6 Tips To Stay Healthy Through The Holidays

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With the holidays right around the corner, I thought I’d put together a list of things you can do to stay healthy while still enjoying the holiday season. So, without further ado, here are the top 6 recommendations I would make:

  1. Stick to your normal eating habits. Don’t try skipping meals or eating less as this may lead to over-consuming snack foods and holiday treats.
  2. Build meals around protein and veggies while minimizing starchy or sugary carbs such as fruits, grains, legumes, and potatoes. Always opt for more vegetables and protein to feel full.
  3. Avoid liquid calories such as juices, milk, and mixed drinks. Get your calories from whole foods!
  4. Once you are full from your meal, then indulge in whatever holiday treat you like most. My favorite is chocolate peanut butter balls! It’s a lot easier to enjoy one or two treats, rather than a dozen, after filling up on healthy food during mealtime.
  5. Exercise whenever possible! This will mitigate stress that occurs during the holidays and protect your body from the damage of the indulgences. Exercise can be as simple as sprinting up a flight of stairs, going for a walk after meals, or performing a few sets of body weight pushups and squats.
  6. For those that plan to consume alcoholic beverages: drink on an empty stomach. When alcohol is ingested, all other calories are sent to fat storage so the body can break down the alcohol as fast as possible. Pick drinks lower in sugar such as dry wines, champagnes, and hard liquors. Forgo the prepackaged sugary mixers and try flavoring with a lime or lemon. My approach is to have a NorCal Margarita (2 shots tequila, juice from an entire lime, ice, and club soda) a few hours before dinner. Finally, make the following meal high in protein and healthy fat. This will help blood sugar levels, protein synthesis, and hormones return to normal.

I personally choose to consume a whey protein shake and digestive enzymes before any meal that is high in processed carbs and low in nutrients, such as pasta or pizza.

Finally, don’t stress about indulging! The holidays should be about family, relaxation, and a change in routine. Sure, under-consuming protein and vitamins while over-consuming sugar and anti-nutrients isn’t going to improve health – but allowing stress levels to increase will only exacerbate fat storage and skew hormone levels.

Make the best choices you can as often as possible, but plan to enjoy yourself and have some indulgences. Then jump right back into clean eating and living on in January.

Hope these tips help everyone enjoy their holidays while staying healthy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Herb roasted lamb with lentils

Happy Tuesday all! With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I’d share one of my new favorite recipes with you. It’s not a traditional holiday recipe, but it’s delicious and nutritious nonetheless.

Lamb is one of my favorite meats when I can get my hands on some grass-fed or locally grown cuts – it’s flavorful and very versatile. I’ve recently discovered lentils and I must say, I’m very impressed with their nutritional profile – one cup of cooked lentils packs 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber! I’ve combined the two to create a simple, delicious dish – the perfect comfort food for chilly fall and winter evenings.

If you give this recipe a try, please let me know how it turned out and what you thought of it!

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Herb Roasted Lamb with Lentils

2 lb boneless lamb shoulder (New Zealand recommended as it is more likely to be grass-fed)

1 cup lentils

1-2 yellow onions, cut into rings

3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed

A few fresh sprigs of thyme

A few fresh sprigs of rosemary

Salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Place lamb shoulder in center of crockpot and add 1 cup stock (homemade preferred but a combination of water and red wine or red wine vinegar will work too).
  2. Surround lamb with lentils. Season with pepper and salt to taste.
  3. Pluck thyme and rosemary to cover meat and lentils. Add crushed evenly. Top with onion rings.
  4. Set crockpot to low for 6-8 hours.
  5. Divide into 3-4 servings (8 ounces lamb per serving)

Enjoy!

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Holistically Healthy Cold Remedies

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Sorry I didn’t post anything last week – I came down with a pretty bad cold at the beginning of the week.

While I was lying in bed recovering, I realized that the perfect blog post upon my return would be a list of effective cold remedies!

Now of course, when a cold gets bad enough, we may turn towards the cough suppressant and decongestant pharmaceuticals…but it’s important to remember this are merely bandages. They reduce the symptoms (frequently through the power of placebo), but they do nothing to shorten the length of the cold.

Below is a list of easy, affordable, and, best of all, clinically proven steps you can take to feel better and recover from the common cold.

