DNA Homework & Travel Workouts

The following workouts are homework to do while traveling. These will be challenging workouts, enough to keep you in shape and even make progress with minimal equipment needs. They are generally kept short and simple, though you should keep the intensity high! Like always, proper technique is most important!

Post results to the comments below.

1. Training Day
10 rounds as fast as humanly possible of:
5 Push ups
10 sit ups
15 squats

2. Active recovery (optional)
Take a LEISURELY Jog:
If you:
<1 month of training (noob?) = 10 mins total run time
2 months in = 1.5 mile jog
>3 months = 5k (3.1 miles)

3. Training
100 burpees FOR TIME, 10 minute cutoff
DO IT! FAST!

4. Active recovery (optional)
Go for a Hike or,
Hike downtown and explore,
go on an adventure.

5. Training
Find a park & jungle gym/playground
For time:
as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes:
3 pullups (substitute 6 jumping pullups)
6 pushups
9 squats

6. Active Recovery:
Go swimming or, as many rounds as possible in 5 minutes of:
100 flutter kicks
100 reverse flutters (belly down)

7. Training

As many walking lunges in 10 minutes as possible; every minute on the minute do 3 burpees!

8. Active recovery 10 minutes
Practice handstands, wall walks, and/or cartwheels.

9. Training
Complete as fast as possible in order:
50 push ups
100 air squats

10. Active recovery
As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of:
30 jumping jacks
20 sit-ups
10 burpees

There you have it! Do these on days you would normally train (if possible). If you finish any one of these thinking that it was too easy, then you didn’t push yourself hard enough (no slop)!

Cheers!
Dave

4 Signs Your Nutrition Plan Is Working.. Or Not!

The "Fat Pincher 4000"!

The “Fat Pincher 4000”!

Sometimes changes in health and body aren’t so easy to recognize. DNA’s nutrition program was developed with the intention of being a long-term lifestyle modifier, focused on sustainability. For most of us this means being patient and waiting for changes to occur from the inside-out, and sometimes those changes could take longer than we’d like them to.

A huge problem we create for ourselves is that most of us only focus on certain “problem” body parts, such as belly fat, while the parts we neglect to pay attention to, might be ones that make impressive changes but fail to get noticed. But, it’s those stubborn problem areas that are usually the last to change. That’s why it’s important to get measured once monthly, or at least take some pictures for comparison.

If you are on a fat loss plan, the most difficult time that EVERYONE goes through is “The Ugly Stage”. The Ugly Stage is a point during fat-loss, when fat starts to get soft and saggy, resulting in fat that looks unusually flabby. The good news is soft & squishy fat is an indicator that you are in fact, burning fat! Unfortunately because of this temporary saggy fat, many people think they look worse and lose heart, when in reality holding out for just a little longer would have resulted in a “Whoosh”.

Whooshes seem to happen over night;  when after an extended time (sometimes several weeks) of seemingly zero progress, a big drop in fat/weight occurs, as if out of nowhere. The reality is, sometimes cells have already burned the fat off, leaving behind a water filled cell (water is heavy). As long as one remains diligent, eventually the body signals many of these cells to purge this stored water, and the whoosh results in huge drops!

Becoming a scale-junkie is another common problem. Constantly getting on the scale is not a great motivator. Especially for the beginner to a strength and conditioning program. Lean mass consisting of muscle and bone are good and heavy. Realize that if you’re a beginner, your body probably needs to add some of this good “machinery” to get stronger and healthier. The exchanges of fat and muscle result in less movement on the scale. Step away from the scale! Get rid of it!

To know if your current plan is working, answer these 4 questions:

  1. Are You Seeing Increases In Performance?
    • If you’re consistently getting stronger, moving faster, and are generally getting better in your training, those are all signs that you’re eating an adequate amount of nutrients.
    • If you aren’t sure whether you’re seeing progress, then you obviously haven’t been using your log book!
    • If lately your training sessions haven’t been what they used to be, or you feel sluggish and/or unmotivated to train, this could be a sign of nutritional inadequacies. This often happens to those that have trained for more 6 months or more, as their energy expenditure begins to exceed their energy intake, creating a large caloric deficit. As you become capable of doing more, you should also be adjusting your intake to get more fuel too!
  2. Are You Regularly Feeling Good/Better?
    • From the moment you wake up, do you feel like all is good? Do you have energy throughout the entire day, and usually sleeping well?
    • Junk food will make you groggy, gassy, bloated and interrupt sleep.
  3. Are You Looking Good/Better?
    • The answer is a yes if:
      • Your body fat % is getting better (we test this anytime before class, just ask us).
      • You’re receiving compliments from people who haven’t seen you in a while, or even better, getting compliments from people you regularly see!
      • Your clothes are fitting looser.
  4. Is Your Blood Panel Good/Better?
    • Not everyone has regular access to their blood work so the general rule of thumb here is; if your answers were “Yes” to the rest of these questions, then this one could probably be a yes too.

If you answered “No” to more than one of these questions, then you might consider joining the DNA Nutrition Challenge, or at least re-evaluate your nutritional situation.

More than two “No” answers could be a sign of too many stresses, ill-health factors or worse. We’d  recommend you to seek help to remedy these issues. The potential for more serious health problems could result from prolonged stresses, and might be caused by adrenal fatigue. Sarah Cotten, one of our instructors, is an Adrenal Fatigue Expert, and DNA is also partners with Quality Of Life Medical Research Center. Together, we can help you figure it out and/or refer you to the right people.

If you answered “YES” to at least 3 of these questions then you’re doing something right. Keep on keeping on, and you’ll reach those goals as elusive as they sometimes seem.

 

The Best Nutrition Advice Ever!

The world of nutrition is literally filled with garbage. Too many people misunderstand how the human body uses nutrients, and because of that common ignorance fall victim to the sales pitches of every online nutrition “expert”. Quick-fix diet plans don’t work because those diets focus on selling some type of product, or offer a sketchy plan that is not sustainable. Fortunately…eating healthy doesn’t have to be a mystery. It is important that we focus on changing the long-term plan… your lifestyle. Apply these 4 simple rules to everyday life, and your health and physique will begin changing for the better.

  1. Eat Real Food! Real food is generally defined as food that is found naturally. If it could be Hunted or Grown, and is naturally occurring, and it fits the rest of these rules, then it is probably good for you. If humans were responsible for its existence, don’t eat it! Mix up your real food in as much variety as you can handle. Don’t be fooled by “food fakes”–> If it has weird ingredients that are difficult to pronounce – be wary.
  2. Eat meat! “Things that you could hunt” (including eggs), should be your main course at every meal. Notice I said MEAT and not Protein? Eating beans because they have protein isn’t the same as eating meat, which is high in all the amino acids our body needs. Also beware of processed meats, and mystery meats…they are JUNK FOOD don’t do it
  3. Eat Plants! Prioritize meat, then add fresh plant food as side dishes. Variety!
    • If it’s sweet it’s a treat, not a meal. example: fruits such as bananas, apples, mangos, and oranges should all be used as a dessert.
    • If it’s a plant that must be processed  to be consumed, you should not over eat it. Especially if you’re trying to lose weight and/or get healthy.
  4. Eat Junk Food! What would life be like without the occasional cheesecake, or Pizza? We invented these foods because they’re delicious. OK, OK, after all that DON’T EAT JUNK FOOD stuff earlier… let’s keep this rule sensibleLimit non-natural and refined foods (Junk Food) to ONE MEAL every:
    • Month if you’re very overweight and need to lose FAT. Yes, ONCE A MONTH!
    • 2-3 weeks if you still need to lose a bit of weight, but otherwise healthy
    • Week if you are happy with your current weight,  health and fitness level

The following chart is a helpful guide in identifying foods that are good for you. It’s not the holy-nutrition-bible, obviously nutrition can get much more complicated, but when in doubt it’s a good tool!

**Interactive Version**

**Printable Version** 

DNA's Real Food Nutrition Guide

DNA Guarantees 1 Thing…

…that we can get you ripped in six months, training three times per week for thirty minutes. No BS, no pills, no supplements, no weird fad diets, and most important of all, NO hours of torturous training.

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Caption: “We Can Get You Ripped by Summer”

When Angel walked in for the first time, he was unsure about taking on personal training. It was December ’13, I asked him what he wanted to achieve, and like many who walk through the door for the first time, he responded “lose a few pounds, and gain some muscle”. I looked at him and said “I Guarantee that if you follow my program I can get you ripped by summer, just in time to hit the beach the way that most people want to; defined and muscular”. The above photos tell the rest of the story. ~Dave

(see his testimonial here)

We at DNA can confidently make this guarantee because:

  1. We understand the way the human body responds to training. In technical terms this is called the hormetic effect of exercise*.  The study describes the benefits of low to moderate “doses” of exercise, as well as the negative effects of inactivity, and the negative effects of too much activity. With this knowledge, we are able to understand and manage the level and dosage of activity to get the best results for any individual. This is what most programs out there don’t understand, and people get injured, or get little results.
  2. We understand how the body uses different nutrients for different needs. Are you training for a marathon? Then you probably need a different food (macro) profile than someone who wants to focus on muscle building. Are you over the age of 45? Then your body needs a great blend of nutrients to reduce inflammation, and increase cellular function. Are you training for a sport or military? Then the macronutrient ratio in relation to caloric intake must be ideal to handle the sheer amount of volume of physical activity.
  3. We understand the psychological triggers that influence the actions and outcomes of the individuals in our programs such as;
    • Making lifestyle changes at home, work, school, and in your immediate circle.
    • The negative mental impact of participating in an exercise-you-to-death type of program.
    • The consequences of being too strict on a nutrition plan.
    • The positive changes of “getting things right”.

