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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Recommitting to your goals means recommitting to yourself

Recommitting to goals / Image source: Karl Solano/Pexels
Recommitting to goals / Image source: Karl Solano/Pexels

Recommitting to your goals means recommitting to yourself

While summer isn’t technically over under mid-September, it starts to feel like fall the minute back-to-school sales and Halloween candy fills the aisles at the Supermarket. Fall already? 

Summer has its own rhythm and its own priorities. Whether it’s vacations, camping, socializing, or just general spontaneity, summer may feel a little more relaxed than the schedules we keep for the rest of the year. For some of us, summer may actually be more hectic than the rest of the year. We struggle to cover our colleagues’ vacations and find every weekend occupied with family reunions and weddings. No matter if you’ve had a lazy summer where sleeping in was quickly normalized or a chaotic summer full of deadlines and late nights, you may have had to put your fitness goals on hold to accommodate real life.

It happens but a short detour is not a total derailment. Now that your schedule has settled down, it’s time to start recommiting yourself to your health goals. Here are some ways to prioritize fitness:

 

  • Meal planning. Spend some time on the weekend, or on a quiet weekday, to take care of lunches and dinners for the rest of the week. Making your food, preparing the ingredients, or at least deciding in advance what days are take out/pick up days can help you feel more in control of your eating habits.
  • Carve out some exercise time. You need to schedule in your exercise time just like you would plan a meeting or activity. Without this, it’s easy for other activities and commitments to take precedence over working out. Treat this time as non negotiable and just as important as anything else on the calendar.
  • Take a class. If you sign up for a fitness class, show up — and make sure you are on time and ready to work. Include travel time in your schedule so you aren’t rushing or being overbooked. While a drop-in class is enough motivation for some of us, committing to being on a specific bike or attending a class where your absence may be recognized (either financially or socially) can be extra motivation to make sure we honour our commitment to ourselves. We’ve even launched some great classes at TrainingSpaces, so we hope to see you there. 

It’s time to picture your goal and reassess.  Nothing happens overnight and a fad, crash diet isn’t going to be the solution. Instead, you need a new plan. What’s one thing you can do today that will take you one step closer to your goal? Can you spend five more minutes on the treadmill or add another session to your yoga practice? Is it time to ask for heavier weights that will push you out of your comfort zone and nudge you a small step towards what you want to accomplish. 

The fact is the summer break is just that, it’s a break. It’s a time out but it’s time to re-engage and re-commit yourself. And only you can prioritize you.

Connected Fitness: It’s trendy, effective (and expensive), but is it for you?​

Wired fitness gear / Image source: Digital Trends
Wired fitness gear / Image source: Digital Trends

Connected Fitness: It's trendy, effective (and expensive), but is it for you?

Peloton. Hydrow. Mirror. FightCamp. Connected Fitness companies are turning record profits as our home-fitness workouts evolve from exercise DVDs, to apps, to machines and devices that promise to track and measure our actual outputs and form. As technology advances, it’s not surprising that home gyms are being reinvented with sensors and live-streamed classes. 

Connected Fitness is defined as any type of exercise machine that is connected to the internet and integrated with a larger platform to either improve or adjust your workout. Depending on the device or machine, you can receive personalized feedback, join a class complete with leaderboards, or track your workout performance and set goals. 

If you are interested in purchasing a Connected Fitness machine, the first thing you need to ask yourself is: can I afford a Connected Fitness machine? With each machine costing upwards of $2000, are you passionate enough about a sport or activity to keep your new smart treadmill from becoming an extension of your drying rack? Many of these machines also recommend that you subscribe to a monthly channel of live streamed or on-demand workouts. However, if you are committed enough to cycling but are boycotting SoulCycle, a connected bike might make sense. You need to do the math before even investigating these machines. Because of their high price tag, these machines are an investment.

I’ve also seen clients express frustration with goals on their wearable trackers not equating to real-world results. Research shows that a third of people who buy fitness trackers stop using them within six months. Just like how your traditional treadmill will tell you that you’ve burned a certain amount of calories, these devices are just estimates.  

If you are attracted to the idea of a connected fitness device, you should also assess your experience with fitness and motivation? Have you always been the kind of person who can fit exercise in their life without much effort, or do you drag yourself to the gym because you have a family reunion coming up? If your fitness routine is built on extrinsic motivation (add link to past blog), the novelty of any new device will eventually wear off. 

A Connected Fitness won’t automatically turn you into an athlete any more than a BowFlex gym or downloading that Couch to 5K app will. While it may be exciting to add a new fitness gadget to your inventory, if you aren’t prepared to actually use it — it’s not worth the hype. 

