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Mar
27
2013

Mota Fitness Kettlebell Workshop

Thank you to everybody who attended our kettlebell workshop on March 23, Bret did a great job and a fun time was had by all.  Below is a video we put together for you to review the three exercises we went over, and Bret shows you how to combine them for a quick and efficient workout for those times when you’re in a rush but still need to get a training session in.  If you missed the seminar, no problem, check out the video and let us know if you need help.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comment section below so we can answer them for everybody.

Enjoy!

2
Feb
01
2013

Fast Faux Potatoes

If you are looking for a fast and delicious side dish, look no further!  These faux “mashed potatoes” are simple and fast to make, low in calories, and they taste great!  Cauliflower mash is a healthy and non-starchy substitute for mashed potatoes, but not always the best tasting option if you don’t love cauliflower.  This recipe adds flavor and texture to sometimes not so tasty vegetable, and makes it palatable for even the pickiest of eaters.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 bag of cauliflower, cut and ready to steam

1T low fat cream cheese

1T grated parmesan cheese

1 pinch of garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Microwave the cauliflower for 4 minutes.  Combine cooked cauliflower and all other ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork.

That’s it!  The prep time on this is about 5 minutes.  You can of course buy a head of cauliflower and cut it yourself to save some money, but if you’re busy like I am, the ready to eat version is worth the small added expense.

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Oct
17
2012

How to Get the “Stink” Out of Your Workout Clothes

This question has come up a lot lately at Mota, which is great because it means everybody is training hard!  I found this great article on www.livestrong.com with step-by-step instructions for making workout clothes smell good as new again, even if they have been sitting in a stinky pile on your bathroom floor for a week…not that any of us have ever done that! :)

I have two more tips of my own that I would add, not just about how to get the stink out, but about the kind of workout attire I recommend and how to launder it so it will last longer:

  1. Invest in some good, high quality exercise attire.  If you’re training hard every week, you deserve to look and feel your best, and that includes feeling good in your workout gear.  Just like anything, higher quality workout clothes cost more, but consider price per wear.  If you invest $50+ in a pair of good running tights, they should last for several years.  My favorite place to shop for high quality workout clothes that look and fit great is Lululemon.  I have several pieces that I have worn regularly for 5 or more years, and they still look great.  I also like Lucy, and of course being from Oregon I own my fair share of NIKE stuff.
  2. Hang dry your workout clothes.  I wash all of my workout clothes with a mild detergent, then line dry them.  Sure, it’s a little more work, but my stuff lasts for a long time and still looks great after more intense training sessions than I care to count.

If you have any other good tips for keeping your workout gear looking and smelling fresh, please share!

 

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Sep
18
2012

Too Busy to Exercise?

For many people, starting an exercise program isn’t nearly as challenging as staying on track long term.  Most of us are motivated in the beginning, and when we start to feel and see results, we’re unstoppable!  You have a great plan, and you stay on track with it every week for several months until training becomes a habit.  You never miss a beat!  That is, until something comes up at work and you miss a training session.  Then, two days later, you’re tired and figure one missed day won’t blow your entire plan.  One missed training session becomes two, and the downward spiral begins.

As a coach, the number one reason why people say they can’t (or don’t) exercise regularly is….drum roll please….

NOT ENOUGH TIME

It’s not poor planning or the lack of desire to be fit, it’s just too hard to squeeze one more thing into an already crazy schedule. I know many people who make regular training and healthy eating a priority, and nothing stands in their way.

Are the folks who prioritize their health better than everybody else?  Do you have to be Wonder Woman to stay in shape and still balance the rest of your life?  The short answer is no, you don’t. It just takes some planning and making the decision to live well.  Health (and being unhealthy) is a choice.  I wish I had a tried and true answer that worked for motivating everybody to live well, but I don’t.  What I can tell you is that with a can-do mindset and some planning, fitting a training program into an already busy life is not only possible, it may help manage stress, making your busy schedule seem more manageable.

So, how does eating healthfully and training regularly become a lifestyle rather than just another thing you don’t have time for?

Below are some tips that can help you stay on track when life just seems to get in the way.

1.  If you are going to be awake much later than normal, keep eating on your regular schedule.  Depending on the mental clarity and activity level required, any extra meals you eat to accommodate your longer day may consist of just protein, protein and fat, or protein and carbs.  For non-active activities (like studying or reading), protein and fat are best.  Protein and carbs are better for more active things like chasing your kids up and down a basketball court, or running around a busy hospital.  If you have to wait more than a few hours without the opportunity to eat, try a scoop of casein protein or cottage cheese.  Casein releases more slowly than whey protein, which helps to fuel your body for longer.

