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energy

Earn Your Carbs

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Earn Your Carbs

As much as people argue otherwise, ultimately, the most important piece of being successful in altering body composition is energy balance (i.e. how much energy do you expend relative to the amount that you intake). There are a lot of variables that alter energy balance and create some nuance in truly figuring this out, but the old adage of "move more and eat less" is basically true - assuming your goal is fat loss.

There are a ton of diets out they're preaching all kinds of food restrictions. There’s paleo, which suggests you need to eat things that we’ve been eating as a species for some arbitrarily long amount of time. You have intermittent fasting, which basically suggests you skip breakfast and eat only in a small window of time during each day (or sometimes fast for entire days). You’ve got ketogenic diets, which restrict you from eating anything that has more than an insignificant amount of carbohydrate in it. There are, of course, many many more. What do all these diets have in common? They cause you to decrease net caloric intake. Paleo causes you to ingest fewer calories by mostly consisting of foods that are very satiating and have a lower amount of processing, meaning that the thermic effect of food is higher (it’s harder for the body to digest, and thus, it takes more energy to do so). Intermittent fasting simply makes it such that you don’t ingest as much food because it’s hard to overeat in such a small eating window. Ketogenic, or low carb, dieting is the one most relevant to the topic today. It succeeds by removing a massive source of calories in our modern, plentiful diets.

Carbs get a bad rap, and for misguided reasons. I do think removing carbohydrates from your diet works for fat loss, but it’s not because carbohydrates are "bad for you." The problem is that carbohydrates, especially in some of the forms we find them today, tend to be our greatest source of empty calories. Think about the things that people overeat: pasta, rice, breads, desserts, soft drinks, etc. All of these things are primarily carbohydrate-based. In my opinion, there are a few reasons this tends to happen. First of all, we have simply been conditioned to recognize what actually amounts to several servings of carbs as being a single serving. I’m not sure how or why this has become the norm over time, but usually the amount of rice or pasta we put on our plate, or the serving size found at a restaurant, is actually several servings of carbs. Second, the type of processing carbs are subjected to means that they’re a great way to sneak in a lot of extra fat and/or sugar into a package of the same size. A great example is french fries. Potatoes are actually a very healthy food, but if you deep fry them, they absorb a huge number of extra calories from the oil. Additional processing can also reduce the thermic effect of food by “pre-digesting” some component of the food (so your body doesn’t have to expend as much energy to digest it) and can also make it less satiating (so you feel less satisfied, likely leading to overeating). Another great example is a pastry at a coffee shop. You can easily find a muffin at Starbucks in excess of 700 calories. For a small and sedentary female, that might be half the intake, or more, she needs to consume for the day to successfully lose fat. A Starbucks muffin does not keep you satiated for very long, either - the tradeoff between calorie consumption and nutritional value/satisfaction is very poor. Finally, carbs are a great vehicle for sauces, which is another large source of extra calories. In a place like SF with a great food scene, you find tons of aiolis, gravys, and cream sauces. While they may be delicious, they’re usually very calorically dense. The vehicle on which you often find these things is some form of carbohydrate.

