Posts Tagged ‘diet’

Article written by Prograde author, Kevin DiDonato MS, CSCS, CES

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

What do you think is the most popular New Year’s resolution for this year – and pretty much every other year?

Give up?

It’s to get a six-pack!

You see it every day when you hit the gym… The people doing endless crunches, sit-ups, and bicycle crunches because they want to get the flat stomach or rippling six-pack…

But the truth is:  They are doing it all WRONG! Doing hundreds of crunches – over and over again – will NOT get you’re the flat midsection you’re dying to have.

So what happens then? You lose all gumption…you lose your motivation…you quit when you’re just getting started!

So here’s the deal…

I am going to give you a blueprint – one that if you use it in combination with a bulletproof diet – then you too, could have the flat midsection or rippling six-pack to show the world!

The Secret to Six-Pack Abs

If you search the internet, over 3,000,000 results will come up in regards to getting a six-pack.

Some of the tips are good…while others may not be so good.

If you really want to get a six-pack this year, then you need to do the following:

1) Eat a healthy diet – this is the most crucial step in stripping away the small – or thick – layer of fat that is covering your belly.

You should be focusing your efforts on lean cuts of meat, whole fruits and vegetables, essential fats (coconut oil, olive oil, and Krill oil), and plenty of healthy carbs.

These foods may go a long way to boosting your metabolism and stripping away the fat that is covering your six-pack.

2) You need to exercise – this is another crucial step in the six-pack process.  Now, before you think your exercise plan should contain hundreds – if not thousands – of crunches, think again!

There are plenty of other exercises that you may be able to do that could lead you to a stronger core and lower back.

And this could eventually lead to a six-pack!

So what exercises should you do? Well, you should be focusing on exercises that help stabilize your and build strength in your lower back, hips, abs, and all the other supporting muscle groups.

One of the best exercises for accomplishing this is (drumroll please)…

The PLANK!

This is one of the most fundamental exercises that taxes almost every muscle in your body – but especially the core.

The best part of the plank:  Anyone can do them!

Some may have to start at a different point them others, but most people should be able to the plank for developing the core.

The plank is an exercise that can be changed to make it harder (feet position) or to put stress on different areas of the core (1-arm plan reach).

So, here’s what you need to do to start off the plank:

First, you should start in the push-up position (can be done from the knees as well).  Bend your elbows so they are at a 90 degree angle with your weight now resting on your forearms.

Now , straighten your legs so you are in full push-up position with your hips parallel to the floor, with your body in a straight line from your head to your feet.

Tuck your belly in towards your spine and maintain a tight core throughout the exercise.

For beginners, you should focus on holding it as long as you can,  It could be 10 seconds or 30 seconds, whatever the time, you’re working on getting your core stronger which will help with almost every aspect of your life.

But what happens if you can’t hold it for a long time?

It’s okay if you can’t hold it for a long time…

The more you practice and the more you do it, the stronger your core will become.

That means no more back pain…

A stronger core that keeps the fat OFF your belly…

And an easier time doing every day activities like playing with your kids or going hiking!

Take Home Message

Let’s recap right now what you have learned today…

First, in order to get a flatter belly you need to include the right foods in your diet.  No sugar…no processed junk…and no additives of any kind (including HFCS).

Then you need to exercise!  A program that includes strengthening, cardio, high intensity training (not for everyone), and flexibility is a great, well-rounded workout.

If you notice, I didn’t mention crunches or sit ups!  If you want to maintain a strong core – one that fat melts off of – you should include the plank into your exercise program.

This is one of the BEST exercises for developing the core WITHOUT putting an abundant amount of stress on crunches.

This one exercise could make everything in your body stronger – including your abs!

So, if you want a flat belly, start using these helpful tips today!

One of my earlier posts, definitely worth re-reading…

allandnieva.me

Oatmeal is a solid, healthy option for breakfast. Period.

