Five easy adjustments for an upgraded 2012.
After five weeks of holiday eating and drinking, January is the month when many people put away their party shoes, dust off their sneakers, and start ordering salads. The vow to eat healthfully and go to the gym every day may last a full month… maybe more, maybe less. Instead of making unrealistic resolutions to drink kale smoothies and run an ultra-marathon, strive for these five realistic changes that create a more complete picture of health.
1. 100-CALORIE CUTTERS
Removing major food groups from your diet or swearing to never touch certain foods again is neither healthy nor practical. As a fighter, proper balance is key, and if you don’t keep your diet in check for the majority of the time, your training will start to suffer. If you’ve got the basics down, but need alternatives for some hard-to-give-up odds and ends, keep in mind these easy calorie cutters that will have a positive impact on your waistline. You can actually lose 10 pounds over the course of a year by slashing 100 calories per day from your diet.
• Coffee Culprit
If you’ve realized your morning cup of joe has become a big cup of calories, you’ve either 1) looked at the nutrition info for a white chocolate mocha for the first time, or 2) noticed the entire container of cream in your refrigerator lasts only three days before it’s gone and you’re the only one using it. It’s time to become your own healthy barista. Instead of adding 2 tbs. of half-and-half and 1 packet of sugar to your morning coffee (which totals 120 calories), add 2 tbs. So Delicious Plain Coconut Milk Coffee Creamer and Stevia extract (which totals 20 calories). So Delicious is derived from organic coconut milk without the heavy fat and calories of canned coconut milk.
• Sandwich Toppers
You’ve created the perfect sandwich with sprouted-grain flourless bread, lean roasted turkey breast, and a fresh mix of sliced tomato, onion, avocado, and lettuce. Don’t offset the balance of this healthy flavor forward sandwich with greasy globs of mayo and cheese. 1 tbs. mayo and 1 slice (1 oz) Swiss cheese adds an extra 140 calories. Instead, add 1 tbs. Dijon mustard at only 15 calories, saving you 125 calories.
• 100-Calorie Cutter Quick Hits
√ 12 ounces orange juice (180 calories) vs. 1 medium fresh orange (70 calories). Saves 110 calories.
√ Medium fast food sweet tea (130 calories) vs. unsweetened tea with fresh lemon juice (6 calories). Saves 124 calories.
√ 1 small container custard-style yogurt (190 calories) vs. 1 small container nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt with Stevia (90 calories). Saves 100 calories.
√ Turkey burger with bun (300 calories) vs. bun-less turkey burger (160 calories). Saves 140 calories.
2. GO GREEN
Although pricy at times, going green has never been easier as far as product availability is concerned. Green products can greatly benefit your health and the health of our planet. It can be overwhelming and expensive to change everything in your house to organic, natural products all at once, so start gradually.
Look for the USDA Organic Seal to ensure that no hormones or antibiotics were administered, the animals were housed in humane conditions with access to the outdoors, and the animals were fed organic, vegetarian feed. Hormones found in non-organically raised animals can negatively impact your hormone levels, while added antibiotics can create an imbalance in your gastrointestinal (GI) flora, leading to decreased immune function and chronic illnesses.
• Water Bottles
Ditch the subpar plastic bottles for ecofriendly stainless steel or BPA-free plastic bottles, or simply use a real glass when you’re at home or at your desk. Invest in a good counter-top or under-the-sink filter, and stop lugging pallets of bottled water into your house. Chemicals in plastic can leach into your water and act as endocrine disruptors, causing hormone and neurological issues.
• Personal Care Items
Don’t slather yourself in the chemicals and dyes that are found in many soaps,deodorants, and lotions when you could be using natural products from companies such as Avalon Organics, Nature’s Gate, Jason, Aubrey Organics, Tom’s of Maine, Kiss My Face, Badger, and Defense Soap (defensesoap.com).
• Cleaning Products
Ingredients found in many traditional cleaning products have been shown to be linked to cancer, asthma, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and reproductive issues. There are natural/non-toxic versions of dish soap, dishwasher detergent, all-purpose cleaners, toilet bowl cleaner, laundry detergent, surface scrubs, and counter top sprays. Look for brands such as Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers.
3. Hit the Sack
Top-level athletes are always looking for that extra edge. Keeping up to date with the latest training exercises and new supplements is all part of the game for serious fighters. Regular, quality sleep is sometimes an overlooked part of this equation. Spending more horizontal time on the BJJ mats than you do in your bed is cause for concern. As a good rule of thumb, you should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Less than that can have a major negative impact on athletic performance. Sleep deprivation has been shown to lead to increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause insulin resistance, faulty memory, and impaired tissue growth and repair. Other problems associated with inadequate sleep include decreased glycogen synthesis, decreased activity of human growth hormone, increased ratings of perceived exertion, and decreased aerobic endurance. It can also cause an imbalance in hormones that regulate hunger and fullness. Don’t sabotage your killer workouts and clean eating by staying up all night.
If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, and you’ve already tried things like keeping the bedroom dark, drinking chamomile tea, and cutting out caffeine and alcohol, magnesium supplements and/ or 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) may be worth a try. 150-300 mg of magnesium in either capsule or powder form (such as Natural Calm) can be taken 30-60 minutes before bed. More is not necessarily better, as magnesium can have a laxative effect in higher doses. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, which helps regulate mood and behavior, as well as instilling feelings of calmness and relaxation. It helps increase rapid eye moment (REM) sleep, as well as deep sleep cycles. Try 100-200 mg about 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime.
4. Get Your Yearly Lab Work Done
If it’s been longer than a year since your last visit to the doc, or if the beginning of the year signals your need to make that yearly doctor’s appointment, don’t put it off. Even though you’re training hard, in great shape, and appearing healthier than all your friends, things such as stress and family history of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease can all be silent killers. Along with your vitals (height, weight, blood pressure, temperature, and pulse), a yearly blood draw consisting of a complete blood count (CBC) to check for things such red and white blood cell counts, platelets (involved in blood clotting), and hemoglobin (measure of the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body) is pretty standard. Other worthy tests include a thyroid check, liver function, and a fasting insulin and lipid panel (cholesterol, triglycerides). Additional visits and lab work based on symptoms, current health issues, past medical problems, and family history should be addressed with your doctor as needed and recommended.
5. Go With Your Gut
Your GI tract does more than just digest food and absorb nutrients. Eighty percent of your immune function is based in your gut. If you want to stay healthy, keep your levels of probiotics (healthy bacteria) up and ready to attack. There are about 500 species of bacteria down there—some good, some bad. You’ll never completely eradicate all bad bacteria, but it’s the balance that’s important, and your good guys should far outweigh the bad. You don’t need to take probiotics daily for the rest of your life, but there are specific times that they’re most likely needed, including:
• during cold and flu season (now)
• during and/or after taking antibiotics
• during times of very intense training
• as soon as you feel yourself coming down with a sickness
Probiotics can be found in both capsule and powder form in most health food stores and in foods like high-protein Greek-style yogurt and kefir. If yogurt isn’t your thing, check out Gaspari’s Myofusion protein. The first protein supplement of its kind to combine probiotics and protein in one. (gasparinutrition.com)