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Three surprising foods to remove from your diet today

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At the risk of sounding like the ultimate wet blanket, these are just a few areas that I don’t see discussed often enough, mainly because they fall under the category of “it’s harmless” or “…better than X/Y/Z.” But if we’re going to be fair and honest with ourselves, then we are doing ourselves a disservice by looking the other way about some of our choices throughout the day, while analyzing ad nauseam the same choices over and over again, and getting no where. Could it be that the food choices we don’t second guess are the ones holding us back? Maybe you’re wondering why you aren’t making progress fast enough. Let’s leave no stone unturned and look at some of these lesser-discussed areas. Safe to say this is my “Wow…you sure must be fun to be around at parties” post. That’s fine by me. If your nutrition coach is only giving you some macro numbers to hit, they’re not a nutrition coach. They’re just a calculator. Let’s look a little deeper, shall we?

 

Smoothies.

Protein powder…fruit…spinach…almond milk….what could possibly be bad about that?! The truth is, I strongly recommend against smoothies. When you drink food as opposed to chew it, your body sends different signals of satiety (that feeling of fullness). When you drink a meal, your brain isn’t receiving the signal that it’s full. Sure, your belly might feel full (it might even feel bloated), as you just consumed plenty of calories, but the chances are you will feel hungry soon after. Fruit never made anyone fat. BUT- a surge of fruit in a smoothie in the morning will make your energy levels spike and crash, especially if they’re blended into a smoothie, because often a lot of fruit is added (more fruit than if you had been tasked with chewing it). I’d much prefer a steady, sustainable rise in energy. If you’re drinking a smoothie for breakfast, you might be setting yourself up for a rollercoaster ride in energy and hunger throughout the day. What to eat instead? Well, you’ve already got that spinach and fruit in front of you… why not create a spinach salad with fresh squeezed lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, some olives, and a handful of blueberries on top? Throw in some leftover meat (you can eat it hot or cold, you decide) and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid, fresh, well-rounded, fibrous meal that might have taken you five minutes to throw together. Give yourself 15-20 minutes of dedicated meal time to eat it, and you’re starting your day off right.

 

Gum.

This is a strange one. Many people chew gum as a weight loss strategy to stave off hunger. I strongly, strongly advise against this. You might be thinking, well, first of all, a stick of gum has zero calories (or no less than, say, five). What’s the problem with that?! And second of all, shouldn’t all that chewing distract my brain from hunger, causing me to eat less? Here’s the deal. Chewing, just like in the case of smoothies, plays an important role in allowing our hormones to function properly. If you’re chewing nonstop throughout the day, your brain is going to have a hard time sorting out when you’re truly full and when you’re truly hungry. When the hormones responsible for sending hunger and fullness cues are functioning properly, we’re able to better regulate and gauge how much food has been eaten in relation to what our actual energy needs are. Bottom line: gimmicks and tricks don’t work. Our bodies have incredible self-regulating mechanisms on their own without us going in there and deceiving and confusing the system. 

 

Grazing snacks.

I promise I’m not trying to vilify fruit! Fruit is an amazing source of nutrients and should be a part of everyone’s diet. But fruit on its own makes a pretty crappy snack. In this third point, I’m going to make the case that your snacks should essentially be mini-meals. Now, when I suggest this idea to people, their response is usually a prolonged blank stare as if they had just seen a ghost. Hopefully by now a theme is emerging, in that good nutrition isn’t just about what you eat, but also about creating an environment that allows your hormones to function normally. One way you can go about doing this is to determine how many meals you need to eat in a day to feel your best. Do you feel better with larger, fewer meals, or smaller, more frequent meals? Determine what’s going to work best for you. If you do feel like you really need something to sustain you until your next meal (as opposed to “I just wanted something to nibble on!”), try to pick foods that contain at least a serving of, at minimum, two of the three macronutrients, from real food sources. EXAMPLE: A mini jar of olives and an organic meat stick contains a serving of healthy fats and protein. This snack trumps a bag of carrots on their own, or a handful of chips. You may say “but carrots are fewer calories!” If you’re concerned about your calorie intake, then you should also be concerned about grazing and mindless snacking, no matter what the contents of the snack are! Instead, eat the carrots, but throw in a roll of deli meat, too. We’re looking for satiating snacks, not just “fillers” to feed our oral fixation or to trick and confuse our bodies.

