Monthly Archives for March 2014

Archives for March 2014

Eat Healthy: Find a CSA!

20080127_img_2633As I’ve said before, people tend to eat what they buy. What you put in your kitchen is a pretty good indicator of what you’ll put in your body. As such, it’s important to buy healthy and nourishing foods.

Of course, supermarkets are full of unhealthy choices. When we shop, we’re bombarded with sugary treats, packaged foods and heavily processed items. It can be difficult to resist temptation and stick with wiser choices like whole foods, fruits and vegetables.

Moreover, most of us tend to get into a culinary rut; we end up selecting the same foods week after week. However, a healthy diet is a varied diet. By eating a variety of colorful, healthy foods, we ensure a broader range of nutrients and minimize the risk of deficiencies.

That’s why I love CSAs.

CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. It’s a locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution in which a network of individuals supports one or more local farms through a financial pledge. In exchange, members of the CSA receive boxes of produce throughout the season.

Because CSAs are local (unlike supermarkets where produce is flown in from around the world), the boxes of fruits and vegetables reflect the local growing season. From week to week, the produce changes depending on the harvest.

The variety of produce isn’t just beneficial from a nutritional perspective. It also lets you experiment with new recipes and try new flavors. It’s actually a lot of fun… and, because you’ll never get a box full of candy, it becomes very easy to eat healthy.

I’ve already signed up for a CSA here in Los Angeles. But they’re literally all over the entire country. Use this website to find one in your area.

Lifting To Fail: You’re Stronger Than You Think.

strong-smurf-713x534When we talk about failure, it’s usually not a good thing. An important exception is your strength training program. In fact, training until the point of failure is crucial if you’re looking for gains in strength and size.

As I’ve said before, your body is an incredibly efficient machine. It’s not going to build new muscle mass unless it’s really necessary; doing so would be a waste of energy. So… in order to stimulate new muscle growth, you have to prove to your body that you need it.

How do you do that?

By demonstrating that your current muscle mass isn’t enough for the job. When you train to the point of failure, you send a very clear signal to your body that more muscles are needed. Provided other elements – like adequate rest and proper nutrition – are in place, those muscles will grow.

Here’s the problem: Most people don’t train until failure… even though they think they do.

When training for muscle growth, most individuals will target a range of less than 10 – 12 repetitions. On the last rep, you should be completely unable to do another rep without compromising form or reducing the resistance. You might think that you’re doing that and training to failure, but you’re probably not.

Perfect case in point. The other day, I was working out with a friend. We were doing shrugs. He usually uses 75 pound dumbbells for the exercise. I reached for the 90 pound dumbbells and he decided to give them a try. To his surprise, he was able to complete the set. In fact, he probably could have done more.

My point is that you really need to push yourself to find your limits. You’re probably a lot stronger than you think. Opt for heavier weights and more resistance. Give it a try. Sure, it will make your workout harder and more intense. But it will also get you the results you really want.

Is Saturated Fat Good For You?

ButterFor decades, we’ve been told that unsaturated fats are healthy – and that unsaturated fats should be minimized. In the 1960s, studies showed that unsaturated fats raised LDL cholesterol levels. LDL is the bad type of cholesterol that clogs your arteries. Because saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol, the assumption was that this type of fat must increased the risk of heart disease.

However, research is showing that this assumption might not be true. The link between heart disease and cholesterol is, according to researchers, much more complicated.

Over the past 40 or 50 years, researchers have tracked saturated fat intake and followed individuals to examine their risk of heart attack or stroke. After all these years, researchers haven’t been able to prove a clear correlation between the two.

The latest theory holds that an individual’s ratio of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) to bad cholesterol is a clearer indicator. In terms of heart disease risk, saturated fats may actually be neutral.

Of course, this isn’t a free pass to load up on bacon and ice cream. Indeed, many products high in unsaturated fat are calorie dense and often lack other important nutrients. But this latest finding does illuminate a broader, more complicated approach to nutrition that doesn’t focus on just one nutrient.

When dieters focused on low fat foods in the 1980s and 1990s, for example, we got even larger than ever. A reductionist approach to nutrition just doesn’t seem to work.

Instead of focusing just on fat or just on calories or just on carbohydrates or so on, a wiser approaching is to eat a balanced and colorful diet that focuses on whole foods like vegetables, nuts, fruits and some lean meats like fish or chicken.

