Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

December 22, 2009

‘Tis the Season to Cheat – Part II

Filed under: diet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 5:46 pm

I am finally writing the follow-up to my first post about cheating during the holiday season. It seems a fitting time to do so, as the house is quiet with the insulin-induced slumber that followed the grit, biscuit, and beignet-filled meal my we enjoyed upon my parents’ arrival. We tried to ameliorate the carbs with some salmon and sausage, but there was only so much they could do.

It is so easy during these times to throw caution to the wind and just not care if we get fat/spike our insulin/feel momentarily sick, etc. The food is just too good, too available, and too festive to pass up.

But I was reminded again today of the impact our diets have on our well-being when it was evidenced through our friend Graham’s athletic performance. He was saying that he’s been feeling like he just doesn’t have it in him about five minutes into the last couple workouts, and I asked what he’s been eating. He grinned, sheepishly. I hated to remind him, because of course I’m reminding myself as well, but the clearest and quickest way to see the impact of a bad diet is in your performance of the gym. Now, you may not really care if your Fran time doubles this month. But, your suffering athletic performance is a sign of the stress and havoc being done to your body on the inside. And that is something you should care about.

So, in an effort to assist us all with keeping some semblance of health during our holiday bingeing, I am writing these posts. If you haven’t read the first post, start there. The most important things to remember to keep yourself on track is portions. Little bits of even the most sugar-drenched items will not hurt you that much. But if you’re wanting to really dig in, try one of the following ideas.

Eggnog

A treat only available during the holiday season, it is all the more tempting for its transience. This one’s actually made of pretty decent materials – eggs, cream, yum! – but it’s loaded with sugar. Add least all the fat helps to control your insulin response.

There are a few ways to attack this sweet, creamy beast of a drink.

1) Buy the normal stuff and cut it with milk. This is the lazy (wo)man’s option. I find that if I mix it half and half with milk, it is still thick and delicious, but I can enjoy a large glass without much of an insulin spike. Milk has the bonus of a little extra protein, but you could also use half-and-half or heavy cream – anything to reduce the sugar.

2) Make your own with raw milk and alternate sweeteners.

Here’s one recipe:

4 beaten egg yolks
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar (use 1/8 t stevia and 2 Tbl agave, or whatever your favorite sweeter may be, instead)
1 cup whipping cream
Ground nutmeg

Mix the egg yolks, milk, and sugar in a large saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture gets slightly sticky. Remove from heat. Submerge pan in sink or bowl of ice water and stir for 2 minutes. If you wish, stir in whipping cream, 2 tablespoons bourbon, 2 tablespoons rum, and vanilla. Chill for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle each glass with nutmeg.

3) For non-dairy folks, make your own with coconut milk. Use the above recipe but use 3 cups coconut milk instead. It will have a distinct flavor, but doesn’t coconut eggnog sound delicious?

Christmas Cookies

Ok, if it’s sugar cookies you love, you’re out of luck. As the name should indicate, they’re pretty much diabetes incarnate. However, if it’s just the tradition of making, baking, and taking sweet morsels of goodness while a frosty wind blows outside, why not try a less evil version? The apple spice cookie recipe below comes from a childhood friend (with a few modifications) and is scrumptious.