Do you need to detox? Or just stop eating things that are bad for you?

Stock image to go with detox post / image source: psychologies.co.uk
Stock image to go with detox post / image source: psychologies.co.uk

Do you need to detox? Or just stop eating things that are bad for you?

Toxins are everywhere. We’re constantly alerted to the fact pollution, chemicals, and poisonous substances surround us. From air quality alerts to the waxy substances on non-organic fruit, we are inundated with reminders of our compromised environment. A number of classes, products, websites, programs, and articles also urge us to eliminate the buildup of toxins in our bodies. Without taking action, we are putting our health in danger. But is there any truth to these threats? Is a detox an effective way to reset ourselves? 

Our fear of toxins is at the heart of detox diets and products. And fear sells. In fact, many detox diets and products are harmful to the body and your well-being. Adding chemicals to your diet, paying for products that promote sweating or promise to pull impurities out through your feet are all quick fixes to a non-existent problem. The fact is you don’t need a cleanse or detox to rid yourself of toxins. 

When we’re looking for a solution to a frightening problem, it’s easier to look outside of ourselves than knowing that our bodies are actually equipped with a detoxification system of their own. The skin, lungs, respiratory system, intestines, liver, and kidneys all work together to create barriers or eliminate toxins. And that popular myth that sweating eliminates toxins is just that — a myth. 

Detox diets work because you are cutting calories. Removing food groups, limiting the intake of certain foods, eating at certain times of the day, or adding extra fibre can lead to gastrointestinal issues, low blood pressure, fainting, nausea, and fatigue. There is no research showing the positives of  any detox diets.

Instead of buying into the detox hype, start by removing processed foods from your diet and prioritizing exercise, hydratation, and sleep. Make choices to use quality ingredients (fresh or frozen) and whole grains in your cooking.  

There are many ways to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Using products that boast detoxifying properties or recommend unhealthy eating practices are a waste of money and potentially dangerous. Instead, I invite you to do an internet detox. It’s time to unfollow, unsubscribe, and delete content that promotes unrealistic, unhealthy, and costly solutions to an imaginary problem. 

Martial arts: not just kung fu movies, but a way to fun, fighting, and fitness

martial arts krav maga kick / Image source: martialartsguy.com
martial arts krav maga kick / Image source: martialartsguy.com

Martial arts: not just kung fu movies, but a way to fun, fighting, and fitness

Do you wish you could take down a gang of unsuspecting villains who dare to threaten you as you unlock your car in a dark parking lot? Kicking, punching, chokes, throws…imagine moving through our dangerous world in a bubble of safety.

It’s an appealing fantasy but it’s not the reason why so many adults are flocking to martial arts classes. From Krav Maga to Mixed Martial Arts to Karate, weekly classes offer more than the fulfillment of re-enacting a live action game of Street Fighter. Instead, it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill, increase stamina, build flexibility, and improve discipline. They are gyms, studios, dojos, and spaces around the city where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to sweat it out on the mat and learn about themselves.

Some people come to martial arts to recover from trauma. As a reaction to PTSD, they want to gain some control following an incident that left them shaken and wishing they had acted or reacted differently. Healing begins slowly, one class at a time. Learning small things to protect yourself, and repeating them over and over again, builds muscle memory. It challenges you to think differently about how to keep yourself safe. This little bit of confidence is what some of us need to get back out in the world.

For beginners, starting out can be intimidating. You will see gear bags of equipment, strong men and women grappling on the floor, heavy bags, and fake weapons. However, what you also need to keep in mind is that your instructor had a first day too. He or she arrived at their first class and they slowly (or even immediately) fell in love with this new form of fitness. Many studios offer women-only classes. If you identify as female, this can be a good introduction in an environment that can feel less threatening.

Most forms of martial arts involve increasing levels of expertise. If you commit to this, you will work towards a set goals and mark your progress. The discipline of a curriculum challenges your brain and your body.

If you are looking to martial arts as a form of fitness, you will gain more than losing calories. Most forms of martial arts involve increasing levels of expertise. If you commit to this, you will work towards a set goals and mark your progress. The discipline of a curriculum challenges your brain and your body. 

However if you don’t care about belts or badges, you can also just enjoy pushing yourself in a different kind of way. Being willing to learn, and fail, and try again allows you to celebrate the smallest achievements. When you find your body automatically defending itself against a move, you feel a sense of pride. Being present in a studio unplugs you from constant distractions. You need to pay attention, listen, and try in order to understand the psychology behind the movement. 