 

 

Eat With a Purpose!

kale-benefits-1When we talk about fitness, exercise is only part of the equation. To get the fantastic results you really want, you’ll need to spend as much effort in the kitchen as you do in the gym. Though often neglected, nutrition is absolutely crucial.

The elevate the importance of nutrition, I follow a simple rule: Eat with a purpose.

When I eat with a purpose, it isn’t just to titillate my taste buds or to fill my stomach, it’s to fuel my body with the nutrients it needs.

Consider this. Depending on your goal, you probably aim to consume somewhere between 1,750 – 3,000 calories per day. That’s not a lot, especially when you consider the amount of nutrients we require on a daily basis. There’s calcium and protein and vitamins and healthy fats and so on…

In other words, each of those calories is precious – and so it makes sense to spend them effectively and productively. You want to get the most bang for your buck. Sucking down an 18-ounce bottle of soda with 200 calories will take a serious bite out of your daily caloric allotment… and yet won’t provide any of the nutrients your body needs. When you eat with a purpose, soda just isn’t a wise choice.

The bottom line: Just about everything you eat (except for the occasional treat) should have substantive nutritional value and serve your fitness goals. Eat with a purpose.

Nutrition Tip: You Eat What You Buy.

rainbow-fruit-skewers-2You’ve probably heard someone say, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The meaning behind this idiom is simple. If you don’t see or hear about something, you’ll stop thinking about it. And when applied to nutrition, this strategy can prove extremely powerful.

If your pantry, cupboards and refrigerator are stocked with unhealthy options like chips, chocolate, candies and sugary cereals, then you’ll see those products every time you’re searching for a snack. The temptation can be too much for even the toughest amongst us. If you put unhealthy foods in your kitchen, those unhealthy foods will end up in your body.

If, on the other hand, you stock your home with healthy options like fruit, vegetables, hummus and unsalted nuts, then those are the foods you’ll eat. If you put healthy foods in your kitchen, those healthy foods will end up in your body.

Here’s the powerful truth: The biggest predictor of what you’ll put in your body is what you put in your kitchen.

Of course, the foods in your cupboards and pantry don’t appear there by magic. It begins in the supermarket. When you make healthy choices while shopping, it becomes infinitely easier to make healthy choices when you get home. For some healthy grocery shopping tips on a budget, check out my video.

Lift Before Cardio – Or After?

295_weightlifting-for-fat-loss_flashOne of the most frequently asked and most often debated fitness questions is whether it’s better to lift before or after cardio. And now, a recent study is shedding new light on the discourse.

First things first, we know that it’s important to do both cardio and strength training. Both types of exercise offer unique and complementary benefits. They work hand in hand to help you reach your fitness goals and facilitate improved health and wellness.

But should exercisers lift first or do cardio first? Which order yields the best overall results? That’s the big question.

The Department of Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland studied nearly 200 men ages 18 – 40 over 24 weeks. The men were broken into two groups of either cardio first or strength training first. Each week, the men performed 2 – 3 workouts.

For the cardio first group, initial findings showed a slower recovery period with reduced levels of testosterone. But this difference dissipated over the course of the study. After 24 weeks, researchers found similar increases in both performance and muscle growth in the two groups.

Based on these findings, researchers concluded that it really doesn’t matter whether you lift before or after cardio. It’s simply a matter of preference.

However, it’s worth noting that the men in this study exercised 2 – 3 times per week. For people that exercise more or less frequently, it’s unclear whether the findings can be extrapolated.

Personally, I find that I have the most energy when I first arrive at the gym. As such, I perform cardio first – as its benefits are more important to me than strength training. If the benefits of strength training are more important to you, then it may make more sense to lift first.

How to Get Abs Like the Movie 300.

Dear Davey,

I’m a big fan of the movie 300 and I’m excited to see the new sequel. I’ve always been really envious of the actors’ bodies and especially their six pack abs, and I was wondering what their secret is?

From,
Ben

2r5ylrkHey Ben,

The chiseled, strong, oiled bodies of the men in 300 are a sight to behold – and can certainly serve as workout motivation and inspiration to the rest of us.

The secret to getting a highly defined body (like those showcased in 300) really isn’t a secret at all. It can be summed up in two steps:

  1. Train hard.
  2. Eat fewer calories than you burn.

The truth is, all of us have abdominal muscles. Training hard means strengthening and developing those muscles. But even highly developed abdominal muscles will remain hidden if they’re covered by a layer of body fat. Eating fewer calories than you burn (while continuing to train hard) is all about leaning down to a lower body fat percentage. As you become leaner, the coveted six pack becomes visible.

