Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The skinny on protein powder

Somewhere around age 30 we naturally begin lose muscle. In every decade that follows we lose an additional 3-8% drop in lean muscle mass. Fab, right? 

The most important thing we can do to build muscle is to participate in strength training (dumbbells, resistance bands, weight bearing machines, body weight, yoga) at least twice a week. 

Diet also plays a big role in developing and maintaining muscle mass. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that adults get about .8 grams protein per 1 kilogram of weight, which converts to .37 grams per pound.  So, a 150 pound person should ingest about 55g of protein per day.

Protein powders are a common supplement and I am often asked about how to use them and what to look for. I have been thinking about posting about powders for a while now. So here we are.*

You don’t always get what you pay for.

Try not to fall for good marketing. Price ($$) does not always indicate quality, so make sure you are reading the nutrition label. The front label can be deceiving. 

“Sugar free”…but does it have sucralose or aspartame?
“Guaranteed to boost your energy levels” there caffeine in there?

Remember, nutrition companies are required to list ingredients in the order in which they appear in the product in quantity (the more of it there is, the closer to the beginning of the list).

If you order your protein online and they don’t offer access to the nutrition label I would avoid the purchase. The doesn’t mean it is bad, but why take your chances where there are so many available options?

More isn’t always better.

30g of protein is about all your body can process at one meal. Go too far past this threshold and you’re taking in extra calories but receiving no additional benefit. No need to double up on serving size or buy the product that boasts 50g of protein per serving. 25-30g should be enough to keep you satiated and in a healthy caloric range. 

Snack, Post-Workout or Meal Replacement

Protein powders a great option for workout recovery or even a meal replacement (though I never recommend replacing more than one meal a day with a shake on a regular basis).

Snack: It’s always best to have a whole food for your snack (this bananas, almonds, nut butters, etc.) but if you are in a pinch, mixing a scoop of protein with 8-10oz of water will keep you fuller longer than a bag of pretzels or another processed food from the vending machine.

Post-workout:  Protein supplementation has been shown to increase muscle fibers, particularly after a tough strength training session. 1 serving of powder and 8-10oz of water mixed in a blender bottle should be sufficient for recovery.

As a meal: You can increase the amount of nutrients, and calories, by adding fruits, veggies and grains to your shakes as you make them.  Refer to my post about How to Build a Green Smoothie or reference these Smoothie Recipes for other yummy ideas.

Shopping advice made simple

1. A short ingredient list. 

2. 20-25g protein per serving.  

3. Manageable calories and macronutrients - all of equal importance.
-moderate calories per serving (120-150)
-low fat (0-4g per serving) 
-low sugar (0-5g serving)

4. $1 - $3 cost per serving.

These guidelines are just that – guidelines - and are certainly not one-size fits all. We are all different and have different goals and lifestyles (vegan, vegetarian, fat loss, muscle gain etc.).

If you aren’t sure what type of protein you should be using or what the different types of proteins do, see my post about Types of Protein

* Disclaimer: The information presented is meant for those who are using protein as a dietary supplement and the active exerciser.  Professional or competitive athletes may have different needs and should consult with a sports nutrition professional in regards to diet.

Types of Protein

There are lots of protein terms being thrown around out there...but what do they  mean?  I'm only going to touch on a few of the more common choices. 

Whey proteins are the most popular - for good reason...whey protein has been show to help promote muscle growth and weight loss.  Whey is versatile and can be used pre- and post-workout due to the rapid absorption. It is also appropriate for breakfast shakes or a snack.  

There are 2 types of whey protein - isolate and concentrate.  Generally, it says right on the label whether or not the protein in question is a concentrate, an isolate or blended.

Whey concentrate is less expensive than other powders, is easy to find and is a great place to start.  But don't be surprised if you start to feel a little gassy and bloated - some people have a hard time digesting concentrate.

Whey isolate is more expensive and quicker absorbing.  Isolates are a purer form of protein, easier to digest and low in carbs and sugars. While not as expensive as some other types of powders, isolate is slightly more expensive than concentrate.

If you have a sensitive stomach or are following a low carb/low sugar diet, isolate is probably the best choice for you. A blended may even be ok; don’t be afraid to experiment.  

Plant-based proteins come in many forms (rice, hemp, pea) and tend to be easier on the digestive system that animal-based proteins. For vegans and vegetarians, these are an excellent source of protein and, despite what you might hear on the street, you can get all the nutrients and amino acids found in whey or casein proteins. Just don't be surprised if the taste is rather plant-like. You’re drinking a plant.

