Snacks to Keep You Full and Energized
Apr11

Snacks to Keep You Full and Energized

Healthy people know that a good diet is the key to getting and staying in shape. Starving yourself with heavy restrictions may get you off to a fast start, but it’s not sustainable. It’s unhealthy and can make you very sick or lead to series injuries or illnesses. It can also make you feel sluggish and tired. Eating the proper amount each day will keep you full, healthy, and energized.

You should aim to eat three meals every day with two small snacks in between. Unfortunately, while many people may plan healthy meals, it’s way too easy to fall prey to unhealthy snacks. Bags of chips or doughnuts in the office are all to tempting, but they’ll leave you feeling unsatisfied and won’t give you the energy you need to make it to your next meal. Here are some healthy snack ideas to keep you energized all day.

Almonds

In general, nuts are full of healthy fats that your body needs to survive. Almonds are packed with filling protein as well as other nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium. Just be sure to watch your portion size, since the high fat content means that they are also high in calories.

Guacamole

Who doesn’t love guacamole? Skip the chips, though, and try one of these healthier options. You can replace a veggie dip or ranch dressing with guacamole for double the vegetables and lots of nutrients. In the mornings, you can spread guacamole on a piece of whole-wheat toast. 

Fruit and Cheese

The warmer weather means more access to fresh product, including delicious fruits. Fruit and cheese is a healthy snack that can feel indulgent from the sweet fruit and creamy, salty cheese. However, fruit provides fiber and vitamins, while cheese has protein and calcium. Be sure you eat more fruit than cheese to limit the calorie count. Try strawberries, which are in season in many parts of the country in the spring. Melons have a high water content, which will help hydrate you, as well.

Peanut Butter & Banana on a Rice Cake

This is a great snack to eat before a workout. Choose a brown rice cake for complex carbohydrates to give you energy. Bananas contain potassium that will keep muscle cramps at bay while the peanut butter has protein that will help you feel full and prevent your energy levels from crashing after an hour.

Eggs

Eggs are a great protein-rich food. They contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs to get by eating foods. Protein keeps you full and helps you build muscle. You can put eggs on whole-wheat toast, scramble them, make an omelet, mix them with vegetables, make them into a burrito, fry them, or hard boil them for a portable snack. 

Water

Okay, this one isn’t a snack, but it will help you feel more energized. A lot of times when you feel hungry, you’re actually feeling thirsty. Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and decrease your metabolism. Drink water consistently throughout the day to keep your energy up without any caffeine. You can add fruit and herbs like lemon, cucumber, strawberry, basil or mint for extra flavor.

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How Protein Helps You Build Muscle
Apr04

How Protein Helps You Build Muscle

 When it comes to getting in shape and staying healthy, diet is just as important as exercise (if not more). A nutrient-rich diet will give you the energy you need to work out and get on with the rest of your day. Eating a balanced diet will help you lose weight. What you eat is also important if you’re looking to build muscle. In particular, eating protein will help you gain strength and build muscle mass.

How It Works

Simply eating more protein doesn’t mean you’ll gain muscle mass. You also need to exercise and weight train, as well as eat a nutritious and balanced diet with fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

Protein is made up of amino acids, which aid and cause many of the reactions and processes in your body. When you exercise and lift weights, you create tiny micro tears in your muscles. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down and uses those amino acids to repair the tears. They surround and fill the tear, and make it bigger and stronger.

How Much Protein You Need

You want to make sure you’re eating the right amount of protein. Too little, and your body could take longer to build muscle. Eat too much and you could become dehydrated increase your risk of kidney stone, and end up gaining weight from fat, not muscle. Like anything, you need to find a balance and eat the right amount for you.

An average recommendation for someone who exercises regularly is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means that for 150 lb. person, they should be eating about 55 grams of protein per day. Athletes and people who work out a lot should eat even more.

How much protein you specifically need to eat every day will depend on your gender, current weight, height, and how much you work out. Women tend to need less than men. Hormone levels and body composition also play a role in how much you’ll need to bulk up.