Exercise guru Mark Twight worked with the 300 actors to whip them into shape through months of intense training. At the end of the training, the actors were administered the following test. Based on their time, the actors were each given a score.

  • 25 pull-ups
  • 50 deadlifts at 135 pounds
  • 50 push-ups
  • 50 box jumps with a 24-inch box
  • 50 “floor wipers” at 135 pounds
  • 50 “clean and press” at 36 pounds
  • 25 more pull-ups

It’s a grand total of 300 reps (just like the name of the movie) and it’s meant to be performed without any rest. Keep in mind, the ability to punch through this workout test was the result of months of training. If it seems daunting, work up to it over time. Completing the test can be a great fitness goal.

If it all sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Between training and massages and fight classes, many of the actors worked four hours per day to achieve their 300 look. For a lot of people, that might not be realistic – and that’s okay.

At the end of the day, 300 can – at the very least – inspire each of us to build stronger, healthier bodies that are fueled by delicious and nourishing foods. We might not end up looking like Greek gods, but we can certainly make progress toward our health and fitness goals.

Love,
Davey

 

Is Sea Salt Healthier Than Table Salt?

MeersalzSea salt and table salt are different in a number of ways.

For example:

  • Sea salt is usually unprocessed and is created through the evaporation of seawater. Table salt is usually mined and undergoes processing for easier use in recipes.
  • Sea salt contains trace levels of minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium. The minerals in table salt are removed during processing. However, it’s worth noting that the amount of minerals present in sea salt is minimal; if you’re looking to increase calcium intake, for example, sea salt isn’t going to make much of a difference. You’re better off getting these minerals from healthier foods.
  • Sea salt crystals are larger. If you were to compare a spoonful of sea salt to a spoonful of table salt, you’d notice that the larger crystals in sea salt leave more air space in the measurement – and thus, less total salt is used.

Having said all of that, there is one really big similarity: Despite marketing and popular public opinion (according to one survey, 61% of respondents believed sea salt was a low-sodium alternative to table salt), both sea salt and table salt have the same amount of sodium content. And most of us are already getting way too much sodium.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average daily sodium intake for Americans is 3,436 mg. Organizations like the American Heart Association recommend no more than 1,500 mg per day. We’re already getting twice that recommendation. So while switching to sea salt can provide some minimal benefits, we should really spend our time and effort reducing overall sodium intake – sea salt, table salt or otherwise.

Turn “Cheat Days” in “Treat Days”…

Today’s guest post is by Davey Wavey’s good friend and spiritual weight release coach, Diane Petrella. Diane is also one of the contributors to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

4-hour-body-cheat-day-chocolate-fondant-e1330344637290I sometimes hear people say they eat a healthy diet most every day and then designate a “cheat” day to eat foods they normally avoid. If this applies to you, I really want you to reconsider this practice.

Why? Cheating suggests dishonesty and getting away with something you know is wrong. Losing weight permanently requires a consistent lifestyle change. It’s not a trial you’re enduring with cheat days to get you through. When you get rid of the “cheating” label, you free yourself from judgmental thinking that only sabotages you.

Create Balance with Treats (not Cheats)

As you intend to lose weight, you don’t need to cheat at anything because a healthy, balanced lifestyle allows for occasional sweets, French fries or pasta… if that’s what you want. If you choose to eat a piece of cake—or whatever food you desire—simply give yourself permission to do so as if it’s no big deal. Eating what you want mindfully and in moderation—any day of the week— keeps everything in balance.

Watch Your Words

Your words are powerful and define your actions. Cheating means to reward yourself for being dishonest. By designating a cheat day, you give those foods unhealthy power over you because you’re labeling them as wrong. This adds unnecessary guilt or shame. Even if you don’t feel this way on a conscious level, using the word cheat nevertheless erodes your integrity for empowered change.

Think about it…

Would you take a cheat day from wearing your seatbelt?
Would you take a cheat day from brushing your teeth??
Would you take a cheat day from taking your vitamins?

My point is that using the word “cheat”—and telling yourself your lifestyle change is something you need to take a break from—goes against everything you’re creating: healthy habits for not only losing weight but for life-long optimal physical and emotional well-being.

