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nutrition

 Curve Your Cravings with these Balanced Snacks

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Curve Your Cravings with these Balanced Snacks

When it comes to snack foods, there are so many options at the store. From chips to granola bars, snacks have become an integral part of our society.

The challenge for many people comes with choosing what to snack on. At work there are often bowls of candy, lunch leftovers or sweets lying around, all of which can make choosing a healthier snack option more challenging. But just like we plan out when we need to leave for work and what we need to get done, we should model the same practice and be just as intentional when it comes to the food we put in our body!

Today we’re going to talk about TWO things:

  1. How to be intentional with your snacking

  2. How to create balanced snacks that will carry you through until the next meal, your workout, etc.

Snacking with Intention

Intention (noun); an aim or plan. When it comes to planning out your day, snacks should be apart of it. There’s nothing worse than getting through your lunch only to make it to 2 pm and find yourself STARVING. Hangry times 10. When our bodies reach that point of hunger, it’s more challenging for us to be intentional about our food choices and highly palatable foods i.e. when those foods high in sugar, salt, and fat, become even more appealing.

So just like you plan out your meals for the week, you should take a moment to think through what snacks are convenient and portable for you to have on hand. When thinking about building a balanced snack I always recommend my clients try to pair different macronutrients together. Some examples are, a fat and a carbohydrate, a protein and a fat or even a carbohydrate and a protein. The options are endless. By including at least 2 macronutrients, our snack choices become more satisfying because they take longer to digest.

The graph below is something I reference often when working with my clients to design meal plans. This graph shows that certain foods take a very short time to digest in our body including fruits, sugar and simple carbohydrates. While things like protein and fats can take much longer. This offers some perspective on why eating just a banana as a snack may only hold someone over for about an hour. By pairing that banana with some peanut butter or a yogurt, that snack becomes more fulfilling and can hold them over for much longer.

Many of my clients also ask about whether snacking is a “healthy behavior?”

My answer: It depends on what you are snacking on.

Typical snack foods in a Western diet are things like chips, cookies, and candy. These foods are very calorically dense and poor in nutrients. Obviously fine in moderation, but not something to have habitually. They typically digest quickly and leave us eating more than the standardized portion size. By choosing more wholesome foods and pairing 2 macronutrients together you’re more likely to feel satisfied from the fiber, protein and/or fats that are in those foods which can help you manage portion sizes to begin with.

Image Source - Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by: Ellyn Satter

Image Source - Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by: Ellyn Satter

BUILDING BALANCED SNACKS

So what should I look for when I go to the store? Great question. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to popular snack options

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Granola & Protein Bars

  1. Shoot for at least 8-10 grams of protein. Without the protein, many granola bars become either mostly carbohydrates which will digest quickly OR they’re high in fat and therefore, more calorically dense than a snack may need to be. Remember, snacks are not meals. Snacks are snacks.

  2. Limit added sugars to less than 10 grams. On the new Nutrition Facts labels added sugars have their own line to distinguish them from those that are naturally present in a food. You will see in RX bars that the labels says “Total Sugars: 14 grams” and the “Added Sugars: 0 g”. This just means that the sugars found in this bar are naturally occurring and in this case, coming from a fruit (i.e. the dates)

  3. Keep bars around 200 calories or less. More than that and your bar is becoming a little too calorically dense. If you feel like you’re that hungry, maybe it’s a sign that your meals aren’t substantial enough or that you’re not eating often enough throughout the day! It’s also important to remember that bars are still processed foods. They don’t grow out of the ground as a bar and because of that they often have more sodium, fat and sugar added to them during processing than their wholesome, plant-based counterparts like fruits and vegetables.

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Oatmeal

Most people forget about oatmeal outside of breakfast, but oats can actually be a really satisfying snack. They are not only a good source of protein (especially when made with milk), but are high in fiber which also keeps you feeling full! With so many portable oatmeal cups, this breakfast food has become pretty convenient for many consumers.

Bob’s Red Mill has some great options that are not too high in sugar and loaded with fiber and protein! Other great brands with individual oatmeal servings/packets include Think Thin, Kodiak Cake and Purely Elizabeth.

