Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Fat Factor- What Kind and How Much?

In the 1990s dietary fat was considered the epitome of diet destruction, but now we understand that fat is important for normal body function and growth. In fact, humans need the certain essential fats to live!
Though eating dietary fat is important, the we should make an effort to get most of it from unsaturated plant or fish sources. For example, raw nuts are a part of a healthy diet because they include essential fats and vitamin E. Many fishes contain essential dietary fats in their most active forms--try to get at least two 3-6oz servings per weeks (depending on body size).
The following table shows several healthy fat sources and the amount needed to get a 10g portion of fat. Most women should aim for an intake between 35-60g fat each day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Easy “BBQ” Pork Chops

Ahhhh, the other white meat... Pork does not have to be the "heart attack on a plate" it is generally chalked up to be. In fact, pork has some pretty impressive health benefits. The meat is a powerhouse of B vitamins, especially thiamin. Also, pork is rich in zinc and iron, minerals which are frequently lacking in the American diet. Home cooks beware, many cuts of pork have too much fat and saturated fat. The healthiest pork choice is a center-cut loin or center-cut pork chops! The recipe below is an easy week night recipes for center-cut pork chops.

6 Center-cut pork chops (6 oz each)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Cooking spray

2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce (low-sodium)
1 tsp Dijon mustard

1. Pre-heat grill or broiler
2 For sauce, combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside ¼ cup sauce in a small bowl.
3. Trim fat from pork.
4. Combine all of the dry spices: thyme, garlic salt, cayenne and red pepper; sprinkle over pork.
5. Place pork on a grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray
6. Cook 6 minutes on each side, basting with remaining sauce.
7. Serve pork chops with reserved 1/4 cup sauce. 6 servings

Calories 244; Protein 24.6; FAT 11.3g Sat Fat 3.9g; Carb 9.9g

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Personal Trainer Certifications-- What's legit?

My jaw dropped when a “certified personal trainer” confessed his complete ignorance about training with free weights. At 36, he was in the gym taking his first stab at weight lifting because he “thought it might be good for his clients.”

“Certification” alone is a pretty cheap claim. If someone wants a quick and easy nutrition or personal trainer certification, he or she can readily find weekend and online courses, requiring only a fee and a flakey exam, to get “certified.” This person could have no real knowledge in the area of weight training or nutrition. So if you are in the market for a personal trainer, how do you know that your pick is truly credentialed in the area of personal training, fitness, or nutrition? Nationally, the National Commission For Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is the accreditation organization which is accountable to the Unites States Department of Health and Human Services. In 1987, the NCCA was created to

“help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public through the accreditation of a variety of certification programs/organizations that assess professional competence. Certification programs that receive NCCA Accreditation demonstrate compliance with the NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs, which were the first standards for professional certification programs developed by the industry.

NCCA uses a peer review process to: establish accreditation standards; evaluate compliance with the standards; recognize organizations/programs which demonstrate compliance; and serve as a resource on quality certification…”

Several popular or well-known certifications are not actually accredited, though there are also many options for an individual wishing to become a personal trainer. It is significantly harder to become certified in nutrition. Below, I’ve listed all of the exercise, training, fitness, and nutrition certifications accredited by the NCCA as of August 2008:

Accredited Personal Training and Fitness Certifications:

American College of Sports Medicine
Certified Personal Trainer 4/30/11
Exercise Specialist 4/30/11
Health/Fitness Instructor 4/30/11
Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist 4/30/11
American Council on Exercise
Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist 11/30/08
Group Fitness Instructor 11/30/08
Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant 11/30/08
Personal Trainer 11/30/08
The Cooper Institute
Personal Trainer Certification 11/30/11
International Fitness Professionals Association
Certified Personal Fitness Trainer 10/31/12
National Academy of Sports Medicine
Certified Personal Trainer 11/30/10
National Athletic Trainer's Association Board of Certification
Entry-Level Athletic Trainer Certification 10/31/10
National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association
Certified Personal Fitness Trainer 3/31/13
National Exercise Trainers Association
Certified Personal Trainer 4/30/12
National Federation of Professional Trainers
Certified Personal Fitness Trainer 11/30/10
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certification Commission
Certified Personal Trainer 10/31/08
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist 10/31/08
Accredited Nutrition Certifications

American Clinical Board of Nutrition
Diplomate American Clinical Board of Nutrition 11/30/10 (requires a graduate degree)
Certifying Board for Dietary Managers
Certified Dietary Manager 8/31/09 (specific to food service workers)
Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association
Dietetic Technician, Registered 11/30/11
Registered Dietitian 11/30/11
Board Certified Specialist on Renal Nutrition 11/30/11

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Protein in a Pinch- Five Super-Fast Protein Sources!

5. Hard Boiled Egg

Though eggs require a little pre-prep, they are still highly portable and make a great high-protein complete source of protein on the go!

4. Low-Fat String Cheese

String cheese is good out of the fridge for at least 3-5 hours, since it is sealed. Also, many convenience stores have the standard version available. By the way, if you are lactose intolerant, cheese is not an issue; there are no carbs in cheese, and hence, no lactose!

Frigo makes a cheese stick with only 2.5g of fat and 60 Calories, all while delivering 9g of high-quality protein! Keep a bag in your fridge at work and bid the vending machine farewell!

3. Ready to Drink (RTD) Protein Shake

There are a number of supplement companies that prepare a protein shake for you in a happy little can. Beware of the varieties that are loaded with tons of extra sugar and fat. The good ones have about 2-3g fat, 20g protein and 4-5 carbs per 12oz serving. Alternatively, have individual packets of protein on hand at all times to mix in your water bottle; this should hold you over for a couple of hours!

2. Pouch-packed Salmon or Tuna

Though pouch tuna or salmon is my quick protein source of choice, it’s not a great way to make friends on an air plane. The truly beautiful thing is that you can order a dry garden salad almost anywhere and add your handy little tuna packet to the top! You can find these right by the canned tuna in the grocery store. When eaten in public, you will be looked at like a freak of nature (and a stinky one at that) but your body will seriously thank you.

1. Low-Fat Milk

If you can tolerate milk, it’s a nearly perfect on the go protein source. Where can you not buy milk? Where!? It’s cheap; it’s tasty; it’s high-quality protein; it’s naturally loaded with bone-supporting minerals. Drinking it makes you look like a model/actor/rock star. What’s not to love?
Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Protein Bar Review: Balance Organic Cranberry Pomegranate Crisp 3.36/5

As a PhD student in the area of nutrition, I regularly adminster weight loss diets. There are many reasons why some people have trouble sticking to a meal plan. Likely, the most common barrier is a lack of time, energy, or desire to prepare healthy food. Often, quick and easy is a must-have, but this priority can often lead to a fast food disaster!

Luckily, if you are willing to redefine your concept of a "meal," protein bars can help fill the need for a quick, healthy food choice. But there are piles of bars to choose from; how do you distinguish which are healthiest and a good value? Here are some general rules to follow, and then I'll get into the specific protein bar review!

1. Buy a bar that has a protein source (like whey isolate or soy nuggets, etc) or a whole grain as the first ingredient.

2. Avoid bars that have corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup; these are especially highly processed.

3. Ideally, a protein bar will have no more than 10-15g of sugar; some (about 2-5g) of the carbohydrate should also be fiber content.

4. Avoid SUGAR ALCOHOLS. When manufacturers set out to make "low net carb" bars, they needed to replace sugar with something that has a little bulk and would allow the bars to bake properly. Sugar alchols have fewer "net carbs" because about 1/2 of the sugar alcohols are not absorbed in the small intestine. As a result, they continue through the GI tract to the large intestine, where they do two things: 1) Pull in water to the large intestine (what happens when you have too much water in #2?); and 2) Bacteria in the intestine amy go to work on the SA (hey it's food for them!). This will make excess gas in the colon and, as a result, you end the day with fewer friends; capisci? It's like nuclear holocaust to the colon; this is why low-carb bars are often on sale. Just don't go there! Look for "ol" ingredients, like sorbitol, malitol, xylitol, glycerol(in), etc, etc. Incidentally, SA are also a cause of GI upset with too much gum or sugar-free mint consumption.
More and more, I notice "organic" and "natural" type bars introduced to the market. Typically, the natural bars may replace corn syrup with brown rice syrup (hey, at the end of the day it's all concetrated suagr!) and rely on soy and nuts, instead of milk-based ingredients, for their protein content. As a result, the bars typically are not as sweet, lower in protein (higher in fat and/or sugar), and often exibit strange textures. On the other hand, many are made with more wholesome ingredients, without preservatives, and will not upset those with a milk allergy!

