To pump or not to pump. That is, the question. And the short answer is yes, you should look to get a good muscle pump during certain types and phases of training . Pump is a good indication that your muscles are getting the much needed nutrients, oxygen, and blood supply that they need to perform acutely. But the question is not just if, but how you “pump”. Arginine plays a critical role in pump because it is a precursor to Nitric Oxide, which enhances vasodilation and increases blood flow to the muscle and all the nutrients and oxygen that come with it to help produce energy!! Arginine also plays an important role in protein synthesis (building blocks for muscle) as well supporting healthy growth hormone production, which is critical for lean muscle growth and recovery. You can find arginine in foods such as meat, nuts, and seeds. However, since diets vary greatly, many folks like to supplement with arginine to insure they are getting enough to support the many functions where it is utilized. Timing for arginine use is also important for certain functions and that is why it is a common ingredient in pre-workout formulations. It is also found as a primary ingredient in products that support healthy blood pressure , heart health, vascularity, or circulation. For this reason, arginine use should be discussed with your physician in case you are using medication or have a health condition. Arginine can often be safely incorporated for patient use, but its use should be monitored and personalized in these cases by a qualified health care professional.
I am left with mixed emotions every time I read the very common statement “fitness/weight management is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise”. I love the intention of this statement and that is, setting an expectation that you will likely spend the majority of your waking hours eating a well-balanced and personalized diet to achieve and maintain weight management or fitness goals over time. It’s a lifestyle. Additionally, “you cannot usually out-train a bad diet!” Truth!! HOWEVER, this does not mean that you will be allocating only 20% of your effort and intensity in routine physical activity! Regular physical activity should also be a lifestyle. And in regard to intensity, focus, and obtaining long term results, you should see exercise as equally important to nutrition. Continuously push yourself to achieve new personal milestones in exercise or mobility with 100% commitment and focus, not 20%. Strategically personalized exercise and nutrition plans work together to lay physiological foundations for:
1. Burning more calories at rest and optimizing metabolism
2. Improving sleep quality and the ability to recover and improve performance, immune function, and yes – metabolism, especially blood glucose regulation
3. Healthy brain function and stress reduction
So be sure to give your exercise and nutrition plan your full attention!! These are two of the most important elements in maintaining health and fitness!
I am often a purist coffee drinker. No flavor. No sweetener. Not one drop of cream. Just black. However, sometimes I enjoy a treat with my coffee. So what’s better? Make that coffee a treat! And what’s better than that?! Make it fit with your nutrition goals! That’s right. Here are 4 ways to make your coffee a diet “do” while it still tastes as indulgent as those fancy coffee shop drinks:
1. Protein is key: one way to feel more satiated is to add protein to a meal or snack. Your coffee drink is no different! Help curb those cravings by adding a flavored protein powder to your java. Most milk based protein mixes will add creaminess and that coveted froth to the beverage as well. The trick with hot coffee is to premix your protein powder with about 1-2 oz of cool or warm water (or other liquid of your choice) so as not to dilute your coffee too much and to prevent curdling of the protein when it is added directly to hot coffee. Add the mix in your cup, stir, and enjoy!!
Just protein doesn’t quite get you to the coffee treat experience you were looking for?
2. Spice it up!! Raw ground cinnamon, semi sweet, unsweetened, or sugar free cocoa, and nutmeg are all great options! Sprinkle these over the top of your coffee treat or even add 2 tablespoons of a low fat whipped topping and sprinkle the spices on top of that. Now your drink is even looking fancy!!
Still missing something?
3. Add Flavor!! Sometimes protein mixes wont express their full flavor in a coffee drink or are not intended to taste overly sweet when prepared as recommended on the label. You can still enjoy the protein in your coffee by using tip 2 above and if desired, adding a little flavor with a syrup sweetened with non-caloric sweetener. You won’t add any calories to your treat and there are many flavors to choose from.
4. Non-syrup flavor option. I know many are conscientious of avoiding syrups of any kind as well as artificial sweeteners. There are many unsweetened flavored teas that go well with coffee! Hazelnut, spice, vanilla, mint, and many others. Just add a bag or two to your cup and enjoy! Note: Be sure to get a decaf tea if you aren’t looking for the added caffeine in your coffee!
