Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Importance Of Physical "Variability" In Cardio Exercise

Your Cardio Workouts May NOT Be Helping You Unless You Incorporate A High Range Of Heart Rate Shifts In Your Training

Are you a cardio junkie? Everyone seems to think that "cardio" is the best way to get in shape and lose body fat.  I'm going to show you with this article why I disagree!
It is quite common to hear fitness pros, doctors, and other health professionals prescribe low to moderate intensity aerobic training (cardio) to people who are trying to prevent heart disease or lose weight. Most often, the recommendations go something like this:
"Perform 30-60 minutes of steady pace cardio 3-5 times/week maintaining your heart rate at a moderate level"
Before you just give in to this popular belief and become the “hamster on the wheel” doing endless hours of boring cardio exercise, I’d like you to consider some recent scientific research that indicates that steady pace endurance cardio work may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
First, realize that our bodies are designed to perform physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery, or stop-and-go movement instead of steady state movement. Recent research is suggesting that "physical variability" is one of THE most important aspects to consider in your training. 

This tendency can be seen throughout nature as most animals tend to demonstrate "stop-and-go" motion instead of steady state motion. In fact, humans are the only creatures in nature that attempt to do “endurance” type physical activities such as running long distances at the exact same speed the whole time.
Most competitive sports (with the exception of endurance running or cycling) are also based on stop-and-go movement or short bursts of exertion followed by recovery.
To examine an example of the different effects of endurance or steady state training versus stop-and-go training, consider the physiques of marathoners versus sprinters. Most sprinters carry a physique that is very lean, muscular, and powerful looking, while the typical dedicated marathoner is more often emaciated and sickly looking. Now which would you rather resemble?
Another factor to keep in mind regarding the benefits of physical variability is the internal effect of various forms of exercise on our body. Scientists have known that excessive steady state endurance exercise (different for everyone, but sometimes defined as greater than 60 minutes per session most days of the week) increases free radical production in the body, can degenerate joints, reduces immune function, causes muscle wasting, and can cause a pro-inflammatory response in the body that can potentially lead to chronic diseases. 

Highly variable cyclic training
On the other hand, highly variable cyclic training has been linked to increased antioxidant production in the body and an anti-inflammatory response, a more efficient nitric oxide response (which can encourage a healthy cardiovascular system), and an increased metabolic rate response (which can assist with weight loss). Furthermore, steady state endurance training only trains the heart at one specific heart rate range and doesn’t train it to respond to various every day stressors.
On the other hand, highly variable cyclic training teaches the heart to respond to and recover from a variety of demands making it less likely to fail when you need it.  Think about it this way... Exercise that trains your heart to rapidly increase and rapidly decrease will make your heart more capable of handling everyday stress. Stress can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase rapidly. Steady state jogging and other endurance training does not train your heart to be able to handle rapid changes in heart rate or blood pressure. 

The important aspect of variable cyclic training that makes it superior over steady state cardio exercise is the recovery period in between bursts of exertion. That recovery period is crucially important for the body to elicit a healthy response to an exercise stimulus. Another benefit of variable cyclic training is that it is much more interesting and has lower drop-out rates than long boring steady state cardio programs.

To summarize, some of the potential benefits of variable cyclic training compared to steady state endurance training are as follows: improved cardiovascular health, increased anti-oxidant protection, improved immune function, reduced risk for joint wear and tear, increased muscularity (versus decreased muscularity with endurance training), increased residual metabolic rate following exercise, and an increased capacity for the heart to handle life’s every day stressors. 

Sports Workouts and Sprinting
There are many ways you can reap the benefits of stop-and-go or variable intensity physical training. Most competitive sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, racquetball, tennis, hockey, baseball, etc. are naturally comprised of highly variable stop-and-go motion which trains the heart through a MUCH wider heart rate range compared to just steady walking or jogging. 
Doing swimming workouts in a variable intensity fashion may also be more beneficial than just swimming for a long duration at the same speed.  Same goes for bicycling -- that is why mountain biking, which involves extreme ups and downs at various intensity levels may also be more beneficial than just a long flat steady pace bike ride.
One of the absolute most effective forms of variable intensity training to really reduce body fat and bring out serious muscular definition is performing wind sprints.  Wind sprints can be done by sprinting at near max speed for 10-30 seconds, and then taking 60 seconds to walk for recovery before your next sprint. 6-12 total sprint intervals is usually a very challenging workout for most people.
In addition, weight training naturally incorporates short bursts of exertion followed by recovery periods. High intensity interval training (varying between high and low intensity intervals on any piece of cardio equipment) is yet another training method that utilizes exertion and recovery periods. For example, an interval training session on the treadmill could look something like this: 