However, when I say, “Oatmeal”, I mean the ‘real stuff’.  Not the heavily processed, flavored, instant ‘oatmeal’.  That stuff is absolutely TERRIBLE for you.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the ingredients on a box of the ‘instant oatmeal’ vs regular oats that require 30 minutes of cooking.  You can’t count the number of ingredients in the instant oatmeal on two hands!  But you only need one finger to count the number of ingredients on say, steel cut oatmeal – OATS.

While any form of oatmeal will be ‘heart healthy’, the fiber in the instant oatmeal packets will not be very soluble, therefore unusable in the way they were meant to be utilized by the body.

For example, take a look at a brand of “heart-healthy” instant oatmeal (their claim), the “Maple and Brown Sugar” flavor.

First, there is no maple in…

View original post 352 more words

Shamrock Shake

I hope you are all enjoying the day today.

A friend of mine forwarded this to me and I wanted to share it.

If you’re training for a mud run and absolutely *have* to have this, then I hope it’s your cheat day!  This is pretty horrible, as far as nutrition is concerned, but if you’re going to just get it on a whim, then you might want to consider the nutritional information about it.

It’s eye-opening, but I’d rather know than not know.

 

It’s hard enough figuring out the right foods to buy at the grocery store when you’re working on staying healthy.  However, one of the things we rarely think about are condiments.  We get to the aisle, shrug, grab what we like or what we think is best.

However, Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, and Author lays out the top 5 healthiest  and the top 5 not-so-healthy condiment choices.

condiments

The Top 5 Healthiest Condiments (and the WORST)

I’m sure you can think of all sorts of condiments that are obviously NOT healthy…

What about Mayo?  Sorry…

With processed refined soybean oil as the main ingredient in most mayos, there’s NOTHING healthy about mayonnaise.  It causes internal inflammation and harms your omega-6 to omega-3 balance with excess omega-6 fats.   Tartar sauce has the same issues as mayo.  If you can find a mayo made with 100% olive oil instead of soybean oil, this would actually be a healthy choice.

Ketchup?  Not quite…

Yes, ketchup is made from tomatoes so it does contain the beneficial nutrient lycopene.  Unfortunately ketchup has a high % of sugar, and most brands are made with nasty high fructose corn syrup.  Not good.  Hey, I’m a ketchup lover myself, but I just try to keep the quantity small to minimize the sugar intake.

Barbeque Sauce?  Nope…

BBQ sauce is actually worse than ketchup because it has higher levels of sugar or HFCS and lower levels of actual tomato.  Strike 3 with BBQ sauce.

Salad Dressing?  Not most store brands…

There’s not much healthy about most store bought salad dressings…most contain HFCS and soybean oil or unhealthy canola oil as the main ingredients.

Most “fat-free” salad dressings are simply loaded with extra sugar.  Plus, remember that you need a good fat source to go with your salad to help absorb the vitamins and minerals in your veggies, so fat-free dressing is not a good option.  Even most salad dressing brands that claim to be “made with olive oil” only have small amounts of actual olive oil, while unhealthy soybean or canola oils are main oils used.  Instead, try this homemade salad dressing recipe:

  • 1/3rd of container filled with balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3rd of container filled with apple cider vinegar
  • fill the remaining 1/3rd of container with equal parts of extra virgin olive oil and “Udo’s Choice EFA Oil Blend”
  • Add just a small touch (approx 1 or 2 teaspoons) of real maple syrup
  • Add a little bit of onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper and then shake the container to mix all ingredients well.

So, what are the top 5 healthiest condiments?

Below, I give you my top 5 picks for the healthiest condiments for a lean healthy body.  Sure, there might be a few others not on this list that are also healthy, but these are my top 5 picks:

1. Mustard

That’s right… mustard is absolutely one of the healthiest condiments!  First, it has no added sugar.  Also, mustard seed itself is a source of powerful antioxidants.  In addition to the antioxidants in the mustard seed, most yellow mustards also contain turmeric (one of the healthiest anti-cancer spices) and paprika, which both contain powerful antioxidants as well!