Normalize Special Occasions

You do have a life and there may be occasions that involve foods you especially enjoy and look forward to eating. For example, Aunt Sally’s white chocolate coconut cake at Easter or the Friday night pizza special at your favorite Italian restaurant. If you want these foods, eat them… and enjoy them. Instead of thinking you’re cheating, view them as special holiday treats you eat only occasionally or favorite restaurant dishes you order from time to time. Eating healthfully doesn’t mean you’re cheating when you eat the cake or pizza. The thing is to normalize these foods so they have a place in your nutritional plan while not feeling obsessed by them.

Regain your Power over Food

Along with the notion of cheat days comes the question of whether it’s best to avoid certain foods altogether. If certain foods trigger binge eating episodes, perhaps you need to make a decision to stop eating them. I know that may feel hard—or impossible—to do, but when certain foods hold that much power over you, you regain your own power by letting them go.

If your relationship with food feels addictive, you may have a hard time eating certain foods in moderation—and having a cheat day may make you continue to obsess about that food. Just as it’s best for someone trying to stop smoking not to have a cheat day to smoke a cigarette, or an alcoholic not to have a cheat day with a glass of wine, it’s in your best interest to avoid eating the trigger foods you know will set you up for out-of-control eating. To learn more, read breaking up with your trigger foods.

Give Yourself a Real Reward?

While a balanced life has room for occasional treats, consider giving yourself a reward that makes you feel great instead. Getting a massage, taking a walk in a place you love, or buying a luscious skin-care product usually feels better in the long run than risking an episode of overeating, or just feeling guilty or lousy after eating food that’s not healthy for you.

You’re doing your best to be healthy, feel good and enjoy your life. Why would you want to cheat on that?

Will you end the cheat days?

Watching Adult Content Helps Your Workout.

Computer-Man-Laptop-300-001A0770This is the study for which you’ve been waiting. According to researchers, watching adult videos before working out can improve athletic performance. And we’re not just talking about stronger forearms.

For the study, researchers showed various types of video clips to male athletes and then studied their testosterone levels and performance. Clips that were erotic, humorous, training-themed or aggressive resulted in increased testosterone in the athlete’s saliva.

In videos with a sad theme, on the other hand, testosterone levels decreased significantly.

The increases or decreases in testosterone levels correlated with performance improvements as measured by squats.

The researchers concluded that the pre-workout environment offers unique opportunities for hormonal change and athlete performance.

In other words, watching some erotic videos before you hit the gym can give your workout a boost. As if you needed any encouragement.

Don’t Reward Yourself with Food.

dontrewardwithfoodFood is not a reward; you are not a dog.

Even so, the practice of using food as reward is very common – particularly as people work to achieve their fitness and nutrition goals. Having a good workout could mean treating yourself to a cookie. Taking an afternoon walk could translate to a slice of cake for dessert.

When we associate achievement with unhealthy food, we’re going to crave things like pizza or doughnuts or pie every time we do something good. It’s a dangerous way to train your mind, and it’s certainly not in alignment with your goals. Not to mention, unhealthy foods can negate all your hard work at the gym. It can be like taking one step forward and two steps back.

Want a better alternative?

Replace food with rewards that actually support your goals. If you stuck to your workout routine for an entire week, reward yourself with a new pair of running shoes. If you set a new personal record for a mile run, treat yourself to a massage. Or a lovely walk in nature. Or a new exercise shirt.

Food plays in an import role for all of us. And that role isn’t to reward us for doing great things. It’s to nourish and fuel our bodies so that we can continue to do great things.

Is Alkaline/Ionized Water Better?

8-glasses-of-waterWith billion spent on bottled water in the United States in 2012, you’d never guess that we have (for the most part) safe and clean drinking water. The latest water trend to make waves (pun intended) is alkaline or ionized water. Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Alkaline water has a higher pH than regular tap water. It can be purchased in bottles or created through a process called electrolysis. Some of the home installation systems run upwards of $6,000. Proponents of alkaline water say it helps neutralize acid in the blood, boosts your metabolism, slows down aging and helps your body absorb nutrients more efficiently.

But what are the experts saying?

According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers haven’t verified the claims on alkaline water. Some studies suggest that alkaline water may slow bone loss, but more research is needed to determine if this benefit influences overall mineral density and if this it persists long term. Their verdict is to stick with plain water.