  • Don’t forget about fiber in your snacks! Fiber = fullness. It also helps to lower the “bad”, LDL cholesterol, keeps us regular and stabilizes spikes in blood sugar. High fiber snacks are a great way to reach the recommendation for daily fiber intake (25 g/day for women and 38 g/day for men)

  • Try to limit ADDED SUGARS to 8-12 grams per serving. 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon and an average soda has about 44 grams, or 11 teaspoons of sugar! Imagine putting that into your coffee every morning! Even if you don’t drink sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars can literally add up throughout your day if you eat a lot of processed foods!

FIBER FUN: Whole grains are a great source of fiber. Some whole grains to try out for snacks or meals include oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, farro, whole wheat pasta, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, etc. Try these plant-based options to incorporate more fiber and protein into your diet that is both nutritious and sustainable!

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Yogurt

Yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein! When choosing yogurts you want to be mindful of added sugars and protein.

Yogurt can be tricky when it comes to added sugars. Thankfully the new labels help to clear up some of the confusion! Yogurt itself naturally has sugar in it, it’s called lactose. However, flavored yogurts in particular, typically add sugar to sweeten them. When looking at this Siggi’s label you can see that the Total Sugars says 11 grams. However, only 7 of those 11 grams are ADDED SUGARS. So that means 4 grams are naturally occurring, or the milk sugar, lactose.

A good rule of thumb when picking yogurts is that a single serving cup should have less than 10 grams of ADDED SUGARS and at least 10 grams of protein.

DID YOU KNOW? Greek yogurt is just regular yogurt that has been strained to remove more of the whey which leaves you with a more concentrated product and higher protein! Also, because yogurt is a fermented dairy product the lactose content is lower than milk! Many people with lactose intolerance find yogurt to be tolerable for that reason!

Fruits & Vegetables

Last but definitely not least, fruits and vegetables. Both are a great, nutrient dense snack option. As most fruits and vegetables fall into the carbohydrate group, pairing them with a fat or protein can help make them more substantial. A few popular snack options include:

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  • Carrots + Hummus*

  • Apples + Peanut Butter**

  • Banana + PB Toast

  • Carrots + Cheese Stick

  • Orange + Hard-Boiled Egg

  • Raspberries + Yogurt

  • Blueberries + Almonds

* Watch the portion size on things like hummus and PB. It’s easy to over-do it if you’re eating it right out of the container

**For convenience, have single serving packets of peanut butter on hand. Make sure to read the ingredient list to check for added sugars!

FUN FACT: Raspberries are particularly high in fiber with 8 grams per 1 cup! I don’t know about your, but I down one of those pint-sized containers in one sitting and am happy to get my fiber from those delicious berries!

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3 Tips to Successfully Grocery Shop

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3 Tips to Successfully Grocery Shop

Good morning and hello to everyone who actually liked math in high school; today I’m going to hit you with a few numbers. I know, that seems no fun, but stick with me. If you’re working out consistently let’s say between 2 and 6 hours a week, first of all, I’m proud of you, and you should be too; that’s no small feat. Going to the gym can be a pain, literally. However, you’ve committed to those 4 hours a week (because averages) and that’s great. But, there are indeed 24 hours in a day and 7 of those days in a week. We do the multiplication (ugh, I know) and that gives us 168 hours in a week. Subtract 4 and that gives us 164 hours where you’re not in the gym. This means that the majority of your success is going to be dependent on the time when you’re NOT working out. While there are a lot of things you can do with this time to help yourself reach your goals (and also work and have a life, you know, normal people stuff), one of the biggest variables that will have a huge impact on your success and that’s also entirely in your control is your nutrition. You are what you eat; I want to help you eat better. 

Now, it’s really easy for me to sit here and write “Nutrition is a big deal, figure it out and you’ll be beach ready”, and I’d be right, but it’s not nearly that simple or easy. Food is emotional, food is community, food is comfort, food is family. Our culture developed in part through the sharing of meals and building community through food. So, it’s not as simple as “A+B=C”, and today all I want to do is give you a few simple tips to make it more approachable and manageable. We’re not going to go down the rabbit hole of macros, or paleo, or the ins and outs of your neighbor Jenny’s meal plan; instead, we’re just going to look at 3 simple tips that you can implement this week to make eating well as pain free as possible.