Balance, which produces several high-protein, reasonably-priced and tasty bars in the 200 Calorie range has recently released a 95% organic bar. I tried the Cranberry Polegrante Crisp: 180 kcal; 7g fat; 2.5g sat fat; 100mg sodium; 23g carbs; 5g fiber; 12g sugar; 10g protein; many added vitamins and minerals

Property Score (1-5)
Appearance: 4
Flavor: 3.5
Texture: 2
Heat Stability (Texas Tolerance Test): 2
Cold Stability (Buffalo Bite-ability Score): 4
Nutrition (weighted 2X): 4
Overall Score: 3.36/5

Appearance: The bar is very attractive, with a mixed soy/nut/fruit conbination with a single layer of "yogurt" coating

Flavor: Tart and very heavily cranberry; this is most likely because there is not a pomegranate to be found in the ingredients label! Perhaps it is part of the elusive "natural flavoring?"

Texture: The texture was the biggest let down for me. By the appearance, one would expect a bar with exceptional crunch, but this organic balance creation simply does not deliver. The texture somewhat chewy, in limbo between granola and stale nuts.

Heat Stability: I value heat stability so much because I live in Texas and the bars I rely on must stand up to the heat when I leave them in my car. With intra-car temperatures of 100+ it's a tough wrapper to fill, but some bars do manage. Anything with a yogurt coating will get a poor score here! The yogurt coating are also typically high in fat, so a drip of that on your shirt and goodbye chic!

Cold Stability: I used to live in Buffalo, NY, so I also understand the value of a car that is edible when cold. Typically, granola-type bars are bite-able after only a few minutes of warming.

Nutrition: And why are we eating a little nugget of fruit, soy and nut organic goodness? Because it's a step above candy! Kudos to balance for limiting the suagr to 12g, limiting saturated fat to 2.5g, and including 5g of fiber. A point was docked for two reasons: 1) only 10g protein, which is 5g less than a typical bar at this Calorie level; and 1) for including inulin as a major source of fiber. Addition of inulin means that the primary ingredients were not really so high in fiber, so inulin was added to beef up the fiber number and add bulk without adding calories. There are reports that inulin may also make some people feel "swollen."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Super Easy High Protein Pudding--Only Three Ingredients!

High protein puddings are a tasty way to pack more protein into your meal plan but pre-packaged versions leave your wallet a little lean. This protein pudding requires no special equipment and all three ingredients can be found in most local grocery stores. Bon appetit!

1 package of dry fat-free, sugar-free pudding mix (chocolate or vanilla)
1 15-16 oz low-carb chocolate Ready to Drink Protein Shake*
3/4 cup no-sugar-added soy milk

1. Combine all in a bowl and blend with a whisk or hand-held mixer (smoother consistency)

Makes about three 1 cup servings

150 kcal; 20 protein; 3 fat; 10 carbohydrates

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Easy, Fast, and Delicious High Protein Breakfast-- Eggs on the Grill!

Though a daily morning omelet is delightful, neither the smoldering summer heat nor a busy schedule are conducive to preparing breakfast over a hot stove! This dish is designed to be a convenient, tasty and healthful breakfast option. Enjoy!

Gas Grill: preheat to medium-hot heat)
Round non-stick cake pan
Fitting lid or aluminum foil
Heavy duty oven mitts (silicone or fabric that can take the heat)

cooking spray
1 cup egg whites or egg beaters
3/4 cup left over grilled summer squash, onions and bell peppers
1/4 cup feta or Gorgonzola cheese, divided
2 sprigs basil (leaves pull off and torn into pieces
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat grill to medium or high (if you are cooking on a small grill)
2. Spray non-stick cake pan with cooking spray
3. Add egg whites or egg beaters to cake pan
4. Sprinkle veggies and 1/2 of the feta cheese (2 Tbsp; 15g) on top evenly
5. Cover and place on the grill where the pan will be exposed to even, and preferably indirect, heat
6. Take a quick shower (5-7 minutes; this time will vary based on the heat of your grill and cake pan size)
7. Go outside and pull your meal off the grill
8. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and 1/2 basil on one side of the cooked omelet; fold the omelet over
9. Transfer to a plate and top with the remaining basil; salt and pepper as desired.

Wow! Now you have breakfast that took 2 minutes of effort and kept your house cool!

260 kcal; 33 g protein; 9 g fat; 6 g sat fat; 11g carbs; 2 g fiber

Friday, May 30, 2008

High Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

18 oz 1% large curd cottage cheese, drained, rinsed, pat dry
1 lb (16 oz) fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 Tbsp carob (or cocoa) powder
3 large eggs
3/4 tsp pure stevia powder (or 1 "pitcher packet" of splenda; one cup sugar sweetness)
1 tsp pure vanilla or french vanilla extract
1 tsp chocolate extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup partially defatted peanut flour (12% fat)
2 oz premium chocolate (80% cocoa or more)

1. Combine all in a food processor.
2. Pour batter into silicone muffin tins
3. Cook at 350 F in a water bath, until center is solid, about 23 minutes (will vary based on oven)
4. Cool completely overnight in frig and scoop out individual "cheesecakes"

100 kcal; 2 g fat; 11g protein; 8.5g carbs

Replace PB flour with 1 container of vanilla pudding mix; serve with syrup made with 1/2 cup frozen raspberries microwaved on high for 30 or so...mmm mmm good!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

High Protein White Bean Feta Dip with Notes of Tarragon and Lemon

4 oz reduced-fat feta cheese
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese, strained
1 14 oz can white beans, rinsed
2 Tbsp sesame seeds toasted**
1 large sweet onion, roasted with salt and pepper, until well-browned and mostly dry

4 large garlic cloves, roasted
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tarragon springs, leaves only, cut into small pieces

1. To roast the onion, slice the onion thinly and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top as desired and place in the oven. Roast at 350F until dark golden brown, fairly dry, and slightly crispy on the outside—this will take 25-30 minutes! It is worth the wait!*

2. Chop off the nubby end of the garlic cloves and place on the cookie sheet with the onions. Leave the skins on.

3. To strain cottage cheese, place over cheese cloth in a strainer in the sink and allow the liquid to drip out as you are preparing other ingredients.

4. Rinse a can of white beans. If your stomach is sensitive to beans, you may want to boil them for 5 minutes or so; drain completely.

5. Toast sesame seeds on the stove top or in the oven on 350F until light golden brown. Babysit the seeds—they will burn!

6. Squeeze the excess liquid out of the cottage cheese. This does not have to be an extreme effort; it just shouldn’t be drippy

7. Combine the feta, cottage cheese, white beans, sesame seeds, onion, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor on high until mostly smooth.

8. Transfer the mixture to a container and cut just the leaves from the tarragon springs over the dip (please don’t cut the leaves individually—grab a whole bunch of the leaves and cut finely).

9. Stir the tarragon in and allow the mixture to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

10. Don’t want cracker calories? Me neither! Serve this tasty little number with sliced cucumbers, raw zucchini, or jicama.

If this recipe sounds like entirely too much work, you can: 1) Replace the onions with ¼ cup dried onion bits; 2) Replace roasted garlic with 1 tsp of jarred, chopped garlic 3) Replace the sesame seeds with 1 tsp dark sesame oil; 4) not drain the cottage cheese and add 1 Tbsp corn starch to the mixture. Please do not use bottled lemon juice. It’s just a bad scene. The modified version will not be as knock your socks off awesome, but it still going to be good!

Serves 8; serving is ½ cup or 1/8 of contents. So be sure, transfer the mixture some the food processor directly into a large measuring cup.