Those are just a few examples, but our program really is, you hiring scientists who understand you and your body, and are able to help manage you effectively.

Of course, this guarantee doesn’t suit everyone’s situation. It’s obvious that if you are very obese, then it will take more time to reach a goal to get ripped, but it can get done, and much sooner than expected. Especially if you’ve experienced mediocre results in a crappy program in the past. On the other hand, if you have an underlying health issue, then that can really complicate things. For those in the above categories we do, however, “Guarantee that the programs at DNA will change your life forever”.

Who’s up for the challenge? Contact Us

*Exercise, oxidative stress and hormesis
Zsolt Radaka, Corresponding author contact information, E-mail the corresponding author, Hae Y. Chungd, Erika Koltaia, Albert W. Taylorb, Sataro Gotoa,

Snooze or Lose, Part 1

Welcome to the first installment of a DNA series on sleep. Shuteye, 40 winks, sawing logs, catching some z’s, visiting la la land, zonking out…once we get past about age 9, we LOVE to sleep, and few of us get enough precious hours of slumber. Unfortunately, we can sabotage our training and nutrition efforts by short-changing sleep. Understanding your need for sleep and why it matters can help a lot in improving quality and quantity of sleep, and the results can be amazing.

If you have ever lived with a baby or someone who needs care around the clock, you probably understand how miserable sleep deprivation can be. Your brain feels fogged, you get cranky and have no patience, you can’t think clearly, and decision-making is a real chore. Many people get depressed and even suicidal with long-term sleep deprivation. On the other end of the spectrum, people who get adequate sleep each night have more energy and are generally sharper, happier, and far more upbeat than the unsleeping zombies. Most of us live somewhere in the middle, with almost enough sleep most of the time, punctuated by the occasional really good night’s sleep or late night online / partying / reading / etc. binge.

sleep_deprived_by_jhallpokemon-d5mmtwh

Why don’t we sleep enough?

Several societal factors influence our tendencies toward insufficient sleep. In short, we humans have done it to ourselves, and Americans value sleep less than many other nations.

  1. Electric light and other modern conveniences. Back in the days before we could easily light a room with the flick of a switch, people generally got up with the sun and went to bed with the sunset. Candles allowed some people to stay up after dark, but  people were probably so tired from performing manual labor all day that staying up after sunset was not preferred anyway. People spent a lot of time hunting, planting and/or harvesting or foraging for food, preparing food, building or maintaining a home, making or maintaining clothing, and performing many other basic tasks needed to live that we now take for granted. Two hundred years ago, people couldn’t go to the mall to buy new clothes and stop at the grocery store on the way home. Wealthy people after the industrial revolution had more shopping options than the caveman, but even then, someone had to get food, cook it, clean, and so forth. Automation of basics tasks and the increase of convenience has given us free time, which we have since jammed full of activities.
  2. Modern activities and distractions. The development of modern conveniences was intended to make life easier. While cars, washing machines, refrigerators, and the modern food distribution system are examples of amenities that have drastically simplified many basic tasks, we have invented a plethora of activities to fill the time previously occupied with basic survival activities. Late-night television has been around for decades, and many of us have traded sleep for Letterman on many nights, especially when we can watch in bed. The twentieth century brought the intrusion of the internet, so that now we can waste countless hours in front of the screen chatting with faraway friends, playing Candy Crush Saga, or even writing blog posts.  While the web now fulfills some of our social needs positively (or dysfunctionally, depending how you view it), online activity precludes sleep for many people. Further, many of us pack our days so full and take on so much that we work into the night, especially if we have to get kids to bed first. Some people just choose to stay up late to read, do puzzles, party, or otherwise relax, enabled by electric light.
  3. Culture and the badge of honor. Unfortunately, out workaholic culture does not value sleep. In some parts of the military, sleep is sometimes treated as a sign of weakness, and people who stay up for 3 days in a row are often viewed with admiration and awe. (Never mind that sleep deprivation has led to countless training accidents, many of them fatal.) Most offices value coming in early and staying late, to the detriment of productivity and usually sleep. Medical interns and residents often work  ridiculously long shifts, and older doctors view sleeplessness as a rite of passage; while the dangers inherent in depriving medical professionals of sleep are becoming recognized, this problem still exists, and will probably die hard. Anecdotally, the Baby Boomer generation seems to value sleep deprivation more than Gen Xers and younger workers, but companies will probably shift to recognize the value of sleep very slowly as different generations take charge.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Wow, that’s depressing. What can I do about it?

Start by recognizing the sleep drainers in your life. If you are staying up later than you like and / or waking up groggy with the alarm, and you know that you need more sleep, take a critical look at your schedule. What are you doing at 10pm and 6am? What can you eliminate from your daily or nightly activities that will allow you to get more sleep?

If you routinely go to bed later than you would like, set yourself an appointment. If necessary, set a sleep alarm – in reverse of the usual alarm clock – so that Mr. Smart Phone tells you to knock it off at the desired hour. Once you have developed the discipline to actually go to bed on time, bring the time forward 15 minutes. Repeat until you can get 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep each night. Implementation is not easy, but it’s critical to your long-term health.

Next time, we will examine why sleep matters, and in future posts I will cover the Golden Rules of Sleep and current research. Until then, sleep well!

 

A Note on Phases: they aren’t grades

We noticed a misperception among some of our nutrition clients who seem to believe that the program phases are progressive. In other words, some of you seem to think that Phase 2 is more advanced than Phase 1, and so forth. We would like to clarify.

Nope. Not quite.

Phase 1 focuses on quality of food, Phase 2 includes quantity, and Phase 3 brings in timing. Different phases are appropriate for different goals. Phases 2 and 3 are eating for performance, and if you are working on general fitness and strength but not working to drastically increase performance, then Phase 1 is appropriate and the others are not. Similarly, if you are going through a challenging patch – big deadline at work, new baby, sick parents, etc., then you probably need to focus on maintenance and basic lifestyle and not on performance. If you have been on phase 3 for a while and lifting a lot, you may choose to throttle back for a bit, to freshen things up and take a break.

Your training and nutrition will necessarily vary throughout your life. Switching from a performance focus to other goals is not a sign of weakness or giving up. It’s not really possible or healthy to relentlessly pursue strength goals without a break; your body will benefit from an extended rest from time to time. Remember, over training is a form of stress, and your body will fight with inflammation and stress hormones, both of which are detrimental to long-term health. In some cases, motivation can get in the way of progress.

Never feel guilty about throttling back, and changing from one nutrition phase to another; life is a marathon journey, not a continuous sprint, and switching gears is normal and expected. As long as you understand your choices and are comfortable and happy with the state of your body and mind, you are probably progressing just fine. Nutritional phase is just your fueling plan, not a grading scheme, and as such should be chosen according to the state of both your training and your life.

Client of the Month: Marybeth P.!

A.C.T. client Marybeth is our superstar of the month for September. Coincidentally, we also celebrated her birthday, and she is more fabulous than ever! Marybeth has literally worked her butt off in our Accelerated Custom Training program, dropping inches and pounds while gaining lean muscle and transforming herself completely. The photos say it all!

marybeth In the top photos, Marybeth had already been training for several months! We didn’t have a picture before that…

We asked Marybeth some questions to learn a little bit more about here. Here’s what she told us…

Favorite workout: Getting in the door! I can be in the worst mood, and when I get here, I feel great! I’m just grateful to be here – it’s a fun place to be!

Favorite thing about DNA: DNA changes people’s lives on a daily basis! I love the accomplishment I have been able to achieve here!

Favorite personal change: My arms!

Goals: Getting down to 17% body fat. I believe that I’ve learned enough from DNA to keep this going for the rest of my life!

Advice for people who are considering trying DNA: Just start! Don’t be afraid – just go with it…you’ll be glad you did!

Congratulations again to Marybeth, and GREAT JOB!!!

All kids love LOG! How to set up your logbook for success

log

Remember this?

At DNA, we require each client to keep a logbook. For our accelerated custom training clients, logbooks help us build each client’s program based on individual goals and progress. For all clients, logbooks serve some very important purposes that can keep you on track for meeting your goals and setting new ones.

1. Metrics:

The numbers don’t lie! Your logbook contains a record of your training and development over time. Inside the front cover, you should have post-its with your measurements and body fat percentage; if you don’t have these, make an appointment with David or Craig to get measured. You have a section for logging workouts, and pages for benchmarks – lifting personal records (PRs) by lift and rep count, running PRs by distance, and times and scores for beach mark workouts like Cindy and Fran. This written record is a vault of information that you can use to identify progress and plateaus, and to help you troubleshoot your training if you need an adjustment. Without a written log, you wouldn’t be able to measure your progress, and progress is a powerful motivator! If your max dead lift has gone from 140 lbs to 200 lbs in six months, how can you not be motivated by your stellar strength increase?

2. Accountability

Write a goal in your logbook, and you become accountable to those pages and to yourself. You can see in plain ink when you have been consistent with your training, and how far you are from reaching a goal. If you write down a goal, you are more likely to achieve it, as you have imposed a form of accountability on yourself. Show your trainers and your friends, and you’ll be accountable to them to! Watch for the Goals Board in the gym and add your goal to add public accountability!