Warm-up for 3-4 minutes at a fast walk or light jog
Interval 1 - run at 8.0 mi/hr for 1 minute 
Interval 2 - walk at 4.0 mi/hr for 1.5 minutes 
Interval 3 - run at 10.0 mi/hr for 1 minute 
Interval 4 - walk at 4.0 mi/hr for 1.5 minutes 

Repeat those 4 intervals 4 times for a very intense 20-minute workout.
Also, don't overlook other great ways to incorporate variable intensity cardio training by using a jump rope, a rowing machine, stairs running, or even outdoor hill sprints.

The take-away message from this article is to try to train your body at highly variable intensity rates for the majority of your workouts to get the most beneficial response in terms of heart health, fat loss, and muscle maintenance.
Source: Mike Geary – Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Specialist

Antioxidants - One Of The Secrets To A Youthful Appearance, Anti-Aging, Disease Prevention, And A Leaner, Stronger, Healthier Body!

I’m sure by now you’ve heard all about the amazing health benefits of antioxidant rich foods in your diet. Not only do these free-radical fighting antioxidants help you look and feel younger by slowing down the aging process, but they can also help to prevent cancer, heart disease, and loads of other degenerative diseases. 
But that’s not all. Antioxidants also help you to recover better from exercise… and that means you can build more muscle and burn more body fat in the long term! 
And although we all want to be healthy and feel youthful... most of us also want to look good!
The function that antioxidants play in aiding your recovery from exercise is the inhibition of free radicals produced during exercise.  Any time you workout, free radicals are produced in the body that can create inflammation.  Having an adequate supply of antioxidants about an hour or so before your workout can greatly reduce the damage caused by free radicals, hence, improving your muscular recovery from exercise.  
Some of the most potent sources of whole food antioxidants are berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries), cherries, acai fruit, various teas (green tea, white tea, black tea, yerba mate, oolong tea, chammomile tea, red tea - a.k.a. rooibos tea), nuts, seeds, red and black beans, purple potatoes, grapes, red wine, nuts and seeds, coffee, dark chocolate or cocoa, and tons of other fruits and vegetables. 
Many spices are also extremely potent sources of antioxidants -- such as cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, basil, black pepper, and most other herbs and spices.
My favorite pre-workout antioxidant-loaded snack is a piece of whole grain toast with almond butter, a small amount of blackberry jam, and topped with a pile of fresh blueberries or sliced strawberries.  I wash it down with a glass of iced green tea or rooibos tea sweetened with just a small bit (about a teaspoon) of raw honey.  This is literally a quintuple-whammy of potent anti-oxidants!
The almond butter, blackberries, blueberries, raw honey, and the green or rooibos tea are all loaded with different varieties of muscle protecting, youth promoting antioxidants.  I throw down this snack about an hour before my training. Give it a try for yourself, or be creative and come up with your own antioxidant-rich pre-workout snack based on your tastes.
Remember, your body is continually bombarded every day by free radicals (creating oxidative stress) from exercise, air pollution, smoke, sun exposure, junk food, exposure to chemicals, etc. To reap the full benefits of antioxidants, try to make sure that every meal and snack you eat has at least one or two sources of antioxidant rich foods. This will give you a continuous supply of antioxidants throughout every day to prevent the damage and aging that result from the free radicals you are constantly exposed to.
I recently helped design a very powerful and synergistic antioxidant blend supplement. Since I personally know the owners of this company, I know these are legit and good quality...
Although I typically don't recommend many supplements (because 95% of them are usually bogus), the 2 supplements I do recommend are a good antioxidant blend and a Krill oil (which is even more powerful than fish oil).
This antioxidant blend (called Longevity) contains a powerful blend of some of the most potent antioxidants on the planet such as:
  • pomegranate
  • acai berry
  • coffeeberry
  • green tea
  • wolfberry
  • and biovin grape (same antioxidants as red wine)
Antioxidants are just one piece to the puzzle of a healthy diet that will give you the lean, muscular, youthful (can help slow aging markers), and disease free body that everyone wants. 
Source: Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer

Body Part Isolation vs. Complex Movements In Strength Training

What You Need To Know About Weight Training For A Strong Lean Body That Both Looks Good And Is Injury Resistant!
Working as a personal trainer & fitness professional, there is one type of question I get all the time that shows that many people are missing the big picture regarding the benefits of strength training. This popular question usually goes something like this:
“What exercise can I do to isolate my _______ (insert your muscle of choice – abs, quads, biceps, triceps, etc)?”
It doesn’t matter which muscle someone is asking about, they always seem to be asking how to ‘isolate’ it. My first response to this question is always – “Why in the world would you want to isolate it?”
The first thing I try to teach my clients is that the body does not work well in muscle isolation. Rather, it works better in movements along a kinetic chain; that is, large portions of the body assist other portions of the body in completing a complex movement. In fact, there really is no such thing as true muscle isolation. There is almost always a nearby muscle group that will assist in some way with whatever movement you are doing. However, this article compares attempting to ‘isolate’ body parts via single-joint exercises to the much more effective strategy of performing multi-joint complex movements.
When you attempt to ‘isolate’ muscles by performing single-joint exercises, you are actually creating a body that is non-functional and will be more prone to injury. Essentially, you are creating a body that is a compilation of body parts, instead of a powerful, functional unit that works together.
Now if you really want to end up hobbling around in a body bandaged up with joint problems, tendonitis, and excess body fat, then by all means, continue trying to ‘isolate’ body parts. On the other hand, if you would rather have a lean, muscular, injury-free, functional body that works as a complete powerful unit to perform complex movements (in athletics or even everyday tasks), then you need to shift your focus away from muscle isolation.
Believe me, focusing on how well your body functions will give you the side effect of a body that looks even better than it would have if you focused on muscle isolation. For example, take a look at the physiques of any NFL running backs, wide receivers, or even world class sprinters. Trust me when I say that these guys pretty much NEVER train for muscle isolation (their strength coaches wouldn’t be crazy enough to let them), yet they are absolutely ripped to shreds! Just look at guys like Maurice Green or Terrell Owens and tell me who wouldn’t want a physique like those guys.
Another benefit to moving away from the ‘muscle isolation’ mindset in weight training to a more ‘complex movement’ mindset is that you will find it much easier to lose body fat. The reason is that by focusing more on multi-joint complex movements as opposed to single-joint muscle isolation lifts, you not only burn a lot more calories during each workout, but you also increase your metabolic rate, and stimulate production of more fat burning and muscle building hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone.
Let’s look at an example. The machine leg extension is a single joint exercise that works mainly the quadriceps, can potentially cause knee joint instability in the long run, and doesn’t even burn that many calories. On the other hand, exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and deadlifts are all multi-joint complex movements that work hundreds of muscles in the body (including the quadriceps) as a functional unit, create more stable and strong joints in the long run (when done properly), and also burn massive quantities of calories compared to the single-joint exercises. 
Now although I do feel that multi-joint exercises should comprise the majority of your weight training workouts, I also think that there can be some benefits with just minor inclusions of single-joint exercises for variety, etc.  I choose to build my training programs with about 90-95% multi-joint exercises and about 5-10% single-joint exercises at most.
Source: Mike Geary - Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer

Focus On Both Consistency AND Variability In Your Workouts For THE Best Results And To Avoid A Training Plateau