Nutritional Bits: 118 calories, 8.3g pro, 11.25g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 3.9g fat, 2g sat fat,

* If the onions are not sufficiently dry, you will end up with a soupy product. If your dip is soup add 1 Tbsp of corn starch, 2 Tbsp of flour, or 2 Tbsp oats

** To cut the fat in half and save 20 calories, omit the sesame seeds from the recipe

Thursday, April 10, 2008

All-Natural High Protein Chocolate Cream Pie Filling

Artificial sweeteners are a sources of controversy, since they are lab-created compounds with only a hundred years (saccharin) or a decade worth of history (like sucralose/splenda). Since I have an immense sweet tooth, and specific dietary specifications, I decided to write a few recipes that highlight "all natural" products.

What does natural mean?

Essentially, natural products are not made in a lab. For example, vanillin, the chemical that makes vanilla taste distinctive, can be extracted from a vanilla bean with a solvent (like alcohol). On the other hand, the vanillin compound itself can be created in a lab and dissolved in alcohol. They are both tasty products that add flavor to food, but the bean extract is a "natural" product and the lab-created version is "artificial."

Directly from the FDA:

Foods are natural "if they contain no artificial or synthetic ingredients, and if they are minimally processed"

By this definition, every artificial sweetener is a synthetic and unnatural product. Furthermore, a sugar source like honey is more natural than a sugar source like white granulated sugar because it is less processed.

Below is a recipe for high-protein chocolate cream pie filling (pudding filling); the recipe contians the natural non-nutritive sweetener Stevia to boost the sweetness of the finished product. Be sure that you use pure Stevia powder (link for illustration only; any brand of pure stevia will do); avoid the product with extra starch filler.


Combine in a food processor:

1 8 oz package fat-free cream cheese
1 12 oz container low-fat ricotta
½ cup no sugar added soy milk

4 scoops Elemental NutritionNatural Chocolate Whey Protein
1 Tbsp natural chocolate extract
2 Tbsp carob or cocoa powder
1 tsp pure stevia powder (or artificial sweetener, if you prefer)


1/5 recipe: 230 Calories; 5g fat; 3g sat fat; 14 g carbs; 1 g fiber; 29g pro

Serving Suggestions

1). Use as a healthy, high-protein alternative to pudding to pudding in Graham cracker chocolate pie

2). Allow to set as a pudding in a bowl

3). Freeze and enjoy 3-4 hours later as a high-protein frozen snack

4). Use as a layer to bolster health of birthday cake

5). Combine one serving with a banana and ice for a testy low-fat post-workout smoothie

6) Serve with a cup of strawberries, raspberries, or a sliced banana

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tropical Fruit Experience: An Exotic and Refreshing Fruit Salad

Helping athletes meet their workout needs is one of my favorite things to do. I used this recipe recently for a hands-on cooking class with Division I athletes.

Players who do hours of explosive activity need a good amount of carbs, preferably through natural sources. This fruit salad always gets rave reviews at potlicks, but the athletes, as well as coach's kids, love it too!

1 large papaya, diced
3 medium mangos, largely chopped
2 large bananas, sliced
½ cup large, flaked coconut
¼ cup of honey or 5-6 packets of artificial sweetener
½ tsp freshly ground cinnamon
1 tsp real vanilla extract

1.) Combine all ingredients in a medium-large bowl
2.) Stir until mixed

Nutrition (1/8 of recipe): 150 Calories, 35 g carbohydrates, 1.25 g protein, 2.25 g fat

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Friday, March 28, 2008

High-Protein Vegetarian Chili

This recipe comes together in not time at all, so it is perfect for busy and fit people.

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 10 oz package mushrooms, chopped
2 14 oz cans of chili-flavored diced tomatoes or 28 oz large salsa
½ 24 oz jar of low-fat spaghetti sauce
1 14 oz can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 14 oz can kidney beans, drained, rinsed
½ cup textured soy protein
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp chili paste of choice
Water as needed

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or large pot on med-high

2. Sauté onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms for 5-10 minutes.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients in the recipe and heat to a simmer.

4. Set heat on low and allow chili to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours.

5. Add water as needed.

Makes 6-8 servings

1/8 of recipe: 275 calories, 34 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 10 g fiber, 4.3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Get Beefy! High-Protein, Low-Fat Meat Options

Most sources of meat and poultry are protein-packed and healthy, as long as you prepare the cuts low in saturated fat and cholesterol! Generally speaking, meat and poultry should be prepared with 1) the skin removed; 2) all visible fat trimmed off; 3) the meat cooked at home; and 4) minimal added fat, particularly butter.
Restaurants slather meat, poultry and seafood in fat with the addition of butter, cheese, and cream sauce. Even if the meat ordered is a “lean” cut, and it’s described as “grilled,” the meal is still jam-packed full O’ saturated fat.
For instance, a “petite” 9oz filet from Outback has more fat than protein: 44g and 40 grams, respectively. This steak contains about 70% calories from fat and only 30% calories from protein. In contrast, a 9oz filet made on the home grill would provide 20g fat and 73g of protein, and fat would contribute a moderate 37% of total calories. 63% of calories from the home-cooked steak would be in the form of iron-rich, muscle-building protein. In essence, it’s okay to indulge in red meat, but please, enjoy responsibly by firing up your own grill—the fresh air will do you some good :-)
The table includes meats with five grams of fat or less per four ounce serving. Even if your general diet is not low in fat, limit fat from meat to lower your intake of unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol. Ensure that the name is exactly the as listed below. For example, a “sirloin tip” steak is not the same as a “top sirloin.”
(w/o skin)
Breast, thigh
Eye round ~ top round ~ bottom round ~ sirloin tip side ~ top sirloin ~ brisket flat half ~ 96% lean ground beef
Tenderloin ~ top loin ~ sirloin roast
(w/o skin)
Breast ~ 95% lean ground ~ thigh ~ drumstick
(Higher fat fish included for omega-3)
Lake trout ~ herring ~ sardines ~ albacore tuna ~ salmon.
Limit high mercury fish like swordfish, shark, mackerel king, and tilefish to one 3 oz serving per week
Leg shank half ~ loin
Sirloin ~ leg top round

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fajita Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Lime

A boneless, skinless 4 oz chicken thigh* only has only 110 Calories and 4 grams of fat, compared to 100 Calories and 1.5g of fat in a skinless breast*. The other ingredients in this recipe add a lot of extra flavor, but not a significant amount of calories, while the little extra fat in the thighs keeps the dish moist-- enjoy!

2 cloves pressed garlic
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
2 lbs chicken thighs, skinned, cut into bite-size pieces
¼ cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoons honey
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 lime wedges

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; stir in 2 tablespoons juice.
2. Stir spices into chopped chicken.
3. Heat large skillet on medium heat; spray with cooking spray
4. Place chicken in the skillet and cook until well browned on all sides; do not burn!
5. Combine 1 tablespoon juice, chicken broth, and vinegar; pour over the chicken.
6. Continue to cook until no longer soupy .
7. Remove chicken from heat and stir in cilantro; serve with lime wedges.
8. Add to tortilla for fajitas, if desired

*Assume chicken is measured raw; 8 total servings

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Built Beef and Lentil Stew: Bowl after Bowl of High-Protein Goodness


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound 96% lean ground beef
3 cups thinly sliced onions

1 teaspoon salt
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried powdered thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves

1 cup dry sherry
4 cups beef broth or stock
1 pound brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
3 peeled and sliced large carrots
4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped (stems removed)

2 springs fresh basil, leaves only, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste
1 cup thinly sliced green onions for garnish

1. Heat olive oil on medium in a heavy stock pot
2. Add onion and salt, stir until turn deep golden, about 7 minutes.
3. Add ground beef and brown well
4. Add garlic, spices and herbs, and cook, stirring, until fragrant.
5. Pour in sherry and stir until nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
6. Stir in beef stock and boil.
7. Add lentils and the sliced/chopped vegetables. If needed, add more water to cover the lentils.
8. Cook the stew for about 1 to 1.5 hours until the lentils are very soft.
9. Remove bay leaves
10. Season to taste with salt, pepper, basil, and lemon juice
11. Top with green onions.
12. Enjoy; be built!

Serves 10

Nutrition: 260 Calories, 22 g protein, 33 g carbs, 12g fiber, 4 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 6mg iron (40% RDA); also high in many other vitamins and minerals!

