One More Thought On Muscle Loss And Aging

I posted an article several days ago which discussed the interventions which can be practiced by older individuals to maintain muscle mass. In that article I discussed the importance of weight training, consuming adequate protein, and adding certain supplements which can reduce inflammation. A critical component in maintaining optimal function of the body at the cellular level is ensuring that micro-nutrient needs are met, i.e., meeting the body’s vitamin and mineral requirements. Given the fact that numerous nutrient deficiencies are increasingly common (such as magnesium, vitamin D3, calcium), supplementation with high quality products can often make the difference between a healthy state and one riddled with illness.

One sure way to meet micro-nutrient needs each day is to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement. I recommend taking a multivitamin which is dosed several times a day because the chance of optimal absorption is much greater than once-daily dosing. My favorite is SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber, because it delivers high bioavailability on a three time dosing regimen each day and is suitable for everyone, but it is especially great for individuals who tend to experience intestinal discomfort from multivitamin formulas.

You can order .40 Caliber directly from the website: http://swatfuel.com/products.aspx

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The Benefits Of Fruit

FruitFruit has gotten a bad rap recently in people’s efforts to eradicate sugar from their diets.  However, I strongly believe that this is a big mistake.  Fruits are low-calorie and (with the exception of avocados) low in fat, and are plentiful in vitamins and soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber aids the body in ridding fats and cholesterol from the body as well as ensuring regular transit of food particles in excretion.  In addition, fruits offer antioxidants which protect the  body from oxidant stress and many diseases, as well as boost our immune response.

I especially love blueberries as they contain a special type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins.  In fact, all “blue” fruits (blackberries, acai, mulberries and black grapes contain these powerful antioxidants just underneath their skins.

Here is a list of some of the most popular fruits along with their associated health benefits:

APPLE:  Apples are packed with soluble fiber and are high in vitamins.  Due to their high fiber content they can be excellent aids for individuals who suffer from constipation.

BANANA:  This fruit is well known for its high potassium content.  Those who have issues with high blood pressure might want to make bananas a regular part of their meal plans in order to manage their pressure issues.

BLUEBERRIES:  As stated before, blueberries are one of my favorite fruits because they offer so many health benefits.  This fruit is ranked number one in antioxidant activity and may help to lower the risk of developing neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  They also freeze very well.  In fact, not too long ago I was in the habit of purchasing large batches of blueberries, then freezing them for use in my morning oatmeal.

CRANBERRY:  This extraordinary fruit prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall and in so doing can be very effective in preventing urinary tract infections from developing.  I recommend the extract or juice to women who are prone to frequent urinary tract infections as it minimizes the chance of developing infections.  Cranberries have a strong antioxidant effect as well.

PINK GRAPEFRUIT:  This fruit is very high in a form of soluble fiber known as pectin, which can help to lower cholesterol.  It also is rich in lycopene and flavonoids, which may have a protective effect against certain types of cancer.  Beware of this fruit if you take cholesterol-lowering statins or some other medications, as grapefruit can interfere with some medications.

KIWI:  This strange, beautiful, tart fruit is packed with vitamins C and E, has 3 grams of fiber in one fruit, and is also rich in potassium and magnesium.  In fact, kiwi has more vitamin C than oranges do. 

MANGO:  This fruit has ample amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have a protective effect on vision and can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults.

ORANGE:  Oranges are rich in folate, an essential substance which helps to prevent neural tube defects in unborn infants and which also has a protective effect against the development of high blood pressure in women.  It is also rich in vitamin C and fiber.

PEAR:  Pears contain a lot of soluble fiber and for this reason can be very effective in relieving constipation.

PINEAPPLE:  This tropical fruit, besides containing large amounts of vitamin C, contains an enzyme known as bromelain which assists in breaking down protein and facilitating digestion.  Bromelain also has wound healing properties, helps to prevent blood clots and inhibits cancer cell growth.  Pineapples also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to alleviate arthritis pain.

POMEGRANATE:  This fruit is rich in antioxidant tannins which have a demonstrated protective effect on the heart.  Individuals with high blood pressure or risk of heart attack will benefit from ingesting this fruit on a daily basis.