If you really want to get it right, consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist to help you figure it out.

Protein-Rich Snacks

You can get protein from shakes, bars and supplements, but eating whole foods with naturally occurring nutrients is always going to be the best thing for your body. Here are some delicious ideas for protein rich snacks.

Eggs

Eggs are great to eat any time of day, not just for breakfast. They contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to get through your diet.

Rice Cake and Peanut Butter

This is a great pre-workout snack. The rice cake will give you energy while the peanut butter will keep you full and provide protein.

Greek Yogurt and a Banana

Greek yogurt has more protein than normal yogurt thanks to the way it’s strained. Try a plain yogurt with a banana for some sweetness and potassium. Add honey if you need to cut the tartness of the yogurt more.

In addition to helping you build muscle, protein keeps you feeling full longer so you’re less likely to snack or cave in to unhealthy temptations. It also helps your body digest sugar more slowly and regulate the release of insulin over a longer period of time, giving you more lasting energy and preventing a big crash.

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Easy Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Diet   
Feb13

Easy Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Diet  

blog-image-topfitness-1We all know that too much sugar isn’t good for you, especially the processed kind. It can lead to weight gain, make your energy levels inconsistent, cause breakouts, and increases your risk of things like heart disease and diabetes. Still, most Americans eat way too much sugar on a daily basis. For a healthy diet, men should consume at most 37.5 grams or nine teaspoons of sugar per day. Women should eat no more than 25 grams or six teaspoons. However, some studies have shown that the average American eats 76 grams of sugar per day, or the equivalent of 19 teaspoons. Thankfully, there are relatively easy ways to cut back on sugar.

Read Labels

Companies sneak so much sugar into products you wouldn’t expect. Jarred tomato sauce is a big culprit of added sugar, as is peanut butter. Always check how many grams of sugar per serving are in all your processed food. You should also read the ingredients list. Some foods have naturally occurring sugars, but if you see sugar (by any name—glucose, dextrose, sucrose, maltose and high-fructose corn syrup) on the list of ingredients, you know it contains added sugar.

Eat Real Food

Sugar occurs naturally in a lot of the food you eat, but those sugars aren’t necessarily bad for you. Your body needs them to function properly. There also isn’t a ton of sugar in them anyway. The more real food you eat, the less likely to are to eat sugar. Instead of reaching for boxed snacks in the afternoon, grab an apple, a few almonds or some carrot sticks.

Don’t Drink Your Sugar

We don’t necessarily thinking about the contents of our beverages the way we think about food. It’s easy over the course of a day to drink a ton of sugar. Sodas, fancy coffeehouse drinks and alcoholic beverages all contain sugar. Skip the sugar in your morning coffee and swap out soda for tea or sparkling fruit water. At happy hour, stick to beer, straight liquor or even a little bit of wine—just no mixers.

Get Enough Sleep

When you’re sleep deprived, you’re less likely to make wise decisions when it comes to what you eat and drink. You reach for quick carbs and sugars when you’re tired to give you a boost of energy, but it doesn’t last long. Your blood sugar drops and you eventually crash. You then reach for even more sugar, turning it into a cycle.

Eat More Often

You are much more likely to reach for sugary foods when your blood sugar is low and you feel ravenous. Eating consistently throughout the day can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady so you’re not as likely to give in to cravings. Just remember to stick to healthy snacks that are mostly whole foods. 

Go Cold Turkey

If you’ve tried the easy ways and still have trouble dealing with sugar cravings, you may want to consider quitting it altogether, at least for a little while. Eliminating processed sugar completely is tough, but after a while you’ll stop craving sweets. It might even make natural sugars in fruit and dairy taste even sweeter!

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How to Successfully (and Permanently) Change Your Lifestyle
Jan16

How to Successfully (and Permanently) Change Your Lifestyle

topfitness

Do you want to be a healthy person?

