Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Fitness Mantra: Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition

Location, location, location.  This mantra is chanted and drilled into every Real Estate Agent’s brain as the number rule of real estate.  The sale of the house, the value of the property, all depends on the location of the property.  Let’s put it into a fitness perspective.  Trainers and Nutritionist are taught that body development, health and energy all depend on nutrition.  Taking into account what you put into your body and the results you see all focus on your nutrition, what you eat. 
I am a firm believer in “you are what you eat”. I ate massive amounts of carbs (pasta, bread, pasta, bread, you get the idea) to the point where my stomach looked like that of a Hawaiian Sweet Roll.  Some may disagree and say that because of my natural small size that that is farfetched.  However, I am here to say that my biscuit belly theory is indeed fact.  When I began taking what I ate more seriously— watching my carb intake, cutting out sugar, low sodium, more leafy green veggies—my stomach began to go down.  I no longer saw what looked to be another life form in my midsection, but I saw a flat stomach, and, dare I say, abs! 
Many people think if you lift enough weights and do enough cardio, the results will show and instantly have the body they’ve always wanted.  Without nutrition being at the core of your fitness regimen, you will end up looking the same as you started.  It goes without saying that nutrition plays a major role in your body’s progression and its overall state.  In order to be healthy you have to eat healthy.  It does not seem possible to eat hamburgers and hotdogs and expect six pack abs overnight.  Your body takes time to develop and has to be fed foods that will aid in its growth.  Below is a food guide that will help curb your food cravings into healthier food choices:
Instead Of:                                                          Eat Instead:                               
Chocolate                                                 Nuts, veggies, fruits
Sugar                                                        Fruit, eggs, nuts, spinach, cranberries, raisins, sweet potato
Carbs (bread, pasta)                                Fish, beans, nuts, high protein meat    
Greasy food                                              Milk, cheese, leafy green veggies
Salty food                                                 Milk, nuts, seeds, fish
Nutrition can be easy but it needs to be drilled into our head, almost chanted, for us to understand its importance.  Just like that of the Real Estate Agent’s mantra location, location, location, your body and overall health depends on your nutrition.  You can work out 6 days a week for 2 hours.  You will see your body change slightly, however, it’s nothing compared to when nutrition is firmly at the center and becomes the factor of restructuring your body.  When it comes to fitness and you are seeking results, just think nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Boosting Your Immune System

Any time someone sneezes or coughs, I instantly get tensed.  I think of the many germ particles floating in the air, looking for the perfect body to camp out and make a new home.  As hard as I try to shield them, they move too fast, even for me.  The moment their “owner” pushes them out of their body, they are released and no running or rolling the window down can save you from them.  That is why it is imperative to boost your immune system to ward off any illnesses seeking to disrupt your spring and summer time vacation plans.  Essentially, your immune system acts as a protector against germs so that your body will not shut down.  Incorporating healthy eating choices into your diet and generally understanding your body and how your immune system works allows you to develop a more conscious and healthy lifestyle.
We inhale thousands upon thousands of germs each day.  Take a moment to think about that.  Each time you breathe, you are breathing in millions of germs surrounding you, just floating around in the air without a care in the world.  Knowing this, it makes sense to prep your body for illnesses attempting to attack it.  That's why we boost our immune system.  The same way a company gives out incentives to its employers to boost or strengthen the morale within the workplace so that everyone is happy and on the same page, is the same way our immune systems are boosted.  We want our immune system strengthened so that when germs (bacteria and viruses) attempt to enter our body and shut it down, it will serve as a blocker against them.
Ways to boost your immune system:
  1. Drink water - we want to flush out the toxins from our bodies.  The way to do that is staying hydrated.  Another benefit is it helps digest food.  A strong digestive system allows nutrition to distribute adequately.
  2. Eat smart, eat healthy - eating gobs of hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, pizza, and drinking soda sounds like a good time, and it's an even better time for those germs to slip in and take over because your immune system is not receiving any nutrients from these types of foods.  Citrus fruits loaded with Vitamin C, foods rich in protein (chicken, fish, turkey, lean cuts of beef), quinoa, black beans, spinach, lemon, ginger, garlic, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, all are better alternatives for boosting your immune system.
  3. Adequate amounts of sleep - it goes without saying; if you do not get enough sleep, your body will shut down on you.  It needs rest to refuel energy levels so that you can do what you did the day before 10 x's better the next day. 
  4. Proper hygiene - it is simple; wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, brush your teeth, wash your hair, face and body.  Period.
  5. Check ups - it is necessary to make sure your vitals are still vital and your ticker is still ticking. 
  6. Exercise - this one is my favorite, naturally.  Maintaining a consistent workout plan throughout your week strengthens your body, while your blood is able to flow easier and pumps rapidly.
In order to stay healthy we have to be healthy.  Learn how to take care of your body and protect yourself. 

