Friday, March 30, 2012

Jicama, Avocado and Tuna Salad

Jicama ….. Most of us have never heard of it. Recently I was introduced to this vegetable and I love it. Jicama is a crispy, sweet, edible root. In appearance, it resembles a turnip although not related. It is full of Vitamin C and fat free. It is low carb and what little carbs it has is mainly fiber. It is an incredible vegetable to add to your healthy lifestyle.

Here is a nice easy introduction to jicama:


1 large jicama peeled and grated (I then squeeze out any liquid)
1 red onion sliced thinly
Dash of sea salt
10-12 ounces tuna drained (I use the tuna in a pouch so there is no draining/ excess liquids)
1 avocado, cut into cubes
½ tablespoon of sesame oil


Put all into a bowl and toss to combine.


Stay tuned……..

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Train Like an Olympian

Training tends to follow fads and trends (like everything else). Popular programs go out of style and others become the "next best thing." Everyone is looking for the magic number of sets and reps when it comes to building muscle and losing fat. With so many different options recommended, it is difficult to choose the best workout routines (reps and sets) to build muscle, add lean body mass and/or lose body fat.

Consider some of the options: We have the typical bodybuilding 3×12 set and rep routine. Powerlifters concentrate on one max rep. The 6-8 rep range is the staple of many workouts. Then there is the high rep range using dozens of reps with light weights that do not produce good results of any kind, because you’re not stressing your muscles enough.

I personally have done every version when I first started this passion and did not have a strong understanding of how the body reacts to training.

Whether you are an experienced lifter or just beginning, I highly recommend the 5 x 5 compound moves routine. This routine is not a new fad. It is a classic program used by many recognized strength coaches including those training Olympic athletes. The 5 x 5 can trace its history back to the years when people trained for functional strength and a more trim, strong and athletic appearance. This method is an excellent way of training.

The 5 x 5 even has some different interpretations. The “variation” I prefer is the ascending 5 x 5. I ramp up the weight with each set of 5. The goal is a progression every single week.

Here is my typical routine using the Barbell Bench (a compound move): Warm up with the bar (45lbs), then with 95 lbs for 5, then with 135 for 5. Then I start my 5 x5. During the first week: 155lbs for 5, 165 lbs for 5, 175 lbs for 5, 185 lbs for 5 and finally, 195 lbs for 5. Then the next week it looked like this: The warm up is still exactly the same. Then my 5x 5: 155 lbs for 5, 170 lbs for 5, 185 lbs for 5, 195 lbs for 5 and cap it off with 200 lbs for 5. Then the next week: Warmup the same. Then my 5 x5: 155 lbs for 5, 170 lbs for 5, 185 lbs for 5, 200 lbs for 5 and attempt 210 lbs - failed at 3. I now stick to this weight progression until I can get all 5 in my 5th set. Then I progress.

One exception to the 5x5 program is the deadlift. Deadlifts are so taxing on the central nervous system that you should not use sets of 5. After your warm up lifts, go to single rep sets.

Do not add too much weight too fast. Stay true to good form and progress every week. Adding too much weight too fast and you will fail.

There will come a time when you plateau. Then you will need to change routines and force the body to continue to be challenged. I will address this in another blog entry.
Here's the key -- No matter what, always use a heavy enough weight so that the last rep is a struggle, but not such a struggle that you compromise good form. On occasion you also should go to muscle failure (last repetition is so difficult that you cannot squeeze out one more).

As my favorite t-shirt says: “Anything over 5 reps is cardio.” I love that saying !!!!!

Stay tuned………..

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just Label It: We Have a Right to Know

As many of you know, I grew up on a farm. My father farmed around 1,000 acres, (lots of corn, soybeans and feeder cattle), worked as a farm hand, education in farming including 4H and FFA and now own a small farm. My ideas about farming have evolved over time and I feel pretty strongly about this issue.

