May is National Osteoporosis Month. A lot of people think of osteoporosis as a disease that only affects people late in life, but did you know that your bone mass peaks in your 20s?
Bone, like skin, is a living tissue and is constantly breaking down and reforming. Until about the age of 25 your body is builds new bone at a faster rate than it loses old bone. Once you reach 30 the process of building new bone slows down.
Osteoporosis is a thinning of bone and loss of bone density over time. It can lead to frequent fractures, pain, back problems, disability, and even death. Just to be clear, although it is normal to lose some bone density as you age, osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging.
The good news is there's a lot you can do to keep your bones healthy (even after 30).
Everyone has heard that for strong bones you need to consume enough calcium, but what does that mean? For people between 19 and 50 years old, the recommendation is to consume 1000 mg of calcium every day (once you're over 50 the recommendation goes up to 1200 mg/day). One cup of milk or yogurt provides about 300 mg of calcium.
There are a number of foods you can consume to help you meet your daily calcium needs. Dairy is an obvious choice, however cooked greens such as kale, broccoli, and spinach also provide some calcium (40-140 mg/serving). Kidney beans and pinto beans provide 40-45 mg for every 1/2 cup. There are also a variety of calcium fortified foods from soy products to cereal to orange juice.
It's important to spread your consumption of calcium rich products throughout the day because your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D help your body to absorb calcium more effectively so it's a good idea to try and eat foods rich in those nutrients around the same time.
Vitamin D is fortified into a lot of the same foods calcium is fortified into, but check the label to be sure. You can also get Vitamin D from egg yolk, fatty fish, and beef liver.
One thing to be aware of, especially if you're planning on your breakfast cereal being a source of calcium, is that caffeine inhibits your body's ability to absorb calcium. So you want to space your morning coffee at least 30 minutes after your calcium rich food intake.
Another key part of maintaining healthy bones is performing weight bearing exercises 2-3 times every week. If you're new to exercise or strength training, body weight exercises can be a great place to start. Things like push ups, body weight squats, lunges, and step ups are great ways to both build strength in your bones, as well as increase your balance and muscle strength.
As you get stronger and those exercises get easier try adding weights to increase the resistance your body needs to work against. (It's better to start with too light of a weight than too heavy. Injuries are nobody's friend.)
I spent a lot of time experimenting in the kitchen this last weekend. I've been scouring the internet lately to find the perfect pre-gym breakfast. A lot of the recipes for energy bites I found online sound delicious but have ingredients that are expensive and not what I consider to be kitchen staples. So I decided to create my own.
I wake up early in the morning to go to the gym. In order to not have to wake up any earlier I like to have something I can grab quickly and eat on the short drive. I need something that's going to fill me enough to fuel me for the next hour or so, but not so heavy that it will slow me down or make me uncomfortable during my workout.
In order to fit all of my criteria I wanted something with both quickly available carbohydrates (sugar) and a more slow burn fuel (starch and protein). My internet scouring and kitchen inventory resulted in these delicious oatmeal raisin breakfast biscuits.
The recipe makes about 15 individual biscuits. Each biscuit is roughly 150 calories with 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Try them out and let me know what you think!
Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Biscuits
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup almond butter*
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons low fat milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or baking sheets.
Put the dates in the a food processor and process until the thick paste it creates starts to clump. In a large bowl combine dates with all the other ingredients minus the milk. Once you've started to mix, add the milk to help it along. You should end up with a very thick dough. Scoop heaping spoonfuls onto your cookie sheet and press them down a little to flatten them. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The biscuits won't darken much or rise, but when you look at them they should look dry.
*Your nut butter of choice would work just as well as almond butter here, although it may alter the flavor slightly. I chose almond butter because it's fairly mild in taste and doesn't overwhelm dishes the way peanut butter does.
I've been sick for this past week. I hate being sick. It always feels like my body is betraying me. Maybe I shouldn't take it so personally though.
Unfortunately being sick is something that happens to us all. It's just as important to nourish our bodies with good food before we're sick as it is when we're sick. Consistently maintaining a healthy diet makes sure we're providing our immune system with everything it needs to fight off infections when they happen. That means making sure you're taking in enough Vitamin C daily, not just going crazy with Vitamin C supplements when you start to get that tickle in the back of your throat. The only thing overloading yourself with Vitamin C when your sick does is make your pee a lot more expensive!
One of the things I struggle with when I'm sick is making sure I eat enough. Generally, being sick makes me lose my appetite. So if I don't monitor my intake carefully, I end up not eating as much as I normally do. I've worked with a number of patients who insist they don't need to eat as much when they're sick because they're not as active. You may think you're just lying in bed all day long, but your body is fighting a battle on the inside, and it's important you provide it with the energy it needs to do that. I've talked before about how many calories your body requires just to keep you alive. When you're sick there are additional calorie needs to keep your immune system strong, so it's important to try and eat about as much as you do when you're healthy.