I’m not telling you to stop eating carbs, but I do want to a propose a solution. Because these foods tend to be the most dense source of calories out there, I suggest “earning your carbs.” What I mean is this: don’t feed yourself starchy carbs unless you earn them through expending a decent amount of energy. Otherwise, stick to fruits and vegetables for carbs. So, if you go on a hike, hit the gym, walk 3 miles home from work instead of taking the train, or something along those lines, allow yourself some starchy carbs. This does two things: it only allows the most calorie-dense foods to be consumed when you balance out the other end of the energy balance equation (energy expenditure), and it promotes being more active. Do you want to stay home all day on Sunday and watch Netflix and chill with your significant other? Fine! However, you’ll be eating only protein, fruits, and veggies for the day - you didn’t do enough to earn anything more than that. Let’s flip it and say you’re traveling and hike for several hours to see a beautiful view of the town you’re visiting. Great! You expended a lot of extra energy, so go enjoy that pasta dish you’ve been wanting to try later that night. Let’s say you do something somewhere in the middle. Your day is largely sedentary, except you get in the gym and do some weight training for an hour. Alright, you weren’t totally lazy today, but you didn’t go on an epic all-day hike either. In this case, the meal after you work out can include a sensible amount of starchy carbs in it. For some kind of reference, jogging or walking a mile expends around 100 calories (This does vary pretty significantly, depending on body weight). So, in order to work off the 700 calories you consumed with that Starbucks muffin, you need to walk or jog about 7 miles. Keep that simple rule of thumb in mind next time you succumb to an impulse food purchase like that.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule. I don’t like giving people overly restrictive suggestions when it comes to cleaning up their diet. Most of the time, I think that’s a recipe for failure. However, I do think this strategy is a useful proxy for balancing energy expenditure with energy intake, hopefully helping you lose fat or maintain your weight if that’s what you want. Go forth and sensibly include delicious carbs in your diet, and I’ll catch you in the next blog!

 


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How "Why Not Now" Started

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How "Why Not Now" Started

When it comes to making fitness a priority, we've told ourselves, "We'll start on Monday," or "It'll be my New Year's resolution."  Well, why not now?  Empower yourself in the present and make it your lifestyle!

Movement

How many of us are in love with fitness, training, rehabilitation, or anything related to the word I try to avoid using: exercise? Okay, I like to call any of the previous terms “movement” because it’s more intentional and it’s something we all need to do not only to survive, but thrive. You don’t need to love to move, but you do need to commit to movement in one form or another. For some of us, it’s because we’re training to perform our best at something. For others, movement may be used to recover from injuries. For most of us, exercise is not natural or enjoyable but we know we need to do it in order to look, feel, and be the best versions of ourselves. Believe it or not, I don’t personally enjoy fitness unless I’m training for a sport or an event. There are a few unique specimens who are passionate and sometimes obsessed with resistance training, running, plyometrics, etc. because it’s fun for them and allows them to reach a state of flow. Flow, aka “the zone”, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. We can discuss that next time as it’s a subject that I’m particularly interested in. For now, let’s stay on task - I’m here to talk about: commitment.

Commitment

“A commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it for those moments when love falters” - David Brooks’ lecture “The Next Big Challenge In Your Life”

I’m currently falling in love with the idea that I will be a parent soon, but I refuse to have a “dad bod”. My love and commitment has evolved, changed, and failed me several times - and that’s fine. I don’t have sporting events to train for, and I have no interest in training for a recreational event at the moment. In 2016, my commitment was to avoid having surgery to repair my ACL (yes, not having the surgery is an option). My focus was training hard to build the strength and body awareness necessary to have a fully functioning knee without a fully functioning ACL. Life is full of twists and turns and you don’t always have time to prepare for them, and that’s where motivation comes in. Your motivation is dictated by the current challenges you face. Motivation will keep you committed, and most importantly, keep you disciplined enough to keep you moving forward.

A Winning Mindset

Prior to the 2013 season, Russell Wilson inspired the the Seattle Seahawks with the phase “why not us”. In February of 2014, they won their first Super Bowl. Inspired by Russell Wilson, Justine and I came up with P4L’s slogan of “Why Not Now?” Why wait until tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year to focus on your fitness? Or better yet, why wait to commit to something you love? We all have a love for something, and that love will motivate us to stay committed to reaching our goals.


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Reflecting on 2017 | Bryant's Journey

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Reflecting on 2017 | Bryant's Journey

As I reflect on my energy and health over the past year, I’ve found that I’ve definitely made improvements in some categories, but also realize that I need a lot of improvement in others. Justine and I recently attended a seminar at the Small Business Administration. At the seminar, we took an Entrepreneur Energy Assessment, which evaluated each person in 4 categories - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I’ll go into more detail about each category, and start off with the one I feel strongest in.

