a several month period.  

Please understand something:  Every single person's body is different and will react differently at different ages.  So what once was true for your body at 30, is no longer true for your body at 50.  So please ask yourself whether or not that this is the IDEAL body weight for yourself AT THIS TIME.  If you're 5'5, 150 lbs, and 65 years old, I'd say that's pretty dam good (even though the BMI chart might suggest something different).  Setting realistic goals, having good blood test results, and ultimately being happy with where you are is the most important "plateau" of all (especially if your health care professionals are happy with your results as well).  Let's try to look at this objectively:

The Good:  Plateaus during a weight loss is extremely common and really only means one thing:  your body (and your metabolism) has gotten used to your caloric intake/your daily exercise regime and now needs fewer calories to function.  At this point, you would have to burn more or eat less to keep losing.  Please take a very stern look at your daily routine which can mean: 1) Please focus on your portions again.  Although you might have done this in the beginning, chances are, you haven't done it in awhile.  Time to break out those measuring cups again and let me tell you-sometimes, this is all it takes.  It's amazing how much I forget 2/3 cups is and what I've actually been giving myself over the course of several months.  2) Are you still sweating like crazy at the gym?  Or do you find you can hold a full-length conversation via skype while you use the elliptical?  Sometimes, all you need is a little change-up: increase the resistance on machine or try a different one.  Try a new exercise all together (maybe a little jogging outside or riding a bike if you haven't done these things in awhile).  Don't fall into the same routine over and over with exercise because you'll just end up targeting only those muscles.  Mix it up!  3)  Switch out sugary snacks for ones that are higher in protein.  So for instance, if your usual go-to in the morning is a piece of fruit as a snack, try to replace that with a 100 calorie bag of nuts or seeds.  You'll find that the protein can hold you lot longer than the sugar.  Better yet, think about your usual daily routine: is there anything in there that you've been having that you know you really don't need but you're eating it anyway just because it's there?  Hmmm...let's try the day without that item, shall we?  You'd be surprised: 100 calorie snack eliminated per day means 700 calories gone for the week!

The Bad:  Please don't try to take "those last 10 lbs off" if your body really doesn't need it.  We call this "vanity weight" or "optimistic weight" but really, it can be a weight that you had in high school and now you're a mother of 3, working 2 jobs, and can barely find time to read this blog.  This kind of goes back to what I mentioned previously: people can get so focused on a goal weight that they aren't appreciating all the weight they've already taken off; they're just looking at how much "further" they have to go.  If your BMI is normal, your blood work is normal, and you find you can still maintain this lifestyle and still be happy, it may just be time to accept the weight, move on, and be happy (or at least content).  Too many times I have seen people obsess over a number and they end up getting so frustrated that they give up entirely and end up putting a good chunk of weight back on, solely from depression.  Later on, they WISH they had just accepted it.  Idina Menzel is right..."let it go."

The Alternative:  Please speak to your nutritionist or healthcare professional.  It might be time to change up the types of foods you're having all together.  Just like with exercise, the same routine with food can cause the same routine metabolically.  When we give our bodies other foods to process and break down, it can be stimulating and ultimately, could cause a weight loss.  It can also motivate the person again.  How many times have you started a diet and after 6 months get sick of it?  This can lead to boredom, a little (or a lot) of cheating, and...plateaus.  Time to mix it up!

Gobble Gobble!!

Thanksgiving is my favorite eating holiday.  Period.  There's just so much food that I happen to enjoy in one sitting-it's a day I feel really bad for people who hate turkey, particularly fried and/or smoked turkey (if you haven't tried it, it's a MUST).  Unfortunately, it's also a day when people who are trying to watch their weight dread-how am I supposed to handle this?  Do I eat what's in front of me and not care?  Do I only eat some turkey and veggies and skip everything else that I love?  Do I just eat until I throw up?  (Please don't).  First and foremost, please don't panic.  There are plenty of ways to approach the holidays without feeling the guilt of the food or trying to avoid everything that you look forward to all year long.  In the office, I usually tell patients to forgive and forget on that day-enjoy yourself, PACE yourself with all that food, and walk away feeling satisfied, happy, and determined.  HOWEVER!  There are a couple of tricks to the trade, and you can use them as you see fit!