Someone who is in shape, without being on a diet or some crazy routine all of the time?

Do you want to make fitness a permanent part of your lifestyle?

Most people do. Creating a lifestyle that fitness fits into is the key to long term success.

You cannot be on a diet forever – but you can generally default to eating healthy foods. You can make working out a few times a week a habit that you enjoy and look forward to.

How do you get there?

How do you get over the hump and go from a fitness routine being something you are consciously doing, to part of who you are?

The key is to change your habits. To get to the stage where you are doing the things you need to do, without thinking about it.

No motivation or accountability is required – you just do it.

If you look at the four stages of learning, many of you will be yo-yoing between conscious competence (making yourself do the right things, following a diet, getting yourself motivated) and conscious incompetence (knowing what you should be doing, but giving up, ‘falling off the wagon’ and not maintaining it).

For long term success we need to get to the fourth stage, unconscious competence.

At this stage, doing the right thing is habitual. We do it, without having to think about it or make any particular effort. It is just part of who we are.

So how do you reach the stage of unconscious competence?

You Are Your Habits

Who you are can be defined as the actions and behaviors that you engage in. You are what you do.

When you consider that the majority of what we do is habitual and not something we consciously think about, you can say that we are our habits.

We get up, roll out of the same side of bed, eat the same breakfast, drive the same route to the office, etc.

We all have habits that define our lives, without us thinking about what we are doing.

What we want, is for fitness to become part of our habitual lives. We want to habitually go to the gym and workout. To achieve that we might habitually pack our gym bag the night before, habitually drive a different route home (via the gym) etc.

The way to create permanent change is to change our habits. To maximize our chances of being successful we should aim to change one habit at a time.

Trying to overhaul everything is overwhelming and most people fail in their fitness goals because what they are trying to do is too far away from what they are normally doing. They’re trying to change far too many habits at once.

Willpower and desire will work for a while, but not forever. If you’re trying to change too many things it will become overwhelming and you will never enjoy it.

The fact is, our habits are our comfort zone. It’s important that we are getting out of our comfort zone to make progress, but not so far out of it that we are constantly uncomfortable. That is a recipe for giving up and going right back to our old habits that keep us firmly inside our comfort zone.

Playing Dominos

Certain habits are more important to change than others. Certain habits are a trigger that lead to multiple other actions. If you can change these base habits, it can set off a cascade of other behaviors that we want to create.

For example, changing the food you put on a grocery list is more effective than making a decision every time you are going to eat about whether you should eat healthy or not.

If you only buy healthy foods in the first place, you don’t have much option.

This will conserve your willpower and avoid the temptation of junk food all together. Much easier to maintain than making a decision 3-4 times per day, every day, about what to eat.

When we’re stressed, tired, rushed, etc. it’s all too easy to fall back into the wrong decision in the moment.

By changing our grocery list and only buying healthy foods, we have completely eliminated that problem with one simple habit.

This is how you should approach all of the habits and behaviors you wish to change. Peel it back to the base habit that underpins everything which follows.

Changing this one thing can create a domino effect that leads to changing many other things which follow.

This is the secret to taking small, simple actions which create big changes. It is leveraging the odds in your favor.

This is the secret to successfully changing your lifestyle.

Do it in little steps; making changes to the few key habits that have a trickle down effect on everything else. Trying to change too many things at once will always lead to overwhelm, burnout and going right back to your old habits.

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4 Truths About Fitness You Don’t Want to Hear
Dec16

4 Truths About Fitness You Don’t Want to Hear

fitness

We all wish getting in shape was easy, simple and fun at every stage.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely to be the case. We’re going to look at 4 truths about fitness that people do not want to hear – but need to.

You need to know the reality of the situation, to know what you are trying to do and what it’s going to take. This empowers you. It gives you control of your situation.

Control to direct the outcomes of your life.

Hiding away from reality might feel better at the time, but it is sabotaging your long term happiness.

A little sacrifice now will create the life that you want in the future.

