Should You Eat Before You Workout?

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Morning Exercisers:

Many people believe that exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning enhances fat burning.  Studies by Dr. Len Kravitz, exercise science researcher at University of New Mexico have shown the opposite effect occurs and test subjects actually burn more calories and fat under fed conditions. Fabio Comana, an instructor of exercise and nutritional sciences at Sand Diego State University states in his lectures that fasted cardio slows our ability to utilize fat as fuel and causes other detrimental effects in our bodies.

What Happens In our Body:

While we sleep our liver glycogen stores are depleted which triggers the release of cortisol.  Exercising in the morning with elevated cortisol causes 4 things:

  • A decrease in metabolism until food is eaten.
  • The breakdown of muscle tissue to manufacture glucose for energy.
  • A decrease in blood pH which causes acidosis.  To manage acidosis our body has a reduced capacity for higher-intensity exercise.
  • Reduced levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain which are associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression.

To maintain our optimal metabolic rate (reduce cortisol) and restore liver glycogen levels that have been depleted through the night, our body only needs a small amount of carbohydrate and protein.  Eating a small snack with 20-25g of carbohydrate and 5-10g of protein is sufficient (equal to about 150 calories) to restore our metabolism and maintain our hormonal balance. 

Afternoon & Evening Exercisers:

We will be able to exercise harder and burn more calories if we eat before working out.  Starting a workout with low blood sugar will cause us to fatigue earlier than if we snack prior to working out.  However, we will not want to workout on a full stomach so eating a snack at least 45 minutes prior to exercise is ideal.  How much you choose to eat will  depend on your body and your digestion.  A good guide for a pre-workout snack is about 200-250 calories.

Pre-Workout Snack Ideas:

When choosing a pre-workout snack, we need to remember that protein does NOT give us energy.  Carbs fuel our muscles and our brain and protein repairs the muscle tissue.  Fats provide a slower release of energy as they are calorie dense and take longer to digest.  Choose a carbohydrate snack mixed with a little fat and protein.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Apple slices with nut butter
  • Banana with nut butter
  • Celery with nut butter
  • Greek yogurt parfait with fruit
  • Greek yogurt parfait with granola
  • Oatmeal with crushed flaxseed
  • Grapes and almonds
  • Whole food is the best but if you are in a hurry and need to grab a granola bar use this suggestion – Around 200 calories, at least 4g protein, no more than 7g sugar
  • Trail Mix – use superfoods like Golden Berries, Dried Goji Berries, Dried Cranberries 
  • Peanut Butter Protein Balls

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Click here to receive this quick & easy Peanut Butter Protein Ball Recipe!  It’s a great pre-workout snack that your kids will love too!

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Slow Cooker Italian Vegetable Stew

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Vegan Italian Vegetable Stew

I am a big fan of crockpot (slow cooker) recipes.  Two nights per week I am working during dinner so I love to get dinner going in the crockpot in the morning and then voila! it’s ready to go in the evening.

This is a recipe from Hallelujah Acres which I have altered slightly.  What I love about this recipe is that it is super easy – literally dump all the ingredients into the crockpot – boom done.  And I also love that I can use whatever veggies are in my fridge that need to be eaten before they go bad.  It is also a recipe that my kids love because I can adjust the vegetables I use to their liking.  This stew is really good by itself or over brown rice.  I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

  • one onion sliced or chopped
  • 1 large baking potato cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 6-7 cups of cut up vegetables – here is where you can clean out your fridge – some suggestions are: green beans, cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, celery – whatever your family likes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz or more of tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients in a crockpot
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours or all day on low (or until veggies are tender)
  3. Enjoy!

Buon Appetito!

 

 

Does Wine Make You Fat?

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Does drinking wine make you fat?  This is a burning question for me and my wine-loving friends. 

There is quite a bit of conflicting information regarding this topic but one thing is certain, having one (let me repeat myself just to be sure you understand me – just one) glass of wine per day is NOT going to make you gain weight.   However, you may want to consider the following if you are trying to LOSE weight.

Wine has 7 calories per gram.  Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories.  So, first of all we can see that wine is fairly high in calories and doesn’t satiate us and make us feel full the way food does.  Wine actually increases our appetite.  This is bad news if you are like me and love to have a glass of wine while you cook.  We can set ourselves up for failure in our attempts to lose weight if we drink wine while cooking.  It can passively increase our caloric intake as we mindlessly graze or overeat during our meal. 

When we drink wine, our body stops the fat-burning and calorie-burning processes and focuses on metabolizing the alcohol.  Our bodies have to work hard to assimilate alcohol which is why it actually increases our metabolism.  But we cannot depend on this effect to burn all the extra calories consumed when we drink wine.  If we are looking to maintain or decrease our weight, one glass of dry wine per day (for women, two for men) is the key.   The findings from the December 2005 BMC Public Health analysis showed that people who had four or more drinks per day, along with binge drinkers — those who may not drink every day but drink heavily on regular occasions — were significantly more likely to become obese.