For people who are training regularly, getting sick can feel like a huge setback. You've probably heard the general rule of thumb that if your symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, body aches, nausea, vomiting, etc.) you need to stay home from the gym until you're better; but above the neck (runny nose, scratchy throat, headache, sinus congestion) you're good to go.
However, this doesn't mean you go all out. When you're sick is not the time to be setting PRs. If you're going to lift; lift lighter than you normally do. If you're going to run or swim; keep it at a moderate pace. It's so important to listen to your body. If you have above the neck symptoms but you're feeling really tired, then take that hour you were going to spend at the gym and take a nap. I promise, a week or two off for illness will not negate all the progress you've made. But training, or over training, when you shouldn't has the potential to cause long term damage.
Alright, I'm going to go have some tea with honey. The rest of you stay healthy! Wash your hands, eat your fruits and vegetables, and get enough sleep!
One question I get asked a lot is "how much protein do I need to eat to get buff?" My response is always "how much weight are you lifting?"
Unfortunately, eating protein alone will not build the bulging biceps and glutes of steel we all desire (but wouldn't it be nice if it did? Bring on the steak!). In order to build muscle you have to include weight-bearing exercises in your weekly training routine. Weight-bearing exercise isn't just important to get those rippling muscles, it also helps strengthen your bones, and can help you burn more fat.
Once you start weight-bearing exercises your protein needs do increase slightly from before. However, most Americans get about double the amount of recommended protein, so your diet probably doesn't need to change all that much. As a general rule, make sure you get a serving a protein at every meal, and make sure it's high quality protein (which are those complete proteins I've talked about before) like meat, milk, eggs, chicken, fish, soy, or quinoa.
Carbohydrates are just as important as protein when it comes to building muscles. That's because before your body can worry about building and repairing your muscles it first has to make sure it takes care of everything else. That means you need to provide your body with enough calories (from anything - carbs, fat, or protein) to keep you alive before those calories will be used for anything else. To calculate a rough estimate of how much that is take your weight in pounds and multiple by 10. Example - I weigh 130#; my body needs 1300 calories for general functioning.
That number is probably more than you were thinking it was. That's how many calories your body needs just to keep you alive every day. Then you need to add additional calories for your daily activity and fuel during your training sessions. Once all of those calorie needs are met, your body can start building and repairing the muscle your building.
If you try to meet your calorie needs by eating mostly protein and fat you're not going to be able to do it. Both protein and fat are digested more slowly by the body and make us feel fuller than carbohydrates (not to mention carbohydrates are the body's main source of fuel, pretty important when it comes to training). So, while low carbohydrate diets aren't something I recommend in general, I really discourage them for people who are training and trying to build muscle.
If you aren't seeing the results you want from your training, you may need to fine tune your diet. To get the best diet for you and your individualized needs, I recommend making an appointment with a dietitian that specializes in sports nutrition.
Right now I have 3 very ripe bananas in my kitchen. People who know me know how rare that is. I loathe ripe bananas; as soon as they lose the green at the top, I'm done with them. They're just so banana-y. But I purposefully let these bananas ripen (it took a lot of self-restraint, believe me) so that I can make one of my favorite energy bite recipes I found on Pinterest (link at the bottom of the post).
It's just bananas, peanut butter, oats, and chocolate chips, and they roll up into easy grab-and-go little balls of energy. They're the perfect pre-workout snack. Fueling up pre-workout is so important; have you ever tried to workout hungry? It's not fun, and you definitely don't perform at your best. Plus, you run the risk of forcing your body to burn muscle glycogen (which means breaking down muscle) just to make it through the workout. Kind of defeats the point of exercising, right?
When it comes to the pre-workout snack, carbohydrates are your friend (I mean, they're always your friend, but especially before you hit the gym). When you're exercising, your body needs immediate fuel. Carbohydrates provide fuel that is ready to burn, whereas fat and protein are a slower sources of fuel.
Post workout is when you want to get some protein in, as well as more carbohydrates. Did you know that consuming carbohydrates and protein post workout actually increases your body's fat burning ability? It can also decrease muscle soreness as you recover and increase your ability to re-hydrate. You want to have a recovery drink/snack/meal within an hour after your workout for the best results. The absolute best recovery drink? Low fat chocolate milk. It provides the perfect mix of carbohydrates and protein for optimal recovery, so you see the results you want.
