Maximizing Muscle Growth

Protein has been a hot topic in the nutrition in fitness world for years now, and there is no sign of that slowing down. Since I work in a gym setting, the topic of muscle growth in relation to protein intake comes up all the time between clients and trainers alike. While at FNCE a couple weeks ago, I attended an interesting lecture about muscle synthesis and wanted to share some interesting findings that might be helpful to those of you looking to build muscle.

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Nutrition and exercise are the two main anabolic stimuli- and they work hand in hand. In other words, you can’t drink protein shakes all day and expect to build muscle if you’re not putting the work in at the gym. On the flip side, exercise is much more beneficial if you learn to fuel your body correctly. Muscle synthesis is increased for up to 3-5 hours after a workout, so be sure to eat within 30 minutes-1 hour after working out to take advantage of this.

The source of your protein matters. Animal proteins like beef or chicken trigger a more favorable anabolic response than vegetarian protein because they have a higher leucine content (the amino acid that signals muscle synthesis) and a higher digestibility. Vegetarians should consider increasing their protein intake to compensate.

The amount of protein matters- to an extent. Eating 20g of protein in one sitting is sufficient for most people, with muscle synthesis only increasing slightly with greater intake. Consuming more than 40g of protein in one sitting shows no increase in muscle growth compared with smaller amounts. To put this in perspective, an average chicken breast found in grocery stores is 6-8oz. which amounts to 36- 48 g of protein.

Timing of protein ingestion is important. Most Americans tend to load up on protein at dinner, but spacing your protein intake throughout the day is more beneficial. Try increasing your protein intake at breakfast with eggs or yogurt, focusing on lean source of protein like chicken, fish, or even beans at lunch, and snacking on nuts or dairy between meals.

Eating carbohydrates with protein doesn’t necessarily mean greater gains. It is commonly believed that eating carbohydrates along with protein helps muscle growth because the carbohydrates stimulate insulin, which is an anabolic hormone (aka it stimulates growth). Current research shows, however, that only small amounts of insulin are sufficient for creation of new muscle. The small amount of the hormone can typically be reached stimulated protein ingestion alone.

Time to hit the gym! And the kitchen!

Favorite New Products from FNCE

This past weekend I attended FNCE, which is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. The conference includes dozens of lectures per day along with an expo that features new products in the world of food and health. The expo is my favorite part of FNCE because I love trying all these products and finding new ones that I can recommend to my clients. Here are some of the top finds this year. Continue reading

Focus on Food Waste

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Americans waste an incomprehensible amount of food. According to one report, 50% of all produce in the US is thrown away which amounts to 60 million tons or $160 billion worth. The Environmental Protection Agency has even found that food waste is the single largest component in landfills and that about 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. While restaurants, food growers and distributors, grocery store chains, and so on are largely responsible for this massive amount of waste, consumers also play a role in contributing to waste. We overbuy food which goes bad before we can use it, take “use by” dates literally, throw away leftovers, and toss aside usable vegetable scraps. Here are 10 things you can do at home to reduce food waste and eat more sustainably:

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Fall Recipe Roundup

Fall is in full force which means it’s finally time to enjoy some of my favorite flavors! These days it seems like as soon as September 1st hits (and sometimes even before) everything becomes pumpkin spiced! While pumpkin spice is a personal favorite of mine, there are so many other festive flavors to savor this season.  Here is a round-up of some of my favorite seasonal recipes.

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Better Halloween Candy Options

Let’s face it, it’s next to impossible to completely avoid candy temptations around Halloween especially if you have young children. The harmful effects of excess sugar consumption have clearly been demonstrated and pushed into the public eye, however Americans continue to spend an outrageous amount of money on candy each year around Halloween (2.5 billion dollars’ worth to be exact).  While nobody wants to be *that house* handing out raisins and pencils to trick-or-treaters, you can compromise by offering healthier alternatives to the traditional candies given out this time of year. Let’s take a look:

What to avoid:

-Artificial colors: While the jury is still out on the safety of food dyes, numerous studies have linked artificial colors to health problems such as allergic reactions, behavioral issues, and cancer. Luckily, they are easy to spot on ingredients labels with names like Red #40 and Yellow #5.

-Full sized candy bars: Fun-sized portions allow for much better portion control than their fill sized counterparts.

-Allergens: Even if you’re allergy-free, many of your trick-or-treaters may not be so lucky. Choose candy that is free of the 8 common allergens to give kids with food allergies.

What to look for:

-Organic ingredients: Organic candy might not be more nutritious, but it will keep out any unnecessary pesticides and chemicals.

-Ingredients you can pronounce: The shorter the ingredient list, the better!

-Nutrition: If you’re going to be eating all that sugar, you can at least get some nutritional benefits like vitamins, minerals, and protein! Compare nutrition fact labels to find more nutritious options.

With this in mind, here are some brands that offer healthier options for you and your trick-or-treaters:

Yum Earth Organics Sour Twists

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Yum Earth carries a variety of candy including sour twists, lollipops, gummy bears, licorice, fruit snacks, and hard candy. The sour twists are organic, gluten-, dairy-, nut-, soy-and egg-free. They are also free from artificial colors and instead are colored with carrot, black currant, and turmeric!

Trader Joe’s Organic Pops

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These lollipops from Trader Joe’s are organic and free from common allergens. They are colored with red cabbage, purple carrots, turmeric, and annatto instead of artificial sweeteners which makes them a great choice for kids!

Surf Sweets Organic Watermelon Rings

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Surf Sweets offers a variety of candies such as DelishFish (their version of Swedish Fish), fruit chews, gummy bears/worms, jelly beans, and peach rings. These watermelon rings are vegan, free of artificial sweeteners, and even include 100% DV of vitamin C!

