Originally written for www.leanfit.com
1. It’s not always as simple as calories in vs. calories out.
For people looking to lose weight or gain muscle, it isn’t always as simple as eating in a calorie deficit or calorie surplus. Depending on where you are in your nutritional journey, this may be a good starting point, but it will only take you so far. The type of calories (or macronutrients) consumed will have an impact on how much energy you expend during your daily activities. Various foods have a different metabolic effect on your body, and that’s an important consideration when working towards composition goals. Protein, for example, has a high thermic effect, which means the body literally burns more calories when breaking it down than, say, carbohydrates. For example, when you eat 100 calories of carbs, and 100 calories of protein, your body will actually burn more calories processing the protein. This is quite a complicated topic, with plenty of related science to consider, but if you can remember that a calorie is not just a calorie, this information will take you a long way.
2. What works for your neighbour will not necessarily work for you.
Nutrition is a complex topic, and our bodies are even more complex. People are often quick to jump on the diet bandwagon as soon as they witness someone having success with a particular eating plan. When they don’t experience the same success, they are left feeling confused and discouraged. Instead of playing the never-ending game of musical diets, jumping from one nutrition fad to the next, be consistent. Make simple and realistic changes to your daily eating habits. Choose sustainable practices that you can maintain and that work with your lifestyle. This is the first step on the road to healthy eating.
3. A little tough love: you might be eating too much.
This is a bit of a sensitive topic, because I meet many women, in particular, who are actually not eating enough. They’ve been on a calorie-restricted diet for years, and as a result, are experiencing some level of metabolic damage. Or, people limit their calories for days at a time, resulting in a huge binge at the end of the week, and consuming far too many calories for their body type. However, more often than not, people are fooling themselves. They believe that as long as they make healthy choices and are consuming nourishing foods, they should be good to go. The fat will take care of itself. And, although I wish it were as simple as this, calories do play a role. Now, this may seem contradictory to my first point of calories in vs. calories out, but we can’t deny that calories are important. If you are eating too much on a consistent basis, you will gain fat. It’s science. So that extra handful of nuts in the afternoon, eating mindlessly straight from the cereal box (guilty), or taking too many samples from the lady in Costco can really add up. All of the sudden, you’ve eaten 400 calories over your daily goal and you didn’t even notice! 400 calories x 7 days = 2,800 extra calories a week! Another example is falling into what I call “the smoothie trap.” Don’t get me wrong—smoothies and shakes are a convenient, nutrient dense meal to add into your nutrition routine. I have at least one every day. But, too often, people begin loading in the fruits and fats, without being cognizant of serving size. And, sure, every ingredient is real, nutritious food. But, suddenly, they’ve made a 900 calorie smoothie without even knowing it. It’s important to gain an understanding of what you are consuming in a day. Try tracking your food for a week, using an app like My Fitness Pal (see my previous post for more info). This will provide you with an overview of what you are consuming on a daily basis and areas of nutrition where you may be falling short (or going over!).
So, to sum here, here are the top 3 things I wish everyone knew about nutrition:
1. It isn’t always as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Our bodies process different foods in different ways. Pay attention to the types of foods you are consuming and find a balance between macronutrients.
2. Just because a particular eating plan works for your neighbour, does not necessarily mean it will work for you. Find sustainable and healthy practices that fit your lifestyle and be consistent.
3. You may be eating too much. Try tracking your food and begin to gain an understanding of what you are actually consuming in a day and changes that may need to be made. Knowledge is power.
Originally written for www.leanfit.com
Client question: What is the best way to track my nutrition?
Tracking nutrition is a great tool for those looking to gain a better understanding of what their daily food intake is. It helps build awareness of nutrition and often shines light on areas of our diet where we may be falling short. Although it isn’t for everyone, and certainly not a strategy that needs to be used daily, all year long, it is a tool that people can utilize to get their nutrition on track and learn how their eating style may be affecting their body composition and goals.
In today’s era of technology, tracking is easier than ever. Numerous aps and online programs have been developed that allow people to simply track their daily food intake. By far, the most popular of these aps is My Fitness Pal. MFP offers a variety of features, including goal setting, macro, calorie and exercise tracking, progress reports, and sharing your journey with friends.
MFP is an awesome tool, particularly for those who are working towards a specific goal. Remember: the more specific your health and/or fitness goal, the more dedicated you must be to your diet. MFP allows you to track each meal and lets you know when you have hit your calorie and macronutrient goals.
