• Background Image

    Blog

    Team Beachbody Blog

March 30, 2016

How Phytonutrients May Help Reduce Exercise-Induced Inflammation (And Their Other Benefits)

How Phytonutrients May Help Reduce Exercise-Induced Inflammation | BeachbodyBlog.com

If you’re a serious runner, you’ve likely seen The Jericho Mile, a 1979 Emmy-Award winning film about Larry Murphy — a Folsom State Prison inmate with a 3:52 mile and a shot at the Olympics. About three-quarters of the way through the movie — as Murphy contemplates his first big race in the cafeteria — another inmate gives him a bowl of melon and a bit of advice: “Fruit’s good for you, man, eat plenty of fruit.”

Mic drop. If only Murphy had listened.

Odds are you’ve been ignoring the same advice your entire life. Your mom nagged you about eating your broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Your doctor advises you to “eat the rainbow.” And you likely have at least one vegan friend who wants to convert you — or at the very least replace some of the meat in your largely carnivorous diet with plants. Even Michelle Obama got in on the act, imploring you and every other American to eat more fruits and veggies. And like Murphy (and most other Americans), odds are you don’t listen: Only 1 in 10 people in the United States eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, according to a recent report from the CDC.

That’s a problem. “If you’re not eating at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day, you’re not building ‘foundational health,’ which is key for preventing disease and supporting athletic performance,” says Susan Kleiner, PhD, R.D., author of The Powerfood Nutrition Plan. If she had her way, you’d eat eight servings.

While nutritionists have long known about the athletic advantages of increasing protein intake, they’re only just beginning to comprehend the fitness benefits of eating more phytonutrients — bioactive (i.e., body-boosting) compounds found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other “phyto” (plant) foods. You’ve likely heard about the most popular ones, including resveratrol, lycopene, and even curcumin. But more than 5,000 others have been identified in the more than 150,000 known edible plants, and many scientists estimate that the bulk of phytonutrients — and their benefits — have yet to be discovered.

“One of the most exciting benefits of phytonutrients is their strong antioxidant potential, disarming free radicals that wreak havoc in the body,” says Kleiner. “But it’s also bigger than that—scientists are learning that some phytonutrients seem go deep into the genetic matrix, turning on and off genes that protect us from disease development.”

That potential of phytonutrients to bolster the immune system is hugely important for athletes, who often run themselves down through overtraining. “One of the biggest things that holds athletes back is getting sick, and research shows that some phytonutrients can act as prebiotics, stimulating the growth of bacteria in your gut, thus helping to boost immunity,” says Kleiner.

Polyphenols — found in abundance in green tea — are among them, according to Japanese researchers. In their study, they found that green tea not only acted as a prebiotic, but also altered the balance of intestinal flora, inhibiting the growth of “bad” bacteria (e.g., Clostridium difficile, C. perfringens, and Streptococcus pyogenes), and promoting the growth of “good bacteria,” like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of phytonutrients — especially as far as athletes are concerned — is their ability to fight exercise-induced inflammation. “The nature of training is to tear the body down, and the body is extraordinary in its ability to repair and rebuild its tissues to become stronger,” says Kleiner. “But part of that process involves an inflammatory response — inflammatory cells rush to the damaged tissue, heat it up, and begin repairing it.”

If you’ve ever felt sore a couple of days after a tough workout (a phenomenon known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS), you’ve felt the inflammatory process at work. A little inflammation is a good thing — it helps your muscles adapt to the demands of training (and you to become more powerful). “But if you don’t have enough anti-inflammatory factors in your body, the inflammation process can proceed unchecked, which can delay recovery,” says Kleiner.

Two phytonutrients have proven particularly efficient at checking this type of inflammation: Pomegranate (which you’ll find in Beachbody Performance Recharge) and tart cherry (which is one of the key ingredients in Beachbody Performance Recover). In a study at the University of Texas, participants who drank pomegranate juice experienced 25 percent less soreness two hours after working out than the placebo group. They were also 10 percent stronger two days later. Similar pain-fighting and inflammation-reducing results were reported for tart cherry extract in a study at Winona State University.

The list of potential benefits from phytonutrients grows almost monthly as new studies are published. “Researchers are even starting to find that certain phytonutrients can boost mental focus and recovery, which are huge for athletes during a race or toward the end of a workout,” says Kleiner.

Consuming resveratrol (found in red wine and chocolate), for example, can enhance memory retention and neural communication, according a recent study in The Journal of Neuroscience. Ditto for flavonoids (found in countless fruits and veggies, as well as green tea), which also exhibit neuroprotective properties, according to research at the University of Reading, in England. “In all likelihood, every single plant has benefits — both for general health and athletic performance,” says Kleiner.

Fortunately, you don’t have to eat every single plant to reap the benefits; you just have to eat a variety of them, according to Kleiner. “And by variety, I mean not only among food groups, but also within food groups,” she says. In other words, while you might love bananas, Amaranth, and Swiss chard, don’t just eat bananas, Amaranth, and Swiss chard. Becoming stuck in a dietary routine is just as detrimental as getting stuck in training rut.

“Every day, I would like you to have one serving from the citrus family, one serving from the berry family, and one serving from at least one other,” says Kleiner. An apricot or a slice of cantaloupe perhaps? Both contain carotenoids — phytonutrients that exhibit antioxidant-like properties.

On the veggie side, Kleiner recommends daily servings from the cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts), allium family (onions, garlic, leeks), and the leafy greens (lettuce, kale, arugula). “Generally speaking, the more deeply or more brightly colored the fruit or vegetable is, the more potent its phytochemical content,” says Kleiner. And don’t forget whole grains. Quinoa, for example, is packed with quercetin and kaempferol, flavonoids have been shown to act like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

In short, your mom, doctor, and vegan friend were right — you should eat a greater number and variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. “And whenever possible, skip pills for whole foods,” says Kleiner. “There’s a lot we have yet to discover about phytonutrients, but one thing we do know is that they’re more potent when they work synergistically with other nutrients in foods than when they’re taken [and working] alone.”

March 29, 2016

How Often Should I Work Out to Maintain My Weight ?

Youve-reached-your-goal-now-what---how-to-maintain-weight

You put in the hours, pumping iron, logging miles, sweating buckets, overhauling your diet, and (most important) staying consistent. And the results speak for themselves — every time you look in the mirror, a leaner, more athletic person stares back at you. You’ve even bought yourself a new wardrobe. So now what?

Some people will keep going, perhaps taking up triathlons, joining a hoops league, or training for the CrossFit Games. But others will want to take their foot off the gas and appreciate what they’ve accomplished. The key is not to leave it off for too long — 2 weeks of inactivity is all it takes to notice significant declines in strength and cardiovascular fitness, according to a recent study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. Indeed, the body is incredibly efficient at adapting to whatever demands (or lack thereof) are placed on it.

So now that you’ve crossed the finish line, how can you keep from backpedaling and losing what you’ve built? Just follow these simple steps.

Cut Back Gradually
Smart training plans (like those available on Beachbody On Demand) can allow you to work out 5 or 6 days a week with no ill effects (read: overtraining). But once you reach your strength and endurance goals, you can reduce your workout frequency without losing your hard earned gains, according to a study at the University of Alabama. The researchers found that adults aged 20 to 35 who worked out just one day a week not only saw no loss of muscle but continued to gain it (albeit at a greatly reduced rate). Our recommendation: Start by reducing your workout frequency by a third, then a half, and so on until you find the minimal effective dose that’s right for you.

Keep It Intense
Even a single set of a strength-training exercise can produce hypertrophy (i.e., muscle growth), according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. So if your goal is to hold on to what you have, one or two sets per move per workout should do the trick. The key is to keep them challenging; you should always feel like you stopped two reps short of failure. Take a similar approach with cardio. In a recent study in the journal Physiological Reports, a team of British researchers found that a single, intense, 20-minute interval workout every five days allowed participants to maintain levels of cardiovascular fitness built through much higher frequency training programs.