The Good:  Please approach this day like any other:  a nice, clean breakfast, a light, healthy lunch (depending on the time of the holiday meal), and maybe even a good workout beforehand to get that blood pumping.  Once the moment arrives, PACE YOURSELF.  I am not saying do not eat what you want, I am saying to take a little of everything that you love and enjoy in small doses.  You can always get up and get more (which also promotes a little extra movement and better digestion instead of just sitting in that seat for several hours, with an occasional trip to the bathroom) and when you start to feel full, please slow down-we've got dessert coming and you don't want to miss that!!  Once it's time to wrap things up and people are trying to convince you to take things home, politely turn down the stuffing, the sweets, and the potatoes, but bring home plenty of veggies and turkey to your liking.  Come home, rest, and the next morning, please do NOT eat until you are hungry (something I very rarely tell people to do).  Eating a large meal like that could take 10-12 hours to digest and  process so what's the point of getting up and forcing a breakfast you really aren't hungry for?  Feel yourself out and listen to your body-when you're hungry is when you eat.  Last year, I wasn't feeling hungry until about 3:30 on black Friday (yes, I ate like a monster the day before) but so be it.  I didn't feel forced or bloated trying to get in those important 3 meals a day.  Saturday and Sunday are for the taking-right back to the routine like it never even happened.  Give your body about a week to adjust and the weight should really just kind of stay put once you get back on the scale the following week. 

THE BAD:  Please, whatever you do, do not arrive starving to thanksgiving dinner.  People think that this is a great idea-it's really not, I promise.  You end up getting there and shoving in as much food as you can within about a half hour because you've starved your body all day and now you're stuffed to the gills and watching everyone else eat around you because you can't possibly shovel in anymore.  Or can you?  I had a personal moment on thanksgiving when I did just this and I felt so left out all day that I just kept trying to find more room to put food into my body.  Plus, I didn't want to miss out on any of the delicious food I wait all year for.  By the end of the evening, I felt absolutely awful.  I really don't know how I didn't throw up.  I promise you, it's not worth it.  Please have a regular morning with a light, decent breakfast as suggested previously, and pace yourself at the meal.  Thanksgiving is meant to be enjoyed with food and family-not spent holding your stomach in a weird fetal position one hour in.

The Alternative: I always say, when it's a holiday, please don't hold back from anything you enjoy.  I tried one Christmas to eat as healthy as possible, watch my portions, and kip dessert.  I felt like He-Man all day long and quietly made fun of everyone who was eating all the "bad" stuff for you for hours.  I went home feeling amazing and energized.  The next morning I woke up and felt horrible: what did I just do?  I wait all YEAR for that dam pie and I didn't even touch it?!  I  was miserable for 3 days straight and I spent it eating a ton of junk food to try and "fix" my feelings.  Terrible, terrible idea.  Enjoy the holiday while it's there, take home only the "essential" foods for leftovers, and get back to yourself the next day.  I promise it won't be so bad and you won't get that FOMO feeling when you wake up.  Enjoy this beautiful holiday with family and friends and take a moment to give thanks to what's most important: your health, your love, and your life. 

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wine Not?

  • Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignon...I may be shotty in my Italian but wine is a language I speak quite well ;)  And what's the most commonly asked question about this in my office?  Which grape is the best (nutritionally speaking) for our bodies?!  The answer: all of them!  Ok, there are some differences and antioxidant properties that some grapes contain but overall, alcohol in general can decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, and possibly your risk of diabetes!  But since we're talking about wine right now, let's go back to those fabulous grapes and what the colors actually mean.  Simply stated, white wine is made with white grapes and red wine is made with black or red grapes.  But now this becomes fun: the grapes are not different in species, they are all the same grape but they just possess a different color.  Red wine gets their color from the skin and seeds of the grape and white wine gets their color from just the juice.  That's it-no crazy process, no wild differences, just grapes with or without the skin and seeds.  But now, here comes the fun part: the methods in which to make the wine.  Red wines are aged in oak barrels while white wine is aged in steel vats.  Because of these different processes, the oxygen level in the wine is what causes the taste to be significantly different.  So!  How does this all pertain to the nutrition level and which wine is better for you? Here we go!
  • The Good:  Both white and red wine offer nutritionally positive attributes to the human body!  White wine can improve heart and lung conditions and prevent heart diseases.  Red wines are considered to be a little "heart healthier" because they contain the skin of the grape which contain antioxidants called resveratrols, flavonoids, and polyphenols that protect your vessels and blood circulation, improve your immune system, can even eliminate blood clotting, slow down the enzymatic effect of growing cancer cells, and increase your HDL!  
  • The Bad: This should come as no surprise, but please keep in mind that wines do contain a good amount of alcohol and can impair your judgement (and I don't just mean texting your ex after a couple of glasses of wine) but it can dehydrate you, make you unable to drive machinery, and can even promote unhealthy eating habits (do I want pizza after a bottle of Caymus?  You're dam right I do!)  Please drink responsibly, drink plenty of water in between every glass or every other glass of wine to help with your hydration, and like everything else I speak about, this should all be done in moderation!
  • The Alternative:  As I mentioned earlier, alcohol comes in many forms (not just in wine) so if you're not a crazy wine lover, you can turn to beer or liquor to experience some good, healthy benefits of alcohol!  It can improve your stress and anxiety levels, prevent heart disease and stroke, and make you smile a lot more!  But keep your wits about you-everything in moderation!  Cheers!!