Here’s the 4 truths about fitness you don’t want to hear, but need to embrace to successfully achieve the body you dream of.

1. It takes time

Rome was not built in a day, as they say.

While you can make significant changes to your body quickly, if you are fully committed and dedicated, the reality is that your body reflects your long term behaviour.

You don’t get fat in 2 weeks, and nor do you get in shape in 2 weeks.

If you’ve been eating fattening foods, not exercising, not sleeping properly and highly stressed for years or even decades, you cannot expect to undo all of that in days or weeks.

It will take at least months.

You will make some progress quickly, but to fully reverse, it is going to take time.

The way that you look, feel and perform is reflective of your long term behaviours. You need to make a long term commitment to eating right, exercising, sleeping and managing stress if you want to optimize your health and the way you look.

We all want fast results, and it is possible to see changes quickly – there is nothing wrong with that. Getting fast results is not the same as only being committed for the short term. If you can implement a plan that gets you quick results and sustain it then go ahead.

Results in the short term can act as positive reference and motivation to keep going. There is nothing as encouraging as seeing results.

2.  There’s no magic pill or routine

Most people would admit this when asked. You know that if your friend was asking for advice, you would tell them to put in the time, stick with it and do the work.

Yet, we still want to believe that we are different. We have an edge and that there is a program, supplement, food or routine out there that will give us fast and easy results for little effort.

The marketing of many supplements, and fad diets is responsible for this, where they promise the world when you take this magical (expensive) pill, powder or shake. The reality is these plans might give you some short term results, but it is not sustainable.

To really see changes, you must commit to doing the work over a long period of time.

Become a master of the basics and you will succeed. Do not fall into the trap of the latest fad diet/exercise/supplement, thinking that this is the key to achieving more.

Keep things simple, eat healthy, move and commit to it for an extended period of time if you want to see results.

It’s against human nature to do this – why would anyone want to work hard to achieve something slowly when we could get it quickly for little effort – this is what the scammy marketers prey on. In the real world, the tortoise always beats the hare. You just have to make that commitment and believe in the process.

3.  If you don’t find a way to enjoy it, you will likely fail

It’s much easier to believe in the process and commit over the long term if you enjoy what you are doing.

Sure, you can force yourself to do things you don’t like for a period of time, especially when you are highly motivated, but you cannot do this forever.

Now, if you are not someone who currently enjoys working out or eating healthy, it can seem impossible to find a way to enjoy it. It’s just not who you are, right?

People change, and given time, you will change.

They key is to be looking for ways to enjoy it. This comes a lot from the way you talk to yourself. If you focus on how much you hate doing it, your mind will never open to the possibility of enjoying it.

If you focus on the foods you are not eating, you will simply miss them more. If you focus on all of the tasty foods you are eating, you will find that you enjoy your diet a lot more.

The same goes for exercise. Find something that you enjoy doing. If you don’t like the gym, try playing tennis or rock climbing. Whatever you think you might enjoy.

Think about it, nobody has to force you to do something that you like doing. You don’t need to build up willpower and drag yourself out of the door. You want to do it.

4.  The thing you hate the most is what you most need to do

This is pretty much true across any area of your life. We all gravitate to our strengths and avoid our weaknesses. The human ego likes being good at things, and dislikes being bad at things. We will always feed our own bias and focus on the things we are already good at.

This might mean you’re a great endurance runner, but have no strength or muscle mass. The temptation is to keep running – stay in the field in which we excel – rather than be humbled in the weights room.

It might mean you love going to the gym, and enjoy working out, but hate watching what you eat. So you focus on training, doing more, working harder and completely neglect the diet.

In both of these cases, the thing that holds the biggest benefit is the thing you do not want to do.

Eeking out an extra 2% in what we are good at will not move the needle as much as improving from 0-20% on something we are bad at. Yet the latter is easier to achieve.

