Sunday, July 1, 2012

What does eating healthy entail?

This is quite a loaded topic that everyone has 50 different opinions of, but I’m going to do my best to keep things as simple as possible. I mentioned in a previous post how I like to shoot for eating healthy at least 80% of the time and less healthy 20% of the time. I believe this is good goal for most people and more importantly it is a realistic one. Failure in healthy eating is often because people try to go on crazy diets that eliminate every unhealthy food out there. This can often be maintained for a short time, but almost never in the long run. No one is perfect, and trying to eat this way is impractical not to mention unenjoyable. However, we have rather amazingly designed bodies and do not need to be perfect eaters to maintain an overall healthy feeling/looking body.

So to start we first need a list of foods. I’m not a fan of diets obviously, but a lot of this will be familiar if you know what the Paleo diet is. I’m not a strict follower and don’t necessarily agree with everything about it, but it has a lot of good things going for it. I should also probably preface this and say I’m a fan of eating meat! If you’re a vegetarian more power to you, but I rarely see vegetarians that are in really great

Good Fuel (things you should try to eat 80% of the time)

            1. Meats - More specifically lean meats such as: Chicken, turkey, fish, venison, etc...

            2. Fruits - Don’t eat a lot of dry fruit cause it’s higher in sugar, but regular fruit is great source of energy and nutrients your body needs. My favorites are: Bananas, avocados, blueberries, strawberries, and apples.

3. Vegetables - Whether you like them or not there’s no getting around the fact that they’re the greatest source of nutrition out there! Broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale, cucumbers, peppers, you name it. You should be eating it everyday!

4. Nuts/seeds - Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. Great for you and make perfect snacks or additions to certain foods.

5. Oils/eggs - Don’t over do oils, but virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil (for low temps) are great for cooking foods in. However, other oils like vegetable for instance, are really just refined soybean oil and not good for you at all! They are composed mostly of polyunsaturated fats that are prone to oxidation when exposed to heat and light, causing inflammation in our bodies. Also, I've learned recently that real butter is actually pretty good for you in moderation. So it is a good substitute for cooking foods in if you don't have oils on hand. And eggs are great for you, especially egg whites...pure protein!

A couple other foods I really like are peanut butter and coconut milk. Peanut butter is high in fat, but you don’t need a lot of it to fill you up. Plus it’s great to put in things like smoothies with fruit and protein powder (makes them creamy and delicious!). Coconut milk is also a new favorite of mine to put in smoothies, not even a huge fan of the taste but it makes a great addition to any fruit smoothie. It is also high in fat though, so I wouldn’t have too much of it especially if you’re trying to lose weight. But coconuts in general are very healthy, so you can't really go wrong eating them.

Not So Good Fuel (things you should eat 20% or less of the time)

          1. Grains - Despite what a lot of the health industry tries to tell you, you really don’t need that much in your diet. You'll definitely lose weight if you cut down on bread/pasta/flour. I still like to eat oats, brown rice, quinoa, some whole wheat breads/wraps, and homemade bread, but less is better. Wheat and gluten can be really damaging to your diet if eaten in excessive amounts, and cutting down on gluten is more than just the latest health fad. Check out this fairly in depth article about it if you're interested in learning more!

2. Dairy - Personally I really like milk and yogurt and I’m probably never going to stop drinking/eating them, but it is certainly a good thing to cut down on. Store bought dairy products are most often full of pesticides and hormones. And dairy isn't really as good for your bones as you might think, countries with the lowest dairy and calcium consumption actually have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. So while you still do need calcium, you don't need that much. I definitively recommend cutting down on cheese for how much saturated fat it has as well.

3. Sugar - Already covered why in my last blog, but it’s worth saying again. Avoid as much as possible!

4. Processed foods/Salt - Any processed food is guaranteed to be less healthy than fresh food. Almost always is going to be high in sugar and salt as well. And although salt is a necessary component to a balanced diet, too much of it can be harmful. If you’re trying to lose weight, cutting down on your salt intake is a helpful thing to do.