"Bermuda, Bahama, Come On Pretty Mama..."

Bless you vacation.  Bless you very much.  One word, many fabulous meanings...except for when you get back and your pants don't fit and now it takes on a whole new meaning...Now hang on-this is not the time to panic.  And the word vacation shouldn't ever have panic surrounded by it.  Everyone needs a break from the norm and that includes food as well.  In fact, I tell patients all the time that, even if it's not a vacation so to speak and your body is craving something, feed it what it wants.  Listen to your body (for the most part-I mean listen, if your body is constantly telling you it needs ice cream sundaes, you may need to have a little chat with it).  But I digress-back to coming back from vacation.  Ok-so you've just had a great time eating and drinking your face off (or maybe just one or the other?), you come home feeling satisfied, tired, and bloated, and the next day you go to put your regular work pants on and-ta da!-dem poly blends are tight!  Wuh-oh.  Now what?!  Did I just damage everything I've worked so hard for?  Should I step on the scale and see what's going on?  Should I just give up?  UM...HELL NO.  TO ALL THREE.  Listen, if your body is used to a certain routine, throwing a monkey wrench in there once in awhile is not going to destroy weeks, months, or years of hard work so please try not to panic.  The first thing I would recommend is to get yourself right back into your normal daily routine-healthy food choices right back where they belong and exercise regimens right back on track.  The clothes you have on might feel a little snug but if you stay focused over the coarse of the next couple of days, you should start to feel better really soon.  As far as the scale goes, ehhhh....I don't recommend it but I know some people HAVE to see it.  But please understand one thing: it will not be an accurate weight gain (or loss for some).  Please understand that your body is "swollen" or bloated from types of foods it hasn't seen in awhile- not to mention, there can be a little constipation that follows with "unusual eating habits," dehydration, and a higher than usual salt intake, all meant to show you a number that might be a bit crazy (let's put it this way, I've seen people gain as much as 10-12 pounds over a vacation!).  But try not to fear-this number should go down drastically over the course of just a few days and should be back to (almost) normal within a week AS LONG AS you go back to your routine.  This part is key here ladies and gentlemen-introducing high fat, high sugar, sometimes processed foods can cause the weight to spike and then re-introducing your body to low fat, low sugar, clean foods can bring it right back down, so get back on that horse!  It's important that you stay motivated and not let this get you down-vacations are important for your body, your brain, and your overall health and your anxieties about food and weight should not interfere with this-you know how to handle yourself, so have a fabulous time and you WILL regain control when you get back.  But just in case (for those who want to go above and beyond even while they are away) here are some tips and pointers to keep the routine going from fabulous to downright obscene:

  • THE GOOD:  Please don't deny yourself what your body is asking for but try to put it into perspective.  You can enjoy a nice egg white omelet with fresh veggies, a nice bowl of fruit, or even some yogurt and granola for your breakfasts.  How about some nice, fresh salads for lunch or a piece of grilled fish or chicken for your dinner?  Your portion sizes are likely to be bigger than normal and the amounts of salt, fat, and/or sugars are likely to be higher than usual so don't get upset-just make smart choices and eat what you want until you are satisfied NOT FULL.  Desserts shouldn't be avoided-perhaps just a little on the lighter fare (sorbets, fresh fruit, etc) and possibly split between two (or more) people.  Drink plenty of water and who says there's anything wrong with a nice jog on the sand overlooking a beautiful ocean in the mornings?  Not this chick!
  • THE BAD:  Please try NOT to shovel in food at a cookie monster pace.  Please don't also take this opportunity to grab as much food as possible to the point of making you sick.  Trust me-this is not enjoyable for anyone.  It's also gluttonous.  You haven't' been let out of food prison and you can always order more if you are still hungry but if you're the guy at the buffet with 17 pancakes and 15 slices of bacon on his plate and then you go ahead and are only able to eat half, you're not only rude but you're also wasting food for someone else.  The worst is that sometimes people do this and end up feeling obligated to eat everything they've put on the plate causing them to feel guilty and gross-this is unnecessary and completely avoidable.  Take your time, take small portions of what you would like, and remind yourself that you can always get more. 
  • THE ALTERNATIVE:  Try to think of the days during vacation as three-part: breakfast, lunch, and dinner (snacks and drinks I tend to leave out as a "bonus").  Now, I happen to be a BIG breakfast fan (bring on the bacon and the brioche French toast baby!) but that can be filling and if I'm thinking about putting my behind in a bathing suit quickly following the breakfast, I hesitate.   Instead, I pick one of my three meals to indulge on.  So for instance, maybe I'll save the big breakfast for my last day and have bigger than normal dinners (with dessert or course!) and lighter lunches and breakfasts for a few days.  Or maybe I'll just have giant breakfasts every morning and then salads and lean proteins the rest of the day.  It's my choice but I pick one. This can have me feeling satisfied but not overly done and I get to make a fun decision about my "cheat meal" everyday that I am away!   

Artificial Sweeteners in My Cocktails? "Ain't Nobody Got Time for That!"

Bless you Trop50 for making some pretty badass juices that I can use to create my own low-calorie cocktail that not only has fewer calories than other juices but no artificial sweeteners to boot!  What are artificial sweeteners you say?  Well!  Let's see... By definition, a sugar sweetener is an additive companies put in food to provide sweetness.  Some are artificial and some are natural.  Natural sugar sweeteners are those boxes you might pass by called Stevia or Truvia.  These sugar sweeteners are formed from a Stevia plant that consist of a natural compound called erythritol.  Fake or artificial sugar sweeteners are usually in the form of aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (aka ACE-K) which are more widely recognized in things like Splenda, Sweet N' Low, or Equal.  So what's the big, bad deal with the artificial sweeteners?  They're low in calorie and taste super sweet!-What could go wrong?  Well...a lot.  Artificial sweeteners are not a natural source recognizable by your body and will essentially just be stored as fat.  Believe it or not, some of these sweeteners have even been linked to cancerous causing carcinogens!  So now that we know all this, let's take a moment to figure out how we can make this work in our favor without ruining the fun for everyone.

  • The Good: Try to take the time to check the labels on the things you are eating and drinking!  We are looking for signs that say things like, "no added sugars," "no artificial sweeteners," "all-natural," "made with Stevia," etc.  Honestly, the best way to have an all-natural product is to make it yourself with all-natural ingredients.  You can make your own lemonade by using a juicer or squeezing 6-8 lemons and just adding about 5 cups of ice water to it.  If you want a little sweetness, you can make your own simple syrup by using 1 cup of Stevia or Truvia sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and bringing it to a simmer until the sugar dissolves and then adding it to the mix!
  • The Bad: Try to avoid labels that include the words, "sucralose," "aspartame," "phenylalanine," and any of the other artificial sweeteners I've listed previously.  Beverages like "Sparkling Ice," or "Crystal Light," or any "Diet" sodas, juices, or teas usually all contain these fake sugar sweeteners and can do more harm than good.
  • The Alternative:  Look for drinks like "Bai," "Trop50," or "Snapple," because, while some may have more sugars than others, they are still an all-natural product made with all natural sweeteners.  AND!  If we want to get creative, try one of my cocktails to spice up the party in a healthier and less caloric way!

JEANNIE-REENY'S PINK LADY

Trop 50 Pink Lemonade (6 ounces)

Malibu Rum (1 ounce)

Ice Cubes (3-4 or serving at your discretion)

Lemon (1-2 slices) for garnish (optional)

*Please take a couple of ices cubes (I prefer 3-4 large but some prefer a few more or a few less-please remember that the ice cubes take up part of the glass and will limit or increase the beverage so use your ice cubes wisely!)

*Pour one ounce of Malibu Rum into 8 ounce beverage glass

*Pour 6 ounces (or until your liking) of Trop50 Pink Lemonade into glass

*Cut 1-2 slices of lemon to garnish the side of the glass

*Please stir and enjoy

Serves 1 : approx. 85 Calories

*A special thank you goes out to Mrs. Irene Cutrone for her help with this fabulous cocktail!

