Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Survival Series: Healthy Winter Weight Gain

For many people, winter seems to bring a certain degree of weight gain. The introduction of cold weather comfort foods, sugar laden warm drinks, holiday party overload combined with the tendency for decreased physical activity can lead to the packing on of a few extra pounds. However, it's not necessary to succumb to these "natural" tendencies. My preference is to retrain my mindset: Instead of focusing on the possible causes of unhealthy weight gain during the winter months, use the off-season and crummy weather as an excuse to hit up the gym more and put on some muscle mass!

Quick tips for building muscle in the gym:

1. Strive to lift 2-4 days per week.

2. Establish a rotation of muscle focuses for each workout

3. Use supersets to add a cardio component to your lifting routine, rev your metabolism, and get the most of your workout in a short time period. I recommend using a jump rope between sets if you really want to get your heart rate up!

4. Alternatively, focus on shorter, heavier sets with full rest for the best muscle gains. By that I mean reps below 10 per set with rest of 60 seconds or more.

Quick tips for building muscle in the kitchen:

1. Focus on protein intake, specifically after your workouts! Without adequate protein intake, your workout gains will go to waste. Standard recommendations are 1.0-1.2g protein per kg body weight. A little more won't necessarily hurt you, but anything above 1.5g/kg is excessive in my book.

 [ Body weight (lbs) / 2.2 ] x 1.0 - 1.2 = Your protein needs

2. As mentioned in #1, be sure to eat a high protein snack within 60 minutes of finishing your workout! Your muscles need fuel to recover and rebuild stronger, make sure you're getting it in! Time your workouts so your recovery meal corresponds with breakfast, lunch or dinner to taking in too many extra calories.

3. Carbs are important too! Each meal and snack should consist of a complex carbohydrate and lean protein source. Examples may include: Rice and beans, yogurt and granola, PB sandwich, protein shake with mixed frozen fruit.

4. Stress quality of foods in your diet, not quantity. Choose whole foods more often than not. Overall diet quality along with hard work in the weight room are two components of muscle gain.

5. Take good notes! Write down each workout that you do, and keep a food journal too.

Best protein sources: Again, it's definitely NOT necessary to eat animal products to gain muscle mass. Here's a breakdown of some of the best (whole foods) protein sources from both categories:
  • Plant based protein sources: beans, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, edamame, quinoa
  • Animal based protein sources: salmon or tuna, talapia or halibut, shrimp, boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork chops, lean cuts of red meat, turkey, and dairy products (cottage cheese and greek yogurt being highest).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Simple Wellness Tips to Live By: 8-5-2-1-0 ©

With the plethora of diets and weight loss schemes available on the market and internet these days, it's a no brainer as to why we're all confused about how to take care of ourselves! But, taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle doesn't have to be overly complicated.

As a dietetic intern, I had the unique opportunity of promoting a wellness program called 9-5-2-1-0 © in Winchester, VA. The purpose of the initiative was to prevent and tackle the issue of childhood obesity. 8-5-2-1-0 © is the adult version of this same initiative and the numbers represent some simple health concepts to improve your overall well-being:

8 - Aim to get 8 hours of sleep per night

5 - Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day

2 - Limit screen time to 2 hours per day (TV, computer, etc)

1 - Aim to get 1 hour of physical activity per day

0 - Eliminate intake of sugar-sweetened beverages

These number are a great reminder that health and nutrition don't have to be as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be! Keeping these simple principles in mind each day can help you to move in the direction of living a healthier lifestyle, improving your overall well-being and quality of life and preventing long-term disease risk.

For more information on the 8-5-2-1-0 © program for adults (or 9-5-2-1-0 © for youth), check out the Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition at:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Real Eats - Fuel Yourself for Fitness & Health

Now that I have a full-time job (yay!), my time for food prep during the week has flown out the window. It's pretty much non-existent. Therefore, I've become increasingly dependent on the weekend to plan and prep ahead of time. With many individuals that I counsel, lack of time to fix a healthy meal seems to be the number one excuse I hear for not eating better, or to justify fast food consumption. Consider meals made ahead of time to be your "fast food." Usually I'll freeze one meal and leave the rest in the fridge fresh and ready to go.

There are a number a great reasons to prep your weekly meals at once:

- Healthy "grab n' go" options conveniently available in the fridge

- More efficient if you are able to multi-task and work on multiple meals at once

- Only one mess to clean up (especially important if you're like me!)

From now on I'm going to try and share a few recipes each week, displaying some of the meals I prep for us to eat! Here's what is on the Chang menu this week:

Moving clockwise, from the top left:

Lentil Veggie Mac n' Cheese from The Lean Green Blog (frozen)

Simple Kale and Black Bean Burritos by Cookie+Kate

Eggplant & Bell Pepper Tofu Stir Fry from MyRecipes

Vegetarian Chili (one of my favorite recipes) by Emeril

Superfood Quinoa Salad (another favorite) from Iowa Girl Eats

Prepped, portioned and ready to grab!
While these meals will make up the bulk of our lunches and dinner for the week, I always accompany them with quick snacks for a well -rounded meal (things like fruit, salad, string cheese, yogurt, etc). Breakfast isn't usually an issue for us time-wise, but just in case we have some egg & veggie burritos in the freezer. 

Here it is in action for today's meals:
Today's Elf4Health challenge is to focus on fiber, so I have vegetarian chili for lunch, stir fry for dinner.
Not pictured are my apple, raw veggies, string cheese and dove chocolates :-P

A little planning and prep can go a long way! Have a great monday and happy eating!

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