2. Practice your habits.  As you adjust to a new schedule, check in with your energy, cravings and hunger.  If you are having intense cravings or feel extremely lethargic, your body probably needs more fuel.

3. Keep simple grab and go snacks on hand.  Single servings of nutbutter, protein bars, almonds, and apples can be life savers.  Leave a few in your car, backpack, purse, and/or desk drawer so you’re always prepared.  Like most things, when it comes to eating healthfully, fail to plan = plan to fail.

4. Stay hydrated.  Maybe even more important than food, your body needs water when it is tired, drained, and over worked.  If you are not in the position that you can sip all day or night, drink as much water as you can whenever you have a free moment.  A good goal is to drink half your weight in ounces of water every day.

5. Cut yourself some slack.  Even the most prepared and committed people have moments and days that catch them off guard. Something is better than nothing, even if you have to make the best choice available in a greasy late night cafeteria.  Do the best you can with what you have available, then learn and move on to the next day.  If you are having a particularly difficult week schedule wise, and we all have these weeks, just know maintenance is a reasonable and honorable goal that week.  Take advantage of the weeks when you are motivated, rested, and have time to spare for more intense training.  The busy weeks will give your body a break, and that’s not a bad thing!

6. If you work late or third shift on a regular basis, try to keep your meal schedule as regular as possible.  You may have your “breakfast” at noon and dinner at midnight, but following the same balance of macronutrients during YOUR regular day will help keep you on track.  During later days, you may end up eating more meals to support the extra energy demands of your body.  Eating on a consistent schedule (based on hours, not time of day) will help keep your energy high and your body lean.

7. Prioritize Sleep.   Even one night without a good night’s rest will throw you off.  For more on this, check out this post.

In a perfect world, we would all have regular schedules and no stress.  The reality is that most of us face days, weeks, or even months of schedule turmoil that threaten our results and our well being.  Our fast paced 24/7 culture makes it difficult to unplug and unwind, and often times we have little choice but to suck it up and keep moving late into the night.  Accept that this will happen from time to time, allow yourself some flexibility during these times, and get back on track once your schedule is more forgiving.

Success with a training and nutrition program, like most things in life, is based on long term commitment, accepting and embracing each step of the journey, and remembering the basics.

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Sep
11
2012

My Secret Fat Loss Weapon

Want to know my top strategy for losing fat faster? It has nothing – and everything – to do with the foods you eat and the exercise you do. The missing component in most people’s fat loss programs (and healthy life programs) is a good night’s sleep.  Every night.  I’m not just talking about sleeping enough.  In order to be your best, and your leanest, you should aim for 7-9 hours of QUALITY sleep each and every night.  If you sleep 8 hours, but you wake up every 2 hours, you’re not getting high quality sleep.  This common disrupted sleep pattern shows up on the waist lines of so many people, even those who claim to “eat healthy”.

Lack of sleep can make you fat because how you sleep directly impacts how you eat, how much you eat, and what kinds of foods you want.  In other words, whether you get a solid eight hours or a toss-and-turn six hours can determine whether you dive head first into a pint of ice cream or choose a piece of fruit for dessert. Even if you do opt for the healthier choice, sleep can determine whether you eat one reasonably sized portion or go back for several more.  Healthy eating and eating for fat loss are not the same thing, this post explains the difference.

Sleep, like food, is information.  Solid or substandard sleep signals your body to store fat or burn it for fuel because of its impact on several key hormones (more below, keep reading).  Getting a quality 7-9 hours’ sleep supports better fat burning the following day, and it affects your appetite. If you find yourself wandering to the vending machine at 3 p.m. after you ate a substantial lunch, think about how (and how much) you slept the previous night.

Hormones play a huge role in appetite and cravings. Ghrelin, a hormone that tells your brain to eat now, increases when you sleep poorly.  When you don’t sleep, you become more leptin (a hormone that helps control hunger and cravings) resistant.  Have you ever noticed when you’re tired that you crave foods (usually sugar laden foods) that you normally don’t?  And even though you’re not really hungry, you can’t resist the temptation?  This is where leptin resistance becomes an issue.  Insulin is also impacted by poor sleep, and chronically elevated insulin makes it difficult to burn fat for fuel.