Logbook setup

Here’s how to set up your logbook: you have two sections – daily log, and benchmarks. David recommends logging from the back and setting up benchmarks at the front, while AJ reverses the order – pick a method that works for you.

  • For your daily log, simply copy the workout from the board each day, and include the weights and any scaling you do. Also include notes about nutrition and sleep (including diversions, I.e., “nutrition on point” or “old roommate in town, drank 6-pack of Guinness last night,” “up at 2am and 4am with Junior”) and how you feel, if different from your usual self (“felt awesome today,” “slight head cold,” “sluggish for no apparent reason.”)
  • Benchmarks: label a page for each of the lifts below, and add a column for each of the reps listed. For example, the deadlift page will have columns for 5 rep max (5RM), 3RM, and 1RM. When you perform a lift, note the date and your max weight. If you attempted a higher weight and missed it, write the weight with “-” next to it. For example:

DL 3RM 255 265- (2)

This note means that I lifted 255 for 3 reps, and tried 265 but only got 2 reps.
Once you establish benchmarks, you can refer to your log each time the lift comes up in a workout. In the case of the deadlift above, I’ll know to start near where I left off (245 or so, after a warmup) and to try to get 265 or more for 3 reps. That’s how we get stronger over time! If in doubt, you can show your logbook to your trainer, who can help you figure out the right weight for you!
For running and benchmark CrossFit workouts, just give each workout a column for recording your time. You can put Fran and Cindy on the same page, in separate columns, for example. Just be sure to include dates.

Here are the DNA Benchmarks, each of which should have a partial or full page in your logbook (with columns for rep schemes as listed):

  • Deadlift: 5RM, 3 RM, 1RM
  • Front squat: 5RM, 1RM
  • Back squat: 5RM, 1RM
  • Strict press (sp): 5RM, 1RM
  • Bench press: 5RM, 1RM
  • Bent over row: 5RM, 1RM
  • Overhead squat (OHs): 10RM, 5RM, 1RM
  • Pull-ups, chin-ups, muscle ups, dips: each gets 5RM, and also max rep attempt – for example, pull-ups with 12kg for 5RM, or 10 strict pull-ups (if you max out at 10).
  • Olympic lifts: snatch (5RM, 1RM), clean (5RM, 1RM), clean and jerk (5RM, 1RM)
  • Kettlebell lifts: front squat (double bells for 5RM, 1RM), Turkish getup (1RM), swing (5RM), SP (both single and double, 5RM, 1RM), bottoms up press (both single and double, 5RM, 1RM)

Running:

  • 5k
  • 1 mile
  • 800m
  • 400m
  • 200m

Workouts: (include weight used)

  • Cindy
  • Fran
  • Helen
  • Snatch test
  • DNA total (sum of deadlift, bench press, front squat)
  • CrossFit total (sum of deadlift, sp, bs)
  • 30 man makers for time
  • Fight gone bad (include the whole tally)
  • Dirty thirty
  • Others that will be added as we go!

If you need help, ask a trainer, or ask friends to show you theirs as examples.

Bottom line – keeping a good record of your training is critical to measure your progress, provide Insight into your performance, and to make you accountable for your training. It’s a requirement of every DNA course and one of the elements that sets us apart as the best training facility in Tucson, ensuring that you are getting the highest value out of your investment, and helping us optimize your training. Make sure your logbook earns an A+ and practice good nutrition and sleep habits, and your results will follow!

Boring-looking but good. You can always decorate it!

Boring-looking but good. You can always decorate it!

DNA’s Client of the Month for July: Ernie C.

If you’re not normally an early riser, set an alarm one morning (after going to bed early, to get your 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep!) and come to DNA to meet the 5:30am crew. Our first class of the day is a tight-knit, fantastic bunch of athletes who are making great progress and setting the standard for the other classes to follow. Though many of them are worthy of distinction, only one could win our first Client of the Month award. Meet Ernie!

Ernie

Ernie is not shy about his checkered past, and credits DNA with “saving [his] life.” He has tremendous

Read More

Tri, tri again

Two months ago, I signed up for the Firecracker Tri and decided that I was not going to train specifically for it. Now that I have more or less recovered from the race last Sunday, it’s time to evaluate the results.

I was probably more excited about Natalie racing in her first tri than I was about my own race. At 5:51am, my 8-year-old jumped into the pool and hammered out a 250m swim. She also had not been practicing lap swimming, and had never traversed a 50m pool before, but she did just fine and got herself to the transition with a smile.  I helped her get her shoes and helmet on, and away she went for a lap around the U of A. Her second transition was blazing – it’s easy when you just drop the bike and remove the helmet – and she ran her mile in under 12 minutes. She finished 4th (last) in the 7-8 females, but she beat a few 9-12 year olds and had a lot of fun! She was also thrilled to be allowed to eat bagel…(ick)

tut

bagel

Individual sports are more fun with friends, and in the fuss of getting two sets of equipment to the transition area just before the cutoff time, I saw Gene McDougall from GTX. I’ve known him for a while – he’s a fellow

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Huevos, Cholesterol

We get a lot of questions from clients about different foods: what to eat, how much, when, and is food X on the plan? Some of our recommendations run against USDA guidelines (which are influenced by Big Agriculture, i.e., financially engineered; pardon the political statement but it’s true) as well as everything we have been taught about food since around 1990, and we understand when people are uncomfortable and confused. In this vein, some of you are concerned when we extoll the virtues of the Mighty Egg and encourage consumption of three of the little miracles at a time in a single scrumptious serving. It really okay to eat a lot of whole eggs, especially if you have high cholesterol?

The short answer is that (a) dietary cholesterol is not a bad thing (contrary to “conventional wisdom”) and (b) once you cut sugar, grains, and other pro-inflammatory foods from your diet, both saturated fat and cholesterol are fine to eat – in fact, they are quite healthy when your body is able to use them as intended. Egg yolks have all kinds of great health benefits, and eggs work better as a system – your body can use the nutrients in the whole egg more effectively than in just the white (I think there’s a protein and enzyme involved but for the life of me have not been able to find the reference for that assertion). Therefore, as long as you’re not having toast or orange juice with your omelette / scramble / frittata, it’s fine.

A more thorough answer requires an explanation of the role of cholesterol in the body, and the reasons for the demonization of cholesterol – what can go wrong. Brace yourself – here we go on a scientific excursion…

Cholesterol is a structural component of cell membranes, essential for brain growth, cell creation and repair, and is a precursor for vitamin D and numerous hormones, including cortisol (stress), aldosterone, progesterone, estrogens, and testosterone. In other words, it’s required for human (and animal) life, and plays a key role in regulating metabolism. Some plants and all animals contain cholesterol, but plant cholesterol is poorly absorbed. The liver regulates cholesterol levels in the blood by synthesizing cholesterol when levels are low, and converting excess to bile and bile salts (which can be excreted) when levels get high. Cells throughout the body synthesize about 80% of your cholesterol, and the liver makes about 20%. Your body synthesizes about 1g of cholesterol each day, and most Americans eat 200-300mg (more if you eat a lot of meat). Since the liver balances total cholesterol from all sources, synthesized or dietary, people who eat meat may produce less cholesterol than vegetarians, but they have similar total amounts of cholesterol. That’s why cholesterol-rich eggs and meat are not the sole culprit of high cholesterol; the liver can remove excess dietary cholesterol. Turns out that there’s more to the story.

Mr. Lipoprotein

You have heard of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, also erroneously called “bad cholesterol”) and HDL (often called “good cholesterol”). Chylomicrons and VLDL are other lipoproteins, which play roles in energy delivery. The liver turns used VLDL into LDL, which delivers free cholesterol (easily absorbed) to the cells, as well as triglycerides (energy) and cholesteryl esters (not easily absorbed). LDL particles may bind to an LDL receptor on a cell and deliver some cholesterol, or it may go back to the liver. LDL also returns the majority of excess cholesterol from cells to the liver. Meanwhile, the liver and small intestine produce HDL, which picks up some of the excess cholesterol at the cells and carries it back to the liver. To oversimplify, LDL is like UPS (pickup and deliver), and HDL is the charity donation pickup van for unneeded cholesterol.

Wait a minute, you ask; so LDL and HDL aren’t cholesterol? No – they carry cholesterol. Blood panels can count the LDL and HDL particles or the cholesterol content in the particles, called LDL-C or HDL-C. The actual LDL count, or particle number, is called LDL-P.

Atherosclerosis – artery plaque – occurs when LDL particles embed in artery walls, triggering an inflammatory (immune) response, which creates more room for more LDL particles. Research and research interpretations conflict on whether particle size or particle count matters more. One theory suggests that small, dense LDL particles, which tend to occur in insulin resistant people, are the ones that embed in the artery walls. Other evidence shows that number of LDL particles is the most important number, suggesting that the chances of LDL particles embedding in the artery walls simply increases when more particles are present. HDL counts don’t seem to matter, and drugs that increase HDL have been shown to be ineffective, whereas statins that lower LDL-P can reduce heart disease risk. It’s a lot cheaper and healthier to lower LDL-P with good nutrition.

