15 Oct 2014
Do you eat food? Do you want to get stronger? Good, then I should see you tonight!
At 7:30 pm (after the 6:30 class) I will be covering what you need to know to optimize your strength gains and performance. Topics include:
- The Macros (A Quick Review)
- Strength Training & Your Body – the role of glycogen
- Eating before, during, and after workouts – checklist of qualities
- Suggested Options – examples of whole foods and products you can try before, during, and after workouts
- Real world examples – we’ll do some calculations that will help us get comfortable calculating our dietary needs around workouts
- Supplements – which ones do you need?
- A look at the evidence on caffeine use and performance
- Other Lifestyle Factors
Dan from RacePak will also be joining us with some free samples of products you can use before, during, and after a workout.
Here is the condensed info:
Fuel For Strength: Nutrition Strategies for Strength and Performance
Where: CrossFit Boston 114 Western Ave; Allston, MA
When: Wednesday, October 15th 2014 at 7:30 pm
Cost: Free for strength challenge participants or $12
There will be a sign in sheet at the door, or you can REGISTER HERE.
01 Oct 2014
One of the more popular food tips out there these days is “shop the perimeter of the grocery store”. This makes sense on some level – most of the meat, vegetables, and dairy are on the perimeter of the store, while the not so great stuff like Cheez-Its, Oreos, boxed rice, canned soup, and additive riddled salad dressing are all in the aisles. But if you’ve read this blog before, you know nothing irritates me more than a nutrition platitude (like “drink 8 glasses of water a day” or “only eat the most colorful foods”, but I can go into why those are wrong another time), so I’m going to go ahead and debunk this one for two reasons:
1. There’s healthy stuff in the aisles
Now, I realize that the aisles are full of junk, and really the intended benefit of the “shop the perimeter” advice is to help shoppers get what they need without being tempted by what they don’t. But you can get to a lot of good stuff on the inside without walking past 18 flavors of Doritos and 10 different Oreo variations. Why? Well, usually the healthy stuff is down slightly less tempting aisles than the cookie/cracker and chip aisle. For example, coffee, tea, and nut butters are in the cereal aisle. Canned tuna is near the condiments and pickles. Olive oil is in the aisle with pasta and sauce. Beans are with canned vegetables. Usually last minute grab purchases are on the snack aisles (I have never passed a box of Barilla penne, canned string beans, or mayonnaise and thought “OOH that looks delicious I must buy it right now!” as I have done with Stacy’s Pita Chips or Ginger Snaps, or those sneaky chocolate covered everythings at Trader Joe’s). The point is, there is convenient, healthy stuff on the inside if you know where to find it.
2. There’s unhealthy stuff in the perimeter
Now, if you compared all things perimeter to all things aisle you’d probably win. But if I shop the perimeter at my local Star Market (the one in Porter Square), I can still buy:
- Fried chicken
- White baguette
- Tortilla chips
- French onion dip
- Flavored dairy creamer
- Cranberry cheese log
- Caramel dip for fruit
And, if we were in a state that doesn’t have silly laws about selling beer in the grocer store (or frequent Trader Joe’s), you’d also find beer on the perimeter. Now, I don’t remember this always being the case, so my guess is the food industry caught on to this little trend and started trying to tempt you out in the perimeter too. Either way, my point is this: sticking to the perimeter doesn’t remove temptation. And it’s not guaranteed that everything there is better for you.
The hands down BEST way to walk into the grocery store and walk out with bags full of healthy loot is to do the following:
1. Plan ahead – think of what you’d like to eat for the meals and snacks in the days between this and the next grocery shopping day.
2. Make a list of everything you need. Now, it’s fine if you just write “fruit” or “salad greens” and decide which kind at the store. It’s unlikely you’ll be standing in the produce section and find an unhealthy type of salad green. But if you just write “snacks” and wander down the snack aisle…well that’s another story.
3. Start with the stuff that takes deciding. For me this is usually the produce and anything that requires label reading. I find that patience runs low by the end of the grocery trip, and I like to just knock the last row of items off my list quickly without having to read 8 salad dressing labels (before deciding to google a recipe and make my own anyway). If you’re losing patience and have to read a lot of labels, it’s more likely you just pick up the first thing that looks good.
