Normalize Carbohydrates

Controversial topic, I know! Carbohydrates have long been the “enemy” to people who associate themselves as healthy. I, too, used to encourage clients to focus on protein and healthy fats to lose weight and limit carbohydrates. Protein and fat play important roles in metabolism and recovery, don’t get me wrong. My mission (today at least) is to decriminalize carbohydrates and help show you how balancing carbs, fats, and proteins in harmony will help you feel and move your best!

I felt lead to discuss this after watching a recent episode of Down to Earth with Zac Efron (swoon). If you have a chance, give Episode 4 a watch. The episode is filmed in Sardinia where there is a notably high population of centenarians (people living over 100). Why does this matter? Doctors studying the envious longevity of the Sardinian people noted they have a diet high in carbohydrates and lower in protein. The healthy senior citizens walked rigorously, drank wine, ate foods grown, harvested and cooked by the community, and lived low stress lives. Sounds great, right?

While living on an Italian hillside sipping wine and eating pasta isn’t realistic for 99% of us, I think we can learn something from this community. It proves carbohydrates aren’t bad. In fact, they’re clearly associated with living long lives. We can also assume how foods are prepared is important. Taking the time to prepare food with love and intention, ideally growing what we can ourselves, is a healthy practice. Harvesting is great exercise (my dad is a farmer, so I can speak to this from years spent in our family garden and corn fields!) and food preparation is mentally stimulating as well. Cooking and eating nutritious carbohydrates should not be taboo!

As a competitive athlete, I rely on carbohydrates for fuel and recovery. If you’re not a competitive athlete, you still need fuel to survive. Metabolism is a word that gets thrown around a lot by fitness guru’s and coaches. To put it simply, your body needs calories to operate even when you’re at rest. There’s important stuff happening inside of you that requires energy, even when you’re sitting down and reading a book. That being said, the more fit and active you are the more fuel your body needs, even at rest. In short, everyone needs different amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fats based on their genetics and activity level.

To review, here’s what your needs and why:

  1. Carbohydrates: provide and store energy for your cells, sparing protein and fat for other uses
  2. Protein: grow and maintain tissue, provide structure for cells, regulate PH, acts as a messenger aiding in communication between cells, important for chemical functions
  3. Fat: provide energy, support cell growth, aids in protecting vital organs and keeping them warm!

I choose different ratios based on my activity level that day. Example: on days I’m very busy and active, I eat a lot of healthy carbohydrates like fruit, brown rice, and organic or rice pasta to keep my energy up during the day. In the evening, I focus on lean protein, fibrous vegetables and fats once my activity is done. On days my activity level is low, say a recovery day where I sit a lot and write these great blogs, I eat more protein, fiber, and fat throughout the day and fewer carbohydrates in general. I also NEVER train without fuel.

Perhaps this leaves you thinking: what are some healthy sources of carbohydrates and ways to prepare them? I’m happy to provide some suggestions! Ultimately, you need to eat things you enjoy and taste good. Life is just too short. The good news is there are MILLIONS of healthy, tasty, balanced foods that provide all the key nutrients I just outlined. While the purpose of this blog is to get America comfortable with carbs again, I’m not encouraging you binge on Wonder Bread and Little Debbie products. Instead, I hope you look into what healthy combinations of foods and food groups that you enjoy, including carbohydrates. As a free resource, most of the recipes I post on my website include carbs, fats, and protein because I enjoy the way I feel when I eat all three.

Here are my favorite go-to combinations:

  • Apples and cheese or nut butter
  • Banana with raw nuts or nut butter
  • Brown rice with avocado
  • Oatmeal with an egg, avocado and feta OR almond milk, blueberries & honey
  • Quinoa with fresh fruit, almond or oat milk and a drizzle of honey
  • Rice or organic pasta with sautéed vegetables and roasted or grilled chicken
  • Homemade banana or zucchini bread with nut butter
  • Granola with fruit and oat or almond milk, OR yogurt

The takeaway is this: Carbohydrates are not bad. We should fuel wisely with wholesome, intentionally prepared foods. We should choose foods based on our taste and activity level while having the intuition to adjust. All things in moderation.