Here’s where the toast comes in. Regular consumption of simple sugars such as those found in desserts, breads, pasta, corn products, and fruit juices (pina coladas too!) can lead to insulin resistance, which tricks cells into behaving as if they are not getting fed enough and need to store more energy. Your body responds by sending more triglycerides (lipids) to the cells via the bloodstream. Your lipoprotein particles, including LDL, will be loaded up with more lipids, leaving less room in the UPS trucks for free cholesterol. Therefore, your body has to send out more trucks to deliver the same amount of cholesterol. If the trucks are bigger, each one can carry more triglyceride and more cholesterol, but you may still need more trucks. The jury is out on exactly how this works, but the result is a higher chance of getting LDL stuck in your artery walls and an increased risk of heart disease.

One more point: research has shown that saturated fat doesn’t increase heart disease risk when carbohydrate intake is low. That’s why you can eat bacon with your eggs, but we don’t recommend toast or orange juice with them.

Congratulations if you made it through our little foray into blood biochemistry. It’s an emerging area and this post just scratches the surface of a very complex set of processes. From here, you can look at the interaction between the metabolic processes that involve insulin and leptin, as well as the impact of cortisol and the nasty effects of stress and sleep deprivation, but for now let’s just say that all of these processes are interdependent and you can make things significantly better or worse by changing your training, nutrition, sleep, and stress exposure.

________________

This post was drawn from numerous studies and secondary sources based on the scientific literature. Bibliographies can be found in works by Taubes, and good old Wikipedia too. My apologies for being lazy about citing the sources.

If you really want to get into the science of cholesterol, check this blog post series by Dr. Peter Attia: http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-part-i

Nutrition: A Word about Philosophical Differences

confused-baby

You may get slightly different recommendations from our trainers about implementing your nutrition plan. We all subscribe to the same science, but emphasize different priorities. Here’s a comparison of two approaches to help explain why we may not all tell you the same thing. You can decide whose approach works best for you, and shop accordingly – you’ll still get great results.

David is a realist when it comes to food. He’s used to feeding a lot of kids, and understands that most people are on the go, need convenience, and aren’t necessarily aces in the kitchen. He simplifies the guidelines as much as possible and prioritizes the core concepts over the details – making sure you get the right foods and that you can make the plan work regardless of your job, family situation, and lifestyle. Bottom line: simple and effective, focusing on a feasible implementation of your nutrition plan. If you have a lot on your plate and aren’t interested in becoming a gourmet chef, Dave’s your man for food advice.

We love meat.

We love meat.

AJ is a foodie and likes to cook! She has sizable collections of spices and cookbooks, scads of kitchen gizmos, and feeds her family real food-based recipes from across the planet. She reads up on food production and pays a lot of attention to food quality, and the effect of different cooking methods (e.g., avoiding the microwave). Unfortunately, mass-produced food available now is very different from the real food of 100 years ago in terms of breeding and genetics, pesticide content, and often macronutrient composition, and AJ makes an effort to pick the most nutritious versions of each food, with the least added junk. She is a huge advocate of label-reading and education. Bottom line: thorough, with a holistic view for maximizing long-term health potential. If you are willing to make more time for food selection and preparation and want to nail the details as well as the main themes, direct your questions to AJ.

AJ is also a huge proponent of vegetables. They’re “free” (unlimited on Phase I) and delicious, and micronutrients matter too in the grand scheme. Organic are the best in terms of nutrient value. Dave is not a big fan; someone down the food chain at veggies and took in micronutrients, so you will get plenty from meat. If you hate broccoli, don’t eat it.

One concept that we all believe: you should enjoy eating, and food should not cause you stress. We want you to enjoy life and not let food get in the way. If it’s your birthday or a friend’s birthday and you want cake, eat it! If you love wine, enjoy a glass once or twice a week (after you finish your first 30 days)! If it’s college reunion time and you want to go back to your favorite bar and pound Schlitz until you can’t walk…well, you may have other issues, but go for it (and feel like death warmed over the next day…) If you are on vacation, have fun – eat what you like, though we guarantee that you will feel better if you can stick to clean eating 80% of the time.

Not a choice.

Not a choice.

P.S. None of us will clear you to eat at McDonald’s (even the chicken salad has a lot of sugar and other junk in it), and Little Debbie is off the list. Despite the caveat above about eating on special occasions, there is never a good reason to eat food that is closer to plastic or paste than its original ingredients. You won’t starve. Just don’t do it – your body will thank you.

Man Made vs. Real Food

At DNA, we advocate real diets made of real food. We have considered offering protein powders and other supplements, but we just don’t support the consumption of lab-made products. Many are toxic offer all kinds of health pitfalls; additives ranging from corn to artificial colors should not be in your body, and over time, they may lead to a range of issues, whether or not the FDA approves. Dyes have even been linked to ADHD in kids.

Vitamins are one controversial area; science explains why they don’t work, studies have shown no benefit, and they are usually delivered with corn starch and other nasty fillers. Vitamin D (needed for calcium absorption) requires sunlight for production. Drinking milk won’t do the job as the concentrations are low, and dairy has its own problems, especially commercial (not organic) milk. Each vitamin plays a role in the amazing system of your body, and real food generally has the best mix of the right chemicals to optimize your body’s function and composition.

Some people like the convenience of protein shakes after a workout. Many commercial varieties are packed with fillers and sugars, including corn starch, so if you decide to go this route, read the labels carefully. Even the “clean” brands have sweeteners. Here are the labels from Progenex (left) and Gold Standard Whey in Vanilla (right):

protein

Both are sweet, triggering an addictive response that makes you want more sweetness. Gold Standard has a few chemicals, but nowhere near as many as Muscle Milk. What’s your best bet after a workout? Chicken and a sweet potato? Probably. (One of our clients used to swear by chocolate ice cream, but that’s another story.)

Fish oil may be one supplement that can actually do some good. Omega-3’s have a whole slew of health benefits, and few people eat enough fish to take full advantage. We assert that there is no single dietary silver bullet, as foods are rarely consumed in isolation and activity matters, but you probably can’t go wrong by taking fish oil tablets. By the way, Atlantic salmon is often genetically modified, unsustainable, and fed pellets that make it dietary garbage – like corn-fed, hormone-injected, stockyard beef, it should be avoided. Alaskan salmon is fine, and you should always choose wild-caught fish. But I digress.

Bottom lines:

  • Eat real food, choose organic sources whenever possible, and consider adding some fish oil.
  • Get sunlight regularly – go without sunblock for half an hour; it’s tough to balance vitamin D production with skin cancer prevention in Southern Arizona, so pay attention and don’t overdo it.
  • Always read the labels! If a product has more than 4 lines of ingredients and any are unpronounceable, it’s not a real food so you probably should not eat it. This rule goes for any supplements too.

 

A Long Strange Trip

I just returned from my two-week USAF Annual Tour in San Antonio. I didn’t tell many people where I was going, or said I was off to Fiesta, which was great despite questionable weather.

San Antonio is a lot like Tucson – similar vibe, similar mix of people, great food, more water (humidity and a river), and great pace of life. Tucson’s mountains are prettier, and San Antonio has more grass. We have San Xavier del Bac, they have the Alamo. Great margaritas and salsa in both places. It’s an easy transition.

I also really like my USAF job, which I won’t explain too much except to tell you what I was doing for the last two weeks. The Air Force issued guidance last fall disallowing CrossFit and other “extreme conditioning program” group classes in their fitness centers. Never mind that the Army and Marines have fully embraced CrossFit, and that over 30 AF bases have programs, not to mention scads of people doing P90X videos in a group; the physiologists have spoken, and the service is risk-averse. I collected a bunch of data that showed minimal injury rates and loads of results. In the end, I am not sure whether my work succeeded or not, but I learned a few interesting tidbits along the way.

1. Strength and work capacity trump aerobic capacity any day.

I don’t run much anymore. I used to run 25 miles per week, more in marathon training season, and I ran 5k in about 23:30 on average. I won the Sports Day 5k (for females, anyway) in 22:46 with no special running training, against dedicated runners. I say this not to brag (yeah!) but to point out the value of strength for all-out efforts, and that run was definitely all-out.

2. Many people focus on the wrong metrics.

The Air Force exercise physiologists tend to obsess over VO2 max as the holy grail of fitness. VO2 max measures aerobic capacity. At DNA, we know that work capacity is a better measure of fitness than VO2 max, which is why our benchmarks include plenty of strength – 5RM, 3RM, 1RM, and fun times like the DNA Total and Dave’s 5-5-1 (5 min snatch test / 5 min double unders / 1 mile run. ) I also don’t buy morbidity as a metric for health outcomes, but that’s another discussion.

3. The Air Force has a long way to go to close the loop on nutrition and fitness.

People like their junk food, and food is usually tied with religion and culture. Some people are religious about their food. Therefore, the fitness people tiptoe around the idea of suggesting changes to dietary habits. They are going out of their way to put the healthy foods up front in the dining halls and make it easier for Airmen to choose the salad over the burger, but the burger is still definitely there, and I don’t get the impression that the courage is present to flat out tell people that if they eat better, they will feel and perform better, and the opposite too (if you eat like sh*t…) I’m not saying that the other services have nailed this one either, but it’s an area for improvement.

