Protein snacks to give your workout an extra boost — or just keep you going

Protein snacks are ideal for keeping up your energy / image source: wildamor.com
Protein snacks are ideal for keeping up your energy / image source: wildamor.com

Protein snacks to give your workout an extra boost — or just keep you going

We’ve talked about the power of protein and how it can help fuel your weight training workout.  Protein also helps decreases hunger, builds and maintains muscles, fortifies your bones, improves brain function, and aids your immune system

But how much protein do you need a day? The amount depends on your lifestyle and your fitness goals. Current dietary guidelines suggest that adult men and women should consume between 10 and 35 percent of their total calories from protein. 

To fuel our workouts or just to combat against the 3 PM slump when we need an extra boost, we need protein to keep us thriving and on track. While grabbing a protein bar may feel like a good option, many of these products are just glorified candy bars and have misleading information on their wrappers. High in sugar or artificial sweeteners, high in calories, and even high in saturated fat, these on-the-go options are highly processed. 

Instead of falling prey to one of these shiny bars, I recommend looking at whole food sources of protein that are portable and free from extra, unnecessary ingredients. Here are some easy high protein options:

  1. Mixed nuts. Can you imagine a list of high protein snacks without seeing mixed nuts on it? If you’re assembling this classic snack, focus on almonds and pistachios as they have a higher protein content than other options.
  2. Chia pudding. Chia seeds can be mixed with a beverage (usually almond milk) and refrigerated. The results are a filling, protein-rich pudding that fills you up and can provide you with up to 40% of your recommended daily fiber intake.
  3. Tuna. A small can of tuna fish contains 39 grams of protein. It also contains B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure the tuna is packed in water and not oil.
  4. Energy bites. There are so many recipes available online for these high protein, whole food treats. They are the perfect combination of protein, good carbs, healthy fats, and high in fiber
  5. Jerky. If you avoid sodium- and sugar-filled varieties, the low-sodium or natural options are a great source of protein. There’s even vegan jerky that you can make. 

From single servings of cottage cheese to greek yogurt, there are many alternatives to overly processed protein bars. Like most things, a little meal planning goes a long way — especially when it comes to healthy snacking. 

Is it OK to exercise when you’ve got a cold? Well, yes — within reason​

Exercising with a cold? / Image source: pixabay.com
Exercising with a cold? / Image source: pixabay.com

Is it OK to exercise when you've got a cold? Well, yes — within reason

Last week’s newsletter listed one of the unexpected benefits of exercise as being able to fight off colds and flu. But what if you succumb to one of the many viruses that are going around? As the weather changes, it’s rare that any of us aren’t affected by seasonal colds and the flu. But should you continue your exercise routine when you find yourself coughing and sneezing?

Experts generally divide colds into two categories: those with symptoms above the neck (runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat) and those with symptoms below the neck (cough, shortness of breath, chest congestions). If you have a cold that’s primarily located in your head, then you are safe to exercise. If you have any of the below-the-neck symptoms, you should put off exercising until you feel better. Additionally, you shouldn’t exercise if you have a fever, body aches, or fatigue. 

There are few studies that say that a workout can actually help you heal. If you have a head cold, you may even feel better following your workout. Exercise opens up your blood vessels and lifts your mood. Many people also feel exercise alleviates congestion. If you are inclined, and your symptoms don’t interfere with your heart rate or your ability to control your breath, you can keep working out throughout your cold. 

If you decide that you want to exercise, there are some routines that are better than others.

A workout where you’re breathing heavily, sweating, working hard, and feeling uncomfortable creates a stress response in the body. When we’re healthy, our bodies can easily adapt to that stress. Over time, this progressive adaptation is precisely what makes us stronger. But when we’re sick, this type of stress can be more than our immune systems can handle.

If you feel like sticking with your cardio routine, I recommend decreasing your intensity. Working out on a stationary bike, elliptical, or even running at a slower pace can still be beneficial. You can still strength train but gear your workout towards more comfortable, lighter weights. Stretching, yoga (but not yoga in a heated room), and pilates are also fine if you’re struggling through a cold. 

And no matter what you do, make sure that you wipe down that equipment well to stop spreading your germs to your fellow gym-goers.  

If you feel like you would be better off curling up with a book, Netflix, and a cup of soup or tea, then you may not want to push yourself. But a cold is not an excuse to give up on your routine and your goals. There’s nothing wrong with staying active as your body fights off a head cold. It can boost your mood and even help you heal. Still, this is a time when you need to listen to your body and not follow any rules that aren’t your own.   

Ali MacKellar presents Strength in Numbers

Ali MacKellar strength training
Ali MacKellar strength training

Ali MacKellar presents Strength in Numbers

Following up on her Monday-evening Electric Circuit series, Ali is  offering a series of four one-hour sessions dedicated to strength training. From her description:

It’s a commitment to carve out an hour each week dedicated to moving your body, to strength as self-care and building up a strong foundation for future you!⁣

The classes will run from 6:30 to 7:30 pm on Monday nights, starting Nov. 11. For more information or to sign up, contact Ali at [email protected] or visit the Eventbrite page.

Can’t motivate yourself to exercise? Consider these added benefits​

There are always more benefits to exercise. / Photo by Daria Sannikova from Pexels
There are always more benefits to exercise. / Photo by Daria Sannikova from Pexels

Can't motivate yourself to exercise? Consider these added benefits​

No matter why you exercise, you have a good reason for doing it. Whether it’s about aesthetics or recovering from an injury, we all turn to exercise for a variety of reasons. 

But there are days when the idea of hitting the gym is the last thing you want to do. Maybe you’ve been really busy at work or have had your routine disrupted by illness. You might be frustrated, balancing risk vs. reward and wondering why you aren’t seeing results fast enough. In fact, you might just think “why bother?” 

When your usual source of intrinsic motivation fails, here are some unexpected benefits of exercise that might convince you to put on those running shoes.

Exercise is good for your heart: Exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases, your blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.

Exercise can make you more creative: A study at Leiden University found that people who exercise regularly performed better on tests that assessed creativity. This is because exercise stimulates the growth of cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for imagination.

Exercise can help you fight off colds and flu: Even if your flu shot is part of the fall tradition, physical activity has been directly linked to producing antibodies that protect us against various illnesses and diseases. 

Exercise keeps your brain fit: Exercise increases growth factors, a brain chemical which helps make new brain cells and establish new connections to help us learn. It also improves our capacity to learn by enhancing our attention and concentration skills.

Exercise can modulate the risk of dementia: A number of studies have found a relationship between people who exercise and dementia. These studies suggest that you can affect your  risk of dementia through regular physical activity — and one even concluded that staying active reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease risk by 45%!

There is always a reason to bother when it comes to exercise. Our society has become so obsessed with the idea we need to sweat to be successful that we’ve distanced ourselves from some of the benefits of exercise. Yoga, once only thought of as a moving meditation, is now about maximum calorie burn! Yes, exercise can help you burn calories — but it can also reduce your stress hormones, help you sleep better, boost your self-esteem, and alleviate depression.  

Time spent exercising, whether it’s cardio or stretching, is always a good thing. It’s never a waste of time and the benefits, even if you can’t see them, are significant.

Fueling your workout: what to eat before and what to eat afterward

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels
Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Fueling your workout: what to eat before and what to eat afterward

I’ve heard so many different things about what to eat before, after, and during workouts that it can be complicated to figure out what’s the best strategy. In order to get the maximum benefit from your time at the gym, in a class, or on a run, you need to think about fuel. And not surprisingly, the fuel you choose is dependant on your goals. That means you need to consider the type of activity you are performing before selecting a snack. For example, you don’t need to carb-load before a pilates class! 

Before a workout, it may be better to eat a meal that focuses more on protein and carbohydrates than fats. Protein can increase the amount of muscle mass gained from a resistance workout. Consuming the right amount and right kind of carbohydrates before a cardio-focused workout will ensure that your body has enough energy to perform well.

No matter what you eat, there’s technically no need to snack right before you exercise if your workout lasts less than 60 minutes. It won’t give you added energy — but it may keep you focused on your workout and off feeling hungry.

Timing is also important. Make sure you eat a meal or snack 30–90 minutes before you work out. This will reduce bloating. Working out on a very full stomach can lead to cramping and general uneasiness. While you don’t want to pass out from hunger when doing your squats, you also don’t want to feel like you’re going to throw up in downward dog.

But what about eating after a workout? During an exercise session, energy is depleted, muscle tissue is damaged, and fluids (along with electrolytes) are lost through sweat. Post-workout nutrients are essential and help stimulate protein synthesis to repair and build new muscle tissue and restore fluid and electrolyte balance

You can use the intensity of your workout to determine the ratio of carbohydrate to protein in your post-workout meal. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an endurance athlete consume a 300-400 calorie snack with a 3-to-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio within an hour of exercise completion. Low to medium intensity workouts are advised to follow a 2-to-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, consumed within an hour and no longer than two hours after you exercise.

There are no real rules when it comes to fuel and exercise. Everyone is different but the key is to keep your pre- and post-workout snacks focused on protein and carbohydrates. 

 

The Future of Fitness Explained: a primer on MCT oil and some of its supposed benefits

MCT oil in front of a coconut / Image source: Healthline
MCT oil in front of a coconut / Image source: Healthline

The Future of Fitness Explained: a primer on MCT oil and some of its supposed benefits

If you love to learn about new exercise and fitness trends, The Future of Fitness explains it to you in a way you can understand and separate the hype cycle from actual results.

You may have heard of MCT oil as the silver bullet to supercharge your exercise routine, brain power, weight loss, fight Alzeheimer’s disease, and decrease sugar cravings. It provides you with energy and puts you into ketosis (see The Future of Fitness Explained: The Keto Diet if you need a refresher on Ketones and Ketosis). But MCT oil has also been accused of causing unpleasant side effects and has been called an expensive health trend whose only effect is taking your money.

What is MCT oil? Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are partially man-made fats. MCTs are made by processing coconut and palm kernel oils in the laboratory. Because of the shorter chain length of the fatty acids, MCTs are rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body. Unlike longer-chain fatty acids, MCTs go straight to the liver and can be used as an instant energy source or turned into ketones. Unlike regular fatty acids, ketones can cross from the blood to the brain. This provides an alternative energy source for the brain, which ordinarily uses glucose for fuel.

How can I use MCT oil? You can’t cook with MCT oil, owing to its low smoke point, which is far lower than most commonly used oils. It is most often taken as a dietary supplement. MCT oil is flavourless, tasteless, and colourless. This means it can be added to salads in dressings or used in beverages. 

Does it work? MCT oil has been called a super fuel since your body absorbs MCTs more rapidly than long-chain triglycerides. They can be quickly broken down and they can be used as an immediate source of energy. This can create the mental sense of clarity that many people experience when using MCT oil. When it comes to weight-loss claims, some research suggests that replacing other dietary fats with MCT oil may be beneficial. However, MCT oil is high in calories. A tablespoon of MCT oil contains 14g of fat, 100% of which is saturated and 115 calories. Benefits like detoxification and improved athletic performance are supported by little, mixed, or no evidence.

Should I Try It? It’s very rare that I tell people to stay away from a product. But for some people, myself included, MCT oil can cause significant gastrointestinal distress. You might have seen the word “liver” in almost every paragraph of this summary. High doses of MCT oil may increase the amount of fat in your liver in the long term. That’s why MCT oil is not appropriate for people with liver damage or disease. If you have any liver or gallbladder issues, you should stay away from anything that includes MCT or uses the word “bulletproof” in its name or labelling. 

If you know your health history and haven’t experienced these types of issues, you can consult with your doctor or see how your body reacts. If you feel uncomfortable, stop immediately. 

More Information Please!

Try these links and get educated about the pros and cons of MCT oil: 

Fake meat may be getting a lot of play, but is it healthy?

Fake meat or the real thing? This soy-based product can be made to "bleed" red just like animal flesh. Image source: Anthony Lindsay Photography/Impossible Foods
Fake meat or the real thing? This soy-based product can be made to "bleed" red just like animal flesh. Image source: Anthony Lindsay Photography/Impossible Foods

Fake meat may be getting a lot of play, but is it healthy?

This summer, fake meat went mainstream. It felt like every restaurant chain was boasting meat-free versions of their menu options. Products like The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat moved confidently to the frozen food section. Even the most committed carnivores tried meat replacement burgers, chick’n fillets, and kale sausages. When products advertised themselves as reputable substitutes to meat, they emphasized their texture and taste. Like the Pepsi challenge of the 1980s, meat eaters were being fooled into accidentally eating vegan — and they weren’t complaining.

Veggie burgers have come a long way. Once constructed from peas, corn, and some sort of sawdust-like binding agent, it was rare to find a vegetarian option that didn’t need to be smothered in sauces to become edible. As soy products evolved with a societal demand, and we learned that being meat-free didn’t mean we were relegated to soft tofu, vegetarian brands became supermarket staples. For many people, the flexitarian lifestyle (eating a mostly vegetarian diet, occasionally including meat) is a healthy solution.

It’s rare that your vegan best friend will complain that they miss the taste and texture of beef or the crackle of chicken skin. When you think about it, meat replacement products that boast these attributes are geared towards the occasional meat eater. So if you love the taste of a burger, but find the sustainability of raising cattle hard to stomach, beefless alternatives are worth a try. Plant-based burgers use less water and generate less greenhouse gases.  

But, let’s not lie to ourselves. A burger is a burger. And a burger, impossible or not, is not healthy. They contain mostly soy or wheat protein, as well as added preservatives, salt, flavourings, and fillers to enhance its taste, shelf life, and texture. The Impossible Burger has more sodium with 370 milligrams, or about 16 percent of the recommended daily ceiling versus 82 milligrams in a beef burger

Would I recommend switching to these new meatless products for health? The simple answer is no. If you are sensitive to soy, salt, or wheat, these new burgers should be avoided. There are other alternatives, though they have not received the benefit of the buzz media cycle, that contain whole grains and legumes that would be a considerable alternative. They are the more traditional veggie burgers and contain less genetically modified and processed ingredients. 

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional burger — be it beef, turkey, chicken, soy, or bean. While increasing options to suit all dietary restrictions is a positive step, we have to educate ourselves about our choices. We also have to be truthful and ask ourselves why are we deciding to eat something — is it for ethical reasons, or because we think it is better for us? By questioning the hype cycle, and becoming informed consumers, we can make better choices for ourselves and for the welfare of the planet.  

On weight training and how to avoid getting stuck in the comfort zone

Black and white image of woman weight training / Photo by Derwin Edwards from Pexels
Black and white image of woman weight training / Photo by Derwin Edwards from Pexels

On weight training and how to avoid getting stuck in the comfort zone

If you’ve been lifting weights for a while, you have come to realize that it’s empowering and not intimidating. You have probably seen your form improve and your core stabilize as you pick up new exercises and work through your routine. Weight training in all its forms, whether it’s one-on-training, classes, or free weights, is bound to boost your confidence. Remember the days when you wondered if you could even pick up that 12 lb weight? Well, now you’re busting through those flies and curls while thinking about your shopping list. And your arms and legs keep repeating movement in perfect form. 

Congratulations, you’ve won weight training. It’s time to move up to a heavier weight. Like so many things in life, you don’t win weight training when it gets easier. You lose weight training when it gets easier — and you just stay there. 

The moment your brain leaves your body and you are sailing through your routine, it’s time to take stock and challenge yourself again. Many of us tend to stay in our comfort zone once we’ve accomplished something. After all, it’s called a comfort zone because it’s reassuring. You know you can complete the exercise effortlessly at that weight set … and it feels good. 

However, moving on is essential because if you don’t, you’ll stay static at the same fitness level. Strength training is about increasing resistance to build muscle. As your body adapts to this stress, your muscles respond by becoming stronger. This leads to increased results like lean body mass, decreased fat, and the ability to lift more for a longer period of time. If you stay with your current set of weights, your progress will stall. You will be cheating yourself from the benefits of your efforts. 

How do you know that it’s time to move on? Well, if you’re sailing through reps and lose count because your mind is on what you’re going to watch on Netflix tonight — it’s time to change up your weights. Weight lifting is a mental exercise as well as a physical one. If you aren’t present, it’s time to re-engage and add more resistance.

Another way to figure out if it’s time to move up is by evaluating your last couple of reps. If your first rep and your last rep feel the same, it’s time. Your goal is to be challenged by your last rep, without compromising your form. If you’re working with a trainer, let them know that you can go heavier. Trainers aren’t mind readers but we will probably know if you’re coasting on your routines. 

The time you spend in the gym is your time and needs to be spent efficiently. If you are settling at a level, it’s time to grab the next weight over or split your sets by using a heavier weight for the last couple of reps. It’s not a cliche but what you get out is what you put in. You might feel like a winner when you’re gliding through a workout without much effort and feeling great — so celebrate your accomplishments. And then humble yourself and start all over again.

Why fall is the ideal time to start running

Woman running in fall leaves / Image source: christianacare.org
Woman running in fall leaves / Image source: christianacare.org

Why fall is the ideal time to start running

After a long winter of hiding away indoors, we tend to embrace spring as the start of the running season. However, I think fall is the perfect time for new runners to get started. In fact, fall running has its benefits.

A lot of us want to run but we are intimidated by our own expectations. We tell ourselves that we’re not runners but the truth is that if you can walk…you can run. Of course, some people will not benefit from running but for most of us, the first step towards getting outside is a mental one. We reinforce preconceived notions of what a runner should look like and hold ourselves up against these impossible standards.

However, the fact is that people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities run all kinds of races. From full marathons to triathlons, we need to get over the idea of the runner’s body. Yes, there are athletes that crush a 5K in 15 minutes…but that is the exception. If your legs are short, you are a runner. If your legs are long…well, you’re a runner too. If you ever watch the scores of people crossing the finish line at a 5K fun run, you’ll see all kinds of people celebrating their accomplishments.

Because of the milder fall temperatures, you don’t have to limit your runs to early morning or early evening.

Beginning a running routine is one of those September resolutions that can be part of your reset and re-commitment to fitness and yourself. Running also meditative. Whether you listen to podcasts or music, this is your own time and focusing on your run means shutting off your push notifications and making every breath count. 

Because of the milder fall temperatures, you don’t have to limit your runs to early morning or early evening. A mid-day weekend run is just as effective as a morning one. You can also run for longer without feeling overheated. Layers are your friend so just add or subtract ones as you go. As the seasons change, you can appreciate the beauty of nature and the changing colours. 

Like any new exercise routine, it’s always best to start slow and be careful. There are many walk-to-run apps (many of them free) that will help you overcome your fear of running. They work by dividing up your time into small run segments, followed by larger walk segments. As you progress through the program, the ratios switch and the walks become less frequent. You can repeat a segment as many times as you want. There’s no judgement or expectations. You might breeze through the first three weeks and spend the next six months trying to conquer week four. 

If it’s your mind and not your body that’s keeping you from running, make a commitment to give a simple sport a try that is all about you and your progress. Here are some tips to getting started (link to Running 101 blog) and then it’s up to you to keep on this path. 

Guest blog: three things you need to know about weight management

Salad bowl and measuring tape on woman's waist / Image source: Rawpixel.com
Salad bowl and measuring tape on woman's waist / Image source: Rawpixel.com

Guest blog: three things you need to know about weight management

Rachel Lau, BKin

Since the late 1970s, the obesity rate in Canada has been rising (Government of Canada, 2018). Currently, 2 in 3 Canadians are obese or overweight (Government of Canada, 2018). Physical inactivity and poor diet are the main attributes to the increasing obesity rate (Government of Canada, 2018). Changing one’s behavior or lifestyle is not as easy as pie, which is why I am here to tell you 3 things that you should keep in mind such that you can manage your weight in a healthy and happy way.

1. Adjust the proportion of macronutrients accordingly.

Many people may think that cutting off carbohydrates is the fastest way to lose weight. However, restricting your diet too much may lead to binge-eating, hence weight gain. If you choose to reduce carbohydrates intake, you should add a bit more protein in your diet, such as an extra egg or an extra ounce of meat (Layman et al., 2003). When we consume less carbohydrates, our liver will produce glucose from protein to maintain blood glucose level (Layman et al., 2003). Therefore, modifying the proportion of both carbohydrates and proteins is more effective in managing weight than merely reducing carbohydrate intake.

2. Try to manage your weight in a holistic approach.

While diet is an important factor in managing weight, physical activity also helps to lose weight and enhance health and wellbeing (Government of Canada, 2018). Other than working out at the gym, getting more movement throughout the day can help you adopt an active lifestyle: from standing up more frequently if you have a desk job, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, to spending time outdoors. Managing stress and getting good night’s sleep are also important in managing weight, as these factors affect your hormone regulation, which will also affect your weight (Sapolsky, 2004).

3. There is no ideal body shape to aim for.

Many people think that having a lean or muscular body indicates that one is healthy and fit. In fact, individuals may adapt unhealthy lifestyle behaviors to achieve these thin-ideal body images imposed by social media. In extreme cases, this may lead to the development of eating disorder and depression (Ferreiro, Seoane, & Senra, 2014). Instead of focusing on how our body should look like, we should appreciate what our body can do, and nurture it according to our needs (Alleva, Veldhuis, & Martijn, 2016). For instance, if we feel hungry between meals, don’t be afraid to grab a healthy snack, be it a granola bar or fruit. Focusing on body function will help us feel more satisfied and comfortable with our body, which can promote positive body image, hence mental wellbeing (Alleva et al., 2016).

There are many ways to go about managing weight: adjusting our diet, exercising more often, sleeping at an earlier time, managing stress, etc. The key to successful weight management is to understand your own body’s needs, and consider what we should change to take better care of our body.


Sources

Ferreiro, F., Seoane, G., & Senra, C. (2014). Toward understanding the role of body dissatisfaction in the gender differences in depressive symptoms and disordered eating: A longitudinal study during adolescence. Journal of Adolescence; 37(1): 73–84. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2013.10.013

Alleva, J. M., Veldhuis, J., & Martijn, C. (2016). A pilot study investigating whether focusing on body functionality can protect women from the potential negative effects of viewing thin-ideal media images. Body Image, 17(Complete), 10-13. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.01.007

Government of Canada. (2018). Tackling Obesity in Canada: Obesity and Excess Weight Rates in Canadian Adults. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/obesity-excess-weight-rates-canadian-adults.html

Layman, D. K., Boileau, R. A., Erickson, D. J., Painter, J. E., Shiue, H., Sather, C., & Christou, D. (2003). A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. The Journal of Nutrition133(2), 411-417. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.2.411

Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why zebras don’t get ulcers (3rd ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Rachel Lau is an associate with Fit After 50. This post originally appeared on their site.


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