I know, I know. It’s the holidays. Lots of us are overeating or eating the wrong things and feeling a little guilty. Right? Well, the good news is there are plenty of ways to enjoy seasonal treats without all the guilt. Here are my top 7 diet hacks for staying on track with your nutrition goals:
1. Save room for dessert! I know it sounds crazy, but if you purposely eat a little less at that holiday luncheon or dinner party and save room for a small portion of your favorite dessert, you might not feel like you’ve deprived yourself and may have an easier time avoiding the inevitable binge to makeup for what you missed. That said, try to choose a sugar free, lower fat, or reduced sugar option to your favorite treats. These foods aren’t “healthy” or calorie free by any means, so you’ll still want to moderate.
2. Stay active. Find ways to incorporate more movement during your holiday time. Park further from the store, walk up and down the escalators, make a consistent effort to perform some sort of exercise everyday at home or at the gym if your schedule allows.
3. Portion control. Become aware of the serving sizes for the foods you eat and do not exceed one serving size for each food per meal. This will help you control calories and practice more mindful eating.
4. Savor your food. Eating too fast delays your sense of feeling full. If you eat slowly and chew each bite thoroughly, you can more easily avoid excess caloric intake and feeling overstuffed. And it’s okay to take time to savor and enjoy your meals!! The more satisfied you are with each eating occasion , the more likely you are to stay on track with your dietary goals!
5. Track your food intake: even if you don’t know exact values or portion sizes, do your best to track your food in an app. Apps are usually very flexible and will have a food/meal in the database that is comparable to what you ate. Having an estimate of your intake helps you stick with your caloric and macronutrient goals and guides your food choices throughout the day. An app will also help you become aware when you are exceeding your caloric or macronutrient goals and this is much more persuasive in causing someone to scale back as opposed to not seeing any consequences for their actions.
6. Don’t graze on empty calories: schedule your meals and snacks throughout the day for times that you are actually hungry. Snacking when you aren’t really hungry or indulging in foods that don’t fill you up makes it much easier to overeat. Not only do “junk” foods often trigger overeating specifically, but they are typically higher in calories and some will not replace your desire to have your regular meals/calories. Thus, easily leading to an excess in caloric intake. Instead, make that little treat the dessert you are saving room for (diet hack #1😊).
7. Support satiety. At each meal , try to balance your plate so that you have a serving of protein and at least one good source of fiber (3g or more). Protein and fiber help you feel fuller and help curb appetite, partially because each helps to stabilize blood sugar.
Are you thinking of competing in a fitness, bikini, figure, or bodybuilding show? Or have you been competing and trying to find a way to have a better off-season plan? Here are 5 helpful tips to keep in mind:
1. Embrace your accomplishments! No matter how big or small, recognize the improvements you’ve made. Knowing that you’ve been successful will help you stay motivated for tackling the next milestone.
2. Only compete with yourself! Do not gauge your progress on the competitor that may have done better than you. Having a clear picture on how you can improve based on the exact guidelines of your category is best achieved by getting feedback from the judges after your event and being very familiar with all criteria they are using and any variation which may exist between different organizations. Remember, you don’t control other people, only your own actions and commitment . Stay focused.
3. Know your personal nutrition requirements and track compliance! People are often surprised how much a seemingly small dietary change or oversight can impact results. Use an app for tracking caloric and macronutrient targets that match your individual metabolic needs for the goal that you are pursuing. Hint: you aren’t going to build a significant amount of lean muscle if you are in a constant caloric deficit and you aren’t going to lose fat with a large surplus of extra calories. If you don’t have the working knowledge to sort through this, work with a credentialed professional who can help you!
4. Prepare! Making significant and permanent changes takes time. For example, it is reasonable to expect to gain a pound of muscle within a month’s time or lose 4-8 pounds of fat in a month. Schedule your next show or goal date accordingly. So you should allow yourself at least several months to build some solid lean muscle and then 1-2 additional months for 4-8 pounds of fat loss.
5. Reverse diet! Remember, competition shape is an extreme physical condition that is intended to be temporary. It is not intended for long-term maintenance. Once you have competed and had that long-awaited celebration meal, it is important to gradually add calories in and slowly decrease exercise to maintenance levels. For example, if you spent 8 weeks gradually decreasing calories to lose fat, you will want to gradually add calories back at the same rate to maintain a healthy metabolism.