4. The power of the group dynamic is real, but you have to try it to understand it.

The service just dumped $2m on Fitness on Request, which is a kiosk system with videos and a virtual instructor, who can’t correct, coach, or cheer you on. I’m interested to see how well it works. In the hurry to spend expiring money, somehow the customer demand got lost, particularly the crescendo of voices who want the community of a hard group workout – not a machine. The truth is hard to quantify, as noted by Glassman; others have written about the motivation of CrossFit, but bottom line is that some activities are most fun in a group, and people like to be with other people, especially when sharing suffering. The intangible magic behind group training at DNA and thousands of CrossFit affiliates, as well as martial art centers, sports teams, and military training facilities, and law enforcement academies drives us beyond our perceived limits, making us stronger and more confident as we encourage our suffer-mates to their own victories. Nobody seems to have a clue how to include this powerful factor in a business case spreadsheet, but it’s the not-so-secret to creating a strong organization and should not be ignored.

5. It’s much more fun and easy to work your tail off when you’re immersed in a subject about which you are passionate.

Self-explanatory!

6. Never take good equipment for granted.

I ripped my thumb on some nasty pull up bars, swung and snatched kettlebells with polished stainless handles, and attempted to clean a non-Olympic (non-spinning) bar, before I found some decent ones to lift. We’re spoiled by having all the nice toys in one playroom.

7. Recess is awesome.

In talking with lots of AF people who use CrossFit and similar programs daily, I realized that we all love recess, and that an hour in the gym is happy time (well, mostly). I figured this out a while back and it led to a career change, but it’s amusing to recognize how many people still love to go play with their friends, even if it involves a lot of effort.

Anyway, it’s good to be back. I missed the DNA crew and was ready for a break. We’ll see what comes out of my two weeks of fun; I just hope that the “chair force” moves further down the fitness road and embraces group strength training, realizing that it’s not “extreme” – it’s “essential” for great quality of life and overall fitness.

Balancing Act, Part 2: Listen Up, Buttercup! Chillax!

— Today’s post adapted from musings by Zee —

Omm.

Omm.

Are you a little OCD about training every day?

You know who you are…you feel guilty if you don’t get your butt in the gym for your workout, even though your shoulders are still sore from Monday. Your nutrition is not terrible, but you’re behind on some of your macros, and you feel draggy. You show up anyway and shove yourself through, only to wake up feeling even more beat up tomorrow.

Sound familiar? If so, you may be OVERTRAINED.

We see over training frequently in the Wide World of Sports. Elite athletes dial in their training to peak for specific races and competitions, but sometimes they miss and peak too early or late, meeting the competition in an overtrained state. Some near-pinnacle athletes train themselves into the ground trying to maintain top condition, to get to the top – and end up experiencing a performance decline instead. Even amateurs overtrain fairly regularly, especially those who drive through long workouts at 80% effort and end up injured.

Exercise triggers endorphins and positive psychological association, and we can get addicted. We may believe that a missed training day is a missed opportunity to get healthier and stronger. While consistency in following a training plan is the best route to serious gains, working out daily with no rest is rarely the best plan. Stressing the system, and then allowing it to recover, are the keys to building strength; while intensity is grand for triggering gains, recovery is required to take advantage of the effects of intensity, something like casting a line and then reeling in the fish. No reeling, no dinner…no rest, no performance gains.

8570235_orig

Strenuous workouts damage tissue. Through proper nutrition and rest, our body repairs the micro tears caused by exercise, and we adapt and grow stronger. Unfortunately, life in the 21st century often gets in the way of proper nutrition and rest. Ironically, our abundant food supply makes nutrition challenging; planning is necessary to navigate the variety of foods available (often out of season), and convenient processed foods are packed with hidden toxins that erode health. Meanwhile, work, school, parenting responsibilities, housework, activities, etc. pack our schedules, leaving us stressed out, rushing around, and not sleeping enough. Aggravations include workplace stress (which is known to deplete your nutrients), skipping meals, alcohol, and even travel. All of these factors can lead to over training, which in turn can lead to injury. That’s why many pro athletes sleep a lot, especially after vigorous workouts. (Must be nice to get paid to sleep!)

Power nap!

Power nap!

Breaking strength barriers and reaching performance peaks requires adequate caloric and nutritional intake, and REST. At DNA, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are our major strength days, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are designated for active recovery through conditioning.  Some weeks are more intense than the others, and even the active recovery workouts may be too much work in between strength days. If you experience any of these symptoms, you probably need a DAY OFF, or more.

1. Loss of appetite
2. Not being able to sleep soundly
3. Feeling fatigued all day, on a regular basis
4. Illness (your immune system is generally weakened when overtrained)
5. Soreness, or persistent pain at a specific part/s of your body for more than a few days

After extra rest, if you are consistently following your nutrition plan as directed by our nutrition counselor (David) and are getting adequate sleep without experiencing any of the signs listed above, you may resume working out four or five days each week.

Your health and well-being are our top priority.  Your trainers at DNA are always here to help, and if we recommend extra recovery time, please take it! We promise that you will be glad that you did.

Also, please tell us if you feel injury starting. We do a lot of useful foam rolling and pain ball work, which helps to release tight muscles and ligaments. Joint pain is usually the result of a muscle imbalance – for example shoulders get pulled by tight pectoral muscles and/or lats, which may need extra stretching and/or development to balance them.

Listen to your body…it knows!

Champion...if you don't recognize him, you should. (Ask AJ about it)

Champion…if you don’t recognize him, you should. (Ask AJ about it)

Amazing Collie Flower

Amazing Collie Flower
Author: Anne
Ingredients
  • See below
Instructions
  1. See below
Serving size: 1 whole medium sized head raw Calories: 146 Fat: 1.6 Carbohydrates: 29 Protein: 11

Our Food of the Month is cauliflower, which is a little unlikely given that it has to share March with Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, but so it goes.

Cauliflower is most fabulous because of its chameleon-like qualities, but let’s start with its nutritional profile. An entire head of cauliflower has about 210 calories, so in the unlikely event that you eat the whole thing, it won’t trash your nutrition for the day and you’ll get trace fat, about 45g of carbs (about half each of fiber and sugar), and 16g of complete protein in the deal. It delivers some vitamin C and traces of other macronutrients, and contains mostly water. Not everyone loves the flavor, but it’s mild and makes a good vehicle for dominant tastes like baba ghanouj (eggplant-based version of hummus, with garlic, tahini / sesame paste, salt, and lemon).

Like most “solid” veggies (others: broccoli, peppers, okra – the ones that aren’t leafy and floppy), cauliflower is awesome when roasted. Chop it up or buy florets, toss with olive oil and some garlic or garlic salt, and roast at 350′ for about 20 minutes to make a delicious side dish. You can notch it up a little like this with pine nuts (pricey!) if you’re feeling gourmet or if your mom is visiting.

Roasted Cauli

 

Now for the “chameleon” part of the story: cauliflower can stand in for mashed potatoes, rice, and even the flour in pizza crust, all of which come in handy if you are avoiding carbs or not having a training day. Really! In order of increasing complexity, here’s what I mean.

1. Cauli puree: steam cauliflower – chop it up, put it in a pot in or over a little water, and boil the water for about 20 minutes until the cauli gets tender (don’t let the water dry up). Carefully slide the tender cauli into the blender or food processor, and puree. You can add a little almond or coconut milk, oil, butter, garlic, chives or sliced green onions, or anything else you would normally put in mashed potatoes (did I mention garlic?). Cauli puree is great on its own, as a side dish, under grilled meats and fish as itself or with the faux-tato alias (faux-tato?? yep, it’s mine and you can’t have it), or as a topping for meat pies or stew.

Caramelized Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, Capers, Almonds, Golden Raisins. Ommmmmm.

Caramelized Diver Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, Capers, Almonds, Golden Raisins. Ommmmmm.

2. Cauli rice: it’s pretty easy to turn cauli into rice if you have a food processor; it’s harder with a knife, but can be done. I use this blade:

calui blade

After chopping a head of cauli, shoving it through the food processor, and steaming it, I have this:

cauli rice raw

This riced cauli is ready for makeup. Let’s head east…it works great with Cajun food, in place of rice in jambalaya – especially under ample Tabasco sauce. The resulting dish is not as heavy as Mama’s jambalaya or gumbo. Much further east, you can sauté it with an egg and some soy sauce to make faux-ried rice. (Get it? foh-ryed? fried? Okay, I’ll stop.)

Tonight, we made slow cooker soy ginger chicken (thighs, soy sauce, ginger, carrots, and chopped onion in the slow cooker for 6 hours on low), and enjoyed it with stir-fried veggies on top of cauli rice. Bok choy – chopped and stir fried – works well with this too.

Blurry but delicious

Blurry but delicious

 

cauli rice

Saucy…after the chicken was gone.

 Of course, I hit it with Sriracha chili garlic sauce, but I put that stuff on everything these days.

 3. Cauli pizza crust: you can make wheat-free crusts with just egg, but cauli works a lot better. I’m a fan of both white pizzas and pizzas with loads of sauce. The recipe shown HERE gives you a set of instructions, and you can choose how you top it. Other DNA chefs have shared their cauli pizzas, which you can top with fresh chopped tomato (or sauce, but check for added sugar), grated parmesan and/or mozzarella (dairy splurge!), GARLIC, oregano / basil / Italian seasoning, and whatever else you like – mushrooms, sausage, pepper…BACON. If in doubt, bake at 350′ for 20 minutes. I find that baking the crust on its own first prepares it to take the toppings and crisp up a bit – less soggy.