As much as I love this tool, there are certainly downfalls to be aware of. First, anyone can add foods to the MFP database, and it’s not always clear whether the nutritional information on these items is correct. The best way to combat this problem is to use the barcode scanning feature (available through the app, but not the online interface) if the food is packaged, or look for similar foods with the green checkmark beside them. This means the content has been verified. Another tip to remember when tracking your food is that “eyeballing it” isn’t always the most reliable method. Serving sizes may be misjudged, and that can be enough to throw you into a calorie surplus when you’re trying to eat in a deficit (or vise versa). Unless you are loosely tracking to ensure you remain relatively on point with your diet, I do recommend weighing and measuring your food when possible. Again, this is for those individuals who are striving to reach a specific goal within a given time frame. Otherwise, a more relaxed approach to tracking is acceptable and recommended.
Another factor to be aware of is that, by no means, is tracking a perfect science. Not only can there be error in the data, but everyone processes calories and nutrients differently. So it’s very difficult to know how your body will absorb and utilize the amount of calories documented for a specific food.
If you are working with a professional, nutrition tracking may be as simple as keeping a food journal. Your coach or nutritionist can then view your log and provide suggestions moving forward.
In conclusion, I think food tracking is an excellent tool to have in your nutritional toolbox. It can help build food awareness and support you in reaching your goals. That being said, it can be time consuming and inaccurate. So take it with a grain of salt and only use it if it makes sense to do so. Tracking is not a strategy that needs to be employed 24/7, so take advantage of it when it can be most useful to you. If you find yourself obsessing over the numbers, it may be time to opt for a less all-consuming nutrition approach.
I love the holidays. Although there is Christmas buzz everywhere you go, everything also seems so much quieter. There are fewer things open, no deadlines to worry about, and a pull to just snuggle in with the family on snowy days. And of course, my other favourite part: consuming copious amounts of delicious food.
Unfortunately, all of the indulging can often lead to a feeling of full-until-it-hurts, and the infamous food (or other) hangover the next morning. So how can you indulge without losing sight of your goals or feeling like you have to deprive yourself for weeks, post-Christmas? Well, with these challenges in mind, I decided to share my tips for surviving the holidays without sacrificing your waistline:
1. Backload your day
This is my favourite trick of the season. If I know I have a holiday event in the evening or afternoon, I will plan my meals accordingly. This might mean a light breakfast that is higher in protein and fats (knowing I will be having a meal wuite high in carbohydrates later), or I may even remain in a fasted state until late morning or lunch, if that feels right. Fasting during the first half of the day not only sets you to eat more in the evening, but it also puts your blood sugar in a good position for eating more insulin-inducing foods (think shortbread, assorted chocolates, and sausage rolls. Oh my). These practices can also support your energy levels. By keeping sugar low during the first part of the day, you encourage healthy cortisol levels (providing energy), and limit your insulin response. Later in the day, when you are indulging in some yummy holiday treats, cortisol levels decrease as insulin levels are heightened. This is also helpful for our hormone levels, as the pattern supports a natural sleep cycle. Have you ever noticed how you become a bit sluggish after a large meal? That’s the power of a high insulin response. So keeping insulin levels low in the morning, can help aid in supporting a natural sleep cycle. Ultimately saving your calories for the afternoon/evening will allow you to really enjoy the holiday treats without worrying about limiting yourself.
2. Find time for activity
So you ate until you couldn’t move last night and washed it down with four glasses of eggnog. So what? You had a blast and laughed with friends and family until your sides hurt. Sounds like an evening well spent. But now is a really awesome opportunity to put that food to work. Once you awake from your food coma, engage in some resistance training. You might as well turn those carbs into muscle, am I right? You are stocked up on glycogen stores and your body can use those to help you hit new PRs. I like to focus on large muscle groups on these days (such as legs or back) to ensure I get the biggest bang for my buck. I will also incorporate some full-body movements, just because… it can’t hurt. My bet is you have a great workout!
3. Show you body's systems some love when you can
After a bit of an indulgent meal, I like to fill the following day with lots of detoxifying foods, like lemon and greens. In fact, I generally start my morning with a green smoothie, incorporating lots of mixed greens (or greens powder) and lemon juice, usually with a fruit of some sort. Grab my free smoothie guide here to get your hands on some fresh recipes! Get lots of vegetables in during the rest of the day, and drink plenty of water and herbal teas so encourage your body to move things along…
4. Ditch the crap
It never fails that, during the holidays, my counter top and refrigerator become filled with a variety of Christmas treats. But let’s be honest: there’s enough of these items at the 17 get-togethers we all inevitably have (other than in the year 2020). So get rid of the extras. There’s no need to pick at a plate of Aunt Carol's traditional Christmas baked goods every day of the week (sorry, Aunt Carol). Save the treats for social gatherings and your regular diet the rest of the time. I may keep my favourite dark chocolate in the freezer, but I usually chuck the rest after a day or two. I have a sweet tooth myself, and definitely don’t need Christmas cookies taunting me 24-7, because I know overindulging doesn't make me feel well. I become low-energy and foggy. So you can wait until Boxing Day or January 1st for the traditional trashing-of-the-treats, but I recommend just doing it now. You’ll be thankful you did.