PRUNE:  Prunes are very high in sorbitol which has a mild laxative effect, so the old wive’s remedy of drinking prune juice for constipation was extremely valid.  This fruit is also very rich in boron, a mineral which may help prevent osteoporosis.

RASPBERRY:  Raspberries are rich in folate, magnesium and ellagic acid, an antioxidant which may help to prevent cervical, esophageal and colon cancer.  They also provide large amounts of fiber, as well as vitamins A and C.

STRAWBERRY:  Strawberries are packed with vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium.  They also have a protective effect against carcinogens.

I realize that many people are not able to locate the fresh varieties of fruits throughout the year, so I want to call attention to the varieties of fruits which are available frozen.  Dole offers the following fruits in frozen versions:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Mangos
  • Mixed berries
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Frozen fruit is picked, washed, peeled, cut and frozen immediately in order to retain the bulk of its nutritional value.  When you are ready to use the fruit, you can either thaw it at room temperature or lightly defrost it in the microwave, though I strongly prefer room temperature thawing.

People who compete may have adopted the attitude that fruit is a big no-no, as they believe the fructose in fruit will potentiate fat retention.  However, if you consume small portions with meals, especially with your post-training meal, there is no way that you would consume enough to create such an issue.  I strongly disagree with the mindset that fruit consumption should be eliminated during contest prep, as this robs the body of powerful antioxidants and deprives a competitor of natural sweetness, which could result in strong cravings for sweet items which are made with sucrose or artificial sweeteners.  If you are extremely concerned about consuming too much fruit, try a small portion (1/4 to 1/3 cup of fruit in the morning with your first meal, and the same portion size with your post-workout meal. 

You might find it challenging to consume fresh fruit on a regular basis, and if so, you might not be incorporating vital nutrients into your diet on a daily basis. I recommend taking a multivitamin several times a day to optimize absorption, and my favorite is SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber. SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber Multivitamin delivers high bioavailability on a three time dosing regimen each day and is suitable for everyone, but it is especially great for individuals who tend to experience intestinal discomfort from multivitamin formulas.

You can order .40 Caliber directly from the website: http://swatfuel.com/products.aspx

How Emotional Eating Can Derail You From Your Fitness Goals

emotional-eating ice cream - Copy

Rather than discuss well-known emotional eating disorders such as bulimia, I will concentrate on binge eating which many women engage in from time to time.  It is important to recognize this behavior if it becomes a regular pattern, because frequent emotional eating warrants a diagnosis of binge eating disorder and requires treatment and intervention.

Binge eating is characterized by eating compulsively to cope with negative emotions and stressful situations.  A binge eater is rarely hungry when she begins to eat and will continue to eat well after she is full.  Such episodes can last for up to two hours or can occur off and on throughout the day.  The binger feels guilty both during and after the episode, but will not attempt to counteract it by fasting, taking laxatives, vomiting, fasting or over-exercising.  A strong lack of self-control as well as feelings of shame will accompany this behavior pattern.  There is a strong association between binge eating and depression.  Binge eating is also driven by social components such as social pressure to be thin, emotional and sexual abuse, parental criticism of a child’s weight, and the use of food as reward or punishment.

Food cravings are usually the strongest when you are in emotional crisis.  You may reach for food for comfort or to serve as a distraction.  Consider the following highly stressful events and think about whether you reached for comfort foods during such times:

  • Financial problems
  • Health problems
  • Work issues
  • Relationship issues
  • Fatigue
  • Family issues

Though some people will lose their appetites when stressed and will refrain from eating, many others will engage in impulsive eating in an effort to deal with negative emotions.  This may be relatively harmless if such emotional eating occurs on a very rare occasion, but becomes a serious problem when it is used as the only coping mechanism for stressful situations or negative emotions.  Just bear in mind that if you have a rare moment of weakness, it is important to recognize it as just that and to prevent yourself from spiraling into excessive feelings of guilt over the incident.  If you engage in an episode of emotional eating, learn to forgive yourself and have a fresh start the following day.