How To Eat On The Go

Eating on the go has never been a favorite of mine.  I like to sit comfortably and enjoy my meal, tasting every ingredient and savoring every morsel, like the French do.  However, I constantly stay on the go.  Whether I’m running from one meeting to the next at work, going to the gym, volunteering with youth organizations, church, going to the gym, the grocery store, writer’s workshop meetings, book clubs, going to the gym (there’s a pattern here), I have to have food with me wherever I go.  I’m timed and scheduled to eat every 2-3 hours, 5-6 meals per day.  I cannot afford to skip a meal.  This is mostly important when I am in competition prep.  That is why I pack and prep my meals Sunday evenings for the entire week.  
Meal prepping saves time throughout the week.  No matter your profession, corporate, in the field, etc., having your meals prepared ahead of time and stored in ready-to-go containers makes eating on the go painless.  Now, when I say meal prep, I do not mean prepping pasta or any other heavy foods that will essentially drag your energy levels down because of the amount of carbs.  Since I am a competitor, I eat clean and my meals consist of foods that aid in muscle gain, muscle retention and boosts energy.  So, the million dollar question; how do you meal prep?  Think of your basic healthy eating needs:
·         Protein – chicken breast, turkey breast, fish (tuna, salmon, tilapia), egg whites, lean ground beef, protein shakes
·         Carbohydrates – sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, squash, oatmeal, black beans, strawberries, melon, apple, orange, yogurt (greek or fat-free)
·         Vegetables – broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, carrots, spinach, kale, celery, artichoke, green beans, green peppers, cucumber
Seems a little simple, right?  It gets even better.  Now, think of the meals you eat throughout the day.  I do not encourage anyone to eat 5-6 meals a day, especially if you are not a competitor.  This can be a lot of food for a non-competitor to consume.  I suggest focusing on breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.  If you are on the road to a healthy, clean-eating lifestyle, which I strongly encourage for everyone, you want to plan your meals accordingly.  This is just a breakdown of how I go about the thought process for prepping my meals:
·         Breakfast – I boil a dozen eggs, eating one or two within the day. I also have my oats for oatmeal.
·         Lunch – I usually like to eat tuna with fat free mayonnaise (it’s not for everybody and definitely an acquired taste) with spinach.  I also have lean turkey breast on hand as an alternate on other days to eat with a whole wheat wrap.
·         Dinner – One week I may prep chicken breast or fish because it is easier to take out of the package and line on cookie sheet and bake in the oven.  I eat that with asparagus spears, broccoli or kale spinach, alternating and switching up meals within the week, along with brown rice or quinoa.
·         Snacks – My snacks consists of assorted nuts, and by assorted I mean almonds or walnuts, plain greek yogurt with fruit, celery (I have to have a dip such as cookie butter or almond butter to eat this) and fruit (strawberries, apple, orange).
When you package everything together, meal prepping can be one of the easiest things you can do for getting your week started.  If you live an active lifestyle, such as I do, where you have to have food ready at a moment’s notice, having your meals prepped can make your week run much smoother.  It is about finding balance and what works for you.  Making healthier eating choices as opposed to unhealthy not only does produces positive results for your health but makes you feel good that the meals you are eating on the go do not consist of fast food, bad fats, and heavy, loaded carbs.  Competing has taught me how to master meal prepping, and I know there are others out there that have busy lifestyles that could benefit from meal prep as well.  Try it out and see what it can do for you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What Is a Fitness Model?