2. Guacamole

I know, I know… when do I ever stop talking about avocados and guacamole.  Sorry, it’s one of my favorite foods, and I eat avocados or guacamole just about every single day.  At this point, I don’t think I need to explain why Gaucamole is healthy, as I think everybody knows this by now… but a quick recap:  lots of healthy fats (that satisfy your appetite and regulate hormone balance), lots of fiber, and plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

And creamy guac just makes anything taste better!  I put it on eggs, on burgers, on chicken or fish, or just eat it with veggie sticks.  If you buy pre-made guac from the store, just be sure to check the ingredients and make sure it doesn’t have added trans fats or other artificial ingredients.  But it’s so simple and fast to make fresh guac, I don’t know why anybody would buy pre-made guac.

3. Salsa

Although ketchup was on the unhealthy list due to the sugar content, salsa makes the super healthy list as it almost never has added sugars if you get a good brand.  Salsa is mostly just vegetables so it’s hard to go wrong.  I like it on my morning eggs for variety sometimes.  I also like to mix salsa half and half with guacamole for a delicious party treat!

And if you’re a ketchup lover and want to reduce your sugar intake, just try salsa instead for a much healthier option.  Trust me… salsa on a burger is just as delicious as ketchup on a burger.

Just remember that the corn chips that people generally cram down their throats with salsa are NOT even close to healthy.  Corn chips are almost always fried in a heavily refined omega-6 oil such as corn or soy oil, and are inflammatory.  Plus, most corn used for corn chips is genetically modified.   Organic corn chips are a small step in the right direction (this ensures it’s not GMO corn), but I’d still try to keep the quantity small if you’re going to eat corn chips with salsa.

4. Hummus

Hummus is mostly just chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, and olive oil, and is easily one of the healthiest condiments or as a separate snack by itself.

The main thing to look for when buying a good hummus is to make sure it’s made with olive oil and NOT soybean or canola oil.  Unfortunately most brands use cheap soy or canola oil, but if you’re a label reader, it’s easy to find a brand that uses solely olive oil.

One of my favorite snacks is just veggie sticks with hummus.  However, hummus is also a delicious condiment to go with sandwiches, on top of meat dishes, etc.
5. Pesto

Pesto is generally a mashed mix of garlic, pine nuts, basil, olive oil, and grated cheese.  It’s a great source of healthy fats and also powerful antioxidants, mostly from the garlic and basil, but to some extent from the pine nuts and olive oil too.

Pesto goes incredibly well with sandwiches, on meat dishes, or surprisingly, even on eggs.

There’s one more condiment we didn’t cover yet that you might be wondering about…

What about hot sauce?  Actually, hot sauce is fairly healthy.  Most hot sauces don’t have added sugars.  And the hot peppers are actually good for you too and could even cause a slight and temporary metabolism increase.  The only drawback to most hot sauces is a moderately high sodium content.   But unless you go nuts with loads of hot sauce on every meal, the sodium content in hot sauce will not be an issue.

So now that you know 5 of the healthiest condiments, don’t be afraid to indulge next time you need one of these tasty additions to your meal.

Elisa Lenox wrote this article for Beachbody.com – I like the perspective she takes on nutrition – “Rather than focusing on what you shouldn’t eat, let’s take some time to focus on a few beautiful, flavorful, and health-building foods you should eat”

I hope you enjoy it!

***

Why is it that advice on healthy eating usually seems to center on what not to put in our mouths? With the endless ways we’re taught to limit calorie intakes and watch out for “bad” fat and carbohydrates, it’s almost easy to forget that there’s a whole world of foods out there that don’t threaten to give you heart disease, diabetes, or an expanded waistline.

Various Fruits and Vegetables

Rather than focusing on what you shouldn’t eat, let’s take some time to focus on a few beautiful, flavorful, and health-building foods you should eat—specifically, foods rich in phytonutrients, the naturally occurring pigments that lend color and chemical protection to the plant kingdom, while also offering astounding health benefits.

The study of phytonutrients (“phyto” meaning “plant” and “nutrient” meaning, well, “nutrient”), also known as phytochemicals, is a relatively new field in nutrition, with more research unfolding on these substances than can be covered in one article. However, it’s fair to say that what is currently known lends powerful credence to that ageless maternal advice “eat your vegetables.”