4. When you list is done, don’t think. Go pay the cashier and get out!
What’s your grocery shopping strategy?
24 Sep 2014
It is only the third week of September, and yet so far I have seen the Pumpkin Spice Latte return early, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin beer… you get the idea. And don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin thinks – pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving staple, pumpkin beer is one of my favorite parts of fall (although if you guys could wait until it was actually a little cool, that would be great -I do not want to drink pumpkin beer in a sundress. End rant), and pumpkin seeds toasted with a little bit of salt and cinnamon are the best fall snack. And pumpkin is pretty good for you, as it is:
- High in key vitamins like vitamin A, C, and B complex
- Low in calories and fat but high in fiber and antioxidants
- Rich in minerals the body needs like copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous
- Seeds are a good source of heart healthy fats
- Seeds are also high in zinc (important for wound healing and immune system strength) and iron
Pumpkin Spice V. Pumpkin
The thing about pumpkin is, it’s not all that delicious raw. It usually needs some salt, sage, or other herb, or on the flip side some cinnamon, sugar, and/or pumpkin pie spice, which is made of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice to make all the delicious pumpkin-y things we love. Which is totally fine – I have no problem with pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, or roasted pumpkin because they actually CONTAIN PUMPKIN.
My philosophical beef is with the pumpkin posers – most importantly the Starbucks “pumpkin spice latte”. The PSL contains espresso, steamed milk, whipped cream, pumpkin pie spices atop that whipped cream, and pumpkin coffee syrup, which contains pure cane sugar, water, natural flavors, citric acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness), and caramel color. Of course I don’t know what these “natural flavors” are, other than that natural flavors are generally any product of or derived from spices, herbs, vegetables and other things found in nature. So, the only pumpkin thing about the PSL is the pumpkin pie spice on top of the whipped cream, and maybe some derivative of pumpkin or pumpkin pie spices hiding under that “natural flavors” moniker. The PSL is also 380 calories and 49 grams of sugar for a 16 ounce serving. Ouch.
As for pumpkin beer, that’s somewhat in the gray area. According to Beer Advocate, some brewers hand cut pumpkin and drop it in the mash, or use pureed pumpkin, and most brewers use the pumpkin pie spices. It seems other brewers may opt for flavorings instead of real pumpkin.
Get Your Pumpkin On The Right Way
There are lots of delicious and healthy things to make with pumpkin. I have a pumpkin soup recipe that I love making every year. There is a whole Pinterest thread dedicated to paleo/primal things one can make with pumpkin, and as a bonus, roasting the seeds after you’ve used the rest of the pumpkin makes a very tasty snack (there are too many great recipe variations to link to just one, so Google it yourself). Just remember:
- Make it with a real pumpkin
- Avoid adding too much sugar
What pumpkin-y things do you like to make?
17 Sep 2014
I’m generally a little sad this time of year, as summer and warm weather turns to crisp mornings and changing leaves. But there are enough things about fall that I love to help me get by. Chili is one of those things. I love my mom’s chili as a kid, I loved when she made a whole batch, froze it, and drove it to Gainesville on track meet weekends to put in my freezer. And now I love having a meal that, while a bit laborious, gives me lunches and dinners for days.
A few great thing about home-made chili:
- All those vegetables! My pot of chili has 5 bell peppers of varying colors, 4 hot peppers, 2 onions, as well as a bunch of tomatoes in different forms (sauce, salsa).
- Iron – chili is generally made with red meat (we made ours with grass-fed beef, but you can also use bison, humanely raised sausage, venison, etc). Most red meat has iron, a component of hemoglobin, which is responsible for transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
- It makes your house smell awesome – I don’t think I need to explain this.
- It’s super adaptable – in its normal state, chili is basically paleo. But it’s easy to adapt for vegetarians, vegans, those avoiding red meat (just add turkey), etc.
How do you make your chili?
Patrick and I made chili last night, using his recipe, which I’ve posted on my Wicked Good Nutrition Blog. Lots of vegetable chopping but totally worth it!