How Much Protein is Too Much Protein?

Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Sylvester Stallone.  John Cena.  What do all these gentlemen have in common?  Either some fabulous genetics, testosterone-inducing "supplements," and/or VERY high protein diets (along with some very nice quality time with their trainers in the gym).  We the people, have followed suit because these guys look great and (most importantly), they reek of results!  But how much protein is too much protein?  Believe it or not, high protein intake (grams that exceed over 200g of protein daily) could exceed the liver's capacity to eliminate excess urea nitrogen.  It can be absolutely dangerous to exceed over 35% of your total calorie intake in protein because it can lead to hyperaminoacidemia (too many amino acids in the blood), hyperammonemia (too much ammonia in the blood from the breakdown of proteins) and/or hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin) as well as nausea and/or diarrhea.  Please don't get me wrong-protein is an extremely important macronutrient and can aid in weight loss, leaner muscle mass, stronger bones and muscles, and overall better health BUT there needs to be a balance!  

  • THE GOODWhen it comes to protein consumption, please try to remember this important note: keeping your body to the absolute recommended amount in grams daily as per your daily routine and diet regimen.  For the HEAVY bodybuilder with muscle building goals, this is calculated roughly by looking at one pound per gram per day of your body weight AKA about 175g for a 175lb person.  If we kept to 35% of your total caloric MAX intake, we are looking at 175g of protein as per a 2000 calorie diet (or 4 calories per gram of protein).  For all the rest of us just trying to maintain a healthy physique and lean, strong muscles and bones, this can be calculated simply by multiplying your body weight by 0.4.  So if you weigh 175lbs, your protein intake should NOT exceed 70g of protein daily.
  • THE BAD:  While it would be best for all your protein to come from naturally derived sources (such as your everyday diet) it isn't always the easiest or simplest solutions so we tend to lean towards our very favorite vitamin shops or GNC's to supplement this amount of protein but please understand that protein supplements aren't always the way to go.   First and foremost, a lot of these supplements are not completely pure and are allowed to be sold that way. Cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and lead are very popular metals that are very present in a lot of your daily supplements from these stores and can cause significant damage to your kidneys.  Secondly, keep in mind how these stores stay open: YOUR WALLET.  Most of these pills and shakes and powders are there to seduce the consumer and help them make money.  If you consider that 1oz of turkey breast meat contains almost 20g of protein and costs about $0.31 per ounce as opposed to a whey protein isolate that is almost a $1.00 per ounce and contains about 24g, it's only a 4g difference with kind of a huge price difference attached to it!  Last, but certainly not least, is my favorite, CREATINE.  It is the most widely used and advertised supplement of them all believe it or not.  It is a naturally occurring molecule that joins together with phosphate to form phosphocreatine (just a very high-energy phosphate molecule that is used in something called the anaerobic phase of muscle contraction).  BASICALLY:  a really neat way to PUMP...YOU UP.  But let's take a minute to look at the fabulous side effects, shall we?  Muscle cramps, dehydration, dizziness, diarrhea, fever, imbalanced electrolytes, and a reduction in blood volume to name a few.  Creatine can interfere with medications, particularly people who are taking meds for diabetes and cholesterol, and consuming products with caffeine can heighten these effects.  Not to mention, there are no SERIOUS studies suggesting that creatine can increase anything soooo...why the hell are you taking it?
  • THE ALTERNATIVE: Ok, enough reprimanding.  Here's the deal.  You should know me by now and the moral of all this is still the same as it always is: MODERATION IS KEY.  I'm not against taking well-researched, clean protein alternatives, especially when our schedules can barely handle a 5 minute lunch break but try not to have them everyday and try your best to alternate between getting your protein from natural products (such as animal proteins) and the protein supplement on a weekly basis.  Please keep in mind that some people are professional weightlifters and trainers and their bodies require a certain amount of protein to maintain their body stats but for the average joe (which is most of us) don't freak out trying to get in every last drop of protein-a balanced diet with ALL your macro-nutrients is key and if you're sticking to a healthy plan, chances are, you're already hitting your protein numbers for the day (or at least, getting very close to it).  So go enjoy my friends-but not TOO much ;)