Long-term sleep deprivation can make your cells insulin resistant, leading to higher fasting insulin levels.  Besides impairing fat burning, these high levels may also put you at greater of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Are you starting to see why fat loss and sleep are so intertwined?

A study at the University of Chicago, titled “Exposure to recurrent sleep restriction in the setting of high caloric intake and physical inactivity results in increased insulin resistance and reduced glucose tolerance,” concluded that even if you eat healthy and exercise, not getting the recommend 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night puts you at risk for obesity. In other words, poor sleep patterns can derail your best efforts to have the body you want.

Sleep needs to be consistent too.  It’s easy to get caught up in a busy week and figure that catching up on your z’s over the weekend will be worth getting some extra work done or reading just one more chapter. It’s tempting, but sleep is like interest.  It accrues over time, and once you’re behind, you catch up completely.  Even one hour less sleep can trigger hormonal chaos. You eat more, move less, make terrible eating choices, and exacerbate stress levels…not exactly a situation that you can make up for with a few extra hours’ sleep over the weekend.

We Americans are more stressed out than ever, and while much of what stresses us out is out of hour hands, sleep quality is one thing we can control.  When you are under stress, your body can secrete more cortisol and adrenaline.  Higher cortisol levels make you better at storing fat and raise the set point for burning it off.  High cortisol levels also impair digestion, and poor digestion leads to a whole new set of issues.  Your cortisol levels remain high for longer periods when you get less-than-optimal sleep, and it’s easy to fall into this vicious cycle:  high cortisol burns up your energy-assisting B vitamins, and you can’t make the neurotransmitters you need to sleep well. This Jeckyll-and-Hyde hormone also lowers levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone your brain eventually converts to melatonin for good sleep.

How does this downward spiral play out?  Well, you sleep terribly, so you hit the snooze button multiple times and skip your workout. You’re running way too late for work to make a shake for breakfast, so you hit Starbucks and grab a  “low-fat” muffin (which is the same as eating sugar laden cupcake) and a latte for that caffeine pick-me-up. By mid-morning, you’re drowning in stress, dealing with a sugar crash, angry at everyone in sight, and finally say To hell with it and grab a doughnut a co-worker brought in.

If you want to live in a lean and fit body, you must prioritize your zzz’s. Sleep helps your body repair, rebuild, and recover from the strenuous effort you put in at the gym. Like vigorous exercise, sleep also increases growth hormone, or HGH. So let’s say you only got fours hours of sleep last night, and your plan is to hit the gym at 6am before work. You probably won’t be able to train with the intensity you would with substantial rest, particularly when you’re yawning and wondering when your coffee will kick in.

You also won’t recover as well from a tough workout when you don’t sleep well.  Training (exercise) stimulates change in your body, rest and recovery time (including sleep) is when change (i.e. fat loss and/or muscle gain) occurs.  If you don’t give your body what it needs to repair after training, your efforts in the gym won’t pay off, and you accelerate the aging process. It’s a lose-lose situation!

So there you have it.  You need sleep. Easier said than done for sure, and of course I realize it can be difficult to unwind after a long and hectic day.  I recommend finding a ritual that helps you relax, something like listening to music, reading, meditating, or a hot bath.  Please don’t make too much alcohol part of your sleep ritual. A glass of wine at dinner will help you relax, but add in a nightcap or two and you will wake up dehydrated at 3 a.m.

To sum up:  for faster fat loss, and for an overall happier life, make sleep a priority!

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Aug
28
2012

Cocoa Powder and Fat Loss

After posting my 10 healthiest fat loss foods last week, I received several questions from members at Mota about cocoa powder.  More specifically, how can cocoa powder help with fat loss and what (besides making cookies and cake) can you use it for?

It’s important to understand first that while they’re often confused, cocoa and chocolate are not the same thing.  Cocoa is the non-fat component of cocoa liquor, made by grinding cocoa beans. Cocoa butter, cocoa, sugar and other ingredients go into the making of chocolate, and the added ingredients are why chocolate tastes good.

This article on livestrong.com explains briefly why cocoa powder may help with fat loss.