Apple Spice Cookies

1 1/2 Cups SIFTED WHOLE WHEAT (OR ALTERNATIVE  ALMOND, SPELT, OAT) FLOUR

1 LG SCOOP VANILLA PROTEIN POWDER

2 TBSP GROUND FLAX SEED

1 TSP BAKING SODA

½ Cup SOFT BUTTER

1 Cup SUGAR (OR 1/3 C SUGAR, 1/4 TSP STEVIA, 1 TBSP AGAVE)

½ TSP SALT

1 TSP CINNAMON

1 TSP GROUND CLOVES

½ TSP NUTMEG

1 EGG

1/2 C NUTS – CHOPPED

2 APPLES

1 C RAISINS – CHOPPED

  1. PRE HEAT THE OVEN AT 375 DEGREES. GREASE COOKIE SHEET.
  2. SIFT FLOUR , PROTEIN, AND BAKING SODA IN BOWL.  ADD FLAX SEED.
  3. PUREE APPLE JUICE, EGG, SHORTENING, SPICES, SUGAR IN BLENDER. COMBINE WITH DRY INGREDIENTS.
  4. ADD CHOPPED NUTS, APPLES, RAISINS. MIX UNTIL WELL-BLENDED. WILL BE LUMPY
  5. SPOON IN 1-2 INCH GLOBS ONTO COOKIE SHEET. WILL BE IRREGULARLY SHAPED.
  6. BAKE 5-10 MINUTES. SPRINKLE/SIFT WITH POWDERED SUGAR FOR AESTHETICS IF DESIRED.

Makes about 40 cookies. Two cookies have about 100 calories – 6 fat, 10 carbs, 3 protein.

Peppermint Bark

Another deadly temptation is peppermint bark. Usually arriving in large sheets or unevenly broken pieces, portion sizes are hard to figure and chaos generally ensues. There’s no way to make this one good (well, all of these things are not actually GOOD), but at least you can make it better. Stay away from the white chocolate versions (what is white chocolate besides all the bad and none of the sex-hormones?), and go for a dark version of this holiday favorite. The darker the better.

Midnight Peppermint Bark

  • 8-12 oz. of high-quality, organic, dark chocolate – we like around 70% cocoa
  • 2 regular sized candy canes, crushed up
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract

1 Break up peppermint candy into very little pieces. You may need to put it into a think plastic ziploc and pound it with a hammer. Since we’re cutting back the candy, you’ll want it very fine so as to distribute it more evenly.

2 Melt the chocolate according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually in a double boiler. Once melted, add the peppermint extract and stir. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.

3 Pour the melted chocolate out onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and spread out with a spatula or wooden spoon. Sprinkle the peppermint candy chunks on to the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands.

4 Place in the freezer for 5 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces and serve or store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Those are my ideas, for now. If you need to bring a dessert to Christmas dinner, try making a fruit crisp with minimal extra sweetener and nutty topping. I’ll be making a mixed berry crisp with just a little tapioca, stevia, and agave in the fruit with a crumble of pecans, cinnamon, agave, stevia, and butter on top. I’ll let you know the proportions when I make it.

Merry Christmas!

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November 18, 2009

Intensity: It’s Not Just Cause We’re Crazy

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 7:07 pm

If you have already tasted the CrossFit Koolaid, then you know how we feel about intensity. To say we like it would be an understatement. Perhaps, you think, these crazy people just get off on throwing their bodies around – on the ground, on the rings, under and over weights of various shapes and sizes – and generally looking like a circus gone terribly wrong. Or maybe they just are in so much pain from their contortions that they want to get the hated workout over as quickly as possible.

While both of those factors certainly come into play, there is actually some science behind our madness. It has been documented that high intensity exercise produces more of what we all want – aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, strength, fat-burning, growth hormone production, bone density, and overall hottness – and does so in less time than conventional methods of exercise.

Dr. Izumi Tabata was the first to document the effects of max-effort intensity exercise over low intensity or moderate intensity exercise. Here is what Mark Sisson had to say about it in his post  on tabata sprints:

“Tabata’s findings from a 1996 study on moderate and high-intensity interval training helped legitimize a movement – away from chronic cardio and toward high-intensity workouts. He showed that high-intensity intermittent training actually improves both anaerobic (intensity and muscle building) and aerobic (slower, oxygen consuming) body systems, while aerobic exercise only improves aerobic systems. Of course, these findings would come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever done burpees to exhaustion, or followed a CrossFit WOD.”

Mark is referring to our belief that chronic cardio – spending hours and hours spinning your wheels on an elliptical or pounding away on the concrete at moderate or low intensity – is a poor use of your time and may even be harmful in the long run. Cardio addicts have a hard time hearing that their beloved 6 miles a day is putting unnecessary stress on their joints and producing results that could be equalled or surpassed in 20 minutes with a kettlebell.