So, you may be wondering what this has to do with strength training! Well, we should be aware of everything we eat -- we focus a lot of nutrition and on the quality of our nutrients. To me, this is just one more part of that story.

Check out this video about GMO foods -- that is, "genetically modified organisms." 92% of Americans want the FDA to label genetically engineered foods. You can decide if it is right for you, but we should at least be informed.

Stay tuned...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pre and Post - Workout Nutrition

The most important parts of every single diet and/or healthy eating plan, regardless of your goal, are your total daily calorie and nutrient intake. The second most important aspect of your nutrition plan is simple and scientifically proven, that is, your PRE and POST workout meals.

Meals that surround your workout play a key role in the effectiveness of those workouts. Your pre-workout meal is crucial for fueling the workout itself and maximizing your performance throughout. Your post-workout is crucial for optimizing the recovery process. This begins as soon as your workout ends – remember this is when the muscle grows.

Pre and Post workout nutrition is another area that is full of fads, expert advice and the products of supplement companies that complicate the subject. I will try to simplify for you. The simple truth comes down to timing and consumption of proteins and carbs.

The primary goal of the PRE-workout meal is to reduce muscle glycogen depletion, reduce muscle breakdown and reduce post workout cortisol levels. Your PRE-workout meal should take place 1-2 hours before your workout and consists of a good amount of protein (chicken, fish, beef, egg whites, etc.), and a good amount of the right type of carbs (brown rice, oatmeal, or any lower glycemic source).

Your POST-workout meal plays the largest role in supplying your body with everything it will need to repair, replenish and recover from the training stress. The goal of the POST workout meal is to replenish muscle glycogen, reduce muscle breakdown caused by exercise, increase muscle growth, reduce muscle soreness and fatigue and reduce cortisol levels.

It is critical that your POST workout meal consists of a nice amount of both protein and carbs and is eaten sometime within the first 30 - 60 minutes after your workout. It is a personal preference on whether you drink a protein shake, eat a protein bar or have a bigger meal with some more carbs than you normally would accept in at a regular meal. The key is to ingest those protein and carbs no later than 60 mins after your workout. Your body needs to be fed to recover.

In both meals, PRE and POST, you should stay away from fats (even healthy fats). Fats will slow the digestion period and interfere with the protein/carbs you need to bolster your workout.

Keep it simple and as long as you are doing PRE and POST with protein/carbs – you are doing the right thing.

Stay tuned……….

Friday, March 23, 2012

Edamame Salad with Crisp Steak Bits

Edamame is commonly known as soybean. The soybean is harvested at the peak of ripeness right before it reaches the "hardening" time. The soybean has been used for over a thousand years as a major source of protein in Asia. It is high in fiber, vitamins C and A and iron.


3 cups frozen shelled edamame
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon low fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking spray
8 ounces flank steak, cut into small pieces
Dash of sea salt


1. Cook edamame according to package directions. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again.

2. Combine soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through sesame oil) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add edamame, tomatoes and onions; toss to coat.

3. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat OR spray with cooking spray. Over high heat add steak to pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Cook 5 minutes or until well browned and crisp, stirring frequently. Spoon edamame mixture onto plate and top with steak.

Adapted from Mark Bittman, Cooking Light June 2011

Stay Tuned………….

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bench Press

The bench press builds upper-body strength like no other exercise. Moreover, a strong upper-body is useful for pulling, pushing and lifting -- things we do every day.

Bench Press Setup - Barbell:

Your perfect grip width is when your forearms are perpendicular to the floor when the bar touches your chest. Grip the bar hard. Put the bar in the palm of your hand and wrap your thumb around for a tight grip (do not use an open thumb grip). Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep them back and down at all times. This gives your body a solid base from which you can press the bar. Keep your chest up at all time. Do not allow your chest to go flat or shoulders to roll forward. This will cause you to lose upper-back tightness and thus lose power and increasing risk of shoulder injury. Place your feet flat on the floor, in comfortably wide position in order to increase stability on the bench. Place your weight on the heels, with your lower legs perpendicular to the floor. This prevents extreme arching of your lower back.