How do you make your chili? Post your recipes!
13 Aug 2014
I’ve heard a couple of people over the past few years talk about cutting out carbs and sugar to such an extent that even the usually neutral fruit was eliminated. I’ve heard people reference bananas and grapes as “very high in sugar”, and something to be avoided. Now we all know sugar is the opposite of awesome for you and that cutting back on carbs and sugar can produce weight loss. But do you really need to cut the bananas to achieve or keep a healthy body?
Fruit vs. The Rest Of ‘Em
There is a fundamental difference between the sugar in fruit from the sugar in grains, baked goods, and sweetened beverages: FIBER. Yep, that fiber – the “gluten free” of the 1990’s. The thing is, fiber (along with protein and fat) modulates the rise in blood sugar following the consumption of sugar. (If you don’t recall the glycemic index, this should refresh your memory). Basically ,eating sugar alongside fiber slows the uptake of sugar by the body, thus lessening the insulin required to deal with it all at once. That burst of insulin needed to deal with the flood of sugar is what leads to insulin resistance.
There is also the point that the sugar in fruit is 100% natural and not added in or processed in any way.
The bottom line is, human beings still need carbohydrates to survive (yes, I know some people can function in ketosis. But that’s a lot of work and sounds pretty miserable to me. Right now I am talking to the 99% of people at the gym who want to be healthy without going bananas – pun intended). And whole foods like fruit, starchy vegetables, and the occasional unprocessed whole grain or plain dairy product can be a great source of those needed carbohydrates. Bananas make a pre WOD breakfast, grapes and watermelon are deliciously hydrating after a workout, and I find apple (with a little PB added) to make a satisfying snack. (Side note: I have warned about eating too much fiber before a workout in the past. The beauty of fruit is that while it has some fiber, it doesn’t have as much as green vegetables or fortified cereals or bars, so most people can generally eat some within 30 minutes of a workout and not experience any discomfort). Although, obviously, I wouldn’t recommend eating 10 bananas at the same time.
So basically – keep eating fruit guilt free. It’s almost peach season.
What are your thoughts on fruit?
Some of you may hear words like “energy systems pathways” and “glycogen stores” thrown around a lot. Or perhaps this is the first of them you’ve heard. Either way, the burn of today’s 1K followed by a mini version of DT inspired me to write about how the body converts stored energy into usable energy to rule your workouts.
A Quick Biochem Lesson
ATP. That sounds familiar right? Well, it should ring a bell from high school biology. ATP is a molecule found in all living cells that when broken down provides energy for a variety of cellular processes.
Pathway 1: The Phosphagen Pathway
This pathways is used for the first 10 seconds of exercise (so today on the rower, the first 5 or so strokes). This pathway draws on ATP stored in the muscle for about 2-3 seconds, then uses creatine phosphate to regenerate ATP until that runs out. This explains why creatine supplementation improves recovery and output for short duration, high power movements. For more on creatine you can read one of my previous blog posts. Movements that might utilize the phosphagen pathway are short duration at all out intensity (like a 100 meter sprint).
Pathway 2: The Glycolytic (Or Lactic Acid) Pathway
In this pathway, the body breaks down carbohydrates – both glucose readily available in the bloodstream or glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrate in the liver and muscles – to produce ATP as well as a molecule called pyruvate. Pyruvate can either convert to another molecule that is used to regenerate ATP or can convert to lactate, which forms lactic acid (and causes that burn in your legs when you’re sprinting or rowing). Conversion to lactate happens when your body needs more oxygen that it is getting. This pathway isn’t very efficient, producing little energy for the input, but the benefit is that it produces the energy quickly. Your body produces energy with this pathway from 10 seconds to around 2 minutes.
Pathway 3: The Oxidative (Or Aerobic) Pathway
This is the pathway often referred to as “fat burn”. During the oxidative pathway, the body uses oxygen along with carbohydrate and fat to produce energy. This pathway is used for long duration, low power and intensity exercise. Think of running 6 miles, rowing around the river for an hour (obviously slowly so you don’t tip the boat…) or chipper WODs like Eva.
