Use these detoxing recipes to get your nutrition, your metabolism and your gut health back on track.
Post-holiday there is a lot of collateral damage — and we’re not just talking about your waistline. Your whole digestive system has been working overtime and is as tired and toxic as the rest of you feels. When your GI tract is fatigued, you may not be properly absorbing and using the nutrients from your food, which negatively impacts both your energy and your metabolism.
This two-week meal plan will ease you back into your healthy habits without suffering the withdrawal symptoms of an overindulged holiday season. The recipes are simple, balanced and flavorful, and they are created with real, non-processed whole foods. Use this plan for the prescribed two weeks, or repeat it as many times as you need to give your metabolism — and your year — a much-needed kick-start.
Asian Meatballs With Cauliflower Rice
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes
Cauliflower rice is a great substitution for regular rice, reducing your total carb intake and adding plenty of fiber and water for healthy digestion. The ginger helps calm the gut, and the coconut aminos are a great alternative to soy sauce, which can irritate your insides.
- 1 lb 90% lean ground pork
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp coconut amino acids, plus more to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated
- 3 green onions, chopped and divided
- 1 head cauliflower, grated
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- splash coconut oil
- sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine pork, sesame oil, amino acids, garlic, ginger, ½ the green onions, and salt and pepper (to taste). Roll into 1 ½-inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes. Saute cauliflower rice in coconut oil. Divide cauliflower rice between bowls and season with dash of amino acids. Top with meatballs, sesame seeds and remaining green onions.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 3 meatballs): calories 375, fat 26 g, carbs, 12 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 4 g, protein 25 g, sodium 192 mg
Shrimp Asparagus Pesto Pasta
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes
Pesto is made primarily of basil, and according to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, basil contains several important enzymes and antioxidants that assist the liver with detoxification. Asparagus also contains a bounty of folate, which according to the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences is necessary for optimal gut health.
- 4½ cups asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 1/8 lb raw shrimp, shell on
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1½ lemons, sliced into rounds
- 6 oz chickpea pasta
- 3 tbsp pesto
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread asparagus and shrimp on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste) and top with lemon rounds. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and fully cooked. Meanwhile, cook chickpea pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and return to the pot. Add pesto and stir to combine. When shrimp are slightly cooled, remove shells, then add shrimp and asparagus to pasta and stir to combine. Enjoy cold or reheated.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 589, fat 24 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 12 g, sugar 10 g, protein 61 g, sodium 495 mg
Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 25 Minutes
Though they are lauded for other reasons, hemp plants also produce seeds, which are chock-full of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which assist your liver in its detoxing efforts. Hempseeds are also a source of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids to help you build that fat-burning lean muscle you want.
- 4 slices organic bacon, cooked and chopped
- ¼ cup hempseeds
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 6 cups kale leaves, chopped
- 2 cups white navy beans
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Place hempseeds, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor cup and process until smooth, adding more water to thin, if needed. Place kale in a large bowl and pour hempseed dressing over top. Massage dressing into kale for 3 to 4 minutes, or until kale starts to soften. Add bacon and white beans and toss. Season with sea salt and pepper (to taste).
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 382, fat 12 g, carbs 46 g, fiber 18 g, sugar 1 g, protein 23 g, sodium 352 mg
Coconut Matcha Smoothie
Makes 1 Serving
Takes 5 Minutes
Smoothies are a quick way to get in your nutrients without a lot of volume, giving you a break from intense digestion. Matcha is potent green tea leaf powder: One serving is equivalent to 10 cups of regular green tea!
- 1/3 cup full-fat organic coconut milk, refrigerated
- ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 banana
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 tbsp hempseeds
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- ¼ cup vanilla protein powder
Add all ingredients to a blender cup and blend until smooth.
Nutrition Facts: calories 416, fat 22 g, carbs 33 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 16 g, protein 26 g, sodium 204 mg
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 5 Minutes
This high-powered snack is perfect for on-the-go energy.
- ¾ cup almonds
- ¾ cup walnuts
- 6 tbsp raisins
- 6 tbsp pumpkin seeds
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 617, fat 50 g, carbs 30 g, fiber 9.5 g, sugar 17 g, protein 31 g, sodium 11.4 mg
Moroccan Chicken Stew
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes
Turmeric contains curcumin, which has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and according to a study published in Planta Medica, black pepper can help your body better absorb curcumin by up to 2,000 percent! Parsley is also reputed to detoxify the system of heavy metals.
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 16 oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- ¼ cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped and divided
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1/3 cup organic raisins, no sugar added black pepper, to taste
Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken, onions, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne, salt and pepper (to taste). Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, ¼ cup parsley, honey and raisins. Cover and cook another 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick. Divide into bowls and garnish with remaining parsley.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 406, fat 17 g, carbs 29 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 22 g, protein 37 g, sodium 694 mg
Coconut Cod and Spinach With Rice
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 15 Minutes
Coconut milk contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are digested immediately and used as energy rather than sitting in your gut. Research suggests that MCT oil can help reduce overall calorie consumption, leading to gradual weight loss over time.
- ¾ cup jasmine rice
- 1½ cups full-fat organic coconut milk
- ¾ cup water
- 1½ tbsp tamari
- 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 (4-6 oz) cod fillets
- 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
- 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, then add coconut milk, water, tamari, vinegar, bay leaves and salt. Stir to combine. Add cod fillets and simmer about 8 minutes, or until fillets are white and flake easily with a fork. Stir in spinach and remove from heat; stir until spinach has wilted. Serve with rice.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 574, fat 23 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 2 g, protein 47 g, sodium 831 mg
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes
When you consume acidic foods such as dairy, grains and processed sugar, your body has to work overtime to maintain a neutral pH. Eating more alkaline foods such as fennel helps balance your pH and reduce stomach acid.
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced
- 2 cups celery root
- 2 cups rutabaga, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups organic chicken broth, plus an additional splash
- 4 (4 oz) salmon fillets
- 1 cup full-fat organic coconut milk
- ¼ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
In a large soup pot, melt coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add fennel, celery root and rutabaga. Cover and cook 15 minutes, or until tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook another 10 minutes, then use an immersion blender until soup achieves a semi-chunky finish. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, add a splash of chicken broth to a saucepan and place salmon skin-side down. Bring to a simmer and poach 5 to 10 minutes. Remove fish from pan, remove skin and discard. Cut flesh into chunks and add to soup. Increase heat to medium and add coconut milk. Cook until heated through. Garnish with parsley when serving.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 414, fat 25 g, carbs 20 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 8 g, protein 27 g, sodium 793 mg
Cranberry Protein Cookies
Makes 8 Servings
Takes 20 Minutes
Cinnamon is one of the most delicious and healthful spices around, helping reduce inflammation and acting as an anti-bacterial agent. In addition, 1 teaspoonful contains 22 percent of your daily value of manganese, which according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, helps you metabolize fats and carbohydrates and regulate your blood sugar.
- 1 banana, mashed
- ¼ cup vanilla protein powder
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup almond butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, combine mashed banana and protein powder and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and combine until a dough forms. Roll dough into 8 balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten lightly with a fork. Bake 20 minutes.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 cookie): calories 266, fat 18 g, carbs 19 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 6 g, protein 10 g, sodium 8 mg
Pear Spice Overnight Oats
Makes 4 Servings
Takes 8+ Hours
Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that tastes like thin, tangy yogurt, but it contains a more potent and diverse range of probiotics. Overconsumption of sugar, alcohol and processed foods can kill off a lot of the good bacteria in your gut, allowing the bad bugs to take over and increase inflammation. The probiotics in kefir help replace those lost microbes and restore balance in your system.
- 2 cups plain kefir
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups oats
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 pears, sliced
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¾ cup vanilla protein powder
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except pears and tahini. Stir until well-blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, top with tahini and pears.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 474, fat 14 g, carbs 61 g, fiber 11 g, sugar 22 g, protein 29 g, sodium 135 mg
Rainbow Chopped Salad Jars
Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes
Tahini — aka sesame-seed paste — is a great source of magnesium, which is needed for energy production in the body. And purple cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, which is necessary for both a healthy immune system and a healthy gut.