This should also go without saying, but don’t eat fast food. Or eat it as little as possible! Furthermore avoid things like bacon (yes bacon), hotdogs, alcohol, coffee, and soy. That last one might fly in the face of what you normally hear, but research is starting to show that soy has quite a few damaging effects if you consume too much of it. Read this article if you want to know more.

Lastly I’ll leave you with a few eating tips. The effectiveness and importance will vary from person to person especially depending on your level of daily exercise, but these are good general rules:

1. See what you eat - If you open a bag of chips and just start eating, you’re a lot more likely to finish the whole bag without even realizing it. Whereas if you dump the chips into a bowl you should realize how much your eating, and likely not eat as much.

2. Don’t snack - If your stomach is growling and you didn’t eat enough during a meal, then it’s ok to have a piece of fruit or some nuts/seeds. But if you’re trying to lose weight, a big problem can be going on snacking binges.

3. Eat with stomach not with your mind - This might seem completely opposite of what you would think. But in reality your body knows what foods make it feel better and when it’s hungry. Your brain will try to tell you to eat certain things that you don’t really need (relates back to the sugar addiction thing), and you’ll often eat when you’re not even hungry. Ever started eating just cause your bored or stressed out? Don't do it, only eat when you're hungry! 

4. Eat in moderation - This is really the most important part of eating healthy. It doesn't even matter if you eat only healthy foods, if you eat too much you're gonna have problems and gain weight. There's a reason Americans (5% of the earth's population) make up 1/3 of the earth's population's weight! Just look how the average restaurant meal has quadrupled in size since the 1950's.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


We all know (or should know) that sugar is bad for you, but do you know in what way it affects you? I wouldn’t say I'm an expert on this topic, but what I’ve learned reading lots of articles and personal experience is these following things:

1. There is a huge correlation between high sugar intake and type 2 diabetes, especially from soda. Those who drink soda in considerable amounts have around an 80% increased risk of developing it, compared to people who drink little to no soda.

2. Sugar is addictive. I’ve found this very true from personal experience, the more you eat/drink sugary things the more you want to do so. And there is scientific research to back this up. An article in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009 titled Sugar and Fat Bingeing Have Notable Differences in Addictive-Like Behavior showed through tests that both sugar and the taste of sweet activates beta endorphin receptor sites in the brain. The same receptor sites that are activated by heroin and morphine!  

3. Sugar makes you fat! Because it is addictive it makes foods high in fat taste much better and can often cause you to overeat these foods. If you do this you can exceed your liver’s sugar storage capacity. Your liver stores glucose (sugar your body uses for energy) as glycogen, and can store about 100 grams of it. Your muscles can store another 500 grams. When you exceed this limited storage the excess glycogen is converted into fatty acids and returned to your bloodstream where it’s taken throughout your body and stored as fat!

4. A recent study done at UCLA showed that a high-fructose diet can hamper your brains ability to learn and remember information. Fructose is a simple sugar that is most often found in cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and inexpensive liquid sweetener. Fortunately though eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help counteract the harmful effects. These include things like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds.

So how can you cut down on sugar or the various types of it? Well you first have to find what foods/drinks it’s in. Soda and fruit juices are the biggest culprit I think and are why I believe limiting yourself to mostly water and some milk is the smartest way to go. This picture is a great representation of how much sugar is in typical drinks:

However, it might surprise you to know what types of food have sugar in them. Pretty much all processed foods do (mainly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup), which includes things like cereals, condiments, baby food, and even most types of whole wheat bread! Also, low-fat foods like salad dressings and yogurt often have extra sugar to make up for the taste of having less fat. Totally defeats the purpose of having them to eat healthier!