 
Why We Engage in Emotional Eating

 

What occurs almost invariably when we eat emotionally is that we turn to cookies, cakes, candy, fried foods and breads rather than to healthy foods.  There is a biochemical basis for such behavior.  Carbohydrates which are high in sugar or fat release dopamine in our brains which in turn stimulates the brain’s pleasure center, creating a sense of euphoria.  These foods are usually associated with pleasurable memories, such as cake which you may have looked forward to on your birthday, or macaroni and cheese as a treat after school when you were a child.

 

Food can also serve as a happy distraction from conflict or stressful events by stimulating the aforementioned pleasure centers.  What will frequently occur is that an excessive amount of these foods will be consumed.  However, if you remain aware of such automatic connections between food and mood and realize when you are eating for reasons other than hunger, you can break this cycle and get back on track with healthy eating habits which are associated with true hunger.

 

How To Combat Emotional Eating

 

  • Keep a food diary.  Get in the habit of writing down everything you eat and drink, including the quantity, the times at which you eat, your emotional state while eating the meal, and your level of hunger.  By doing this you may see patterns which will reveal your emotional relationship with food.

 

  • Remove tempting foods.  Avoid stocking comfort foods in your home if you find that they are difficult to resist.  And by all means avoid making trips to the grocery store if your emotions are spiraling out of control!

 

  • Practice stress management.  Yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques are effective methods of managing your stress.

 

  • Determine whether you are truly hungry.  Many times people may believe they are hungry when in reality they are actually emotionally distraught and desperately searching for a way to defuse such emotions.

 

  • Make sure you consume adequate calories.  Individuals who are trying to lose weight will often restrict their calorie intake too much, and will turn to the same foods in an effort to remain on track without rewarding themselves with an occasional treat.  Adding variety to your meal plan will also help to keep you on track.

 

  • Distract yourself.  If you get an urge to snack when you aren’t truly hungry, distract yourself by watching a movie, calling a friend, reading, listening to music, or taking a walk.

 

  • Consume healthy snacks.  If an urge to snack between meals strikes, choose a low-calorie snack such as vegetables with seasoned nonfat Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, low fat cottage cheese or rice cakes.

 

  • Get enough sleep.  Getting enough sleep is an important component in decreasing cravings for comfort foods.

 

  • Eat at regular intervals.  Consume smaller meals every three to four hours to keep you from feeling hungry or deprived.

 

  • Focus on the experience of eating.  Learn to eat in a mindful manner, in which you pay attention to your meal and only your meal.  Become aware of the sensations associated with eating.

 

  • Reward yourself.  It is both physically and emotionally unhealthy to practice excessive calorie restriction for prolonged periods.  Allow yourself to have a favorite food or meal once each week.

 

  • Connect with your emotions.  When a food craving hits during an emotional time, write down the emotions you are experiencing, such as sadness, loneliness or anger.

 

  • Seek professional help if emotional eating is frequent.  There are countless support groups which you can join which will help you to develop insight as well as the skills to avoid engaging in such behavior.

 

One last note: make sure to get vital nutrients into your diet on a daily basis. I recommend taking a multivitamin several times a day to optimize absorption, and my favorite is SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber. SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber Multivitamin delivers high bioavailability on a three time dosing regimen each day and is suitable for everyone, but it is especially great for individuals who tend to experience intestinal discomfort from multivitamin formulas.

You can order .40 Caliber directly from the website: http://swatfuel.com/products.aspx

It All Adds Up

good-or-bad foods
When you add the label of “forbidden” to a food, it suddenly becomes quite irresistible, revealing the human tendency to become lured by temptation. Of course it doesn’t help that these so-called forbidden foods are full of sugar and other substances which trigger more cravings. You may be the type of person who occasionally nibbles on a food which is ordinarily on the do-not-eat list, or you may find yourself in a pattern in which you rationalize your dietary transgressions and cannot stop the behavior. If your indulgences are frequent, you have probably noticed the evidence accumulating around your waistline.