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 2 lemons, juiced
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp water
- 3 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup matchstick carrots
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cups purple cabbage, chopped
In a bowl, whisk together tahini, lemon juice and sea salt, adding water as needed to attain a creamy consistency. Divide dressing equally between 3 large Mason jars. Layer in chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and cabbage. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. When ready to eat, dump salad into a bowl and toss.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 496, fat 18 g, carbs 69 g, fiber 19 g, sugar 16 g, protein 22 g, sodium 493 mg
“I always say to start with drinking half your bodyweight in ounces per day as a minimum,” Uherek says. “However, if you’re sweating more because of workouts, add in about 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. Add in a clean electrolyte option, like Nuun tablets to replenish electrolytes — clean brand meaning no added artificial sugars and food colorings.”
Craving a sweet treat?
Try these low-sugar suggestions from Alexa Uherek.
Homemade Hot Chocolate
Combine 8 oz unsweetened almond milk + 1 tbsp 100% cacao powder + 1 tbsp maple syrup. Heat contents on low-medium in a pot on stove. To reduce sugar, use 1 tsp instead of a tbsp.
Nutrition Facts: calories 116, fat 5 g, carbs 17 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 12 g, protein 2 g,
sodium 164 mg
The Quick Fix
Gather ½ cup organic raspberries + 1 tbsp dark chocolate chips: Stuff one chip in each raspberry and enjoy.
Nutrition Facts: calories 122, fat 5 g, carbs 15 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 10 g, protein 2 g, sodium 1 mg
Additional snack options
¼ cup hummus + 1 cup baby carrots = calories 191 fat 11 g carbs 20 g fiber 6 g sugar 6 g protein 5 g sodium 360 mg
1 slice organic sprouted bread (toasted) + 1 tbsp raw nut butter = calories 205 fat 20 g carbs 23 g fiber 4 g sugar 5 g protein 9 g sodium 160 mg
2 celery stalks + 2 tbsp nut butter + 3 tbsp goji berries = calories 267 fat 18 g carbs 21 g
fiber 7 g sugar 10 g protein 10 g sodium 116 mg
1 serving protein powder + 8 oz unsweetened cashew or almond milk = (macronutrients depend on protein powder)
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Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.
The fitness crowd tends to throw shade at the idea of skipping meals and snacks to slim down, believing this will eat away at your hard-earned muscle, grind your metabolism to a halt and spur diet-derailing hunger pangs. These days, however, the idea of occasionally shuttering your kitchen is the guiding principle of an increasingly popular — and increasingly researched — dieting approach with a lot of weight-loss buzz: intermittent fasting.
Believe it or not, fasting wasn’t invented by Instagram hashtags — in fact, people have been fasting for thousands of years: Our ancestors did it (usually because they didn’t have a constant supply of food stashed in the fridge), and a number of religious events such as Ramadan revolve around some form of dietary fast.
As the name implies, intermittent fasting (IF) is a system during which you alternate between periods of restricted calorie intake and periods of normal eating. To be clear, IF does not restrict the kinds of foods you can eat — as do diets like Paleo or keto — just how much you can eat on certain days of the week. Many swear by IF because it’s easy to implement, requires nothing draconian like a horrible juice cleanse, and it has been proved to be one of the speediest and sustainable ways to torch fat stores and promote a lean physique.
Research says fasting has been a favorite research topic as of late, and a number of studies have found intermittent energy restriction — in which people ate fewer than 800 calories at least once per week — to be a valid weight-loss strategy, at least in the short term. In one study, weight loss was similar among participants following either a heart-healthy diet or a high-protein, reduced-calorie IF regimen for three months. However, the IF diet won out for minimizing weight regain after one year. Another investigation showed that IF was just as good at stripping body fat as simple calorie cutting. However, IF did a better job at preserving lean body mass.
As to how exactly IF helps sculpt your physique, theories abound: Some propose that IF flips a metabolic switch that encourages your body to burn more fat. Others state that since IF restricts your window of eating, you’re likely to eat fewer calories during the course of a week, helping trim the waistline with less risk of losing muscle. Even more studies propose that IF might help people get in touch with their true feelings of satiety and fullness on food-restricted days, which can put the brakes on overeating during times of normal food intake.
On another front, IF may have other positive effects on your body, such as reducing memory loss, improving cholesterol and blood pressure, and helping prevent diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. And contrary to logic, IF could actually help — not hurt — your physical performance at the gym: A 2018 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that athletes who participated in an every-other-day fasting protocol (eating 33 percent of their normal calorie intake on fasting days) for six weeks became more energy-efficient during exercise, reported less fatigue and experienced reduced body-fat levels. Researchers theorize that occasional energy restriction might spur changes in hormones and mitochondrial function, helping you get more out of your workouts.
Fit Girl Fasting
Want to give intermittent fasting a whirl? Try this 5:2 eating plan: You eat normally for five days and reduce your calorie intake to about 25 percent of normal for two days. Drink all the calorie-free liquids you want on both days to stay hydrated and healthy, and focus on whole, nutrient-rich foods for all seven days.
5 Days a Week
½ cup rolled oats (cooked) + 1/3 cup low-fat milk + 1 scoop protein powder (Top with 2 tbsp chopped nuts + ½ cup blueberries.)
2/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt + ½ cup berries
4 oz cooked salmon + 1 cup cooked quinoa + 2 cups mixed greens + drizzle of olive oil vinaigrette
1/3 cup hummus + ½ cup sliced red bell peppers
1 cup milk + 1 scoop protein powder + ½ frozen chopped banana
4 oz pan-seared boneless pork loin chop + 2 cups roasted baby potatoes + 1 cup steamed asparagus + 1 tsp olive oil
Nutrition Facts (per day): 1,953 calories, fat 93 g, protein 146 g, carbs 201 g
2 Days a Week
½ cup cottage cheese + ½ cup chopped pineapple + 2 tbsp unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
½ cup baby carrots + 1 string cheese + 1 oz almonds
1 oz jerky
Nutrition Facts (per day): 586 calories, fat 36 g, protein 39 g, carbs 34 g
Fasting Cheat Sheet
Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.
High, low and start slow
There are different ways to put IF into practice, and since the jury is out as to which style yields the biggest benefits, choose the one that best fits your lifestyle.
The most common method of IF is 16:8. Here, you eat during an eight-hour window, say between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and fast the remaining 16 hours in that day. There is also the eat-stop-eat method during which you do a 24-hour fast twice a week and eat normally five days a week, and the 5:2 method during which you eat normally for five days, then reduce your food intake to about 25 percent of normal (which usually totals about 500 to 700 calories) on two nonconsecutive days per week.
If you’re new to IF and aren’t sure you can hang, ease into it so you have a better chance of sticking with it long term: A JAMA Internal Medicine study found that while people on an alternate-day fasting regimen (25 percent of energy needs on fasting days) experienced weight- loss benefits, about a third of the participants failed to make it to the end. To increase your chances of follow-through, consider the 12:12 method: Here, you fast for 12 hours per day and eat within a 12-hour window — which probably isn’t that far off from how you’re eating now. This method also could increase your chances for fat loss: A 2018 British investigation found that people who simply delayed their breakfast by 90 minutes and ate their dinner 90 minutes earlier than normal — with no imposed restrictions on what they could eat — lost twice as much body fat over a 10-week period than those who ate their meals at their normal times. Experts theorize this is owed to a decrease in both appetite and overall calorie intake.
Food for thought
If you choose a routine such as the 5:2 method during which on fasting days you simply eat less, don’t waste an entire day of calories on a couple of slices of gooey pizza. Make those calories count, and focus on nutrient-dense, satiating foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits and fish — items that deliver plenty of nutrients relative to the number of calories they contain.
Also, beware of the feeding-day binge: Since IF doesn’t dictate the types of foods you should eat, you might be tempted to reward yourself with less-than-healthful foods during normal eating periods. But IF only works for fat loss if you focus on nutrition, not just calories, so on non-fasting days, fall back into a normal diet full of whole, clean foods, and stick to your regular eating schedule of several meals and snacks per day.