  • Zinc – For my whole life I’ve heard to mega-dose vitamin C, using the popular Emergen-C packets, during a cold. While vitamin C has many uses in the body, it’s never been proven effective at “beating a cold”. However, in multiple studies, supplementing with less than 50mgs of Zinc a day reduced the length of a cold by 50%!

When you’re in the cold aisle of the pharmacy, you’ll see plenty of throat drops that have zinc in them due to these studies. But guess what? Dosages are rarely listed and many also contain Vitamin C which prevents Zinc absorption. Instead of paying top dollar for a day worth of dissolvable zinc wafers, head over to the supplement aisle and get a full bottle of standardized zinc gluconate or acetate vitamins. Break each tablet into quarters and take a piece before every meal (keeping separate from sources of vitamin C).

  • Hydrogen Peroxide – This is a more unenjoyable remedy, but not nearly as unpleasant as the awful symptoms of the rhinovirus! Purchase 3% hydrogen peroxide for a dollar at any pharmacy or market. Lay on your side at home and pour a few drops in the ear facing the ceiling. It will feel cold and may bubble or sting slightly. Tough it out and wait until the bubbling subsides (usually 5 to 10 minutes) before draining your ear, rolling over, and repeating the same process on the other side.

Although we’ve all been raised to fear germs spreading through sneezing, coughing, and runny noses, the virus that carries the common cold often enters the body through the ear canals. This tactic proves to be 80% successfully at reducing the length and severity of cold symptoms! Just be sure to start it immediately, while the germs are still multiplying in the ears, and do it as frequently as possible (at least 3 times a day during the first day or two).

  • Sinus Rinse – This method doesn’t necessarily cure a cold, but it will provide more sinus pressure relief and clear nasal passageways than most over the counter medicines. Purchase a Neti-Pot or a Sinus Rinse bottle (with pH balanced solution packets) in any pharmacy. Most packages will come with instructions but all you have to do is lean over the sink, insert the nozzle in one nostril, and squeeze the water through your sinuses and out the other side.

Be sure not to use tap water for this – you will want to boil water and let it cool to guarantee you’re not introducing any new living organisms into your body.

  • Mint/Eucalyptus Rubs – Apply a product like Vick’s Vapor-Rub on your chest, throat, and under your nose after bathing, showering, and before bed. This can help clear the sinuses, provide a cooling sensation for sore areas, and even reduce severity of coughs. It won’t end the cold any sooner, but it will provide you some much needed physical relief.
  • Spicy Food – Again, this probably won’t shorten the life of a cold, but it can make you feel immensely better. Besides clearing the sinuses and making you feel warm from the inside out, spicy foods can actually cause mild euphoria, which can act as a pain-reliever throughout the body.

I typically make a hot “tea” or chicken broth, containing lemon juice, ginger, garlic, apple cider vinegar, pepper, salt, turmeric, and cayenne. Play around with the amounts of inputs – you want enough spice that you are almost sweating by the end drinking it.

Besides these tactics, which are most effective if followed the moment symptoms appear, I also try to take extra vitamins in general, get more sleep than normal, take more steam showers (or hold my head over a boiling pot of water), and eat more fermented foods.

When I was growing up I would get a few colds every year. They would typically last 5 to 10 days, with 3 to 5 of those days being almost unbearable. Since I’ve switched my diet around and adjusted my lifestyle in general, I now only get 1 cold a year.

Last week I woke up on Monday with a tickle in my throat. By the time I got home from work I knew I was getting sick. That night I didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours without waking up in a coughing fit or struggling to breathe through a clogged nose. When I woke up Tuesday I felt so miserable, with a splitting headache from sinus pressure, that I even called out of work. After going back to sleep for a few hours to give my body time to recover, I immediately began a regimen of zinc supplementation, filling my ears with hydrogen peroxide, and sinus rinses every couple hours.

I woke up Wednesday feeling at least 50% better! I was able to get up at 5AM, go through my typical workout, and have a productive day at work. I continued using these aids throughout the weekend, reducing the frequency as the days passed.

Anecdotal reports online support these results and, as previously mentioned, even clinical studies show some of these tactics as being more effective than over the counter medicines. And they should all cost less than $20 and carry next to no side effects.

So, next time you start feeling a cold coming on, invest in this survival kit and start treatment immediately! I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes your go-to cold remedy, taking the place of modern chemicals.

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Personalized nutrition services to help you achieve your goals!