One of the most common questions I get is whether one should count macros or calories to facilitate weight (fat) loss or muscle gain. The answer? BOTH!!! The reason is because macronutrients (or macros) convert to caloric values! At the end of the day, each of us has a set amount of calories that we require to maintain , lose, or gain weight. So your macro needs will be a reflection of that particular caloric range. Remember, for weight loss, you need to create a consistent caloric deficit that is less than your body’s maintenance caloric needs and muscle gain should incorporate caloric intake that is slightly above weight maintenance calories.
For example, you are trying to lose weight and watch your fat intake at the same time. The general recommendation is typically 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat – note all these percentages add up to 100%😊. So on a fat “conscious” diet you may want to choose 40% carbohydrate , 35% protein, and 25% fat. You may have noticed that the decreased fat percentage of 5% means that extra five percent of calories needs to be added to protein or carbohydrate percentages so that your percentages always equal 💯 . For this example, the extra 5% went to protein. Here’s where calories come in. Each gram of macro has a caloric equivalent. So if you are also consuming 1600 calories per day to create a deficit below maintenance calories (say your maintenance is 2200), you have to make sure your macro targets are aligned with caloric targets. Here’s the math. 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate yields 4 calories. 1 gram of fat yields 9 calories. Using the 40, 35, 25% target example above for dietary fat limitation goals, the calculation looks like this:
40% carb =
0.40 x 1600 calories = 640 calories ; 640 calories /4 calories per gram of carb = 160 grams of carbs per day
35% protein =
0.35 x 1600 calories = 560 calories; 560 calories/ 4 calories per gram of protein = 140 grams of protein per day
25% fat =
0.25 x 1600 calories = 400 calories; 400 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 44.4 grams of fat per day
Now that you know the basic concepts above, you can customize your dietary goals as your needs or goals change!! Note: different starting body weights (fat vs lean mass) and individual energy expenditure will dictate different caloric needs to meet daily goals for calories . You can calculate total energy expenditure (TEE) needs through various tools online. Time to customize your plan for results!!
For personal questions about this concept or other health questions, contact Dr. Kris at: email@example.com
It is important to keep in mind that you can achieve preferred body composition goals and do it in a healthy way while on a macronutrient based diet, even when targets are extremely high. Actually, that is when you have the most flexibility to eat a wider variety and volume of healthy foods. Note: all uses of the word diet in this blog are based on the assumption that diet is being used as a healthy and fit lifestyle strategy, not a temporary solution used to achieve a short-term goal…
Agree it is fine to eat primarily highly processed calorically dense “junk” when your only dietary goal is to meet caloric and macronutrient (macro) targets. However, the founders or science behind macro based dieting never said it was healthier or ideal to eat garbage or that you had to eat garbage to meet your targets and ultimately achieve results, but if you wanted to you could. So there really is no advantage in eating junk in place of a healthier and more balanced diet to meet your targets aside from a personal preference to allow indulgence in your flexible dieting plan. And by the way, indulging in saturated fats, sugars, preservatives, and artificial colors is fine in moderation, but not ideal as the foundation of your eating plan. In fact, it can prove to be a disadvantage for some to eat a diet deficient in nutritional value by hindering certain physiological processes that support continued success in achieving results while on a macro based diet or any other diet for that matter. There are several examples of how the poor nutrition route can be detrimental to weight maintenance goals as well as several other factors which can significantly (negatively) impact weight and health in general. These include the potential for a low quality diet to increase inflammation and water retention, compromise or “burden” liver function/performance, create nutrient deficiencies, raise unhealthy cholesterol levels, decrease immune function or ability to heal and recover, and/or promote gut microbiome imbalances.
So my recommendation is try not to sacrifice your hard work and health by consuming the majority of your calories from junk so that you may eat in accordance with your targets. It’s entirely possible to hit these calories and macros in a healthy and satisfying way. Here are some tips of what you can add to the mix:
Healthy fats: flax seeds, oil on salads, even flax seed crackers; natural nut butters (the kind you have to stir a little to mix in the oil – almond or peanut are great) , avocados, coconut, fish oil
Also, high fiber carbs are more calorically dense: whole grain breads, cereals, crackers , rolled oats, and pastas; yams, beans and legumes
Finally, still eat plenty of simple carbs and higher glycemic fruits: bananas, citrus, melons
And congrats on having such an awesome metabolism!