Scientists have categorized classes of phytonutrients that offer different properties and benefits and it just so happens that many of these classes are represented by their colors. So read on and discover why becoming a connoisseur of the plant-based nutrient spectrum is a brilliant strategy that will help to preserve both your health and physical charm.

Blue/Purple FruitsBlue/Purple – Anthocyanins are flavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals that cause aging and degenerative disease. There’s even a connection between this phytonutrient and decreased visceral (abdominal) fat! A 2008 study from Chubu University in Japan found a link between anthocyanin intake and reduced incidence of metabolic disorders, including abdominal weight gain, hypertension, and impaired glucose and insulin metabolism. True, blue anthocyanin sources include red cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, cherries, grapes, blue potatoes, eggplant, and radicchio.

Orange/Yellow – Multiple studies indicate that diets rich in beta-carotene lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. This amazing phytonutrient falls into the carotenoid class that (along with the flavonoid group) has been credited in a 2010 Tufts University study for providing photo protective and antioxidant action in the skin. In short, these inflammation, wrinkle, and cancer preventing nutrients protect your skin from the inside out! To get a bit of beta-carotene, try sweet potato, carrots and carrot juice, winter squash, pumpkin, and cantaloupe.

A GuavaRed – Lycopene has been in the news a lot lately for its positive influence on prostate health, but it’s also thought to prevent cervical dysplasia in conjunction with other carotenoids. In other words, it’s also good for the uterus, making it an equal opportunity nutrient. In addition, a 1996 University of Minnesota study found a significant increase in longevity based upon the blood lycopene levels of nuns living the same lifestyle, in the same conditions. If you’re ready to get into the red, try tomato and tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, and papaya.

Yellow/Green – The light absorbing properties of lutein are associated with eye health involving a decrease in cataract formation and macular degeneration. Mellow, yellow lutein sources include spinach, kale, collards, mustard and dandelion greens, summer squash, and pumpkin.

SpinachGreen – Chlorophyll’s abilities to bind toxins and decrease oxidative stress make it a powerful bodily detoxifier and explain how it can actually reduce body odor. You’ll be seeing green with chlorophyll sources like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, arugula, green beans—any green vegetable. The darker, the better.

Green/White – Another detoxifier, sulphoraphane is part of the isotheocyanate class of phytonutrients that has been cited in multiple studies as a cancer preventative and detoxifier of carcinogens. Some super sulphoraphane sources include broccoli, brussels sprouts, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, and watercress.

White – The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities of allicin lend to its reputation as an inhibitor of heart disease and gastric cancer as well as a potent immune booster. All-around awesome allicin sources include garlic, onion, leek, shallot, and chives.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to polychromatic eating. Use a food processor to quickly shred red cabbage and brussels sprouts into an easy chopped salad with pomegranate seeds, blanched almonds, and a homemade lemony dressing, or gently wilt kale or Swiss chard in olive oil with garlic, onion, and thinly sliced yellow bell pepper. Spiced sweet potatoes or winter squash bake in less than 40 minutes for a simple, energy-boosting carbohydrate serving. Fruit and leafy green packed smoothies are a fantastic way to throw together a quick, nutrient dense breakfast.

How can you ensure that you’re drenching your system in these healthful, beauty-boosting nutrients every day? Make it a personal mission to sample from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily and get as innovative with your recipes as your imagination and nature’s color palette will allow. Get creative and, before you know it, you’ll be benefiting from the phytonutrient rainbow!

Yes, I know I just posted an article about how to ‘get through Thanksgiving dinner’ but, honestly, I won’t apply most of that information to myself.

During the holiday seasons, so much time and energy is spent thinking about what to eat, what not to eat, how much or how little to eat at the celebration table.

Honestly, I know how frustrating it is when we’re so focused on the food and not the reason we’re coming together during these times.

For many of us I understand that we need to watch what we eat and that Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Years shouldn’t be a time to ‘betray our diets’.  I understand that.

But really, for those of us who have been ‘eating clean’ all  year (or even just the past few months), enjoying a large meal one day after all this time isn’t bad.  Or, it isn’t as bad as we make it out to be in our heads.