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As some of you know, I not only provide personal training services, but I also specialize in nutritional services as well! If you feel like your progress has stalled, or you just don’t know where to begin, consider one of the following options:

Shopping List – A one-time list of the optimal foods to pick up every week at your specific market, farm, etc. This will include many options and alternatives so you can pick and choose foods that fit your preferences and budget.

Recipes – Pick an option of 1, 2, or 3 meal recipes per day. You can request 3 dinner recipes in 1 week; 5 breakfast ideas; or 3 meals and 1 snack for every day of the week – the meals, days, and numbers are up to you!

Food Log Analysis – I will provide a log for you to record your food intake for a minimum of 3 days. I will analyze it in terms of calories, carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, share this information with you, and provide recommendations. The more details and specifics you include, the better my feedback will be! Include portion sizes, brands for packaged goods, etc.

Traditional Q & A / 1-on-1 Nutritional Counseling & Education – This can be in person or via email, text, or phone. We can either have a back and forth conversation, focused on your specific questions and concerns. Or it can be structured by me, basically conveying the most important information for your specific goals in terms of nutrition, hormones, sleep, etc.

I look forward to helping you achieve your goals!

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Fitness Myth: Lifting Weights Makes You “Bulky”

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My personal goals involve increasing muscle mass, reducing body fat, and performing heavy barbell lifts.

However, the majority of my clients do not share these goals. Most of my clients want to lose weight, regain function, improve posture, and reverse disease.

In fact, one of the most frequent concerns I hear from those trying to get in shape is that they “don’t want to get big muscles”.

For that reason, I’m going to discuss what causes muscle growth, and how you can avoid getting bulky muscles while still leaning out and improving performance.

The technical term for developing muscle size is “muscular hypertrophy”. Hypertrophy is merely the process of tissues increasing in volume. And the form of muscular hypertrophy that results in the largest muscular gains is “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy”.

Strictly speaking, 8 to 12 repetitions with a moderate weight is the protocol for hypertrophy training. However, intensity and volume are the real deciding factors.

Intensity is accomplished by working until the muscles can no longer perform the exercise properly, known as “failure”, and moving quickly between sets.

Volume is an equation of sets, reps, and weight. This means that 2 sets of 20 repetitions

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A female Olympian in the 165 lb. weight class. Does SHE look bulky? I don’t think so!

with 5 pounds will result in more growth stimulus than 3 sets of 1 repetition with 50 pounds.

I personally perform an exercise for 4 sets of 15 repetitions if I am trying to increase muscle size. Almost any load can cause significant growth when performed for 15 slow and focused repetitions.

I bring up the topic of intensity to address those that avoid lifting heavy weights because they don’t want to bulk up. The classic bodybuilder approach of 8 to 12 repetitions means that “heavy weights” (relative to the individuals strength) cannot be used.

BulkyThe weights that bodybuilders handle may look heavy but this is merely because they are very strong and have been lifting, with regular improvement, for a long time. It may look like a bench press with two 75-pound dumbbells looks heavy, but if the individual is doing it for 8 or more reps, they could handle over 100-pound dumbbells for fewer reps.

Contrarily, lifting a massively heavy weight for fewer than 5 repetitions will actually train the mind more than the muscles. Yes, the body is getting a great workout, but lifting a maximum load for 1, 2, or 3 repetitions results in more neurological adaptations than muscular growth.

So, if any rep range can stimulate muscle growth, and 8 to 12 reps with a moderately-heavy weight is the most promising to grow muscles, what can you do to avoid “bulking up”?

  • Always feel like you could do 2 to 5 more repetitions with perfect form. The moment you go to failure, and technique breaks down, you are causing muscular damage that will result in the muscle growing larger during recovery.
  • Also, take the time you need to rest between sets. Many bodybuilder programs recommend timed recoveries under 60 seconds, sometimes as low as 15 seconds. Starting your next set before the muscles are ready is a surefire way to stimulate muscle growth.
  • Finally, don’t consume excess calories! One of the main goals of exercising is to increase lean body mass, but, if you don’t want your muscles to grow considerably larger, eat at, or even below, maintenance so your body replaces fat with lean mass.

One last point worth making is regarding “toning”. The same people that say they don’t want to “grow muscles” say that they “only want to tone”. Believe it or not, tone means muscle! There is no way to make fat or skin look “toned”. The definition or tone visible on a fit persons arms, legs, or torso, is actually their muscle.

This doesn’t mean that you have to train like a bodybuilder and put on 50 pounds of muscle to looked toned… but replacing body fat with lean body mass (also known as muscle) is necessary to achieve a fit physique.