Dial In Your Diet
Here’s the one category where you might have to be more diligent than you were before you reached your goal. As you cut back on your workouts, you’re going to start burning fewer calories. To avoid the fate of the ex-athlete who balloons 50 pounds when he hangs up his cleats, tighten up your diet as you reduce your training time. “On the days you don’t work out, cut 300 to 500 calories from your diet,” says Dr. Jade Teta, founder of The Metabolic Effect, a fitness and nutrition coaching service focused on maximizing results with minimal effort. “Ideally, those calories should come from starchy carbs and sources of empty calories [i.e., junk food] rather than from protein or veggies,” says Teta.

Stay Flexible
These general guidelines are just that: General guidelines. Though lower frequency, more intense workouts seem to work for most people looking to maintain their fitness gains, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. “It’s going to be different for everyone,” says Teta. So be a detective: Monitor your strength, weight, definition, and overall sense of well-being as you tweak your exercise and eating habits, and be ready to adjust everything up or down accordingly.

March 11, 2016

Avoid the Scale

Avoid the SCALE!!!!  Now I know that’s easier said than done.  But I’m seeing a lot of our Customers and Challengers getting hung up on what the scale says.  They are becoming almost obsessed with the number!  This is why I don’t want you to do that.

If your clothes are getting looser, if you FEEL BETTER, if you’re measuring inches and those inches are going down, BUT the scale isn’t moving, IT’S OK!  Everybody will remind you of the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, and that’s true.  Your body will respond differently to different workouts, another reason to change it up and do different things and then come back to something you like from time to time.  Shaun talked about this at Shauntervention in the UK, when you hit a plateau, you need to change it up.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT thing to remember WOMEN!!!  Men lose weight faster than women.  When Shaun ran his first Insanity Test Group, in the first 30 days the guys were dropping weight like crazy, and the women weren’t.  In some cases the women didn’t lose any weight at all in the first 30 days, this is where people quit, because they think it’s not working.  Then the next 30 days, the women started dropping, and the men started to slowdown in weight-loss. It’s normal for some people not to see results as fast as others.  What you will find (and a lady in the UK said this on our most recent Podcast “Shauntervention UK” which comes out this Thursday) is that she wanted to quit after 30 days because her scale didn’t move, but she didn’t!  If you listen to it, you’ll hear her say that she lost a lot of weight in the second 30 days and was glad she didn’t quit.  Everybody’s body is different.

We already struggle with Body Image issues, why add to it with a number on a scale.  I finally got to the point where I had to walk away from the scale, I would work my butt off with an Asylum workout, for example, think “surely my body fat dropped a tenth of a percent!!!” (I have one of those scales that measures it) and I would get on there, and it would go up a tenth of a percent!  I would be like “What the F***!”.  LOL, I laugh because I think back to how dumb I must have looked but at the time I was so obsessed with the numbers.

Am I saying don’t weigh yourself ever?  No.  I’m just saying don’t weigh every day and turn it into a daily obsession, because what will happen is you will get a high off the losses and a low off the gains.  Go by the inches; guys –  watch the inches grow in your arms as you build muscle, ladies – watch the inches go down on your arms as you lose the fat around your triceps.  Both men and women, watch the inches around your waist and go by the way your clothes fit.  It’s a much healthier approach to feeling like you are accomplishing something without it becoming an obsession.

Remember this is coming from a former “fat guy”, I get it, I got it…and so will you.

 

March 7, 2016

What Happened When I Gave Up Sugar For Three Weeks (And How You Can Too)

Sugar DetoxFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been a sugar junkie. I probably got this trait from my dad, who can make half a pan of brownies disappear in a day. I can devour a pack of sour candies in 30 minutes flat, or pop 10 Hershey’s Kisses into my mouth without batting an eye. I love healthy and nutritious foods and eat a salad almost every day for lunch, but my self-control is non-existent when it comes to baked goods, candy, and ice cream.

Unfortunately, a tendency to over-indulge in sugar can lead to health issues, so at the beginning of the new year, I decided to really embrace a healthy lifestyle and ditch sugar for a week. Hey, anyone can go a week without sugar, right? But Beachbody’s Senior Director of Nutrition Content, Denis Faye, immediately (and, I should point out, enthusiastically) increased my sugar timeout to three weeks. I regretted ever mentioning the idea. Regardless, I let him explain how to rid a life of the joys of sugar and I drafted a set of rules to follow over the course of those three weeks.

Here’s how I, a hopeless sugar addict, gave up added sugar — and how you can do it, too.

The Rules
No added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, and no alcohol.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

First, I had to figure out what in my diet had to go. For three weeks I wouldn’t add honey to my overnight oats, I would make my own salad dressing instead of buying it from the store, and I would drink plain black coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up instead of a handful of chocolate chips. I swapped out my vanilla almond milk for the unsweetened version, and I chose plain Greek yogurt instead of a flavored kind. My options to satisfy my sweet tooth began and ended with fruit. What joy, muttered my inner chocoholic.

In addition to added sugar, artificial sweeteners also went on the no-eat list. “You don’t absorb artificial sweeteners the same as natural sugar, and they don’t have any calories, but they’re weird chemicals and they put your palate off.” explained Faye.

Many experts don’t count Stevia as an artificial sweetener given it comes from a natural source. “That’s sound logic,” Faye added, “but if you’re trying to ‘reboot’ your taste buds, you might as well skip it too.” I was interested to see if my sweet tooth would change by not eating added or artificial sugar, so I opted to remove all forms of sweetener for this experiment.

And finally, alcohol. A moderate amount of red wine is permitted in The Sugar Detoxplan, thanks to the fact it contains the antioxidant resveratrol. But it does contain a lot of sugar and it lowers your inhibitions, which meant it would make it that much harder for me to resist a sugary snack. It looked like I’d have to find another way to consume my grapes.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

Of course, just because I was giving up added sugar for a few weeks didn’t mean I had to walk away from it forever. “Sugar can be useful at times, particularly if you’re an endurance athlete trying to manage glycogen,” Faye said. “Also, it can be an ingredient in perfectly healthy recipes. The key is moderation.” Since moderation is clearly what I lack when it comes to sugar, I decided it was best to start from zero — which is exactly what I set out to do.

The Experience
The first week was incredible. The second week I wanted to quit. And, the third week I questioned everything about life.

After reading The Sugar Detox and the 10-Day Detox Diet, I decided to go cold turkey starting January 1. Unfortunately, I just had baked 40 cupcakes for an eight-person New Year’s Eve party. So, on Day 1 of my three weeks without sugar, I was surrounded with about two dozen cupcakes. Not a great way to start. Since January 1 was a Friday, I adjusted my plan begin on Monday. Because all good diets start at the beginning of the week, right?

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

Some people claim to gain a heap of energy when they wean themselves off sugar. I was not one of those people. I did experience a more even energy level, void of extreme highs and subsequent crashes, which is the normal rollercoaster I ride when I eat all the sugar I please. This made me feel great during the first week, but after the honeymoon phase, my cravings took over my brain. This was partially due to the fact that I was extremely tired, and it was difficult to fight off my desire for cookies and also the temptation to fall asleep at my desk. I had to make a conscious effort to choose plain black coffee instead of a pack of peach rings. It was harder to plan out all my meals, but I did it anyway. Otherwise, I’d be scrambling to find something without a sugary sauce from the food trucks lurking outside.

Despite my exhausted willpower, I survived the second week, and, surprisingly, entered the homestretch of this treacherous experiment with a new kind of motivation. I had yet to give up, and I had proven to myself that I could actually do this thing! Although my sweet tooth still wouldn’t grant me a reprieve in the final week, I had tamed it. Overnight oats sweetened only by blueberries tasted like a treat. Water infused with watermelon sustained me through a rough afternoon. Was I really turning into one of those people who found fulfillment in eating nature’s candy? I felt good about eating clean food, I was happy with how my body looked, and I was thrilled that I wasn’t experiencing post-candy crashes. Huh.