Cauli Porn

Cauli Porn

Feel free to share your favorite cauliflower recipes here. If you’ve never tried it, you should!

Comfort Food for Cold Weather: Chili

We’ve had quite the cold snap lately, and cold weather means comfort food: soups, stews, and CHILI. The latter of these comes in all varieties, as seen at cook-offs everywhere. Maybe you prefer your grandma’s recipe. I can’t get past Cinci chili. I was stuck in Ohio for almost 2 years, and Cincinnati chili was my favorite part – the finely ground meat and touch of cinnamon and chocolate are irresistible. I also love Southwest heat, and fortunately, blending the two works!

Without further ado, here’s AJ’s “clean” Cinci-Mex Chili recipe.  You can spice this up with chili powder or finely diced peppers if desired. The recipe combines the Mexican mole flavor with Cincinnati style chili – go 5 ways if you like! (look it up if you don’t know what I mean by “5 ways”)

If you’re early in your nutrition plan, skip the spaghetti squash, and be aware that tomatoes have a lot of carbohydrate. Kidney beans are also not ideal – legumes, antinutrients….

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces chorizo sausage (nitrite-free, preferably; Mexican, not Spanish, which is hard sausage)
  • 1 yellow onion , diced
  • 1 1/4 cup tomato sauce, or pureed/strained tomato
  • 1 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, optional (LEGUME!! not ideal)
  1. Preheat oven to 400′.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Roast halved spaghetti squash at 400′ for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat stock pot on medium 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add chorizo and 1/2 c onions (and optional diced hot peppers to taste); cook 2-3 mins, stirring to crumble meat, or until onions soften.
  5. Combine chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cumin, then add to meat. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, vanilla, and cider vinegar.
  7. Cook 8-10 mins or until chili thickens.
  8. OPTIONAL – Heat kidney beans (rinsed and drained) in a small pan.
  9. Scoop spaghetti squash into individual bowls with a fork.
  10. Top with heap of chili. Top with onions, kidney beans, and/or cheese, to taste. Add hot sauce if desired.
  11. Enjoy!!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! It’s Mardi Gras!

One of my favorite holidays is Mardi Gras. I met my husband at a Mardi Gras party (in my squadron, surrounded by fighter pilots, including my boss who was making hurricanes), and I just love the idea of an all-out city-wide no-rules party. In addition to beads (um, the beads are great but the associated activities aren’t really my thing) and the parades, the FOOD from the Big Easy is great – spicy comfort food…what’s not to love?

Well, the grains involved! Unfortunately, beignets are not in the nutrition plan, though the chicory coffee is still good to go. If you are eating rice, gumbo and jambalaya are still a go, without corn. If you aren’t eating rice, you can approximate with cauliflower rice. PaleOMG has a good recipe here for pork, shrimp, and chicken sausage gumbo. Note: they forgot the okra!

YUMbo!!

What about the legendary beverages of New Orleans, particularly Hurricanes? Alcohol is a toxin and it gets in front of the other macros in the digestion line, so if you’re going to drink, it’s a cheat day and don’t whine if your performance is off afterwards. Enjoy and don’t feel guilty (assuming you are not swilling passion fruit juice with rum on a regular basis!)

Another Mardi Gras favorite is the King Cake. You can read about King Cakes here – they are essentially huge cinnamon rolls, or other stuffed bread/cakes, with a plastic baby (or marble) hidden inside, iced with purple, green, and yellow frosting and sugar. King Cakes are also not in your macros! The story is that whoever finds the baby in their slice of King Cake gets good luck, or gets to buy the next King Cake, or gets to wash the dishes, depending who you ask.

Traditional King Cake, accessorized

While I do not pretend that “paleo” baked goods are anything that a caveman would have found or eaten – the concentrations of sugars, nuts, etc. are too high – most of the almond flour and coconut flour recipes on the web are at least made with real food. These “paleo” baked treats, including this one, are once-in-a-while indulgences for holidays and special occasions, not something you want to keep on hand all the time. Their advantage is that the absence of refined sugars and wheat flours makes them less offensive to your system, so you shouldn’t experience the same stomachache, headache, sugar rush, etc. that you might get from a conventional baked good, and your body should be able to process them more efficiently.

In this spirit, I present the following King Cake approximation recipe. It’s a vanilla cake, rather than a cinnamon roll (my cinnamon roll recipe has a lot of palm sugar in the filling),  and I baked in a marble instead of the plastic baby. Incidentally, I still have the baby from the 1999 Mardi Gras party where I met Rick. I guess it works! — AJ

 

“PALEO” KING CAKE

Part 1: THE CAKE

Option A: Adapted from Perfect Vanilla Cake

Preheat oven to 350º

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (canned) or cream
  • 1 ½ T vanilla extract
  • 1 cup palm sugar (or other natural sweetener; 3/4 c agave or maple syrup will work, but are sugary) – I buy my palm sugar from Amazon
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • Scant 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 T cinnamon (or more if you like)
  • Stevia if more sweetness is desired

Note on sweetener amount: you can further reduce the sugar and use more stevia, but it’s better with at least a little of some type of real sugar, since sugar contributes to a good crumb texture. Stevia is a dried plant; Splenda and Sweet ‘n’ Low come from a lab, so we don’t recommend those.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, vanilla extract and palm sugar.

2. In a smaller bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, salt and baking soda.

3. Mix dry ingredients into wet with a handheld mixer. Add stevia to taste.

4. Grease a bundt pan or angel food pan (or other cake pan if you don’t have a round one with a hole in the middle) with melted coconut oil or butter, and pour in batter.

5. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean.

6. Cool for 1 hour.

You can bake a non-melting item like a glass marble into the cake, or push a plastic baby or other small trinket into the cake before turning it out of the pan, AFTER baking. No melted plastic babies, please…that’s a buzzkill.

Option B: make a cinnamon roll and connect the ends. Cinnamon roll recipe:

Dough: mix the first three ingredients, then mix in the rest. Roll into a long rectangle, about 1/4-1/2″ thick.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup ghee or coconut oil (melted)
  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Filling: mix 2 T melted ghee, butter, or coconut oil, 2 T cinnamon, and 3 T palm sugar. Spread all over the dough rectangle, and then carefully roll up the rectangle to make a long cinnamon roll snake. Connect the ends to make a donut shape, and bake for 25 mins in a 350′ oven.

Option A produces a more spongy, soft cake; option B is more authentic, but a little denser and less soft. Hey, I told you this recipe is an approximation!

Part 2: The Icing, adapted from Elana Amsterdam’s recipes – marshmallow frosting; you could also use her coconut cream frosting recipe (probably half of it, not the whole thing), but it’s a bit more work and requires a lot of some expensive ingredients.

  • 1/2 c agave nectar (high in fructose and not the best choice, but honey makes it too sickly sweet and the flavor is off – I tried it)
  • 2 egg whites
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the agave nectar to a boil, stirring frequently. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 4 to 8 minutes, watching constantly and stirring occasionally, until the agave darkens slightly from its original color.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Drizzle the agave slowly into the egg whites, whisking continuously until blended. Divide into 3 bowls, color one purple, one yellow, and one green, and ice the cooled cake.
  3. Surround with beads, masks, etc. and call your friends over to share!
AJ's King Cake, minus the beads and feathers

AJ’s King Cake, minus the beads and feathers

 

Superbowl Superfood

We can all agree that mindless eating is a bad idea, and nothing encourages mindless eating and drinking like watching sports. The granddaddy of sports parties is coming up on Sunday with Super Bowl XLVII (that’s 47 for you non-Romans).

GO RAVENS!!

GO RAVENS!! (AJ grew up in Maryland)

If you plan to attend a Super Bowl party, you will be confronted with many food decisions, starting with this one:

“Do I stick with my plan, or make this a designated Food Holiday and eat what I want without guilt?” If you choose to just eat, please do it without guilt – ENJOY IT and then be back on your program on Monday! You may not feel great after indulging, but if you are going to eat the Nacho Bomb, taste and savor.

nachos

Mmmm, heartburn. I love jalapenos!

To set yourself up for nutritional success, we offer some alternatives to the usual nutritional nightmares that you find at Superbowl parties.  Your friends may find these a little weird, but they aren’t the ones who will face the Monday workout after chowing down on big bowls of corn and fat. Without further ado, I present AJ’s Approved Football Foods.

1. Kale chips

Yeah, I know…it doesn’t sound manly, but it’s good! Thanks to Costco’s jumbo bag of kale, these tasty snacks require very little cooking talent. Grab the bag that looks like this one from the fridge room (where they usually sell berries). Preheat oven to 350′. Fill a bowl with kale, drizzle with olive oil, shake it up, dump on a big cookie sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, until the kale is crispy but not burned. Season to taste (i.e., add a little salt or Old Bay, in celebration of the Ravens of course), dump in a bowl, and enjoy! Natalie (7) loves these. Warning: they’re messy!

kale2. Baba ghanouj 

You’ve heard of hummus, which is made primarily of chickpeas and sesame…baba ghanouj is the eggplant version. Get it at Trader Joe’s or make your own. Belgian endives are good for dipping, and you can load them with bruschetta or even cheese (not as approved but tasty). Remember, if you buy dips of any sort at the store, READ THE LABEL – dips from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s are pretty safe, but even they still hide a lot of nasty ingredients in there, including sugar, soybean oil, canola or corn oil, and various chemical preservatives.