Be well.

Becca’s Favorite Homemade Bread

A simple and delicious way to reduce plastic packaging while investing in producing the foods you eat. Kids may enjoy helping knead the dough as part of a fun kitchen experiment!

*Whole wheat flour can be used in place of flour, too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water (should be warm to the touch, not boiling)
  • ½ cup sugar (I use white sugar but plan to try with brown raw sugar soon!)
  • 1 ½ T. active dry yeast
  • ½ – 1 T. salt (I like Himalayan salt, and prefer more salt)
  • 5-6 cups flour

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine water with sugar until dissolved. Add yeast and stir continuously for about 5 minutes. The mixture should look combined and froth a little. Add salt and stir for another minute. Add flour one cup at a time. (I usually add about five cups, and then beginning lightly kneading, adding pinches of flour as a go until the dough isn’t sticky to the touch). Knead for 7-8 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. I usually Once the dough is double in size, punch down (the fun part!) and divide into two greased 9 x 5 loaf pans. Let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes. Be patient, the bread will turn out at about the height you put it in at! Bake at 350* for about 25 minutes, or until a cooking thermometer reads 190-200*. Brush with butter, let cool, and slice with a serrated knife. E N J O Y!


Why You’re Fat

Lifestyle management is a daily challenge. One slip, two slips, three slips…and a bad habit is formed with consequences that can be ten-fold. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about lifestyle choices, without any bullsh*t. I’m here to speak truth, and offer a way out. If you need some life changes, this article will help get you on the right track. Let’s get right down to it. 

Main Causes of Obesity (from a trainer’s perspective) :

  1. Stress – 1 out of 75 adults experience panic disorders (National Institute of Mental Health)
  2. Lack of sleep – 1/3 of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep/night (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 
  3. Poor nutrition – The nationwide count for fast food restaurants has doubled since 1970! 

Common sense, right? The prior are three key ingredients to the Obesity Recipe and, quite frankly, get swept under the rug too much. While it may seem easy to “fix” stress, sleep, and nutrition, it’s actually the three topics I’m constantly stuck on with most clients. American lifestyle is high-paced, competitive, and busy. Is that an excuse? No. It is, however, an explanation – a piece to everyone’s individual puzzle.

Let’s look at stress, the causes and consequences, and address how to manage your lifestyle with proper sleep and nutrition to battle the bulge. 

Stress – the start of it all.  

To name a few of many causes: 

– Work – 80% of Americans reported feeling stressed at work, while almost 50% cited they need help managing stress. (American Institute of Stress) Changing careers, pressure to perform and hit deadlines, receiving promotions, and/or working split or night shifts are more specific examples of work related stress

– Fitness Routines – while it’s often a positive stressor, it’s still stress on the body. Training for a specific race, meet, and / or weight loss goals are examples of stressors. Even more specifically, high intensity and specific overload sessions are examples of things that can cause stress. 

– Family-  whether its chasing kids or helping a family member with an addiction or ailment, family can be stressful!

– Future of our country- surprisingly (or maybe not…) this ranked as one of the highest causes of stress in 2017. Some fear the national leader, while others are more stressed about how that specifically translates to things like Medicare. Long story short, Americans are the most concerned and stressed they have EVER been about this topic. (statistically) 

Any of these relate to you? If so, keep reading..

Consequences of short and long – term stress levels

*This is the main takeaway, so if you’re skimming, slow down here.