The Physical Changes
Simply by removing sugar from my diet, I lost three pounds in three weeks. That might not sound remarkable, but my weight has been extremely consistent for the past five years, and I was astonished to see different numbers on the scale. I also had visible absfor three weeks. Three weeks without sugar meant three weeks of a flat, defined stomach. Dare I say I loved that more than a cookie?

One physical effect I was anticipating was a change in my complexion. I had been warned that my face might break out when it was freed from the confines of sugar (the whole, “it has to get worse before it gets better” deal). Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead, my skin actually got less oily.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

The Aftermath
The first weekend after the sugar ban was lifted, I ate everything. Fries smothered in ketchup, greasy Chinese takeout, waffles, mimosas, and more. I loved it…until I experienced a mountainous sugar crash and my face broke out. Within 36 hours of eating sugar again, my face had gone from clear and clean to oily, breakout central.

As I was assessing my complexion, I had an epiphany. What if I could enjoy sweets in moderation? A novel idea, right? As much as I missed eating whatever I pleased, I hated the bloated, groggy feeling that came with over-indulging in sugary foods, not to mention the giant zit that decided to call my chin home. I also realized that I really didn’t enjoy eating every kind of sweet. I didn’t care for cheap chocolate or the processed store-bought cookies anymore. My taste buds really had become more discerning.

After three weeks without sugar, I had lost weight, gained energy, and refined my palate. I also spent significantly less money on food and drinks. I guess that’s what happens when you pass on wine and chocolate-covered candies. Am I going to continue on this sugar-free crusade? Absolutely not. But I am going to continue some of the habits I created. I like my homemade salad dressings, I now prefer a cup of black coffee in the afternoon to chocolate, and fruit for dessert doesn’t sound as blasphemous as it once did. I don’t think I could permanently say goodbye to my beloved chocolate cupcakes, but I’ve gained a much better understanding of moderation and quality.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

Want to try to giving up sugar? Here are my tips, inspired by what I learned through the experience.

Purge your kitchen, home, and workspace of sugar before you begin. I learned this the hard way with those cupcakes. But over that weekend, I got rid of anything that could (and would) tempt me during my three sugar-free weeks. This proved to be themost important act of defense. If it wasn’t there, I wasn’t going to eat it.

Get a support system, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a lot harder to cheat on your diet when your friends throw you shade when you reach for something sweet. A good support system can strengthen your willpower when you feel it dwindling. Even if you think your friends won’t take your commitment seriously, give them a chance before writing them off. By the end of my three weeks, my friends, family, and coworkers were genuinely interested in how I was doing with my no-sugar diet. (Yes, even my brownie-loving dad.) They wanted to know what foods I was and was not eating, and what physical and mental changes I was experiencing. It became an educational experience for everyone.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

Set a time frame. Knowing I only had to hold out on eating sugar for three weeks made the task attainable and gave me a definitive finish line.

Learn what sugar is. This seems obvious, but sugar hides under a lot of names. My first trip to the grocery store was twice as long as usual because I looked at every single label, and looked up every single ingredient I didn’t know. This thing called ‘dextrose’ in my favorite hummus? Sugar. The rice that’s used to make sushi? It has sugar in it. Knowing what to look for, and knowing what products tend to have sugar in them can save a lot of time and confusion.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

It was also challenging to eat out, since I couldn’t look at an ingredient list for every menu item. Did the hamburger buns have sugar in them? Maybe. What exactly is in that special sauce? No idea. Instead of becoming a hermit for three weeks, I maintained a normal social schedule and challenged myself to find sugar-free items on the menu. My go-to option became a burger or chicken sandwich, minus the bun, and a salad. As for the dressing situation, I asked for balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Most balsamic vinaigrettes don’t have sugar, but I used it sparingly to make the damage as minimal as possible in case it did.

Prep yourself for success. Make sure you always have sugar-free foods on the ready. One weekend, my friends and I went skiing and they brought chips and Pop-Tarts for the trip. I was hungry and irritable for the whole drive because there wasn’t anything I could eat. Had I brought my own snacks, it would have been a non-issue.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

Getting enough sleep is also really important. When my energy was drained, so was my willpower. It was exhausting to fight off my cravings when I was also fighting to stay awake. And that’s when I needed to…

Know how to cheat. If I were perfect, I would have gone three weeks without added sugar, artificial sweetener, or alcohol. Shockingly, I am not. I had a few bites of dark chocolate one night and a few glasses of wine another evening. I also indulged in Shakeology a few times, even though it does have some stevia in it. But I chose my cheats carefully. I ate dark chocolate because it was allowed in week three of The Sugar Detox, and studies have shown that dark chocolate can be good for your health. My chocolate craving was satisfied much faster than usual, so I really didn’t eat that much of it. Shakeology tasted amazing, as per usual, but I noticed that it was pretty sweet compared to the other foods I was eating. As for the wine, I did feel quite giddy after just one glass. This indulgence didn’t dramatically change the course of my no-sugar diet, but it definitely could have. No matter how much you drink, alcohol impairs your judgment. And when you’re already craving that chocolate chip cookie, a glass wine might convince you that it’s okay to eat one. Or two. And a scoop of ice cream.

Finally, fruit is your best friend. Really. As a devoted sugar consumer, I laughed when people told me that fruit was satisfying dessert. One year my family gave me a birthday cake with fruit and a cool whip topping instead of a heap of buttercream and I thought it was a joke. I was thankful for the effort and graciously enjoyed it, but I absolutelyfollowed it up with a chocolate bar. So when I had to substitute my desserts for fruit, I thought it would be the end of me…but I was wrong. When fruit is the only sweet thing you eat, it tastes really sweet. I couldn’t believe it. But watermelon and fresh berries became my candy during those three weeks, and I would gladly make them my after-dinner meal again.

Sugar Detox | BeachbodyBlog.com

March 4, 2016

1,200–1,500 Calorie Level Meal Prep in 90 Minutes or Less

90-minute-meal-prepIf you’re not a meal planner, consider adding up how much time you spend each week cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the fly, running to the grocery store for ingredients, or going through the drive-thru when you feel like you don’t have the time or energy to cook. More than likely, that will add up to an hour a day. On the other hand, you could spend 90 minutes (or less) meal prepping one afternoon and save hours during the week. Hours that could be spent working out, playing with your kids, spending time with friends and family, or doing anything else you love to do!

It is entirely possible to meal prep for five days in 90 minute or less, but you do have to be organized. The guide and grocery list below will help. The menu is geared towards those at the 1200-1500 calorie level, but can be adjusted if you’re eating at a higher level. Just double the amount of protein or vegetables in some of the meals, or supplement with ready-to-eat snacks like sliced turkey breast, raw veggies, and whole grain crackers to meet your  container requirements.

So, do those dishes (it’s easier to cook quickly in a clean kitchen), purchase all of the ingredients in the grocery list that follows, and set out everything non-perishable on the table or counter. If you stay focused, and move quickly from task to task, you might be able to complete this meal prep in less than 90 minutes. It took me just over an hour.

Psst – looking for the containers below? You can get them here.

This Week’s Meal Prep Menu:
  • Breakfast: Spinach, Tomato, and Quinoa Breakfast Casserole with an apple or orange
  • Shakeology Snack: Shakeology with 1 cup frozen strawberries or peaches and 1 tsp. nut butter
  • Lunch (M/W/F): Tuna and White Bean Salad with Chimichurri Sauce
  • Lunch (T/Th): Turkey Salad with Lentils and Bell Pepper
  • Dinner (M/W/F): Spaghetti Squash with Turkey, Basil, and Roasted Tomatoes
  • Dinner (T/Th): Spiced Ground Turkey with Cauliflower
  • Snacks: 20 pistachios or hummus and lettuce

Here’s what your meal prep for the week will look like when you’re done.

all-food
BREAKFAST

Spinach, Tomato, and Quinoa Breakfast Casserole and an apple or orange

(2½ cups quinoa, 4 cups spinach, 1 cup tomatoes, ¾ cup cottage cheese, 8 eggs divided into five servings = 1 red, 1 green, 1 purple, 1 yellow)

Breakfast

SHAKEOLOGY SNACK

Shakeology with 1 cup frozen strawberries or peaches and 1 tsp. nut butter  (1 red, 1 purple, 1 tsp.)

