Category Archives: learning

Eating Junk Food: We Know It’s Wrong. So Why Do We Do It Anyway?

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junk

 

The answer to the question above is in this video, short and sweet, easy to watch and understand.

Regardless of your nutritional approach (you don’t have to be paleo, or vegan, or anything in particular to get the jist of the issue here) I recommend you watch it, watch it, WATCH IT.

 

Free! Real Food Summit, And The Answer To Your Question

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There is a free, online Real Food Summit coming up and I don’t know about you but I’m taking advantage of it. They have some fantastic speakers lined up, including Paul Check, founder of the C.H.E.C.K. Institute, Joel Salatin, holistic farmer and author of Folks, This Ain’t Right, and Zoe Harcombe, author of The Obesity Epidemic.

All you need to enter is your email address, and this gives you full access to several days jam-packed with information from very interesting sources.

It begins on July 8th, and as I understand it each day we’ll be sent an email with the class or conference of the day. I’m pumped! Sign up here: realfoodsummit.com

 

And I’m sure your days have dragged on wondering, why isn’t she posting as often? because of course the top priority of your life reading my blog, I KNOW. Here is the answer to your question:

 

 

That’s my kitchen right there. See, in this house when we want to do home renovation we don’t hire people to do it because we’re poor, no, we go for it and do it ourselves. And don’t think for a second that we even know what we’re doing, ha! No, it’s all learn-as-you-go because what’s the fun in doing things right the first or second or third time, RIGHT?!

Don’t even ask how wanting new floor in our bedroom led up to having gaping holes in the kitchen ceiling because I’m still scratching my head over that one.

Did I mention it’s my birthday this weekend and we’re having friends over? Good thing they all know us well enough to know they can’t expect fancy soirees at this house.

 

Send help. Please.

 

 

Ah, Sunday

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If you’re anything like me, Sunday means kicking back and relaxing. And doing laundry and baking for the week and freezing meals… When you’re done showering the dads of your life with love and chocolate (of the organic, sustainable, fair trade kind *wink*) take some time to catch up on your reading. Come on. It does your brain good. Here are some cool articles I read during the week and that you may find interesting!

And the video at the very end? Also very cool.

Growing Up With A Fat Dad, The New York Times.

A complex story, with a savior and a dash of hope.

Ultramarathon Running: How a Vegan Diet Helped Me Run 100 Miles  by Scott Jurek, for the Huffington Post

I don’t have to remind you how much I love Scott Jurek, right? I mean, we did share a moment, after all.

Ironman Champ: Train Your Brain, Then Your Body

Beautiful article in which four-time World Ironman champion Chrissy Wellington reminds us what we already know but consistently choose to ignore: To win the race, you must first win it in your head.

Brilliant TED talk by Christopher McDougall on what he learned about endurance running from living with the Tarahumara indians in Mexico. Must watch!

Zumba is Fitness and Dance’s Lovechild

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I can’t think of a single better way to work out than this.

My Saturday began with waking up at 5:30 am in order to get ready and leave the house in time for the 1.5 hour drive to the town where the training would take place.

I love to dance and have been teaching dance fitness classes for some time, so I decided it was time to become a fully certified Zumba instructor. It was also kind of urgent that I get it done as soon as possible because, you know, once the baby is born it will be near impossible to be gone for an entire day. When you’re pregnant it’s like you’re constantly chased around by Mike Wallace’s 60 Minutes ticking clock because time’s a-running. And you can’t forget it.

The training was super fun and dynamic: Nothing to wake you up like a high-intensity dance fitness class at 8:30 in the morning!

Our instructor, Andrea Sandhu, was fantastic.

Super grainy pic. Sorry about that!

I grew up listening to Latin music like the one used in Zumba classes. My favorite for dancing is Salsa, but I’ve always found it a bit difficult how to explain to non-Latin students how to follow the beats. I’ve listened to this kind of music so long that the beats are simply there for me, it all just makes sense. However, someone who is new to the music style may not hear the same things I do; not all beats jump out as clearly. In Andrea’s simplification of the basic steps I learned how to help someone make sense of the different rhythms and pauses, and I’m sure this will help me a lot with my students.