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guilt-Free Mock Mocha

I remember in college when I ordered a Starbucks Grande (20 oz) White Chocolate Mocha drinks made with whole milk on a daily basis-- that indulgence has a nutrient profile that looks like this:

557 Calories, 20 g fat, 13 g sat fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 77g carbs (73 g sugar), 18 g protein

Guzzle this sugar-laden java and you've exceeded half of your saturated fat allotment for the day... and that's without whipped cream! I needed a mocha-like alternative that was in harmony with my healthy eating lifestyle, so I came up with this:

Guilt-Free Mock Mocha
1 Packet Diet Hot Cocoa (I use Swiss Miss, 25 Calories)

1/2 cup No Sugar Added Vanilla Soy Milk (I like Westsoy (not refrigerated) or Silk)

1 cup very strong coffee

2 packets Splenda 2 packets Sweet N' Low

3 Drops Vanilla Extract

The modified version is only 75 Calories, 2 g fat, 9 g carbs, 5.5 g protein, and even has 2 g fiber!

I also carry diet hot cocoa packets in my purse in case I go out to get coffee. That way, I'm equipped to doctor java on the go.

Here are some suggestions:

Order a Tall Americano with lots of room, add your cocoa packet, 1/2 cup 2% milk and a variety of artificial sweeteners to your heart's content; also use a little of the extra chocolate shaker.

85 Calories, 6 g protein, 1 g fiber, 7 g carbs, 2.5 g fat

Alternatively, order latte made with non-fat milk and add your cocoa packet and sweeteners as suggested above.

150 kcal, 12 g protein, 1 g fiber, 22 g carbs, 0 g fat

Mmm, mmm good

I suggested both the Splenda (yellow packet) and Sweet N' Low (pink packet) because combining artificial sweeteners tends to have a synergistic effect, specifically sweeter and less bitter, e.g. more like the real deal.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Muscle Inferno: How many Calories is your lean mass actually burning?

If your answer is 30-50 extra Calories per pound of added muscle, you are ... dead wrong! This muscle myth is a wide-spread and detrimental piece of misinformation; extra muscle mass will improve health, improve functional strength, and make you sizzle, but the amount of muscle gained through resistance training in the short term will not send the metabolism soaring.
A top notch article (1: Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Dec;18(6):1009-29) reviewed the impact of various kinds of exercise on weight loss and metabolism, which was compiled for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). To write this kind of paper, the authors searched extensively for the relevant scientific research about a topic and then combine all the results statistically to draw a conclusion.

The article states that 1 kg of muscle mass burns an additional 25-50 calories; the high estimate would tranlate to an additional 11.4 Calories per pound of lean muscle mass added. Consequently, this value is very similar to a value of 13 Calories/pound that I determined by statistically analyzing the data from my lab at Baylor University. The most conservative estimate predicts that an extra pound of muscle burns only about 7 Calories/pound.

A value of 30-50 kcal/lb of lean muscle is unrealistic and untrue, though it is published a lot in popular media. Numbers this high do not make practical sense. For instance, suppose a typical male bobybuilder has 100 lbs of muscle mass (not including the bone, organs and other components of fat-free mass), the mythical numbers would suggest that his muscle alone is burning between 3000-5000 Calories a day. On top of that, organs burn far more Calories per pound than muscle, so based on popular dogma, the man above maybe about 6000 Calories/day. I've measure the metabolism of countless athetic men, and roughly 3000 total Calories per day would be high for an athletic man of this size.

When high values are provided in articles, they are not supported by scientific literature; however, articles that reference research always suggest lower number, which generally range between 5-15 Calories per pound of muscle. Another good article that addresses this topic is below:

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Roasted Veggies- Apsaragus Like You've Never Seen it Before!

Roasted Asparagus and Fennel

Roasted Vegetables:
1 Fresh Fennel Bulb cored and thinly sliced
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 pound asparagus, stemmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Cooking Spray

For Dressing:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp minced or pressed garlic
1/4 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp (sea) salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Top with:
¼ cup Feta cheese crumbles
12 Kalamata olives, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. With cooking spray, lightly oil a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil.

2. Place the fennel, onions, and asparagus on the baking pan in a SINGLE LAYER, spray generously with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.

3. Roast uncovered for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 7 minutes or so. The vegetables should be still be a bit crisp and the asparagus should still be bright green.

4. While the vegetables roast, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and set aside.

5. Combine in a bowl and toss roasted vegetables and dressing, add toppings. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

117calories, 6.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 3.5g protein, 13g carbs, 4g fiber, 1133 IU Vit A, 22mg Vit C, 1.5mg Vit E

Fennel is a large celery-like mildly licorice-tasting vegetable bulb. It's also good fresh in salads. In the store, it will probably be in its whole form, with the large bulb on the bottom, some stalks sticking out of it, and fronds on the top. The bulb is the most edible part-- you can chop it up up and eat all of it roasted or fresh. The stalks are pretty tough and most people throw those out (or add them to a stock pot). The fronds (the green herby part), if they are still in good shape, can be chopped up and sprinkled on the top of the roasted veggies after the dressing is added.

Asparagus should be stored upright and in water. If you see it in the grocery store any other way, do NOT buy it-- several of the bottom will be too dry and tough to eat! Stemming the asparagus means taking off the hard, more lightly colored bottom end.

Roasted vegetables must be placed on a pan or cookie sheet in a single layer, with a little room to be spread apart from one another. If the veggies heaped in a pile, they will be steamed and have dull flavor. Roasting, which is a dry heat method, is an especially tasty way to generate flavor in vegetables without adding piles of fat and calories (this means YOU cheese sauce lovers)!

If you want to lighten the dish a little more, I would suggest scrapping olive oil, reducing the lemon juice by 1 Tbsp, and adding a Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Additionally, reduced-fat feta may be used in place of the regular feta. Fat-free feta "cheese" is just nasty-- you'd be better off plain. Alternatively, the feta can be replaced with two tablespoons of romano or a few chunks of babybel light garlic herb cheese :-)

Roasted red bell peppers or mushrooms are a great addition to this recipes as well!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wheat Worries? Sick from Celiac and Giving up Gluten

Hi Jean,

I wanted to ask you if you had any experience with the “making” of food. I know that you are a nutritionist and are in a PhD program, but have you ever made specific food before?

I’m inquiring because I’m looking into “wheat and gluten free” products. My mother and sister cannot eat wheat, they have celiac disease, and are on a wheat free diet. They are doing fine, and there are a number of products available for them to eat.

I think that the whole “wheat free” diet could be a fast catching and healthy fad. It seems to me that it eliminates most carbs. Not sure where “wheat” stands on the healthy scale, or what the real health value of the food that they replace it with(rice based, gluten free products) is. But I wanted to ask if you knew anything about this.

I actually worked as a healthy cooking instructor for a little over a year while I lived in Buffalo, NY. Though I didn't have a lot of cooking experience when I started, the cooking school was required to have an RD (registered dietitian) to teach their general health and fitness cooking class. Since the manager already knew me, I got the job, though I floundered a lot in the beginning. Let me just say, it's hard to cook four-five courses for 30 people in two hours! In any case, I'm certainly not a chef, but I do develop recipes that fit clear nutritional considerations-- my recipes are generally low-processed, high-protein, low-fat, and rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals.

Celiac disease (CD) is a autoimmune condition (the mounts and inflammatory response against itself); the disease may be "triggered" by stressful or traumatic event, including surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, or severe infections. A person dealing with CD has a body responds very badly to the gluten protein found in wheat and some other grains, specifically: rye barley, and oats (to some extent). Gluten is created in foods when two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, are processed together to make the gluten product. For example, when kneading homemade bread-the gluten forms gives the dough elasticity and allows the bread to rise and hold a shape. Thus, it is very hard to produce gluten-free breads, because it is difficult to find a good substitute with the same shape-holding ability of gluten. Furthermore, CD is distinct from a gluten allergy.

A food allergy generally results when a whole food protein or peptide is absorbed and the body mounts a immune response to protein, which the body see as an "invader." The body's response to the food is a lot more damaging the the actual food protein, but that's how allergies work! Celiac disease, on the other hand, just completely screws up the small intestine and makes it nearly impossible for the person with CD to absorb nutrients, vitamins, or minerals. CD individuals also experience, bloating and other stomach problems, unexplained rashes, loss of energy, joint pain or may have no symptoms at all. If a CD patient continues to eat wheat, and other gluten containing foods, he or she will be at increased risk of malnutrition and other diseases over time.