Our focus during this time should truly focus on the joy and happiness and goodness (for lack of a better word) of the holidays instead of trying to feel better about work you did not put in the other 360+ days of the year.

Thanksgiving is by most all accounts a meal… maybe two (or in my case, four or five).   So… Eat!  It isn’t the meal that will destroy you.  If you have consistently responsible with your diet year round, one day of just enjoying food and good company is not terrible.  In all actuality, the food you take in is probably fresher, cleaner, and better for you than any of crap you eat out of the vending machines or even some of the snacks you sneak in during the work day.

 

I’m on shift today and I’m enjoying our Thanksgiving meal(s) today with the crew when we can (ie. between missions).   Yes, I will be eating a lot of food.  I normally do – but it is not about the food as much as it is about just enjoying the time.  I plan for it as part of my training regimen – it just feels good to enjoy good food.  Food was meant to be be enjoyed, not feared.  The simple act of enjoying a celebratory meal is good for your mind and soul.

So…  Have you been training hard and eating well all year and now you want that pumpkin pie?  Eat it. More turkey and stuffing? Go to town. Another dessert? I say, “have at it!”

These are times to enjoy with good company – to reflect on what you’re truly thankful for and… to enjoy eating!

10 Popular Diet Tips to Ignore

By Kara Wahlgren for Beachbody.com

If you’ve ever tried to lose a few pounds, you’ve probably been inundated with diet tips. But take them all with a grain of salt—some advice may sound legit but can actually derail your diet. Here are 10 tips you don’t want to follow.

1. BAD ADVICE: Always choose fat-free or sugar-free foods

BETTER ADVICE: Don’t believe the hype. “They usually use fat and sodium to replace sugar, and sugar to replace fat—or chemicals to replace both,” says Denis Faye, Beachbody’s nutrition expert. And Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and author of the upcoming book, The 1:1:1 Diet, adds, “Removing fat from a food makes it less satiating, so you ultimately may end up eating more.” Stick with the original versions, and watch your portions or better yet, eat more unprocessed foods.

2. BAD ADVICE: No cheating ever!

BETTER ADVICE: Relax your diet rules, and you’ll be more likely to stick it out long-term. “If 80% of your diet is tight, then 20% can be a party,” Faye says. “It keeps you from getting stressed—and stress is a huge obstacle in weight loss.” Just plan your splurges ahead of time so you’re not giving in to every temptation that crosses your plate.

3. BAD ADVICE: Stop snacking.

BETTER ADVICE: Choose snacks that offer a balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats—like apples with peanut butter, or carrots with hummus. “A healthy snack can help maintain steady blood sugar levels, which keeps your appetite in check and your energy stable,” Batayneh says. Skipping a snack can cause your blood sugar to dip, leaving you moody and famished—and more likely to overeat at mealtime.

4. BAD ADVICE: Don’t eat fruit—it’s full of sugar.

 Man Eating GrapesBETTER ADVICE: Let fruit satisfy your sweet tooth. “Yes, fresh produce is full of sugar and carbs,” Faye says. “But sugar itself is not the enemy. Fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals; it’s also rich in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar. I’ve never met a human being who got fat because of bananas.” When you’re craving sugar, there’s no debate that a handful of grapes is healthier than a hot fudge sundae.

5. BAD ADVICE: If it’s organic, it’s good for you.

BETTER ADVICE: According to the USDA, organic food is produced without antibiotics, growth hormones, conventional pesticides, and synthetic ingredients.1 The problem is that many people assume organic foods are all low in calories, too, which isn’t necessarily true. Don’t get us wrong—we’d rather eat food that doesn’t resemble a science experiment. But, Faye cautions, “You need to use common sense. If it’s bad for you with conventional ingredients, it’s still bad for you when it’s organic.” A cookie is a cookie, no matter how all-natural it is.