Nom nom...

Nom nom…endives are a good chip replacement.

3. Turkey legs

Ask David what his favorite Renaissance Festival food is and he will tell you that the turkey leg is king! They’re tasty, loaded with protein, and gnawing on a huge animal bone is extremely manly.

If it's good enough for Tom Brady, it's good enough for you.

If it’s good enough for Tom Brady, it’s good enough for you.

You can grill them, roast them, season them, wrap them in foil…your call, but get extras for your jealous friends.

 

Grill 'em up! Yum.

Grill ’em up! Yum.

One last tip: if you choose to enjoy beers, alternate a big old cup of water with each beer. You will feel much better on Monday, and will drink a lot fewer mindless carbs/calories. If you’re at a bar, tell the bartender what you are doing, and tip them for helping you stay with the plan. Your liver will thank you, too.

Very European.

Very European.

Most of all – enjoy the game!!

 

The Game Changers: DNA Personal Training is transforming people in less time than a school semester.

DNA Personal Training is transforming people in less time than a school semester.

Change your life completely with a $1,500 investment and 3 months.

DNA Personal Training is the leader for a reason. Quality. Years of experience, late night study, schooling and education, investments, certification/re-certification, trial and error, experimentation (with our training staff as the guinea pigs) and much more hard work went into producing the best program available.

What makes DNA different? While we don’t expect you to train with us forever, we expect you to learn everything you need to know to live healthy and be fit for the rest of your life.

We are:

  1. A training company
  2. A nutritional counseling center
  3. An education facility
  4. A research and development lab

More and more people are leaving their regular gym memberships and moving towards personal training. One key driver is the need to stop the continually “spinning wheels” in an attempt to reach goals.

Does this process look familiar?

  • Ask Google “how to get into shape” and you’ll have the opportunity to sift through 321 million results.
  • Pick a plan off the web
  • Step into a cheap DIY gym after paying the very low monthly fee
  • End up on the treadmill or elliptical after moving the parts of some awkward machine that isolates your muscles (When do you isolate muscles in real life?)
  • Drink a protein shake
  • No results after a week or two; start over.

Similarly: buy a video, try it and lose interest after a few weeks, or get injured after a session or two because nobody is there to tell you that your squat is killing your knees or you are swinging the kettlebell incorrectly.

The fitness industry made $21.4 billion in 2011, and most of that money came from offering people a fast, easy, and/or cheap solution with a small likelihood of success, which leads to failure and more purchases.

People will gladly spend $2500 on a new TV/surround system or $10,000 on a bathroom remodel, but want a new body on the cheap and without any investment of time. You only get one body and you HAVE to live there.

Wouldn’t you rather invest a little more time and effort and get REAL results?

Stop looking for the magic pill and wasting time and money.

One investment in our training will change your life. Just read our Testimonials. Our clients wonder why they didn’t start sooner.

It’s time to change your life, and we’re here to help you do it the right way. Call or message 1-888-255-2978.

DNA Holiday Tip #4: Little Plates

Ah, the buffet, and especially the holiday buffet. Truckloads of delicious special once-a-year dishes, and you want to try ALL of them. Inevitably several of them are not exactly on your plan, and it’s easy to load a big plate and eat much more than you need.

Humans are hardwired to clean our plates, to avoid starvation, but few Americans are actually in danger of starving. Instead, our survival instincts cause us to pig out, and resistance is very challenging, especially in the face of mashed potatoes soaked in butter.

Here’s a simple, easy-to-follow tip to help with buffets:

Use a salad (or dessert) plate, not a dinner plate. 

Uncle Earl may look at you funny, but if you load a 7″ plate with food and avoid going back for seconds (go play football or do some burpees or something), you’re likely to eat something resembling a reasonable meal, rather than a Roman feast.

You can easily use this trick year-round at home. World Market sells a set of twelve 8″ plates with a storage rack, which can be used as dinner plates instead of the usual cymbal-sized plates. Give it a try!

DNA Holiday Tip #3: Squeeze Workouts

For many of us, the holidays mean travel, parties, and schedule disruption. It’s cold and dark in the mornings and at least dark in the evenings, chasing away motivation in favor of extra snooze time. January is coming, and some people will declare an exercise break until the gingerbread men disappear and resolution time rolls around.

Fortunately, short workouts can rescue you from holiday lethargy. If you have 4 minutes, you have time to get a shot of exercise that will keep you from sliding completely into end-of-year sloth. You have probably met Dr. Tabata‘s workout by now, but just in case, here’s a reminder:

8 rounds, for a total of 4 minutes, of 20 seconds work (HARD!!!) and 10 seconds rest

You can do Tabatas with just about any exercise. The idea is to go for speed and intensity, so I don’t recommend anything with a lot of impact, such as jumping squats, unless you are very comfortable catching yourself in the bottom position on your heels. You can also use weight, but not too much – speed over weight.

Good tabata exercises:

  • Squats (weight on heels and go fast!), with or without a light to moderate weight
  • Situps
  • Pushups (go to knees if needed)
  • Burpees
  • Just about any kettlebell exercise, if you have access to a bell – swings, squats, cleans, snatches, sumo deadlift high pulls…
  • Sprints – a special kind of “fun”

Tabatas are stackable too: pick 2-4 exercises for a great 8-16 minute workout. I don’t recommend more than 20 minutes of Tabatas at once – it’s hard to keep the intensity up high enough to get the best benefit. If you have more energy to burn, go for a run or do some burpees.

As with any workout, if you are new to high intensity exercise, modulate the intensity to meet your level. The effort should feel challenging, but don’t overdo it!

Other good workouts for travel and/or space, time, or weather constraints:

  • 50 burpees (keep going to 75 or 100 if you like)
  • 100 double unders, if you have a jump rope handy
  • More fun than 100 double unders: Annie – 50-40-30-20-10 of double unders and situps. If short on time, just do 30-20-10, or do single jumps x2 instead of double unders.
  • 5 rounds of 10 each: situps, pushups, squats.
  • Sprints: pick a flat spot 40m long or so, and sprint it 10 times with 30 seconds of recovery after each sprint. Go ALL OUT!!
  • If you’re near a hill, sprint UP and jog down 10 times.
  • Max Planck. It’s not just a constant… (no apologies to the non-science-geeks) Hold a plank position, on your elbows if possible and on your hands (pushup start position) if you’re just starting out. SQUEEZE EVERYTHING and go for max time – at least 30 seconds, and aim for 3 minutes!

Enjoy!

 

DNA Holiday Tip #2: Veg!

One simple tip for navigating holiday parties is to hit the veggies hard, BEFORE you go for the pumpkin pecan fudge cheesecake. Veggies aren’t always ubiquitous this time of year, and sorry but artichoke dip does not count. However, if you encounter a stray dish of broccoli florets, pepper slices, or a spinach salad, dig in. Chances are that you may end up eating mindlessly while talking; better to social-nosh on something green than on gingerbread.

Though gingerbread can be mighty tasty…and wouldn’t you know it, Elana has a slew of Christmas cookie recipes that don’t involve flour. Not that I want to encourage a binge. Just sayin’.

DNA’s Holiday Tip #1!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to December! You burpeed off Thanksgiving, and now every weekend presents another tantalizing smorgasbord of off-the-reservation treats: cookies, cheesecake bites, those yummy little quiches with bacon, and plenty of tasty beverages that definitely don’t fit your macros. Once we break the sugar barrier – “it’s just a little taste…” – we find it very hard to stop, as our brains are hardwired to seek sweet things and consume as much as possible in the interest of survival.

Since sustaining modern life doesn’t depend on our ability to horde sufficient quantities of triple death by chocolate, this ancient survival mechanism can quickly get between us and those new skinny jeans that fit perfectly in the dressing room two weeks ago. However, it’s awfully hard to pass up those one-time-per-year special treats.

What’s a kid to do?

Introducing DNA’s Holiday Tips! Watch this space for helpful little nuggets that you can apply to help you stay on track during the holidays.

TIP #1: One for One Beverages

Whether you imbibe in the fruits of Dionysus or just really like spiced apple cider, it’s easy to guzzle a lot of worthless calories in December. The result can range from no impact to bloating and weight gain, and in the worst cases, and unplanned encounter with Tucson’s Finest.

Stay out of trouble with the One for One Rule:

After every caloric drink that you consume, drink a FULL glass of water - at least 12 ounces.

You can drink plain old tap water, bottled water, or even club soda (plain carbonated water with or without a slice of lemon or lime). Just be sure to drink ALL of it. Beware the trap of having both water and a festive drink in front of you at the same time, as you will probably drink less water – no double fisting, either; set yourself up with water only and drink it.

Even better is to stick to variations on the water theme – ice water, lemon water, fizzy lime water, etc.

If you’re at dinner, tell the waitstaff what you’re doing and ask for their help. At parties, you can tell your friends – they may well join you, and you will all feel better the next day!

Thanksgiving Menu – What to Eat?

We at DNA do not always agree on nutrition for special occasions. While we all subscribe to the same science-based approach to nutrition, holidays present unique challenges. December is a minefield of sugary treats and beverages, and is best approached in moderation – choose your exceptions, and make them infrequent and worthwhile (skip the corn-based eggnog but drink the real homemade stuff). Thanksgiving, however, is just one big day of eating…plus leftovers!