For people who do not have a wheat allergy, gluten allergy, or Celiac disease, wheat is NOT unhealthy. I think the primary problem with wheat is that is such a dominant grain in our diet that dietary "variety" for many is defined as: wheat bagel for breakfast, wheat crackers for a snack, whole wheat bread at lunch, and whole wheat pasta at dinner-- catch my drift? It's all wheat and your body is continually exposed to the same irritant over and over if you have an intolerance!

There are many other good sources of carbohydrates in the Americans diet that are wheat-free for instance: rice, corn, all fruits, starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes), and legumes (including lentils and beans). Carbohydrates are a NEEDED part of the diet and should not be considered unhealthy, especially by athletes. My own carbohydrate intake ranges typically from 40-50% of my total calorie intake and my body fat has not been above 17.5% on the DXA in the last three years, this is despite an "off-season" where I do limited cardio and eat a lot more overall calories. Carbs are not bad. The wrong carbs (added sugars, corn/rice syrups, white flour, including rice flour!), over-representation of wheat in the general diet, and high intake of highly processed foods are unhealthy.

There are many gluten-free processed products out there. Except for the case of CD, I would not consider gluten-free processed products inherently healthier than regular highly-processed wheat products. On the other hand, an individual can make a healthy and varied gluten-free diet by focusing on whole foods. In fact, eating too many processed products that claim to be gluten-free may place individuals who have the problem at greater risk, since many factories may manufacture both kind of products, which presents a risk of cross-contamination!

If someone wanted to make a fad out of wheat/gluten-free, I think it's possible; however, it already been a fad for years in the bodybuilding world and in some health circles. It would also be unethical to manipulative advertising to convince the general population that they should be on a gluten-free diet. About 1% of the American population has CD; however, the number of people currently diagnosed with CD about 0.25%; so, for every person found to have CD, there are 3 to 10 more who are ignorantly living with the disease, symptoms, and chronic health risks. Personally, I would love to see population-wide Celiac testing-- a number of serious genetic condition are tested for at birth in the US, which have much lower prevalence (though more immediate detrimental effects). Though CD cannot be tested for until the age of two, the implications are serious and the incidence, 1 in 100, is high enough that early screening could improve the health of Americans and reduce long-term health care costs resulting from CD-associated chronic diseases.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Protein-Packed Peanut Flour Please!

Hi Jean,

Where can you get defatted peanut flour in 10 to 20lb bags? I found in commericial 50lb bags but not in reasonable quantities.


I love defatted peanut flour and have searched for it extensively online. Typically, it is sold for commericial purposes, and it is used in most of your favorite peanut-flavored protein bars. Typically, it is sold as a 12% or 28% fat content and light, medium, or dark roasts. The darker the roast, the more peanutastic.

The nutrition for the 28% fat version per 1/4 cup (22g) is: 120 kcal, 6g fat, 9g protein, and 6g carbs. Per 1/4 cup, the 12% defatted peanut flour has: 100 kcal, 12g protein, 3g fat, and 9g carbs. About half of the carbs from both versions are fiber. Though the nutritional profile of the 12% flour is better, the pruduct has substantially less peanut flavor than the higher fat version. Generally speaking, defatted peanut flour is a great addition to or substitution in shakes, pancakes, baked goods. It can also be processed with cottage cheese and Splenda to make a very high protein "PB Pudding!"

Though I've never found it in 10-20 lb bags, you can get it in a 1 lb or 5lb (little over 2 kg) portion from:

This site has peanut flour in a variety of roasts and fat%. The site offers a light roast, which is very mildly flavored--the 12% fat light roast doesn't have much peanut flavor at all, but can be used to boost the prtoein content of recipes. Byrdmill also sells a medium roast, which is a little more robustly peanuty. Though the site claims it's dark roast, it's not nearly as dark as the Spices, Etc. version below.
Alternatively, Spices, Etc. sells a 1 gallon portion, which is about 3.75 lb (1.7 kg):

The Spices, Etc. flour is a 28% fat very dark roast. The super dark roast is highly flavored, but also seems a little like burned nut flavor, which can turn a lot of people off. I like the extra dark roast when the flour is going to be combined with other ingredients and diluted a lot (like in shakes and Asian-inspired sauces). For a low-fat peanut sauce, try combining 2 Tbsp of Newman's own Sesame Ginger Dressing with 1 Tbsp of dark roast peanut flour-- the flour adds a little more than a gram of fat and loads of peanut flavor. The dark roast is also very good for making low-fat, high-protein African-inspired tomato/groundnut soups.

Personally, I like the highly dark roast for recipes because the overoasting doesn't bother me; however, if you're the kind of person who prefers mildly flavored coffee, you probably won't like the dark roast flavor. Alternatively, the medium roast 28% fat is also good in a variety of application and doesn't have a hint of burned taste.

The following website also offers defatted peanut flours, though I have never ordered from this site personally:

Also to add some intensity to peanut-flavored dishes, without the extra calories, you may want to add artificial peanut flavoring, which can be found:

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

High Protein Taco Dip

Since this dip is made with light ingredients, it is a healthy alternative to nacho cheese dip!

4 oz (1/2 package) of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 8 oz package of fat-free cream cheese
1 14 oz can refried beans
1 24 oz jar salsa (any brand, heat level)
4 oz (about 1 cup) shredded 2% cheddar or Mexican cheese blend

Pre-heat oven to 350o

1. Blend together with a wooden or hard plastic spoon in a bowl the cream cheese and spread evenly on the bottom of a 9” by 13" pan

2. Smooth the refried beans in the bowl used for the cream cheese and spread evenly over the cream cheese

3. Pour the salsa evenly over the refried beans

4. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top of the salsa

5. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 F until the top is slightly browned and bubbly

6. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving

For added zip, try stirring red pepper flakes or jalapeños in with the cream cheese.

Healthy alternatives to tortilla chips include sliced fresh zucchini, cucumbers, celery, or toasted whole wheat tortillas.

Serves 12


120 Calories, 8 g protein, 4.5 g fat, 12g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 700 mg sodium 115mg calcium

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Cutting Cardio: Shaving Off the Last Few Pounds of Fat

hey jean,
you know more about this than anyone i know, so maybe you can help me...
my bodyfat has been lingering around 9-11% for over a year now and i can't seem to drop it!

i've recently dropped my calories down to around 2600-2800 a day (about 15 kcals per pound of lean body mass). after a month i dont seem to losing i need to diet even more aggressively? i lift 4 times a week but only do cardio now and then.

do you know any good nutritional formulas that may help me?


Though a body fat of 9-11% is perfectly fine and healthy, I understand the drive to get it lower! In any case, the last thing I would do at this point is drop the Calorie level of the diet more. Over-restriction of energy results in metabolic decrease of about 10-15%, in my experience. If your aim is to reduce body fat, and your cardio is non-existent, the next step is to implement just a little interval cadrio work.

Maintaining a body fat of 10% without cardio is difficult. With sustained attention to diet, adding three to four intense 25-minute interval cardio sessions per week will result in a significant fat drop. Both the hill and regular interval workouts on the elliptical, treadmill or stairmill are good choices.

I am not suggesting long, slow "fat-burn" cardio session because 1) They are boring and time-consuming; and more importantly 2) they promote the development of Type 1 muscle fibers. When type 1 fibers are stimulated, the fibers become smaller and more efficient at using energy, meaning that more of the familiar repetitive motion can be done with less energy/food intake. Over time, you will promote a physique of smaller muscle that burn fewer calories to complete a long, slow cardio session. This adaptation is beneficial if you are an ultra-endurance runner, but completely counter-productive if you are hoping to be large and lean!

The interval portion should be between 30 seconds and two minutes (vary it) and the intensity should be very high (85-100%) during the interval portion and total recovery when you are sprinting. This approach promotes the development of explosive type 2X muscle fibers (promote the lean muscular look of sprinters) and results in an "after-burn" effect once the cardio session has finished. This effect causes an increase in metabolism that takes place when someone is not actively crankin' away in the gym.