Dehydration can exacerbate hunger and leave you in a candy-worshipping hangry rage. Keep plenty of calorie-free liquids like water and tea nearby when fasting to promote satiety and replace some of the liquid you’re missing by cutting out much of your food. Not sure you’re getting enough H2O? Keep track of your urine color: The darker the color, the more water you need. As for caffeine — don’t worry about it. Recent research proved that it does not dehydrate people as much as it was once thought, especially if you’re a regular coffee drinker.
Train to gain
The days you train and the days you feed or fast should align properly. If your goal is to nail a personal-record 1-mile run or improve on your strength with heavier lifts, train during non-fasting periods when you have more available energy. If your goal is fat loss, exercise on a fasting day to create a metabolic environment that favors fat burning as your carbohydrate stores become depleted. That being said, however, if you feel exhausted and lightheaded when exercising on a fasting day, either call it quits or eat some food. Your workout will be half-assed, and you’ll increase your risk of injury.
Pop a pill
On fasting days, consider taking a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy: A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that women following a weight-loss diet reported less hunger when supplementing with a multivitamin. Make sure your multi also includes the B vitamins that help turn food into energy and control appetite. To reduce muscle breakdown, think about branched-chain amino acids or including a protein powder supplement to your regimen, if it works into your fasted calorie allotment.
It may not work
Like many diets, the success of IF will vary from person to person. Some may rave about their success with fat loss and their clearer mind, while others may experience nothing but prolonged fatigue and irresistible cravings.
It often takes a couple of weeks for your body to adjust to IF, and side effects of fasting like raging hunger, brain fog, grumpiness or low energy will likely subside with time. If you’re still miserable after three weeks, IF is probably not right for you.
WARNING: Certain medical conditions can be worsened by fasting. Consult with your doctor if you’re diabetic, have low blood pressure, take medications, are underweight, are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding before beginning any sort of intermittent fasting.
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Health and lifestyle coach Rebecca Pfanner breaks down why you’re scared of your appetite and offers steps you can take to permanently change your mindset.
So many of us women fear our appetite. We’re scared to eat that brownie, macaroni or cake because “it’s going to make us fat.” When we give in, we tell our friends, “I was so bad today. I ate a brownie!” We’ve come to believe this is the most horrible thing a woman can do!
This is not true. This is the story we tell ourselves because we’ve been programmed to believe feeding our appetite is wrong.
Our appetite is what keeps us alive. Without it, we wouldn’t know when to eat. We would starve and die! So why have we turned this survival mechanism into something that makes us feel guilt, shame and disgust?
Look at Eve! She wanted that apple so badly. She had an appetite for it, craved it, desired it. So she took a bite. She fulfilled her appetite but was then shamed, kicked from the garden and made a disgrace. Eve’s story may have been the start of female shame and guilt when it comes to feeding the appetite.
Many of us continue to fight our appetite with every fiber of our beings. We don’t want to be kicked from our garden, so we hang onto the fear: “If I let myself experience my full appetite, there will be no end to what I devour.”
We’re making the very thing that gives us life, our appetite, a cause for emotional turmoil.
We’ve become so used to shaming our appetite as a “guilty pleasure” that we truly believe we’re wrong for wanting to appease it. When we do, we fall into an endless pit of desire that won’t stop.
When you desire something, do you feel guilty for thinking about what you want? What about shame for getting what you want because you didn’t “earn” it? Or guilt and shame for being “bad” — like eating that brownie or saying no to a request of our time?
Society often enforces these concepts. If you love sex, you’re a whore. If you love food, you’re a glutton and you’ll get fat when you should be skinny. If you love money, you’re greedy.
Many of us say we want “freedom” when it comes to food and body image, but when we deny or invalidate our natural appetite, we’re creating our own jail cell that keeps us trapped in our current way of being.
Here’s a secret: As our own jailers, we hold the key. We get to decide whether we consider our appetite good or bad.
Our appetite and desires lead us to our truth. So how can we allow for our true selves to step forward if we’re always shying away?
If we continue to fear what we want, we prevent ourselves from fully experiencing life. Some of us believe that if we connect with our sexuality, we’ll want to sleep with everyone we see. If we let ourselves make great money, we’ll become greedy, self-centric women.
What if the opposite were true? Your body doesn’t want to overindulge. It knows when to stop. The challenge lies in listening to its wisdom and separating your thoughts and emotions from your body’s intuition.
Instead of feeding the fear of your own appetite, let’s get curious and embrace it. In my work, my goal is to help you feel empowered to take charge of your feelings, thoughts and decisions.
Be in Charge Instead of in Control
We’ve gotten so used to focusing on maintaining our willpower, avoiding “bad” foods, counting calories and logging exercise. These restrictive behaviors lead to the guilt and shame associated with feeding our appetite because they’re so easily sabotaged and lead to feeling out of control.
Being in charge of your appetite keeps you focused on your intention of doing what you love without experiencing the guilt because you make intentional choices that leave you feeling empowered.
Know You Are Capable
You’ve always had the power to make your decisions without all the rules and restrictions. Never allowing yourself sweetness feeds feelings of guilt and shame when you do indulge. Instead of following a plan desperately and strictly, listen to your body.
Give Yourself Grace
Acknowledging your appetite can be hard since you may have spent a lifetime hushing it. Giving up the idea that your appetite and desires are bad may sound scary, even impossible. Allow yourself the room to have setbacks and experience doubt and frustration.
Learning how to give up restrictions will change your relationship with your appetite and what was once so scary — cookies, money, sex — will lose its power over you.
Instead of starting another diet this new year, let’s begin to lay the foundation for a new life where you embrace your appetite and desires — a life you’re excited to live, a life where you say yes to yourself.
What if embracing your appetite left you happy beyond measure?
What if it never needed to be so damn hard?
To learn more about working with Rebecca Pfanner, visit her website ModavateCoaching.com.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the set point weight theory and what it means for your fitness goals.
According to conventional weight-loss wisdom, dropping a few pounds is a matter of basic math: Burn more calories than you consume and watch the numbers on the scale plummet. But anyone who’s dealt with a stubborn plateau or struggled to maintain a loss knows that in practice, the equation isn’t that simple.
“The old ‘calories in, calories out’ idea is really only a very small piece of the puzzle,” says Lauren Antonucci, RD, CSSD, CDE, CDN, a board-certified sports nutritionist and director of Nutrition Energy in New York City. In addition to diet and exercise, a combination of factors works to regulate your body’s weight, keeping it at a number that’s biologically ideal, according to your genetics, your physiology and your environment. This phenomenon is known as the set point weight theory.
Set Point Weight Theory, Defined
Antonucci describes set point weight as the weight you would be if you weren’t concerned with how you looked in a bikini. “Let’s say you just walked around eating when you were hungry, stopping when you were full,” she says. “If you were eating mostly real foods, there’s a place where you would land, and not everyone lands in the same spot.”
While set point is still technically a theory that has yet to be scientifically proven, most experts agree that a person’s standard weight is determined by a combination of genetics, physiology and environment. Your environment includes what most weight-loss plans address: diet, exercise, lifestyle and level of daily activity. Physiology encompasses all bodily functions, including your metabolism, hormones and the genetic tendency of women to carry more body fat than men. And your genetics, as they relate to your set point, can be most easily understood by looking at your ancestors’ day-to-day lives — were their winters long and the food scarce? Then those with a high capacity for fat storage were most likely to survive and pass along their genes to you.
How Set Is Your Set Point?
While your genes are what they are, your body’s physiology can shift — or be shifted. Puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause can all cause a change — typically a gain — in weight. Some medications also can create long-lasting increases in the body’s fat supply. “That’s one that people in the United States tend to be more prone to because sometimes we’re giving medications such as antidepressants and people are on them for decades,” explains Holly Lofton, M.D., director of the Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health in New York City. “[Those medications] can make our fat cells more stable, an environmental change that can lead to a physiological change. That can change one’s set point.”
Bariatric surgery, which removes part of the stomach or creates a bypass, also alters the body’s hormonal environment by removing the receptors that create hunger hormones. As a result, people who undergo this procedure typically see dramatic weight loss in the first two years. It’s fair to say that they experience a change in set point, but without consistent monitoring and maintenance, this new setting may not stick. “The body sees weight loss as an illness, so it will create hunger hormones from other pathways,” Lofton says. Over time, the weight may return.