1. Physical (My Biggest Improvement in 2017)

When it comes to sleep, my goal for 2017 has been 8 hours per night. I’ve averaged about 7.2 hours, which is a definite improvement from 2016 when I averaged 6.7 hours - yes, I’m a data nerd. Over the past 6 months, my exercise has evolved to include more strength training (3-4 x a week), 1-2 days of plyometric and agility training, and only one day of steady state cardio. The changes I’ve made to my exercise routine has had a noticeably positive impact on my day-to-day energy levels. I’ll readily admit that my diet in 2017 has been all over the place - there have been months where I barely cooked a single meal at home. Although I was in the moving and home-remodeling process, this isn’t an excuse. As our home remodeling was winding down, I’ve been back to giving my body the foods that it wants - and that I want. The biggest difference between eating out for every meal and preparing my own food is knowing what I’m putting into my body.

2. Mental (Needs Improvement, But Look Out 2018!)

An important part of mental health is the ability to quiet your mind, one of the main teachings of mindfulness practices. My mind is always going, going, going. I’ve tried meditation, but always  stop and make excuses for not continuing. I will, however, give myself credit for taking more walks this year than I have during any other year since living in San Francisco (thanks to Justine for convincing me to make this a habit). I’ve used walking as a way to take breaks from work, deal with stress, and most of all, to calm racing thoughts. After 10-30 minutes, I can go back to work feeling refreshed and ready to tackle my to-do list, which brings me to the next component of mental hygiene…my worst enemy, taking breaks from technology. I feel like I, along with many others, have been getting worse at this over the years. I don’t know if it’s the increasing amount of tech in my life - like my Apple Watch, which alerts me of things even when I may not want to be alerted of things - or that I’ve just become a full-blown addict. Sometimes I feel like I need to go to cell phone rehab (this actually exists...). I’ve been more aware of my attachment to electronics, so I’ve begun setting my phone on Airplane Mode whenever possible. If I can manage to consistently unplug from technology, and especially my phone, I can improve what I believe is the most critical element of maintaining my mental health: staying present. Living in the moment is something everyone should strive for, but it’s always going to be a work in progress. We just have to find the things that will help us achieve this!

3) Emotional and Spiritual Health (The Most Important Player in Your Energy and Health)

This is the secret sauce. Without this, you can’t have the motivation or commitment to improve in the other two areas. Why do I say this? Well, it starts with the work you do because that’s what we spend most of our time doing! If we’re not enthusiastic, passionate, and committed to the work we do, how can we be spiritually and emotionally connected to ourselves or others? For some of you reading this, you know what I’m talking about. I’m proud to say that I love what I do, and I know I’m making a difference in my industry and in others’ lives because my work is connected to my values. My core values are social connection, movement, camaraderie, and balance. I get to live by my values every day in my line of work, and I’m grateful to have had that opportunity. The one area I need to work on is making sure I consistently make time for activities outside of work. I plan on making an improved effort by assigning myself days of the week to enjoy things that are not work-related, like golf, hikes, and concerts.

What this all boils down to is: reflection. Take some time to reflect on these categories, or come up with some of your own. Allow yourself to simply observe where you can improve, set a straightforward plan to do so, and most importantly, give yourself credit for what you’ve done well! Use this to make an even better plan for 2018.


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How to Reset Your Body for a New Day

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How to Reset Your Body for a New Day

Preparing for a new day starts with the day and night before. Although most would say that you should get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, everyone’s body is different, and with that, each person’s sleep requirements vary. If you’re an 8-hour sleeper - awesome! If you’re a 5-7 hour sleeper like me, read below for tips and strategies. If you think you’re a 3-4 hour sleeper, then I would recommend you prioritize getting more sleep! Whether it's because of stress, work, or life in general, everyone encounters times when our sleep is out of our control, but sleep is extremely important, so it should be somewhere on everyone’s list of priorities. I’ll talk more in a bit about ways to make you feel less tired throughout the day.