Bench Press – Technique- Barbell:

Keep the tight position from start to finish. Squeeze the bar hard and keep your upper-back tight and your chest up. Unrack the weight with straight arms. Take a deep breath and controlled bring the bar down and touch your chest where your forearms are perpendicular to the floor. Press the bar above your chest and lock out at the top. Exhale as you are pushing the bar up. You have just successfully completed a rep.

Do not do partial reps. The bar needs to move all the way down and touch the chest in order to fully recruit all muscles.

An alternative exercise to barbell bench press is the dumbbell press. To use dumbbells, apply the same techniques as above. You can also do incline barbell or dumbbell moves. Decline barbell or dumbbell moves do not use the full range of motion and therefore involve less muscle recruitment, so they are not advised.

Stay tuned……….

Monday, March 19, 2012

Calorie Guidelines

We all focus on the calories we eat but in reality, caloric requirements fluctuate greatly between individuals. There are many variables to consider including age, muscle to fat ratio, activity level and more. There are many calculators and formulas professing to find your magic calorie number. However, none of these considers all the elements because two individuals of same age, gender and current weight could have big differences in calorie requirements. One could have more muscle and thus a great resting metabolism – as example. (This is a good thing that we strive for in these posts.)

As a guideline, I would recommend that you start with a calculation of what your caloric requirements are to simply maintain current bodyweight. I would start with approximately 15 calories per pound of body weight. For example, someone that weighs 160 pounds must consume approximately 2,400 calories each day to maintain his or her weight ( 15 calories/pound x 160 pounds = 2,400 calories). There are individual fluctuations so some of us may need only 14 calories per pound of body weight to maintain our weight; others may need 16 calories per pound.

The rule of thumb is that for every 3,500 calories that we eat over what we need to maintain our weight (regardless of how many days it takes us to do it), we gain a pound. So if your maintenance level is 2,400 calories daily, and you are consuming 2,650 calories daily, you can expect to gain about a half pound or so per week ( 250 calories/day x 7 days/week divided by 3,500 calories/pound = 0.50 pounds/week). It also works in reverse; for every 3,500 calories under our maintenance requirement that we do not eat, we lose a pound.

There is one important factor we do have some control over. The increase of muscle resulting from exercise will also increase your maintenance caloric requirement. Furthermore, keep in mind that the number of calories that are burned while exercising are minimal when compared to our daily maintenance caloric requirements. (Sad but true.) For example, a half-hour of aerobic exercise may burn only 150-200 calories. So a little sweat in the gym does not give you a free pass for a big meal.

Remember from a previous posting, where we talked about muscle recruitment? Muscle recruitment -- getting many muscles engaged -- is the key to building muscle and have a higher resting metabolism rate. To burn more, gain more muscle.

Beware of losing too much tooo fast. If you rush it, you will lose muscle, destroy your metabolism and totally defeat your goals. Scales are NOT the true indicator of your body changes. As you are losing fat and building muscle, the scales will not reflect the fat to muscle ratio. Read previous blog postings.

There is no exact science to it. It takes monitoring and paying attention and as your body changes, so will your metabolism and calorie requirements. Being aware is a huge step forward.

Stay tuned………….

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shrimp and Sprout Salad

A salad loaded with lean protein and the health benefits of sprouts (packed with vitamins). This is also low impact carbs (non-sugar spikes).


16 oz Cooked peeled and deveined shrimp (take off tails and chop into bite size pieces)
6 oz Alexis Sweet Potato Tots (sweet potato in moderation is a low impact carb)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red vinegar
2 tablespoon white champagne vinegar
3 tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium)
4-6 oz of Stir Fry Bean Sprout Mix (lentil, mung and adzuki sprouts)
4 large scallions chopped
Dash of sea salt

Mix all in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 mins so the sprout mix and shrimp absorb some of the flavors from the liquids.

Enjoy !

Stay tuned……..

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spot Reduction - Sorry Folks - Impossible

Infomercials and magazine ads will try to seduce you with tales of spot reduction techniques. Sorry folks, but there is no such thing as spot reduction.

Fat loss in our bodies is dependent upon genetics, gender, hormones and age. Total body fat must be reduced in order to see “toning" at various spots on the body. The body has areas that are first to get fat and the last area to become lean. Ironically, these are the ones we typically want to "spot reduce." This is generally the midsection in men and hips and thighs in women.

We've all witnessed person after person getting on abs machine. bopping up and and down, thinking somehow a 6-pack will appear. Sit-ups and ab machines will only exercise the muscles under the fat. If you want to see those abs, no matter who you are, you MUST get rid of the layer(s) of fat on your stomach that is covering them. This cannot be achieved by ab machines, sit-ups or any spot reduction. Same thing goes for those love handles, flabby thighs or flabby arms.

The fact remains that the only way to achieve “reduction” is to lose total body fat and gain muscle mass.

Stay tuned……….

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eating Out - Menu Information

Menu Information

The nutrition information you see on a menu is a guideline and not an exact fact. When preparing a sample dish for analysis, ingredients are precisely measured. However, meals are not going to be as carefully executed day in and day out as they were for the nutrition analysis. Unless it is a highly automated process where every everything down to the sauces are premeasured, you are going to get portions that are significantly larger, cooked in more oil or butter and served with more salt, sauce or salad dressing than the version that was analyzed.

However, it is possible to find the healthier dishes by reading menu descriptions carefully. Words that are sure to be full of calories and unhealthy are “creamy,” “crispy,” “smothered,” “rich,” “thick,” “loaded” or anything topped with cheese. Words that are a smarter choice are “steamed,” “seared,” “poached” or “grilled”.

Surf the web for online menus before eating out. Know what the restaurant has to offer and get a few selections in mind before sitting down at the table.

Other things to consider: .If your meal comes with a starch (potato, fries, etc.) opt for double vegetables. Ask for them to be steamed without butter. Pass on the bread. Ask for a side salad with the dressing on the side. Even sandwiches without the bread/bun are a better choice.
Enjoy the occasional meal out but make smart choices so you do not reverse all the effort you have put into working out by eating right.

Stay tuned………..

Friday, March 9, 2012

Protein Bars - No Bake

Aren't you getting sick of eating those high-cost protein bars that are full of ingredients that you cannot pronounce? Try these homemade bars for a refreshing change.

No Bake Protein Bars

8 oz. fat free cream cheese
4 scoops protein powder (Low carb – I prefer chocolate)
2 cups whole uncooked oats
1/2 cup Splenda® (use the “baking” Splenda®)
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Combine Splenda®, softened cream cheese, protein powder and cinnamon in a bowl and mix until it is smooth.

Add the oats and mix. If too thick as protein powder consistency may vary, add ¼ cup of water.

Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray. Spread the mixture in the pan. Place in the fridge for an hour.

Cut into evenly sized bars and ENJOY.

**Note – any high temperature impacts protein powders by destroying most of its nutritional value. Therefore, you always want to use protein powder in non-baking recipes.

Stay tuned……….

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deadlifts - Conventional Method

The deadlift is the second most important exercise. (Squat is #1!) This is because it works all of your muscles using the heaviest weights you can manage in any exercise. Deadlifts help you learn to pick up an object with a straight back. This is very functional exercise, as we all need to pick up and move objects around in our everyday real lives. By learning proper form, you will prevent injuries like hernias and lower back pain that are a result from lifting with a round lower back.

Deadlifts consist of pulling the weight off the floor and then standing with your legs straight and your shoulders back. You want to sit back as if sitting in a chair when you start to pick up the bar. You want to drive the weight from your heels through your legs.