Soy protein specifically has been shown to speed up metabolism, supports healthy cholesterol and contains an amino acid, arginine, which helps muscles about nutrients quicker by helping to dilate the blood vessels.  

Casein protein is slower absorbing, averaging about 6 hours to fully absorb into your system. This allows your body to utilize protein for recovery and regeneration over longer periods of time - like while you are sleeping. It is also a good option if you know you will be going longer periods of time than usual between meals.

Hydrolysate/hydrolyzed protein is the fastest absorbing (and most expensive) of all the proteins.  It is primarily recommended for pre- or post-workout.  It is easier to digest than the concentrates mentioned above.

Egg protein/egg-white protein/egg albumin is just that - protein made from eggs. Generally it is in a liquid form that is great for cooking.  Eggs (just the whites or combined with the yoke) have been used to build lean muscle mass before powders were even a blip on anyone's radar.  I include it here because it can sometimes be used in blended protein powders - if you have an allergy or sensitivity to eggs you need to make sure you are aware of the use of these items.

Protein from Food Sources

I recommend limiting yourself to 1 protein shake per day and getting the rest of your protein from foods.  Some common foods and their protein levels as provided by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are below.

-1 large egg = 6 grams
-1 cup low-fat milk = 8 grams
-1 cup plain low-fat yogurt = 12 grams
-½ cup low-fat cottage cheese = 14 grams
-2 tablespoons peanut butter = 8 grams
-1 cup quinoa = 8 grams
-3 ounces of lean ground beef = 22 grams
-3 ounces skinless, baked chicken = 26 grams
-3 ounces grilled salmon = 21 grams

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recovering from a food bender

I did a post earlier in the season about handling holiday stress.  But how many of us still have emotional ups & downs through the holidays? Even if you manage stress well, or have applied some of the tips I shared, you can still have mood swings and not understand why.  Could it be your diet?

I can honestly say that my moods change with the season - I am more touchy during the month of December, more irritable and sometimes almost disengaged.  Sleep can take a backseat on my priority list as I juggle travel, work, holiday chores and parties, proper exercise and my annual sinus infection.  But even more than sleep, it is my diet that suffers most. 

On my recent weekend trip home I went on a 3-day roller coaster of oatmeal and fresh fruit breakfasts combined with pizza and hoagie dinners...and let's not forget that Smiley Face Cookie I enjoyed at Eat 'n Park.  Hey - when in Rome, right? 

I left that Monday feeling lethargic and a wee bit cranky. By Tuesday I was downright moody and over everyone and everything. Going on a bender like this one takes its toll on my body for days fact, the day it hits me is often the day I am back to "normal".

So, why I am sharing all this with you?
Nutrition and mental health has been a hot bed of research since the mid 2000s and I think they are onto something.  We've long known that a healthy diet high in whole foods (fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains) and low in processed foods reduces risk for chronic diseases, and now there is also evidence that these diets are just as important to mental health.

In fact, a diet high in whole food and low in processed foods has also been directly linked to a reduced risk of depression.

An apple a day keeps the demons away?
Try 5.  Well, more specifically 5 servings of fruit and veggies.  A recent article in BioMed Central Psychiatry revealed that there is a statistically significant correlation between the recommendation to eat 5 fruits and veggies a day and psychosis.  Those who stick to the 5-a-day recommendation are less likely to report moderate distress levels.  *Note: fruit juice does not count as a fruit.

Getting back on track
There's nothing I can do to take back the damage done...and to be honest, I don't know that I want to. I mean, I had FUN this weekend with all my chronies and enjoyed all the Pennsylvania foods I miss.  But I also know that it's temporary and that getting back on track is the best way to prevent the snowball effect. 

1) I don't beat myself up.  Life goes on. It happens. In love and in health the key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should have been. 

2) I schedule my exercise. Get the feel-good hormones stimulated and let them run rampant in your system.  Monday I played 9 holes of golf, Wednesday & Friday is spin class, Thursday is a power pump class.  I get back on track as soon as I can and make it a priority. 

Whether this means taking a 30-minute walk, doing some yoga or going to a body conditioning class do what you do as soon as you can.

And I don't know about you, but when I am exercising consistently I want to eat better.  It's completely mental, but who wants to undo all that hard work with a piece of fried chicken?