I love receiving questions from people wanting to enter fitness modeling or general interests in the sport itself.  While I am no longer considered a novice in the sport, I am certainly not a veteran or a pro.  But I cannot help but feel a sense of pride when I am asked questions about fitness modeling and hear myself speaking in a way that suggests I’ve been in the sport for years.  I can only speak on what I’ve researched (and I did a lot of research before getting into this) and what I’ve experienced.
So, for inquiring minds, fitness modeling is modeling one’s physical form or physique.  Think of body building competitions or Arnold Schwarzenegger.  When you enter fitness modeling competitions you are competing with others in your desired division.  These divisions include bikini, figure, physique (men and women), fitness, and body building (men and women).  Each division has a different body type requirement:
·         Bikini (female) – usually seen as lean, visible muscle definition but not more muscular than other female fitness division.  Bikini fitness models are classified as exotic, curvaceous, sexy and flirty. 
·         Figure (female) – well defined and visible muscle definition.  While female figure competitors are not as overly flirty on stage during their posing, they are still considered appealing to the eye due to size, shape and sculpting of their muscular form.
·         Physique (male and female) – muscle shape, size and proportion are determining factors within this division, for both men and women.  Muscle size is a size down from body building.
·         Fitness (female) – this is a size down from figure competitors.  They are leaner in size but still have relative muscle definition that determines their overall ranking. 
·         Body Building (male and female) – muscle size, shape and proportion is the largest of all categories. 
Depending on your size, ability to gain muscle mass and compete determines what division you should be competing in.  I chose bikini because of my body type, ectomorph.  I decided, for myself, this division was more along my speed and one I could keep up with in training, rather than trying to gain massive amounts of muscle mass to compete as a figure or physique competitor.  This worked out for me.  This is not to say everyone is cut out to be a bikini model.  Some may chose figure or women’s body building.  It is the same for the men’s divisions. 
The decision should ultimately be yours, one that you will have no regrets and feel happy throughout the entire training and competing process.  After one of my competitions, I saw a fellow bikini competitor crying when we got off stage.  I spoke to her coach to find out what was wrong with her.  The young lady felt as if she did not do as well as she had hoped and wanted to quit.  After learning she was unhappy with her body development and how the process was not as enjoyable as she thought it would be, I asked her if she thought bikini was the division she wanted to compete in.  She thought about it and said no.  We sat and watched most of the show until it was time to get back on stage and she said became mesmerized by the figure competitors.  I told her she may want to consider it but to make sure the decision and experience was one she would be content with.  She agreed to take some time to think about it but would do another show in the figure division. 
Your body takes time to develop and mature.  The same can be said about your mental state around body building/fitness modeling competitions.  Competing is not for everyone.  I can honestly say I never thought I would like fitness modeling but have grown to enjoy it more than I ever thought I could.  One word to best describe fitness competitions: exhilarating.  You meet like-minded individuals that have prepped just as hard if not harder than you for their 15 minutes (if that) on stage to pose and smile.  Some of the things to take into account when prepping for a competition is:
·         Tanning (2 coats and a touch-up)
·         Hair and makeup (women)
·         Jewelry (women)
·         Suits
·         Diet prep (6-8 weeks)
·         Posing
·         Training
It can be thrilling but also overwhelming, and it takes a person that is willing to jump through all the hoops to give their body the shine they’ve worked hard to prep for.  Ask yourself, can I do this and is it worth it?  What am I getting into this for?  The decision is yours.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cucumber Benefits