Sometimes we just lay in our bed in our thoughts and continually wonder when we'll fall asleep. As a kid, and even now, I will listen to music that I know will put me in a more relaxed state. Put down the bright phone screen (or if you have to be on it, use your phone’s night shift and turn down the brightness), turn off the Netflix, and don’t forget to breathe.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

  • Foam roll: Bodily tension may make it harder to fall asleep. You want your body to feel relaxed so that your muscles can better regenerate as you sleep, and foam rolling is a perfect way to release any tension you may be holding from the day. Think about getting a massage - how easy is it to fall asleep after? (Source: https://www.fab-ent.com/foam-rolling-better-sleep/)

  • Set your alarm - use a song that you'd be happy to wake up to instead of the preset noises your iPhone or Android comes with.

WHILE IN BED

  • Breathe: try deep breathing to calm your nerves. Deep (belly) breathing stimulates the “rest and digest” portion of your autonomic nervous system, thus slowing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and allowing your mind to relax. Check out the article below for some deep breathing exercises (Source: http://www.livestrong.com/article/18735-deep-breathing-exercises-sleep/)
  • Cuddle with your significant other- nothing is better than falling asleep with your boo
  • Single? No problem- more space to spread out
  • Have a pet? If you’re open to it, allow them to sleep with you. Though the evidence isn’t conclusive, some studies have shown that animal-human co-sleeping can improve sleep quality.

 

THE NEXT MORNING

  • As you wake up from your alarm, do NOT snooze! Let your song play out. This will allow you to wake up slowly, as opposed to snoozing and rushing when you’re finally out of bed.
  • As your song plays, stretch while in bed. We tend to hold positions for long periods of time while sleeping, and this can cause the muscles that are shortened in these positions to become tight. (Source: https://www.prevention.com/fitness/do-these-stretches-before-getting-out-of-bed/slide/2)
  • After getting out of bed, hit about 5 squats before you head to the bathroom and do your thing: brush your teeth, wash your face, etc.
  • Try to drink a large (16oz) glass of water within 15 minutes of waking up, then don’t be afraid to follow it up with your favorite morning beverage, coffee, tea, or juice. Starting the morning with water will rehydrate you and stimulate your metabolism

Starting your day off with a routine like this will allow you to maintain your energy levels throughout the day. Now, the hard part expect the unexpected. There are days when work, life, and the world around us can be quite stressful, and this can affect our emotions. Stress is a part of the American adult lifestyle, plain and simple; we must try different ways to cope with it until we know what works.

DURING THE DAY / END OF THE DAY

  • Continue to breathe! Calm your mind. If you’re feeling stressed at a given moment, try a five-second inhale through the nose, allowing the air to fill your belly, followed by a seven-second exhale

  • Exercise! Get your butt in the gym to release some pent-up stress

  • Plan ahead and make a playlist to listen to in times of stress - music can be a great stress reliever

  • Talk to people! Call a friend or family member, or talk to a co-worker. Human interaction can really go a long way, and it’ll allow you to air out any frustration or stress you may be feeling. Keeping these things internalized can allow them to take over your entire psyche. Getting these things out in the open will put them into perspective, and can make them seem more manageable

  • Help someone in need. Whatever it is, make someone else’s day better, and yours will be too.

Hopefully, these tips helped you reset your body for a new day. Below, I've attached a playlist that personally energizes me. Find the tunes, sounds, people, places, and things that ignite that spark in you.


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10-Day Ketogenic Diet Challenge

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10-Day Ketogenic Diet Challenge

Happy July!  I hope you all are enjoying the summer months.  As an exploration for myself this weekend, I decided to try a ketogenic diet (high fat, adequate protein, very low carbohydrate). I’m one week in and I’d like to give you a day-by-day look at my experience.  But first, why subject yourself to this?  Carbs are so tasty, how have I been able to resist?