Get a good reverse grip on the bar (one hand over, one hand under). In the starting position, you want to have your thighs parallel to the floor (get your butt down). You should have your knees directly over your feet. Make sure your knees are not past your toes or behind your heels. Lift your chest, put your shoulders back and down. Pull - keeping the bar close to your body. Roll it over your knees and thighs until your hips and knees are locked. Lift with power. You want to use your glutes and quads to explode the weight off the floor. Do not jerk it but pull with power and smoothly. Do not let your back round as this will cause injury. Now lower the bar by pushing your hips back first and then bend your knees once the bar reaches knee level.

You just performed a successful deadlift. Deadlifts are functional movements that we perform every day therefore any age, gender or fitness level can benefit from this exercise.

Stay tuned……………

Monday, March 5, 2012

Antioxidant - Cell Protection and Repair

What are antioxidants? Antioxidants are substances or nutrients (vitamins A, C and E, CoQ10, manganese, iodide, and melatonin) in our foods that can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our bodies. When our body’s cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as "free radical scavengers". They protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. Many experts believe this damage plays a part in a number of diseases, including hardening of the arteries, cancer, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defense as free radicals can also interfere with your immune system.

Antioxidants are plentiful in beans, grains, fruits and vegetables. Below is a list from the USDA of high antioxidant foods:

Antioxidant Fruits
Berries (Cherry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, crowberry, blueberry, bilberry/wild blueberry, black currant), mulberry, pomegranate, grape, orange, plum, pineapple, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, guava.

Antioxidant Vegetables
Kale, chili pepper, red cabbage, peppers, parsley, artichoke, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lemon, ginger, red beets.

Dry Fruits high in antioxidants
Apricots, prunes, dates.

Antioxidant Legumes
Broad beans, pinto beans, soybeans.

Antioxidant Nuts and seeds
Pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, ground nut or peanuts, sunflower seeds.

Antioxidant Cereals
Barley, millet, oats, corn.

Antioxidant Spices
Cloves, cinnamon, oregano

It is best to obtain these antioxidants from foods instead of supplements.

Stay tuned…………

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chiles Rellenos with Chicken

One of my Mexican favorites……….. Yummmy


4 medium-to-large poblano peppers
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup shredded low fat Mexican cheese blend
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt (I prefer Greek yogurt)
Dash of sea salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large egg whites


Preheat broiler.

Place peppers on a large baking sheet. Broil 4 to 6 inches from the heat source, turning once or twice, until the skins blacken and blister, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Remove the blistered skin, leaving stems intact (I recommend you wear a pair of disposable gloves). Make a slit lengthwise in each pepper and carefully remove the seeds. Set aside.

Combine chicken, corn, cheese, scallions, yogurt and dash of salt in a medium bowl. Fill each roasted pepper with about 1/4 cup of the mixture. Fold the pepper over to completely enclose the filling.

Place flour in a shallow dish. Put egg whites in another shallow dish and beat until frothy. Dip each pepper in the flour mixture to coat on all sides, brush off any excess and then dip into the egg whites. (This may sound backwards but the egg whites seal the peppers closed.)

Use cooking spray to coat then heat a large skillet over medium heat. Carefully set peppers into pan and cook until the cheese is melted and the peppers are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Serve warm. Serving size – 2 filled peppers

Adapted from EatingWell: January/ February 2012

Stay tuned………….

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stability Ball - Sage Advice

As you may be aware, I read a lot about health and fitness in order to learn about the latest proven research and to improve my own fitness routines.

Recently, I came across a blog entry by one of the country's leading trainers of fitness trainers. It so echoed my thoughts on this subject that instead of trying to say what he has already stated so eloquently, I thought I would provide you all with a link to his page so you can read his words directly.

This concerns one of the latest fads about workouts on stability balls. I have always thought that these are just plain silly if not dangerous. Apparently, Nick Tumminello thinks so too.

Thanks Nick, for your sage insights!

Stay tuned.....