This painstaking, but effective, method should allow a cardio-a-phobe to drop a few more BF% points within two to three months.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sleep Yourself Slim: The Impact of Sleep Loss on Hormones, Appetite, and Weight

Hi Jean,

You mentioned even sleep being an important factor in Christa's regimen. Any articles you can link to explain the benefits or even consequences of its deficiency (I'm legend for sleeping only when dead tired). Thanks in advance JJ!


I hate sleep; I’m always eager to pop out of bed and start. Start anything: writing, making omelets, whatever. Though, sometimes, I wake up on a Saturday, get excited about wakefulness, and realize that it’s only 5:30am. I feel good enough to wake up and get going. But with only 6 hours of sleep, I convince myself to close my eyes, and think about anything relaxing that is not sleep. Then I usually wake up a couple of hours later. After 7.7 hours of sleep, I am really ready to start my day. But why all the fuss about sleep?

It’s important!

First, there is conclusive research that constant, inadequate sleep puts you at risk of obesity and diabetes. Specifically, sleep loss messes with 1) how your body uses glucose (sugar/carbs) and secretes insulin 2) increases appetite; and 3) decreases energy burned during a 24 hour period.

Don’t Mess with Insulin

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is a problem that starts to rear its ugly head in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes. Despite the fact that the body (pancreas) is still making and releasing insulin, a person still cannot get rid of the sugar in her blood fast enough. This lingering sugar is very harmful to blood vessels, nerves, and eyes; it's also bad for the kidneys, since extra sugar is eliminated through the urine. As a result, your body has to make more and more insulin to get the glucose (sugar) out of your blood and into fat (usually) or muscle cells. Eventually, your pancreas says

“Screw it, I work hard to clean up the blood and my insulin doesn’t work anymore.”

In the advanced stages of diabetes, when your pancreas gives up, you have to start injecting insulin to use clean up carbs.

Listen up college students, shift-workers, and parents of small children, MANY studies show that a couple days of less than 4 hours of sleep per night causes insulin resistance (1). In essence, your body starts acting more like a diabetic’s body, and your pancreas has to work too hard. As a result, many researchers think that chronic loss of sleep may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome (which are both also linked to obesity and overweight).

Increased Desire to Eat High Carbohydrate Foods

In conjunction with insulin resistance, sleep loss also induces cravings for high-carbohydrate foods (1,2). As such, the problem detailed above is made worse because the pancreas has to secrete even more insulin to take care the gummy bear binge.

Increased Cortisol

Sleep deprivation also increases the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with obesity, high blood sugar, and lowered immunity (disease-fighting ability). Furthermore, cortisol acts as a stimulus to BREAK DOWN MUSCLE, in order to raise the blood sugar.

The result of 2-3 restless nights is 1) greater intake of high-carb foods; 2) increased cortisol levels, which results in muscle destruction; and 3) a large spike in insulin to cope with excess blood sugar and insulin resistance. These hormonal imbalances, when you are feeling lethargic and snacky, can lead to significant weight gain.

I Can’t Eat Enough

Cortisol and insulin aren't the only hormones affected by poor sleep. A number of hormones that directly influence appetite are also manipulated.

Lower Leptin

Scientists used to think that fat was an inert place to store extra energy. Now researchers recognize fat tissue as a powerful hormone-releasing organ that influences diet and activity behaviors. Leptin is a hormone secreted from the fat tissue itself. The more fat you have (extra energy in your body) the more leptin is secreted, generally. Leptin is a hormone that tells your body:

“You’re too fat, stop eating and burn more energy (Calories)”

As a result, appetite diminishes and the body naturally burns more calories, mostly through non-exercise activities (1,2).

But if a person doesn't get enough sleep, leptin levels decrease. Low leptin levels tell the body that energy levels are low. As a result, appetite increases!

Increased Ghrelin

It is easy to think of ghrelin as a hormone that is exactly the opposite of leptin. Increased ghrelin tells your body:

“You are not getting enough energy; eat more and move less!”

As a result, you eat more and move less! As little as 2-3 days of sleep deprivation (4 hours per night) is sever enough to significantly increase the ghrelin in your blood. Combined, the ghrelin and leptin changes after a couple of days of crappy sleep is enough to make you overeat, no question. Research strongly supports this conclusion (1,2,3)!

Increased Time to Eat

Let’s say you’re the kind of person who likes to eat every 2-3 hours. And let’s also assume you’re sleep deprived. Your body is giving you signals that you don’t have enough energy and you are craving high-carb junk food. A sleep loss of 3-4 hours hours would translate into at least one extra meal of poor-quality food, combined with little motivation to move and burn off the extra Calories. In addition, both population and lab-based studies (3) show that people actually eat more, on average, the less they sleep!

Don’t Ask Me to Move; I’m Tired!

Low Leptin; Decreased Energy Expenditure

Low leptin and high ghrelin levels are shown to reduce Non-Exercise-Activity-Thermogenesis (NEAT) HUH? Well, NEAT is basically any movement you do that is not planned exercise. Most of the daily Calorie-burn is used to keep the body tickin'; NEAT is second and exercise is third. So if NEAT activities subside significantly, the result can be more detrimental than skipping the gym! For instance, when you are tired at 3:00pm, do you feel like playing with your little niece or getting up to go talk to a co-worker? It’s unlikely, and you’ve just given up some NEAT calorie-burn!

Lower Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

TSH is the hormone that stimulates, well, your thyroid, which then releases the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. These hormones are STRONGLY related to your metabolism. Sleep deprivation causes a lowering of TSH. In short, the thyroid gland will not be stimulated as much; T3 and T4 will not be fully made/released. Do not pass go; do not drop 20 lbs! Capisci?

Faster Metabolism in Second Half of Sleep

Ghrelin levels lower in the second half of sleep-night (2). Remember that lower ghrelin means less appetite and more movement! If you wake up too early, this ghrelin drop will not happen and you may wake up hungrier than you should be, in addition to all the other obesigenic fun already described. Furthermore, REM (dream) sleep is greater during the second half of the night. REM sleep is very important for a number of other reasons (long-term memory, etc), but you also burn more calories during REM that during the deeper sleep that predominated the earlier sleep cycles. So pass the 800 TC sheets and silence the cell phone!

Obesity Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a chronic sleep-disturbing condition where an afflicted person actually stops breathing repeatedly throughout the night. This condition is highly detrimental for a variety of reasons and really screws with all the hormones mentioned above. Obesity very strongly correlates with sleep apnea, which results in a positive feedback loop in the person with sleep apnea. For instance, a woman gains a lot of weight, is diagnosed with sleep apnea and never has quality sleep; her hormones go wild, and she becomes even more obese. Folks, this is just one more reason to eat your veggies!

Baby Fat

A really interesting study done by Gunderson et al (4) also shows that women who sleep less after giving birth (less than 5 hours a day as opposed to 7 or more hours) are more than twice as likely to retain an extra 13 pounds one year after giving birth! The women (over half of a large sample) who managed to collect at least 7 hours throughout the day and night were more likely to return to their pre-baby weights within a year.

Sleep All Day?

Interestingly enough, too much sleep is also associated with obesity and other chronic diseases (1)! So what’s perfect? It really depends. Everyone is different and some lucky people (though VERY few) only need 5-6 hours/night to be fully functional. For the rest of us, one study showed the lowest risk of disease and obesity at 7.7 hours/night (3). That means if you set aside 8 hours and count sheep, then you should be good to go!


1. Knuston et al. The metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Sleep Medicine Review. 2007;11:163-78.

2. Tahen et al. Short Sleep Duration is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. Plos Medicine. 2004;1:e62.

3. Spiegel et al. Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2005;99:2008-19.

4. Gunderson et al. Association of Few Hours of Sleep at 6 Months Postpartum with Substantial Weight Retention at 1 Year Postpartum. American Journal of Edidemiology. 2007; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwm298

Friday, January 25, 2008

Eat Out; Loose Weight? A Week of Meal Plans for the Time-Pressed and Frequent Diner

Ideally, food is made in the kitchen from an assortment of freshly chopped vegetables, trimmed lean meats, and grains that take an hour to soften. Unfortunately, few people have the time or desire to compulsively pack six daily meals into little labeled containers--hello reality!
So, in response to emails from individuals who spend a lot of time traveling on the job, taking care of kids, or simply don't enjoy cooking, I've developed a week of meal plans that emphasize portion control and allow you to make the best choices when dining out!
The meal plan are set up at about 1800 Calories; this energy level may be appropriate for a sedentary man or a moderately active woman. If you are a sedentary woman, I would, in addition to starting a walking program, cut the portions of the two snacks in half or omit the afternoon snack. Also, you ask for an extra portion of veggies instead of the rice side dish that accompanies some of the dinner meals. The meal plans are designed to include all portable foods or foods that you may purchase outside of the home and eat immediately.
Although fast food has a terrible reputation, which is well-deserved in many cases, certain chains have made an effort to provide healthy options. Notably, McDonald's with their varieties of salad and Applebees and their Weight Watchers menu. The menu options emphasize reasonable portions and are high in fruits and vegetables!

Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Resolve To Reach Resolutions: Healthy Eating and Exercise for the Long Haul

The following is an interview I did for Jimmy on his Livin La Vida Low-Carb Blog

Think back in your life to a time when you were not in the most ideal situation for living healthy. That time could be RIGHT NOW for many of you, but for Jean Jitomir that was in her childhood when circumstances out of her control put her in a position that would later motivate her to do something meaningful not just in her own life, but in the lives of others.Today, I want to share Jean's story with you because hers is one of transformation and rising up to new challenges in the face of certain failure. None of the past really matters to her now because she knows she is light years away from where she used to be thanks to her own hard work ethic and undying spirit to excel at everything she does.

As you can see from those before and after photos at the top of this post, Jean has changed her life and health through her diet and regular resistance training routine. Since I am new to weight lifting and in the midst of making this a regular part of my healthy lifestyle, I decided to interview Jean Jitomir from the "Built Nutrition" blog to learn more about how she incorporated bodybuilding into her life and to dispel some of the myths about women lifting weights. You won't agree with everything she says (especially regarding diet), but it's hard to ignore the final results. ENJOY!

1. I'm pleased to welcome to the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog today a woman who knows what she's talking about when it comes to getting into shape. Not only can she talk about it, but she LIVES it herself. I'm describing for you registered dietitian, exercise nutrition doctoral candidate, and national light weight bodybuilding competitor Jean Jitomir. As you can see from her pictures at the top of this blog post, she has sculpted and built her body into one bad mamma jamma! Welcome Jean! Lifting weights has traditionally been a "man" thing, but you have proven that stereotype is just not true. What got you interested in resistance training to begin with? Were you ever worried about "bulking up" too much and losing your femininity?

First of all, thanks a lot for the warm welcome and opportunity to do this interview! The very first experience I had with weight lifting was with my dad's 25-pound dumbbells as a 15 year old. I could do military presses, which is for shoulders. I had some really jacked shoulders, for a girl of 15 anyway. I lifted a little once I got into track in high school when the team converted my math teacher/coach's classroom to a weight room. The weights were concealed by upright gym mats during class time. When it was time for practice, the desks got pushed aside and we'd bench our little hearts out.The serious lifting and working out began in my sophomore year of college, however.I have never been concerned about losing my femininity because I simply don't take physique-enhancing drugs! Read my Times New Roman "you will not get big and freaky from lifting the heaviest weights you possibly can!" Rinse. Repeat.

Women who look unnaturally muscular are doing something illegal to get that way. There is absolutely nothing you can do to look like that otherwise, trust me, I have only gained about one pound of real muscle mass in a good year; its gets less every year (I'm pretty close to maxing out my genetic capabilities). I'm a woman who is trying to gain as much muscle as possible and I'm still 30 pounds lighter than I was as the overweight version of myself.Sometimes people think I look big and muscular in pictures, but are shocked to meet someone who is 5'2" and a size 0. Getting lean is a wonderful illusion that makes you look "bigger"; this applies to both men and women.

2. You came from a very modest upbringing where the household income for five people was just $20,000 annually. And yet I found it very interesting to hear your perspective on what those limited resources meant regarding your family's diet. The typical poor American household nowadays would use their financial status as an excuse for stocking up on cheap high-carb, sugary junk foods (what you like to call "craptacular" food) and yet that wasn't what you and your family feasted on. Instead, you ate what you describe as "a hearty chunk o' meat" with spring water. In essence, you were consuming a zero-carb diet for survival. What do you say to those people who use the excuse that their lack of money forces them to buy unhealthy foods? Share how people can avoid the high-carb crap and make better choices even with only modest means.

I think there is a distinction to be made between living off the land and home-raised livestock as a member of the rural-poor and the experience of living in America as an suburban or urban poor person. We also had carbs in our diet in the form of vegetables, milk, and rice, usually. It's just that the focus of most of our meals was certainly a chunk of organic, free-range, grass-fed beef—-an item that is quite pricey in any supermarket!That said, eating healthfully is possible on a budget; it just requires planning. For instance, there are a number of very inexpensive protein sources. For example, frozen non-breaded chicken tenders, eggs, beans (from dry or canned!), frozen edamame, tofu, ground turkey, milk, cottage cheese, and powdered whey or soy protein.

One of my favorite, under-known protein products is Fearn Soya Granules. These defatted bits of goodness all almost pure protein and fiber and ring in at about $2-3 for a large container! They are high in antioxidants and can be cooked like hot cereal or added to boost the protein content of a bean chili or, to some extent, a baked product. Soya granules can be found in many health food stores and online.

Another fun high-protein, high-fiber ingredient is partially de-fatted peanut flour. Many manufacturers add these to bars to get a super-peanuty flavor. You can buy this flour online and make low-fat peanut-flavored shakes that are off the charts!

Furthermore, many vegetables and fruits are cheap year round including bagged spinach, other dark green (mustard, collard, kale), broccoli, green peppers, carrots, zucchini, and apples. Furthermore, purchasing local foods in season at the farmer's market may help to cut costs. When all else fails, frozen vegetables are very high in nutrition (sometimes even better than fresh) because they are frozen at their peak ripeness and preserved. Frozen vegetables taste great and are usually substantially cheaper than fresh, not to mention convenient!

The best sources of grains are the uncracked, unprocessed kernels and there is really nothing cheaper! Some, like quinoa and bulgur, have moderate amounts of protein and cook within 15-20 minutes!

3. Just like you, I had to endure the pain of divorce as a child. It's a very confusing time in the life of a child because you feel like your entire world is collapsing all around you and it's YOUR fault. This stress can lead to some erratic behavior which can change an otherwise good kid into one who's looking for trouble. How were you able to overcome this inevitability and get back on the path you are traveling down today?

I think I had two good parents who were acting VERY stupidly and selfishly due to their own stress. Despite that, they were both showed love in their own ways; this is what ultimately saves anyone. Also, the influence of dedicated mentors and teachers cannot be overlooked! If it were not for my school nurse, who listened to endless hours of frustration, and my coach/teacher who made me work to meet his clear and reasonable expectations, I don't know where I would be today. The credit for my current and future success is owed, in part, to selfless individuals who supported me during the worst time of my life.

4. Tell us about your experience when you were subjected to a series of physical tests as a freshman in high school and you performed horribly. Was that what lit a fire within you perhaps for the first time to get your body into shape? What role did you mother play in motivating and inspiring you in this newfound journey to better health and fitness?

I think most of us can remember the dreaded timed-mile! In NY state, as in most other placed in the country, throughout elementary, middle, and high school students are required to perform yearly tests of the mile, pull-ups, and body fat. I performed terribly on these tests every year and was always embarrassed to cross the finish line last in the mile, not be able to do half a pull-up, and be told by my gym teacher that I was over-fat in front of everyone (those are the teachers I could have lived without! ;) As an overweight freshman in high school, my math teacher described how he would start a "cross-country" team, a sport where you would run 2 miles a day, minimum! I informed him that he was "crazy" to believe anyone would sign up for that.

During that year, I literally could not catch a couple of kids I was babysitting as they ran up the road and I knew I had to do something to be in better shape. I started "running," which consisted of about 50 feet of jogging to a "goal." Right before I reached that mini-goal, I would add another, until I really needed to take a walking break. The following Fall, I went out for cross-country and did the 5K (about 3.1 miles) in roughly 30 minutes on average; the next year I brought my time down to about 23-34 minutes. I was never a stellar runner, but I lost about 15-20 pounds and became fit and healthy!