6. BAD ADVICE: Calories in, calories out—it doesn’t matter what you eat.

 Salad with CakeBETTER ADVICE: What you’re eating matters. Compare a 100-calorie candy bar to 100 calories of avocado—the latter is packed with nutrients and has healthy fats and fiber to keep you full. Or compare 50 calories of spinach (about seven cups) to 50 calories of ice cream (about two tablespoons). To feel full when you’re cutting calories, look for foods loaded with water and fiber, like veggies or broth-based soups. Plus, “Hormones have a huge impact on our health. Junk food can trigger bad hormonal responses that, over time, can lead to all kinds of problems, including weight gain,” Faye says. Occasionally, someone will pop up in the news claiming they lost a ton of weight while eating nothing but Subway®, Starbucks®, or Snickers® bars—but don’t put too much stock in those success stories. “When you go that route, you’re not educating yourself,” Faye says. “It’s like the teach-a-man-to-fish adage. If you give someone a gimmicky diet, they might lose weight for now; but provide them with knowledge, and they can be healthy for life.”

7. BAD ADVICE: Try XYZ Extreme Diet—it works for everyone!

BETTER ADVICE: Find a plan that works for you. Gender, age, genetics, metabolism, and lifestyle can all play a role in weight loss—so even if a fad diet has worked for others, that doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results. “There’s no single diet that works for everyone; our biochemical needs are different,” Faye says. Talk to a dietitian or nutrition consultant to find a long-term eating strategy that is tailor-fit to you.

8. BAD ADVICE: When in doubt, order the salad.

BETTER ADVICE: Choose your greens wisely. Leafy greens and vegetables may be virtuous, but not if they’re slathered in creamy dressing and topped with bacon, candied nuts, croutons, deli meats, or cheese. “Fatty fixings can add hundreds of calories to your meal, and sometimes contain more calories than that juicy burger!” Batayneh says. Salad can be a healthy choice, but order dressing on the side and limit the add-ons.

9. BAD ADVICE: Don’t exercise—it’ll only make you hungrier.

 Woman Working OutBETTER ADVICE: Get moving—an hour-long workout isn’t going to make you suck down calories like Michael Phelps. “Exercise isn’t just for losing weight—it improves your cardiovascular health and strengthens your bones,” Faye says. You might feel hungrier while recovering from a grueling workout, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to pack on pounds. “As long as you’re eating clean, your body is amazing at self-regulating,” Faye adds. “It should crave the calories you need to fuel your workouts, not to get fat.”

10. BAD ADVICE: Treat yourself for a job well done!

BETTER ADVICE: Rethink your reward system. After an intense workout, you may feel like you’ve earned a cocktail or cupcake. But splurging after every workout can quickly undo all your hard work. If you’ve been good all week, go ahead and grab a guilt-free beer on Friday. But, Faye says, “Don’t let every workout become a Pavlovian thing where you need to eat cake afterwards.” After all, the best reward for a killer workout is getting one step closer to the body you want.

Resource:

  1. http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml
 Next weekend, I’ll be running the Gladiator Rock n Run.  I thought this would be a great time to share this article.  I’ve used this information for all my races.
By Trisha Reeves • For Active.com
Proper nutrition during training is just as important as your weekend long run for a strong race performance. But all your healthy salmon and spinach dinners won’t mean a thing if you fall off the wagon just before the race.Poor pre-race nutrition choices can leave you feeling ill, groggy, or exhausted on race day—all things that can spoil your performance. Don’t make these rookie mistakes at your next big race.

Lazy Hydration

A well-hydrated runner is more alert, stays cooler, and needs less fluids during a race. But many runners love their beer and coffee. Especially at big races, it’s tempting to celebrate the night before with fellow runners and a few brews, some salty beer nuts, and wake up the next morning in desperate need of coffee.

When it comes to an important race, do right by yourself and replace some of that beer and coffee with water. Don’t just dump two 20-oz. bottles of Gatorade down your throat ten minutes before you hit the starting line. Concentrate on staying hydrated for one or two days before the race, to ensure your body is ready.

Greedy Carbo-Loading

I once ran a 10K on the morning of January 1. The night before the race, I celebrated with friends and stuffed my face. I thought this would give me plenty of energy for the race, but it also gave me some stomach misery. I achieved a PR that day—because I was racing for the bathroom.