 

So, there you have it. These three foods, habits, and/or tendencies may seem harmless, but they could be part of a pattern of hormonal disruption that is affecting your ability to regulate what signals your brain is receiving regarding fullness and hunger. These signals ultimately dictate how much you’re eating. Not only that, but they also affect your mood, your energy levels, cravings, and even your digestion. Surprised? Furious? Mind blown? Excited to start implementing some of this? Let me know in the comments!

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Sweaty Saturday

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Sweaty Saturday WOD

-On a running clock-

A. Deadlift (any style):

5-3-3-1-1-1 (building in weight)

-Rest :30-

B. Row 1:00 (for max distance)

-Rest :30-

C. :20 Handstand Hold (Freestanding or Wall-assisted)

*Six total sets of each movement; Rest as needed between sets.

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Sweaty Saturday

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Warm up:

A. 3 sets:

300m Row

20 Squats

10 Push-ups

B. 20:00 AMRAP

80 Calorie Row

60 Burpees

40 Box Jumps (20”)

20 Pull-ups

C. 30sec Max Banded Curls + 30sec Rest x 4:00 (2 sets)

 

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The secret guide to gain muscle and burn fat

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Today we are going to talk about a very specific goal: body composition goals. I want to be very careful in limiting the scope of this blog post to this one very specific goal. I understand that not everyone will have aesthetic goals, and that’s okay! This blog post only applies and makes sense within the context of an aesthetic goal. Got it?! Got it!
I recently came across an ad that said:
“Cardio Monday! HIIT Tuesday! Yoga Wednesday! Barre Thursday! Recovery Friday! Never get bored of your fitness routine!”
Hey, I don’t think your fitness routine should be boring either. I also think it’s great to try new things. But there does come a point where you must ask if your fitness routine makes sense with what your goal is. When selecting workouts, I prefer to opt for the most efficient way to reach my goal.
If the goal is an aesthetic one, that is, you want your body to look a certain way, and you’d like your exercise selection to help you get there, then an exercise lineup like the one above is not going to help you reach your goal in a time-efficient way.
Think of it this way: if your goal was to make $100k/year, you wouldn’t accept a job that paid $20/hour. It would make a lot more sense to take a job that paid $100/hour.
Same goes for fitness. I already know the resistance I’ll hear. “But Caitlin….my goal is not to look like the Incredible Hulk. I just want to look fit/toned/healthy.” Understand that when you say you want to look toned, what you are really saying is that you want to build muscle. There is no magical adaptation that occurs between building muscle and not building muscle. If you are changing the tone, look, and feel of your arms/butt/legs/belly…you are building muscle. You are not toning. “Toning” is not actually a thing.
There is also no accidental Hulking that happens. I can promise you with 100% certainty that you will not accidentally grow grotesquely large muscles by resistance training.
About 3% of women do have the genetics to put on some serious muscle without much effort. If you’re in that 3%, first of all, I’m jealous of you. I have been strength training for five years; I can squat 2.5 times my bodyweight and deadlift over 3 times my bodyweight, which exceed the standing Minnesota state records in powerlifting, and I still get told quite frequently that I am “skinny.” Now, most people cannot imagine someone training 5-6 times a week for 1-3 hours a day for several years would be considered “skinny.” But the truth is that muscle takes a long time to grow, and the way your muscles look largely depends on your genetics. I am proof you can also get very strong without looking extremely muscular.
So, if you are one of the 3% of women who can put on muscle without dedicating your life to it, then consider yourself very lucky! You can probably do minimal exercising with mostly your own bodyweight a couple times a week and maintain the physique you want. But for the rest of us, we’ll have to pursue the most efficient route, because none of us has 40 hours a week to devote to exercise, which is probably what it would take to meet your aesthetic goal following a calendar of “cardio Monday, HIIT Tuesday, yoga Wednesday, & barre Thursday.”
So, for the rest of us, a standard resistance training program will be the single best use of our time. You can use light weights and high reps, or heavier weights and low reps, as long as the effort on each set is there. If we changed our exercise program dramatically every single day, we wouldn’t make much progress. Too much randomization and lack of structure can make accomplishing a goal very difficult and time-consuming. Training with purpose, effort, and more rigidity will allow you to reach your goal in a fraction of the time. Boring? Depends on the program. Effective? You bet.
The only reason we as females are being endlessly supplied with the false dilemma of  fun cardio/yoga/barre/pilates and boring, bulk-producing resistance training is because fitness marketers realized that the former simply sells better. But instead of dispelling the myth that weight training a few times a week won’t actually make your muscles bust out of your clothes, fitness marketers decided it’s better to market yoga, cardio, and other forms of exercise that, while they are all fantastic, aren’t efficient in meeting an aesthetic goal. We’re being sold unobtainable bodies by way of fantastical, pie-in-the-sky exercise programs. We’re being told that not only will resistance training make you bulky, it is also boring, so you’re better off avoiding it altogether. I would say it’s anything but boring, but that’s a blog post for a different day! In sum, here’s what I’ve found to actually be true: Nothing is more boring than not seeing results.
– Coach Caitlin
Thank you Bret Contreras, PhD, (www.bretcontreras.com) for the inspiration for this post, and for providing the excellent analogy about wages and salary goals!
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SWEATY SATURDAY

