Saturated Fat: The Mid-Way Fat

Apologies for the mini-hiatus. Injuries, work, life in general conspired against me. Things are more or less under control again so back to the posting!

Recently, I suffered a set-back in my running training. In particular, I injured my knee (with a leg press machine no less!) and I have been working on recovery for it given I have a half marathon coming up this weekend. The decision of going is still up in the air at this point.

So how is this all related to the post today? Well, one of the things I’ve been doing to help my joints recover and strengthen is focussing on my Omega-3 intake. The average person should be getting 3 grams a day. Runners, athletes, and active people who work their joints more frequently should be getting three times that. So as I gulped down my 2 tablespoons of Omega-3 oil, I remembered that I had promised to discuss the other siblings in the Fat family.

Thus, here we are! Saturated fats. I’ll be blunt here: saturated fats, while not the worst fat sibling, are really not your best friend when compared to the golden child, unsaturated. That being said, saturated fats are not nearly as unhealthy as previously thought and certainly do not compare to trans fats on the unhealthy scale. You can have saturated fats in your diet and still call it healthy. Tran fats serve no nutritional value and any trans fat added to a diet pretty much drags it down into the non-healthy spectrum. We’ll leave trans fat alone today, though, since it’s saturated fat’s turn in the spotlight!

Saturated Fat

The first thing we’re probably all asking is, “What really makes saturated fat different from unsaturated?” And no, the answer isn’t as simple as the ‘un’ in front since that really doesn’t help those of us who flunked science (and even those of us who didn’t).

When we talked about unsaturated fats, we looked at their form at the molecular level. Unsaturated fats are better because they break down easily due to a kink/weakness in their form that allows for easier processing and absorption. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature due to this ‘kink’. Saturated fats don’t have this kink in their form. They’re more sturdy and that makes them more compact. An example of this is in the room temperature scenario above. Where unsaturated fats are liquid or viscous, saturated fats remaind solid. That’s why natural nut butters, like peanut butter, need to be refridgerated to keep their form, and tend to separate in room temperature settings. The normal jar of Skippy, Kraft, or Jif can sit in your cupboard and not change. Most of these brands have started to make ‘natural’ or Omega-3 versions of their recipes but the price is often quite more for less product. It’s worth it, if you must have peanut butter, since the ‘more product’ aspect of the cupboard versions, is really not going to add healthy value to your diet. Adding more of something that is less healthy for you doesn’t provide much of a bonus.

Why is Saturated Fat Suddenly ‘Healthy’?

Well, it’s not, really. It’s just less unhealthy than previously thought, and often the rest of the diet affects the health value as well. The main issues associated with excessive saturated fat intake, like increased body fat, cardiovascular disease, and blood lipid issues, are often present when saturated fat is joined with a diet that is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and when the intake of saturated and unsaturated fats is not balanced.

The key here is to avoid combining low unsaturated fat intake with high saturated fat intake, high sugar, and refined carbohydrates. The best solution, in my opinion, is to cut the carbs and sugar, and increase the Omega-3s. If you’re not sold on the benefits of Omega-3 and unsaturated fats, check out the post I linked earlier. Fat can be your friend!

The Side-Effects of Too Much Saturated Fat

Diets that have too much unsaturated fat are linked to heart disease. This is linked to the increase in LDL cholesterol (which Omega-3 helps control and lower). Along with heart disease, unbalanced or high levels saturarated fat diets are associated with:

  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • Breast cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Mutliple sclerosis

Sources of Saturated Fat

So we know we want to avoid excess saturated fat, keeping it in check with our unsaturated best friend, Omega-3, but to do that, we need to know from where we get our saturated fat.

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Coconut oil
  • Butter
  • Palm oil
  • Beef

Just because something is a source of saturated fat, does not mean we should avoid it and it is bad for us. We know coconut oil is good for us as is beef, both in moderation. The stearic acid in things like beef, lowers LDL (bad cholesterol). Lauric acid (found in coconut oil) increases HDL (good cholesterol, also in Omega-3) as well as boosting the immune system.

Coconut oil is also a good oil for cooking as it doesn’t break down like most oils do when heated. Oils that break down while cooking change their structures, often becoming trans fats even if they did not start that way, losing most of their health benefits. Interally, coconut oil is processed by the body differently, being used as energy first, unlike most other oils. Often, when coconut oil has been linked to negative effects on the body, it was refined/processed coconut oil that was used.

Beef that is fed grain has higher levels of saturated fat than beef that is fed grass. It is also shown that grain-fed beef has higher levels of Omega-6 (which we already get in excess) than grass-fed beef.

Hopefully, the above helps show that not all saturated fats are equal and there are ways to keep your fat ratio balanced. Saturated fats may not be your friend, but they’re definitely better than trans fats, which I’ll tackle next time.

Recipe Roundup – Protein Loaf

Protein Loaf

First, let me preface this by saying, don’t judge the recipe by the title. While I don’t think the title sounds bad (I’m a big fan of loaves of all sorts), most people I have mentioned this recipe to find it a big turnoff.

This recipe is a great recipe for those of us who are trying to find low-carb options but who have a weakness for baked goods like muffins, cookies, and banana breads. The fact it also has high protein is just a plus!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of banana, mashed (It helps if the banana is very ripe)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese (I subbed in the Greek yogurt as I don’t like cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 2 cups of walnut, ground (I found it’s easier to buy walnuts and grind them myself)
  • 1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 150 grams of whey protein powder (I used chocolate, but the recipe calls for vanilla. You’ll need to check how much your protein powder scoop holds, it varies from brand to brand, but 150 grams is usually 4-6 scoops)
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
  2. Combine the oats, ground walnut, protein powder, and baking soda in a medium – large bowl. Stir until evenly mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and then combine with the Greek yogurt (or cottage cheese) and mashed banana.
  4. Slowly add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients until evenly incorporated. This will have a sticky, slightly clumpy consistency.
  5. Lightly coat a 9×9 (I used 8×8) inch baking pan with the olive oil spray and transfer the mixture to the pan.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the edges (it may not come out fully clean from the middle, but it will finish once removed from the oven).
    • Note: Be careful not to overcook (ie. do not try to get a toothpick to come out clean from the middle, etc.) as this recipe will dry out very quickly if left in the oven too long.
  7. Let cool, slice, and enjoy or store in the fridge or freezer, individually wrapped.

I found this recipe extremely good, even if my first try at it turned out a little dry as I was aiming for a clean toothpick from the middle. I cut it into 4 big squares and take it for lunch or breakfast at the office. Since I had 4 scoops of protein in my mix, each serving comes to about 30-35 grams of protein, which is perfect.

Protein Loaf

2 quarters of my protein loaf. Each has 30-35 grams of protein and makes a very fulfilling meal.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find I could cut flour out of my loaf baking as well as sub in protein powder. Baked goods are one of the things I miss the most with this new low-carb/no-starch eating style, so this is a big find that will allow me to still enjoy some of what I had to cut out. I’m messing around with substitutions like peanuts or almonds in place of walnuts, and coconut or other fruits either in place of, or in addition to, the banana.

If you give this a try, or plan to, feel free to let me know how it goes and your thoughts on the recipe! I’d love to hear how others find it.

Race Report – Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon, May 6, 2012

Race Report – Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon May 6, 2012


Pre-race: We got into town around 3:00-3:30 pm on Saturday and the expo was to close at 5:00. Unfortunately, the signage around the CNE was not very good and DBF ended up dropping me off on the other side of BMO Field and its parking lot from the building inside which the expo was to take place (since we didn’t want him to pay the 14$ parking fee for 10 minutes worth of parking). Having no clue where to go, I asked the parking attendant and proceeded to cross the huge parking lot to the Direct Energy Centre (where the expo was). Of course, it was in the last hall in the building.

The line-ups were pretty long for the bib pick up, and the only size shirts they had left were women’s XS and men’s M. I went with XS since I figured it’d be the closest to fitting of the two. I hadn’t planned to need the race shuttle to the start line when I registered and you weren’t able to order tickets after the fact. Instructions were to buy them for 8$ at the expo if you needed one. So I asked about the shuttle tickets, and was promptly told they were sold out.