Shakeology

SNACKS

M/W/F: ¼ cup hummus with 2 lettuce leaves  (1 blue)
T/Th: 20 whole pistachios (1 blue)

LUNCHES
M/W/F: Tuna and White Bean Salad with Chimichurri Sauce

(1 can tuna, ½ cup white beans with quick chimichurri sauce over arugula = 1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 orange)

lunch-1

T/Th: Turkey Salad with Lentils and Bell Pepper

(1 cup spinach, 3 oz. sliced turkey breast, ½ cup lentils, ¼ red bell pepper, and 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds with balsamic vinegar = 1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 orange)

lunch-2

DINNERS

M/W/F: Spaghetti Squash with Turkey, Basil and Roasted Tomatoes

(¾ cup spaghetti squash with 4 oz. turkey, garlic, oregano, ½ cup roasted tomatoes, and basil = 1 red, 1 green, 1 tsp.)
dinner-2

T/Th: Spiced Ground Turkey with Cauliflower

dinner_1(4 oz. spiced ground turkey with garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, cilantro, ¼ red bell pepper, 1 cup roasted cauliflower = 1 red, 1 green, 1 tsp.)

Here’s how to make all of this in 90 minutes or less:

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray two baking sheets with nonstick spray.

2. Cut 1 cup of cauliflower into florets. Toss in a bowl with 2 tsp. olive oil to coat. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, rub the flesh of each half with 1 tsp. olive oil. Cut 1 red pepper in half and remove the seeds; set the other half aside.

3. Place cauliflower florets and 1 red pepper half on a baking sheet. Place the spaghetti squash (cut-side up) and 1 cup cherry tomatoes on another baking sheet. Spray red pepper and tomatoes lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Season vegetables on both baking sheets with salt and pepper. Place both sheets in the oven and let them roast.

4. After 15 minutes, remove the baking sheets. Remove the tomatoes from one and the bell pepper from the other. Set the tomatoes and bell pepper aside to cool. Stir the cauliflower and return cauliflower and spaghetti squash to oven. Cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15-25 minutes. Remove baking sheets from oven and place on a rack to cool. Leave oven on.

5. While the vegetables are roasting, cook 1 cup dry quinoa with 2 cups water on the stovetop or in a rice cooker. When cooked, set aside. (Need tips on how to make perfect quinoa? Watch this video.)

6. Finely chop 3 garlic cloves. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 2 tsp. olive oil and the chopped garlic; cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Add 20 oz. ground turkey, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break into smaller pieces. Cook the turkey until it is no longer pink, approximately 6 minutes. Season with 2 tsp. oregano, and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

7. Drain the three cans of tuna and place the tuna into a medium bowl. Drain and rinse the white beans. Add the beans to the medium bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, as much cilantro as you want, and crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste. Fill three food containers with 1 cup arugula. Top arugula with tuna mixture, dividing evenly between the containers. Seal containers and place in refrigerator.

8. Fill two food containers with 1 cup spinach. Top each portion of spinach with 3 oz. sliced turkey breast, ¼ chopped raw bell pepper, and 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds. (Drizzle with good balsamic vinegar just before serving.) Seal containers and place in fridge.

9. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add four cups spinach and cook until just wilted, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. In a large bowl, combine spinach, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 2½ cups cooked quinoa, 8 eggs, ¾ cup cottage cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour quinoa mixture into baking dish, bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool, then cover with foil and place in fridge. See the full recipe for this dish here.

10. Using a spoon, scrape out the flesh of the spaghetti squash. Divide squash between three food containers, adding about ¾ cup to each. Top each portion of squash with ¾ cup ground turkey mixture, basil, and ⅓ of the roasted tomatoes. Seal containers and place in fridge.

11. Chop the roasted bell pepper. Season remaining ground turkey mixture with 1 tsp. cumin and 1 tsp. chili powder. Add the bell pepper and as much cilantro as you want. Divide mixture evenly between two food containers. Add 1 cup roasted cauliflower to each container. Seal containers and place in fridge.

12. Prepare three small containers with ¼ cup hummus and 2 large lettuce leaves. Count out 2 servings each of 20 pistachios.

13. Sit back and celebrate the fact that you’ve prepped all your food for the week in just 90 minutes or less!

Grocery List
Vegetables

2 cups cherry tomatoes
6 cups spinach
1 medium red bell pepper
1 head romaine or butter lettuce
3 cups arugula
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch fresh basil
1 head garlic
1 spaghetti squash (about 2–3 lbs.)
1 small head cauliflower or 1 bag cauliflower florets

Fruits

3 small apples
2 medium oranges
1 bag frozen strawberries
1 bag frozen peaches

Bulk

1 cup quinoa
40 pistachios
4 Tbsp. sunflower seeds

Dry and Canned Goods

1 jar all-natural nut butter
1 can white beans
1 can cooked lentils

Proteins

6 oz. lowfat cottage cheese (or ricotta)
8 eggs
6 oz. nitrate-free, low sodium deli sliced turkey
3 cans light tuna, packed in water, no salt added
4 oz. lowfat Greek yogurt
20 oz. ground turkey

Deli

Prepared hummus

Pantry

Dried oregano
Crushed red pepper
Red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
Balsamic vinegar
Cumin
Chili powder

90-minute-meal-prep-pinterest

March 4, 2016

5 Genius Push-Up Improvements

5-Genius-Pushup-Improvements

Soldiers do them. Yogis do them. Even lizards do them (seriously, Google “lizards doing push-ups”). And if you want a strong, athletic body — and a powerful upper half — you should do them, too. We’re talking about push-ups — the classic, do-anywhere muscle builder you probably first encountered in grade school PE class. But unlike training wheels and T-ball, you don’t ever really outgrow the push-up. “No matter how strong or fit you are, there’s always a way to get more out of this perennially effective move,” says Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance U in Fort Lauderdale, and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss. Perfect your form with his seven tips, then try Tumminello’s favorite variations to multiply the move’s total-body benefits.

Keep off Your Knees

If you find the classic push-up too hard, don’t drop to your knees. Why? Because knee push-ups won’t help you learn the correct movement pattern or strengthen all of the muscles you’ll need to perform a full push-up. In short, doing knee push-ups will help you get better at doing knee push-ups, and little else. Instead, perform “incline push-ups” with your hands on an elevated surface, such as a bench, step, or sturdy box, says Tumminello. The more elevated it is, easier the push-ups will be. Once you can do 15 reps at a given height, drop six inches, working your way down until your hands are on the floor.

Tuck Your Elbows

“Most people do push-ups with their elbows out wide, so their upper arms form a 90-degree angle with their shoulders,” says Tumminello. Instead, tuck your elbows, so they form a 45-degree angle with your torso as you lower your body toward the ground. Viewed from above, you’ll look less like a “T” than an arrow, with your head forming the projectile’s tip. “It’s safer because it takes some of the stress off your ligaments of your shoulders,” says Tumminello. “But it’s also harder because that stress is transferred to your muscles.” The result: happier joints and stronger muscles.

Spread Your Hands

For optimal power transfer into the floor, keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. “Using narrow a grip forces your elbows to flare outward excessively and strain your joints,” says Tumminello, adding that he’s not a fan of the ever-popular “diamond push-up,” in which you place your hands close together with your thumbs and index fingers touching, for precisely that reason. Another common mistake: Positioning your hands on the floor with your fingers pointing forward, or even slightly inward. Instead, turn your hands so that your fingers point slightly outwards. “It’s a more natural position for your wrists and shoulders,” says Tumminello.

Shift Your Focus

For optimal body alignment in the push-up position, visualize pushing the floor away from you rather than the other way around. This mental image — think of pushing a stalled car — signals your lower back to find its slight, natural arch and your abs to “brace” more firmly, says Tumminello. That last part is key — keeping your abs braced (imagine you’re about to be punched in the gut) will help keep your body straight from head to heels. The result: Proper mechanics and better efficiency as you perform the move.