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  • 2 Rounds For Time
  • 12 Burpees
  • 12 Thrusters (115/75 lb)
  • 12 Burpees
  • 12 Power Snatches (115/75 lb)
  • 12 Burpees
  • 12 Push Jerks (115/75 lb)
  • 12 Burpees
  • 12 Hang Squat Cleans (115/75 lb)
  • 12 Burpees
  • 12 Overhead Squats (115/75 lb)

Sgt. Thomas R. MacPherson, 26, was killed in action on October 12, 2012 by enemy forces during a heavy firefight while conducting combat operations in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. He was leading an assault against an enemy position when he was mortally wounded by small arms fire.

MacPherson was a team leader assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He previously served one deployment to Iraq and this was his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.

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How to build a better morning: A zombie’s guide to loving your AMs

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MY MORNINGS SUCK. You see, I used to be a morning person. I used to wake up and crave the sound of sizzling bacon and eggs cooking. But then… something switched. I started losing an appetite in the morning. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it has been for me. Nearly fasting for the first 4-5 hours of my day has been catastrophic for my mood, my energy, and my productivity. Not good. After much frustration and many, many rushed and frantic mornings on a nearly empty stomach, I decided enough is enough. Instead, I thought, this is a good opportunity to do some detective work of my own and figure out what the heck is going on. Here are a few things I found to help my mental, physical, and emotional health in the mornings. If you wake up feeling like a million bucks, go ahead and disregard this, but maybe someone else out there has some pretty hard mornings like me.

1. It all goes back to gut health. After some trial and error I’ve discovered that sugar consumption is really messing with my hormones, specifically the ones responsible for sending and transmitting hunger signals and satiety signals to my brain. The result is that I wake up simultaneously hungry and without an appetite, which makes for many anxious and unhappy mornings. I cut out the nighttime sugar and instead stick to high protein snacks, healthy fats, and carbohydrates that are real food, not the processed stuff.

2. When the alarm goes off, I now must get out of bed, period, end of story. No matter how tired I am when I hear that alarm (or my cat meowing five minutes before it goes off, like clockwork…), I am so much less tired by the time my feet hit the ground. So as much as it pains me to say this…yes, actually getting out of bed DOES help immensely, rather than laying awake wondering how long I can put off reality. Dang it.

3. It’s best to let your cortisol levels rise naturally in the morning. One way to spike your cortisol levels through the roof in the morning is to stare at your phone or a television screen first thing in the morning, thereby also producing the stress of, well, basically all of humanity. Cortisol isn’t inherently bad, we just need it to function properly- we need it to rise steadily in the morning to get our day going, and for it to fall naturally at night to allow for restful sleep. So, it’s best to allow natural sunlight and light activity to gently raise cortisol levels in the morning.