First off, a pre-tip; cook your own food. I don’t know who needs to hear that and I know it takes time, but this way you know exactly what you’re putting in your body. That said, what you cook starts with what you decide to buy at the grocery store. So, let’s start with three grocery tips to make your next grocery trip a good one. 

Tip #1: Make a list and stick to it

The first key to a successful trip to the grocery store starts before you even leave the house; making your shopping list. Having a list with all the food you need for the week ensures a couple of things; first, you get everything you need and don’t forget anything important, and second, you don’t get carried away with treats and also stick to your budget. BONUS TIP: Don’t go shopping while you’re hungry, you’ll be less inclined to buy things you don’t need just because you’re hungry.

Tip #2: Go for nutrient dense foods

Tip two is to try and stick to as many nutrient dense foods as you can. Nutrient dense foods are usually those that are most minimally processed and have the highest vitamin and mineral profiles. Now, be careful of the word density when it comes to food. Don’t confuse nutrient dense with energy (calorie) foods; they’re not the same. For example, a candy bar is very calorically dense, but it doesn’t offer us much nutritionally.  When looking for these nutrient dense, minimally processed foods, the outer walls of the store are going to be your friend. This is where you’re going to find the most minimally processed foods from all your major food groups, fruit and vegetables, dairy, proteins, those sorts of things. The more stuff that’s added to something and processing it goes through, the higher likelihood that it’s more calorically and less nutrient dense so try and make the majority of your selections from those outer walls.

Tip #3: Beware marketing buzzwords

That brings us to our last grocery store tip, when you are reading labels and making choices, don’t get caught up in sneaking marketing terms like low-fat, low-sugar, organic, or even healthy. Odds are that while fat, or some other nutrient may have been taken out, something else, like sodium or sugar alcohols may have been added in their place; these things aren’t any better and you’d be better off going with something less processed and being mindful of the nutrients your body needs.

Today we’ve covered a lot but again, all I wanted to give you today were a few simple tips to help get you moving in the right direction when it comes to your nutrition. To recap here are the 3 tips to help make grocery shopping that much easier.

Your Grocery Tips:

1.     Make a list and stick to it

2.     Go for nutrient dense foods

3.     Beware marketing buzzwords

I hope these tips help make eating well that much easier. If you do have any nutrition questions reach out to any of your P4L coaches or talk to P4L’s Nutrition Director Zach Hurley for any additional questions or to set up a consultation. When you have your training in check and you get your nutrition down, things will start to add up, and you’ll be right where you want to be.




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How to Structure a Well-Lived Life

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How to Structure a Well-Lived Life

As the year is well on its way towards spring, it is likely that ‘we’ - San Francisco professionals - are feeling overwhelmed. As much as we’d like to structure our time to live a more balanced lifestyle, we end up prioritizing our careers over our health, personal development, and loved ones. What we’re always telling ourselves to do, and what we may often try to do, is “find time”. This, however, should be looked at differently - you need to make time.

As San Francisco professionals, we value knowledge, and we value experiences. We trust experts to help us, whether it’s through online research, counseling, or coaching services. However, do we really take full advantage of these insights and services? Or do we just go through the motions to get a little help, without actually living the lessons that we’re taught? The key to forward progress in almost any aspect of life is structure (funny, I know, coming from a guy whose thoughts are always racing a million miles per hour). However, what I’ve come to notice about myself, my family, employees, and my hundreds of clients and athletes over the years is that what gets us off track is the lack of effort in structuring our lives. After interviewing some of our top P4L athletes, we found that one of the main cravings that they have is the need for more balance in their lives, and the need for more structure in their training regimens.

What I would recommend is this: ask for help. Yes, you heard me. This actually means two things. The first: hire someone to help you with the lack of structure in a given area. If your nutrition is out of whack, make it more of a priority and hire a nutrition expert or food-delivery service to help guide you. However, there’s a second component many people lose sight of after hiring an expert or purchasing a service. Setting expectations with them about how the service is structured and making clear what you need from them is essential to success. Take a moment from time to time to reassess the value you’re deriving from the service, and also to note any progress made. From there, you can decide whether the progress is coming along great or is subpar at best. There should always be ample opportunity for discussions around how you and the expert expect to improve the structure of the program if you feel that it’s lacking. Make sure to keep in mind what’s realistically attainable in the time that you’ve given yourself. Overall, remember to not get discouraged. Structure is a good thing, and so are goals, but if you don’t reach them, keep moving forward. A little forward progress is better than no forward progress at all.