Progress The Right Way

Once you can bang out 15 classic push-ups with perfect form, you’ve earned the right to mix things up with more challenging variations of the move. Here are four of Tumminello’s favorites.

Break Dancer Push-Up

Benefit: This dynamic, total body exercise ups the ante on the classic push-up by increasing the challenge to your legs, core, and coordination.
How to do it: Assume a push-up position — feet together, core braced, body straight from head to heels, hands in line with and slightly wider than your shoulders, and fingers turned slightly outward. Lower your body to with in a few inches of the floor. As you push back up, pick your left hand off the floor, rotate your body up to your left, and touch your right knee to your left elbow. Return to the starting position. Repeat, this time rotating up to your right and touching your right elbow to your left knee. “Rotate your entire body up,” says Tuminello. “Don’t twist your torso or roll your hips before your shoulders.”

Break_Dancer_Pushup

 

Push-Back Push-Up

Benefit: Boulder shoulders.
How to do it: Assume a push-up position, and lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor. As you push up, push back, bending your knees and moving your butt toward your heels. Return to the starting position and repeat. “A few reps of these and your shoulders will be on fire,” says Tumminello. Once you can do 15 perfect reps, try the move with your feet elevated on a bench.

Push_Back_Pushup

Lockout Push-Up

Benefits: In addition to targeting your chest and shoulders, it nails your core. “Every muscle in your torso has to work hard to prevent rotation during this move,” says Tumminello. “It’s also a good progression for who ultimately want to master the one-arm push-up.”
How to do it: Assume a push-up position with your left hand on the floor and your right hand on an 8-inch high aerobic step or box. Lower your chest to within a few inches of the step or box, and then push back up, raising your left hand off the floor and locking your right arm at the top of the move. (Don’t rotate your torso — your body should remain straight with your shoulders parallel to the floor for the entire move.) Return to the starting position. Do 5 reps, switch hands, and repeat.

Lockout_Pushup

Single-Arm Push-Up

Benefits: Bragging rights and greater athleticism. “The single-arm push-up is not only exponentially harder than the classic version, but it also has greater carryover to sports,” says Tumminello. “The shoulder of your working arm has to work with your opposite hip — just as it does when you throw, punch, or sprint.”
How to do it: Assume a push-up position with your feet spread wide, your right hand on the floor, and your left hand behind your back. Keeping your right elbow close to your torso and over your wrist, bend your right arm and rotate your right shoulder towards the floor. As you come back up, rotate your right shoulder back towards the ceiling. Keep the body straight and your torso stiff the entire time. “Forget bench presses,” says Tumminello. “To me, the single-arm push-up is the king of upper body pushing exercises.”

One_Arm_Pushup
February 29, 2016

Ask the Expert: Can You Target Belly Fat?

Ask-the-Expert-Can-you-target-belly-fat

The Short Answer

You’d better sit down because, believe it or not, you can—albeit not in the way you probably want.

If we’re talking spare tires, muffin tops, or that last bit of pooch covering your six-pack, then you’re S.O.L. That sort of chub (i.e., the kind you can see and pinch) is called “subcutaneous” fat, and you can’t “spot-reduce” problem areas. Instead, you need keep exercising hard and eating right to reduce overall body fat. Your genetics will determine how and at what speed the weight comes off, but rest assured that your belly will eventually shrink to more shapely (and firmer) dimensions.

However, if you’re “apple shaped” or if you’re sporting a big ol’ beer belly, that’s likely a different kind of flab called “visceral” fat. Research shows that it is, in fact, targetable, which is fortunate since it’s much more insidious than the subcutaneous variety. Residing deep within your torso, visceral fat wraps itself around your heart, liver, and other major organs, and secretes chemicals that fuel inflammation. Your best strategy for reducing it is to work out hard, stress less, sleep more, and make cleaner food choices.

The Long Answer

Subcutaneous fat is the kind you measure with calipers that flops over your jeans and adds to your chin count. It comes from the Latin for “under the skin,” and it covers most of your body. It builds up in different places in different people, although women often build it up in their thighs and rear ends, much to the appreciation of Sir Mix-A-Lot, Queen, Nicki Minaj, and Spinal Tap.

You can’t spot reduce subcutaneous fat, so if you have a problem area, you have no choice but to burn fat all over until your genes decide to focus on that area. Also keep in mind that subcutaneous fat is found between skin and muscle. Sometimes, especially if you’re new to exercise, your muscles will firm up, pushing this fat out and creating the illusion that you’re gaining more fat. If this happens, just be patient—the illusion will eventually vanish.

Generally speaking, this isn’t the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s not to say that subcutaneous fat isn’t hard on your joints or that it can’t lead to chronic health issues like arthritis. But when you read about fat being linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, chances are you’re reading about visceral fat.

Visceral fat is found deep inside your gut, and it builds up primarily around your stomach, intestines, and liver. Unlike subcutaneous fat, you can’t pinch it unless you get all medieval on yourself. Some people call it “deep belly fat” and it’s been linked to all kinds of issues including insulin resistance and cardiovascular issues.

A little visceral fat is normal. We tend to accumulate more of it later in life thanks to a dated bit of evolution that assumes we have less muscle as we age, causing fat to build up to protect our internal organs. The problems start piling up when you have too much of it. The most precise way to measure visceral fat is through an MRI or CT scan, but your waist circumference can also give you an indication of how bad (or good) the situation is. Red flag numbers are more than 35 inches for ladies and more than 40 inches for the guys.

What You Can Do

The obvious answer is to stop eating so much junk and to get some exercise, for Pete’s sake! Beyond that, visceral fat can be targeted through a handful of basic lifestyle tweaks.

Sleep Longer

One 6-year study on 293 adults ranging in age from 18 on 65 showed that when people increased their sleep from less than 6 hours a night to between 7 or 8 hours, they experienced a significant drop in visceral fat.

Exercise Harder

A study on middle-aged obese women with metabolic syndrome showed that high intensity exercise did a better job of banishing visceral fat than low intensity exercise or no exercise at all. (Duh.) The women also experienced a reduction in abdominal subcutaneous fat. (Double duh.)

Eat More Soluble Fiber

A five-year study on minorities ranging in age from 18 to 81 showed that if you add soluble fiber to your diet, and combine it with exercise, you can accelerate visceral fat loss. You’ll find soluble fiber in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, and Brussels sprouts.

Lean Towards Unsaturated Fats

Researchers in Sweden fed 39 young men 750 extra calories daily for seven weeks. (They were fed muffins—really big ones, apparently.) The group fed muffins with saturated fat in the form of palm oil gained more visceral fat (as well as subcutaneous fat and liver fat) than the group fed muffins with polyunsaturated fat in the form of sunflower oil. Given that there are many types of both saturated and unsaturated fat, it’s unfair to categorically condemn saturated fat, but it’s still worth considering. Regardless, no good has ever come from adding a giant muffin to your daily meal plan—so don’t do that.

Stop Stressing So Much

Stress triggers the production of cortisol, which increases visceral fat. The link is that simple. A little stress, like the kind your body experiences working out, is fine, but chronic stress can be problematic. Studies on both humansand monkeys confirm this. Admittedly, telling someone to stop stressing is a little like telling someone to “be funny” or “don’t look at the giant mole on my forehead” (i.e., it’s easier said than done), but de-stressing your life is possible. You just need to be patient. Look into things like meditation or yoga, or just take a couple minutes each day to stop and breathe deeply. You’ll be thinner—and saner—in no time.

February 10, 2016

Valentine’s Day Body Issues

So Valentine’s Day is this week! Some of you might be like “YAY”, some of you might be like “Who Cares!”. If you’re one of the “who cares” people, I get it, I’m not here to change your mind. But I am writing this blog this week because for some people Valentines Day is a day of romance and being with their significant other and based off of a conversation I had with a friend the other day, it brings up body image issues for her.