So how can you get a taste of this infamous intensity? It’s incredibly easy.

A Tabata workout consists of choosing an exercise that can be done to a maximum effort for a short burst of time – this can be cycling, swimming, rowing, burbees, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, thrusters, or the basic, sprinting – and giving a maximum effort for 20 seconds, then resting for 10 seconds, and then repeating 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. (Note: elliptical machines won’t work because they do not allow a maximum effort.) If you’re adventurous, you can select a series of 3-5 exercises, doing 8 rounds of maximum effort for 20 sec on 10 sec off  for each exercise in succession. The key is the words “maximum effort.” With sprinting, it helps to imagine that a hungry tiger is behind you. Point is: run as fast as you possibly can each time. If you don’t think you can get a workout in 4 minutes, I urge you to try this. Run hard, take only 10 seconds for rest, and if you’re not tired, you should head for the olympics.

If you’re reading this and you don’t already incorporate high intensity exercise, I urge you to give this a try. Just adding this in one day a week – maybe that evening you think you don’t have time to workout – can make a huge difference.

You may look crazy, but it will be worth it.

November 4, 2009

The Efficacy of Exercise: Another Perspective

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 3:32 pm
treadmill

Enter the "fat-burning zone"

Andrew stumbled upon this article on the NY Times’ website today that captured our attention. Micah already wrote one post, but I thought I’d add another, as I had already vented my frustrations in print format.

The article begins, “For some time, researchers have been finding that people who exercise don’t necessarily lose weight.”

It continues, “It is well known physiologically that, while high-intensity exercise demands mostly carbohydrate calories (since carbohydrates can quickly reach the bloodstream and, from there, laboring muscles), low-intensity exercise prompts the body to burn at least some stored fat.”

Their point is that exercise at the intensity they recommend for “fat burning” (low intensity) does not burn enough calories to significantly impact weightloss.

However, what they are referring to as “high intensity” is actually med-high intensity – what we call “chronic cardio“. That is when you are performing aerobic exercise at over 50% of your max but not pushing into the next level where things become anaerobic and you reach your output threshhold. That is how you get the “afterburn” – increased metabolic rate for an extended period after exercise – that this writer says doesn’t exist.

Low level cardio and med-high level cardio are not the only kinds of exercises out there. False dichotomy alert!!! It is such a destructive myth that there is this magical “fat-burning zone” that causes you to burn more fat if you workout at an easy pace than if you work out more intensely. This is how you end up with miles of eliptical machines churned by overweight, frustrated, burnt-out cardio queens.

At least at the end of the article they allow that exercise can change something in people’s metabolic pathways that enables them to keep the fat off. If only they had researched the effects of actual high-intensity anaerobic exercise on metabolic pathways – hello change!

Ultimately, this article starts out with a truth – exercise alone produces only very limited weightloss – but then does a horrible job of researching (not to mention articulating) everything that follows. Diet changes are extremely important, perhaps more important than exercise if your goals are simply to lose fat, but that doesn’t mean that exercise has no impact or that a kind of exercise (maybe not cardio-based???) might show more of an impact.

Furthermore, losing fat should NEVER be anyone’s sole health or fitness goal. Our longevity and other indicators of health increase in proportion to our percentage of lean muscle mass to total weight, so our goal should always be to increase muscle while decreasing fat.

So yes, if you just want to be thin, then stop that cardio and just make your diet tighter than a deadlifter’s bum cheeks. You will probably lose fat. And you will probably be miserable. But if you want to be healthy – strong, energetic, happy, AND thin – then go out for some tabata sprints, lift some heavy weights, AND trim the unsightly edges off your diet.

At least one thing is clear, by either of our standards: chronic cardio is POINTLESS!

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October 13, 2009

Pep Talk

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , — Micah Vandegrift @ 11:22 pm

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