Along with the practical classes in which the simplified steps for Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia and Reggeton were explained, we also had a couple of lectures in which the more technical parts of being a Zumba Instructor were broken down for us. It was very helpful because we were provided with many resources and options, as well as learning tools and material.

Our group was very eclectic, with people from all ages and from all areas in attendance. It was almost mostly women, but I was very happy to see two guys in there! I think Zumba needs male instructors as much because everyone has something of their own to offer. One of our classmates had a very inspirational story that she shared with us: She has lost 130 Lbs. so far, and this was just following the Zumba dvds in her living room, on her own. There’s no doubt that when there’s determination you don’t need fancy equipment or professional studies in exercise and nutrition. She was so happy and I’m sure that she’s extremely proud of herself.

Overall it was a great experience, I made new friends (even someone from my area, yay!) and I had a great time.

I was nervous in the beginning because with it being such a long haul I wasn’t sure where my energy levels were going to be at different points of the day, but fortunately my almost five month-pregnant self got through it fine.

If you’ve been thinking about becoming a Zumba Instructor you should totally go for it. I found the training to be very helpful and worthwhile, and I’m super glad I did it!

 

Girl, when someone tells you that you’re going to get big, bulky and gross if you lift weights punch them in the face

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Or direct them to this article. You know, either- or.

(I kid. Please don’t punch people in the face. Maybe just swing a kettlebell at them.)

I came across this set of two articles written by none other than John M. Berardi himself. I attended his talk at the Canfitpro conference in Toronto this year.

Most of what he said resonated with me and I have educated myself further on his nutrition techniques, his coaching challenges and his research.

 

Now, before you click the link that will take you to the articles, be forewarned: Please do not brush the information off  by thinking this isn’t for me just because the website where the articles are posted is called bodybuilding.com. This website is a wonderful source of exercise ideas, with very well explained instructional videos, all neatly organized and separated by very helpful categories. If you’d like to get fit and have no friggin’ clue of what to do at the gym, surf around bodybuilding.com and I can assure you the weight room suddenly won’t seem as intimidating. On a side note, I would just recommend maybe ignoring all their advertising for supplements and enhancers; intelligent and informed decisions in this area are a must.

I particularly enjoyed Berardi’s articles because he tackles the biggest myth when it comes to women who lift weights: they’ll get bulky and masculine. Go and read his explanation of why this is not possible. Also? Extra points for him for being on our side and rejecting the notion that girls are wilting little flowers who can’t muster up the strength to change their body for the better. Enjoy!

Lean, Sexy, Hard: Weight training for Women, by John M. Berardi

 

 

Meeting Scott Jurek

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He's so much taller than I imagined. And, also? I love his wild, unruly hair.

Ultra-marathoner and vegan super athlete Scott Jurek visited a neighbor town last week, and am I ever glad I went to his lecture! The talk was hosted in a small conference room inside the largest health food store I have ever seen. Much to my delight there were very few people in attendance– like twenty or twenty-five of us were there. I’m very glad this was the case because the reduced number of attendants gave us a chance to a) sit right on the first line– meaning I had Mr. Jurek probably two meters away from me, and b) get all of our questions answered.

Also, the entire focus of his talk was on nutrition, which made me extremely happy because this is exactly what I wanted to learn from him: how he eats before a race and how he recovers.

When I began dipping my toes into this plant-based lifestyle Scott Jurek was the first name I read when researching vegan athletes. I had never heard of him before, but he’s huge in the running world and consistently after that I kept finding his name and accomplishments mentioned in books, articles and magazines. This man is a machine, a powerhouse– a pillar of inspiration to those wanting to accomplish grand physical feats while on plant-based diets. And now I had in front of me the chance to learn directly from him. I feel so grateful.

His talk began with a quick introduction of his accomplishments; in all seriousness, I got tired just listening to what this guy has done! 100 mile races. ONE HUNDRED MILES. Oh gawd. Also twenty-four hour races and races that go from way below sea level to many thousands of feet above it. Races through Death Valley, California, one of the hottest spots in the U.S. Jurek has done it all, and with such a long list of accomplishments I felt more than ready to take in all the advice he had to offer.

As I read recently, “Ask for advice from those who have accomplished the results you desire.” Scott Jurek has accomplished insane endurance, quick recoveries, and true grit while solely on a plant-based diet. Those certainly are the results I want; my ears were open.

Eat, Run and Live Long, a lecture by Scott Jurek

Important things to consider when switching into a Plant-Based Diet:

1) Integration rather than elimination. In other words, opening up and adding new foods as opposed to just cutting out what you can’t eat anymore. Interestingly, he grew up hunting, fishing and even admitting to being deep into junk food while in college. For Jurek, it was reading the book Mad Cowboy what motivate the jump into veganism, figuring that if the author of the book — a third generation cattle rancher!– could become vegan, so could he.

2) Quantity. Make sure you get enough food! Plant-based foods are usually (logically?) a lot lower in calories than foods from the standard American diet. This means that people eating plant-based need to eat more and more often. Aw shucks, right?! Ha.

3) Quality. It is a misconception to assume that because someone is vegetarian or vegan they’re automatically healthy eaters. It is completely possible to eat unhealthy junk while eating plant-based (potato chip overload, anyone?). The quality of the food consumed is of great importance. Like Jurek said, if you put low-quality fuel into your vehicle the engine won’t last as long. Same things with our bodies, if we want things to run smoothly and optimally, our way of eating must be as clean as possible.

Eating and training

During peak training Jurek increments his caloric intake to 5,000 -8,000 calories per day. These calories are divided in the following:

– 80 to 90%: Whole foods, out of which 90% is organic “You get what you pay for” he said, addressing the fact that organic can be more expensive, but it’s also free of chemicals, pesticides and haven’t been messed around with genetically.

“Do a lot of cooking,” he added. “It is important to connect with your food.”

– 50 to 60%: Carbohydrates

Fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, sprouted whole grain breads, and few whole grain pastas all form part of his carb consumption.

– 20 to 30%: Fat

Even though these numbers may seem high, Jurek assures that 30% fat is not excessive at all when it all comes from healthy fats. To list a few sources of healthy fats:  Essential fatty acids, omega 3 and 6 (Jurek takes a vegan supplement called Udo’s Oil for this purpose); olives and olive oil, avocados, almond butter, coconut oil and meat, nuts and seeds, chia seeds, and sesame oil.

-15 to 20%: Protein

Tempeh and tofu, legumes and whole grains (here he reminded us how entire civilizations have thrived on the consumption of legumes and whole grains, even mentioning Mexico and how we use beans in combination with corn, creating a balanced diet. Shout out, yeah!). Also hemp, pea, and brown rice protein powders (which he admits are processed, but still come in handy when in a pinch), and nuts and seeds.

Supplements

He addressed the subject of supplementation in a very general and casual way, mentioning these are just options he would recommend because they’re plant-based products and are, in his opinion, soft on the stomach; at the same time he made clear he doesn’t think supplementation is always necessary, if at all.

-Vitamin B12 “This is the only thing that may need to be supplemented, though it’s entirely possible to get enough through diet,” he explained: Fortified foods, nutritional yeast, B- complex.

-Iron: Herbs, Floradix iron

-Calcium: Floradix Cal-Mag

-Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, liquid Ca-Mg

-Antioxidants: Vitamins A,C,E, Selenium, Zinc

-Probiotics: Udo’s Choice Probiotics

“Do these things make me run? No. But they do allow me to train and stress my body the way I do, and to bounce back and be able to train again the following day,” he concluded.

Training and Racing Nutrition

Water consumption

Jurek talked about each person’s individual needs for water intake, adding that the best way to know how much water we need is to do a sweat test. The sweat test must be performed in the same conditions in which you’ll compete: at the same intensity, with the same weather temperature, etc. Hydration is important because not having enough water makes the heart rate go up, and performance is compromised. To learn how to do a sweat test go here.

Carbohydrates in racing

“Does anyone know why it is important to consume carbohydrates during a long race?” he asked the room. Silence. “Anyone?”

I raised my hand and he pointed at me, “Yes?”

“Because carbohydrates are what’s easiest for our body to convert into energy. They’re the fastest and most effective source of usable energy.”

“Exactly!” he said. (And yes, my inner child always in trouble at school felt redeemed)

Some people question if maybe fat should also be consumed during racing, but considering we have enough fat stored in our body already this isn’t necessary. To figure out the amount of carbohydrates we need, the following formula is essential:

Body weight in kilograms x 0.7= grams of carbs per hour we can consume as a minimum

Body weight in kilograms x 1.0= grams of carbs per hour we can consume as a maximum

For example, someone who weighs 130 lbs:  59 kg x 0.7= 41 grams of carbs per hour, minimum.

One banana has approximately 25 grams of carbohydrates, the same amount of carbs that 3 small cooked potatoes have.

Our body needs carbs to create glycogen, which is the primary substance used for energy. We naturally have about 60 to 70 minutes worth of glycogen in our system, and if  racing longer than that it is important to ingest the carbohydrates that most speedily convert into glycogen before reaching depletion. Depletion of glycogen causes extreme fatigue and makes moving an extremely difficult task.

Some may choose to ingest their carbs in the form of sports drinks, and Jurek points out that it is important to read the labels and make sure that the carb to water ratio is of 7-8% (carbs in grams/ml of water), to avoid slushing in the stomach.

If you think carbohydrates are necessary just for your body to finish the race think again. Carbohydrates are needed for proper brain function as well, so unless you’d like to risk confusion, disorientation, and a myriad of other not-so-lovely brain glitches, carb up, buttercup!

So, what kind of carbs are the best to consume during the race? Those with the highest glycemic index. High glycemic foods come in handy when needing a rush– and sometimes even for recovery. They can be used every 20 to 30 minutes to avoid crashing. Some examples include maple syrup, cane sugar, a very ripe banana (though it may be turned to mush by the time you want to eat it), and corn syrup. For a list of high glycemic foods, click here. Please keep in mind that even in this list there are some healthier, smarter choices than others. I would suggest sticking to the plant-based options as a rule of thumb and this way avoiding unhealthy fats, which is the subject Jurek touched up on next.

Protein and Fat

The consumption of protein and fat is only recommended for longer stretches of physical activity. For races that last longer than three hours Jurek recommends 10 to 15 grams of protein per 2-3 hours.

Recovery

Post- hard effort Over 2 hours of work, or after working hard for a shorter time span:

Body weight in kg x 1.5 = grams of carb

Body weight in kg x 0.2 = grams of protein

(Example: 130 Lbs=  59 kg x 1.5 = 89 g or carb)

**It is important to note that these carbs and protein should be ingested within 20 to 30 minutes post workout**

“What happens is,” Jurek explained, “that the ‘doors’, the time frame for replenishing glycogen in our body begins to close. We have to get this in fast– if not, we won’t be ready for the next day’s workout.”

Aiding injury recovery

He told us the story of how just two days before a huge race he sprained his ankle playing soccer with some kids. His ankle was badly swollen and in pain, but not racing wasn’t an option. Synthetic (conventional) medication wasn’t an option either, for he believes best in food’s curing abilities, and even cited Hippocrates’ quote used by vegans and naturists everywhere: “Let food be thy medicine”

Here is the list of ingredients/foods he consumes to aid his body in alleviating injuries:

*The notes in parenthesis are my own addition from what I learned at another lecture on injury recovery by Dr. John M. Berardi, Chief Science Officer at Precision Nutrition. Both Berardi and Jurek coincide on the same natural remedies as being the optimal options to speed the recovery process.

-Tumeric (in compresses over the sprain or inflamed area; also consumed: 1 tsp. per day)

-Arnica montana

-Bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapple: 1 cup of fresh pineapple per day)

-Essential fatty acids

-Garlic (three or four cloves per day)

-Ginger

-Ice

-Vitamin C

At the end of the talk he answered our questions. I raised my had again. “For you as an athlete, what has been the one piece of information that has been absolutely crucial to your success?”

He paused for a second. “Hmm. I…” He brought his hand to his chin, “That’s a good question, I’d have to think…”  He took a brief moment. “You know, I think I would have to say that it was in general my upbringing. I grew up with a mother who had multiple sclerosis and couldn’t do a lot of things, and well, it was hard; but at the same time that shaped me into being the person I am today, doing the things I do.”

His answer left me in deep thought, more so than he probably imagines.

Towards the end of the lecture he added, “I can assure you that in this room there are people who are faster than I am; I have never claimed to be the fastest runner. What I’m really good at is long races, endurance: the moment where the mental factor matters most, the point where so many people break and give up. I’m really good at the mental factor.”

This was, by far, the most enthralling part of the talk for me. Days later I’m still thinking about what he said. The mental factor.

To finalize he offered a list of books that have been key to him in turning into a vegan athlete

Scott Jurek’s reads

Vegetarian Sports Nutrition

Becoming Vegan

Spontaneous Healing

Healing with Whole Foods

Mad Cowboy

Eating Animals

Food Rules

In Defense of Food

Scott Jurek struck me as a gentle and down-to-earth man; if you ever get the chance to attend one of his lectures I would really recommend it! He also has a book due out this spring, I think it will be worth the read.

I hope this information helps you as much as it helped me!

Information is key: Vegan resources

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As some of you have read I’m getting ready to face PCRM’s 21-day Vegan Kickstart, and to my great fortune I have discovered friends and readers alike who want to dip their toes into veganism like I do. First of all, kudos to you guys! I think the moment we let ourselves try something outside our norm, something different to what we’ve done for years, we’re allowing our vision of the world to expand. If or not you feel the benefits, if or not you stick to veganism for the rest of your life, I think that’s all secondary. Right now what’s worth applauding is your willingness to try. You’re giving yourself a chance at something new, and that’s worthy of recognition. How many lives go by and end in the sleepy lull of boring routine? Far too many, if you ask me.

The countdown is ON. One week left before we begin on September 5th!

I think planning will be essential in order to succeed.  Eating purely vegan meals isn’t a part of our normal habits yet, and so planning will prevent us from falling– out of convenience, laziness, or plain ole hunger– into the typical meal options we would choose if we had nothing vegan already made and on hand.  In preparation for the Vegan Kickstart, here is a list of some of the resources I have found helpful so far:

This is Vegan

Custom-made life    Mostly vegetarian, though a lot of vegan recipes included.

Choosing Raw   Vegan and raw cooking.

Going Vegan: My Journey

A Midlife Vegan

Vegan Dad

The Vegetarian who hates tofu  Some vegetarian, some vegan recipes.

Show me Vegan

Rawdorable

Little House of Veggies

Lean to the sun

Living Vegan

Peas and Thank you

Fat free Vegan

Vegan for $3.33 a day  A blog on being vegan AND frugal?  BE STILL MY HEART.

My Vegan Journal

Your Vegan Guide

The Vegetarian Resource Group  With lots of info on veganism as well.

Pure 2 Raw

Nutrition MD

This is what I eat

Vegan skinny bitch

Veganizzm

Really, there are tons of websites and blogs where you can find fantastic and easy to follow vegan meal ideas, all you have to do is google. Are you on Facebook? Since I ‘liked’ a gazillion vegan pages and groups I’m constantly reminded of my upcoming challenge, and by reading their articles I feel much more prepared to face the changes. Every day my news feed is inundated with vegan information– and information is key!

Do you have any other blogs or resources you’d like to share? I’d love to learn more!