Here's the recipe I mentioned at the beginning of the post. For the "heaping" spoonful I do 2 tablespoons of creamy, natural peanut butter. I also cut the chocolate chips to 1/3 cup. What are some of your favorite pre and post workout snacks?
When I started this blog last month my goal was to write 3 posts every week. I'm not sure where the idea of 3 came from, it was really just an arbitrary decision that I'm now committed to. Last week I only wrote 2 posts because sometimes life gets busy. Even though I understand that sometimes life can put obstacles in the way of us accomplishing our goals, I still struggled with some guilt and disappointment in myself over it. Which got me thinking about some of the clients I've worked with and their own struggles in meeting goals.
Making a lifestyle change can be hard. Committing to a lifestyle change is a lifelong journey, there's no finish line you can cross and say "Lifestyle change accomplished; I'm done." It's something you recommit to everyday. There will be days, or weeks, or maybe even months, where you can't make it to the gym, or you slip back into old eating habits. That doesn't mean you've failed. The only failure in a lifestyle change is in not trying.
I've seen a lot of articles and professionals say "Living healthy is so easy; everyone can do it!" Everyone can do it, I definitely believe that. But it's not always going to feel easy. I think it's important to be real about the challenges, because when they happen you need to be equipped to deal with them.
The number one most important thing, in my opinion, is to just be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up over a slip up will only make you feel more discouraged. When you fall short of meeting a goal, focus on the steps you made toward accomplishing it. Always celebrate your accomplishments. Each step you make toward accomplishing a goal, no matter how small, deserves recognition. If you need help setting your goals or working toward them, don't be afraid to ask for it! Nobody expects you to make such a big change all alone.
Everyone can make lifestyle changes toward a healthier life. Give yourself credit for showing up and recognizing the need for change. You have the strength to accomplish your goals.
It is 106 degrees F today in Los Angeles. I've lost count of how many cups of water I've had, and I'm still thirsty. Hydration is one of those health topics that isn't usually talked about until you get sick or the weather gets unbearably hot, but mild dehydration can happen at any point.
You've probably heard the saying "If you feel thirsty, you're already dehydrated." Before you feel thirsty you may have a headache, low energy, have trouble concentrating or even feel hungry. I usually recommend to my clients to get a reusable water bottle to keep with you and drink from it regularly, once it's empty refill it and start again.
It's best to stick with water most of the day. I've had clients tell me before that water is "boring" and they don't like to drink it, but there are ways to change up and add flavor to water that don't include a Kool-Aid packet. Try adding some sliced cucumbers, strawberries, or oranges, or even a few sprigs of mint.
A lot of times we don't realize how many calories we're taking in with our beverages, even the healthy ones (did you know 1 cup of 100% fruit juice is about 120 calories? And how often are you really measuring exactly 1 cup of your drinks?). This doesn't mean you should never drink juice or milk (or even indulge in a soda or sweetened iced tea), but I suggest the majority of your daily beverage intake be from water.
There are some no calorie drink options, like diet soda, but I'm not a huge fan of diet drinks. Sugar substitutes have been proven safe, I know there are rumors out there about them causing cancer, but scientific studies have disproved all of them. In moderation, I think sugar substitutes are a great option, but a number of them (especially aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine) are so much sweeter than sugar that using them can often cause natural sugar, including fruit, to taste less sweet and be less satisfying.
In the end with beverages, like with food, it really comes down to decreasing your intake of processed stuff. If you can't start your day without a can of soda, have the soda! Just limit it to the one can, and then switch to water.
Stay hydrated, my friends!
When it comes to lifestyle changes, diet and exercise usually go hand-in-hand. There's a good reason for that. Research has shown that when diet and exercise are paired people see greater weight loss results than with diet alone (exercise alone generally yields little to no result for weight loss).
But exercise does more than just burn calories. It helps lower blood pressure and improve blood lipid levels. It can help stabilize blood glucose levels (if you're diabetic and on insulin or a medication like Glipizide talk to you doctor or diabetes educator before starting an exercise routine). It also helps to reduce stress, and create endorphins, which improves your mood (as those of us who saw Legally Blonde will remember).
The idea of starting exercise can be scary and overwhelming. Gyms can be intimidating. But exercising doesn't have to mean going to the gym and running on the treadmill (unless that's what you want it to mean). There are so many ways to meet your physical activity goals. The best way to create an exercise routine you will stick to is to do something that you enjoy. It can be as simple as starting to walk or hike regularly with your friends, to as intense as finding an intramural sport available in your community (like dodgeball, softball, or volleyball) and joining the league.