So, savour that one glass of wine!

You may want to check out this cool Wine Calorie Chart and see how your favourite type of wine measures up!  Cheers!

Sweet Potato Scones

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So, I confess that I am not an amazing baker but I have come up with a recipe that my husband and my children enjoy.  There are 2 things that I strive for when it comes to feeding my family.  Number one – more veggies!!  And number two – less sugar!!   These scones achieve both goals and they are tasty.  Not to mention the fact that they take me about 10 minutes to make.  Boom – done!

There is a whole sweet potato in these scones.  Plus, there is only  3/4 tsp of sugar in each scone.  That equates to only 3 grams of sugar – hello – that’s amazing!!  You will also benefit from the wonderful health benefits of coconut oil instead of using the usual butter as in most recipes.

So – here is the recipe and I hope you and your family enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup unrefined, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil (found at Costco)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (make your own – scant 1/4 cup milk + 1 tsp vinegar)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Add sweet potato, coconut oil and buttermilk and mix together (dough should be a little wet, if not add more buttermilk)
  4. Form dough into a ball and pat into a circle about 1 inch think.
  5. Cut into 8 wedges and place on a parchment lined baking sheet (fairly close together – see photo)
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are lightly golden.

 

Scones before going in the oven:

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Scones after coming out of the oven:

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Happy Baking!

Natasha

Nutrients That Prevent Aging

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The never-ending quest of most women is youthful skin.  I have recently entered into my 40’s and it’s been quite an adventure for my skin.  Not only do I get to fight wrinkles but I also have the joy of fighting acne as well!  I get to experience old age and my teens all at the same time!

Daily exercise is definitely a benefit to our skin.  It helps to increase circulation and get rid of toxins.  Exercise also provides optimal conditions for our bodies to produce collagen (yay! ).  But one of the biggest ways to help our skin look it’s best is through our nutrition.

Here are the most important nutrients for improving the youthfulness of our skin and prevent aging:

  1. Antioxidants – Vitamins A,C,E and Beta-Carotene – Antioxidants protect our body against damage from free radicals that cause aging – wrinkles and sagging skin. Increasing our daily diet with fruits and vegetables will benefit our skin and promote the production of collagen and elastin – 2 elements that keep our skin looking younger.
  2. Omega-3 – These healthy fats moisten our skin to prevent wrinkles as they are natural anti- inflammatory agents. Think of the way conditioner coats a hair follicle, consuming omega 3 daily will increase the moisture in our skin.  Good food choices include wild Atlantic salmon, tilapia, halibut and mackerel, flaxseed oil, walnuts and omega 3 eggs.
  3. Water – Dehydrated skin looks old. As we age our thirst sensation diminishes so make sure you are drinking water even when you are not thirsty. Include berry herbal teas, filtered water (try adding a freshly squeezed lemon to detoxify your body) and green tea.
  4. Eliminate inflammatory foods – This includes foods made with sugar, trans fats and saturated fat – all of which cause wrinkles.
  5. Protect your skin from the sun – Age spots are caused by free radical damage from excess sun exposure.  They are a result of a buildup of waste that is a byproduct of free radical in the skin cells.  Factors leading to the formation of age spots include: Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, poor liver function and excessive sun exposure.

Eat well, exercise, drink water and be happy!  As Mark Twain says “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been”.

Confessions from a FitBit Addict…

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Ok, it’s true.  I am addicted to wearing my Fitbit!  I feel naked without it.  There have been several times when I have been walking to school to pick up my kids and suddenly I realize I don’t have my Fitbit on.  I literally have an overwhelming feeling to sit down and stop walking.  It’s come to the point that it feels senseless to walk if I am not accumulating steps.  Is anybody with me?

My Fitbit is the Charge HR.  I absolutely love it.  I love that I can see my calorie burn, my sleep and all the aspects of my workout.  But there is secretly one thing I love best about my Charge HR.  It sends me love messages.  As soon as I unplug it from the charger it says “go for it” or “i like u” or “let’s do it”.  It’s my silent cheerleader that pushes me to get moving!

I also love my Fitbit Tribe!  There is a lot of motivation that comes from a Workweek Hustle or a Daily Showdown when my group of Fitbit friends put out a challenge.  For all my office working peeps, I have a few tips on getting steps while sitting at your desk.  And no, it’s not cheating!  You are still burning calories and making your body move!  Check out the link below for your personal copy.

So, here’s to our fitness trackers.  May they motivate us, love us and connect us with like-minded friends.

Happy Walking!

Check out my 5 Ways to Get Steps Without Leaving Your Desk