David believes that you train and eat well all year, and that eating whatever foods that your family traditionally enjoys on Thanksgiving is a healthy and appropriate. He says that you should enjoy yourself, eat what you like, and not feel guilty!

AJ makes exceptions at times (birthday cake, wine…) but doesn’t like to feel crummy after a big meal, and really enjoys cooking whole foods. She prefers some alternatives to the traditional starch-fest, and won’t touch a white roll with a 10-foot pole.

We encourage you to post Thanksgiving recipes here or on the Phase I & IV Nutrition Group Page. Meanwhile, you can download AJ’s Thanksgiving Menu, complete with recipes and a shopping list. Pick one to try and take to a friend’s house. Alternatively, go to Mom’s and ENJOY the candied yams – it’s a special occasion!

AJ’S THANKSGIVING MENU & RECIPES  – click to download

FIZZ OUT!!

Kicking soda is one of the best actions you can take to drop fat and feel better, but it’s also one of the hardest actions for many people. Americans are often addicted to the caffeine or sweet pick-me-up of an afternoon soda. In Texas, they even drink warm Dr. Pepper instead of coffee.

Mmm, yeah?

 

Regular soda is an obvious culprit of weight gain. Whether the soda is sweetened with sugar, as in Europe, or high fructose corn syrup, as is common in most American sodas, it contains unnaturally high concentrations of liquid calories and throws the body’s hormone system out of balance. Research is inconclusive about whether high fructose corn syrup makes people fatter than sugar does – numerous studies exist that support both hypotheses – but no one can argue that drinking sugar is bad for your health.

Sugarstacks.com illustrates just what you are drinking from that can, as well as the sugar content of many other foods.

One can of 12 oz Coke contains 39g of sugar, and a 20 oz bottle has 65g of sugar. (Unfortunately, apple juice and orange juice have similar amounts of sugar, and while you may argue that fruit sugars are natural, they never exist in nature in such high concentrations. If you want something sweet, it’s best to eat the fruit!)  Add the fact that the corn syrup is probably made of genetically modified corn, which has never been proven to be safe, and who knows what that soda is doing to you?

Diet soda is bad for you in different ways. Humans are hardwired to enjoy sweetness, and sweet cravings can only be quelled by staying away from sweet tastes for a long enough period of time to reset your perception of sweetness. Eating sweets makes you want more sweets, so a diet soda makes it harder for you to resist that chocolate chip cookie that your officemate baked and brought in. Nutritionally, studies exist that link diet soda to obesity, but the body of research is again inconclusive. In any case, artificial sweeteners are chemicals made in a lab, and while the FDA has certified them as safe for human consumption, the long-term effects could be much worse than thought at the time of the approval. Need evidence? Rising cancer rates can be attributed to many things, but the presence of unnatural ingredients  in our food supply is certainly correlated with decreases in the nation’s health.

If you are still drinking soda, do yourself a favor and join our FIZZ OUT! challenge. Starting on November 12, your challenge is to go for 21 days without drinking soda, juice, or any artificially sweetened beverage. You may see a big improvement in how you feel, and what do you have to lose?

Sign up in the gym to commit, and join the Facebook Group for mutual support.

Q&A

Q: If I’m not supposed to drink soda or juice, what can I drink?

A: Water, water with lemon or lime, water with cucumber…it’s not very exciting but you will get used to it, and your body will thank you. Technically seltzer water is okay if you make it yourself and don’t add salt, but for the purposes of the Fizz Out, you’re best off omitting it entirely.

Q: What about tea and coffee?

A: Only unsweetened. Be careful with cream as well – most “creamers” are corn syrup or corn solids, so if you usually put cream in your coffee, your best bet is a splash of whipping cream (not skim, which has proportionally more sugar and none of the fats that help with satiety).

Q: Can I drink protein shakes?

A: Protein shakes: most of these contain sweeteners, so no, except for the plain unflavored whey variety (which is not terribly appetizing).

Q: Why 21 days?

A: One week is not enough time to get the effects, and quitting cold turkey forever is hard to do. Three weeks is more manageable and will give your system time to become more sensitive to sweetness (assuming you’re not eating a lot of other sweets…toss the rest of the Halloween candy!)

Q: Beer? Mixers?

A: Not during Fizz Out. The NorCal Margarita is an option after your 21 days.

Q: Are you seriously telling me not to drink wine on Thanksgiving?

A: No, that’s taking it too far. However, you should stick to red wine – a medium-bodied pinot noir or beaujolais go well with turkey – and avoid riesling or other sweet wines. No port or cream sherry, sorry.

Q. Tell me again why I should do this…

A: If you are drinking sugared sodas, you should see some weight loss. By retraining your body to be sensitive to sweet tastes, you will be able to appreciate your food more, and you will feel better without the extra chemicals!

Hey Pumpkin!

Pumpkin season is here! Pumpkin is a GREAT way to get your carbs, plenty of micronutrients, and a heap of cinnamon, which is a great replacement for sweetener and thus can help with weight loss. You can buy it in a can – make sure you’re getting PUMPKIN, and not PUMPKIN PIE FILLING. Making your own puree is easy too:

  • Get a small pumpkin – jack ‘o’ lanterns are not great for eating
  • Cut it in half, place seed-side down, and roast at 375′ for 35 minutes
  • Let it cool, scrape out the seeds, scoop the meat from the shell, and puree it in a blender or food processor – add water to make it smooth
Alternatively, don’t puree it, but scoop the meat out and slice it into cubes for use in savory recipes, such as pumpkin and chicken curry.
Pumpkin soup is delicious and easy to make:
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic , chopped fine
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk (low fat or full fat)
  • 14oz pumpkin puree
  • 1.5c broth – vegetable or chicken
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh cilantro leaves and sliced green onions for garnish
Saute the onion and garlic for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, and then mix in the rest of the ingredients (except the garnish) and simmer for 10 minutes. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle the garnish on top. You can also puree this soup to make it smoother.

I like pumpkin pie just as well without a crust. You can make it as a custard with this recipe:

  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 2 cups (1 can) coconut milk
  • 1t cinnamon
  • 1/2t ginger
  • 1/4t cloves
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1/2t vanilla
  • sweetener: stevia to taste, or 1/2c of any of these: honey, applesauce, palm sugar (low glycemic). Use as little as possible, and you can combine them too.
  • 2 eggs

Mix all ingredients, and pour into a pie pan or into ramekins. Place the containers in a water bath – use a bigger pan and set the containers into it, and then fill with hot water, being careful not to slosh it into the pumpkin mix. Bake at 350′ for 40 minutes and test with a knife for doneness.

Another easy treat is Pumpkin Ice Cream – recipes here and here.

This link has a mess of great pumpkin recipes, and you can find a lot online.

Bonus: butternut squash works in most pumpkin recipes, which is smoother and delicious but also more starchy, with a different carb composition.

Vacation & Travel Workouts: The Big Fat List

Room service please!

Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s a great list of travel workout

Pick one that suits your mood or mix and match, but aim for BALANCE. If you have access to weights, this means push and pull in all three directions:

  • Up: press, push press, pull up, handstand pushup (shoulder to overhead)
  • Lateral: pushup, row
  • Down: Deadlift, sumo deadlift high pull
  • Squats are mandatory – you can do them nearly anywhere (elevators, in line for the boat, etc.), and core work can also be crammed into a busy day in a small space – plank while you watch the news. Tabatas make a terrific high-speed workout for hotel rooms (20 sec fast / 10 sec rest for 8 rounds: pushups, situps, squats).

    ENJOY!!

     

    1. run 400 meters

    50 air squats

    4 rounds

    ———————————

    2.  30 lunges

    20 push-ups

    10 burpee

    4 rounds

    Please, PLEASE do NOT do lunges like this guy! Make sure your weight is on your heel, and your knee is over your foot, not in front.



    ———————————

    3. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1

    squat jumps and push-ups

    ———————————-

    4.  air squat (max reps in 1 min)

    rest :30 sec

    push-ups(max reps in 1 min)

    rest :30 sec

    sit-ups(max reps in one min)

    rest 1 min

    3 rounds

    Read More

    The Sweetener Spectrum

     

    Oh baby.

    Our clients often ask about how to sweeten foods in the absence of sugar, and which sweeteners are the best ones to use. We all understand that processed white sugar and corn products (such as high fructose corn syrup) cause insulin spikes and leptin disruption that can trigger inflammation, and over time, systemic inflammation. Systemic inflammation, in turn, stresses your system, pumps up your cortisol level (the stress hormone), and causes your immune system to work extra hard all the time, thus opening the door to all sorts of minor and major diseases. Sweetness is also an addictive taste – your brain is hardwired to seek it, as it generally means easy-burning fuel, so your inability to resist a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie is not entirely your fault. Further, your brain is also hardwired to eat all of the food available,

    Read More

    Coco Loco: Fabulous Coconut

    Coconut is enjoying significant attention as the new hot thing in kitchens across America, for good reason. It’s not a grain and therefore does not lead to inflammation as grains do; its sugar content is relatively low, and while high in satisfying healthy saturated fat (YES! I said “healthy saturated fat”), it has less fat than tree nuts. Technically, it’s a drupe, which is a fruit, a nut. (For the record, peanuts are not nuts either – they’re legumes and they contain antinutrients.)

    Coconut can be found in many forms, most of which are minimally processed. You can find most of these at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s, except for coconut flour, which you can buy online.

    Coconut water has

    Read More
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