Cocoa also has many health benefits, another reason to include it as part of a healthy fat loss diet. Most notably, the positive effects of drinking raw organic cocoa have been illustrated for various parameters of cardiovascular dysfunction including high blood pressure and diabetes. There is also sound research stating that cocoa has immune stimulating effects, can be used adjunctively to treat cancer, help oxygenate the brain and promotes detoxification of industrial chemicals in the body.

To get the best benefit of cocoa it should be taken alone and not mixed into foods, protein powders or milk. I recommend making a cocoa drink by mixing 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder in hot water (pour water on top of cocoa slowly while stirring to avoid clumping). You can also add any non-calorie sweetener (my favorites are stevia & xylitol) as well as cinnamon, cayenne and/or other spices to taste.

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Aug
23
2012

Healthy Eating vs. Eating For Fat Loss

We talk a lot about nutrition at Mota, not in a way that suggests everybody should be on a diet, but more to educate and empower people to make daily nutrition decisions that will take them closer to their goals.  That said, one of the most common things I hear from people is that they know what to do (meaning that they know how they should be eating) and they “eat healthy.”  My question to you if you say you know what you should eat to reach your goals is this: what if you don’t know?

Healthy eating is awesome, I can’t encourage it enough.  But, healthy food isn’t always fat loss food.  It can be, but healthy does not equal fat loss.  The idea that “healthy eating”, (whatever that really means) guarantees body composition change is probably the biggest misconception there is regarding what real physical change takes.

What is healthy eating?

Healthy eating has to do with vitamins, minerals, essential fat, fiber and phytonutrient levels. Many “healthy” foods have great nutrient profiles, but they aren’t going to help most people lose fat. These healthy foods include whole grains, nuts/seeds, avocados, olives and high fat dairy foods to name a few. If you hope to achieve fat loss results with these foods as staples, your only option is to control portions.  Most of these foods are high in fat, and fat is not bad, but it is calorically dense.  This basically means that unless you are diligent about controlling portion sizes of these healthy foods, you will struggle to lose much fat.  Incorporating controlled portions of these healthy foods into your diet is great for improving healthy eating habits, but if your goal is fat loss, a better approach is to fill up on fat loss foods (explained below) because you will fill up and stay fuller for longer.

In my new book, I talk about the importance of controlling hunger and cravings.  Losing fat is much more likely if you master these two things, and eating fat loss foods will help.  Put simply, you need to eat more of the right things more often.

What is fat loss eating?

Fat loss foods have three important qualities: high volumes of water, high amounts of fiber, and/or adequate protein content. Water, fiber and protein are all very filling, and when combined, they keep you feeling fuller for longer.  Have you ever noticed how easy it is to sit down and eat a lot of pasta, cereal, rice, or bread without ever really feeling full?  These foods aren’t necessarily bad for you, but they have little water, a high starch to fiber ratio, and little to no protein.  That means you have to eat a lot to get full.  Or, you feel full for a little while, but you’re ravenously hungry an hour later.  Try eating 5 cups of spinach or 5 chicken breasts in one sitting.  IF you can finish either, you probably won’t still be hungry.  Most people don’t get enough fiber in their diets, and many who say they do rely on high fiber breakfast cereal as a healthy food choice.  Again, cereal isn’t necessarily bad, but no way is highly processed cereal a better source of fiber than non-starchy vegetables, and overeating chicken breasts would be a challenge for even the biggest eater.  Spinach and chicken are just an example, you can take any lean protein source and pair it with as many non-starchy vegetables (just about any vegetable other than potatoes or corn) as you can eat.  You can also include 1-2 servings of low sugar fruit (berries and apples are great choices). Do this and you will have more food than you can eat, fewer calories, and a whole lot of good nutrients in your diet.  Again, fat loss eating means eating more of the right things more often.  The right things=lean protein, non—starchy vegetables, lower sugar fruit, and controlled portions of healthy fat. That is the difference between healthy eating and fat loss eating.  Fat loss foods are both healthy AND help with fat loss, while “healthy foods” may or may not help with either one.

Here are my top 10 healthiest fat loss foods, this list is by no means all inclusive, just some of my favorites based on the criteria above.  Each one has a high water content, high fiber, and higher protein.  These foods are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, essential fat, and nutrients.  Choose foods from this list and you will accomplish healthy eating and eating for fat loss at the same time.