As we get older and set in our ways, learning new things can be scary and make us vulnerable. However if you have ever been curious about martial arts, I can’t encourage you enough to shed preconceptions about age, ability, and gender. Instead, embrace the possibilities of what you can achieve and what you can accomplish. You’ll probably surprise yourself.

The future of fitness, explained: the 7-minute workout

7-minute workout GIF / Image source: Greatist
7-minute workout GIF / Image source: Greatist

The Future of Fitness Explained: The 7-Minute Workout

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.

Do you remember a couple of years ago when a study published by ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal declared that all we needed was 7 minutes to achieve a host of fitness benefits? Well, it’s been six years since this initial study and short, focused workouts are still popular. We talked recently about Tabatta and HIIT (link to previous Balancing Priorities to Workout) but can you really only exercise for seven minutes and lose weight, improve cardio, build muscle, and be diabetes-free? 

What is the 7-Minute Workout? The 7-Minute workout consists of 12 high-intensity exercises that only use body weight as resistance. You perform each activity at your maximum intensity for 30-seconds and rest for 10-seconds.   

What Do I Need to Do?

All you need to do is find a place where you can do jumping jacks, step-ups, wall sits, and planks without knocking into anything … or anyone. You don’t need extra weights but a chair, mat, and a wall are necessary. You probably also will need a timer to announce the beginning and end of each on or off period.

Does it Work?

What do you want to achieve with your workout? If your primary goal is to lose weight, this isn’t the way to do it. As we’ve previously said, nutrition is primarily responsible for weight loss. You just won’t burn enough calories in 7-minutes — even if you are working to your maximum. However, if you are interested in improving your overall fitness and want a challenge, the 7-minute workout could be for you. 

Should I Try It?

If you have any physical issues, this is not the best way to spend 7 minutes. The fact that you need to push yourself to your maximum means some people might sacrifice form for intensity — leading to more injuries and problems. If  you have joint issues, knee, wrist, or back problems, you need a gentler workout to better support your body. 

I also never recommend depending solely on one form of exercise or fitness routine. You will always need to stretch, lift, and raise your heart rate, so don’t give up your other activities and prioritize this one routine. 

If you know you have good form and are experienced, you may want to try adding the 7-minute workout to your schedule. And if you read the fine print, the authors of the initial study did recommend cycling through the program a couple of times for maximum results. When you’re pressed for time and know you can work to your maximum, there’s no difference between this circuit and other interval training. 

More Information Please!

Try these links and get educated about the 7-Minute Workout: 

Self-care is about self-preservation

Self-care: man receiving aromatherapy treatment / Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
Self-care: man receiving aromatherapy treatment / Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Self-care is about self-preservation

With all those instagram posts tagged #selfcare and showing lovingly curated avocado toast and bubble baths, it’s easy to mock self-care as a millennial trend. However, the fact is that self-care isn’t just about getting massages and meditating in the sunset.

Self-care is how you take care of yourself. It’s the daily process of making sure you prioritize your emotional and physical needs. It’s how you manage demands on yourself and your time — from work to friends and family to ensuring you get in that workout. It is not selfish. It’s putting on your own oxygen mask before helping those next to you.

Self-care is not just about your mental health. It’s also about caring for your physical self, by eating healthy, taking adequate sleep, caring about your hygiene, exercising regularly, etc.

Sometimes it’s easy to know what we need. However, some of us are so depleted and disassociated from ourselves that we don’t even know where to start. Unless you are really good as establishing boundaries, shutting down technology, and saying “no,” you may need help acknowledging that you need to find time for yourself in your schedule.

Do you regularly:

  • Skip meals when you are busy
  • Use food to cope with stress
  • Cancel workouts to meet work deadlines
  • Automatically say “yes” to requests without thinking about how it will affect your schedule
  • Multitask when eating — working or watching TV, checking emails, or reading
  • Feel guilty if you are not productive

If you’ve said “yes” to any of these, it’s time for you to incorporate self-care in your routine. Easier said than done, right? There are many small ways you can start appreciating yourself immediately. Look for small ways you can include self-care in everyday life.  From getting up a little earlier to go for a run to spending time on the weekend preparing meals, these are not tasks but ways to show you that you value yourself.

We need to condition ourselves to take breaks and moments for ourself. The idea that lunch is for wimps that fuelled the 80s culture should be left in the 80s. Being overscheduled and always on doesn’t lead to more productivity. It leads to burnout, heart attacks, and unhappiness.