The Good, the Bad, and the Total: CHOLESTEROL

A VERY popular topic in my office is the subject of cholesterol-yipee!  I think there's a lot of weird ideas people have about cholesterol and crazy myths that occur around it so allow me to clear some things up:

First and foremost, cholesterol is an organic molecule.  That's right, I said it.  I think the reason people think it's a fat is because it is a type of lipid molecule (lipid being the fabulous "fat" word) but it's duties in our bodies are to maintain structure.  It is also a precursor to hormones and is found in animal cells.  Cholesterol is processed in the liver to be sent out as a low-density lipoprotein and/or a high-density lipoprotein.  It's called a lipoprotein because it is made up of lipids and proteins (this is the only way cholesterol can travel through the body).  The LDL is a build-up of "bad cholesterol" or cholesterol that can cause plaque in the arteries.  HDL does the opposite-it actually picks up the pieces of the LDL and brings them back to the liver where it is broken down and excreted.  So how can we maintain a good equilibrium between these two?  By understanding what to avoid and what to increase more of.  Oh, and using that key word....what was it again?  Oh that's right-MODERATION.

  • THE GOOD:  HDL or the "good" cholesterol can be increased by doing a couple of things that include exercise, eating more Omega 3's and Omega 6's, and watching our diet.  When it comes to exercise, it doesn't have to be to the extreme-just 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity 3-4 times a week can make a difference!  When it comes to your Omega's, it's usually best to find these bad boys in the foods that you're eating.  Omega 3's come from fish oils found in (you guessed it) FISH!  And Omega 6's come in good fats such as vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, and some grains.  At the very least, you can find these in pill form right in your local pharmacy or nutrition store.
  • THE BAD: LDL or the "bad" cholesterol can be decreased by limiting the amount of foods that contain a hefty dose of cholesterol such as shellfish, egg yolks, high-fat dairies, high-fat meat products, and red meats.  I think this is where people get the "fat confusion" because these products also tend to be high in (you guessed it) FAT!  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Keeping the two ideas separate as not to confuse you?  Maybe.  Still gotta watch either way?  Definitely.  
  • THE ALTERNATIVE:  Please don't get it twisted-it's important that our body be exposed to some of the foods that do contain cholesterol but watch how often it's done and find a way to sneak around it.  Instead of using 2 or 3 egg yolks, use only 1 yolk and the rest egg whites.  Keep your shellfish to a minimum by having a small serving or by only having it once a week.  Try to limit your high-fat dairy intake by switching to natural, lower fat options, or by lowering the portion (so instead of 3-4 slices of that fabulous piece of American cheese, try 1 or 2 instead) and as for red meat, don't throw it away all together.  Red meat is a fabulous source of protein and iron and shouldn't be neglected, just altered a bit.  Try leaner meats like filet mignon, flank steak, or roast beef, and save those other fabulous high-fat meats for a special occasion.  And remember to switch things up and don't get too comfortable-foods are meant to be moved around and it's important to not have a steady flow of one set food group constantly.  Allow me to portray this as a poker game: YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN TO FOLD AND WHEN TO HIT.

HANGOVER HELPER

Yes I went out last night.  Yes I had some cocktails.  Yes I had a great time.  Yes I'm paying for it now.  (And yes, on a work night no less-sue me).  I feel like death this morning and I owe it all to the fact that I didn't stay hydrated enough to rid my body of the alcohol consumption that occurred.  Listen, at the end of the day, even when you're trying to watch your weight and put happy, nutritional items in it all day long, humans are entitled to a slip-up and we can get carried away.  Especially if it's been a long, hot day and everyone else was doing it dammit!!  Well, no time to sob over my bad choices-time to get up, get dressed, and go to work.  OH-and make a pit stop at my fav bagel store for that bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel that has been calling my name since 2AM, right?  WRONG.  Listen-most of a hangover is made up of electrolytes lost in the dehydration that came from not having enough water to compensate for the alcohol in the drinks I was having and this can make the body crave salt which is why most people are looking for high salt, high protein foods the day after a night of drinking AKA bacon, egg, and/or cheese.  So let's see our options, shall we?