Eating too much pre-race food is a big blunder because your body may not have enough time to eliminate everything before gun time. Since running stimulates your bowels, you might find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation. Have a good pre-race dinner, but don’t overeat.

Missing Protein

If I earned a quarter every time I heard the phrase “carbo-loading” used to describe pre-race nutrition, I’d be up for early retirement. Sure, a certain amount of carbohydrates are needed for energy during a race, but consuming a meal made entirely of pasta and bread the night before race day isn’t your best bet.

Carb-laden meals like pasta and bread are satisfying, but they’re made of mostly simple sugars that burn off quickly and can leave you feeling sluggish. Runners may forget that fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of complex carbs.

Fruits and veggies also contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They provide energy with less calories. They also digest more slowly and thoroughly, which means less waste the next morning.

Skipping Breakfast

Your jumpy nerves can make it hard to think of food on race day. But as bad as overeating can be, going out there on an empty stomach can be just as detrimental. You’ll go through your energy stores quickly and you may end up hitting a wall.

Your best bet is to have a small meal made up of protein and carbohydrates, one hour or two before the race. My preference is to allow myself an extra few minutes in the morning so I can make a smoothie with some quick-digesting whey protein. Some other options are potassium-rich bananas, a bagel or a PB&J sandwich.

Creative Experimentation

It’s always good to try out new ways to fuel before and during running. Just don’t do it on race day. Think logically when you’re deciding what to eat right before your race. You wouldn’t wear a brand new pair of running shoes on race day, and the same goes for new foods.

Kelly Bastone • Runner’s World

As a runner, your go-to daily fare is probably pretty healthy: pasta, lean meat, salad. But simple food swaps—yogurt instead of skim milk, olive-oil vinaigrette instead of fat-free dressing—can pack more nutrients into every bite.

“Nutrient density means foods have a high nutrient content relative to their calories,” says Marisa Moore, R.D., L.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “They are the most efficient way for runners to fill up on essential vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates.” Making nutrient-rich foods the main focus of every meal means runners can properly fuel up for workouts without worrying about adding on pounds.

How can you tell if a food is high in nutrients? In general, the less processed it is, the more nutrients it will provide. Adding fresh fruits and vegetables is the easiest way to improve any meal, since most are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Certain food pairings improve a meal’s overall nutritional value by “unlocking” other nutrients, says Elaine Magee, M.P.H., R.D., author of Food Synergy: Unleash Hundreds of Powerful Healing Food Combinations to Fight Disease and Live Well. When you buy packaged foods, scan the nutrition label for double-digit Daily Values for fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. “The goal,” says Moore, “is to get the best nutrition you can every time you eat.”

Pre-Workout Breakfast

MEAL: Oatmeal with milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar
MAKEOVER: Oatmeal with almonds, strawberries, and low-fat yogurt
NUTRITION BOOST: “Oatmeal is a good option for runners,” says Moore, because its whole-grain carbs are rich in B vitamins, which help convert proteins and sugars into energy. A recent study also showed that B vitamins may help build and repair muscle and red blood cells. Substitute low-fat or fat-free yogurt for milk: Cup for cup, yogurt delivers more protein, potassium, and calcium.

Skip the brown sugar and sweeten your oatmeal with fresh or frozen strawberries, which are high in vitamin C and will boost calcium absorption from the yogurt. Add crunch with almonds, a good source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats.

Post-Workout Lunch

MEAL: Turkey sandwich on a baguette with lettuce and light mayo
MAKEOVER: Whole-grain wrap with turkey, spinach, tomato, and pesto
NUTRITION BOOST: Whole-grain breads contain more fiber and B vitamins than white varieties — even crusty baguettes. Instead of sliced bread, choose a wrap, which makes it easier to fold in more vitamin A and K-rich spinach. Eaten with tomato and turkey, spinach completes a trio of B vitamins that’s been shown to help build red blood cells and protect against heart disease.

Pesto, made with olive oil, basil, and pine nuts, adds a healthy serving of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A recent study showed that when eaten with vegetables, these fats improve the absorption of beta-carotene (found in spinach) and other nutrients.