The world of fitness, nutrition, and health is filled with mixed messages, preconceived notions, and bogus ideas. But please don’t give any mind to the false claims that lifting weights and increasing strength will make you bulky!

If you work within your limits, have a program structured to your goals, and don’t eat to excess, you will achieve a healthy and proportionate figure.

And as always, if you would like professional guidance, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me atpaulromasco@hotmail.com !

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How do YOU define a “healthy” food?

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There may be a chance for you to influence change when it comes to food labels!

As most of us know by now, food marketing, packaging, and labels can be extremely misleading. There is little over-watch and even the standards that are in place are outdated.

kind-bars.jpgAbout a year ago, the FDA required the Kind bar company to remove the word “healthy” from their labels. But, based on the ingredient list, I would argue that their bars are far healthier than standard American snacks like chips, soda, and soy-based granola bars with 40 grams of sugar.

For example, the Honey Roasted Nuts & Sea Salt bar has 10 ingredients – and the first 4 are whole foods (nuts and honey). Then there is some additional sugar (a mere 5 grams), fiber, soy, and salt for flavor and shelf-life. That’s it! No carcinogenic soy-protein, no oxidized seed oils, no massive dose of sugar.

Well, the FDA skipped over the ingredients and, determined to not risk any critical-thinking, glanced at the Total Fat and started sending legally-worded requests and threats.

And now, after a year of Kind fighting back with science-driven data, supported by the sofosbuvir-fda-approvalpublic’s growing awareness that all fat is not bad, the FDA finally dropped its demands.

What’s even more amazing, the government posted an article on its Regulations.gov site, requesting information and content from the American public regarding the use of the word “healthy” on labels.

Click here to read the article. And please, please, please, click the blue “Comment Now” button to the right of the resulting page to make your voice heard!

My personal comment was:

Current standards rely too much on trying to find or recommend “perfect numbers”, whether in terms of total fat, saturated fat, total carbs, sugars, etc. 

Why not have the use of the word “healthy” on labels be dependent upon the ingredient list? For example, a food that has 4 ingredients, with 75% coming from whole foods, can be labelled “healthy” while a food that has 12 ingredients, with only 20% coming from whole foods , cannot use the term “healthy”. 

To use the example of Kind Bars…let’s say they have a product that has 6 ingredients (almonds, walnuts, honey, cocoa, salt, and vitamin e / tocopherols as a preservative). The first 4 ingredients are found in nature while the salt and potassium are made by humans, in a lab. So, the product has 6 ingredients, with 4 coming from natural foods, thus it is “healthy”. 

Meanwhile, let’s look at a box of Cheerios (following ingredients copied and pasted from their website): whole grain oats, corn starch, sugar, salt, tripotassium phosphate, wheat starch and Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) as a freshness preserver. Vitamins and minerals include calcium carbonate, iron, zinc and Vitamins C, B6, A, B1, B12, D3, folic acid and niacinamide. That’s 18 ingredients, with only the very first 1 coming from nature. Everything else goes through a great deal of modifying by humans or machines (whether we are talking about sugar and starch extracts, or even synthetic vitamins). So, only 1 out of 18 ingredients in Cheerios come from whole foods that can be found, prepared, and consumed in nature. Thus, they cannot use the word “healthy” on their labels. 

So, if you believe, as I do, that looking at the quality of ingredients is more important than some arbitrary government-dictated number, please take 60 seconds to submit a similar comment at the above address.

Thank you for not only taking the time to read my blog, but taking a moment out of your busy day to invest in our future – those that are less enlightened, along with future generations, will owe you a debt of gratitude!

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Fit & Balanced: A Training Guide for All

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Are you ready to start working out on a regular basis but you’re not sure what to do?

Maybe you’ve been following a workout program but, for whatever reason, you are inconsistent or not getting the results you’d like. Or maybe the workouts you’ve tried have been geared to one exercise modality that you just can’t stand.

Well, look no further – today I’ll outline the most convenient and balanced fitness program that anyone, at any experience level, can stick to!

