Pack Your Meals! Tips On How To Succeed

containers-stacked-for-storageAnyone who knows me well is aware of the fact that I am consistent about packing clean meals and toting them around with me throughout the day. It can be cumbersome to pack food, especially when I know I will be out of the house for most of the day, but by doing so I have peace of mind knowing that I will be able to stay on track with my meal plan no matter what. Competitors and fitness professionals practice this habit and can attest to the power of clean eating in maintaining a sculpted, muscular physique.


However, I realize that many of you who do not compete or have an involvement in fitness may be wondering if there is any point to packing meals if you are an average person. There are a multitude of benefits to be gained from packing meals for the day:

• Portion Control – If you measure and weigh your portions before placing them into containers, you will have full control over your intake.

• Cooking Method – Steaming, baking, boiling, grilling and poaching are easy cooking methods which also enable you to prepare food without adding unnecessary fat.

• Save Money – By purchasing food at the grocery store and preparing it yourself, you will save a significant amount of money.

• Maintain A Low Sodium Diet – Restaurants often add significant amounts of sodium to enhance the flavor of their dishes. If you are trying to keep your sodium intake low, you are better off preparing your own food.

• Accommodate Medical Dietary Restrictions And Food Allergies – Restaurant meals may add ingredients which are forbidden from your meal plan due to medical conditions or food allergies. Instead of taking a risk, you are better off preparing your meals and packing them with you.

When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me (https://youtu.be/GQltYTRLTC4) and had meals from Icon Meals (https://iconmeals.com/) with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!

I always recommend tempered glass storage containers over plastic, since heating up ingredients in most plastic containers carries a risk of deranging the plastic and releasing harmful chemicals into the food. I make an exception with BPA-free containers, and recommend the types which have locking lids to prevent leakage of food.
6-Pack-Bag_Details-small
The BEST meal packing system out there is made by Six Pack Bags:
https://www.sixpackbags.com/bags.html

By adopting the habit of packing your meals, you will be on the road to better health!

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The Power of NO (Updated Post)

How often do you agree to do something when you are either completely unmotivated to do it, or are so over-burdened by other responsibilities that you feel like you are shackling yourself to an impossible schedule? Maybe you’re known as the “nicest person” who always manages to make time for everybody no matter what. And maybe you don’t want people to think otherwise about you, despite the fact that your energy and your patience are worn thin by people who always seem to drain the very lifeblood from you, and expect you to do everything for them at the drop of a hat.

Have you ever considered using the word NO once in a while? By setting limits and boundaries, you will keep energy vampires at bay, and you give yourself a chance to balance out your life so that you don’t burn yourself out. I am sure that the people who have taken your availability for granted will be stunned when you respond to a request with NO, but they’ll get used to it. Whenever I gather the courage to refuse a request, a feeling of complete relief washes over me, especially if I feel like I am drowning in the wide expanse of my to-do list.

When you refuse a request, task, or invitation, you finally allow yourself to take a break. As long as you aren’t shirking responsibilities, you absolutely should feel like you deserve to clear the space around you, especially if you are in dire need of recharging your own batteries. There’s something I say to patients quite frequently, and that is, remember to put the oxygen mask over your OWN face. If you don’t nurture yourself, you won’t perform as well in all the roles you play in your life, whether it’s employee, boss, parent, spouse, etc.

It’s completely acceptable to draw the line in the sand, and to establish boundaries which preserve your sense of self and which keep your life, and your spirit, balanced and happy. If you are having difficulty asserting yourself and getting to the power of NO, then try this: whenever someone asks you for a favor or invites you somewhere, just say that you need to think about it or check your schedule, which is not a lie, and that you will let that person know soon. That gives you a window of time to evaluate the situation, and to determine if you have the time or the resources to accommodate the invitation or request.

Another important consideration is whether you have the inclination to take part in the task or event. Be honest with yourself! I see too many people agree to do things they don’t want to do, then they are steeped in misery. This doesn’t give you permission to be difficult, selfish, or uncooperative, but it certainly gives you some breathing room. If your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it!

Remember that you will be better equipped to serve others if you take care of yourself first.