Now granted eliminating sugar out of your diet isn’t feasible for most people, and is probably unhealthy to try. However, it is easy to cut down on and limit oneself to mostly naturally occurring sugars such as those found in fruit. A good daily goal to shoot for is what the American Heart Association recommends: 37 grams (7.4tsp) daily for men and 25 grams (5tsp) per day for women. Which when you start looking at food/drink labels can be hard to do, and it’s easy to see why the average American consumes about 91 grams (18.2tsp) of sugar daily. But it's really worth the sacrifice. Which would you rather have: temporary pleasure for your taste buds or feeling healthy/energetic all the time?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bodyweight Workout Moves

This has been a fairly long time coming (thanks to college finals), but it’s finally here!

There are 6 basic movements that cover pretty much every muscle in your body. These movements have endless variations, that can range from very easy to downright impossible. You will need a pull-up bar for some of them, but other than that no equipment or weights are needed. If you do all 6 of them every week I guarantee you will gain strength, become more flexible, and have an overall healthy feeling and good looking body. I unfortunately don’t have the capabilities right now to make good videos of each of these moves, but here’s a basic explanation:

1. Push-up - One of the most simplest movements that pretty much everyone has heard of. However, not many people do them with proper form and even less learn anything beyond the basic 2 arm push-up. Proper form is hands about shoulder width apart, elbows pointed in towards your sides (though not quite touching), feet together, head looking forward, then you bring your chest to the floor and all the way back up. No going half way down! There are so many other variations too, like the diamond, backhand, fingertip, clapping, plyo, and the ultimate one: the one arm push-up!

2. Pull-up - Best exercise move ever! Mainly works your lats, biceps, and back muscles. You can build crazy body weight strength if you do these a lot and with full range of motion. Why do weak bicep curls when you can work on doing a one arm chin up? So much more impressive! You can eventually work up to do doing muscle ups (a pull-up where you pull yourself above the bar) too. These build great full body explosiveness and look/feel awesome!

3. Pistol squat (i.e. one leg squat) - If you want strong flexible legs these are the thing to be doing! They’re better than squatting really heavy with 2 legs because they put a lot less stress on your body while still being extremely challenging. Doing them will greatly improve your balance and flexibility as they force you to have a greater range of motion than 2 leg squats. I’ve recently stopped 2 leg squatting really heavy weights and have focused on almost exclusively on pistol squats and have seen quite a difference. My legs feel much more flexible and springy while still being strong!

4. Back bridge - This is a very underutilized exercise that works your entire posterior chain. It also stretches your shoulders, upper back, and hip flexors. If you take your time building up from easier versions of this it is an extremely beneficial exercise, and one that I think would help a lot of people reduce problems with their back.

5. Handstand Push-up - Best exercise for your shoulders period, seriously. All you have to do is get into a handstand and then bring your face down to the ground and back up, easy! Haha not really, but if you do them close to a wall with your feet against the wall they’re more manageable. I barely could do them at first but have been working on them for a long time and can do them away from a wall sometimes now. Doing them instead of so many shoulder presses has basically eliminated shoulder pain I used to have as well. They also are a great way to work the triceps, especially if you do diamond ones (hands together), SO hard!! ... Plus as an added bonus they look really cool!

6. Leg raises - If you want a strong core and ripped abs then these are the number one move you should do. There are several other good ones too like the plank and L-sit, but leg raises are the best in my opinion. Easy version is laying flat on your back with hands at your sides and then raising your legs straight up . Hardest version is hanging from a pull-up bar and bringing your legs up to the bar and back down again with as little swinging as possible.

These six movements and variations of them are honestly all most people will ever need for a general level of fitness, and some of the advanced versions not even the best professional athletes can do. If you ever see someone do a one handed handstand push-up let me know! Also, I will hopefully have videos up at some point but until then I am more than happy to demonstrate any of these moves to you in person, and can show you variations that you can do no matter what your fitness level. Unless of course you’re in better shape than I am, but if that’s the case you don’t need my help anyways ;)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are exercise machines a waste of your time?


I can not say this enough, but machines are pretty much a total waste of your time and money! Anyone (including trainers) who tells you otherwise, are wrong haha. They are just a big lie by the fitness industry to get you to buy their expensive equipment or get an overpriced gym membership so you can achieve maxim results! Alot of people don’t know enough to believe any different unfortunately….Just so we’re clear though, I’m not referring to rowing machines, they are good! I’m not really talking about treadmills or bikes either, those can have their place. For things like injury rehab and running during the winter. What I am referring to are machines for curling, back extensions, ab crunches, legs, lat pull downs, etc....and of course I can’t forget ellipticals (i.e. the “I’m lazy and I know it” machine....lame joke I know lol)

Now you may be wondering why these machines are a waist of time since they’re great for muscle isolation exercises and seem completely safe if not safer than free weights or bodyweight stuff. Both of which are true to some extent, but they’re also the problem with using machines. Let me explain:

- Isolation exercises are not a good way to train. Sure they will build your individual muscles, but not in a healthy way. In any activity outside the gym (especially athletic) your muscle work together, no matter what you are doing. When you train with isolation exercises though, you do not engage your stabilizing muscles. This can lead to injuries (due to distability of your muscles & joints), and will really prevent you from reaching your athletic potential. You need to do exercises that cause your muscles to be used together. Your body was designed to work this way! It doesn’t matter if you’re new to working out either, it’s still safer to never use machines. And if you don’t believe me, see what these Russian fitness experts have to say: "The novice must be taught from a base of mobility to progress to stability, just as an infant learns to stand by first moving, staggering and exploring the environment" - Prof. Verkhoshansky & Dr. Siff

- Another downside to using machines is that you will be building up micro-trauma (small injuries) for future problems. When you train in a fixed way it repetitively loads the same muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints in the same pattern, encouraging micro-trauma which can lead to injury. If you want to learn more about micro-trauma Wikipedia has a nice article about it.

- Machines are the easy way out. When you’re sitting down you’re body doesn’t have to work as hard, and thus doesn’t burn as many calories. Go to any gym and more often than not you will see overweight or out of shape people sitting on their butts using machines thinking they’re getting good exercise. When they’re really just hurting themselves in the long run.

If you are one of these people that uses machines, that’s ok! You probably didn’t know any better, I used to be in the same boat. Now that you do know though, it’s time to stop using stuff like this

and start using your own bodyweight....In my next blog post I will finally get around to showing alot of alternative exercise moves you can do with little to no equipment, and yet still get into really good shape! :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Staying Motivated

This is something that everyone struggles with, myself included. There are many different “legit” reasons for this: feeling tired, not enough time, too much homework, don’t like going to the gym, injuries/chronic pains, working out gets boring, feel too old, etc....Completely understandable reasons, but really just lame excuses I think. And here are some ways I find useful in keeping myself motivated to get exercise even when I have 5 excuses not to.

1. Listen to music. So simple, and yet so effective! Personally I highly recommend some type of metal/hardcore and/or rap/hip-hop. Dubstep is also good. I mean listen to whatever gets you pumped and your adrenaline going, but frankly josh groben or brad paisley aren't gonna do much for you haha. And it has been proven that termites eat wood twice as fast when listening to heavy metal ;)

2. Workout with other people, or don't workout with other people. Personally I find working out with other people makes it more fun and you can constantly help push each other to new heights. Conversely though, you might be tired of having to deal with other people all day and want to get away, or you just aren’t comfortable working out with other people around. Nothing wrong with that, and in the future I'm going to post workouts that you can do at home with basically no equipment.

3. Find exercise that you enjoy. It's much easier to get a good workout when you enjoy what you're doing. Playing sports, hiking, swimming, biking, running, zumba, parkour, rock climbing, etc... Point is, get off your butt and do something! Now, I still recommend a well balanced workout schedule to keep your muscles/joints healthy and strong. But you don't have to hate every minute of exercise you get, having fun is ok too :)

4. Have other people keep you accountable, especially if you’re new to working out. Surrounding yourself with other people to yell at and/or encourage you to workout even when you don't want to is a great way to stay consistent. This also applies to eating healthy.