Last but not least: enjoy. The Christmas season comes around once a year. There is no reason why yours should be filled with endless moments of temptation, post-binge guilt, and social gathering avoidance (again.. unless it's 2020). Set yourself up for success using the tips listed above, and enjoy time spent with family and friends, while eating delicious meals. Food is one of the great pleasures in life. Why deprive yourself of something so wonderful? I am a huge proponent of balance, and believe that the holidays are meant to be enjoyed, whatever that may mean for you. So indulge. Eat and drink until your heart desires, but plan accordingly and put strategies in place that allow you to do so with minimal damage.
From my family to yours, happy celebrating, and Merry Christmas!
Dave and I at our own family Christmas celebration. Matching by accident, I swear.
For the last few of years, I have immersed myself in the health and fitness world. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool and it has allowed me to be constantly surrounded by inspiring, strong, fearless women who motivate me to be better every day. I feel so fortunate to not only be able to learn and grow from these individuals, but to share my own journey with them and connect with others when I am in need of support or guidance. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and of course other blogs and podcasts have made this so easy, and have literally connected me with incredible people all over the world. There’s nothing more comforting than surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals.
Nutrition and fitness are my passion. Learning about and practicing both ignites something in me. It is when I feel the most like myself (does that make sense?). And there is nothing I love more than sharing this passion with others.
This interest has sparked conversations with many women in my life, some of who have become clients, and some who are just looking to chat or grab my opinion on a particular topic. This is often when the reality of mainstream media sinks in. I am dumbfounded when I learn that women are still doing an hour on the treadmill a day while consuming 1000 calories--and not getting the results they’re looking for.
Updated: October, 2020
Purchasing supplements can be an overwhelming process, whether it’s protein powder, fish oil, or an every-day multi vitamin. There are so many brands available, all with varying formulas, claims and reviews. It’s difficult to know what you should be purchasing and incorporating into your daily routine.
Over the past five years, I have been asked countless times what which plant-based protein powder I recommend. I have tried a number of brands, always hunting for the best taste, consistency, nutritional profile and ingredient list. Although I like to get the majority of my protein through whole foods, this can be challenge particularly in the morning, or if you're on the-go. This is when turning to a powdered protein supplement can be helpful.
When comparing protein ingredients, it's often easier to find a higher quality whey than it is plant-based brand. So, if you're not choosing plant-based protein for any ethical or digestive reasons, take some time to explore whey based and use these guidelines:
If you keep this guideline list handy when shopping for a whey, even if you tick of 85% of the boxes, you likely have a decent quality brand in your hands.
Looking for FRESH breakfast ideas? Try my Quinoa Breakfast Bowl. With a complete amino acid profile, endless topping possibilities and all the warm comfort of a bowl of oatmeal, you'll be excited to switch up your breakfast routine!
Now onto the plant-based protein powders. Before I get into specific brands (because, depending on where you are located, different protein powders will be available to you), there are some guidelines you can use to help you shop for these as well, many the same as above:
Again, you might not be able to tick all of these boxes, so just be sure to take a glance at the ingredient list before purchasing and make sure you're buying a decent brand, even if it's not perfect. We want to support supplement companies that truly have our health in mind--not brands that are trying to make a product on the cheap to maximize margins.
The problem with many plant-based proteins is that they can be grainy, chalky, and lacking in the flavour department. That said, over the years I have seen many brands step up their game as they work to stay competitive in the market.
Here, I will review four brands of plant-based protein powders and, hopefully, take some of the guess work out for you when purchasing.
The four brands I am going to review are:
Vega Sport Performance Protein (vanilla)
Garden of Life Raw Protein (chocolate)
Lean Fit Naturals Complete Green Protein (vanilla bean)
Tropeaka Protein (Vanilla)
When you're looking at the nutrition profile of a protein powder, you want to look first at the balance between proteins, fat and carbs. If you're planning on using it as a meal replacement on its own, you may want a more even balance between macronutrients. If you want to incorporate a protein powder into a smoothie, look for a solid dose of protein (around the 20g mark per serving) and lower carbs and fats. You can easily add whole foods into a smoothie to make a complete meal. If you follow a keto lifestyle, you may be ok with high protein and fat but low carb. Reflect on what you want from a powder and go from there.
Vega Sport Performance Protein (vanilla)
Vega Sport boasts an impressive 30g of protein per scoop, which you don't see that often in a vegan brand. With only 3g of carbs and fat each, the macronutrient breakdown is solid. If that's where your interest ends, this this a great choice for you.
If we dive into the ingredient list, we see a mix of conventional and organic protein sources. Non-organic pea protein isn't ideal, as it can be a heavily sprayed crop. That said, the sweetener is stevia, which is a pretty good choice. Like most protein powders, it does contain natural flvours (another word for artificial flavours), but it's the last ingredient listed, telling us the content is low compared to other ingredients used.