In one of my recent articles, I spoke about the fact that you must alter your training variables that make up your workouts if you want to continuously get good results, whether it is losing weight, building muscle, or toning up -- Exercise Variables for Breaking Plateaus.
While changing your training variables is an integral part of the success of your training program, your workouts shouldn’t be drastically different every single time. If you are all over the place on each workout and never try to repeat and improve on specific exercises for specific set and rep schemes with specific rest intervals, then your body has no basis to improve on its current condition.
The best way to structure your workouts to get the best results is to be consistent and try to continually improve on a specific training method for a specific time period. A time period of 4-8 weeks usually works best as your body will adapt to the specific training method and progress will slow after this amount of time.
At this point, it is time to change around some of your training variables as I described in the "exercise variables" article, and then stay consistent with your new training program for another 4-8 weeks. To refresh, some of these variables are:
  • the numbers of sets and reps of exercises,
  • the order of exercises (sequence),
  • exercise grouping (super-setting, circuit training, tri-sets, etc.),
  • exercise type (multi-joint or single joint, free-weight or machine based),
  • the number of exercises per workout,
  • the amount of resistance,
  • the time under tension during each exercise,
  • the base of stability (standing, seated, on stability ball, one-legged, etc.),
  • the volume of work (sets x reps x distance moved),
  • rest periods between sets,
  • repetition speed,
  • range of motion,
  • exercise angle (inclined, flat, declined, bent over, upright, etc),
  • training duration per workout, training frequency per week, etc.
For example, let’s say you are training with a program where you are doing 10 sets of 3 reps for 6 different exercises grouped together in pairs (done as supersets) with 30 seconds rest between each superset and no rest between the 2 exercises within the superset. If you are smart, I’m sure you are tracking your progress with a notepad (weights used, sets, and reps) to see how you are progressing over time. Let’s say that after about 6 weeks, you find that you are no longer improving with that program. Well, now it is time to change up your variables, and start a new program.
This time you choose a classic 5 sets of 5 reps routine, but you group your exercises in tri-sets (three exercises performed back to back to back, and then repeated for the number of sets). This time you decide to perform the exercises in the tri-set with no rest between them, and then recover for 2 minutes in between each tri-set to fully recoup your strength levels.
There you have it…a couple examples of how to incorporate both consistency and variability into your training programs to maximize your results.
Source: Mike Geary - Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Barbell, Kettlebell And Dumbbell "Complexes" To Take Your Body To A New Level of Hardness and Conditioning!

dumbbell complexes
If you've been looking for a different training technique to break out of a rut, eliminate the boredom, and bring on new results, workout "complexes" may be just what you've been looking for.
What are workout "complexes"?
If you've never heard of "complexes" before, the basic concept is that instead of repeating the same exercise for multiple reps to complete a "set", you sequence one rep of several different exercises right after one another and repeat the sequence several times to complete a "set". It's basically like performing a routine, instead of just mindlessly performing a typical "set".
This type of training is excellent to work a huge amount of your body's musculature in a short amount of time, and definitely takes your workouts to a whole new level of intensity. The conditioning aspect of this type of training is amazing, as you'll find yourself huffing and puffing after repeating a sequence a mere two or three times.
If I had to venture a guess, I'd have to say that this type of training probably elicits a good growth hormone response as well, due to the large amount of full body work completed in a given time period. 
I like to incorporate about 5 exercises into my complexes. Any more than that and you might start to forget what's next in the sequence.  I'm going to show you example routines to use for "complexes" below for barbells, dumbbells, and even kettlebells too. I'm willing to bet this is a totally different style than you've ever trained before.
Here's an example of a killer barbell complex that really gets me fired up:
Example Barbell "Complex" Sequence
  1. 1 rep:  barbell clean and press from floor (explosive lift of barbell from floor to "catch" on front shoulders in one motion, then push-press overhead);
  2. 1 rep:  barbell back to thighs, then hang clean (explosively pull bar from knees and "catch" the bar at shoulders);
  3. 1 rep:  keep barbell at shoulders, then front squat;
  4. 1 rep:  barbell back to thighs, bend over, then bent over row;
  5. 1 rep:  barbell back to thighs, then finish with Romanian deadlift
  6. repeat each rep of the sequence 2-3 times
Use a weight that you can still handle for your weakest lift of the bunch, but keep it heavy enough to challenge you. Try to repeat the sequence 2-3 times without resting... That's 1 set. You could progress over time on this routine by increasing the amount of times you repeat the sequence in each set, or by adding sets on subsequent workouts before eventually increasing the weight.
For example, say you completed the above complex with 155-lbs for 3 sequences per set for 3 sets in today's workout. Next time you perform the workout, try to do 155-lbs for 3 sequences per set for 4 sets. Once you successfully complete 5 sets with 155, increase the weight 5 or 10 lbs next time, and drop back to 3 sets. This is a great way to make improvements over time, while cycling your training volume.
Now I'm going to show you a great kettlebell complex that really kicks my butt.  If you don't have a kettlebell, you can use a dumbbell, but I'd highly recommend picking yourself up a kettlebell... they're very convenient to have around the house when you want to bang out a quick intense workout at home without going to the gym.
I've been training with kettlebells for about 5 years now, and can definitely say that they've dramatically improved my strength and overall physical capabilities. If you're not familiar with kettlebells, they are an old eastern European training secret that has just started to take the US by storm over the last few years. Many elite athletes are using kettlebells as their preferred training tool for serious results.  If you're new to kettlebells, you can learn how to get started with kettlebells at this article.
I'd recommend just starting off with one kettlebell and learn all of the single kettlebell drills first, before delving into the double-bell drills. Just one kettlebell coupled with some bodyweight exercises can literally be enough to comprise your own home gym, without any other equipment necessary. Or a kettlebell can just be a great alternative workout to incorporate into your routines once or twice a week. Either way, it opens up a whole new world of training for you.
Example Kettlebell Complex
  1. one arm swing
  2. one arm snatch, keep the bell over head;
  3. one arm overhead squat;
  4. bell back down to bottom, then one arm high pull;
  5. bell back down to bottom, then one arm clean & press
  6. repeat sequence with opposite arm
As with the barbell complex, repeat the sequence (without rest) 2-3 times with each arm. That's one set...and one hell of a killer set at that!  Try increasing from 3 to 4 to 5 sets on subsequent workouts with a given weight before increasing your sequence reps. If you're not drenched in sweat with your heart beating out of your chest after that complex, you either went too light, or you are a mutant freak!
Since dumbbells are more accessible to most people than kettlebells, now I'll show you how to put together a good dumbbell complex.  This dumbbell complex is a better option for beginners or intermediate exercisers.  The barbell and kettlebell complexes I showed above are for advanced trainees.
Example Dumbbell Complex
  1. dumbbell squat and push-press
  2. front lunge with one leg, then the other
  3. back lunge with one leg, then the other
  4. curl to overhead press
  5. keep dumbbells at shoulders and squat
  6. repeat sequence 2-3 times
Again, the same type of sequencing and progressions explained with the barbell complexes work great with the dumbbell complexes. I think an amazing workout strategy is to alternate barbell complexes on one day with kettlebell or dumbbell complexes on alternative training days.
For example, you could do barbell complexes Monday, kettlebell or dumbbell complexes Wednesday, and back to barbell complexes on Friday. Maybe hit some sprints and bodyweight drills on Saturday; then Monday would be K-bell or D-bell complexes again, Wednesday would be barbells again, and so on. Give this program a try for a month (if you dare), and you will be one hardened individual!  Make sure to shift to a different training style after 4-5 weeks as your body starts to plateau on this specific training routine.
Source: Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