Even if alkaline water isn’t the fountain of youth, the reality is that most of us could benefit greatly from proper hydration. Though most people aim for 8 cups of water a day, current water guidelines are 13 cups per day for men and 9 cups per day for women. If you exercise, you’ll need even more. By staying hydrated, with alkaline water or not, you’ll boost your metabolism, curb hunger and enjoy clearer skin.

And, at the end of the day, water is usually a better option than juices, sports beverages and soft drinks. In that sense, it’s hard to knock alkaline; it’s healthy. It’s just probably not any healthier than the plain alternative.

Here’s The New Nutrition Label: 5 Things That Are Different.

FDAProposed-Label-Whats-the-Difference-380The food packaging labels are about to get their first face lift in 20 years, thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The changes, announced in a press conference with Michelle Obama, reflect that latest data and scientific findings on nutrition and the links between diet and various diseases.

At first glance, the new labels look quite familiar. But there are a few changes worth noting.

  1. Serving sizes updated to reflect the amount of food people actually eat. Previously, clever marketers could make foods appear healthier by decreasing the serving size. A big of chips, for example, could list the serving as only 11 chips. In reality, most people eat much more. By law, serving sizes will now be based on what people actually eat.
  2. Added sugars listed. Most of us eat way too much sugar, so it’s important to know if sugar has been added to the foods we eat. Though some sugars occur naturally in our foods (for example, the raisins in your cereal), you’ll now know if a manufacturer has added additional sugar. Previously, concerned consumers would need to decipher the ingredients to know if sugar had been added. And with more than 45 names for sugar, this could prove difficult.
  3. Emphasis on calories. Because extra calories turn into extra fat, it’s an important number to track. As such, the FDA has increased the type size for the calories per serving. When you pick up a package of food, it’ll be a difficult number to ignore.
  4. Updated daily values come first. First, the daily values have been updated to reflect the latest nutrition data. Second, those daily values have moved from the left hand column to the right for added emphasis and easier reading.
  5. Changes to nutrients. At the bottom of the nutrition information, the required listings of nutrients has changed to reflect deficiencies in the population. Vitamins A and C are no longer required, but potassium and Vitamin D are mandatory. In addition to the daily value for these nutrients, manufacturers must also list the actual amounts of those nutrients in the food.

Do you welcome these changes? Anything you’d like to see done differently? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Fitness Habits to Drop NOW!

lift-heavy-shitGoing to the gym is a great habit to create. But not everything that people do at the gym helps to support their fitness goals.

Here are five common fitness habits that are good to break.

  1. Using the elliptical. If you’re new to the gym or have injuries that prevent you from engaging in a high intensity workout, then using the elliptical is fine. For the rest of us, let’s face it… The elliptical just doesn’t accomplish that much. The elliptical is popular because it’s easy. And although it’s better than sitting on the couch, it’s a poor substitute for something like hill sprints on a treadmill.
  2. Working out with your smartphone. Depending on your goals, you might rest for something like 30 or 60 seconds between sets. Having a smartphone in your pocket and texting during breaks will undoubtedly extend those rests and decrease the intensity of your workout. You’ll spend more time at the gym and get a less effective workout. It’s also a distraction that can make it harder to focus. Leave your phone in your locker.
  3. Getting into workout ruts. If you want to look different than you look now, you will need to do something different than you’re doing now. The biggest and most common workout rut is not changing your workout to help you progress toward your goals. If you want bigger biceps, then you’ll need to progress to heavier and heavier weights until you reach your goal. Your muscles only grow when they’re forced to grow, so constantly progress and evolve your workout to get the results you want.
  4. Holding your breath. If you don’t breath, bad things happen. As logical as this is, many people hold their breath during challenging exercises, like the bench press. Resist the urge! Breathing keeps your blood oxygenated and your body moving. Without proper breathing, exercises actually become more difficult – and you may become lightheaded or even faint. Breathe!
  5. Lifting too light. If you’re looking to increase the size of your muscles, then you’ve probably been told to aim for 10 repetitions or less. This is true. But it’s also true that your muscles should be fully fatigued on your last repetition. If you’re aiming for 10 repetitions, then you should be unable to complete to complete an 11th repetition in good form. If you can keep going, then it’s too light. Lift heavier. And keep increasing the resistance over time as your muscles become stronger to keep within your target rep range.

What are some more fitness habits worth dropping? Let me know in the comments below!