This doesn’t mean you have to live in misery doing things you hate 24/7.  Just take a step back and honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Make a commitment to work on tackling some of the weaknesses until they are no longer a weakness. Your overall results will skyrocket.

Conclusion

The truth can be a bitter pill to swallow, but the sooner we start looking objectively at reality, and stop wishing or hoping for an alternative, the sooner we start changing our lives. 

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Testosterone & How Men Age
Dec09

Testosterone & How Men Age

testosterone

Testosterone, testosterone, testosterone! Start taking anabolic hormones, eat more oysters, and sacrifice a goat to the gods of manliness!

Just kidding…Testosterone has buried itself deep into contemporary culture as the number one determinant of manhood, and while yes, it is an important hormone for male health, let’s not get carried away. Testosterone declines as men age, the level of which is totally dependent on how healthy one’s lifestyle is. Like our previous article on female hormone changes after the age of 40, hormone changes are natural and can be mild to the point of being inconsequential if you treat your body right. First, let’s take a look to what men experience as they pass 40:

Weight gain

Decline in muscle mass

Higher likelihood of depression

Higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and prostate cancer.

Reduced libido

Reduced sexual potency

All of these symptoms can be attributed to lower T levels and proportionately higher cortisol or estrogen levels. However, let’s dispel one of the bigger testosterone myths, and that is unless you’re above the age of 65, aging has little effect on T production. Factors such as obesity, heart disease and glucose intolerance are what really impact testosterone levels negatively, but it’s because men are more likely to experience these diseases later in life that testosterone on average decreases with age. T production is also directly correlated with body weight since extra adipose tissue (fat) can produce estrogen itself.

The rise of so-called “diseases of affluence” like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, etc. in the past few decades has dramatically affected serum testosterone levels across society as a whole.  50 year-old men only a few generations ago had higher testosterone levels than 50 year-old men do today. So what can you do to avoid this fate? Testosterone replacement therapy is valid option, but supplementing with hormones will make your body dependent on them. Should you ever need to stop taking hormones the side-effects can be nightmarish, including depression, insomnia, impotence, gynecomastia, (male breasts) etc.

When you take synthetic testosterone, your body naturally increases estrogen levels to maintain a hormonal balance. When you stop taking synthetic testosterone there is a considerable lapse before your body starts naturally producing it again. If you prefer to avoid all of this together, you can simply

  • Eat:
    • Protein such as fish, free-range chicken, turkey, and grass-fed beef
    • Healthy fats, (avocado, coconut oil, almonds, and grass-fed butter)
    • Lots of veggies, particularly cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
  • Exercise
    • Moderate to easy exercise 4-5 times a week
    • High-intensity exercises like sprinting or compound lifting (squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.) 1-2 times a week.
  • Sleep…a lot:
    • Testosterone is physically released during REM sleep so if you don’t rest you lose.
    • Growth Hormone (GH) is also produced when you sleep and (same with testosterone)can be increased by sleeping in a cold environment. (Around 68 F degrees in your bedroom)
  • Supplement:
    • Vitamin D positively correlates with testosterone in men, meaning more vitamin D in your system = more testosterone.
    • Zinc supplementation can also improve testosterone levels but only to a degree. Low zinc typically correlates with low testosterone, however regular supplementation will not necessarily boost your T levels above normal.

Another factor is cortisol levels (the stress hormone). As people age their cortisol levels increase, making it harder to effectively deal with stress. Cortisol is also negatively correlated with testosterone as it reduces and antagonizes free testosterone in the body. Elevated cortisol levels have even been shown to inhibit erections! The easiest ways to avoid excess cortisol is to exercise (but do not over-train), get plenty of sleep, have plenty of sex, and learn how to meditate.

The human body is adaptive, and just because you spent the last 10 years eating cheeseburgers and chugging beers does not mean you’re a lost cause. Aging can be rewarding if you take the time to let it be. Eat, sleep, exercise right, and you won’t have to worry about sexual dysfunction, gynecomastia, or beer-belly syndrome.

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