I never liked cucumbers.  I never knew any of the healthy, nutritious facts tied to cucumbers, nor did I care, at the time.  Whenever someone said cucumbers I automatically thought pickles (pickles are preserved cucumbers in vinegar).  The only thing I liked about cucumbers were the body washes and lotions that combined cucumber and melon.  During my health journey, I discovered some amazing health facts about cucumbers.  Not many people know the benefits of cucumbers and the nutrients they are packed with.  They are more than just slices women put over their eyes to reduce puffiness during girl’s night (I watch too much television).  They serve as a health benefit associated to your overall well-being. 
Here are the facts:
·         They act as a diuretic, flushing out fat cells and increasing energy levels
·         The nutrients in cucumbers include vitamin A, B1, C, D & K, calcium, fiber, iron, folate, magnesium and potassium
·         Promotes joint health and relieves arthritis
·         Regulates blood pressure, fights cancer and reduces cholesterol
·         Can be used as a facial wash or detox cleanse
·         Cures hangovers (I do not promote drinking, however, for some this is relatively important fact)
Now that you are up to speed with the health benefits of cucumbers, I suggest incorporating them in your diet.  Adding a few slices in your water is not only healthy but refreshing.  Think about it, you are essentially drinking your nutrients and benefitting from the fiber content.  And of course simply eating cucumbers is a plus as well.  My relationship with cucumbers has improved, overall.  When I hear cucumbers I cannot help but include the health facts I’ve learned.  I’m not one of those annoying health nuts that feels the need to jump into every food discussion and add her two cent information, but I do like to educate people on what I know from my unbiased perspective.  Add a punch to your health and wellness and give cucumbers a shot, who knew about all the benefits!

Bored Eaters

I'm bored. I have nothing to do and nowhere to go. All my friends are busy and I am, essentially, stuck at home, alone. What to do?  Plop on the couch, watch trash T.V. or a good movie and eat, eat, eat.  Pizza sounds good, salty, buttery popcorn is always good, cookies are a great sugary treat, and how about washing it down with a thick milk shake or a soda.  Funny thing is, I’m not really all that hungry…
Sounds typical, right?  Nothing else to do except sit around and eat.  You’re not hungry, you’re just vegetating (no pun intended).  When you're bored you instinctively become what's called a "bored-eater". You fall into this rut where you have nothing to do and you're at home with an abundance of unhealthy foods and snacks.  They’re accessible and available for massive consumption because, let’s face it, you made it that way by purchasing them.  So what are the reasons behind bored eating?  I am naturally inquisitive (notice how I said inquisitive and not nosy), so I asked a few people and came up with a few good reasons:
1.      Nothing to do – this is clearly obvious.  If you have nothing to do and nowhere to go, of course you are going to eat.  We sit at home in front of the television or behind a computer and automatically feel as if we have to snack.  Solution: get up and do something active.  Exercising at the gym or the park is a great way to stay healthy and in shape. 
2.      Everyone else is doing it – sigh; “when in Rome do as the Romans”.  I used to think it was ok to drink beer when I was in social circles because I wanted to “break the ice”, so to speak, and seem relatively interesting instead of the bored one of the group.  Solution: do not give into the temptation of eating unhealthy just to fit in.  If you are bored and you resort to bad eating habits in social circles just to relate, you may want to look at those circles a little closer.
3.      Depression – I hate to hear people say they eat because they are depressed.  You are in an unhappy state of mind, you are trying to deal with your emotions and in the process, searching for something to soothe or comfort you.  What’s more comforting than chips, cookies, or pizza, things that taste good and will seemingly recharge your neurons?  It is easy to turn to junk food when you’re in an emotional state because it won’t turn on you.  Or will it?  When you fall into bad food patterns it seems harder to get out of them.  Solution: observe the pattern you are creating when in an emotional state of mind and turning to food to cope.  The overeating inevitably leads to weight gain and, undeniably, holding onto that emotion.  It is better to deal with the emotion than to associate it with bad eating choices.
4.      It’s time to eat – I find it funny when people throw time under the bus.  “Time isn’t on my side”; “time is moving too fast”; “I never have enough time”; “the time is now”; “it’s time to eat”.  Time is innocent.  We use time as an excuse for so many things and do not realize if we use it correctly, it can benefit us.  Solution: listen to your body and ask yourself “is it really time to eat or am I just eating because I have nothing else to do right now?”.  There’s nothing wrong with eating at specific times. Body builders and athletes have to do this all the time for muscle growth and retention.  But eating on a schedule and eating at a specific time just because there’s nothing else to do at that time are completely different. 
There are more reasons why people are classified as bored eaters.  I found these to be the most interesting.  There should be no reason a person should eat unhealthy due to boredom.  There are many methods of removing yourself from that bored state of mind, it is a matter of finding what works for you.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What Does Your Body Type Say About You?