A Brief History & Overview of the Diet

There are always new fad diets circulating in popularity, and San Francisco has no shortage of people willing to try them. Ketogenic diets are different, though, because they have then been around for thousands of years. Ketogenic diets have long been present in aboriginal cultures from throughout the world.  Indeed, many native peoples have, sometimes by necessity or circumstance, had to survive on low carbohydrate, high-fat diets. The most recent and memorable introduction of the diet to the west would, of course, be the Atkins Diet.

When first confronted with this diet, I was not very intrigued - eating high amounts of fat simply sounded unpleasant.  And I looove fruit!!!  It was only after I better understood the mechanism by which it affects the body and advantages to the diet itself that I decided to give it a try.

The goal of the ketogenic diet is this: to get the body in a state of “nutritional ketosis” in which the body is safely and effectively producing and utilizing ketones as its energy source.  Ketones are an energy source that comes from fatty acids.  Your body can run on ketones much in the same way it can run on glucose. When your body is in a state of ketosis, it's essentially in fat-burning mode, instead of the usual carbohydrate-burning mode.  Obviously, this can be a great strategy for losing excess body fat, but there are many other benefits, including increased cognitive clarity, better appetite control, increased performance in endurance related events, and the list goes on.

Sounds like a great idea to try.  So why don’t more people experiment with this diet?  Well as it turns out, your body is quite reluctant to go into ketosis!  It varies person to person, but the general consensus is that it takes weeks or more to adapt after weeks of low carbohydrate consumption.  Numbers range, but 20 - 30 grams of net carbs seems to be a general consensus.  And there can be no “cheat days.”  Eating a carbohydrate-laden meal can boot you right out of ketosis and send you back to square one.  Furthermore, one must also limit the amount of protein consumed, as it can be converted into glucose, like carbs. So, your diet must be heavy in fat – somewhere in the range of 75-90% of your daily calories.  That’s a lot of fat!

I am about 10 days into the ketogenic diet.  I’d like to share my observations:

The Good:

  1. The diet has made me very aware of my carbohydrate intake.  This awareness will no doubt allow me to make better decisions about what to eat long after the diet is over.
  2. Overall, I seem to be experiencing less inflammation in my body and less bloating after meals.
  3. There has been a noticeable decrease in fat around my belly and “love handles.”

The Bad:

  1. Eating a high quantity of fat is not enjoyable for me.  I really love the taste of fruit and I wish I could have some peaches or cherries
  2. My energy levels fluctuated a lot for the first week.  Adapting to high fat, low carbohydrate can be a difficult transition, to say the least.

The Ugly:

  1. Working out has been difficult as transitioning from glucose to ketones is a BIG jump.
  2. I could feel an overall higher level of stress in my body over the first 7 days.  I really felt off.

So far, it's been an interesting journey.  The individuals I’ve met that have adopted a ketogenic diet have all raved about its benefits (increased stamina, mental clarity, etc), but have warned me that it takes some time to get there.  So far, I can say with surety that I’m not there.  The last 10 days have been interesting, but overall, not a pleasant experience.  I figure that I’ll stay on the program for another week or so, and then most likely dive headfirst into some carbs.

A final note: everyone is built differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all diet.  

Ketogenic diets are difficult to maintain, but do have some promising benefits.  That being said, it’s not an easy process, and for some, it will not be the right choice. Some people, due to their metabolism or physical routines, will do much better on a diet heavy in carbohydrates. Figuring out what’s best for you is always going to take experimentation, and it will almost always be a dynamic process - the metabolic demands of you today versus you ten years ago are quite different, and the metabolic demands of you when you’re stressed versus not stressed are also quite different.  When it comes to food, no diet book will ever compare to your own food logging and your own observation. I hope this helped clarify ketogenic diets for you all, and gave you all some insight into whether or not they could be beneficial for you!



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