Anytime she’s intimate with her husband; she doesn’t like the way she looks, naked or otherwise. This rung true for me BIG TIME. Why, because still today, I sometimes feel like the fat guy, or I feel like the work I’ve put in isn’t enough to make me happy with what I see in the mirror. I also remember having serious body image issues when I was overweight and not liking the way I looked naked, let alone in clothes. So where am I going with this? Let’s talk about being naked! As some of you may know, I produce Shaun T’s podcast Trust and Believe and for two weeks in January, he talked about this very thing. The second part, he interviewed me, and we had a long discussion about being naked and body image issues. I invite you to take a listen and enjoy it, learn from it and open yourself up to explore it in your head. See if you have some of the same issues, or if you’re one of the ones who has no issues (and I’m extremely happy for you if you are).

Trust and Believe - Episode 17 Get Naked

Trust and Believe - Episode 18 Get Naked Part 2 (we're on this one!)

My last thing, if you are fed up with your body image issues and want to work on it, please feel free to contact Alisha or myself. We get it! We know the struggles you’re going through, and we have been there. We genuinely want to help you if you’re ready.

We want your Valentines Days to be amazing for years to come and for you to be happy in your skin!

February 9, 2016

Stock Your Office Desk With These 12 Foods That Don’t Require a Fridge

Foods-to-Keep-at-Your-Desk

If you spend the majority of your waking hours at work, that may mean eating breakfast, lunch, and a couple of snacks there too. Keeping the right foods stashed in your desk or your locker can stop you from getting too hungry—and prevent those visits to the vending machine, coffee shop, and drive-thru—but just because these healthy options are a drawer away doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get up and stretch your legs every thirty minutes—or at least have a good stretch.

Here’s what to keep on hand:

SNACKS

Nuts
A perfect snack is one that is delicious, filling, and nutritious, which describes nuts, well, in a nutshell. In moderation, a daily nut habit has been found to keep your heart healthyand may even reduce abdominal fat. Reach for the raw, unsalted variety for a filling boost of protein and fiber. For portion control, count out a proper serving (find out how many nuts that is here) rather than reaching into the bag every time you want more. And once you serve yourself, put the bag back away to avoid temptation. Eat them on their own, sprinkle them on salads, or stir a few into yogurt.

Tuna
If you forgot your lunch, are having a busy day at work and don’t have time to go search for something to eat, pop open a can of tuna for a high-protein meal. To avoid added fat from oil, look for tuna canned in water with no salt. Don’t want to keep a can opener at your desk? Buy cans with pull tabs or single-serving packets that you can tear open and eat. (Just make sure to open it in the kitchen and drain the water off there. Your more olfactory sensitive office mates will thank you.) Enjoy with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on whole grain crackers. (Make sure the ingredient list says 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain flour. Tricky labels can say “whole wheat” on the front of the box, when they’re really made partially from refined flour.)

Jerky
Jerky has gotten a gourmet makeover. Look for all-natural, nitrate-free versions. and it’s not hard to make your own. Just keep an eye on the sodium.

Soup
Whether you’re into chicken noodle, tomato, or lentil, an individual serving box or pull-tab can of soup makes a quick nutritious and calorie-conscious lunch when you need to eat something, stat! Dress it up with the condiments featured below, or pour on top of whole grain noodles or brown rice for a bigger meal. Again, opt for low-sodium versions and read the label to make sure your soup is made from all-natural ingredients.

Fresh fruit
Fruit is so good for you! It’s rich in vitamins, fiber, and tastes incredible. And, it’s a good snack to reach for when you want something sweet. Many fruits —including apples, oranges, plums, peaches — don’t require a fridge, so keep them on your desk to remind yourself to enjoy them each day.

Dried fruit
For a hit of sweetness, fiber, and nutrients, reach for dried fruits without added sugar (consider dehydrating your own if you’re having trouble finding them), and keep your snack portion to about ¼ cup. Combine with nuts and coconut chips for a twist on trail mix, add to salads and oatmeal, or eat plain.

 

CONDIMENTS & EXTRAS

Red Wine vinegar
Vinegar is almost calorie-free and it’s a tasty way to add flavor. Keep a bottle at your desk to dress salads, drizzle on sandwiches in place of mayo, or add a touch of it to soup.

Mustard
Whether you fancy whole grain, Dijon, yellow, or spicy, mustard can add a kick to any lunch and as long as you stay away from honey mustard, it’s pretty low in calories. Individual packets have a longer shelf-life. Otherwise, unrefrigerated, opened bottles will keep at peak freshness for about a month.

Sriracha
There’s a reason why everyone’s obsessed with sriracha. This hot chili sauce goes great on everything. Squeeze a few drops on a hardboiled egg, into soup or hummus, on chicken, or wake up a quinoa salad.

Low-sodium soy sauce packets
Soy sauce packets are automatically portion controlled which is great because this is one condiment that’s pretty high in salt already and when pouring from the bottle, it’s easy to pour too much and end up with salt super overload. Use it to season a brown rice and veggie bowl or as a dip for sliced veggie strips like peppers and carrots.

Nut or seed butter
A spoonful of nut butter can stop any snack attack in its tracks. Keep some on hand to spread on whole-grain crackers, add a dollop to oatmeal, or use as a dip for celery and carrots. Look for all-natural nut butters made from only nuts and little or no salt. Avoid brands that list sugar or hydrogenated oils in the ingredients.

February 1, 2016

Your Best Tool to Tackle Even the Most Intense Workouts

Your-Best-Tool-To-Tackle-Even-The-Most-Intense-Workouts_cnv8tp

There’s little doubt that high-intensity training is a challenging, efficient, fat-burning, metabolism-boosting, heart-healthy way to get in the best shape of your life. That’s all well said and done until it’s time to press play — and you’re just not feeling it. No matter how prepared you are, there inevitably comes a time in every workout when the intensity is so fierce that it’s tough to keep powering through. Suddenly, you lose your confidence and determination, and you’re tired, frustrated, and you want to quit.

Don’t worry! There are two important strategies to help assure you’re maximizing you’re training. First, have some patience with yourself. It may be a matter of needing more time to physically develop the strength and stamina required to withstand the toughest part of the workout. Hang in there, continue to focus on your small improvements, and with progress, you will achieve your personal best.

The second explanation is one that is more mental than physical. Often, in high-intensity training, the mind gives in before the body needs to, leaving you a few push-ups short of what you’re really capable of. In these situations, you need to harness the Power of Association, a mental toughness technique that involves sharpening your focus to cut through the physiological static and to get the most out of your training.

The Power of Association
Top athletic and fitness performers use this technique during high-intensity training to manage pain and fatigue and power through. Association makes it possible to sustain motivation, confidence, focus, and emotional control so that you can get through even the most intense exercise. In essence, your mind allows your body to perform the way you want it to.

Here’s what to do: At any point in your training, when you begin to feel pain and fatigue, tune in on the work by focusing on bodily sensations (such as muscle tension and breathing) or a specific exercise technique or tactic. If you focus on more than one thing, you’re already off point and will have difficulty. By choosing just one technique, tactic, or bodily sensation, you block out everything else and become completely immersed in the only thing that matters — completing the task.

Here are some examples of how to use the Power of Association in your workout:

  1. Count your breaths or pay attention to your breathing technique (e.g. in through your nose, out through your mouth) as you perform the exercise.
  2. Let’s say you’re performing high knee jumps. Focus directly on a specific mark on your body where you want your knees to reach.
  3. When your Beachbody celebrity trainer gives you direction on technique, choose one keyword and use it to focus your energy on getting it done properly.
  4. If you’re holding a pose, such as plank, find a specific spot on the floor to zone in on.
  5. Count your reps (or the seconds) left of the exercise. I prefer to count aloud as it strengthens my focus on the work.
  6. Sometimes the best way to deal with pain is to focus right on it and tell your body to stay strong!

In moments of high physical exertion, when you’ve just about reached your limit, use one of these strategies. By mentally tuning in on the work, you’ll give your body the energy it needs to power through, and you’ll experience an incredible boost in your overall performance.