5. Recalling my own undergraduate college experience at the University of Tennessee, it was extremely difficult to eat healthy in between two full-time jobs and a full load of classes each semester. The stress of all that as well as the added pressures that most people go through during that time in their lives caused my weight to suffer. You can certainly relate to this from your first year at Cornell University. You went through some trying circumstances that caused you to put on 30 pounds and fall into a deep pit of depression. What happened during that summer that followed to get your mind and body back in sync again? Why did you decide to ultimately change your major to nutrition and dietetics?

After a very bad second semester at college, I returned home to find myself unhappy and 30 pounds heavier—-I brought up the curve on the Freshman 15! I ran into one of my high school friends who got even more athletic in college; I started going to the gym with her—-it's so useful to have a partner in fitness! I also became a girl scout camp counselor, which involves a lot of chasing after 10 year olds. I lost about 20 pounds that summer and maintained that loss throughout college.

I started as a plant science major in undergrad, which didn't thrill me because, hey, plants don't do much. I had already taken a whole bunch of chemistry, biology, and math--I didn't want to start from scratch in a new major. I chose Nutritional Sciences initially because I thought it was interesting enough and I could graduate on time. The department required me to pursue dietetics because they wanted me to prove myself in the more rigorous track than general nutrition. I got high grades in dietetics and finished the degree on time.

My mother has always been a huge source of motivation and inspiration for me. She grew up fatherless, exceedingly poor, and dropped out of high school to give birth to my older sister. Two divorces later, she was on welfare with three kids. However, she went on to finish community college at the top of her program and was accepted to Cornell University to finish her bachelor's. After that, she attended Cornell Law School. She went from being a high school drop-out to an Ivy League lawyer in less than 10 years. She demonstrated that even if society looks down on you, anything is possible when you are sharp, motivated, and believe in yourself!

6. You never expected to actually compete in bodybuilding, but it sorta fell in your lap. You bought a book by Arnold Schwarzenegger to help you learn how to begin lifting weights and you grew to love it. How did you get past the initial soreness that I'm just now discovering happens when you begin a resistance training regimen? How long was it before you saw the results you were looking for? What was it like competing against other women in a bench press competition for the first time?

Soreness will recede as you become a more experienced lifter. That sensation goes away, for the most part, after several months! Also, soreness is not an indicator of "how good you hit your muscles"--research does not support this notion, though you probably will experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) within 24-48 hours after your workouts when starting a weight-lifting program. Slowly work through it, be consistent, and I promise it will get better!

I still haven't seen the results I'm looking for—-that's just how it goes. I just strive to be better all the time. If you become content with where you are, then you stop working hard. I don't want that. Though I will say, it took about 3-4 years of consistent lifting before I looked visibly more muscular than an average woman, so it's a long process to gain muscle mass naturally.

Furthermore, most women simply don't have the genetics to gain a whole lot of muscle mass—-I am certainly born with a decent amount of potential, which I have realized through consistent, hard work! That said, resistance and cardiovascular training are both important to fitness and anyone will improve and be closer to his or her potential through the same efforts; the end result will be different for different individuals, however. I was so scared to do my first bench-press competition! My heart was racing and I was afraid to weigh-in and nervous about missing my lifts. I still was able to win that small contest and many other, though I'm still nervous every time!

7. Obviously, your early success in those competitions gave you confidence to try even more of them in the future. In September 2005, you competed in your first bodybuilding competition--AND WON! You won your class and the overall title to go to the national competition. CONGRATULATIONS! Although you were not as muscular and big as the other women at that level, tell us why you were less concerned about winning and more interested in how far you've come from your humble upbringing.

It's so hard, especially in physique competition, to keep your progress in perspective. When you are being compared to other equally motivated, talented, or possibly chemically-enhanced individuals, priorities often become blurred. That's why there needs to be a motivator that is larger than the contest at hand. For me, I am rewarded by an e-mail by someone who was benefited by information on my blog or motivated by my story.

I am also flattered by the great health and nutrition questions I receive from inquiring minds. I currently have a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and practicing Medical Doctor who are good enough to guest-blog on my site, so even if your training or health question is out of my scope of practice, I may be able to find a good answer and get it posted!

8. Today, you are at Baylor University studying to receive a PhD in Exercise, Nutrition, and Preventive Health. As a registered dietitian, you are able to tweak your menus to coincide with your next bodybuilding competition. I'm curious, have you discovered anything extraordinary about what kind of diet maximizes your ability to compete on the highest levels? Do you believe in the theory subscribed to by so many in the fitness industry that you need to "carb up" to fuel your workouts? Why or why not?

Athletes need carbs. Period! Carbs are the primary source to fuel any intense workout and you will injure yourself if you train or compete at a high level and do not take in adequate amounts! I have seen and met with several triathletes in particular who have made the mistake of taking their carbs too low and suffer from poor performance and over-training.Many sedentary or carb-sensitive individuals, however, will benefit from a diet that is a low to moderate in overall carbohydrate. If your daily activity is low, you do not need a lot of carbs to fuel your expenditure.

Furthermore, numerous studies conducted in my own lab at Baylor and by Dr. Donald Layman et al (early 2000s) provide strong evidence that a weight loss diets that is fairly high in protein, low-moderate in carbs, and moderate in fat is beneficial for weight loss and retaining muscle mass during a period of energy restriction, especially in overweight women ages 35-60 or so.If you workout intensely, carbs after your workout are a must; the insulin response is a signal for muscle-building after a workout and is also essential for recovery. Please refer to my blog for specific posts on this topic!

9. If the United States continues down our current path, then obesity and related diseases will eventually become the norm (if it isn't already) and the concept of health will be lost forever. With such ridiculous statements as "fat is bad" and "sugar is healthy," there's little wonder why Americans are so confused and baffled about what they need to do to eat better. What do you think can be done to get people more interested in living a healthy lifestyle both through diet and exercise?

I think that food processing is a huge industry with a lot of advertising money and political control. Our previous recommendations have not been influenced by optimal health outcomes and the result is manifest in reduced quality of life and increased healthcare costs.
The motivation issue is paramount. It's an important area of research and thought—-what will inspire the American people to pass up the bargain buffet and opt for smaller portions of whole food and regular exercise? If I knew the answer to that, I could just post in on my blog and retire!Generally speaking, Walter Willett (Harvard) is a good nutrition expert to look to for advice in term of healthy living and eating.

Based on the research of Willett and colleagues, the principal advice is moderate portions of whole food equals good; processed food, especially in large portions is bad.

Whole: Vegetables (not in a can!), nuts (controlled portions!), fish, fruits (not sweetened in a can!), beans/lentils, lean meat and fish (less than 5 grams fat per 3oz serving, exception is fatty fish), whole grains: brown rice, old-fashioned oats, quinoa; lean dairy in moderation

Processed: everything else, especially 1) grains that have been smashed, kneaded, heated, chop-up, and wrapped in air-tight plastic; 2) high-fat meats that have been treated with God-only knows what and are not hospitable to microorganisms of any kind; and 3) most "foods" that come in cans, wrappers, and boxes. These are foods that really were never intended to go in the human body!

10. Jean, thank you so much for being here with us today at my blog. You are an important voice in the health debate and I am encouraged to know there are people like you out there espousing common sense and proven experience in regards to fitness and health. And you look absolutely fantastic! What an inspiration to all of us who hope to follow in your footsteps getting our bodies in the best shape of our lives. Is there anything else you'd like to share with that person who thinks lifting weights and eating a healthy diet is useless?

I know it's very hard to start and stick with it. In my own young life, I have already started twice! Almost everyone feels unsure about exercising or going into the gym for the first time; it's normal. But it's also very important to find what helps you work past those feelings and be consistent about exercising regularly and eating a diet that will help you maintain a healthy weight and reach your goals.

My mom is a good example. For years, she tried to lose weight for cosmetic reasons. Even considering all she had accomplished, she could not get her weight under control using vanity as her source of inspiration. Then about two years ago, she was diagnosed with serious hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes; she was told she would die early if she did not lose a certain amount of weight. A serious health risk motivated her to lose 40 pounds and improve her health.

Hopefully, the wake-up call doesn't have to be that severe for the majority people who have not already made a commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. Find a way to stick with a regular exercise plan and a diet consisting mostly of natural, whole foods; the rewards will be evident within a month or two and serve as an internal source of inspiration!