While competitors must follow rigid meal plans which discourage the consumption of any fat-laden or sugary treats, those of you who do not compete can follow a clean diet 90% with the occasional treat and suffer minimal consequences, However, individuals who do not follow rigid meal plans may be consuming nutrient-poor foods laden with saturated fat and sugar far more often than they realize. They may also be tricked into ordering a meal which seems to be clean, such as a chicken caesar salad, only to find out that the salad dressing alone can obliterate any possibility of consuming a healthy meal. The temptations continue when people are trying to keep up with busy schedules and ordering less than foods out of hunger and exhaustion. More temptations may also be lying in wait at home. Perhaps you have rationalized a nightly glass of wine or a Pop Tart as a treat for a busy day at work, but when this is practiced on a daily basis, it will surely trap you in a “one step forward, two steps back” pattern which will prevent you from achieving your fitness goals. Suddenly the clean and healthy diet is followed only about 40%, meals are random, and the risk of malnutrition also emerges as a result of erratic and unhealthy eating practices.

The key is to follow nutritional guidelines which will ensure that you get the nutrients and calories which your body requires. If it is too difficult to determine what it is that you need to consume on a daily basis for optimal nutrition, hire a nutrition coach to give you structure and consistency. You will still be able to enjoy the occasional treat, as long as you remember that moderation is the key. Another valuable habit to implement is the daily intake of a multivitamin, preferably one which is taken several times a day to optimize absorption. What I love about SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber Multivitamin is that it has high bioavailability of nutrients along with a three time per day dosing recommendation. This is my personal choice of multivitamin, and yes, I do take it three times daily. This formulation is very clean and doesn’t cause the intestinal upset that some multivitamins can cause. I can tell that I actually feel more energized when I take this particular multivitamin as opposed to other brands.

You can order .40 Caliber directly from the website: http://swatfuel.com/products.aspx

Eggs Are Superfoods

eggs
If you haven’t already incorporated eggs into your regular meal plan, you should. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, and also provide all eight essential amino acids which are necessary for optimal muscle gains. Eggs are also packed with the following nutrients:

· Vitamin A
· Vitamin E
· Vitamin K
· Vitamin B12
· Riboflavin
· Folic acid
· Iron
· Zinc
· Calcium
· Selenium
· Choline

You may have been duped into believing that eggs should not be eaten due to the fat content in the yolks. However, there are only 2 grams of saturated fat and a total of 5 grams of fat in an average egg. The body actually requires a certain amount of saturated fat for proper function, which translates to about 20 grams of saturated fat on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. If you add only four whole large eggs to your daily diet, you will get 20 grams of quality protein with only 8 grams of saturated fat. As for the cholesterol content in egg yolks, it has been determined that dietary cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, consumption of eggs can improve blood lipid panels.

Here is a macronutrient breakdown of one large egg:

· 71 calories
· 6 grams protein
· 5 grams fat
· Zero carbohydrates
· 211 milligrams cholesterol
· 70 milligrams sodium
· 37 milligrams Omega 3 fatty acids
· 574 milligrams Omega 6 fatty acids

As a general rule, I purchase large or extra-large eggs for our household so that I can get the most protein possible. The larger eggs cost only a bit more than small or medium eggs and are a very cheap and high quality protein source which can be consumed during contest prep.

Individuals who want to gain muscle, especially during a bulking phase, should incorporate egg yolks in order to meet the high energy requirements that such a phase demands. Eggs are very easily digested and absorbed and can help to ensure a balanced diet. They are also quite versatile and can be eaten with other foods in omelets and high protein pancakes. If you want a quick snack which provides a good amount of protein, you can hard-boil eggs, making them a portable food source which can easily be packed in a food cooler for the day.

One of the best ways to ensure proper nutrition on a daily basis is to take a multivitamin. Though many multivitamins are dosed as one pill daily, the body cannot utilize all the nutrients in one large dose, so it is more beneficial to the body to take a multivitamin several times a day to optimize absorption. What I love about SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber Multivitamin is that it has high bioavailability of nutrients along with a three time per day dosing recommendation. This is my personal choice of multivitamin, and yes, I do take it three times daily. This formulation is very clean and doesn’t cause the intestinal upset that some multivitamins can cause.

You can order .40 Caliber directly from the website: http://swatfuel.com/products.aspx