“If It Fits Your Macros, Bro!”

 
“Counting Macros” is a growingly popular approach to dieting that involves hitting predetermined daily calorie numbers via specific macronutrient ratios (carbohydrate, protein, fat). This growth in popularity has been aided and accelerated by the proliferation of apps such as MyFitnessPal and other quantified-self technologies that allow people to easily track their food intake, activity, sleep levels, etc. This method is largely a quantitative approach to nutrition and diet, wherein the individual is exclusively concerned with their calories and specific macro goals (carb, fat, protein). One figures out a few baseline parameters – activity level, current weight, goals (lose body-fat, gain weight, maintain, etc.), and then utilizes a calculator that analyzes these variables and spits out your daily macro “prescription” of X calories, carbs, protein, and fat. From there, one would need to determine how to spread out the daily macro intake across various meals and snacks.
 
First, let’s establish that there are many effective ways to tackle the questions of how, what, and when should I eat to optimize my health, body composition, and performance. Many people find success with the counting macros approach and thrive off the inherent structure it requires. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the pro’s and con’s of adopting this approach.
 
Advantages:
• Structure – you’ve got a specific macro prescription to hit and it’s up to you to do that in the most effective manner possible
 
• Everything Counts – every snack and meal counts and must be accounted for. You are now accountable to the app and your daily goals, and must adjust your intake based on your choices throughout the day
 
• Better Understanding of Portion Sizes – presuming you are largely tackling this approach via meal prepping your own food, you should gain a much better appreciation for carb / protein / fat portion sizes and how they differ from your old or normal consumption patterns
 
• More Mindful Eating – How much of your current eating rituals are deliberate, conscious acts and how many of them are just mindless habits? Eating a quality breakfast before work is a deliberate act. Eating a muffin or donut at the office because they are there is mindless eating, simply done out of habit or impulse. When everything counts, you tend to be a little more selective about when and where you use your finite calories.
 
Pitfalls:
• Lack of emphasis on quality – despite what you may have heard to the contrary, all calories are not created equal. Hitting your macro targets with wild caught seafood, fresh produce, and avocado versus fast food and energy drinks will not yield the same results in the short or long term. Highly processed, low nutrient density foods are unhealthy regardless of the ratio you consume them in.
 
As a general rule, focus on eating as much high quality food as often as possible before trying higher order nutrition strategies such as counting macros. You aren’t going to track for the rest of your life; make sure you know how to eat correctly and adequately without the use of a smartphone app
 
• Tendency to Binge Eat – extremely commonplace with folks that track their macros is a self-imposed cheat meal / cheat day / cheat weekend to provide relief from the rigidity of their regular eating. The basic premise is follow a super strict approach during the week, then go completely off the rails at some point over the weekend and consume everything you’ve been avoiding. Eating tasty, unhealthy food from time to time is normal; going on food benders is a clear sign of a disordered eating behavior with long-term pitfalls if left unaddressed
 
• Prescription Accuracy – who is determining your caloric needs? What about your macro ratios? Are your ratios regularly being reviewed and adjusted to reflect both the relevant variables in your life and your progress or lack thereof on your current ratios?
 
• Inherent inflexibility – Your macros are fixed and unfazed by your appetite, social calendar, daily workout volume, travel plans, etc. Regardless of whatever complicating variables at play, you still have to hit your numbers
 
• Impractical – weighing, measuring, and meal prepping work great when your schedule and life are routine and largely unchanging. However, if you travel regularly or have a highly unpredictable job, you will likely struggle with such a regimented approach to eating
 
• Smart Phone Dependence – Macro tracking only practically works via smartphone applications, allowing us to see updated numbers in real time as well as a database of common foods, preparation methods, and portion sizes. Most people are already overly reliant on their smart phones as it is, and this will absolutely add another significant time reliance to the docket. Every meal will need to be tracked, and typically in real time, to maintain accuracy and up to date numbers. This means more screen time, which none of us needs.
 
Ultimately, the best diet is the one you can successfully adhere to. It has to be a way of life that resonates with you, which is built to last. Macro tracking can be an effective tool in the long-term pursuit of better health, performance, and graceful ageing. However, it is important to understand both the benefits and the shortcomings before going all in on an approach that may or may not be ideal for you and your goals.
 

2016 Winter Whole30 Challenge!

 
The holiday season and all the associated trappings of sweets, booze, and all manner of delicious treats has mercifully come to a close. Therefore, it’s time to hit the reset switch after the past few months of likely over-indulgence to help everyone lean out and start of 2016 on the right foot.
 
Our method of choice for for getting lean, mean, and healthy is the Whole30. What exactly is the Whole30? It is simply 30 days of eating only WHOLE FOODS. So no processed food, sugar, alcohol, sweeteners, grains, dairy, soy, or legumes. What can you eat? Essentially meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, starchy roots and tubers, nuts, and seeds.
 