January 10, 2016

The 8-Week Transition Diet

Beachbody-blog-8-week-transition-diet

Transition diets are one of the easiest ways to become a healthier eater.

I’ve been doing them since the ’80s and, in fact, one of the first articles I ever wrote for Beachbody, in January 2001, was a 6-week transition plan. They’re not only great for first-time dieters but are also great for any time you feel like cleaning out your system after a period of slacking off. That’s why I do a variation of this plan almost every year. Here’s my latest creation.

It’s often said that no one diet works for every individual. While this is true, you may have noticed that all Beachbody eating plans target a similar goal: Eat more natural, whole foods and less junk. That’s because there are no secrets to healthy eating. There are strategies that can lead to various performance benefits, but 99% of the goal of eating healthy is to minimize junk and get your diet to consist of real food (you know, the stuff nature makes). With this in mind, our Beachbody nutrition guides use various strategies, all designed to lead you to the same place.

While those nutrition guides tend to be detailed, the 8-Week Transition Diet is for those of you who want simple. Outside of a small list of what you can’t eat, you’re free to chow down on anything. How hard can that be? You should also find that by making your transition gradually, the road to healthy eating is pretty easy.

 

Week 1

No junk. Eliminate junk food from your diet. That’s it, just junk. Other than this, you can eat whatever and whenever you like. The definition of junk is obvious stuff, like potato chips, candy, ice cream, cake, etc. You may be stricter if you’d like, but for Week 1, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just stay out of 7-Eleven. For many of you, this step alone will reap huge benefits.

Cheat Days: 2. Since no one’s perfect, you get two days to cheat. That’s right, two days where you can eat anything you want! A trick on cheat days is to listen to your body. At first, it’ll probably tell you it wants whatever you’ve been denying it. However, over time, it’ll start to crave nutrients you’re deficient in. Learn to read your body’s subtle signs. If you’re craving ice cream, you may be short on essential fatty acids. If you crave a hamburger, your diet may lack protein. By listening to your body and learning what it really needs in this way, you can make better food substitutions. It’s a way of getting in tune with yourself that will benefit you for your entire lifetime.

Weekly focus: Water. Not swimming in it, though that’s good too, but staying hydrated with it. “They” say you should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, but I say you should drink more. Shoot for a gallon (though don’t worry if you fall short). Yeah, that probably seems crazy but almost all of us walk around dehydrated for most of our lives, which not only hurts the way we function but also makes us hungry when we’re actually thirsty. A glass of water when you feel hunger pangs both staves them off and helps you fill up faster when you do eat. As for other drinks, juices and sugary sodas also (obviously) fall into the junk category. And alcohol should be kept to a minimum. We tend to forget (purposely or not) that alcohol has calories. A lot of them: 7 calories per gram. Mixers can be even worse — not only can they add calories, but these sugary calories influence the way alcohol reacts with your body.

Week 2

Each week’s rules are cumulative, so the “no junk” rule from Week 1 will apply until the end, as will each subsequent week’s rule. Remember that this is a process. Treat it as though you’re in school and the subject is your own body.

Eat small, eat often. Eat every couple of hours while you’re awake and try not to eat anything for about three hours before you go to sleep. Following these rules will keep your blood sugar levels more static and your energy level will stay consistent. Try to keep each snack or meal balanced. Something like a 30% protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 30% fat ratio, though you don’t need to worry too much about it. Just realize that you need a bit from each macronutrient group. Eat based on what you’ll be doing for the next few hours (if you’re working out, eat a little more; sitting at a desk, eat a little less). The three-hours-before-bed rule is important, especially for fats and carbohydrates. By allowing time for all the carbs you eat to get into your bloodstream, your body will sleep in fat-burning mode, rather than in calorie-storing mode. This is important because undigested carbs in your stomach at night are stored as adipose tissue (fat).

Cheat Days: 2

Weekly focus: Carbs are not the enemy. Your body needs them, just like it needs proteins and fats. The trick is to choose the right carbs. As a society, we eat too much refined sugar. Complex carbs, like whole-grain breads, whole-grain rice, sweet potatoes, and legumes are outstanding foods. Even fruits, which have simple carbohydrates wrapped in fiber, are exceptionally healthy. While you don’t want a diet based on nothing but carbs, making the right carb choices will maximize your body’s potential. Try to avoid white rice and flours. Read labels, and try to avoid ones that use the word “enriched,” because this means these products have been stripped of their natural nutrients, overprocessed, and then fortified with a few random nutrients.

 

Week 3

Eat some colorful, low-density food at every meal. These are foods that take up a lot of space without a lot of calories. Veggies are the most obvious example. You can eat a salad bowl overflowing with lettuce and veggies and you most likely won’t exceed 100 calories. By eating low-density foods like veggies and fruits, you’ll keep your portions under control naturally, because they have very few calories for their size. Conversely, high-density foods, like chocolate and butter, are loaded with calories in even the smallest amounts. So beware of salad dressings and other things you add to salads and veggies. Only add enough for flavor; don’t fill up on them. When it comes to live foods, the richer the colors, the fresher the products tend to be. Try to eat a variety of colors in your diet. This simple-yet-random-feeling act will help ensure that you’re covering all your nutrient bases.

Cheat Days: 1

Weekly focus: Protein at every meal. This becomes even more important as you eat more low-density food, because protein tends to be high-density. Many veggies have a lot of protein, but the quantity you must consume starts to become prohibitive. Try to get some protein — meat, dairy, legumes, nuts, or seeds each time you eat, especially when you’re working out hard, because you need to repair broken-down muscle tissue. Since your body can only utilize a certain amount of protein at once, do your best to eat small amounts often (starting to see a theme?). Reading labels is a simple way to learn how to estimate your protein intake. You’ll notice natural foods don’t have labels but once your diet is comprised mostly of these you’ll no longer need them. More on this later.

 

Week 4

Cook at home. One of the best ways to control your eating is to prepare all your meals yourself. Eliminate all fast food (which hopefully happened in Week 1) and most other restaurant food. You may still eat food from certain restaurants where you can be sure of the ingredients (most will be savvy enough to make a point of how healthy their food is). As you may have seen in the news, restaurants tend to use alarming quantities of salt, among other things. This single step will often bring your body closer to homeostasis (its desired state of balance). This can be hard for many of us because we now have to plan our meals and prepare ahead of time, but try to treat it like vocational school — you don’t learn a new “job” without a little retraining.

Cheat Days: 1

Weekly focus: Fat is essential. Remember that fat is a vital part of your diet, not just something that makes you fat. What is not vital is junk fat in processed foods. Healthy fats come from fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, etc. — natural sources. You need to be careful about the amount of fat you eat because it’s very dense. At 9 calories per gram, it contains more than double the calories of carbs and protein.

 

Week 5

Reduce starchy carbohydrates. Starches include rice, bread, potatoes, corn, beans, and other legumes. While many of these are in no way bad foods, most of us eat too much of them. The goal here is to cut way down on them, if not totally out, and then add them back in when your body feels like it needs energy. This will teach you the relationship you have with carbs. They are vital for energy but eating too many of them leaves us lethargic (and eventually fat). Once you figure this out, your entire relationship with food will change.

Cheat Days: 1

Weekly focus: Sugar is only beneficial after a hard workout or during a long one. Your body doesn’t need processed sugar. But if you really enjoy it and can’t avoid letting some sneak into your daily diet, the one-hour period after you exercise is the best time to indulge. During this window, your blood sugar is low, because you’ve used it up to finish your workout (assuming you pushed yourself), and eating sugar during this time will help you recover faster because it speeds into your system and initiates the recovery process. Adding a little protein, but not too much, will enhance your recovery even further.

 

Week 6

If man makes it, don’t eat it. This is likely to be the hardest week of your diet. You want to eat only whole foods and eliminate all processed foods, even good ones, for the week. This includes breads, most salad dressings, all cereal, luncheon meats, cheese, dried fruits, anything with preservatives, and alcoholic beverages. What you can eat are whole foods such as fruit, raw or steamed vegetables, meat (sans any type of sauce), natural whole-grain rice, poached eggs, etc. Since your eating habits have been slowly changing, this shouldn’t be that big a shock to your system, but it will still likely be hard. Try and get creative. There are now many raw and whole food “cook” books that can help keep you entertained.