Carbo-Loading Dinner

MEAL: Whole-wheat pasta with marinara sauce
MAKEOVER: Whole-wheat pasta with marinara sauce, white beans, broccoli, and grilled chicken
NUTRITION BOOST: Pasta and beans is a traditional Italian pairing that delivers far more fiber, protein, iron, and calcium than noodles alone. “Anywhere you can add beans, go for it,” says Magee, because they’re relatively low in calories but pack a big nutritional punch. Chicken offers additional protein to fuel recovery; plus, it helps the body use the iron contained in beans. “Meat, poultry, and fish act as absorption enhancers to make the iron in beans more available,” says Moore.

Broccoli adds lots of calcium, vitamins A and C, and high amounts of sulforaphane, which has cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties. “That’s great news for runners, who put extra demands on their knees,” says Magee. (To get more sulforaphane, sprinkle broccoli sprouts, which look similar to alfalfa sprouts, into your sauce.)

Post-Race Celebration Dinner

MEAL: Ribeye steak, salad with fat-free dressing, and diet soda
MAKEOVER: Top sirloin steak with capers; mixed greens with carrots, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrette; red wine
NUTRITION BOOST: A recent study showed that antioxidants found in capers may help prevent cell damage that results from digesting meat—damage linked with a higher risk of cancer. Choose round or sirloin cuts, which are lean but still high in iron. Use an olive-oil vinaigrette on your salad to improve the absorption of nutrients in carrots and greens.

Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that’s valuable for runners because it protects cells from oxidative stress. Red wine may boost the antioxidant effects of vitamin E and may inhibit the growth of certain cancers.

Can Coffee Protect Your Heart From Failing?

By Kevin DiDonato MS, CSCS, CES

If you are like most people in the world, then there is probably a good chance that you start your day off with one or more cups of coffee to get you moving.

Coffee, which is a stimulant, is used by millions of people as a way to wake up and become more alert to start their day.

However, coffee has many more benefits than just waking you up in the morning.

In fact, coffee has powerful antioxidants and phenols, which have been shown by research to slow, and could even reverse, the aging process.

Not only that, but coffee has been used by athletes as a way to boost performance, potentially giving them a competitive edge over their competition.

The caffeine found in coffee has also been shown to increase fat burning by stimulating your central nervous system, which could, therefore, stimulate increased fat burning.

Coffee has also been linked to a reduction in different forms of cancer (endometrial and prostate) plus other age-associated diseases.

Now, a new study published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure could show a potential relationship between moderate coffee consumption and a reduction in heart failure risk.

Let me explain…

Coffee and Heart Failure Risk

According to this study, there is no real consensus in research on coffee consumption and the risk for heart failure.

The authors of this study aimed to see if there was an association between coffee consumption and risk of heart failure.

They performed a systematic review and a dose-dependent meta-analysis (past and current research studies that are related to the specific topic), looking at coffee consumption and heart failure risk.

Their search included studies between January 1966 through December 2011, which included five prospective studies that resulted in 142,220 participants and 6,522 heart failure events.

The researchers noted there was a J-shaped curve between coffee consumption and risk for heart failure.

Their work showed that, compared to no coffee consumption, having four servings per day of coffee resulted in a lower risk for heart failure.

They also noted that higher coffee consumption resulted in a higher risk for heart failure.

From their work, they concluded that moderate coffee consumption is inversely associated with a lower risk of heart failure.

Also, they showed that the largest association came when people consumed four servings of coffee per day.

Although this research is new and exciting, more research needs to be completed in order to verify these findings.  However, this study does show a positive relationship between coffee consumption and heart failure risk, but again, more research is needed before clear recommendations can be made.

Coffee and Your Health

Coffee consumption has been shown in research to benefit your overall health and wellness.

Due to the concentration of antioxidants and phenols, coffee has been shown to reverse aging and age-associated diseases.

Now, according to this study, moderate coffee consumption has been linked to a reduced risk for heart failure, regardless of sex, previous history of heart attacks, and diabetes.

So go ahead and enjoy your coffee, research suggests, your health could benefit from it.  Just don’t go overboard!