Current recommendations for physical activity are 150 minutes/week of moderate exercise (brisk walking/hiking, playing tennis, etc) or 75 minutes/week of intense exercise (running, swimming laps, etc). So, for moderate exercise that breaks down to 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week, which if you're starting from square one can feel like a lot. So instead of aiming for 30 minutes, start with a goal of 10 minutes a day for 5 days in a week, then increase your goal from there. Some is better than none, so do what you can and be proud of your accomplishment!
Have you tried making your Mondays meatless? There are a lot of benefits to decreasing your meat intake (or even cutting it out all together). Meat-free meals are typically lower in saturated fat, which can have beneficial effects on your cholesterol and blood lipid levels. Typically, diets low in meat are higher in fruits and vegetables, which provides a number of health benefits.
The biggest concern I hear from meat eaters regarding decreasing or completely cutting out meat is - what about protein? It is possible to get adequate protein with less or no meat though (yes, even for athletes). Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts/nut butters, ,and quinoa are all great sources of protein. There are also foods that when paired together make a "complete" protein. Meaning alone the foods are missing an amino acid that is essential in the diet, but when paired with a complementary food that has that missing an amino acid, you have a food that provides the same protein as meat. Some of those pairings are rice & beans, lentils& rice, corn& beans.
One thing to be aware of though is that just because something is "vegetarian" doesn't mean it's a healthy choice (similar to those "low fat" "low sugar" "diet" foods out there). This weekend I bought vegetarian Kielbasa to grill for Labor Day. However, a peek at the nutrient label shows that although it is lower in saturated fat than a turkey kielbasa, it's higher in overall fat and therefore higher in calories. It's also higher in sodium content (660mg in the vegetarian v 500mg in the turkey). I like to think the takeaway message from this is that processed food is processed food whether it's "vegetarian" "diet" or "low fat". It's always best to eat homemade food.
So if you're interested in making a Monday meatless, give this recipe a try! I'd love to hear what you think, or what meatless recipe you love in the comments below!
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 medium spaghetti squash
4-5 mini bell peppers (or 2-3 large ones), chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
5 oz spinach
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of cheese
Cut spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on microwave safe dish and add 1/4 cup water. Cook in microwave for 10-12 minutes, until squash is easily pierced in with a fork. Allow to cool for 15 minutes until cool enough to handle.
Sauté oil and garlic. Add bell peppers and tomato until tomato softens. Then add spinach and mix until spinach wilts.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrape squash out with a fork into a large mixing bowl. Then add vegetables. Mix with yogurt and 1/4 cup of cheese. Spread mixture into 11 x 7 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and top is golden brown.
I am a huge fan of breakfast. Both the foods and the meal. I'm a huge advocate for breakfast for lunch, breakfast for dinner, breakfast all day long. Seriously, I love breakfast. There's just so many delicious options.
I know breakfast can be hard, especially if you're not a morning person, but it is pretty important. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's the most important meal. Every meal is important, and none of them should be skipped. Eating breakfast is not going to magically make you lose weight, only calorie restriction will do that. However, eating breakfast can help you not overeat at lunch because you're not starving before noon.
When you wake up in the morning your body has gone 7-8 hours without food (assuming you get the recommended amount of sleep), or longer if you don't have a snack before bed. (Aside - if you're diabetic I highly recommend a snack before bed, something with carbohydrates and protein./aside) This means that your blood sugar is low, which can make you tired and make it difficult to focus. In order to provide your body with fuel to focus on school, or work, or traffic, you need to eat breakfast.
If you train in the morning, breakfast is even more important so you can get the most out of your session. I usually recommend grabbing something with carbohydrates, like a granola bar or some toast, before the gym. Then having a full breakfast after your workout (something with carbohydrates and protein to help with recovery).
If mornings are rushed go with a breakfast that's quick and nutrient rich like whole wheat toast and peanut butter (maybe a banana on top or an apple for later in the morning). You can also pick one day a week where you make a week supply of some grab and go breakfasts. If you just can't stand the idea of eating so early in the day, try a shake - throw some Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, and a little bit of fruit juice or milk in the blender and your breakfast is ready to drink.
Here's a recipe for one of my favorite breakfast foods. Give it a try this weekend, or for dinner tonight! I'd love to hear what your favorite breakfast foods are in the comments!
Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Halve the avocado and pit it. Scoop out a little bit extra from each side of the avocado until you have a nice little hole for your eggs. Place the avocado halves in a baking dish. In each avocado half, crack an egg, trying to get the whole egg inside the avocado. Sprinkle the eggs with some black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, egg yolks should still be runny.
Avocados are high in fat (healthy fats), which could make this a high calorie meal if you eat both avocado halves. I recommend 1 half as a serving. Maybe have one half with a slice of toast, or some oven roasted tomatoes and potato slices.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.