4. I try not to do activities in the morning that I find to be diversion tactics from sitting in my own thoughts, like numbing myself with my phone, laptop, or tv (yes, this theme again). I noticed that I have a reflex to reach for media content when a question or problem pops in my brain as a way to avoid said question or problem. This little game ends up taking up enough of my morning that I get tricked into thinking I don’t have time to do things like prepare food in the kitchen or do some light housework… so then food doesn’t get prepared, chores don’t get done, and none of my questions get answered nor my problems solved! Lose-lose, lose-lose. So for now, I’m on a media embargo. I’m allowing my natural curiosity and innate compass to guide my mornings. I find I am more creative and a better problem-solver, and my brain is less foggy. I’m even putting on hold music and podcasts early in the AM too, but once I get the hang of being comfortable working through my thoughts without pressing the “Distract Me!” button I might start to introduce these things back into my morning routine.

I also want to note none of these things are for “self improvement,” initiatives to “find motivation” or even because I think everyone should eat breakfast (I don’t. Although everyone does have a Meal #1 in their day). These are just things that I have found help me feel more human-y in the morning, a time of day I have been struggling feeling human at all.

That’s all I got! Until next time,
Caitlin

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Sweaty Saturday (1124)

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-With a partner-

A. 40-30-20-10

Row (for Calories)

:30 Wall Sit after each round

*Alternate rounds with partner

-immediately into-

B. 12 Rounds (total)

Player A: 12 Burpees

Player B: Overhead Plate Hold (45lbs Plate)

*Alternate rounds with partner

-immediately into-

C. 10-20-30-40

:30 Wall Sit before each round

Row (for Calories)

 

Post scores to comments.

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How to get back on track ASAP after a day off your weight loss plan

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SHOULD YOU UNDEREAT THE DAY AFTER OVEREATING? We’re not big on “should” questions (usually ‘it depends’ is a better answer), but in this case, we’re going to come down hard on a side. And that is to say, no. You shouldn’t! You should not undereat after a day of overeating to “balance it out.” Instead, you should get right back on track with your nutrition plan, eating your regular amount, not ‘under’ to “make up for a bad day yesterday!”

The first reason is because playing fast and loose is not often a winning long-term strategy. If overeating followed by undereating (or vice versa) becomes a frequent habit, the cost is that we ultimately become less consistent with our nutrition plan. Why is this? Because it’s disorienting and complicated. And the more we complicate a thing, the harder it is to stick to doing the thing. One bad day will not ruin all of your progress. But allowing that one bad day to continue to manifest and insert itself into your brain space for days to come… that will throw you off track.

The second reason is near and dear to my heart. And that is, what you’re essentially doing is punishing yourself for overeating. This is never a healthy (or even effective…but we’ll get to that next) strategy. Shame and guilt are pretty crappy motivators. Sometimes they get what they want, but they decimate everything in their wake. Yes, we want progress, but we also want to feel whole. I think we might even want to feel whole more than anything in the world. So, let’s not feel empty in the name of making progress. Let’s heal and become whole instead. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t just sound like progress to me… that sounds like freedom.

The other reason is because, um, science. Undereating as a reaction to overeating will ultimately cause you to overeat, which sounds very counterproductive to me. You see, our bodies really don’t like change. They’ll fight us every step of the way. So, your body will simply react to undereating by exclaiming “I need FOOOOD!!! NOWWWWW.” And if you think you have the willpower to withstand this, your body will still outsmart you by opting for less activity (known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE).

We’re not perfect. Not a single one of us. If you had a less than stellar day, the best thing you can do for your progress (not to mention as an act of rebellious love to yourself) is to shake it off and just try again the next day!

 

Caitlin Buckvold is a nutrition coach at Clandestine Strength & Conditioning. She is passionate about helping people find gimmick-free nutrition solutions that they can keep for life.

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Why you (probably) shouldn’t work out multiple times a day

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Any time I hear someone with a fat loss goal (or any goal outside of competing at a high level) working out multiple times per day, a part of me dies. While I can understand why someone would think that if you simply increase your daily activity, the weight/fat will just fall right off, right? Wrong.