  1. Boneless skinless chicken breast-low fat, high protein, fills you up.
  2. Apples-tastes good, high fiber and water helps to keep you fuller for longer.
  3. Water veggies (cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, etc)-eat as many of these as you can possibly can, they’re filling and low in calories, so you can fill up without eating a lot of calories.
  4. Bison-the best nutrition components of chicken and red meat rolled into one.  It’s low fat like chicken, and loaded with nutrients like beef.
  5. Cocoa powder-this one is one of my secret fat loss weapons.  With almost no calories, it’s high in fiber and full of bioactive compounds that help raise energy, blunt hunger, and kill cravings.  It also may lower blood pressure, has the same blood thinning effect as aspirin, and helps balance blood sugar.
  6. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc)-these are high in fiber, low in starch, and may help estrogen metabolism.
  7. Wild Caught Salmon-high protein, high in essential fats, low mercury content.
  8. Berries (blueberries, raspberries, raspberries, etc)-low in sugar, high in fiber and antioxidants.
  9. Eggs-Egg yolks are full of nutrients and egg whites are high in protein. If your goal is fat loss, lose some of the yolks and eat extra whites.
  10. Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, etc)-power packed with nutrients and virtually no calories, high in fiber which helps to keep you fuller for longer.
2
Aug
18
2012

My Current Favorite Kitchen Gadget

I am not normally a fan of kitchen gadgets, but this thing is incredible!  I love spaghetti squash, but I don’t always like the hassle of cutting & baking it. So, I searched for an alternative.  I found zucchini noodles, and I am hooked!  I have been using this spiral slicer to make my noodles.  This great tool is easy to use, it’s inexpensive, and you can make a full plate of noodles in seconds.  I have been experimenting with other veggies and will keep you posted as I come up with more ideas, but for now, I definitely recommend zucchini noodles.

I topped a plate of zucchini noodles (made with 1 whole zucchini) with a really simple pasta sauce last night, here is the recipe if you want to try it:

Ingredients:

2T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 jar no sugar added marinara sauce
1/2 can stewed italian tomatoes
1/4 lb ground turkey
1 link sweet italian turkey sausage, casing removed
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
2T dried oregano

In a frying pan, heat olive oil, add onion & garlic & simmer until soft. Add ground turkey & turkey sausage, cook over medium heat until brown, drain. Add marinara sauce, stewed tomatoes, basil, and oregano.  Simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.  Serve over steamed zucchini noodles.

0
Aug
17
2012

What are Branched Chain Amino Acids?

Some questions have come up about BCAAs following this post.  In this article, Ryan Andrews of Precision Nutrition does a great job explaining BCAA’s and their role in workout recovery.

A great question came up the other night at Mota about when exactly to use a BCAA supplement.  Supplementing with BCAA’s before training can be beneficial because BCAA’s leucine, isoleucine and valine are used for fuel during intense training and prevent your body from using hard-earned muscle for energy. At rest, BCAAs help stimulate protein synthesis and reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that makes fat loss nearly impossible when levels of it are elevated.

As far as how to incorporate BCAA’s into your program, here are some protocols (taken from Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition) to consider.  If you don’t fall into any of these categories, then you probably don’t need extra BCAA’s.

PROTOCOL 1

WHEN:

During a focused period of very low energy intake and rapid fat loss.

HOW MUCH:

5-10 grams 3-5x per day every day (dose and frequency depending on body mass). Also add 2.5g of creatine with each dose. Again, dose and frequency depending on body mass.

Make sure to take 1 serving during training and another after. The other doses should fall in between meals.

PROTOCOL 2

WHEN:

During an intense athletic training period — when weight maintenance is difficult. This is common in ectomorphic athletes (lean build, typical distance runner’s body) traveling on the road or engaging in very intense or very high volume training blocks.

HOW MUCH:

5-10 grams 3-5x per day – between meals.

PROTOCOL 3

WHEN:

When athletes are training at altitude.

HOW MUCH:

5-10 grams with workout and 5-10 grams with a post-workout shake.

PROTOCOL 4 

WHEN:

When athletes have some fat to lose.

HOW MUCH:

5-10 grams with a post-workout shake.

To answer one other question that came up at the gym about pre-workout use of BCAA’s, I sometimes recommend 5-10 grams before and during training for people who are training hard and trying to moderate their carb intake.  

 

 

 

0
Aug
16
2012

#1 Best Selling Exercise & Fitness Book on Amazon

I am excited to announce today’s release of my new book, Results Fitness!  I had the honor of co-authoring this best seller with Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, along with some of the best and brightest in the fitness industry.  Check it out here.

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