An important thing to remember is that the pathways are not mutually exclusive. While it’s easiest to break them down into specific time slots, multiple pathways are used simultaneously. For example, in today’s 1K, the first few seconds were mostly the phosphagen pathway. After 10 seconds, glycolysis picks up as the predominant pathway, and the aerobic pathway takes over the lead at around 1-2 minutes. But if you look at the graph to the left, you can see how at 30 seconds for example, all three pathways are providing some energy.
Why You Felt So Bad After That 1K
Now that I’ve explained the pathways, it’s easier to understand. By the 4 minute mark (when the 1K finally ended for most of us), you’ve burned through pretty much all of your stored ATP and most of your muscle glycogen, but your body has only been creating energy via oxygen and fat stores for a few minutes. You’ve spent most of your stored energy and not had the time for your body to replenish it on it’s own.
What Should You Do
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how, while a lot of sugar in the regular diet can cause problems, there are times your body needs a little, especially during training. During a WOD like today’s, where we red line for a specific test, and follow it up with another challenging workout, the body would benefit from taking some sugar. I would recommend about 15 grams of very easily absorbed carbohydrate, such as:
- Coconut water
- Sport beans
- Non-fat candy
You want to eat a little something to beef up your glycogen stores, but you don’t want ANY fat or fiber to slow digestion. Of course, I made it through the WOD fine without any carbohydrate in the middle (as did the 6 and 7 am classes), but if you plan on training longer afterward, or want to go harder on the 3 rounds of DT, the carbs can help.
One of the most confusing “no-no’s” of the paleo diet is beans and legumes. Most of us have grown up learning hat beans are healthy for us because of their fiber and protein content, and many vegetarians and vegans rely on them as a protein source. But, according to the founding fathers of the paleo diet, legumes are no good. But what exactly is a legume, and why can’t you eat it? (Hint: if you read on, you’ll see that you can).
What Are Legumes?
According to Merriam Webster, legumes are “a type of plant (such as a pea or a bean plant) with seeds that grow in long cases (called pods)”. The fruits and seeds of these plants that we eat are also known as legumes. The legume family includes beans, peas, green beans, and peanuts.
Why Aren’t They Paleo?
There are a few reasons the paleo community excludes legumes. A few of the big ones include:
1. They contain phytic acid/phytates, which are “anti nutrients” that block the absorption of vitamins and minerals
2. They contain lectins, a class of proteins thought to cause “leaky gut” in the shorter term and problems like arthritis and poor vitamin/mineral absorption in the longer term
3. Cavemen didn’t eat them
Why They’re Not The Devil
Sadly, a lot of the paleo blogs that explained why legumes aren’t paleo were written with a lot of doom and gloom. I closed out my Safari tab thinking my body was going to self combust if I ate a black bean tomorrow. But then I dug a little deeper and found out it’s not so black and white.
1. Phytic acid is the stored form of phosphorous. Phytic acid is often called an “anti nutrient” because it binds minerals in the digestive tract, forming phytate (a mineral bound to phytic acid). This does happen, although phytic acid can be broken down by several processes including fermentation, cooking, soaking, and sprouting. However, despite this drawback, there are some other benefits to phytic acid. When it binds minerals in the digestive tract, it reduces the formation of free radicals, making it like an antioxidant. It can also bind heavy metals (like lead or mercury), reducing their accumulation in the body. You can read this article from a great group of nutritionists and scientists at Precision Nutrition to see more benefits of phytic acid.
2. Lectins are a class of protein that binds to sugars. In humans, lectins facilitate cell to cell contact, and in plants they often act as a protection or insecticide. Lectin poisoning is a thing, if you happen to enjoy raw beans. When food passes through our guts, it causes minor damage that is usually easily repaired by the body. However, lectins can cause damage when they slow this repair. When that happens, the digestive lining doesn’t function as well as it should, allowing some undesirable substances that would normally be contained in the gut to pass to the body, and inhibiting the absorption of certain good substances like vitamins and minerals. This is what is referred to as “leaky gut”. If you eat too many lectins, your body will respond by trying to evacuate the gut – i.e. fun symptoms like diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, etc. Gut damage from lectin overdoes can also cause immune responses like joint pain and skin rash. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Like phytic acid, lectins can also be neutralized by processes like soaking and sprouting.