Refer to my light reading for the day:

Exercise is a common component of weight loss strategies, yet exercise programs are associated with surprisingly small changes in body weight [1-4]. This may be due in part to compensatory adaptations, in which calories expended during exercise are counteracted by decreases in other aspects of energy expenditure [1, 5-10]. Here we examined the relationship between a rodent model of voluntary exercise- wheel running- and total daily energy expenditure.

Use of a running wheel for 3 to 7 days increased daily energy expenditure, resulting in a caloric deficit of ∼1 kcal/day; however, total daily energy expenditure remained stable after the first week of wheel access, despite further increases in wheel use. We hypothesized that compensatory mechanisms accounted for the lack of increase in daily energy expenditure after the first week.

Supporting this idea, we observed a decrease in off-wheel ambulation when mice were using the wheels, indicating behavioral compensation. Finally, we asked whether individual variation in wheel use within a group of mice would be associated with different levels of daily energy expenditure.

Despite a large variation in wheel running, we did not observe a significant relationship between the amount of daily wheel running and total daily energy expenditure or energy intake across mice.

Together, our experiments support a model in which the transition from sedentary to light activity is associated with an increase in daily energy expenditure, but further increases in physical activity produce diminishingly small increments in daily energy expenditure.

To sum it up, increasing your daily expenditure has diminishing returns after about a week of increasing your exercise volume, and unless your goal is to compete in a sport at a high level, increasing your daily expenditure while also in a caloric deficit WILL cause injury, hormonal issues and will inevitably lead to feeling burnt out.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a collision course to me – with hardly any benefits. Remember, weight loss doesn’t happen at the gym. It happens between workouts. That doesn’t mean skip the gym – but it does mean that finishing off your workout or priming your workout with yet another workout is going to have a negligible effect on your progress at best, and at worst, could impede progress by inviting burnout, hormonal issues, and injury.

So the next time you think adding in another session either before or after your workout is helping you burn more fat by simply doing more, think again. Instead, give your daily gym session your best effort and focus. Intensity (even mental intensity through better focus) will always be more effective.

Thank you, science.

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Don’t Discount Your Micronutrients

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With all this talk about macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat), it’s easy to forget about just how important micronutrients are for our health.

Micronutrients are the nutrients your body needs, which includes all vitamins and minerals. Humans must obtain micronutrients from food, since the body can’t produce them on its own.

Micronutrients are important for all the reasons you’d expect them to be important: getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals is vital for healthy immune function and metabolism, aids in the prevention of diseases, optimizes brain health, and a host of other Very Important Reasons. HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MICRONUTRIENTS!:

Eat locally grown fruits and vegetables. Shop at farmer’s markets when you can, buy organic, and buy seasonal fruits and vegetables during their season!

LOOK TO TRADITIONAL OR ANCESTRAL CUISINES FOR CUES. Arctic cultures eat fish liver to provide enough Vitamin D during long, cold, sunless winters. South Asian dishes make ample use of anti-inflammatory turmeric and fresh ginger. It turns out that beyond tasting delicious, traditional cuisines are also incredibly healthful.

TRY ANIMAL SOURCES, IF YOU CAN. Animals typically have more bioavailability than plant-based sources, meaning the vitamins and minerals from animal sources are readily available for us to absorb. If you are exclusively a plant-based eater, you can still get those nutrients from plants, but it takes a lot more steps to what our bodies prefer. Remember, you are also what your food eats! A cow provided a diet of corn and soy will have less nutrients that will be carried on to you when you eat beef than a cow provided a diet of grass.

Some foods are best consumed raw (like bell peppers), while some foods are best consumed lightly cooked (like tomatoes). Some foods release more of their nutrients when crushed (like garlic) or cut, while other foods’ nutrients are most available when combined with other foods (like combining spinach with lemon)! Your best bet? Vary the way you prepare your foods and what you pair them with!

Store vegetables, fruits, and herbs properly. Poor storage will degrade their nutrients.

SOME IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN NONE. Don’t opt for no vegetables at all just because you’ve been told that frozen vegetables have less nutrients than fresh from the ground.

CHOOSE A VARIETY OF PLANT FOODS AND ANIMAL FOODS (and experiment with eating different parts of the animal, too!). You’ve heard it before, but “eat the rainbow” in fruits and vegetables has more benefits than making your food look more appealing to eat (which is still a neat bonus).