5 Habits, Superfoods, and me

I’ve been fairly happy with my diet over the last few years, but that being said, I’m not as lean as I would like to be, and I’ve known I could be making better choices. Since finishing my Precision Nutrition certification, however, I’ve decided I’d better crack the whip and get myself into gear.

Fortunately Precision Nutrition isn’t a specific “diet” so I’m not really restricted to anything or more importantly, a lack of anything. Since I want to have a good idea of the different approaches presented, I’ve started with the “5 Habits and Superfood” based nutrition. I like this approach because, as the name might indicate, it’s a few simple guidelines with some (super)food suggestions. That’s it. So what does a day on my new PN “diet” look like? (The correct answer is yummy…)

Breakfast: Chopped apple and berries with light greek yogurt and a sprinkle of chocolate protein powder, plus a large glass of water, my fish oil tablets and multivitamin.

Mid-morning snack: Veggie sticks (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower), homemade hummus, and two hard boiled eggs. plus a cup of green tea.

Lunch: Thai green curry with chicken, based on a recipe from PN’s own Georgie Fear. If you need some help with healthy and delicious in the kitchen, check out her blog and recipes. She’s awesome!

Mid-afternoon snack: Chocolate zucchini protein cupcakes and carrot sticks with a glass of water.

During and immediately post-training: Protein shake.

Dinner (45 minutes post-training): Thai curry from lunch, with half a cup of brown rice.

Dinner x 2 (I went on a photo-taking adventure with Chez and was starving again when we got home!): Chopped apple, greek yogurt, and protein powder. Cup of black tea with milk and a chocolate chipper (another Ask Georgie recipe).

The majority of my days look like this (minus the chipper at the end of the night, that’s not really supposed to be there!), with the biggest differences being lunch – usually a spinach salad with quinoa and hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken or steak, depending on what’s in the fridge, and dinner is usually something similar, or grilled steak/chicken/fish and steamed veggies.

I’m still working on adding a few more things to be super-compliant with the “5 Habits and Superfoods” approach, but it’s all coming along. I’ve been on the “eat frequently” bandwagon for a long time, so having a meal every 2-4 hours is not a problem. In fact, if it goes a lot longer than that, watch out. I’m also a-ok with a high protein diet, but am working on subbing more beans in for the animal proteins. And since my current goal is to lean out, I’m cutting out starchy carbs, which has been much less of an issue than I had imagined. Overall, I’m actually really enjoying the minor tweaks to my normal nutritional approach, and eating clean means I’m well-fueled and feeling awesome – and those extra choc chippers that sometimes sneak in are less guilt inducing!

To learn more about the 5 Habits and Super food approach, or how Precision Nutrition can help you feel great and achieve your training and physique goals, contact me here.

Precision Nutrition Qualified!

After finishing the textbook yesterday and reviewing the Unit 1 video lectures (all the science ones), I bit the bullet last night and had a crack at the Precision Nutrition Exam. It took me a little longer than I had thought, about an hour and a half, but I came through with flying colours and I’m now a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach! Woo hoo!

I’m pretty excited, and I haven’t been this motivated or felt this passionate about my job in a long time. Even better, I think I’m less likely to lose my drive for it again anytime soon, thanks to the enthusiastic online PN community. Not only has this helped me tons with my ability to plan and coach the nutrition side of health, performance, and body composition (the Precision Nutrition lingo), but the whole course has really inspired me to continue to grow and refine myself as a coach.

If you are interested to learn more about the Precision Nutrition system, you can check them out at www.precisionnutrition.com. I’m also going to be looking for a few people on whom to trial my new skills, so if you are interested in making in a change to your health, performance, and body composition – please get in touch (I’m only going to do a few freebies and some of the spots are already taken, so be quick).

Portion Sizes: A Quickie

Counting calories blows.

It’s tedious. You have to weigh and measure. You have to look stuff up. You have to total the calories in each food in your meal. God help you if you want to follow an old family recipe. Or even a new recipe. Since most of them don’t have nutrition facts included, you’re doing double duty weighing and totaling ingredients, and then weighing and measuring your serving of it. How do you get six even portions out of a pasta bake anyway?

Good news for us: Watching your portion sizes is much easier, and at least as effective (probably more effective- easier means you are more likely to do it, so it will actually work…  What a concept!)