Understanding Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS Have you ever adopted a new workout regimen, then ended up kicking your ass so hard that you became discouraged from the pain you experienced after your workouts? If so, you were probably taken by surprise when delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) set in. What often occurs is that people adopting new exercise regimens may become quickly discouraged, usually because they don’t understand why they are so sore, and will back off from exercising without ever getting a chance to maintain consistency. However, DOMS may be a beneficial signal that your workouts are challenging enough to make a difference.

DOMS typically develops between 24 to 72 hours after physical activity, and is considered a relatively normal and common result of activity that challenges muscle tissue. One popular but flawed theory is that the microscopic tears which occur in the muscle fibers after exercise, coupled with the release of lactic acid and protons, are responsible for the muscle soreness which characterizes DOMS. Mizumura and Taguchi determined in an important study that neurotrophic factors are produced by muscle fibers and satellite cells, and are critical for the development of DOMS symptoms. They also determined that damage to muscle fibers was not a necessary component of DOMS, further suggesting that a neurological cascade is what results in the post-exercise soreness.

For the most part, the aches and pains which characterize DOMS are assumed to be a sign that your muscles are adapting to the activity which caused them to develop in the first place. Rather than shying away from physical activity in the long term, the general recommendation is to take it easy for a few days, while still exercising, until the pain subsides. However, those of us who are gym rats and fitness freaks will tend to adopt the “Suck it up, buttercup!” mentality, powering through workouts as best we can while our bodies scream out in general agony.

So what can you do if you have DOMS and you want to lessen the severity and duration of the soreness? The truth is, not much. However, here are some suggestions which you might want to try. Keep in mind that none of these suggestions is proven to ameliorate DOMS, but none will worsen the symptoms either.

• consumption of plenty of water both during and after exercise
• consumption of a protein-rich meal after exercise
• glutamine
• cherry juice
• vitamin D supplementation
• compression garments
• Epsom salts
• application of heat

One thing to bear in mind is that if you are consistently working out at the same intensity, your muscles will become familiar with that intensity, essentially adapting to it. This phenomenon is called the repeated bout effect (RBE), and basically means that you will most likely notice a drop-off in DOMS episodes. If you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your workouts, the chance of developing DOMS will return.

Obviously if you believe you have a specific injury, and not DOMS, then get it evaluated and rest up.

REFERENCES
Mizumura K, Taguchi T. Delayed onset muscle soreness: Involvement of neurotrophic factors. J Physiol Sci. 2016 Jan;66(1):43-52.

Ham, Cheese and Pickles

During a recent urgent care shift, I encountered a man in his mid-50’s who had presented to the center with complaints of sinus pressure and cough. After I gathered more history and conducted a physical exam, the patient went on a tangent, asking me numerous questions about healthy foods. A commercial construction foreman, he was accustomed to being on site during the day, and insisted that his daily lunch was quite healthy and acceptable. As he prepared to tell me about this daily meal, he beamed with pride. What was it? Several slices of ham from the refrigerated section of the supermarket, a few slices of cheese, and a handful of pickles. He truly believed that the meal he consumed daily was incredibly healthy and nutritious. He even stated that he was consuming a high protein meal with produce (the pickle). The patient went on to tell me that when he was done with work, he often stopped at Arby’s to pick up a sandwich for dinner, and felt that the animal protein from these sandwiches wasn’t harmful in the least.

I shake my head in amazement when I encounter patients who have completely convinced themselves that somehow, their eating habits are completely clean and healthy, when they are actually abysmally deficient in nutritional value. What is more surprising is how insistent these people are on continuing their unhealthy habits, even when they ask for advice. The patient I mentioned above listened to me discuss the power of food as fuel, as sustenance, and nodded when I suggested he visit the fresh produce section of local grocery stores, select uncured meats, and avoid frequenting fast food establishments like Arby’s. I also mentioned that his blood pressure readings of 181/125, 179/127, and 185/122 (non-symptomatic) were rather alarming, especially since he stated that he had “forgotten” to take his blood pressure medications that morning. Was it fair to shake him out of his fog and inform him that with malignant hypertension, and a diet sure to compound the problem, he was on a short course to an unfavorable event like a stroke or heart attack? Did he even care if he was at high risk?

This is the kind of situation which I as a physician must often dance around. I have to determine how receptive a patient is to advice, and I also have to figure out the best way to speak to the patient without offending or discouraging him or her. It can be very tricky to reason with someone who has most likely gone through his entire life somehow believing that ham, cheese and pickles constitute an acceptable daily meal in anyone’s life!