Ever wonder how someone can lose or gain weight faster than you?  Or how a person can gain muscle and look shredded by practically looking at a set of dumbbells, while it takes you much longer to gain even a “bump” in your biceps?  I get questions all the time from people wondering how I stay so lean.  I used to remark it had a lot to do with my genes.  However, I realized it was mostly due to my body type that it was harder for me to gain size, muscle and ultimately remain so thin.  Knowing and understanding your body type helps you become more aware of your body and the nutritional needs and workouts to remain healthy and reach your fitness goals.
Let’s breakdown the 3 different body types:
·         Mesomorph – One word description: muscular.  Mesomorphs can gain muscle relatively easily than any other body type.  They are considered the most energetic, athletic looking body type of the other two, being physically capable to perform several activities.  Their thick, muscular bones are credited to their rectangular shape.  Mesomorphs have well-defined chests, shoulders, buttocks, thighs and calves.  They sound like Greek Gods, don’t they?  Well, there’s always a flaw somewhere.  Mesomorphs aren’t the most flexible, and even though fat is distributed evenly throughout their bodies, if they are not active or involved in some form of physical activity to maintain their muscle size and shape, they can become overweight.  As a result, it is imperative that mesomorphs are conscious of their diet, consuming low-fats and low-calories.
·         Ectomorph – Better known as the slim Jim’s of the body types, are lean.  Ectomorphs have a high metabolism and cannot gain weight easily.  They are usually tall and slender (some may even say lanky with long arms and legs), with a delicate build, narrow hips and pelvis.  Ectomorphs do not receive as much love as the other body types because of their build and ability to burn calories when they sleep.  As much as people think ectomorphs have an edge in the competition, gaining muscle mass or size is very difficult.  Specialized workouts and a high-calorie diet is essential for ectomorphs muscle and weight gain. 
·         Endomorph – Soft and curvy, endomorphs tend to be very shapely.  Endomorphs have the most body fat and prone to excessive weight gain than the other two body types.  Weight is distributed to middle and lower half of their bodies.  Endomorphs are typically shorter and stockier, slow metabolism, and not-so well defined muscles.  To lose weight, endomorphs are encouraged to include cardio and weight-lifting within their fitness routine, as well as a low fat, low calorie diet. 
So, based on that information, if someone were to look at me they would see that I am an ectomorph, as clear as the blue sky.  I am sneered and jeered quite often because of my ability to eat relatively anything I want and not gain weight as quickly as others do.  I had to understand why this was so and how to educate others on what they needed to do to reach their fitness goals.  I never knew about body types, but when it was brought to my attention everything finally made sense.  I could look at someone and have them describe to me their eating habits, their workout regimen, and their weight and determine what their body type was and what was needed to reach their goals from a nutrition and fitness standpoint.  It’s all about educating yourself and educating others that helps you understand your health journey and working with others to create their own.  Know your body type, listen and observe what your body is saying to you.  You have to live with it every day.  You might as well understand it, learn from it, and pass your discoveries on to other people.