3) I eat extra-healthy for 5 days.  While I am not a fan of deprivation, I am a fan of resetting your body for a few days to eliminate the unhealthy things you crave.

For me, this means no added sugars and limited processed foods/drinks for a few days. I stick with little variety, just because it is easier for me.

Breakfast: Oatmeal & Fresh Fruit, coffee
Lunch: Large spinach salad topped with veggies, protein (chicken or salmon) and croutons
Dinner:  turkey chili, grilled salmon with veggies and rice, baked chicken with sweet potatoes & green veggies, grilled chicken stir-fry (in no particular order)
Snacks: plain Greek yogurt with berries, banana with nut butter, carrots with hummus, dark chocolate square and almonds
Hydration: 64oz water, 4oz red wine

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

If there is no struggle, there is no progress ~Frederick Douglas

Con-tin-gen-cy [kuh n-tin-juh n-see]: a contingent event; a chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something uncertain. 

A contingency plan is a course of action designed to help respond effectively to a significant future event or situation that may or may not happen. 

We often associate a contingency plan with the “big” things…building a house, planning a vacation, or launching a new initiative at work.  But what about a contingency plan for our healthy lifestyle goals? 

Your health should be your number one priority. These tips can help you navigate some of the most common obstacles cited when I asked clients what keeps them from maintaining regular schedule, despite their goal to do so.

1. Break your plan down weekly.  Birthday parties, business dinners, project deadlines and doctor’s appointments can all derail your exercise plans.  Look at your week in advance to see where you need to make adjustments. 
2. Reschedule immediately.  Whether you have a month's notice or a minutes notice, make a plan immediately.  Will you miss your regular Monday spin class? Plan a replacement time and/or activity, or adjust your “off” day, as soon as you know it's needed.
3.  Pack your gym bag the night before.  Even if it’s as simple as tossing shorts and a t-shirt into a bag.  Bonus points for going ahead and putting the bag in your car. No excuses for sleeping in or walking right by without grabbing it. You are also more likely to remember the smaller items like socks and hair ties when packing isn’t so rushed in the morning.
4. If you are an evening exerciser, stop at the gym on the way home from work.  You are less likely to get caught up in household chores or other crisis that tend to meet us at the door.  Prefer a morning workout?  Check out the locker room facilities and get ready at the gym – it eliminates extra travel time and minimizes distractions. Bonus: Because my outfit for the day has already been picked out and I can't make any last minute adjustments I actually get out the door quicker!
5. Don’t force it. Do you have a standing book club at 6:00 each Thursday evening?  Then don’t plan on the 5:00 boot camp class.  Accepting your limitations eliminates feelings of failure and helps with achievable goal setting.

6. Figure out what kind of activities you have access to and be flexible.  If there is only one rowing machine at your gym, don’t give up if someone else is on it at the time you would like to be. Try a new cardio class, hop on the stair stepper or give the elliptical a whirl.

7. Keep an extra pair of walking shoes and a pair of socks at your desk. If an after-work appointment pops up, you can use your lunch break to take a brisk walk or do some light yoga.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fitness Trends for 2016

If you didn't catch it, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) revealed the predictions for the Top 20 Fitness Trends of 2016

Notice the term trend (potential of becoming a long-term influence on the future of a market), which is different than a fad (short-term event).

I am a long-time fan of #1, and am honestly surprised to find that it took this long to surge to the top of the list.  It did not even appear in the top 25 of 2015.

FitBit is the #1 seller of wearable technology; I'm on my 4th one (I've lost 2 FitBit Ones, returned a ChargeHR & was gifted a One to replace the lost). I'm going on 2 years of constant tracking and love every minute of it. I also have an original Garmin Forerunner 405 (circa 2011) and am getting a Garmin Vivofit this year from my parents.

The lead author of the survey, Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D. believes that wearable technology rocketed to number 1 in it's first year on the list as a result of our technology-driven society. "Tech devices are now central to our daily lives and have changed the way we plan and manage our workouts. Wearable devices also provides immediate feedback." said Thompson.

So, are you one of the 21% of Americans that own a tracking device or one of the 10% of American that still use it daily?  PwC has some interesting statistics and information on the future of wearable technology and the unprecedented adaptation by Americans here.

Even if fitness trackers aren't your thing, use this survey to find new things to incorporate into your fitness routine. Variety is the spice of life; or so they say.

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