3. Actually, cavemen may have eaten legumes! A study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America looking at tooth decay in prehistoric skeletons found that neanderthals ate a diverse diet of available plants, including legumes. Although this study was in Neanderthals, it is widely thought that Homo Sapiens enjoyed am ore diverse diet than Neanderthals, meaning it’s likely they would have eaten legumes as well. I mean, it makes sense to me that if the could figure out tools and fire, they could figure out soaking, sprouting and cooking.
What Should You Do?
As I love to say in almost all of my blog posts, the impact of choosing to eat these particular foods will depend on a variety of factors, including your genetics, your current state of health, and how much of them you eat. I don’t think legumes should be entirely avoided, but I also don’t think you should eat beans and peanuts at every meal either. That would result in leaving out a lot of other foods with important nutrients – like grass-fed meats and eggs, or vegetables, fruits, organic dairy, etc – that you might otherwise enjoy. There are real concerns about lectins in very high doses (which is why they don’t offer to put Castor beans in your burrito at Chipotle), but a cup of green beans with dinner a couple of nights a month or the occasional hummus and carrots snack isn’t going to give you leaky gut unless you happen to be very sensitive to lectins (research shows individuals on the autism spectrum and those with Crohn’s disease tend to be more sensitive to lectin damage). If legumes are causing a problem for your body, more likely than not your body will inform you of this fact in the form of stomach discomfort, gas, joint pain, etc.
What are your thoughts? Do you eat legumes? Avoid them?
24 Jun 2014
There are many things throughout the day that cause us stress; work, family, traffic (especially this!), the foods we eat, exercise. And all of these stressors contribute to inflammation. Many of us may not realize that we are inflamed, but it manifests itself in such things as stiff muscles and joints, knots and swollen muscles, skin rashes, colds and other things you may not think of of as “inflammation.” Here’s a link to a good article written by Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple called “What is Inflammation?” Take note where he mentions that inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s our body’s natural response to injury, pain, illness or stress.
While I could spend a lot of time discussing inflammation, I think Mark might be a little more qualified to talk about it more than I am. So, I’m going to use this opportunity instead to talk about a great way that I’ve personally used to reduce my inflammation. Most of my inflammation is the result of my training here at CFB. I eat a fairly clean diet (at least now I do), I have few external stressors in my life (did I get enough sleep last night before I had to wake up at O dark hundred to be in to coach?), and I have no major injuries (for now… thankfully). So my training leaves me pretty beat up. I am consistent with getting mobility work in every day, mostly because I know that it will make me feel better for my next workout. When I start getting to the point where I am spending almost an hour on mobility to get ready for a workout, I know that something has to give.
Luckily my training has some built in back-off weeks where I still do some work, but the volume is much lighter and it affords me the opportunity to focus on my recovery. During this time, I go in for a 60-90 minute massage (every month). This always gets me ready to do some solid work in the coming weeks, plus I always feel like a million bucks after I leave. I also increase my protein intake a bit for muscle recovery; eat a lot more fruits and veggies for their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; and double my fish oil intake. See I know that the reason my muscles are tight and screaming at me every day is because they are inflamed from the work I am making them do for me day-in and day-out. Fish oil makes me physically feel better. My muscles become less swollen and my joints seem to lose their snap, crackle, and pop. Not to mention the other health benefits I reap from the increase in fish oil consumption.
When I went to Regionals to cheer on Carla, I did a little bit of booth hopping checking out all CrossFit products. I came across the Pure Pharma booth. I know them for their high quality fish oil, Vitamin D and Magnesium supplements. After a short conversation, I was asked if CrossFit Boston would like to carry their products to offer our members the benefits of their products. I brought this idea to Neal, and he said he wasn’t interested in carrying the products himself, but I could if I thought we had a need for it at the gym. And I did just that. I am now carrying Pure Pharma products at CFB. I believe we have some of the best protein we can get at CFB, and I wanted to carry something that we can all get benefits from. See I think (unfortunately) that a lot of members see taking a post-workout shake as something for a “competitive” CrossFitter. I don’t agree, but I think that we can all agree that EVERYBODY can reap the benefits of Fish Oil. That is why I decided to carry Pure Pharma. They are the best in the business, and it is in everyone’s interest to get the best stuff available to them.