Not taking that for an answer, I got into another long line for registration changes and solutions. I got to the front and asked again. I was told they were sold out. I was really tired and worked up by this point, and I was about to start crying because I was now in a city I didn’t know anything about being told to find my own way to a start line that ended up being over 30 minutes from the host hotel (which I had booked for the sole reason of using the shuttle). The lady at the registration desk looked like she didn’t want a hysterical girl on her hands and stuck her head in the back. She came back, asked me if I was with anyone, and when I said no, she took my bib, turned around and when I got it back, it had a sticker for the shuttle from my hotel on it. I almost cried again (I was really, really tired) out of happiness.

I activated my bib and signed up for the Midsummer Night’s Run 30K at the expo since they were giving out free hats. Keep in mind, DBF is circling the CNE waiting for me, so I rushed out, through the building, across the sea of parking lots and almost bowled over the Avengers. I guess they were going to the game at BMO Field but it was hilarious to see them in costume.

I found DBF and we left to check into our hotel. I got my late check-out time granted to 1:00 pm (only an hour but it proved vital!) and we were on the 28th floor with an amazing view of the CN tower.

In laying out my goody bag loot, I noticed there were no pins. I checked with Vicky (of menubyvicky), and sure enough, she hadn’t got any either. Sold out shuttle and no pins to attach my bib to me… 2-0 so far expo organizers!

I checked with a volunteer at the lobby about what time the buses start and was told 6:00 am. The race instructions I found later said 6:30 and another racer had been told 5:30, so I opted to get up at 5:00, aim for shortly after 5:30 and pray there wasn’t a line like there is a Disney.

 

Novotel’s Mascot

Race Day: 2 alarms, 1 snooze button, and a wake-up call later, I was up by 5:10, dressed and in the lobby by 5:35. There was no one there at all. Another racer joined me, commenting that there is usually a line up that extends two blocks around the hotel for the buses.

That wasn’t the case this year as my bus took off with 7-10 people on it at 5:45am (note: not 5:30 or 6:00, lol). We got dropped off at the start line around 6:30, so it was a decent distance from the hotel that I’m glad I didn’t have to cab. I was annoyed they were ‘sold out’ and yet buses were running not even half full.

The start area was well handled, even with the crowds.

We were allowed to wait inside the civic building so I made use of the wall heaters and passed the time until the 8:30 start. The race itself wasn’t too bad or too good. The first half was hard for me since there were some substantial hills, which I’m not used to. I’m also used to running in miles, so the kilometres were messing me up in terms of knowing where my pace was.

I took a couple pictures as we got near the last portion of it and entered the main part of the city. There was a lot of crowds and the city was much more fun to run through than Anaheim. This was the first time I’d listened to music while running but I was glad I had it. I had only 5 songs to choose from but that was better than nothing.

My calf seized up around KM 12 or so and I ran out of water around KM 14-15. I didn’t want to rely on city water since they were using the fire hydrants to get it and usually water from other places makes me not well (and this was no exception later on in the day). I managed to lose a GU on the way too, somehow but I had 4 extra so I was glad I over-prepared.

This was the closest the course got to the CN Tower.

The water stations were terribly executed where often they had run out at 1-2 of the first tables, regardless of whether it was water or gatorade. They couldn’t stock it fast enough it seems and the order kept switching even though all pre-race info said water would always be first at the stations.

I ended up running the last bit just to offset the excess walking I did in the first part over the hills and I pulled into the finish in 2:28:12 (chip). Then came the even more disorganized finish area.

 

A racer who ran as Thor. I paced off him during the first half of the race.

Post-Race:The medal holders had one hand for full and one hand for half finishers and there was a crowd around them as the physio tent was right behind them with a line going out the door. It was a chaotic mess in a cramped space.

Post-race water and gatorade was only available in cups (as you would get it on the race course), not in bottles, and on tables so that they were obscured by the crowd around them. They were also in the middle of the area, so people had to move around the crowd to get anywhere else.

There was a pen for family with 1 five foot wide opening but no info on what it was so a lot of racers went in there thinking it was the exit, myself included, only to have to try and squeeze your way back out. It took me almost 15 minutes to find anyone who even knew where the shuttles were and all they knew was the general direction.

No one seemed to know where the engraving plaques we had to prepay for were to be found, either, so I saw a few other runners also meandering around looking for the plaque pick up. Chaos doesn’t begin to describe it. Bag check was stupid, in my opinion, but since I didn’t use it, I can’t really comment on it.

Off I marched across another parking lot, up a hill, over the bridge I was sent to, only to find no signs, no volunteers, and no shuttles. I was back in the parking lot I got lost in trying to get to the expo. I wandered around there until I teamed up with a few others looking for the shuttles and we followed the road hoping for buses. When we found them, they weren’t labelled and so we went from bus to bus until we found one going to our hotel.

We had to wait about 20 minutes for it to ‘fill up’ (15 people is not filling!) and we were on our way. We were on the bus about 20 minutes when we encountered a road closure and were detoured. 2 blocks into the detour, the road was closed again and our bus was told to make a U-turn (back towards the first detour). I finished the race around 11:00 am. By 12:20, I was back at the intersection of the first detour where three lanes were trying to merge into 1 and my bus driver trying to get instructions on where to go to get us to the hotel. Keep in mind, my original check out time was 12:00 and I have 40 minutes to check out with my ‘late’ check out.

My other racing souvenir.

I hopped out of the bus in the middle of the road with pretty much everyone else and decided to hoof it the 3-4 blocks to the hotel. This only added to what turned out to be a very brutal set of sunburns. I made it to the hotel room by 12:35 with just enough time for a quick cool shower and to pack. Checked out by 1:06 and was on the road.

 

The hardwon medal from this event.

Summary: In the end, the race was less than great for me. I wouldn’t run it again, I don’t think. It was like this was the first time it was ever run, and I expected a lot more than the result. Too many things were mishandled, and I think they forgot that people from outside Toronto would be running it too as support/signage was minimal at the best of times and non-existent everywhere else.

I ran the race to hang out with my team mates, mostly, but circumstances sunk that, unfortunately. I think that’s the only thing that could have saved this race from being a complete bust. I hope my other upcoming non-Disney races restore my faith, otherwise I might have to stick to just Disney in the future.

May 2 – Abs & Interval Cardio

I have a half marathon on Saturday. It’s my second of the year and unfortunately due to my recent illness, I had to cut back on my durance training the last couple weeks to allow myself to recover. Today was my first attempt at running since becoming sick, so I made it a half day of resistance and half day of interval cardio, taking it easier on the cardio. The goal was to get some miles on the feet, not attempt a long distance.

Group 1 – Repeat 4 times
Dragonflies: 15 reps – note: note: you want to have control the whole time, keeping your back straight as you reach the lower parts of the movement. Go as low as you can before your back arches, using your contracted abs to keep everything stable. Do not swing or bend your legs to get up and don’t go past the chest. You want a straight motion.
Scissor Leg Lowers: 20 reps (10 each leg change) – note: unlike in the video, I do a 2 second pause between switching legs. Like in the dragonflies above, focus on the core and keeping the lower back flat. You can rest your head on the ground if neck discomfort is an issue.
Heel Touches: 20 reps per side – note: try to raise your chest high enough so your shoulder blades are off the ground. If you have neck/throat/chest discomfort doing this, you can rest the head back down on the ground. It is best if you start with a pelvic tilt before raising your head/shoulders. Contract it down into the ground to form a strong core first.

Cardio
Distance: 2.37 miles
Time: 24:58
Interval running: 6.5 mph (2 minutes), 6.0 mph (2 minutes), 3.5 mph (1 minute)
Incline: 1.0 (15 minutes), 0.5 (5 minutes), 0.0 (5 minutes)

The Implications of a Ketogenic Lifestyle

Food for thought about the effect of grain-based products on our overall health and well-being.

the primeval tongue

When approaching the ketogenic lifestyle, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by monetary, social and physical implications that can feel somewhat prohibitive or de-motivational, especially when first starting out. For many people, food is an integral part of their cultural and social heritage, and for many people, that act of altering or giving up that part of themselves can be frightening. I, for one, am a lover of craft beer and neapolitan-style pizza. They are, in reality, my comfort foods, and they are foods from my social heritage I felt most sad about giving up. Because my cultural heritage lies somewhere between Scandinavian and “golly-gee” Northern Minnesotan, many foods that are prominent in my family circle revolve around potatoes, battered and fried foods, cheesy pastas, and loads of delightful sweets that tempt the palate while deceiving the hips. As with any lifestyle change, there are many things that one must keep…

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