In terms of taste, I found it good with a smooth texture.
Final thoughts: Although I appreciate the accessibility, 100% organic proteins sources would be best.
Garden of Life Raw Protein (chocolate)
Garden of Life is another popular plant-based protein brand, and this is for a couple of reasons. The nutrition is good, with 22g of protein per serving, 5g of carbs and 2.5g of fat. But the real star of the show is their ingredient list. All protein sources are organic, including organic sprouted rice powder, sprouted meaning there is more nutritional benefits. Like Vega, it's sweetened with stevia and contains natural flavours.
You may find the texture not quite as satisfying as other brands, but if we're talking ingredients, these are best in class.
Final thoughts: Texture not perfect, but super high quality production for such an accessible brand.
LeanFit Completegreen Organic Protein (vanilla)
LeanFit is a Canadian company based in Vancouver. Their plant-based (and whey) protein can be found at Costco, which a lot of people love. The price is right too. But how do the nutritionals compare to other brands?
LeanFit provides 21g of protein, 7g of carbs and 0g of fat. Like Garden of Life, LeanFit Completegreen organic uses a full organic plant-based protein blend. It's sweetened with stevia, but uses natural flavours, a mix of organic and conventional.
Final thoughts: the taste and texture are decent. Like most, it includes natural flavours, but in terms of price point and nutritionals, it's a solid choice for the average consumer.
Tropeaka Lean Protein (vanilla)
Tropeaka is an Australian company with a North American warehouse. So, although you'll have to order online, it's pretty easy to get your hands on this brand. The ingredient list includes some unique items that I haven't seen in many other brands, like macca powder, MCT oil and monkfruit. But I'm so torn because the protein combo is not organic! And, as mentioned, could mean the product would score high in pesticides. That said, if you're really interested in diving into this, I'd research the farming differences in Australia vs. those in North America. My guess is we'd see some differences there, potentially making organic less of an issue.
Final Thoughts: The flavour, texture and macro breakdown is on-point. With 16g of protein, 4g of carbs and 2.5g of fat in a 2Tbsp serving, Tropeaka is one you may want to keep in your pantry for its unique ingredient list and related benefits.
With so many protein companies on the market today, it's a confusing world out there for the consumer. Hopefully the checklist provided above, as well as a peek into the nutrition and taste profile of a few brands, will help guide you when making your next plant-based protein purchase.
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The world of nutrition is a complicated one. Head to the Health and Wellbeing section at your local Chapters and you’ll see what I mean. There are literally walls of books telling us what to eat, what not to eat, how to cook it, and when to eat it. This would all be well and good… except that they all seem to contradict each other in varying ways. So how are we expected to make it through this life with a healthy approach if the so-called professionals can’t even agree?
I pride myself in being able to read nutrition advice with an objective eye. I gather what I have learned from past resources and make my own judgments on what is truth and what is fad. Are all of my ideas surrounding health accurate? Probably not. Nutritional information is so vast, how could I possible know it all? But, I don’t feel too bad about it, considering that even world-class scientists haven’t got it all figured out yet. It is an ever-growing body of knowledge. That’s part of what I love about the industry. Things never get old.
However, as confident as I am in my own journey, if I’m not careful, I too can find myself feeling muddled by over exposure to information. I start to give in to the confidently worded, persuasive writing offered up by some health guru, meditating on a beach in California. I begin to question what I know to be true or effective. Although questioning your awareness and constantly building upon what you already know is an important part of learning, it isn’t always necessary, depending on your information source.
Protein. It’s difficult to consult any piece of nutrition literature without reading about the importance of it. Well, there’s a reason for that: protein is really important.
What is it?
When speaking in terms of food, protein is one of the three macronutrients that we consume through our diet (its two counterparts being carbohydrates and fats). If you’re looking for a more scientific explanation, proteins in the human body are made up of complex chemical compounds called amino acids. There are two categories of amino acids in the body: essential and non-essential. Our bodies are unable to make essential amino acids, and therefore, we need to consume them through our diet. Protein plays many important roles within the body, but let’s talk about it from a nutrition standpoint (otherwise, we could be here all day).
Why is it important?
Most women I talk to have similar goals when it comes to changing their bodies: they want to lose fat and look ‘fit.’ It is important to realize that looking fit tends to come from building or maintaining lean muscle mass. There’s a stereotype often associated with the so-called ‘gym rats’. You know the picture I’m talking about: the one with a 250lb body builder drinking a watery chocolate drink from his shaker bottle. As much as this visual may make you roll your eyes a bit, there’s something to be said about it. When we complete a hard workout, we put our muscles through the ringer and tear them down. In order to prevent a loss of lean muscle (that lovely material that gives us the nice toned look), it’s important to feed them with protein so they are able to repair and rebuild themselves.