[Infographic] 10 Exercise/Health Myths

Exercise Myths

A lot of these myths are things I encounter when talking about fitness with people, especially the cardio and scale points. While I have trouble adhering to some of these things (marathon training kind of flies in the face of limiting oneself to 20 minutes of cardio), I know the reasoning behind it.

How many of these facts are new to you? Would they change how you approach your own workouts?

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Recipe Roundup: Quinoa with Spiced Meat and Cheddar Cheese

All Mixed Together

In looking for a healthy carb option for my lunches while I’m on a higher intensity training schedule, I came across this recipe. Given what I had in my kitchen at the time (10:00 pm on a Sunday night) I modified it to suit my needs.  It still worked out really well so after encouragement from Vicky, I’ve decided to post it. For those who checked out the above link, you’ll notice my recipe is different. The ingredients below are what I used in my variation. I love garlic and cheese, so please keep that in mind. The original called for 2 gloves of garlic and 1/2 cup of cheese. In my second batch I also used peppers.

For me, this makes 2 filling lunches (not 4-6 servings as per the original). Probably for most people 4 would be the most reasonable amount of servings but you may find that on the small side if that’s the whole meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 package of mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar

Instructions

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add quinoa and simmer with a lid for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Uncooked quinoa in boiling water.

    Continue with the recipe but remove from heat when the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa will be soft but chewy with each grain looking like it has popped open.

    Quinoa Done

    How quinoa looks fully cooked.

  3. While the quinoa is cooking, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion and mushrooms.
  5. Saute until soft.
  6. Add the ground meat, cumin, Italian spice and cinnamon.
  7. Continue cooking until the meat is done. Drain excess fat or liquid as needed.
  8. Add the garlic (or garlic salt) to the meat and saute 1-2 minutes.

    Meat Cooking

    The meat and veggies mixture.

  9. Remove the meat from heat
  10. Mix the meat and quinoa together.
  11. Add the cheddar and stir until mixed.
  12. Serve warm or store for later.

This works out well for me as a quick and protein-full lunch option. I am rarely hungry for the second half of my day and well into my work out, which has always been a challenge. Enjoying a warm meal that tastes good re-heated is also a bonus. I would recommend serving it warm (either fresh or re-heated). Although I do enjoy it cold as well, I’m sure many would prefer it warmed up, if possible.

I like to experiment with the veggies and seasonings a bit each time so feel free to sub in what works for you. I also usually like to put my garlic in before the meat or split it with half before and half after. If you prefer, you could also add in a sauce or stronger spices. This recipe lends itself to adaptations. Sorry there isn’t a prettier final picture. It was going into lunch containers, not onto my plate (sadly).

All Mixed Together

Quinoa with Spiced Meat and Cheddar Cheese.

Saturday Shake Up: “Chocolate-Covered Strawberries”

So in talking with Vicky (of menubyvicky), we realized that often some of the little things in our routines, things we do to improve the impact of our health regimen or things we’ve learned through experience or research, are often things others may not have come across that could be beneficial to them. This could be anything like knowing about foam rollers for runners or the benefits of some fats over others. There is always going to be something new to learn and share.

With that in mind, and inspired by Vicky’s wonderful suggestion, I’ve decided to share my experiences (and recipes, as simple as they are) with protein shakes. These recipes are very simple and straight forward, but for many who have never made a protein shake before, it may be daunting to figure out solid recipes that you like. It often takes a little trial and error to figure out what your body likes, as well.

When I talk about protein shakes, by the way, I don’t mean the sugar-filled meal replacement drinks you see on the shelves. Even the ‘high protein’ options there have so much sugar (and very little protein) that you might as well blend a chocolate bar and a multi-vitamin together.

I also want to encourage readers and fellow bloggers to send in their own shake recipes or substitutions. I’m always on the look-out for new recipes, especially for ways to incorporate more protein into my routine, and I’ll be looking to post some of your ideas (linking back or crediting to you, whichever you prefer) to share with others. Please send any submissions to me at rapunzels.adventures@gmail.com.

So, for my first Saturday Shake Up post, I’m sharing a recipe I had to improvise in order to use up left-over strawberry protein powder (which I’ve realized I can’t stand on its own).

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries Shakes
Yields: about 2 large glasses

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cups of cold water
  • 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein
  • 1/2 scoop of strawberry whey protein
  • 2-4 frozen strawberries
  • almond milk as preferred

There isn’t a specific order that you must follow in terms of blending the ingredients, but my preferred order goes like this:

  1. Add water (adjust the water to your preference of thinner or thicker shakes)
  2. Add chocolate and strawberry protein powders (ideally, each should be around 25 – 30 grams of protein per full scoop)
  3. Add frozen strawberries
  4. Add almond milk (optional)

If you can’t or don’t want to use the strawberries, use a few ice cubes instead and increase the strawberry protein portion to a full scoop. If your scoops come out to more than 30 grams of protein each, only use half scoops so you’re not wasting protein (as was mentioned in Protein Part 1, we can only absorb around 30 grams at a time) unless you’re splitting the shake with someone or saving half for later. Both are really good options!

You can also sub in more strawberries in lieu of the strawberry protein powder or a couple of small pieces of dark chocolate in lieu of the chocolate protein powder. Please don’t substitute both though since the goal is to get some protein in this shake. If you can’t do almond milk, use 2% instead of skim as skim often has more sugar (aka carbs) than 2%. Start off with a little almond milk, if you’ve never had it, so it doesn’t overwhelm your shake. It can take a couple of uses to grow accustomed to almond milk, but it’s much better in shakes than on its own.

Well there you go! Our first Saturday Shake Up! Feel free to let me know in the comments what you thought of it and if you have a recipe you’d like to share, shoot me an e-mail.

Protein Part One: Why and How Much?

I’ve been talking with a lot of fellow runners and fitness pursuers lately about food and diet changes. It has had me thinking more about the common misconceptions out there about ‘healthy’ eating. I was speaking with one friend about little changes in what she consumes and when I mentioned increasing protein, I could see her immediately react with nervousness and she said something that has stuck with me for a while: “I’m not going to be training to be a runner.”

It’s probably because I have been so immersed in learning about the various macronutrients out there that her comment struck me as bizarre. I didn’t realize, until then, that some people don’t really know what certain macronutrients do and how they work into the different fitness routines.

Protein is good for everyone. Period. It has more effect for those who actively do some sort of resistance/weight training, less so in terms of cardio. So let’s look at protein more closely. This will probably be broken into a few segments since there’s a lot of information.

Why Do We Need Protein?

Like with the various fat discussions, the basic answer to why protein is good for us comes down to the composition of protein. It is made of various amino acid chains. Amino acids are the foundation and bricks of muscle. You can’t build or maintain muscle without protein. Amino acids also regulate hormones, enzymes, and immune chemicals. Normally, we can make 12 of the various amino acids internally. The other 8, considered essential amino acids, we have to get from outside sources.

Healthy fats (like Omega-3), including, unfortunately, unhealthy fats, and protein encourage the body to feel full which in turn helps decrease cravings and overall caloric intake. As well, protein has the highest thermic effect of all macronutrients. What that means while we burn energy (ie. calories) to process what we eat, protein takes the most energy and therefore we burn more caloric fuel to process protein than we do carbohydrates or fats.

Carbohydrates can have strong effects on insulin and blood sugar, but when consumed with sufficient amounts of protein, the effect is significantly decreased.

How Much Protein Should We Have?

Currently, the daily recommendation for sedentary individuals, to maintain day-to-day functions, is around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. The amount increases to 1.4-2 grams per kilogram of ‘desired’ body weight for active people going as high as 1 gram per pound of ‘desired’ body weight.

I would use caution when looking at ‘desired’ body weight, though. If all that matters is the number on the scale, the above works against you. For example, if I’m 160 pounds and my desired body weight is 130 pounds, by limiting my protein intake to only 130 grams of protein a day, I will drop weight, but that weight will come partially from my muscles. Your body will use muscle tissue as fuel, if need be, and by not feeding your muscles the ‘bricks’ it needs to keep itself building up, then they will become smaller. As muscle weighs more than fat, this effect will result in a lower scale weight.

A better rule to live by, for active individuals, is about 20-30 grams per meal for women and 30-40 grams per meal for men. Overall, 30% of your food on a given day should be protein. The normal maximum amount that can be absorbed at one time on average is about 30-40 grams. This varies based on the overall available muscle mass.

It’s better to have excess protein rather than excess carbohydrates. Carbohydrates convert into glycogen to fuel the muscles during any high intensity activity. If the glycogen is not used within a short time span, it is then stored for later use as fat.

As we know above, protein takes more calories/energy to process and this is partially because protein goes through many more phases before going to storage (if it goes there at all). Any extra protein in the system is first converted to glycogen as fuel for muscles. Any extra is then changed again and used to build up lean muscle mass to a finite amount (varying based on muscle size, so less so for women). After that, it is converted back into glycogen and stored in the muscle as fuel if it is not used right away. It is only after that point, that is could potentially be stored as fat. Keep in mind each step in this process requires converting the protein which in turn burns calories.

In comparing protein to carbohyrdates in terms of processing, it’s easy to see that overloading on carbs can quickly lead to fat store build up. There is 1 step in the conversion process. With protein, there is 4-5 steps that it goes through before it could potentially enter the fat stores of the body. Protein, in addition to going to the muscles first and staying longer, takes 4-5 times more energy to process so it burns way more calories on the way which in turn creates more places for the protein fuel to go before becoming fat.

Is it possible to have too much of protein? Yes, probably it is. It’s possible to have too much of anything, really. The key thing here though is that the limit of ‘too much’ in terms of protein is extremely high and much harder to reach than the limit of carbohydrates or fats. The average person would be very hard pressed to hit that limit without intense over-supplementation. Hitting the carbohydrate limit is easy and the majority of us do it ever day, especially when we fail to combine carbohydrate consumption with high intensity interval training of some kind (not steady-state cardio).

In part two, I’ll tackle the various sources of protein, the traps of ‘high protein’ labels, and ways to increase protein in your daily meals.

Also, keep an eye out this weekend for the start-up of my (protein) shake series!

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.

Fat: The Falsely-Accused Villain Of Food

Fats have a really bad reputation in our society. The amount of ‘low-fat’ or ‘no-fat’ products out there is atonishing. We’re told to cut our fat intake down and that fats are the evil of the food world. The overwhelming belief is that fat, essentially, is how we become fat. Our logic dictates that if we eat fat, it will become fat on our bodies.

This thinking is wrong. The label ‘fat’ when looking at food groups (not body composition) covers a large number of types of fat. Yes, some of it is the reason we, as a society, have gained weight, but that doesn’t mean we should cut out all fats. There are some fats that are amazing for our bodies and even some fats that fight other fats. Why would you want to cut out something that helps you lose fat?

We need to stop and own our bodies. We need to educate ourselves in knowing what is or isn’t good for us. Avoid bulking everything under one label of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for us.

I eat bacon. Not your gross, mechanically-separated and full-of-ingredients-I-can’t-even-pronounce chicken or turkey bacon, but bacon from a pig that has 4 ingredients in it: Pork (not mechanically separated), salt, water, and spices. No words ending in ‘ate’, ‘ose’, or sounding like something I learned in high school chemistry.

“You must trim the fat of that before you eat, then.” Nope. I put it on the plate straight as it is and savour every piece of it. If society is to be believed, I’d go up in weight, right? I’m eating something that is fairly full of fat on a regular basis.

I’ll let you know when the scale ever shows my weight going up from that, but it might be a while. Ever since I started changing my foods to include some fat, a small but reasonable amount, my scale has gone down. Albeit this also came with the change to cut down on my grains and starches signficantly, but increasing my fat intake has not had any negative effect on my weight or body shape (since fat weighs less than muscle). I’m not putting on fat, and in fact, I’m seeing more muscle definition than I did eating ‘low-fat’ options.

The power is in knowing what fats are your friends. So let me introduce them: Saturated and Unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are usually identified by their sub categories: Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, and Trans fats. I know we’ve all heard of Trans fat.

Part of the reason fats get the reputation they do is they have more calories per 1 gram than the other macronutrients out there:

  1. Fat – 9 calories
  2. Alcohol – 7 calories (for reference, not a macronutrient)
  3. Carbohydrate/Protein – 4 calories

If you’re counting calories, the choice seems obvious, right? Carbs and protein are the ways to go. But counting calories doesn’t work in almost all cases. Carbs serve one purpose for our bodies: energy. Unless you’re working your muscles with high intensity workouts, you aren’t going to be burning many carbs. We don’t use carbs to fuel leisurely walks or sitting in front of the T.V.. Your body can only store so much carbohydrate, a finite amount depending on your muscle mass. So the rest of it goes into storage. I’m sure we all know what storage looks like on a body.

So although carbs have lower caloric value per gram, they don’t bring a lot of value to your every-day meals except when consumed around work out times (to fuel and repair your muscles). Calorie counting would have you eating them regardless. Let’s dispense with calorie-based judgements and look at what fats can do to justify the calories, shall we?

Dietary fat has many roles in our body’s fuction (compared to carbohydrate’s 1 function, energy):

  • Energy source
  • Forms the brain and nervous system
  • Hormone manufacturing and balance
  • Source of 2 essential fatty acids: linlenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6)
  • Forms cell membranes
  • Aids transport of fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K

So fat and carbohydrates both serve as sources of energy. I just said we don’t burn enough to use our carbs so why would having fat as a source of energy be a good thing? Won’t it just go to ‘storage’ with the extra carbs?

No, it won’t. It already is storage. Most of us have a fairly good sized store of fat, as well. We have a virtually unlimited supply of that stored energy called fat. They call it ‘burning fat’ for a reason.

The big difference is, unlike with carbs where you need high intensity exertion to burn, when at rest or in low intensity activities such as walking and most steady-state cardio, you burn fat. When you are not challenging your heart and body with high intensity work outs, the fuel source of choice is fat (and some muscle, but I’ll save that for another discussion).

Most people are encouraged to intake 30% of their diet in the form of fats, 10% for saturated and 20% broke evenly between our two favourite unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. There is a change coming slowly to this structure though as more and more people are encourage to increase their fat intake breakdown, particularly when it comes to Omega-3s vs Omega-6s.

A diet high in saturated and polyunsaturated fats (from unprocessed food sources) is not as detrimental as we’ve often believed, however, a diet that focuses on ‘low-fat’ can lower testosterone levels and cause the remaining testosterone to be ineffective. Remember, fat helps manufacture and balance hormones. Cutting it down, or out entirely, will have effects on the hormone balances in your body.

Over the next few posts, I will be delving more into the different fats like omega-3s, omega-6s, saturated, trans fat, and a little on cholesterol. I hope you guys find this info helpful.