When we experience immediate stress, our body releases several hormones (you may recognize one in particular known as cortisol). After the removal of a short bout of stress, say a workout, or traffic jam, or busy day at work, some hormones dissipate, some stick around to make sure energy is restored. Here’s where insulin comes in. Elevating blood glucose (aka eating sugar) lowers some of these hormone levels. As we give into sugar cravings more, our bodies adapt. Soon, we need more sugar to relieve these elevated hormones, and after an extended level of stress (unsustainable amounts of high intensity exercises or prolonged lack of sleep, for example), elevated levels of said hormones hinder thyroid-stimulating hormones, the important ones that account for metabolizing 60-75% of our daily calorie expenditure) which in turn reduces quantities of hormones needed to regulate metabolism. Before we know it, we’re insulin-resistant with high levels of fat in our core. (NASM) Slippery slopes… 

Lifestyle Management 

Stress is a part of life. It always has been, it always will be. The reason why we’re more overweight is partly due to chronic stress from busy lifestyles, and the obnoxious amounts of readily available fast food and sugar. You’re allowed to be stressed! However, your reaction to stress has consequences. Do you want them to be positive (balanced diet and exercise) or negative (sugar cravings, insulin-resistance, weight gain)? *Note: discipline required to read further. 

  • Balance you life. Take 5 minutes at the beginning, middle, and/or end of your day to think about the positive aspects of your life. If you can’t fill 5 minutes with positivity, it’s time to make some drastic changes. If you’re one step ahead saying change is stressful, you bet your a** it is, but if short-term stress leads to relief of chronic stress well, that’s a trade I’d take any day. 
  • Incorporate aerobic activity. If all you’re doing is blowing off steam with ground and pound workouts, or avoiding exercise altogether, think about redirecting your time. If you’re not exercising, start with 30 minute walks 3 x’s a week. If you’re already exercising, step back and look at your approach. Do you need some aerobic activity to help reduce those stress hormones? Try doing 2 moderate workouts to 1 high intensity or anaerobic workouts. If you’re training for a specific, competitive event, be sure to include a recovery week every 2-4 weeks. 
  • SLEEP. Everyone is different, but the majority of us need 7-8 hours of sleep. This means exercising and eating at an appropriate time. Sometimes that means skipping an early workout if sleep quality was poor, while sometimes this means working out early to ensure a timely dinner and bedtime. Lastly, this means lights off and devices away by a certain time. If that’s too much to ask, reassess your priorities. 
  • Feed yourself. Under-fueling is an epidemic, in my dramatic opinion. Too many people work hard at demanding job, stress their bodies in training, and (in a futile attempt to lose weight) restrict calories. If give your body less than it needs to function, you only increase those naughty hormones I discussed. The result is fatigue, not weight loss. That’s depressing! If you’re unsure of what you need to ensure a healthy metabolism, consult a fitness professional. Nutrition is not a cookie-cutter plan. It takes time to find the right caloric intake for optimal performance and / or weight loss. 
  • Proper Nutrition. The minute you pull into McDonald’s after a stressful day at work after a poor night’s sleep is the minute you agree to the negative chain of events we discussed. To be clear: treats and rewards are part of a balanced routine, while stress-responses eating is an addictive habit. If you get promoted and celebrate with a milk shake, awesome! If you’re traveling for work, sleep-deprived, and react with a milk shake, not awesome. Set yourself up for success by grocery shopping for 1 hour, and meal prepping for 2 hours. That’s three hours of time on a day you’ve set aside each week to be successful during a busy week. If that’s still not possible, use an online food service to deliver healthy meals in stressful weeks. If you travel, plan your trip ahead to find walkable distance stores and be strong at company dinners. Skip the alcohol, bulk the vegetables. I could make this bullet a separate post, as this barely touches on ways to have proper nutrition. If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to me personally on this matter. 
  • Routine vs. Ritual: I’ve found most people to be creatures of habit. We prefer to have our schedule “normal.” For example: Breakfast at 7. Workout at 8. Shower and head to work at 9, so on and so forth. Bland, but seems to work…or does it? If you look at your schedule and find yourself going through your daily routine effortlessly, then it’s time to ramp it up a little. Rituals are meaningful tasks that specifically lead us closer to our goal. It’s the mentality behind the actions that make an impact. It’s quite possible your routine is holding you back from reaching your potential, merely by lulling you into mediocrity. Look at your day to day and find ways to insert rituals into your routine that will make you just 10% better. 

That’s it for today, folks!  Feel free to email me personally if clarification or personal advice is needed on any of the topics touched on today. 

BK