Day 1 –30 to 60 minutes strength training & mobility

Day 2 – 30 to 60 minutes cardio & active recovery

Day 3 – 30 to 60 minutes strength training & mobility

Day 4 – 30 to 60 minutes cardio & active recovery

Day 5 – 30 to 60 minutes strength training & mobility

Day 6 – 15 to 30 minutes interval training & active recovery

Day 7 – complete rest day

d11d36da94df967077e137592a80f25aFirst, just to clarify, the time of each workout will depend on the individual’s schedule and their level of experience. If you are planning to squat hundreds of pounds, you’re going to need at least 5 minutes between sets. However, if you learning squat mechanics with just your bodyweight, you’ll probably only need 30 seconds in between sets.

Plus, if you overcommit and develop the belief that a workout doesn’t count unless its 60 minutes, you may end up skipping workouts on busy days, rather than getting in 30 minutes of quality work to continue making progress.

The “Strength Training & Mobility” workouts start with a 5 minute warmup to wake up f42fd2699a2f96e23792fe1d41d2f0bbstabilizer muscles, improve movement patterns, and practice “prehab” exercises. Prehab exercises target muscles that tend to be tight, passive, or weak, leading to the most common injuries and imbalances (usually shoulder, knee, and lower back).

The rest of the workout will consist of 10 exercises, strengthening every major muscle group of the body. While we strengthen the muscles with these exercises, we also want to improve mobility. To do this, lift the weight fairly quickly, maybe in 1 to 2 seconds, but then make the lowering or returning phase last at least 4 seconds.

As we lift a weight, our muscles shorten, but as we lower the weight, the muscles lengthen, providing an active stretch to the muscles and tendons.

Below is the outline for the “Strength Training & Mobility” days.

Warmup:

BirdDog/Quadruped – 5 repetitions each side, holding outstretched position for 5 seconds each time

Deadbugs – 10 repetitions in all, holding outstretched position for 2 seconds while exhaling

Glute Bridge – 10 repetitions, holding top position for 1 second

Clamshells – green band around knees, 10 repetitions each side, 1 second hold per rep

External Rotations – 10 repetitions each side

Full Body Workout:

Squat – 3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions.

Deadlift – 3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions

Pushups –3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions

Rowing / Back Pulling Motion – 3 sets of 8 to 20 repetitions

Single Leg Lunge or Squat – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Single Leg Deadlift – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Rear Shoulder Fly – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Bicep Curl – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Tricep Kickback – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Side Plank – 2 sets of 10 to 30 second hold each side

And there you have it – 10 exercises, performed a few times each, that will ensure balanced development, injury prevention, and improved function for years to come!  

One thing I omitted from this program is specific tailoring based upon experience level, restrictions and injuries, etc. For example, a novice might perform the squats by sitting back and down onto a chair and standing back up. An intermediate trainee may perform the movement holding a weight in front of their chest and no chair. And an advanced individual may use a full barbell on their back loaded with hundreds of pounds.

Then, of course, there are many technique details that can’t be efficiently communicated in a blog. Whether keeping the knees out and feet flat on the floor during a squat, or tucking the elbows in towards the body during pushups, form is crucial. But unfortunately, the best way to convey this is through one-on-one work.

fitness-tips-for-beginner-or-newFor the “Cardio & Active Recovery” days, pick whatever form of conditioning is most entertaining for you. This can be running, hiking, riding a stationary bike in front of a television, etc. The point here is that you want the activity to be enjoyable enough that you can stick with it, but isn’t so difficult that you have trouble performing the next day’s workout. You can also practice some of the prehab movements from the Strength day, do some foam rolling and stretching, or attend a Yoga or Pilates class.

Just make sure you do something active for 30 to 60 minutes that leaves you feeling mobile and healthy!

Finally, try tohiit perform higher level conditioning, such as high intensity interval training (HIIT), at least one day a week. You can do 30 seconds of kettlebell swings with 1 minute rests, hill sprints, farmer walks with heavy weights in each hand, or intervals on a rowing machine – really whatever you want!

On the 7th day, marked as “Complete Rest”, you don’t need a highly structured workout, but don’t fear activity. Only the highest level athletes need a day where they do nothing at all. Go for a walk, do a little stretching, go to the beach and go for a swim.

The structure of this program includes 3 scheduled strength and mobility sessions, 3 scheduled cardiorespiratory / cardiovascular sessions, and 1 day where you don’t have to commit to any one thing beforehand.

This program will provide enough stimulus to improve heart and lung health, while improving strength, balance, mobility, and bone density, without resulting in over-training. Just make sure you eat healthy for the rest of the hours of the day outside of the gym!

And if you need any help learning the exercises and perfecting safe and effective technique, don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for reading!

 

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