I am carrying the entire Pure Pharma line. You can check it out here, and if you have questions, would like more information, or are interested in starting to see the benefits of these great products, you know where to find me.
18 Jun 2014
Today, I come to you with joyous news. Well, for me anyway. You see, as a registered dietitian and self respecting health professional, I just can’t stand Dr. Oz. I would venture to guess that many other health professionals worth their salt can’t stand him either, for multiple reasons. Allow me to explain.
Dr. Oz started out with such a great mission – use a celebrity platform to break down complicated medical information into easy to digest bits of information for everyday Americans. I’ve watched some of his early shows, where he explains plaque in the arteries using visuals and props. But then somewhere along the way, he started endorsing weight loss and other products. And all of a sudden this likable, easy to understand doctor was selling Americans on raspberry ketone extract and green coffee bean extract as a miracle, life changing weight loss product. The thing is, obesity and chronic disease are complicated conditions influenced by numerous factors to include genetics, hormone levels, environment, and lifestyle. It is impossible to lose weight or gain health without making at least some modest lifestyle change (and more often, modest changes aren’t enough). Even people who get weight loss surgery – once and maybe still viewed by many as a “cop out” – have huge lifestyle changes to make, like adjusting to significantly reduced portions, and taking protein and vitamin supplements to avoid deficiencies, all in addition to dealing with the emotional stuff everyone else trying to lose weight deals with. And even for the successful, weight loss is not miraculous. It often comes about via hard work and/or great sacrifice. You can’t just a vegetable here and there, walk on the treadmill occasionally, and miraculously lose weight due to some supplement/extract/miracle. It just doesn’t work that way. Yet Dr. Oz used his name and platform to essentially convince many Americans that it could. And while he never endorsed any specific product, when he calls raspberry ketones a “fat burner in a bottle” , people listen.
But yesterday, Oz had to face the music. Yesterday, Dr. Oz testified in front of the Senate Consumer Protection Panel on deceptive advertising for diet supplements and over the counter products. And Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri let him have it! It was great. I haven’t watched video yet, but she basically called him out on all the BS he’s sold people on his show. To read a recap and watch the video, check out the coverage from CBS News and Business Insider.
11 Jun 2014
Before your regularly scheduled blog post, a quick announcement:
SHOW TUNES WOD: Tomorrow morning, the 7 am class will WOD to a show tunes medley playlist, courtesy of long time member and local food expert Audrey. This WOD will also be a chance to say goodbye to running coach Rachel Weiker, who is moving to DC for work. Show tunes are non-negotiable but singing/dancing are optional.
I always encourage paying attention to what you eat. Read the labels on all 7 BBQ sauce bottles in the grocery store before you choose the best one. Ask the butcher if the meat is grass-fed or not, or if he knows where it came from. I even wrote about how it is OK to be a pain in the butt about your diet. But I also know that the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has recently written about “orthorexia nervosa”, a new type of disordered eating (but not yet an eating disorder) . Essentially, orthorexia is the obsession with eating otherwise healthy foods, or a “fixation on righteous eating” (according to an article on NEDA’s website). You might consider someone who brings a tupperware of eggs, bacon and vegetables to brunch at a restaurant with friends, or someone who will not eat if they are hungry because there is nothing healthy enough around, or someone who refuses to join friend socially because they will be tempted to eat/drink something unhealthy, as orthorexic. You might also consider this person “dedicated to achieving their goals”. It seems like it’s a fine line between “a fixation on righteous eating” and simply paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth. It’s important to pay attention, of course. It’s also important not to abandon all social interaction and beat yourself up over a cookie every now and again.
What do you guys think? Is “orthorexia” a real problem, or should we all be a little more obsessive when it comes to our food?