I recently volunteered at a summer festival in my hometown. I was assisting Diego Ranch, a therapeutic riding program for all ages and abilities. It was extremely hot outside, so I finished off all my water and decided to find something else to drink. I came upon a refreshment stand offering fresh squeezed lemonade.
Yeeess! This is what I was looking for a healthy drink, right? Wrong!
Stepping up to the stand, I waited in line to get my lemonade. I watched as the attendant began to mix another cup for the customer in front of me. The fresh lemons were healthy, check. The water and ice were healthy, check. Then came the sweetener. As I watched, the attendant then added a 1/2 Cup of sugar. All of the healthy aspects of the drink had just been demolished!
I stepped up, being the next person in line, and politely asked the attendant if I could please have the lemonade without any sugar. He graciously accommodated me.
The entire scenario helped reaffirm the following points:
• Just because something seems to be healthy, does not mean that it is.
• Know what is in the food and drinks we are consuming.
• Request nutritional information upfront on how our food and drinks are prepared at restaurants.
• Speak up and do not be afraid to ask for food to be prepared to our preferences.
• It’s better to eat food you prepare so you have control over the ingredients.
So What About Refined Sugar?
Man-made sugar is one of worst ingredients in the modern diet. It leads to health issues such as:
• Major weight gain/obesity
• Type 2 diabetes
• High blood pressure
• Heart disease
Some Facts About Natural Sugar:
Natural sugars are present in healthy foods that also contain water and fiber. They are naturally occurring and are fine in moderation (such as fruits). Natural sugars are relatively harmless in moderation and provide necessary carbohydrates that are good for efficient body functions.
As a nation, most individuals (including diabetics) are consuming excessive amounts of added sugar. This places them at a high risk for developing several types of chronic diseases as well as other medical complications.
Sugar is extremely addictive because it causes the release of feel good hormones. These hormones give the individual a quick high by spiking glucose levels. This in turn can lead to an energy crash that results in a craving for more sugar.
A 1/2 Cup of sugar is well over the suggested daily sugar intake for an individual. It equals 24 teaspoons, which accounts for 3-4 days worth of an individuals suggested sugar intake level. If someone is also eating processed foods, they also often contain high levels of sugars too.
Sugar Intake Recommendations:
The American Heart Association recommends the following maximum sugar intake per day:
• Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
• Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
The CDC reports that the average American consumes between 13-20 teaspoons of added sugar a day, averaging around 230-355 calories a day.
Some tips on how to decrease sugar in your daily diet:
• Decrease and then eliminate soft drinks. Diet soft drinks are also bad due to the manufactured sweeteners being used (Aspartame).
• Decrease fruit juices. Surprisingly, many contain very little fruit juice and have high amounts added sugars (High fructose corn syrup).
• Decrease candies and sweets. Fat free candy doesn’t mean sugar free.
• Decrease baked goods.
• Decrease canned fruit with syrup consumption.
• Decrease low fat or diet foods.
• Decrease dried fruits.
• Drink water and add real lemon juice, cinnamon or ginger.
Some benefits to decreasing added sugar intake:
• Decrease high blood pressure
• Lowers LDL cholesterol levels, decreasing heart disease risk
• Increases ability to focus
• Decrease risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
• Improves mood
• Breaks the addiction to feel good hormones
• Increases skin health and decreases acne
• Decrease risk of Diabetes
• Prevention of fatty liver disease
• Decrease certain cancer risks
• Improves ability to breath
• Increase sustained energy levels
• Improves teeth health (prevents cavities)
• Decreases Dr. visits
• Saves money
• Weight loss
I like this quote: “ Do not judge a book by its cover”.
We need to take the time to open the book and check it out, or at least read the synopsis before deciding on its value and worth. The same principle applies when it comes to our food. Even though we may have been taught that something is healthy, it may not be. Food can go from healthy to unhealthy depending on how it is prepared or processed before being served.
We need to hold ourselves accountable for knowing what our nutritional intake should be and not be afraid to speak up for ourselves when eating out.
Cindy Howard 05/29/2018
Dirty Bulk: A specific strategy for gaining muscle mass in which one lifts weights regularly and consuming any and all types of food, specifically junk food (urban dictionary).
Clean Bulk: A specific strategy of attempting to gain muscle mass by lifting weights regularly and consuming Healthy foods (lean meats, good fats, and complex carbs in surplus).
Traditionally one bulks during off-season (winter) and then starts the cutting process by decreasing their intake before the season starts, usually around summer time.
I was told early on by my trainer that dirty bulking would not be allowed.
The dirty bulk process throws out all the rules for a proper nutritional intake strategy.
The simple fact is the more seasoned, experienced or progressed you are in fitness and nutrition, the more difficult it is to reach gains. This often comes down to centimeters of progress, which is why proper or precise nutritional intake is important. To increase efficiency and increase metabolism you need to add lean muscle mass with your training. This is accomplished with the quality of food, which must also increase to show progress.
The dirty bulk process can be considered reckless to ones overall health and wellness. Even athletes and fitness experts are not immune to poor health and diseases. They too must give their bodies the proper nutrition, taking in healthy foods and liquids daily.
Carbohydrates often go from complex to simple when dirty bulking. This is due to increasing processed food, which lowers the overall quality of food. This often starts the addiction process of craving more unhealthy foods. The result can be erratic insulin levels, increasing the risk for diabetes. It can also result in decreased performance during training, increasing the risk of injury.
Healthy fats (avocados, nuts) level intakes lower from good sources and increase in bad fat sources (saturated, bacon, cheeseburgers). The bad fats increase the risk of artery and cardiac disease. The levels of ones micronutrients are often non-existent during a dirty bulk further damaging ones overall health. The only thing that’s on track with dirty bulking is excess caloric intake to compensate for the higher levels of exercise.
What about Clean Bulking?
This is when one gets excess calories from healthy foods, which result in a complete nutritional intake daily of macronutrient and micronutrients. This drastically reduces health risks while allowing one to progress, adding lean muscle.
Here are tips on how to bulk properly:
Excess caloric intake of 200-300 calories, maintaining caloric intake levels (can adjust if needed).
• Healthy quality food for fuel
• Lean protein should be the main source of the bulk at appropriate levels for the individual bulking
• Avoid poor quality food (junk, processed)
• Increase training intensity using the appropriate acute training variable for muscle gain (mind muscle connection and muscle confusion)
• Appropriate level and type of cardio
• Keep a journal of progress for ability to readjust if needed
• Focus on one goal (bulking)
• Adequate rest, allowing for recovery
• Make sure macronutrients are on point, don’t neglect carbs and fat
• Post workout nutrition is a must
• Meal prep
• Determine bulk training duration (1-6 months?)
Clean bulk allows one to stay closer to ideal weight with clean, healthy foods that help promote anabolism. It also decreases emotional and mental stress when cutting.
By sticking with the clean bulk, one not only has less body fat to loose but the addiction process that happens when eating junk food does not have to be dealt with. It is also less stressful having to only cut 5-10 pounds compared to 20-40 pounds from a dirty bulk.
No matter the goal, it should be approached in the healthiest, safest, and most efficient manner. Shortcuts may work, but at what cost to ones health?
Train hard but also train smart. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. Our life is a journey. We should learn from our failures, challenges and successes, applying what we learn to the creation and evolution of our own fitness masterpiece.
Cindy Howard 05/20/2018
The Booty (butt) is made up of three muscles.
1. Gluteus Maximus
Origin: Outer ilium of the pelvis
• Posterior side of the coccyx and sacrum
• Part of the sacrotuberous and posterior sacroiliac ligament
Insertion: Gluteal tuberosity of the femur and ilotibial tract
Integrated function: eccentric deceleration of the hip flexion and internal rotation of the tibial internal rotation from the IT band
Isometric stabilization the limbo-pelvic-hip complex
Isolated function: concentric acceleration of the hip extension and external rotations
2. Gluteus Minimus:
Origin: ilium of the pelvis between the inferior and anterior gluteal line
Insertion: greater trochanter of the femur
Integrated function: eccentric: deceleration of hip adduction and external rotation
Isometric stabilization of the limbo-pelvic-hip complex
Isolated function: concentric acceleration of hip abduction and internal rotation
3. Gluteus Medius
Origin: outer area of the ilium of the pelvis
Insertion: lateral surface of the greater trochanter on the femur
Integrated function: eccentric deceleration of hip adduction and external rotation with the anterior fibers
Eccentric deceleration of hip adduction and internal rotation with posterior fibers
Isometric stabilization of the limbo-pelvic-hip complex
Isolated function: concentric acceleration of hip abduction and internal rotation with the anterior fibers
Concentric acceleration of hip Abdul and external rotation with the posterior fibers
The Gluteus Maximus is the biggest and most powerful of the three muscles.
There can be muscle imbalances that can developers over time due to being sedentary, job related or due to injury.
For example, if someone has an office job and sits for long periods of time thee hip flexors can become tight. We are adaptive creators so if we sit all day we become the best sitters our body will allow but it comes at a price with other functional movements.
Let’s look more in-depth about the tight hip flexors, which consists of the following:
• Rictus femoral
When these muscles become shortened and tight, it flips a switch turning off gluteal muscles resulting in weaknesses, muscle imbalances and movement deficiencies.
These result in poor neuromuscular efficiency that can result in the following:
• Plantar fasciitis
• Pattelliofemoral pain
• Tendinitis in the IT band
• Ankle sprain
• Ankle instability
• Low back pain
• Hamstring strain
• Piriformis syndrome
How can we identify weak glutes?
Misalignment of the pelvis; anterior pelvic tilt
Increased lumbar lordosis
Also known as lower cross syndrome, which identifies the weak gluteus maximus and medius.
Foot pronation or flat foot, knee valgus or knock-knee is also signs of weak gluteal muscles which can be observed in pronation distortion syndrome.
These can be seen during an assessment of the client during an initial assessment session as noted above. The weakness of the gluteal muscles can also be observed in movement assessments such as the overhead squat assessment.
Specific checkpoints need to be assessed for imbalances with movement.
Possible indications of weak glutes are:
• Feet turning out
• Flat feet
• Low back rounding or arching
• Hip dropping on one side
Verbal cues can be tried to correct the imbalance with movement along with visual feedback and demonstration if needed. This will assist the client with activation and proper form by activating the glutes muscles.
If this does not correct the imbalances with movement, then one must look at activating and strengthening the gluteal muscles.
SMR to the tight muscles, inhibiting the glutes. Add Strengthening and dynamic movement integration into training.
• Static stretching to tight muscles
• Kneeling hip stretcher stretch
• Lateral tube walking
• Ball wall squat
In addition to SMR, stretching and strengthening unilateral training for balance and symmetry needs to be added due to one side of the body usually being weaker than the other.
Once the problem had been identified it needs to be addressed for proper kinetic chain movements and for neuromuscular efficiency.
Below are some exercises that will help build a strong and sexy booty.
Number of sets, reps and weights are dependent upon the fitness level of each individual.
• Deadlifts (variations)
• Curtsy lunge
• Reverse lunge
• Cable pull throughs
Isolation finisher smith machine body weight hamstring curl (shoulder width apart superset with frog leg hamstring pull-ups).
This is just a sample. There are many variations of different programs and exercises that can achieve the desired result for gluteal sculpting and growth. To achieve the best results all three muscles must be properly activated along with the proper form.
Cindy Howard 05/07/2018
1. Noise levels
2. Increase in cortisol levels
4. Certain food and drink intake
1. Thyroid level issues
2. Increase in depression
3. Increase in anxiety
4. Breathing issues (COPD, Asthma)
5. Medical issues
Snoring could be causing poor sleep levels.
Normal snoring can be relieved by:
1. Weight loss
2. Decreased tobacco and alcohol consumption
3. Positional changes during sleeping
4. Over counter products
5. Consulting ones Physician
Sleep Apnea, Abnormal Snoring:
(People are usually overweight; more common in men than women). It is where the windpipe is blocked by the soft tissue in the throat collapsing while trying to breath, preventing airflow. The blood flow levels drop awakening the individual who snorts or gasps for air, repeating this cycle all night. The individual is not able to reach a deep sleep phase. This results in fatigue and sleepiness throughout the day.
1. A BiPAP machine assists in breathing
2. Weight loss could also assist with breathing with BiPAP usage
3. Positional changes could also assist with BiPAP usage
How to get a good night’s sleep?
Make it through all 5 levels of sleep:
1. Level 1 drifting in and out of sleep, can easily be awakened
2. Level 2 our brain slows and eye movements stop, deeper level of sleep
3. Level 3 and 4 deep sleep
4. Level 5 REM sleep
Each cycle takes approximately 2 hours.
1. Keep a regular sleep schedule
2. Avoid energy supplements, caffeine, large meals before bed
3. Make surroundings sleep friendly (dark, cool temperature)
4. Turn off the phones, computers, & iPads 1 hour before bedtime
5. Decrease stress levels
6. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime
7. Read a book if you cant sleep & don’t use electrical devices, interferes with circadian rhythm
8. Give yourself time to wind down, relaxation exercises
9. Regular exercise
10. Nap in the afternoon
11. Eat healthy
If one consistently applies these tips and they do not work, or if you have a pre-diagnosed issue, consult a qualified health professional. This can help rule out a physical illness or other medical issue that may be causing the issue.
Results on the body if action is not taken:
It is important to fix the poor sleep levels because it can result in the following
1. Weight gain
2. Increase risk of diabetes, heart disease, HTN, other chronic diseases
4. Memory loss
6. Lead to osteoporosis
7. Early death
8. Weakened immune system
9. Increase stress on the body
11. Decreases productivity, creativeness, efficiency
12. Poor decision making skills
13. Emotional eating
14. Slower reaction times, decreases performance
15. Dry skin
It is important to address poor sleeping habits and not ignore the issue. A good nights sleep plays an important role in our overall health and wellbeing. It can help our mental and physical health, plus ones overall quality of life. It promotes healthy brain function, emotional wellbeing and good physical health.
Poor sleep levels cannot only affects an individual, but can also affect the people close to someone that is sleep deprived.
For example: Poor sleep has been associated with a nuclear reactor meltdown, among other tragic accidents.
If you are experiencing poor sleep, please take accountability for yourself in order to prevent your health from deteriorating, which will prevent you from living a healthy lifestyle. It not only affects you but your family, friends and anyone who you meet in your daily routine.
Cindy Howard 5/4/18
Solving the nutritional riddle for optimum results
In the beginning I was totally lost on how to eat healthy. This was from many years of dieting the wrong way. It took a while for me to realize that a diet will never be successful unless you develop the tools necessary to achieve a complete nutritional intake that will last a lifetime.It required learning from repeated failure and frustration as I was building my new healthy living foundation with the assistance of a fitness expert. I was lucky that she was extremely knowledgeable about the whole nutritional intake process. This made me realize it was ok to not be perfect. Beauty often comes from our imperfections, which also makes us unique.
During the process we tried several different variations of macronutrient intakes to find what worked for me. The process still needs to be tweaked occasionally, as the weight loss continues. It also requires continual adjustments to my training.
As I noted above, we are all unique so there is no “one size fits all” nutrition or training program. We can take the foundation of the basics and add upon them to find out what works well for each of us. For example, we are all made differently and one exercise that may engage a specific muscle on you, may not engage that same muscle the same way on me. This principle also applies to food.
I did not realize how out of shape I actually was until I began the process of changing my nutritional intake. The initial change was to unprocessed foods, supplements and protein shakes.
At first, I would do really well during the week and then on the weekend experience a snowball affect of eating poorly.I finally realized I should follow a principal my trainer was using. She was using the 80/20 principal. We even tried to improve upon these numbers as I progressed. This principle is where one eats healthy 80% of the time and not so healthy 20% of the time. I decided to have a not so healthy food (meal) on one of my hard workout days, to account for the increased caloric intake and to arrange my eating for the rest of the day to try and account for this unhealthy meal.
It took me along time to refine this method, due to being an emotional/stress eater. I was in a very stressful, volatile work environment at the time, which did not help, but was no excuse.I would like to share a story that shows how we are all human. I had been really having a bad day at work when lunchtime rolled around. I normally took my food with me, but that day I fell into old habits. As I was about to take the first bite of a supreme meat nacho, my phone rang. As I saw the caller ID it was my trainer calling out of the blue…Oh no, I thought. She said “Hey, what you doing?” I answered, “Ahhh, nothing, how are you?” Ah no, I wasn’t about to tell her that what I was eating! As I talked with her, I realized I did not need to nor want to eat it. Was it coincidence or providence that she chose that moment to call me, I’ll never know. However I was glad that she chose that moment to check on me. The food was a response to a situation, not a desire or need for the food. I just smiled as I put it in the trash. I never told her about it while we were on the phone. It wasn’t until a few years later when, I went down for a football game and to workout out with her that I told her about it. She just smiled and said we all do it, but at least you know how to make better decisions and choices now.
What is my secret to weight loss through the nutritional minefield? Here it is:
• Trial and error
• Self discipline
• The 1st law of thermodynamics
• Not being scared or too stubborn to ask for help
• Journal of food intake
• Monthly photos and measurements to help stay on track
The scale is not always the best way to keep up with weight loss. And it is definitely not good for measuring body fat loss. I averaged getting on the scale one time every two or three months.
Below is my nutritional intake breakdown.
• Calories are based on my BMR, which can be calculated online with various nutritional calculators.
• Eat 5-6 small meals a day
• Only consume 1 protein shake a day, 25-30 grams post-workout
• It’s healthier to eat whole natural foods
• Center the majority of carbohydrates around workouts, pre and post. Tend to consume them earlier in the day.
• The body starts preparing for bed toward evening, so the metabolism slows, so no carbs after mid afternoon.
• Carb cycle on heavy workout days, increase carbs and decrease fats
• On non-workout days usually do not eat carbs and increase fats
• Intermittently fast each day, usually 16:8 where meals are arranged in an eight hour period. Never eat before bed.
• Stay hydrated with 1 gallon of water a day, 2-3 cups of coffee, or espresso.
Note: Fats are mainly healthy fats from nuts, avocados and fish, but I love a good burger or steak on occasion. (Usually a lean cut of steak or 80-20 ground chuck).
Training Regiment Examples:
• Training 6 days a week, legs and shoulders twice a week with an emphasis on quads one workout and then hamstring and glutes on the next workout.
• Usually prefer push-pull training with supersets.
• Currently utilizing undulating periodization due to having 2 different goals. This allows the including of a week of de-loading to prevent overtraining, injury and plateaus.
• Cardio: HIIT 2 x a week, fasting cardio 2x a week, steady state cardio 1 x a week and one active rest day.
Other methods to help with continuing the wellness journey:
• Mind muscle connection practice during training to increase neuromuscular efficiency, therefore allowing for optimal progress.
• Meditation daily, and then learn the ability too tell others NO when I’m stretched too thin.
• 8 hours of sleep to aid in recovery
• Coffee and more coffee
• Limit the negativity in your life
• Loyalty of my 11 year old Great Dane who loves his cuddles, along with my sassy 11 year old female cat, male cat, my husband, family and a few true friends that are still in my life.
It is all a process and with proper guidance and personal accountability, we can find out what works best for each of us and find success. The progress is never a linear thing, but more like a roller coaster ride. If you apply the basic principles you will keep creating your own masterpiece.
Cindy Howard 4/24/2018
Food addiction is real and is often not regarded as a health risk in the same way alcohol or drugs are. Food addiction can actually be worse in some ways. We do not need the other addictions to live, however we must have food to survive. Addressing the ever-increasing issue of food addiction and morbid obesity rates that keep rising in the United States requires further investigation and careful planning to reach a solution.
Food addiction is primarily a behavioral addiction. It is an addiction to non-classified drug related physical reward substances that come from natural, readily available high fat, sugary and salty foods. Despite the adverse effects these substances have on ones heath and wellness, many people can not seem to resist consuming these foods in large quantities or in a high frequency.