Cheat Days: 1. The “cheat day” mentality is a good one. Decadent desserts, a night at the buffet, drinking with friends, etc., can be good for you as long as they are rewards and not habits. Studies proving this have been steadily appearing for about as long as we’ve been studying things. All work and no play does, indeed, make Jack a dull boy.

Weekly focus: Nuts and seeds make great snacks. A handful of raw almonds or cashews is a quick and easy snack that goes a long way. Don’t be put off by the high fat count of nuts, because this means it takes fewer of them to satiate you. Nuts and seeds are loaded with important phytonutrients, as well as good fats, proteins, and fiber.

Week 7

Be yourself. No rules — just try and eat as healthily as you can and do it by feel. Trusting yourself might seem like a lot of responsibility, but by now you’ll be up to it. Learning to eat by feeling what your body needs is an important step in your transformation. Consider the way you’ve been eating over the last six weeks, but don’t worry about what you should and shouldn’t do. Just fuel yourself. The point is to take a mental break. Relax and allow yourself to eat in a way that feels normal. You may be surprised to find yourself craving something healthy instead of a candy bar or soda. You’ll be better at listening to your body because it’ll tell you what it needs to eat, as opposed to what you’re used to eating. Your body should feel somewhat transformed.

“Reward for a Life Well Lived” Days: 1

Weekly focus: If you’re so hungry at night that you can’t sleep, try a protein shake. A recent study confirmed what’s been a focus of this diet for two decades; that protein before bed can raise amino acid activity for a full night of rest.

 

Week 8

Eat a perfect diet. Let’s get after it. No one is better able to tell you what you should eat than you. Our bodies are all different, and the key to your own perfect diet is learning about how your body reacts to different foods under different circumstances. Your journey over the last seven weeks should have brought you to a new understanding of how food affects your body, both for good and for bad. The time has come to test it. See how well you can eat for a week. In fact, see how well you can eat for the rest of your life. Live and enjoy.

Reward Days: 1, of course!

Weekly Focus: Don’t bonk. Bonking is a state when your body runs out of blood sugar and glycogen for energy. If you feel like your workouts are going backward instead of forward, this is a likely culprit. Use your energy level as your gauge. As soon as it starts to drop, start adding carbs back into your diet until you feel energized all day long. When you feel energized during your workouts and the rest of the day, you’ll know you’ve found the right balance between carbs and other nutrients. Also, remember that as your body puts on more muscle, you will need to eat more. Muscle weighs much more than fat, so as you gain muscle and lose fat, your body shrinks without losing weight. You will also require more calories in order to maintain your muscle. So, when you’re working out hard, don’t be afraid to eat more carbs than you do otherwise.

January 10, 2016

Five of the Best Exercises for Burning Fat

When it comes to dropping pounds, most people go about it precisely the wrong way: They underestimate the importance of diet, and overestimate the power of cardio. Jogging, bike riding (not to be confused with cycling), and other low-intensity exercises can benefit your heart, lungs, and mood, but they’re the scenic routes to a smaller waist. Reams of studies agree: The cardio-emperor has no clothes (and frankly, he’s looking a little chubby.)

To burn fat, you need a smart, nutrient-dense diet and a workout program that’s packed with exercises that target as many muscle groups as possible. You’ll find five of those exercises—picked by a handful of the nation’s top trainers—on this page. So step away from the treadmill, weave these metabolic super-moves to your workout rotation, and watch the fat melt away.

5 Moves for Burning Fat Deadlift

Metabolic Super Move #1: Deadlift
“In the hierarchy of fat loss, resistance training comes right after nutrition, as it has the largest impact on metabolism,” says Craig Rasmussen, C.S.C.S., a trainer at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. And no exercise works more “metabolically active tissue” (AKA muscle) than the deadlift, which targets your glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, back, and shoulders. “It’s a true total body exercise, which is exactly what you need when training for fat loss,” says Rasmussen.

Directions: Load a barbell with moderately-heavy to heavy weights and roll it against your shins. Keeping your back flat, push your hips backward, bend your knees slightly, and grab the bar using an overhand grip with your hands just beyond shoulder-width. Drive through your heels, pulling your torso back and up and thrusting your hips forward as you stand up with the bar. Pause, and then slowly lower the bar back to the floor, keeping it as close to your body as you can. Do three sets of 8 to 10 reps.

5 Moves for Burning Fat Sprint Intervals

Metabolic Super Move #2: Sprint Intervals
“It’s easy to spot a sprinter,” says Angelo Poli, ISSA, owner of Whole Body Fitness in Chico, California. “Even compared to other athletes, they look muscular and lean.” Since you’re working your largest muscle groups (the quads, glutes, and hamstrings) at a near-maximal intensity through a large range of motion, sprinting challenges your fast-twitch muscle fibers like few other exercises. “That’s good news,” says Poli. “Fast twitchers are the fibers with the most potential for both growth and serious fat-burning.”

Directions: Head to the track at your local high school or university. If you’re already fit, run 400 meters (one lap) as fast as you can, and then walk 200 meters. If you’re just starting out, run 200 meters (half a lap) as fast as you can, and then walk 200 meters. Either way, that’s one interval. Do four to eight. Don’t have access to a track? No worries—perform the workout on a smooth even trail, sidewalk, or beach, and measure each interval by time instead of distance. Sprint for 20 to 60 seconds (depending on our fitness level), and then walk for an equal amount of time to complete one interval.

5 Moves for Burning Fat Squat Press

Metabolic Super Move #3: Squat to Press
“Squatting and pressing are both moves that belong in everyone’s workout,” says Rachel Cosgrove, 2012 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and author of The Female Body Breakthrough. The squat to press combines them into a single move, hammering your legs, shoulders, and every muscle in between.

Directions: Hold a pair of dumbbells next to your shoulders and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back flat, push your hips back and squat down until the tops of your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Pause, then drive through your heels as you stand up and press the weights straight above your shoulders. Lower the weights to return to the starting position. Do three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

5 Moves for Burning Fat Sit Through

Metabolic Super Move #4: Sit-Through
“Don’t underestimate the value of moving around on the floor for burning fat,” says powerlifter David Dellanave, owner of The Movement Minneapolis, in the Twin Cities. “The sit-through is surprisingly taxing—you’re supporting your entire bodyweight on all-fours and then moving through a wide range of motion while synchronizing the actions of multiple limbs and muscles.” In short, it taxes your body and challenges every aspect of athleticism: Mobility, strength, power, and coordination.

Directions: Assume a bear crawl position with your back flat and the balls of your feet and palms of your hands on the floor. In one movement, pivot your right foot, reach your right arm above your head, rotate your chest toward the ceiling, and slide your left foot underneath your body until it’s flat on the floor. You should now be sitting with your left leg extended and your right leg bent. Raise your hips, and reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat to your other side. Continue to alternate sides with each rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

5 Moves for Burning Fat Goblet Squats

Metabolic Super Move #5: Goblet Shooter Squat
This innovative squat-lunge hybrid combines one of the best lower-body moves you can do, the squat, with a rotational element that nails your core. “It’s a killer exercise,” says Dellanave. “You get tremendous time under tension, a huge range of motion, and some good mobility work—especially in your hips.” says Dellanave. “It’s a killer exercise.” And its fat loss dividends are worth every drop of sweat equity.

Directions: Grab a dumbbell and hold it vertically in front of your chest, cupping the top end with both hands (imagine it’s a heavy goblet). Set your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back flat, push your hips back and lower your body until your hips drop below knee-level. Rotate to your right, dropping your left knee to the floor, and then stand up. Reverse the move, lowering your body, rotating back to center, and then standing up. That’s one rep. Repeat the entire sequence, this time rotating to your left and dropping your right knee to the floor. Continue alternating sides. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

NC Fit Club