Structure helps us get the most out of our time, our services, and our lives in general. Here at Perform For Life, every new athlete’s fitness journey begins with a designed alliance: a contract that outlines the expectations of both trainer and athlete. This gives the athlete the chance to talk about his/her goals, requests, or even any worries they may have, while also giving the trainer a chance to discuss their planned exercise program structure and to get the athlete’s thoughts on it. We want to ensure that the athlete is involved in the plan every step of the way, and also that the plan is always aligned with the athlete’s goals. Goals often change, as do people, and that should always be expressed so that the trainer can adjust the structure of the program accordingly.

We know that structure is essential to success in almost all facets of life. At Perform For Life, it’s the key to our athlete’s success. Make a structured plan, stick to it, and go forth to achieve your goals.


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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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Hunger : An Overlooked Dieting Tool

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Hunger : An Overlooked Dieting Tool

If you’ve ever been told that you shouldn’t be hungry while dieting for fat loss, then you’ve been lied to. It sounds nice to be reassured that hunger is not a necessary part of dieting. However, if you really think about it, dieting is simply controlled starvation. You are intentionally forcing your body to eat away it’s precious fat stores, which it saves for a rainy day (a.k.a. a day that you are starving). I know that sounds terrible, but that’s only because of the plentiful lifestyles we lead. We are not used to being hungry because of how readily available food has become.

Let me clarify my earlier statements just a bit: if you’re constantly hungry while dieting, then you’re probably dieting to an unnecessary extreme. Conversely, if you never experience hunger while dieting, then you’re likely not ever creating a significant enough calorie deficit to make a noticeable change to the amount of fat you’re storing. Our body’s hunger signals are a finely-tuned mechanism that help to alert us when we start tapping into our body’s energy reserves. My suggestion is that once you start experiencing hunger signals, sit on that sensation for a couple of hours before immediately satiating yourself. I think this is one of the most underutilized dieting tools in existence. Why not use your built-in mechanism for detection of energy balance rather than using complicated formulas - formulas that are merely estimating what your body is already good at measuring?

I know this sounds crazy, extreme, or unhealthy, but being hungry isn’t dangerous. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that some amount of fasting is actually beneficial for health. Again, most people in our society just used to never experiencing hunger, so when we do, it can be very uncomfortable. Let me clarify once again: when I describe experiencing hunger, I am talking about true physiological hunger, not the psychological taste hunger that all of us experience when we have cravings for something. You know, the sensation where your stomach is growling and and feels as though it’s eating itself. That is what you want to experience for a couple of hours before eating.

There are some advantages to using this tool to help you properly moderate calorie intake. Unless you’re planning your consumption in pre-proportioned meals, it’s hard to count calories accurately. Eating out or heaping leftovers into a tupperware that you haven’t measured leads to eating an unknown amount of food. Healthy choices or not, you can gain or lose fat eating any type of food out there if the calorie balance is adjusted accordingly. With that in mind, having a tool that helps to adjust when you have an unusually small or large meal is very helpful. If you have a massive dinner out with friends, you may not be hungry first thing when you wake up the next morning. You don’t need to force breakfast down just because “it’s the most important meal of the day.” Basically, using hunger as a guide is inherently very adaptable to things that occur in our lives every day.

Hunger isn’t just a tool that can be used between meals either. Using satiety and hunger signals in the middle of eating a meal can be very helpful as well. Try to avoid eating until you feel stuffed, bloated, and gross. Slow down your eating a bit so that satiety signals can kick in, and you have time to experience the sensation of being sufficiently fed without overdoing it. Thankfully, that between meal hunger I was talking about earlier will help regulate things properly if you overdo it. If you go until you’re stuffed (Let’s be real; it’s going to happen sometimes), then you will likely not experience hunger for a longer period of time than if you ate to mere satisfaction instead.

I know this can sound a little hokey compared to all the detailed diets you can find out there. However, I truly think that this system can be very effective if you’re honest with yourself and develop the connection to your body’s built-in signaling mechanisms. The more tools that help us live the lifestyle we want while achieving our goals the better. Now go forth, and be hungry with a purpose!


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