5.  Make working out part of your lifestyle, not just something you do. If you build a consistent habit of getting exercise everyday, it will be much easier to do. The workout really hard for awhile and then stop type of lifestyle doesn’t work, and will catch up to you when you’re older.

6. Pre-workout supplements. These can be a great tool but I don't recommend it for everyone. It is way too easy to use this as a crutch, especially when first starting to workout. In fact I don't think you should use them at all unless you're going to do very intense and long workouts, such as Sealfit. Also, I wouldn't use them if you have heart problems as they cause your heart rate to elevate faster and drop slower. That being said, if you're looking for an extra push I find them very helpful and I can cruz through a 2 hr workout with no problem.

7. Set goals for yourself. If you have something to work towards you'll be less likely to slack off because you know you'll be farther away from reaching your goals. Also, a note on setting goals. I recommend having ultimate goals that you will probably never reach, because as Bruce Lee once said "A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at." This will help keep you from getting complacent, so you will always be trying to improve your fitness and health. However, it can be easy to get discouraged if you just look at your end goals. So I think it is also a good idea to have smaller goals (i.e. do 10 pullups in a row instead of 5 within the next 4 weeks) to help measure your progress.

If these tips still don’t help you to stay motivated, take a look at this picture. Not sure about how accurate the percentages are but I’d say they're definitely true to some extent. Just think about how much money you can save on medical bills in the future! That should be motivation enough to start consistently working out and eating healthy.
          Anyhow, that was probably a bit lengthy but hopefully something I've said can help you stay motivated.....Next week I'll be posting about why exercise machines are a waste of your time, exciting right? ;)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Fitness Journey

Ever wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think to yourself “I wish I looked as good as Jacob Chartrand.”? Well, you probably never will haha. But if you want to try, here's how I got in such good shape.

1. Do consistently hard workouts
2. Eat consistently healthy

Sounds simple enough right? And it is, but simple does not mean easy. In fact it can be quite hard to do both, and up until about 2 years ago I didn't really do either. Now I've always been athletic and gotten a good amount of exercise, and even eaten fairly healthy. But I've also always really liked sweets and never followed a good workout program. Both of which needed to change.

First step, doing consistently hard workouts. Saw an infomercial about p90x at the beginning of summer 2010, and decided to do it with my brother. The first two weeks were brutal and I don't think I've ever been so sore in my life lol. However, after those two weeks it started to get easier for me and I started to see results. This gave me more motivation to continue and to workout even when I didn’t feel like it. After I finished all 90 days of it I went right into p90x+, then p90x one-on-one, then a combination of p90x and Insanity. I continued to to get stronger and improve my cardio throughout this time, but then I discovered Crossfit.....Hardest/most intense workouts I had ever done! Which I personally I really enjoyed. Soon after that though, I found out about Sealfit. Which is basically Crossfit style workouts, just 3-4 times longer (i.e. one of the hardest workout programs ever, if not the hardest!). And well I’ve been doing that ever since. Except recently I’ve been subbing in bodyweight moves for some of the weight lifting moves, which I am becoming a big advocate of and I'll explain why in future posts.

Second step, eating consistently healthy. This has been quite a long process, but it all started by giving up soda. Decided to do this kind of just randomly, but it was definitely inspired by God. And although I wouldn’t say it was easy to do at first, over time I've missed it less and less (haven't had any in over 2 years!). This has further expanded to sweets and pretty much any type of unhealthy foods. I've been working more and more on a balanced healthy diet. Which can be hard at times, especially when I’m really busy with college and friends want to go out to eat. But I’ve been able to maintain about 80% healthy - 20% not so healthy diet, and it’s probably more like 90%-10%.....Anyways, you can see the results for yourself:

August 2010 February 2012

P.S. Don't worry, in all future posts I will be covering many topics such as motivation for exercising, bodyweight workouts, how to get a six pack, etc....and not talking about myself really. Because frankly, who cares! ;)