My Top 55 Lean-Body Foods To Boost Your Energy, Balance Hormones, AND Lose Body Fat

healthy steak

In many of my Newsletters, I like to provide a healthy snack or meal recipe that not only is delicious and healthy, but also helps to get you closer to that hard-body appearance that everyone is looking for, while also more importantly, improving your health for life. In this article, I'd like to give you healthy food ideas in a different way. This time, I figured I'd just give you some ideas of what I stock my fridge and cabinets with.
Remember, if you don't have junk around the house, you're less likely to eat junk!  If all you have is healthy nutritious foods around the house, you're forced to make smart choices. Basically, it all starts with making smart choices and avoiding temptations when you make your grocery store trip. Now these are just some of my personal preferences, but perhaps they will give you some good ideas that you'll enjoy.
Some of these will be obvious healthy choices, such as fruits and veggies... however, others on this page I think will surprise you!
Alright, so let's start with the fridge. Each week, I try to make sure I'm loaded up with lots of varieties of fresh vegetables. During the growing season, I only get local produce, but obviously in winter, I have to resort to the produce at the grocery store. Most of the time, I make sure I have plenty of vegetables like onions, zucchini,  spinach, fresh mushrooms, red peppers, broccoli, etc. to use in my morning eggs.  I also like to chop up some organic chicken or turkey sausage or grass-fed bison sausage into the eggs, along with some swiss, jack, or goat cheeses (preferably raw grass-fed cheeses when I can find them). 
By the way I'm talking about whole eggs, NOT egg whites.  Always remember that the yolk is the most nutritious and nutrient dense part of the egg, so only eating egg whites is like throwing away the best part... and no, it's NOT bad for you because of the cholesterol... whole eggs actually raise your GOOD cholesterol.  Try to get free range organic eggs for the best quality. There's an entire article I did on the topic of whole eggs vs egg whites.
Coconut milk is another staple in my fridge. I like to use it to mix in with smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt for a rich, creamy taste. Not only does coconut milk add a rich, creamy taste to lots of dishes, but it's also full of healthy saturated fats. Yes, you heard me right... I said healthy saturated fats!  ...Healthy saturated fats such as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), specifically an MCT called lauric acid, which is vitally important for your immune system.
If the idea of healthy saturated fats is foreign to you, check out my article about why saturated fat is not as bad as you think.
Back to the fridge, some other staples:
  • Walnuts, pecans, almonds - delicious and great sources of healthy fats.  Try to get raw nuts if possible as the roasting process can oxidize some of the polyunsaturated fats in some types of nuts making those damaged fats slightly more inflammatory.  Overall, nuts are still healthy even if they are roasted, but raw nuts are optimal. 
  • Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and yogurt (grass-fed and organic if possible) - I like to mix cottage or ricotta cheese and yogurt together with chopped nuts and berries for a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal.
  • Chia seeds and/or hemp seeds - I add these highly nutritious seeds to yogurt, smoothies, or salads for a great nutty taste and loads of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. Don't use pre-ground versions of these seeds as the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and prone to oxidation, creating high levels of free radicals if you use pre-ground seeds.  No grinding is necessary to properly digest these seeds. 
  • Whole eggs - one of natures richest sources of nutrients (and remember, they increase your GOOD cholesterol so stop fearing them).
  • Salsa - I try to get creative and try some of the exotic varieties of salsas.
  • Avocados - love a great source of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients. Try adding them to wraps, salads, or sandwiches.
  • Butter - don't believe the naysayers; butter adds great flavor to anything and CAN be part of a healthy diet... just keep the quantity small because it is calorie dense... and NEVER use margarine, unless you want to assure yourself a heart attack.  Most important -- choose organic butter only, since pesticides and other harmful chemicals accumulate in the fat of the milk which is used for butter, so choosing organic helps avoid this problem.  Also, and MOST importantly, always choose grass-fed (pastured) butter as it will contain higher levels of healthful omega-3 fats and the fat-burning conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) ...Kerrygold is a popular pasture-raised butter in most stores.
  • Nut butters - Plain old peanut butter has gotten a little old for me (and peanuts aren't as healthy as other nuts due to aflatoxin concerns), so I get creative and mix together almond butter with pecan butter, or even cashew butter with macadamia butter...delicious and unbeatable nutrition!  Using a variety of nut butters gives you a broader range of vitamins and minerals and other micronutrients, and gives you variety instead of boring old peanut butter all the time.
  • Leaf lettuce and spinach along with shredded carrots - for salads with dinner.
  • Home-made salad dressing - using balsamic vinegar, spices, extra virgin olive oil, and Udo's Choice oil blend. This is much better than store bought salad dressing which mostly use highly refined canola or soybean oil (canola and soybean oil are both very inflammatory in the body).  Here's an article showing why to NEVER use store-bought salad dressings.
  • Sprouted grain bread for occasional use -- My personal belief from years of nutrition research is that we're not really meant to consume the massive quantities of grains (not even whole grains) that we do in this day and age... a small amount may be okay, but our digestive systems are still primarily adapted to a hunter/gatherer type of diet with only a very small amount of grains, therefore I try to only have breads and other grain-based foods on cheat days.  Just remember that too much gluten (which is still in most sprouted grain breads) can cause some degree of damage to your gut health even if you're not officially gluten intolerant.
Some of the staples in the freezer:
  • Frozen berries - during the local growing season, I only get fresh berries, but during the other 10 months of the year, I always keep a supply of frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, etc. to add to high fiber cereal, oatmeal, cottage cheese, yogurt, or smoothies. I also get frozen goji berries sometimes for a little "exotic" variety. 
  • Frozen fish - I like to try a couple different kinds of fish each week. There are so many varieties out there, you never have to get bored. Just make sure to ALWAYS choose wild fish instead of farmed versions, as the omega-3 to omega-6 balance is MUCH healthier in wild fish.  Also, as this article shows, there are some possible other health issues with farmed fish.
  • Frozen chicken breasts - very convenient for a quick addition to wraps or chicken sandwiches for quick meals.
  • Grass-fed steaks, burgers, and ground beef:  Grass-fed meats have been shown to have as high as, or even higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than salmon (without the mercury).  Also, grass-fed meats have much higher levels of fat-burning and muscle-building conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to typical grain-fed beef that you'll find at your grocery store.  I recently found an excellent on-line store where I buy all of my grass-fed meats now (they even deliver right to your door in a sealed cooler) -
  • Frozen buffalo, ostrich, venison, and other "exotic" lean meats - Yeah, I know...I'm weird, but I can tell you that these are some of the healthiest meats around, and if you're serious about a lean healthy body, these types of meats are much better for you than the mass produced, hormone-pumped beef, chicken, and pork that's sold at most grocery stores.
  • Frozen veggies - again, when the growing season is over and I can no longer get local fresh produce, frozen veggies are the best option, since they often have higher nutrient contents compared to the fresh produce that has been shipped thousands of miles, sitting around for weeks before making it to your dinner table.
Alright, now the staples in my cabinets:
  • Various antioxidant-rich teas - green, oolong, white, rooibos (red tea) are some of the healthiest.  One of my newest favorite teas is yerba mate, which is a south american tea that is loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients. I've found some delicious yerba mate mixes such as chocolate yerba mate, mint mate, raspberry mate, etc.
  • Oat bran and steel cut oats - higher fiber than those little packs of instant oats, which are typically loaded with sugar.  If I'm trying to reduce body fat and get extra lean, I make most of my breakfasts based on eggs and veggies and bison sausage, but if I'm on a muscle building phase, I increase carbohydrate intake and use more oat bran and oatmeal.
  • The only healthy oils I have in my cabinets are virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. Macadamia oil may also be a reasonable choice as long as it's not "refined".  But other than that, all "vegetable oils" (which is usually soy and corn oil) are total junk and very inflammatory. Never use soy or corn oils!  Also, always avoid canola oil, as there is nothing healthy about canola oil, despite the deceptive marketing claims by the canola oil industry.
  • Cans of coconut milk (loaded with healthy saturated MCT fats) - to be transferred to a container in the fridge after opening.
  • Tomato sauces - delicious, and as I'm sure you've heard a million times, they are a great source of lycopene. Just watch out for the brands that are loaded with nasty high fructose corn syrup.  You also want to make sure that the tomato sauce is made with olive oil instead of unhealthy soybean oil or canola oils. Also get tomato sauces in glass jars instead of cans, as canned tomatoes are notoriously high in the dangerous chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA) due to the acidic leaching of BPA from the can lining.
  • Stevia - a natural non-caloric sweetener, which is an excellent alternative to the nasty chemical-laden artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, and sucralose.
  • Raw honey - better than processed honey... higher quantities of beneficial nutrients and enzymes. Honey has even been proven in studies to improve glucose metabolism (your efficiency in processing carbohydrates).  I use a small teaspoon every morning in my teas.  Yes, I know that even honey is pure sugar, but at least it has some nutritional benefits... and let's be real, a teaspoon of healthier raw honey is only 5 grams of carbs... certainly nothing to worry about, and a better choice than refined sugar.
  • Organic REAL maple syrup - none of that high fructose corn syrup Aunt Jemima crap...only real maple syrup can be considered real food. The only time I really use this (because of the high sugar load) is added to my post-workout smoothies to sweeten things up and also elicit an insulin surge to push nutrients into your muscles to aid muscle recovery.
  • Organic unsweetened cocoa powder - I like to mix this into my smoothies for an extra jolt of antioxidants or make my own low-sugar hot cocoa by mixing cocoa powder into hot milk with stevia and a couple melted dark chocolate chunks (delicious!).
  • Cans of black or kidney beans - I like to add a couple scoops to my Mexican dishes for the fiber and high nutrition content. Also, beans are surprisingly one of the best sources of youth enhancing antioxidants!  Did you know that black beans and kidney beans have more antioxidants than's true!
  • Dark chocolate (as dark as possible - ideally more than 70-75% cocoa content) - This is one of my treats that satisfies my sweet tooth, plus provides loads of antioxidants at the same time. It's still calorie dense, so I keep it to just 1-2 small squares after a meal... but that is enough to do the trick, so I don't feel like I need to go out and get cake and ice cream to satisfy my dessert urges.
Lastly, another thing that's hard to go wrong with is a good variety of fresh fruits and berries. The staples such as bananas, apples, oranges, pears, peaches are good, but I like to also be a little more adventurous and include things like yellow (aka - mexican or champagne) mangoes, pomegranates, kumquats, papaya, star fruit, pineapples, and others. Also, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries (the highest fiber berry) and cherries are some of the most nutrient and antioxidant-dense fruits you can eat.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this special look into my favorite lean body meals and how I stock my cabinets and fridge. Your tastes are probably quite different than mine, but hopefully this gave you some good ideas you can use next time you're at the grocery store looking to stock up a healthy and delicious pile of groceries.
Source: Mike Geary - Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer

Monday, 5 January 2015

Make Better Choices When Forced To Eat Fast-Food

I was out recently with some friends and we stopped at a fast food joint. I hate fast food joints, but sometimes everybody else wants to go there, so you just have to make the best of it and find something at least somewhat healthy.
If you're forced to eat fast-food, here's a tip to make sure that you're not doing much damage to your body...
ALWAYS AVOID the soda and anything deep fried including French fries, hash browns, and anything breaded like chicken nuggets, chicken patties, or breaded fish sandwiches. These are all absolutely soaked in deadly trans fats from the industrial hydrogenated vegetable oils they use to fry all of these items. 
Note: Even though some fast food restaurants have vowed to not use hydrogenated oils loaded with trans fats any more, they are still using highly refined processed oils, which are still inflammatory and negatively affect your health (and waistline).
Remember, as I've said before, I've seen studies indicating that as little as 1 gram of artificial trans fat per day can have serious degenerative internal effects in your body such as inflammation, clogging and hardening of the arteries, heart disease, various forms of cancer...not to mention packing on the ab flab. That's as little as 1 gram!
Consider that a typical fast-food meal of a breaded chicken sandwich (or fish sandwich), along with an order of fries can contain as much as 10 grams of trans fat! Add on a cookie or small piece of pie for dessert (which are usually made with deadly margarine or shortening), and now you're up to about 13 grams of trans fat with that entire meal.
If 1 gram a day is slowly killing you, imagine what 13 grams is doing! And that was only one meal that you ate. Some people are consuming 20-30 grams of artificial trans fat per day, and not even realizing what they're doing to themselves internally. Please realize that nobody, I mean NOBODY, is looking out for your health, except for YOU.
Anyway, back to the topic of how to avoid this stuff and eat a reasonably healthy meal on the rare occasion that you're forced to eat fast-food. As for drinks, avoid the sodas...they're nothing but heavily processed high fructose corn syrup which will surely end up as extra belly fat. And yes, that mean NO DIET SODA either!  This stuff is pure evil to your body.  Here's an article I did about why diet soda makes you fat.
Your best bets for drinks are always water or unsweetened iced tea.  You get the added benefit of the antioxidants in the unsweetened iced tea (but stay away from any sweeteners).
At breakfast, the best choice is an egg, ham, and cheese on an English muffin (not on a croissant, which is full of nasty trans-fats!), or a fruit & nut salad.
At lunch or dinner, the best choices are a grilled chicken sandwich, the chili, a grilled chicken salad without croutons (again...croutons = more trans), or even just a plain cheeseburger.   This doesn't mean these fast-food items are truly healthy and organic, but they're the best options you have at most fast food places.
The main take-away point from this little fast-food article is that the nastiest stuff at these fast food joints are the sodas and fries, and any other deep fried items. If you stay completely away from those items, you're at least making better choices than 95% of most people.
For any of you that have seen the movie "Super-Size Me", you saw how eating fast food every day absolutely destroyed that guy's health, but did you happen to notice the one guy that was the king of eating big macs (or some kind of burger)? I don't remember what kind of burger it was, but basically this guy has eaten these fast food burgers almost every day of his life for the past 30 years or something like that. 
Did you notice that he stated that he almost never eats the fries or soda, even though he eats the burgers every day? And he's not necessarily overweight. Now I'm not saying that fast-food burgers made with their refined white bread and low quality beef and cheese are the healthiest thing, but the point is... it's the fries and sodas that are the real health disaster.
Alright, so next time you're out at one of these places, remember these tips and choose smart!
Personally, I can't remember the last time I ate at a fast food joint like mickey D's or BK.  If at all possible, I'll try to find some corner deli with fresh salads or sandwiches instead of fast food.
By the way, if you haven't heard yet, McD's has added a nutrition label to all of their food wrappers now. Remember that as little as one gram of trans may cause some internal harm and now you can actually see how many grams of trans fat you're eating right on the food wrapper. That might change your mind about finishing it.

Source: Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer