3 Must-have food groups for FitPros

Food for FitPros
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Food for FitPros

Food for FitPros

I write this with limp, exhausted fingers and huge elation that I ¬†don’t have to teach cycling classes tomorrow. This is a 10 class week and I have to ask: HOW do you 15 class per week people do it?! Holy Moly! ¬†So here’s the thing: cycling, especially the athletic type that I teach, uses up tons of carbs/muscle glycogen. This is my reason for not restricting carb intake during weeks like this. Still, burning so many calories means this instructor is HONGRAY and will eat whatever carbs that catch my fancy. ¬†In fact, during weeks like this I have noticed that my cravings for quick, biscotti flavored sugars are sky high and almost too powerful to fight off. If you don’t want to feel like a giant Pac-Man/Pac Woman and :

YOU: 

Teach classes totaling more than 5 hours per week, most of which you actively participate in.

Teach high endurance/high intensity/high impact formats

Dash from appointment to appointment using most of your break time up for transportation ( or naps)

Engage in your own vigorous weekly exercise routines.

Then focus on:

  1. Hydration: The recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 140 pounds that would translate to 70 ounces or about eight and half cups. Regular participation in higher intensity formats means the obvious: you will need more water than the regular recommendation to replace what you lose. Make water a habit by starting your day with it, drinking it before or after coffee (caffeine is a diuretic), drink it during and after your classes and when you return home in the evening. Yes, decaffeinated teas do count towards your daily intake.
  2. Electrolytes:¬†Do you ever feel loopy, weak, or crampy? Well, if you’re dehydrated then you could also be low on electrolytes. The minerals in question that qualify as electrolytes are potassium, sodium, calcium bicarbonate,¬†magnesium and chloride. Although needed in small amounts, they perform the big job of maintaining the fluid balance in your cells. Regularly completing over 60 minutes of rigorous exercise means that you’ve likely sweat some of your electrolytes out and need to replenish. Sure, you can reach for a sports drink but wholesome foods can provide them all too. Salt and chloride are 2 that we get plenty of daily as many foods have naturally occurring sodium or are ¬†seasoned and preserved with both sodium and chloride. However a daily diet that includes plenty of dark ¬†leafy greens beans, asparagus, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, sweet potatoes, beans and peas means you should be getting plenty of potassium, calcium and magnesium. *Dehydration and low electrolyte balance can cause hospitalization and death so don’t play around.
  3. Complex carbohydrates: The digestion process for all carbs begins as¬†soon as they hit your saliva. That’s because carbohydrates are your body and brain’s preferred fuel and your body doesn’t play hard to get when it comes to loving them. Your body being a lean, mean energy using machine will put a ring on complex carbs, court them and use them slowly. Simple, refined carbs get used up quickly and leave you feeling as worn out and empty as a bad one night stand. Furthermore, constantly burning off carb stores means, you guessed it, you crave them A LOT. ¬†I don’t know what your fitness goal is but if you’re like me and just want to stay energized without crashing,make sure you have stores of healthy carbs in your bag: oat balls, fruit, salad bowls, WHATEVER. Just make sure they’re healthy and be ready to want to eat everythng sweet and easily digested….or maybe that’s just me?

The List: 6 of NYC’s Best Fit Pros

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You know how sometimes you feel like certain actors don’t make enough movies because you just love when they do? For me, these are the Bette Midlers, Jack Nicholsons, Don Cheadles and DeNiros of the world. They quietly produce quality work while I wish they would just make a sitcom so I could see them all the time. ¬†That’s how I feel about what I call the Fitness Underground Railroad, populated by some of the most respected, hardest working and effective fit pros….that you barely hear about. Is being a marketing and social media maven pre requisite for being a great fitness professional? I’m not sure I believe that at all.¬†14 years spent in the NY fitness industry has blessed me to work at nearly every place imaginable and WITH these same beloved fit-pros in the city. Many of them don’t get a lot of consistent press but that doesn’t ¬†discount their loyal followings, many years in the business and prowess at what they do. Now, this is a fully subjective list based on the criteria of ( in this order)

Client retention and following

Professional ability

Personality 

Looks

1. Mary Onyango

  1. Mary Onyango

    Mary Onyango

    1. Mary is fierce but quietly so. This storm doesn’t need bells and whistles because her body and ability speak for themselves. You will never hear her asking to be followed over social media or touting her latest anything. She shares where she works, ¬†does what she does and her clients LOVE her for it. Once a personal trainer and now a a sought after Zumba instructor, she’s got strong skills ¬†in both arenas and makes time for it all even with being a wife and mother. I first met her almost 10 years ago (?!!) when she trained me¬†out of her own goodwill to have the best booty on South Beach. We love Mary ( says my glutes)

  2. Amira LambAmira LambAmira is pretty popular and for good reason. This tiny dynamo is an ex dancer with all kinds of tricks up her sleeve to carve regular and professional folk into marble sculptures. An official Team Bombshell Bikini Coach,  Group Fitness Instructor and trainer to the Moroccan royal family, she is highly knowledgeable in the fitness field, always personable, elegant and more sought after than even she will admit. Nuff respect!
  3. Prince Brathwaite
Prince Brathwaite

Prince Brathwaite

At this point Prince should drop his last name. Who needs it? we all recognize those arms and who could miss that personality? While many are touting hollow wins he is busy building a loyal empire of “Troopers” in NYC. If you’ve taken one of his classes then you will honestly know why. It takes real skill to make someone simultaneously see Buddha AND feel deep appreciation for the person making them suffer. He might be Jim Jones reincarnated but whatever, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. He’s ¬†THE Trooper, THE TD Jakes of Fitness. He’s, well, he’s Prince, people. Kings recognize Kings and Queens do too!

4. Billy Cowell

Billy Cowell

Billy Cowell

Billy is filled with boyish charm and a great sense of humor but when it comes to training and Cycling, he’s all business. Beloved by colleagues and clients alike, this family man is quick to show his support for everyone around him and competing when he can.

5. Jermaine Bailey

Jermaine Bailey

Jermaine Bailey

Why isn’t Jermaine more famous? I ssk myself this every time I see his photos or hear someone rave about his Cardio Kick and Wing Chun classes. He is a no-nonesense type who is committed to 3 things: his family, his craft as an actor/director and his classes (martial practice). Maybe THAT’s why: he’s too busy being legit! Jermaine, we see you, have ALWAYS seen you and all class members know what’s up. You rock!

6.¬†Rafique “Flex” Cabral

Flex Cabral

Flex Cabral

Flex is ¬†man of few words, one of an even disposition that is so unflappable that you wonder what goes on in his head. Until you take his class and then you realize: murder, murder is what is on Flex’s mind. He will murder all of your fat cells and incarcerate your boundaries for those minutes that he holds you hostage…I mean, that you take his Bootcamp or TRX classes. As his name implies, he’s fully flexed at all times but always professional. Flex, keep that stuff UP!

These are only 7 of my favorites and I’m sure you have some too. Are there any you think should be added?

Make Your Own Winter Coffee drink

Pre-made Winter Coffee Mix
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20140219-091808.jpgTrader Joe’s had me hooked on their premixed coffee drinks up until November 2013 when I realized how sugary and STRONG they were. To be honest, I ran out and had to figure out how to make my back-up Folger’s palatable.¬†This led me to what I’ve been drinking every morning since then:
Mix together
Cinnamon powder
Nutmeg
Coconut sugar (optional)
Coffee (instant or premade)

I don’t tell you amounts because you have to figure out if you want a whole jar of the powdered mixture or to make each cup individually. Add dry mixture to warmed almond milk or hot water OR to your already brewed coffee.

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Pre-made Winter Coffee Mix

5 Tricks to afford healthy living

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Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

There seems to be a general consensus that a healthy  lifestyle is expensive. Sure, it can be since fresh produce seems to cost more than packaged foods and gym memberships can also be pricey. But what if I told you that it is less expensive than you think if you choose more selectively? Here are some tricks I use to afford being healthy and yes, I know that the opinion of  childless person might not be applicable to everyone and every situation but some might be.

  1. Reform your expense perspective:¬†Gas is expensive (well, by U.S. standards), cable is expensive, your Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts habit is expensive, dining out adds up in more ways than one, ¬†as does going out for drinks regularly or that 2 wine bottles per week to calm your nerves tendency. For me, at least half of those things can be done without or reduced to increase cash flow for other things. For example: I make my own coffee drink so that I can afford organic chicken and I don’t have cable so I can afford life ( cable is expensive!!)
  2. Be more active in your daily life so that the gym is just a bonus:¬†Take more stairs, park farther away, bike, walk your kids to school, make after dinner walks and interactive video games a family time staple. Don’t just rely on getting to the gym to get moving. The local YMCA or recreation centers also have great rates if you want an indoor workout and there are often adult sporting leagues nearby. At the very least, find a couple of DVDs to get an at home workout.
  3. Avoid recipes provided by manufacturers:¬†You’ve seen recipes¬†on the side of containers like¬†Pillsbury crescent rolls and even Velveeta cheese right? Understand that they simply want you to buy and use their products and could care less if they’re good for you. Avoid those products all together and opt for your grandma’s version ( minus the huge amounts of lard etc). Want dinner rolls? then try¬†this recipe¬†or this one;¬†¬†they’re probably healthier store version AND you can substitute the types of flours you like. I’m not advocating you overindulging in sweets and baked goods (easiest way to pile on the pounds, folks) but I’d rather have you making your own¬†cookies¬†the old fashioned way than from pre-made dough.
  4. Plan ahead for weekly meals and make large batches to eat and freeze:¬†Casseroles, stews and soups, slow cookers and one pot meals are your friends. Think about the flavors you want to taste and build up your “go-to” recipe list. Structure your plate to include protein (beans, fish or meats) , complex carbs (grains and vegetables), and heathy fats (avocados, olive, coconut, grape-seed oils). *Skip cured deli meats like hams etc and buy a rotisserie chicken for quick meals on the go.¬†Personally, I really like knowing where my food comes from so I make 98% of my own meals knowing that I will have leftovers for days.
  5. For most fresh veggies, buy enough for the week and choose frozen for the rest. How many times have you had to toss veggies that went bad before you got to use them? Buy just enough for the meals you plan to make that week and FYI: to get the best vitamin benefit,  try not to chop them up until right before cooking. Canned veggies is the low man on the totem pole of vegetables because they (a)  use tons of salt to preserve them and (b) all of the nutrients can fade over time. If you do hav eto buy them then stick to canned beans.
  6. Learn to fuel yourself proactively instead of eating reactively:¬†Eating for fuel and not just because you’re hungry can make ¬†a huge difference on your energy levels, waistline and pocket book. When you’ve waited too long to eat, then the meal you eventually choose is one that is calorie heavy because your body is ravenous. Piling in so many calories at one time can cause weight gain because your body only processes so many at once and stores the rest for later. Don’t wait for that moment when you just can’t pass up that expensive take out and instead, have a decent sized breakfast and lunch with a couple snacks throughout the day. Fruit is a perfect snack because it comes pre-packaged so I toss some into my carry-all along with a boiled egg or 2 if I know it will be a long day. Oh and for those of who argue that takeout is cheap where you live: consider the one plate you buy probably costs 1/3 to make and has 2x the calories than if you made it yourself.

Sweet turkey sausage and kale soup

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One of my old favorites! Trying to eat less meat so the best way I’ve found to do that is to eat only organic meat. Who can afford that?! ¬†Luckily this soup is full of veggies and is so tasty! Here is how I made it:
6 turkey sausage links
1/2 bag frozen corn
1 can black beans
3 cups chopped kale
1.5 tbsp onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 parsnip, diced
1 can chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat olive oil (don’t let it burn!) in stock pot over medium heat
Sauté onions until translucent
Add garlic and sauté
Set aside
Brown sausage in skillet then slice into bite sized pieces.
Transfer to stockpot with onion and garlic.
Add parsnip and sausage, cover and cook for 20 mins
Add kale, corn and black beans.
Cook another 10 mins.
Serve hot and enjoy!
Serves 4

3 Truths The Biggest Loser Hasn’t Told You

Biggest Loser Needs More?
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Biggest Loser Needs More?

Biggest Loser Needs More?

In my line of work, you hear and see it all when it comes to weight loss and weight management. Inevitably someone will ask ” so what do you think of that show The Biggest Loser?” and I will say, “meh, it’s an extreme show about extreme weight loss for people who are extremely overweight, to each their own”. This week, however, the big question heard all over social media was ¬†” wow, did you SEE how skinny she got?”The person in question being Rachel Frederickson, the winner of this season’s $250K prize.

Yes, I noticed her dramatic change as well, you’d have to be blind to not see that the pendulum has swung the other way for her weight. So much so that she has crossed categories into underweight for¬†her height. Still, that is as far as I want to take any criticism or opinion of her journey to self-love. Not because I’m above judging someone, but because I don’t think she is the problem: The questions left answered by the show’s producer’s are the problem.

The Biggest Loser is modeled after the “extreme” brand of tv shows that take something/someone that needs an immense amount of work and completely revamp it/that person into something/someone new. Extreme Home renovation, Extreme Makeovers etc etc. But at least with home renovations you see much of the behind the scenes and what it takes to overhaul a space even when it has been reduced to a sound bite. With BL you do see some serious sweating but not much is said for the real grit and dirt of changing your body under extreme pressure and a tight time frame. The general, interested public would benefit from knowing how unrealistic and potentially harmful this particular brand of weight loss can be. So did you know that:

  1. Contestants are exercising for about 4 hours per day? Here is a link to average calories burned during 1 hour of exercise based on different weight categories. Multiply that by 4 hours and many contestants are likely burning at least 3,500 calories per day which is the number of calories in one pound of fat.
  2. Contestants are on a crash diet of 1000-1200 calories per day? Everybody needs a minimum of essential calories to maintain organ and  physical function. 1,000-1,200 calories is barely cutting it. Add that to the calorie deficit created by all the exercise and voila, you are losing large amounts of muscle along with fat and have landed in a space that needs to be medically regulated.
  3. Exercising and crash dieting all day can mess with your head?¬†The psychological impact of physically working hard added to¬†PAST¬†self esteem issues (obese people usually have eating disorders too) + ¬† being hungry and TIRED all the time = ? Have you ever fasted? yeah, it’s not easy or pretty. What ¬†do you get when a a hungry, tired person with a history of binge eating starts to get rewarded for losing weight at an unhealthy pace? Enter Rachel Frederickson.

Some might argue that the¬†Biggest Loser is no more dangerous than bariactric surgery which is far more invasive. After all, when someone is morbidly obese shouldn’t¬† they do whatever it takes to lose weight?¬†The trouble with that here is that risks are made clear to patients before surgery and many are often encouraged to lose weight in more traditional ways first. Then there is the fact that this is a national television show with far reaching appeal. Who exactly is watching this program and taking it as the whole truth? I recommend that the Biggest Loser use its platform for more than ratings and aim to educate the viewers at home as well.

Moroccan Stew Mojo

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You know when you cook a favorite recipe and it turns PERFECTLY?! Yeah, that just happened. There is a hot to trot Moroccan restaurant nearby that serves this dish and rather than pay too much$ for calories I don’t want, I made it. I used a slow cooker but you can use a stick pot too.
1/2-1lb organic chicken legs
16 oz turkey broth
8 golden dates shredded
1 can chickpeas
1/2 cup almonds
1 small orange segmented
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 stick cinnamon + 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
8 safe leaves (optional)

Season chicken with salt and cinnamon powder and place in crockpot; top with all other ingredients and cover with turkey broth. Cook for 4-5 hours on high. Serve with what you like ( I ate it with sauerkraut!!)

Cauliflower Mac n Cheese (vegetariantimes.com)

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How does the cold weather affect you? for me, cold and cozy makes me HONGRAY. Weeelllll, that and the fact that I teach a ton of cycling and have been doing some HIIT throughout the week. Cue warm, gooey mac and cheese memories. I even walked up to one of the most famous and popular M & C spots in my neighborhood but couldn’t pull the trigger knowing that it’s loaded with dairy and virtually useless calories. The only food I like to eat mindlessly is popcorn so everything else has to give me a little more than comfort in return. I chose this Vegetarian Times recipe because I had everything it needed in my pantry. The only change I made was subbing ricotta cheese for the milk it called for and adding avocado. The verdict?

Pros: High fiber and vegetable nutrient content from cauliflower; lower fat per serving than regular mac n cheese. Can be as vegetarian as you want it to be.

Con:¬†Cauliflower has a high water content which made it watery despite draining. Although using ricotta gave me less tummy trouble from my lactose intolerance, it didn’t have the bite of sharper cheese even with the dash of lemon juice I added to it.

Rating: 3 Forks up. *¬†There are better ways to improve the nutrient profile of mac n cheese and I don’t think using all cauliflower is the answer. As much as I like cauliflower mashes, I think mac and cheese is about the healthy fat and chewy carb combo. Next time I will use healthy noodles and add cooked, drained vegetables later in the baking process.