  • THE GOOD:  If you are going to that bagel store and there is NO stopping you, please consider grabbing a whole wheat bagel with the bread scooped out of the inside.  Low-carb bagels scare me (I'm not even sure how this is possible?) and I would rather see you put the RIGHT carbs in your mouth than some strange new ones and the less bread we consume all together, the better.  Please ask them to make it egg whites instead of the full eggs (particularly if you have a cholesterol issue) as this also lowers the calorie content, and ONE slice of cheese if you need it at all (I, of course, do).  Tell them to keep the bacon to 2 slices and you're good to go.  A nice bottle of naturally flavored seltzer (as opposed to a sugary juice drink) will get the hydration flowing and the bubbles will help you feel fuller longer.
  • THE BAD:  If the above idea is definitely not happening (and you're laughing as you read it), try the same idea with a few alterations: if you can't stomach the idea of a whole wheat, rye, or pumpernickel bagel, at least try scooping the bread out of the insides.  You'd be surprised how much you don't miss it and how many carbs and calories you're eliminating.  Please try for that one slice of cheese (same concept as the bread) and the 2 slices of bacon and pick a juice that is all natural with no sugars added.
  • THE ALTERNATIVE: And for those of you who woke up and are going to fight through the pain and have the guts to do this at home, let's do it!  Please try a whole wheat bagel thin or whole wheat sandwich thin with 2-3 egg whites, one slice of all-natural cheese (or even 1/2 slice!) with 1 all natural, nitrite, nitrate-free piece of bacon that I essentially break in half and put across the top half of my bagel (making it look like 2 slices-hey, the visual makes a difference in my ridiculous brain).  A small pour of my Trop50 OJ (diluted with water) and voila!  Same concept, same (mostly) taste, and AT LEAST 1/2 the calories, 1/2 the fat, and 1/2 the carbs.  You may have won the battle Cape May IPA, but I've won the war!

Cheeseburger in Paradise...

Good afternoon folks!  It's Friday at 5:30-time for the radios to blow the whistle and for my food self to celebrate that I made it through the week watching my carb and fat intake and can award myself with something greasy and generally, incredibly bad for me right? WRONG.  "Dieting" and weight loss isn't a game of winsome, losesome (Dammit, I'm making this a word spellcheck! You can't stop me!)-it's a lifestyle change.  This doesn't mean we have to just constantly watch what we eat from hereon in, it just means making healthier choices about the things that we really want.  So!  Instead of me heading to the fast-food window and ordering the double cheeseburger with fries that I'd really like, let me take the opportunity to give some other pointers.

  • THE GOOD: If you are eating out, try to avoid the fast food places all together.  Believe it or not, you would do better at a relatively nice pub or lounge where (most of them) are using all-beef patties and cooking those babies on the grill.  While I would like to say avoid the cheese, that's just ridiculous (I HEART CHEESE) but you CAN avoid the crazy toppings such as fried onions, bacon, wild sauces, and watch that ketchup intake (dam you high fructose corn syrup).  Go wild with the lettuce and tomato (unless you are allergic, have acid reflux from the acidity in the tomato, etc), and instead of the fries, see if they have an actual sweet potato you can throw on the side or, your best bet, grab yourself a side house salad with a low calorie dressing and you'll be good to go.
  • THE BAD: If a fast food chain is all that's around, that's cool-just stick to the basics.  Grab yourself ONE cheeseburger (keep it simple-cheese, pickles, a little ketchup and you're good) and grab yourself a side salad.  The sodas, whether they are diet or regular, are just bad news all together.  If you're a seltzer fan, this would be the best option (bubbles are a MUST with cheeseburgers!), water is always a fabulous alternative, or, if you must, order a SMALL soda and be done with it.  Sometimes, it's not WHAT we are eating but HOW MUCH we are having.
  • THE ALTERNATIVE: And for those of you going the extra mile!  Let's get bold and make these bad boys at home!  You'll save money, you're assured that there's nothing crazy going on with these burgers, AND it will be leaner, healthier, and calorie-friendly!  Try a 90% lean organic all-meat burger (if you want to go grass-fed, be my guest but I think they taste horrible-goooo pesticides!) OR a turkey or chicken patty of the same nature, 1 slice of cheese (your call on the type) or even 1/2 slice if you're feeling strong, some lettuce and tomato is cool if you enjoy them, 1 slice of organic all-natural no nitrate or nitrite lean piece of bacon (again, your call), and a whole wheat hamburger bun OR a low-calorie whole wheat sandwich thin or bagel thin to top that baby off.  A small baked potato or sweet potato is best as a side dish and a nice house salad with low calorie dressing and you've just outdone yourself.  You'd be surprised how great it tastes and how good you feel.  Craving-check!  Diet-check!  Rocked this sh!t-CHECK.