I dig the Hand method of portion sizing:

One portion of protein = The size and thickness of your fist.

Example: steak, poultry, fish, etc.

One portion of carbohydrate = The size of your palm.

Example: pasta, rice, fruit, bread, etc.

One portion of fat = The size and thickness of your thumb-tip (the nail part).

Example: butter, oil.

Obviously this is easiest measured when the food is purely one type of macronutrient.  Obviously, there are a lot of foods out there that are a combination of protein and fat or carbohydrate and fat (peanut butter, anyone?) You can tweak the guidelines with this a little by measuring according to the predominant nutrient, and then adding a little. So you could have two “thumbs” of peanut butter. I like this rule.

This method is especially good because it’s got built-in individualizing. Smaller people need fewer calories. Smaller people also have smaller hands, so by using this method of portion sizing, they will get exactly what they need- no more and no less. The same goes for larger people, since their hands will be proportionate.

So easy.

The Big Three

Exercise. Diet. Recovery.

The Big Three.

It doesn’t matter if you are a pro athlete or a stay-at-home mom. If you have fitness or sports performance goals, these are the boxes you need to tick.

Exercise

To most people, this is synonymous with training, getting in shape, making the team, or whatever you end-goal is.

Most people would be surprised how relatively un-important exercise is in the Big Three triad. The truth is, a little stimulus can go a long way. Whether you are doing cardiovascular work, strength or resistance training or something more sports-specific, the idea is to challenge your body and promote changes such as gains in performance or loss in weight.

Exercise – the challenge or stimulus – works by stressing your body’s normal state. This will cause a temporary decrease in your physical capabilities. Since the body doesn’t like stress, the subsequent recovery process will go above and beyond the old “normal” so that the next time you exercise, it won’t be as physically stressful (that’s what the body thinks, anyway).  The result is physical adaptation. In exercise science circles, we call it supercompensation, and it’s based on Seyle’s General Adaptation Syndrome.

In plain English, exercise breaks you down. Recovery builds you up, and then some. You can call it progress. 

Recovery

This is what you do to give your body a hand with the physical processes of recovery and adaptation (the upward swing of the line on the graph above). Your recovery efforts will mean that your body goes through this process more quickly than if you had just gone home fromtraining and sat on the couch for the rest of the night.

There are a lot of ways you can enhance your recovery, most of which are the most effective when used right after training.  The idea is to gt your body moving back towards normal as soon as possible, by helping clear metabolic waste products, provide easy-to-access energy and amino acids, and generally allowing your body to rebuild and repair. I recently covered some of the most common and effective recovery modalities, but we’ll go through a quick recap here, or click on the link to take you to more info.

Sleep: The most important aspect of recovery. Your body shuts down all but the most essential processes to work on rebuilding.

Pre- and Post-workout nutrition: Also very important, this helps provide readily available blood glucose and free amino acids to put your body in an anabolic state.

Compression garments: The compressions from the form fitting clothes helps shunt metabolic waste products like lactic acid out of the muscle and into the bloodstream for filtration and removal. Science isn’t sure how well they work, but thousands of people use them and love them for increasing performance and decreasing soreness. 

Ice/Cold water therapy: Also helps remove metabolic waste products and limits intramuscular swelling caused by damage from exercise, leading in decreased soreness. Try hot and cold in the shower, or go cold straight for a minute or two to get it over with.


Diet

Pre- and post-workout nutrition was briefly mentioned above, and while these are super important for maximizing your recovery and exercise-induced adaptations, your overall diet is equally important. Great pre- and post-workout nutrition isn’t going to help if you eat at McDonalds and KFC the rest of the time.

Now, if  you look around the internet or fitness magazines or what-have-you, you’ll notice there are about 1,001 different diets out there, ranging from really good to downright awful. Grapefruit does not a balanced diet make.

On the other hand, eating clean is a common component of all the good ones. It’s a pretty simple concept: If your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, you shouldn’t eat it. This goes for drinks too.

Clean list: Fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, whole grains, legumes, etc.

Dirty list: Pizza, ice cream, Twinkies, Tim Tams, schnitzel, chili cheese dogs, you get the picture…

So…

That’s the Big Three. It’s not rocket science, but it’s amazing how often one component or another is overlooked. Keep your training balanced between these three and watch your progress. You’ll be hitting PBs before you know it!