The act of eating these types of foods results in the activation of the feel good center of the brain. This is accomplished by activating chemicals that increase dopamine levels, which create the good feeling.
The instant gratification of the feel good response from food additives (sugar, fat, salt) activates the need to eat again, causing the brain to ignore the fullness message from the stomach to the brain. We are biologically wired to crave these types of food.
Eating these foods can result in compulsive overeating. Our bodies can actually build up a tolerance to these foods, which results in less of an instant gratification. It then require and requiring the eating of more and more of these foods to get the same feel good “high” that was previously reached with smaller quantities of these foods.
Not everyone who has a food addiction is overweight and not everyone overweight has a food addiction.
Food Addiction Causes:
• Combined with another addiction
• You can’t stop and eat more than you intended
• Negative emotions that cause you to eat more
• Eating is a priority over everything else
• You have anxiety about giving up certain foods
Risk factors of becoming addicted to food:
• Fat sugar salt
• Previously being overweight or eating disorders
• Eating your emotions
Here are a few ways to tell if you are addicted to food:
• When you start eating you eat way more than you planned on, especially with certain foods.
• Become worried or anxious about cutting certain foods down or out of your diet.
• Feeling fatigued or sluggish.
• Lack of focus.
• The amount of food consumed is in such large portions it results in negative effects emotionally.
• Cutting yourself off from your friends, activities, events.
• Can’t stop eating certain foods even though emotional or physical problems arise
• The feel good hormones are not as effective, therefore an increase in food is needed to get that same feeling, emotional eating.
• Become physically ill when cutting out certain foods.
• It causes one distress.
• Problems with functioning effectively with ADLs and at work.
Some scientific findings that show food can be addictive:
• Sugar stimulates the brains reward center through the neurotransmitter dopamine, the same way as other addictive drugs do.
• Testing (MRI) shows that high fat and sugary foods work on the body just like opium and morphine when it comes to the brain.
• Releases the body’s own opioids.
• Obese people can’t stop eating, no matter the negative results.
Types of food addiction:
• Binge eating
• General food addiction
Some ways to stop the food addiction cycle:
• Stop eating your emotions, find different methods of coping.
• Follow a meal plan with balance nutrition intake.
• Start working out.
• Seek professional help.
• Pro and con list for stopping the behavior.
• Seek a support group.
• Behavioral modification.
• Identify trigger foods.
• Slowly eliminate the trigger foods.
• Replace bad choices with good choices.
• Nutritional counseling.
No matter the reason behind a food addiction, unless the individual is willing to make an effort for permanent change, the success toward weight loss and curbing the addiction will be short lived. We must first make a serious change of heart and mind to become determined to eat properly to then change our body.
Studies show that individuals who seek weight loss surgery without additional support and education only have a 5% success rate for long term weight loss.There are further challenges due to the fact that food manufactures will not release data on how the ingredients in many foods are mixed. They do this in order to get maximum sales and consumption of their products.
This can lead to hidden calories and additional ingredients that can lead to binging, which compounds the weight gain, emotional consequences and overall negative health consequences. The marketing factor also plays a role in food consumption.
It takes burning 3500 calories to lose one pound or the consumption of 3500 additional calories to gain one pound. If someone consumes 500 calories above or below their regularly required baseline macronutrient intake level on a daily bases for a 12 month period, it could result in a gain or loss of 52 pounds respectively.
So who is to blame? The food industry with false or overly enticing marketing? Lack of parental oversight and proper nutrition education of the morbidly obese child? Adults that seek quick, easy and cheap meals instead of ones that are healthy and nutritionally balanced?
We live in a “Mad Max” world that has become a toxic food wasteland. A wasteland with poor nutritionally unbalanced school lunches, junk food vending machines, fast food places on every corner and processed, sodium laden microwave meals, which are cheap and easy to prepare.
We have become fooled into thinking many of these foods are healthy. They are fast, cheap and convenient, but in the long term can be devastating to our health, ruining our overall quality of life.
Cindy Howard 4/11/2018
Sources: NASM, CDC, WHO, Wikipedia