Justin’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups

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These peanut butter cups but Reese’s to shame by being organic, gluten-free, sustainably-sourced, and containing 5 grams of protein per serving! There is even a dark chocolate option for people who want to boost their antioxidant intake!

UnReal Milk Chocolate Gems

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UnReal products are made with sustainable and organic ingredients in addition to being vegan and free from artificial colors. These are a great option for M&M lovers out there (and yes, these are the candies that TB12 Tom Brady is a spokesperson for).

Kind Fruit Bites

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These new Kind Fruit Bites have no added sugar because they are made completely with fruit! They are all organic and some flavors have up to 2 grams of fiber per pouch!

How to Reduce Sugar Cravings

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Since October is a notoriously sugar-friendly month, there’s no better time to get real about sugar cravings. We’ve all had them, however the question becomes whether it’s a true physical desire for food or a mental one. When I see clients who tell me they have sweet tooth, there are usually some common threads:

Lack of sleep

Many studies have linked a lack of sleep to weight gain, and the reason has to do with hormones. When you’re not getting enough sleep your body increases production of a hormone called cortisol (aka the stress hormone), which causes the body to store fat.  People who are sleep deprived also tend to feel hungrier, which is an effect also explained by your hormones. Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite is higher in those who are sleep deprived, while leptin, the satiety hormone, tends to be lower.  Cravings are highest for simple carbohydrates and sugar because they provide the quickest jolt of energy.

Not eating enough during the day

In an attempt to restrict calories, people often severely limit their food intake earlier in the day only to end up overeating later on in the day because they’re starving! It’s also much harder to make rational food decisions when your body needs something right away. To avoid this trap, make sure you’re going no more than 4-5 hours without eating and listen to your hunger cues.

Following a restrictive diet

Chronic dieters tend to develop all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to food. They label foods as “good” and “bad” and feel like they completely blew their diet if they have even a little bit of the “bad” stuff. The guilt that comes with failing the diet leads to overindulgence and the promise to start fresh on Monday. Healthy eating is not that black and white though, so start to look at your eating habits as shades of gray. Your diet will be much more sustainable if you include treats in moderation!

Emotional Eating

Often times, people use food to cope with their emotions whether it be boredom, sadness, loneliness, or even joy! The types of food the person turns too depends largely on the person and what they are feeling, but rarely have I seen a client turn to salad when they’re feeling sad. Next time you go to grab a late night cookie, stop and ask yourself whether you’re angry/bored/etc., or actually genuinely hungry. Then, learn to cope with your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food.

Should I Avoid Nightshades?

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With the TB12 book coming out a few weeks ago, I’ve had quite a few questions about the claims that he makes in the book. One of claims Tom Brady makes is that he avoid nightshade vegetables to reduce inflammation. I did some research, and here is what I found.

Nightshades are a group of vegetables that are in the Solanceae family of plants. The Latin name stems from the plants’ production of the compound solanine, which is toxic to insects and thus acts as a defense system for the plants. Although many nightshades are inedible, like tobacco for instance, there are a few that are staples in most people’s diets including potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers (including spices made from peppers like paprika and red pepper flakes).

After reviewing the research, I can firmly say that there is no need for the general population to avoid nightshades. There is very little research on the topic, and the research that does point to nightshades being harmful is flawed. The studies either fed an outrageous amount of solanine to the mice in the study (one study replaced 2/3 of mice’s diets with green potatoes), or straight out failed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship by basing their results on surveys or anecdotal evidence.

There is some evidence that a small amount of people may have a sensitivity to solanine which could cause inflammation if ingested. I can’t say if this is the case for Tom Brady or not, but just because it may be an issue for some doesn’t mean you should avoid these vegetables. If you do, you’ll be missing out on beneficial compounds including a variety of antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects!

10 Apple Recipes for Fall

Apple season is upon us! I go apple picking almost every year and, even as someone who loves to cook, it can be hard to find ways to use up all those apples. If you find yourself in a similar predicament this fall, no need to panic! Here are 10 tried and true recipes that are seasonal and delicious!

1- Apple Crisp Baked Oatmeal

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2- Crock Pot Stuffed Apples 

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3-Butternut Squash Apple Soup

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4- Apple Cider Sangria 

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5- Crock Pot Applesauce 

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6- Fall Kale Salad with Honeycrisp Apple

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7- Autumn Braised Chicken with Roasted Apples and Grapes 

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8-Zucchini Carrot Apple Muffins 

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9- Apple Cider Baked Chicken 

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10- Apples and Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa 

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Healthy Homemade Apple Cider Donuts

After taking a summer hiatus from blogging, I am back with a bang with these delightful apple cider donuts! They are made a bit healthier by using whole wheat flour, reducing the amount of sugar most recipes call for, and by baking them instead of frying. In fact, there is only half a tablespoon of added sugar per donut which comes almost entirely from honey, not refined sugar! I have to give my husband the credit for the idea to make a healthy apple cider donut. He is an absolute donut fanatic and gave these the thumbs up!

Healthy Homemade Apple Cider Donuts

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cinnamon (divided)
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil (divided)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • ½ Tbsp. sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray donut pans with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 3 Tbsp. coconut oil, apple cider, honey, and egg and whisk to combine.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to combine.
  5. Spoon mixture into donut pan until each well is evenly filled about half-way.
  6. Bake for 7 minutes and allow to cool before removing from the pan.
  7. Meanwhile, make the cinnamon sugar topping by combining sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon. Stir to combine.
  8. Brush 1 Tbsp. coconut oil over the tops of the donuts. Dip the oiled-side of the donuts in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Enjoy!