If it seems like your set point is more likely to go up than down, that’s because it is. Of course, it is possible to lose weight through diet and exercise, but environmental changes are just one consideration. “It’s much easier to increase a set point than it is to decrease it,” Lofton says. “The body just doesn’t like to lose weight, it likes to gain weight.”
Metabolism Versus Set Point
But what if you “boost” your metabolism? Can that lower your set point?
It’s not uncommon to hear set point and metabolism used interchangeably, but they are two distinct concepts. While set point refers to your body’s standardized weight, your metabolism is the amount of energy you must expend to maintain that weight, and it can be broken down into a few categories:
Basal metabolic rate (BMR), or resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of energy the body requires to support its basic functions — things like thought, heartbeat and breathing.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) goes beyond the basic functions to include all non-planned exertional activities, such as walking to your car, going to the bathroom and cleaning your house.
Activity expenditure encompasses planned exercise, like a high-intensity interval training class or a run in the park.
Lofton explains that when we lose physical weight, our BMR also decreases. “In order to maintain that lower weight, we have to make up that change in metabolism by doing something, usually increasing our physical activity expenditure,” she says. In other words, you can increase your metabolism to maintain a new weight, but you’re not necessarily changing your body’s set point. “If we bring the activity back down, then the body will likely go back to the way it was,” she says.
Setting Goals and Managing Expectations
If it seems like your set point weight is at odds with your goal weight, don’t throw in the towel just yet. “It is not impossible to lose weight and keep it off,” says Natalie Digate Muth, M.D., a dual board-certified pediatrician and obesity medicine physician and registered dietitian based in Carlsbad, California. “But it’s probably not due to a change in set point but rather a continued and conscientious effort to increase energy expenditure through significant amounts of moderate to vigorous exercise and consumption of healthful, portion-controlled foods.”
To make a lasting change, start by upping your level of physical activity. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, Lofton says that able, active people should aim for around 240 minutes of exercise performed at an exertional rate — in other words, a leisurely gallop on the elliptical won’t cut it: You should be huffing and puffing. And don’t ignore strength training, which can improve your overall physique and change your body composition for the better, even if it doesn’t necessarily change the number on the scale.
“If you increase your muscle mass and simultaneously decrease your fat mass, your body is more metabolically active,” Lofton explains. “So you’re burning calories more efficiently even though your weight has not changed. But you’re still at the same weight because you have gained muscle and lost the same amount of fat.”
Theoretically, then, if you gain muscle and lose fat, you might not lose physical weight, but your body might be satisfied since you’re still at your set point and keep you there.
If meal planning is a source of confusion, it may be worth your time to schedule an appointment with a dietitian who can test your RMR and provide you with a recommendation for daily caloric intake. Interestingly, Antonucci sees many weight-loss patients who are chronically under-eating. “They keep getting better and better at the diet game and somehow end up eating less than they need for weight loss,” she says. “Their body gets confused and their metabolic rate goes down and they’re no longer losing. The only answer is to eat up to their metabolic rate. Then their metabolism will go up, and then they will stay there because their metabolism has changed.”
And remember that weight is just one of many available corporeal metrics. Considering body-fat percentage, waist circumference, how your clothes fit or simply how you look and feel is likely to give you a more accurate reading of your level of fitness. “You would be hard-pressed to find a person coming out of my office who can tell you we set a weight-loss goal for any time frame,” Antonucci says. “We set very specific, food-oriented, habit-changing behavior and exercise goals that, over time, are probably going to lead to weight loss if it’s desirable and healthy for people.”
Up the Ante
Holly Lofton, M.D., suggests performing 240 minutes of intense exercise per week. Increase your time under tension with this 20-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), which can be used as a finisher or as a quick, stand-alone workout.
In 20 minutes, complete as many rounds as possible of the following:
- 5 walkouts to plank push-ups
- 20 jumping floor-tap squats
- 15 knee-ins
- 20 mountain climbers
- 5 long jumps
- 10 burpees
- 20 alternating jumping lunges
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Choose the best preworkout and postworkout foods to eat around your specific fitness routine for optimal performance, recovery and results.
If you’re like most people, your actual workout time logs in at roughly an hour, but what happens during the other 23 hours of the day is what ultimately determines your results, especially when it comes to nutrition. What you eat before and after a workout is a crucial element in your programming, and choosing wisely will help you get the results you want.
But not all foods are appropriate for fueling your specific activity. For instance, you’d never eat fried chicken right before running a marathon — unless you want to revisit it shortly after mile one — and you’d never just eat a plain salad after a tough metcon, since lettuce alone will not give your body what it needs to recover and rebuild your tissues.
Here, we’ve uncovered the latest in sports science nutrition to divine the best foods and eating patterns to use around specific activities. This will help you determine how to gas up before training and top off your tank when you’re done. Use these as a guideline to fuel your machine and hit the road to Resultsville.
Power Up With Protein
Research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that eating protein as part of your pre-lift nosh can help reduce muscle protein breakdown and encourage better gains afterward. But don’t pound a burger before hitting the squat rack (hello, gut bomb). Instead, have a light preworkout snack with some easy-to-digest protein and carbs about 30 minutes before training.
Eat This: Power Balls
Soak 1½ cups of dried Mission figs (stems trimmed) in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain, pat dry and process in a food processor with 1/3 cup of plain protein powder, ¼ cup of cocoa powder, ¼ cup of almond butter, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, zest of one orange, juice of ½ an orange and pinch of salt. Form mixture into 1-inch balls and keep chilled. Eat two balls before a workout.
In a head-to-head comparison, researchers from the University of Illinois found that providing people with 18 grams of protein from whole eggs after lifting weights was about 40 percent more effective at stimulating myofibrillar protein synthetic response (aka muscle building) than egg whites alone. The protein in egg whites is complete, meaning it contains the right mix of essential amino acids, but it’s likely that the fat and other nutrients found in the egg yolk work synergistically with the protein in the egg whites to help battle-worn muscles recover.
Eat This: High-Pro Egg on Toast
Mash two hard-boiled eggs with 2 teaspoons of pesto and ¼ cup of plain Greek yogurt. Spread on a piece of toasted whole-grain bread.
Gotta Have Ricotta
Ricotta is a standout source of leucine, the most muscle-friendly amino you can eat after pumping iron. According to research, leucine behaves like a hormone in your body, sparking muscle protein synthesis in response to weight training. Eat a leucine source such as ricotta with an equal ratio of carbs to raise insulin levels and encourage more efficient protein assimilation.
Eat This: Bodybuilder Bowl
Stir together ½ cup of part-skim ricotta cheese and 1 scoop of whey protein powder in a bowl. Top with 1/3 cup of muesli and ½ cup of chopped pineapple.
Get the Blues
Researchers from Appalachian State University in North Carolina found that consuming blueberries before intense exercise reduced the markers of muscle damage. The high level of antioxidants in blueberries work to reduce the stress associated with vigorous exercise like high-intensity interval training, and their natural sugars provide a source of quick-digesting energy so you can work at a higher intensity for longer. Combine blueberries with some protein 30 to 60 minutes before interval training to prevent your body from tapping into your muscles for energy.
Eat This: Blueberry Rice Cakes
Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on a rice cake and top with 1/3 cup of blueberries and 1 teaspoon of unsalted, dry-roasted sunflower seeds.
A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that subjects who consumed a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk after moderate interval exercise experienced better recovery: The carbs restored spent glycogen reserves, while the milk protein reduced muscle breakdown. As little as 9 grams (1 cup) of a postworkout milk-based protein is enough to kick-start the muscle-making process.
Eat This: Simply Cereal
Add 1 cup of a 100 percent whole-grain, low-sugar cereal to a bowl and top with 1 cup of low-fat milk and a small handful each of walnuts and dried tart cherries.
Joe to Go
Recent research found that adding caffeine to post-exercise carbs can improve performance in subsequent interval training sessions four hours later. It might be that a shot of caffeine increases how much glycogen is produced from the carbs consumed, allowing you to tap into more energy reserves to push harder. Add a little protein to repair the micro-tears in your muscle fibers and accelerate recovery while also quelling hunger.
Drink This: Coffee Cure
Blend 1 cup of brewed coffee, 1 scoop of plain or vanilla protein powder, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 chopped frozen banana.
Boost Blood Flow
Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that subjects who drank about 2 cups of watermelon juice an hour before working out had less muscle soreness 24 hours later. L-citrulline, a naturally occurring amino acid in watermelon, is thought to increase blood flow to muscles, flushing out metabolic wastes and delivering reparative nutrients.
Eat This: Watermelon Warm-Up
Scoop ¾ cup of plain low-fat Greek yogurt into a bowl and top with chopped watermelon, 1 tablespoon of roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of honey.
Colds vs. Carbs
Including quality carbs in your CrossFit recovery plan not only replaces spent energy stores but also could keep the sniffles at bay. According to research, carb-rich foods like spuds, grains and fruit appear to prevent the drop in immunity that occurs in response to intense exercise, making it harder for viruses to invade your body and beat you down.
Eat This: Sweet Potato “Toast” Sandwich
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the ends off a sweet potato, then slice lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, flip, brush with more oil and roast another 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Spread hummus on potato “toast” and top with sliced roasted chicken.
Studies show that higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids such as are found in salmon, sardines and mackerel may translate into reduced delayed onset muscle soreness: When omega-3s enter muscle cells, they limit the exercise-induced damage that causes painful inflammation and may even turn on pathways in the body that increase lean body mass.
Eat This: Salmon Savior
Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese on two rye crackers like Wasa and top with 3 ounces of sliced smoked salmon and ¼ cup of sliced roasted red peppers.
In an International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism study, people who ate chicken noodle soup before cycling drank and retained more water during the ride than those who just downed H2O. Sodium and other aspects of the soup seem to bring about a change in kidney function that promotes better hydration, and the noodles will give you some necessary energizing carbs for endurance.
Eat This: Pregame Potage
Warm up a quality store-bought soup such as Pacific Organic Chicken Noodle about 30 to 60 minutes before cardio. If you need more carbohydrate calories, eat some whole-wheat crackers along with it.
Beyond the benefits of restocking energy stores and healing muscles, British researchers showed that people who consumed protein and carbs in a 3-to-1 ratio after a treadmill run experienced less bone breakdown and increased bone formation. Cottage cheese has all the protein you need for speedy recovery, while add-ins like granola and fruit will please your carb-thirsty muscles.
Eat This: Bone-Bolstering Bowl
Blend together ¾ cup of low-fat cottage cheese, 2 teaspoons of
peanut butter, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 frozen chopped banana. Pour into a bowl and top with raspberries and granola.
Put a Cherry on Top
Pucker up: Several studies show that the antioxidants in tart cherries (particularly the American-grown Montmorency variety) can promote better recovery from exercise, including decreasing muscle inflammation due to repetitive motions such as running. And when consumed after endurance exercise, the simple carbs in dried fruit are more likely to be stored as glycogen than as fat.
Eat This: Power Wrap
Stir together 1/3 cup of ricotta cheese with 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Spread on a whole-grain wrap, and sprinkle with a handful of dried tart cherries.
Mix It Up
If you hit the mat without eating, your body won’t have the pep needed to hold that Crane Pose. Trail mix provides a nice mix of carbs, protein and fat to keep your energy up and your stomach satisfied. Since trail mix tends to be low-glycemic, eating a handful or two will encourage your body to tap into fat stores to power your vinyasa.
Eat This: Ohm-M-G Mix
In a large bowl, toss together 4 cups of air-popped popcorn, 3 ounces of chopped jerky, ¾ cup of pecans, ½ cup of dried cranberries, ½ cup of dark chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds (pepitas).
Hydration and Immunization
Though big on mobility and relaxation, most yoga sessions don’t burn a ton of calories, so post-ohm look for something light and refreshing such as cantaloupe, which is packed with water for rehydration and natural sugars for re-energizing. Eat it with yogurt to tame any post-Warrior I hunger and mend hurting muscles. Bonus: The probiotics found in yogurt may work to bolster immunity in those who like to regularly work up a sweat.
Eat This: Cantaloupe Recoup
Scoop the seeds from a cantaloupe half and fill with plain yogurt. Sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of pistachios and 1 tablespoon of sliced mint.
The antioxidants and minerals in dark greens like spinach contribute to muscle recovery from more intense forms of yoga that require you to pump out one hard move after another.
Drink This: Green-Machine Smoothie
Blend 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, 1 cup of baby spinach and ½ cup of frozen mango cubes.
Helping Hands The sports-nutrition market is so replete with powders, bars and gels, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some of our top picks to power your workouts.
Organic Valley Organic Fuel Whey Protein Powder
This whey protein sourced from organic milk is great for post-gym smoothies, flooding your body with recovery-boosting amino acids.
organicvalley.coop, $30 (12 oz)
HealthySkoop Endurance Beets
Mix this beet powder with water preworkout for a hefty dose of nitrites, which have been shown to increase blood flow to muscles, allowing them to operate more efficiently during training.
healthyskoop.com, $24 (7.7 oz)
GoMacro Thrive Ginger Lemon Bar
With a good balance of carbs, protein and fat, this bar is great for taking the edge off before a workout. Made from 100 percent plant-based ingredients.
gomacro.com, $26 (12 bars)
Munk Pack Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookie
Combine your recovery fuel with dessert with this gluten-free cookie that contains 18 grams of non-GMO plant-based protein.
munkpack.com, $17 (pack of 6)
Made in Nature Figgy Pops Mocha Almond Pop a couple of these 100 percent organic, responsibly sourced, whole-food nutrition balls infused with ground espresso for a preworkout energy boost.
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Skip the side effects most pain medications cause in favor of a cure grown by Mother Nature herself.
If you’ve ever suffered from chronic pain (such as arthritis), acute pain (an injury) or muscle soreness after a particularly tough workout, then you know you’ll do just about anything to find relief: ice, heat, compression, acupuncture, meditation, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and even prescription pain pills. While some of these treatment options are safe, others — namely, the medications — can cause a host of side effects.
In fact, more than 100 Americans die each day from opioid-related drug overdoses, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Regular use of these medications can increase your tolerance and dependence, possibly leading to addiction. They also can negatively affect your respiratory and digestive systems, menstruation, weight and mental health. It’s no wonder that in 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency and announced a plan to combat this opioid epidemic.
So how can you find pain relief without popping pills? Cannabis.
What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
Now you may be thinking, “Whoa, I haven’t smoked pot since that one concert in college” or “I have a job and a family and can’t risk dabbling with drugs.” No worries. We’re actually referencing a completely different part of the cannabis plant than the one used for partying.
CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring molecule in hemp plants that provides a multitude of health benefits. On the other hand, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the molecule that produces the psychoactive high recreational cannabis users enjoy. That means, you can rely on topical CBD products (oils, creams, sprays and gels) for their medicinal properties without experiencing any intoxicating or mind-altering effects. As a result, CBDs are legal in all 50 states, with no restrictions on usage. Additionally, since they do not enter your bloodstream, they won’t show up on drug tests — a crucial component for elite athletes and most anyone with an employer.
It’s also important to note that not all hemp products contain high levels of CBD — in fact, most hemp oil and hempseeds found in grocery stores don’t contain any.
Natural Pain Relief Alternative
Though clinical research is still in its infancy, numerous studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that CBD can help alleviate an array of ailments.
“Topical CBD products are excellent for the management of aches and pains that can prevent you from doing chores and living the lifestyle you desire,” says Kersten Gaba, clinical research nurse and cofounder of Basic Jane, a company that uses plant-based ingredients to create natural remedies. “We have found excellent results with the elderly and people who use their bodies a lot, such as hikers, climbers and golfers.”
Specifically, CBD has been found to help with the following:
Pain. In one study, data indicates that topical CBD application has long-lasting therapeutic effects for arthritis pain and inflammation relief — and without any evidence of side effects.
Inflammation. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory response and also may be beneficial in certain types of cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation. Someday, they could serve as a new class of anti-inflammatory agents for various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Anxiety. Another study found evidence that strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sleep. Preliminary research suggests that CBDs may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia. Plus, they may have short-term benefits for sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. Finally, CBDs may reduce nightmares associated with PTSD and improve sleep among patients suffering from chronic pain.
“Our customers like the idea of being able to target pain relief topically, without taking a pill,” says Jessica Tonani, a biotechnology professional and co-founder of Basic Jane. “For those living with chronic joint pain, a quick application to your knuckles, knees or wrists can allow you to enjoy the activities you love. We suggest gym-goers keep a topical CBD product on hand for use as a localized desensitization before or after a workout.”
While topical CBDs have not been found to cause any discernable side effects, expectant mothers should discuss usage with their physician.
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When it’s time to grill, use these strategies to stay on track.
We all know the importance of a healthy diet in keeping our bodies in optimal shape, but we also know how delicious food can be, especially at a barbecue. The aromas wafting from the grill alone can be enough to make our mouths water. And when the spread is ready, it’s easy to pile our plates high with the good stuff.
There’s no reason to leave a barbecue feeling guilty, though. If you know what you’re doing, it’s totally possible to eat healthy and thoroughly enjoy your food.
Follow these five tips to satisfy your barbecue itch and remain on your health streak at the same time.
1. Always Start With Vegetables
Yes, just like mom and dad used to say, you should eat your veggies first. If you aren’t one for filling up on raw carrots and cauliflower, consider bringing your own produce to throw on the barbecue. You also can stick to this advice by loading up your burger with lettuce, onions, tomatoes and any other veggies you enjoy.
2. Consider Fish, Poultry or Veggie Burgers
Contrary to popular belief, steak and burgers do not have to be the star of every barbecue. Fish, chicken and turkey are all excellent alternatives to red meat. All these cook well on a charcoal grill, though the type of grill you have can make a huge difference in the quality of your food. (Check out this charcoal grilling advice!) If you do go for red meat, purchase high-quality, lower-fat options.
3. Watch Your Condiments
Many of us grew up eating burgers with our ketchup — rather than ketchup with our burgers. But the amount of hidden sugar in this condiment is staggering. Adding condiments like barbecue sauce, ranch, mayonnaise and ketchup can turn a healthy meal into an unhealthy one quickly. If you’re craving condiments, try mustard or ketchup with no added sugar.
4. Bring Your Own Side Dishes
Every thoughtful guest brings the host or hostess a gift, and barbecues don’t have to be an exception. Instead of a bottle of wine or six-pack, bring a healthy side dish or two, or some extra veggies to grill!
5. Opt for Fresh Fruit Desserts
Whether you’re the chef or a guest, add some fruit to your meal as your dessert. It only takes a couple of minutes to cook most fruit on a grill, and the sweetness will really come through.
If you really want to be the life of the party, take a mix of fruits and create a fruit kebab for everyone. Cut up some bananas, peaches and pineapple, rotate on a kebab stick and grill until caramelized. Let them cool slightly and serve!
6. Eat Well and Enjoy Yourself
Adhering to a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to turn down invitations to barbecue with your friends. Eating nutritious food can still be delicious, as long as it’s on your terms.
Fill up on veggies, keep your sweets all natural, limit your fatty meats and condiments, and bring foods you know you can eat. Then enjoy the company, the food and the day as you make memories that will last long after the meal is over.
Be sure to grill your food at the right temperatures so your meat is safe for everyone to consume. Here’s an excellent resource for grilling times that you can keep at your fingertips:
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Break through your diet plateau and kick your metabolism into overdrive with this four-week meal plan.
Here’s the deal, carbs are good for pretty much one thing — providing energy. And let’s face it, going too long without them can take your workouts from awesome to crummy and leave you feeling like a certified couch potato. On the flip side, cutting carbs, even by just a small amount, can help you get (and keep) the summer bod you’ve always wanted. The struggle is real: This love/hate relationship with our favorite macronutrient has got to go. The fix? Carb cycling. It may just be the happy medium you’re looking for.
Carb Cycling 101
Carb cycling is a simple dietary approach in which you alternate the amount of carbs you consume on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. There’s no one right or wrong way of doing it — if you eat fewer carbs today than you do tomorrow, you’re carb cycling. So why do it? There aren’t many scientific studies surrounding the protocol, but we can take some insight from how macronutrients are used in the body and what we want to get out of our training and nutrition habits.
While carbs provide energy — we need them to perform at an optimal level — we don’t need carbs all the time. That’s why it makes sense to use them only when needed the most — during intense physical training. On the days we’re not training to our fullest — maybe it’s an off day or a light training day — cut back on carbs to help improve metabolic flexibility and help the body learn to use fat as fuel. And because the body uses stored glycogen (sugar from carbs) during training, strategic high-carb days can help replenish your supply and increase strength during workouts.
The other cool thing about carb cycling is that targeting your carb intake around training days can help improve insulin sensitivity. If you’re insulin sensitive, the body only needs to release a small amount of insulin to use and store glucose (blood sugar). This factor alone can keep you from putting on too much body fat and prevent you from getting Type 2 diabetes.
To get even better weight-loss results, pair carb cycling with a caloric deficit (reduce calorie intake and/or burn more calories).
Your Four-Week Carb-Cycling Meal Plan
While there are a handful of ways to interpret carb cycling, this plan is based around your training routine. Our plan is laid out for you to use the high-carb and moderate-to-low-fat and protein menus for endurance/cardio or intense training days. On off days and weight-training days, you’ll follow the high-protein, high-fat and low-carb menus. If you’re someone who doesn’t do any cardio or does cardio and weights on the same day, use the high-carb days on weight-training days and follow the low-carb days on off days.
Since we’re changing the amount of carbs we’re eating based on training, we’re going to do the same with protein and fats. You’ll notice that on high-carb days, protein and fat are reduced, while on low-carb days, you’ll be eating more protein and fat throughout the day to maintain satiety and keep calories similar throughout the week.
Though protein has been lowered on high-carb days, it’s still considered “high” in the mainstream nutrition world. This is because no matter what day it is — training, endurance or off day — protein is always important. It helps boost metabolism, burn fat, improve recovery and build/maintain muscle. Plus, it helps keep us full and satisfied long after eating.
How to Tweak the Plan to Your Routine
The meal plan is laid out as follows:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday = Weight-Training Day = Low Carb
Sunday = Off Day = Low Carb
Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday = Endurance/Cardio Day = High Carb
The weekly calendar follows an every-other-day approach to training and cardio days. If your workout schedule follows a two-on and one-off approach, simply use the endurance meal-plan days for on days and the training/off menus for your off/rest days. You can manipulate the meal plan based on your own schedule as needed. So if you workout three days with two days of rest in between, update your meal plan accordingly.
If you’re not seeing the results you’re looking for or have hit a plateau, you can try reducing carb intake to about 30 grams total for the entire day on off days only (aka days of complete rest). Another option is to reduce calorie intake by 100 to 200 on weight-training and off days — this is the equivalent to cutting out one snack — while your high-carb days will remain the same.
Salmon Poke Bowl
Note: Poke bowls are generally made with raw fish or tofu. However, this dish is still fabulous if you choose to cook the salmon or use a smoked variety. To cook the salmon, marinade it in the sauce recipe provided, and either cook on a hot grill or bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
Makes 1 serving
- 3 oz fresh sashimi-grade salmon
- cubed into ¾- to 1-inch pieces(You can find this at your local
- Whole Foods or other freshmarket.)
- ¼ cup shredded purple cabbage
- ¼ cup sliced cucumber
- ¼ cup sliced carrot
- 1 tbsp chives, chopped
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
For the sauce:
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp toasted sesame seeds
- ½ to 1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
1. In medium bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Add salmon and toss well. Set aside.
2. To assemble your poke bowl, add rice first. Then top with the rest of the ingredients and seasoned salmon. 3. Garnish with fresh chopped chives and toasted sesame seeds. Top off with remaining sauce.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 549, total fat 39 g, saturated fat 6 g, trans fat 0 g, protein 21 g, sodium 369 mg, carbs 32 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 3 g
Pizza Mac n’ Cheese Casserole
Makes 6 servings
2 cups whole-wheat elbow
noodles or gluten-free elbow
noodles (Banza chickpea pastais awesome!)
½ cup nonfat milk
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ cup nonfat milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup + ¼ cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp butter
12 turkey pepperonis
½ cup tomato sauce
1. Cook noodles as directed on package until al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. In small saucepan, add ½ cup nonfat milk, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon onion powder, and bring to a simmer.
3. In separate small bowl, mix cornstarch with ¼ cup nonfat milk and add to saucepan. Mix well and continue to stir over heat for a few minutes until sauce starts to slightly thicken, about three to four minutes.
4. Shut off heat and mix in 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Stir until melted throughout. Mix in 1 tablespoon butter.
5. Combine cooked noodles with cheese sauce until well-combined. Add cheesy noodle mixture to casserole dish. Pour tomato sauce over the top. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and top with turkey pepperonis.
6. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until
the top is slightly brown and gooey.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 358, total fat 7 g, saturated fat 3 g, trans fat 0 g, protein 21 g, sodium 379 mg, carbs 58 g, fiber 8 g, sugar 1 g
Pesto Chicken Sandwich
Makes 1 serving
- 2 slices light whole-wheat bread
- 3 oz grilled chicken breast
- 1 tbsp pesto sauce
- 1 slice mozzarella cheese
- 2 slices fresh tomato
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil mayonnaise
1. Heat skillet over medium heat or preheat a countertop panini press or indoor grill.
2. Slather olive oil mayo on one side of each slice of bread. Then spread pesto onto the opposite side of each slice of bread.
3. Assemble sandwich starting with chicken, then tomato and finish with slice of mozzarella cheese. Top sandwich with second piece of bread and place onto heated skillet
4. Cook about two minutes per side (on the skillet), or until bread is toasted and cheese is melted (when using the grill).
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 419, total fat 24 g, saturated fat 5 g, trans fat 0 g, protein 30 g, sodium 575 mg, carbs 24 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 5 g
French Toast With Caramelized Bananas
Makes 1 serving
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg white
- dash ground cinnamon
- dash ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 slices light whole-wheat bread
- 2 tsp butter
- ½ medium banana, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
1. In small bowl, whip egg, egg white, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
2. Dunk and coat bread slices in egg mixture, and cook on grill or skillet until they are golden brown, about one minute per side.
3. Add butter to skillet and place over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add sliced banana, cinnamon, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Stir to combine and saute until they are just cooked and soft, about three minutes.
4. Pour cooked bananas on top of French toast. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and dash of cinnamon.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 324, total fat 13 g, saturated fat 6 g, trans fat 0 g, protein 16 g, sodium 369 mg, carbs 40 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 15 g
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Tailor your eating to your workout passion and get maximum results!
If you’ve worked up the motivation for another sweat fest, good for you — that’s half the battle. The other essential half of the workout equation is eating the best foods for your sport of choice. The path to improved performance and staying lean is much smoother if you nail your nutrition needs for before, during and after exercise. Here’s how to dial in your sports nutrition to maximize your workout returns.
The Core Principles
Preworkout: Pumping fuel into your body before your workout can give you a much-needed burst of energy so you’re ready to perform at your best.
During workout: Hoping to get more out of your epic workouts? Be sure to add fuel to your gas tank so you can keep on motoring.
Postworkout: Smart post-training eats help maximize your recovery, making you stronger and faster in the long run.
What you need: A growling tummy and sagging energy levels are not conducive to a bragworthy workout. And when you aren’t able to pump iron or perform burpees full blast, there is less chance you’ll experience optimal physique gains. As long as you took in a well-balanced meal a couple of hours beforehand, a light snack of 150 to 200 calories should suffice to keep you energized on the gym floor. Including some pre-lifting protein in that snack can work to limit muscle damage during your workout. In fact, there is data suggesting taking up to 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids mixed with water before resistance training can lead to less muscle soreness and even quicker recovery time.
Good eats: String cheese and a handful of grapes, a rice cake with low-fat ricotta and almond butter spread on banana slices
What you need: Most lifting or CrossFit sessions aren’t long enough to warrant taking in extra calories during exercise. Drink water and rely on your preworkout fuel to keep you going strong.
What you need: Tossing around the iron and punishing sets of box jumps damages muscles; taking in protein afterward helps build them back up and switch on muscle protein synthesis. And that’s key for a more toned and stronger physique. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of high-quality protein shortly after shelving the weights. To replenish energy stores, consume about the same number of carbs as protein — say, a carb-to-protein ratio of 1:1 to 2:1.
Good eats: Greek yogurt topped with berries, a protein shake, jerky and a handful of dried cherries
Extra credit: Of all the amino acids that make up protein, leucine is the most important for switching on muscle protein synthesis in response to training. Whey protein powder, ricotta cheese, beef and poultry are reliable sources of leucine.
What you need: When gearing up for some serious training in the pool or open water, the right preworkout fuel can help stymie the premature fatigue that results in less fitness gains and calories burned. But opt for lower-glycemic eats. These will raise your blood sugar more slowly, resulting in a steady stream of energy as well as improved fat burning. Reach for a 150- to 300-calorie snack with at least 60 percent carbs about 45 minutes before jumping in. And down a couple of cups of water for better pre-hydration.
Good eats: Apple slices with nut butter, low-fat yogurt with diced pineapple and a small energy bar
What you need: Generally, if you’re swimming for an hour or less, you shouldn’t require any supplemental calories to get you to the end of a workout. But if your thrill is marathon swims, you should consider surfacing on occasion for a carb-rich fuel to keep those swim strokes strong. (Roughly 20 to 30 grams of carbs during each fueling period should suffice.) If in the throes of a triathalon, the post-swim transition is a good time to fuel up in preparation for the tasks ahead.
Good eats: Gels, sports drinks, dried fruit and chews
What you need: Eat within 60 minutes of exercise cessation, and make it about a 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio to refill your glycogen stores and kick-start muscle repair. That can be a snack containing 40 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein.
Good eats: Hard-boiled egg and banana, cereal and milk, and quinoa with canned tuna
Extra credit: Modern science shows that probiotics can help bolster immunity in endurance athletes like swimmers and runners. Eat fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and tempeh.
What you need: A little bit of nutrition before pounding the pavement or tackling treadmill intervals can help top up your energy reserves so you can work at a higher intensity for longer, resulting in greater performance gains overall. To go strong from the get-go, reach for a 150- to 250-calorie snack consisting of about 75 percent carbs taken 30 to 60 minutes before a run.
Good eats: Plain instant oats topped with dried cranberries, a rice cake with hummus and Medjool dates stuffed with nut butter
What you need: Most runs lasting less than 90 minutes can be fueled on water alone, but anything longer requires extra energy to keep you from coming to a standstill. Running is hard on the digestive track, so bring along easily digested foods that will give you 30 to 60 grams of carbs for each hour of activity. Carbs (in the form of blood glucose and muscle glycogen) are the body’s preferred fuel source, and a supply of them will keep your muscles from zeroing out. To stay on top of your hydration needs during endurance workouts, make it a habit of drinking 2 to 3 cups of fluid for each hour of exercise.
Good eats: Sports drinks, gels, chews and boxed raisins
What you need: Running causes more muscle damage than cycling or swimming, so protein needs are slightly elevated to stimulate the repair process. Your post-run nosh should contain at least 20 grams of protein. Refuel smarter by also consuming twice that amount of carbohydrates to start restocking spent energy stores. The harder the run, the more you need to carb up.
Good eats: Yogurt topped with muesli, a ham and cheese sandwich, and rice cakes topped with canned salmon
Extra credit: Research shows that honey mixed with water can promote recovery in runners by improving hydration and restocking glycogen — your main energy reserves when working hard.
What you need: Whether you’re venturing into the great outdoors or a high-tempo Spin class, a pre-exercise nibble provides your working muscles with an extra energy source so you can go hard from the get-go. For easier rides, eat 150 to 200 high-carb calories about 30 to 45 minutes before hopping on the saddle. If you’re going to go hard and long, bump this up to 300 calories. As with all endurance exercise, avoid too much slow-digesting fiber, fat and protein pre-ride to sidestep stomach woes.
Good eats: Mashed sweet potato topped with pumpkin seeds, half an English muffin topped with almond butter and fresh berries
What you need: Push into the 75-minute or longer time frame on your bike and you’ll likely perform like a champ and steer clear of the dreaded bonk by consuming extra energy to keep your blood sugar and muscle energy reserves from dipping too low. Forget the protein bars and go instead with carb-heavy items that offer up 30 to 90 grams of carbohydrates for each hour of saddle time. Take any fuel with water to help dilute the sugar concentration and prevent GI distress. A low-sugar electrolyte product like Nuun can be helpful to slip into your water bottle for especially sweaty Spin classes.
Good eats: Banana, energy bars, chews and Fig Newtons
What you need: Following a hard ride, think of your body as a dry sponge ready to soak up recovery nutrients. Recharge your body with a postworkout snack or meal containing roughly a 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio. Because cycling can tax your energy reserves, aim for 1 to 1.25 grams of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight. And chug back 2 cups of water for every pound you shed during exercise.
Good eats: Pasta with meat sauce, pita with hummus and a berry smoothie
Extra credit: Nitrates have been shown to increase exercise tolerance by lowering the oxygen cost of working out. Beets are Mother Nature’s nitrate powerhouse, so a couple of hours before endurance exercise, drink a cup of beet juice or a concentrated beet powder like Healthy Skoop mixed with water.
What you need: If you’re heading out for an ambitious hike, grab a pre-tramp snack that provides about 300 calories consisting of quality carbs and a bit of protein to stave off the hunger monster and also give your legs a little extra gas.
Good eats: Peanut butter on toast, small wrap with sliced ham and muesli with milk
What you need: When out for the long haul, your body requires some fuel to help you push farther down the trail or bag a summit. The moderate pace of most hiking is easier on your digestive system, so it can handle more complex foods than when in the throes of other endurance activities like running. So be sure to reach for your feed bag every hour or so during your forest bathing to avoid cueing up muscle fatigue and brain fog.
Good eats: Trail mix (duh!), homemade energy bars and balls, dried fruit, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
What you need: Recalibrate your system by seeking out protein to help repair the muscle damage associated with striking the ground and carbs to start building back the energy stores you spent hiking up a storm. As with running, seek out foods that give you about a 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio. If it was a particularly sweaty hike, allow for extra liquid and a shake of salt to replenish sodium.
Good eats: Cottage cheese with mango, chicken with brown rice and toast with sliced hard-boiled egg
Extra credit: Mega-healthy omega-3 fats, which dampen inflammation in the body, may hold the answer to less muscle pain after impact exercises like hiking and weightlifting. Get what you need by eating at least two servings of fatty fish like sardines and salmon each week.
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To understand more about these critical nutrients and why you need them, let’s take a closer look.
We all know that protein provides the building blocks for muscle. And it’s common knowledge that on the molecular level, amino acids provide the building blocks for protein. But not all aminos are the same, and the amounts of each you need vary based on overall protein consumption and the requirements of your fitness lifestyle. To understand more about these critical nutrients and why you need them, let’s take a closer look.
There are 20 proteinogenic amino acids that create proteins in the body to perform countless physiological and chemical processes, including muscular development and maintenance. These are categorized according to their need to be supplied in the diet or the body’s ability to manufacture sufficient amounts for health. The three categories are known as essential, nonessential and conditionally essential.
Essential Amino Acids
Eight amino acids are considered essential for adults in that they are required to be provided by food consumption. Your body requires these to synthesize proteins to support anabolic muscular growth and reduce catabolic muscle breakdown, yet it cannot manufacture them. The essential amino acids are L-isoleucine, L-leucine, L-lysine, L-methionine, L-phenylalanine, L-threonine, L-tryptophan and L-valine. In addition, two additional aminos are considered essential for infants only: L-arginine and L-histidine.
Nonessential Amino Acids
A second group of amino acids is known as nonessential. There are five in this group that can be manufactured by your body through ingestion of essential aminos and other protein compounds. Therefore, supplementation of these is not critical for health so long as you eat a balanced diet. The nonessentials include L-alanine, L-asparagine, aspartic acid, L-glutamic acid and L-serine.
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids
Finally, there are six conditionally essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body in sufficient amounts to meet specific demands, such as catabolic distress from crash dieting or high-intensity training. In addition, these are shown to provide significant health benefits through supplementation. The six in this category are L-arginine, L-cysteine, L-glutamine, L-glycine, L-proline and L-tyrosine.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Three of the essential amino acids noted above — leucine, isoleucine and valine — are unique in the way they are synthesized and used in the body. Known collectively as branched-chain amino acids, this trio helps produce energy within muscle tissue that is even more efficient than glucose (typical muscular fuel). In addition, they stimulate protein synthesis, which promotes muscular growth. Leucine specifically triggers an increase in mTOR activity, which activates anabolic growth. For this reason, BCAA supplements typically have ratios that include extra leucine versus isoleucine and valine (such as 4:1:1 or even 10:1:1).
Specific Benefits of Select Aminos
Dietary protein assimilation is handcuffed by something known as the “limiting amino-acid factor.” In essence, this means that if any essential amino acid is not present in sufficient quantities compared to the others, it limits protein synthesis. This is why blends of plant-based proteins, which are deficient in various aminos, are more anabolic than individual ones. Of course, whey is considered the king of proteins because of its complete amino-acid profile.
Yet the benefits of amino acids extend beyond protein consumption and digestion. Extensive research shows that individual aminos provide specific health benefits that can be achieved through supplementation. Leucine and the BCAAs are an obvious example when it comes to building muscle, improving recovery and providing energy for exercise. But there are others with research-backed benefits. (See accompanying chart.)
Required Consumption of Aminos
Because they are required to be provided via the diet or supplementation, the essential amino acids have specific requirements for daily ingestion. These easily should be met through a balanced diet consisting of about 30 percent of your caloric intake from complete protein (poultry, lean red meat, whey supplements, etc.).
Here are the minimum daily needs for aminos, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids (The National Academies Press, 2002 and 2005):
Histidine: 14 mg/kg bodyweight per day
Isoleucine: 19 mg/kg
Leucine: 42 mg/kg
Lysine: 38 mg/kg
Methionine (plus cysteine): 19 mg/kg
Phenylalanine (plus tyrosine): 33 mg/kg
Threonine: 20 mg/kg
Tryptophan: 5 mg/kg
Valine: 24 mg/kg
To determine your basic needs, first calculate your bodyweight in kilograms. Do so by dividing by 2.2 (i.e., 100 pounds / 2.2 = 45.5 kilograms). Then multiply by the indicated number to obtain your basic need (for leucine it would be 42 x 45.5 = 1,911 milligrams). Incidentally, that’s not a whole lot of leucine for someone who exercises. For instance, use of BCAAs at 2.5 grams (2,500 milligrams), with 76 percent leucine (1,900 milligrams), have been shown to increase protein synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown. As a result, researchers have suggested increasing the average minimum requirement to 45 milligrams/kilograms or more — which would mean about 2,048 milligrams (45 milligrams x 45.5 kilograms). However, please note that this amount should be even greater for exercising individuals.
Obviously, this is only the beginning of a complex subject, but it will provide the basics to help you know more about amino acids. To get the most out of your training and be as fit as possible, amino supplementation is something to look at more closely.
- L-arginine: Nitric-oxide production, stronger immunity, healthy hair, manage menopause symptoms, blood-sugar management
- L-carnitine: Weight loss, preserve muscle, anti-aging antioxidant, blood-sugar management
- L-cysteine: Stronger immunity, healthy hair, anti-aging antioxidant
- L-glutamine: Stronger immunity
- L-glycine: Healthy hair, digestive health, anti-inflammation, stronger immunity
- L-histidine: Recovery, growth regulation, healthy skin, nerve health
- L-isoleucine: Muscular growth, preserve muscle, muscular energy
- L-leucine: Increased protein synthesis, anabolic muscular growth, muscle energy
- L-lysine: Shorten cold-sore flair-ups, improve mood
- L-methionine: Fight arthritis, healthy hair
- L-phenylalanine: Mood improvement, concentration, memory
- L-proline: Skin and nail health
- L-threonine: Stronger immunity, liver health
- L-tryptophan: Healthy sleep, improved mood
- L-valine: Muscular growth, preserve muscle, muscular energy
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