Everyone that has done a Paleo/Primal dietary challenge (Whole30 or otherwise) in the past can attest to efficacy of such programs. Bottom line is this stuff will do wonders for your body composition, energy levels, mental acuity, performance, skin quality, sleep, and the list goes on. It is also a pretty darn rigorous (depending on how you currently eat) diet for 30 days. If you want to actually make some inroads on losing that stubborn body fat you can’t ever seem to shake, this is the program for you. Whole30 is also a great way to break dependencies on sugar and other addictive food substances that plague our diets and health.
 
We’ll go over all the specifics at our initial kickoff meeting this Sunday 10 January at 10AM, so mark your calendars and make it happen. The official challenge start date is Monday January 11, so that we can finish just in time to look fantastic at the Cupid’s Undie Run! However, you can obviously start sooner if you wish. Theres additional significance behind doing this Whole30 in mid-January, and that is Cupid’s Undie Run. The Undie Run is a huge annual charity fundraising event in which participants will be running around the streets of DC in our underwear in support of the Children’s Tumor Foundation (Team CFSS raised over 15k last year!). Most people think of bikini season as May-August, but for us Undie Runners, it starts decidedly earlier!
 
You may have reservations about the whole Paleo/Primal diet concept for one reason or another (if you can call evolutionary biology and overwhelming empirical evidence a concept), but were only asking you do try something different for 30 days and see what happens. Ask you yourself, what do you have to lose?
 

The Vegan Diet for Athletes?

 
I came across the following article on NFL players going vegan several months ago (Going Vegan in the NFL) and it got me thinking about the dangers of ordinary folks taking the advice of the genetically superior/physical outlier population.
 
Here’s a dose of reality- those gifted few who are meant to be in the NFL due to their sheer physical size, speed, power, and athletic gifts. This is not meant to marginalize their work ethic, effort, and years of struggle to reach the top tier of their sport. However, it is unlikely that they had to rely heavily on optimal nutrition, training, and recovery programs to get where they are. As long as they trained in the off-season, whether intelligently or not, they probably continued to get bigger, faster, fitter, and stronger.
 
I bring this up because most individuals do not fully understand the inherited physical prowess possessed by most Divison-1/professional athletes. Many skills and techniques can be honed through good coaching and practice, but we all have metaphorical ceilings on our athletic abilities. You cannot “train” being 6’5” and 265 lbs, with quick feet and good instincts. Some people are destined to play power forward and some people make great accountants, and there is no amount of effort that can be applied to change that.
 
My point is bringing this up is that athletes often succeed in spite of their diets and training routines. I cannot think of a more foolish diet for a collision sport athlete (or any human for that matter) than veganism / vegetarianism. Animal flesh provides the essential building blocks for muscle tissue repair, as well as your bones, skin, hair, arteries, veins and a host of other important bodily functions (check this must-read meat article). It is also calorically dense and satiating, which is a crucial attribute for athletes of the size and stature of football players, where body mass matters in a major way.
 
One does not grow to be a lean 250+ lb human on salads, beans, and quinoa. Are some athletes able to get away with incomplete, malnourishing diets? Sure. Should we emulate genetic freaks and expect similar outcomes? Absolutely not. Get your nutritional advice from the sports/performance nutrition experts, not the world champion athlete who plays by a unique set of rules.
 

Fall Whole30 Challenge!

marcos nom nom nom
Who knew going gluten free would be so delicious? Marcos chowing down on a gluten free cupcake courtesy of Georgetown Cupcake in Bethesda (sadly, not Whole30 approved).
 
While it may be hard to believe, summer is officially over, which means that the holiday season is right around the corner. Therefore, it’s time to hit the reset switch after the past few months of likely over-indulgence on good food and booze to help everyone lean out proactively before we all bulk up between Thanksgiving and New Years.
 
Our method of choice for for getting lean, mean, and healthy is the Whole30. What exactly is the Whole30? It is simply 30 days of eating only WHOLE FOODS. So no processed food, sugar, alcohol, sweeteners, grains, dairy, soy, or legumes. What can you eat? Essentially meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, starchy roots and tubers, nuts, and seeds.
 
Everyone that has done a Paleo/Primal dietary challenge (Whole30 or otherwise) in the past can attest to efficacy of such programs. Bottom line is this stuff will do wonders for your body composition, energy levels, mental acuity, performance, skin quality, sleep, and the list goes on. It is also a pretty darn rigorous (depending on how you currently eat) diet for 30 days. If you want to actually make some inroads on losing that stubborn body fat you can’t ever seem to shake, this is the program for you. Whole30 is also a great way to break dependencies on sugar and other addictive food substances that plague our diets and health.
 
We’ll go over all the specifics at our initial kickoff meeting this Sunday 12 October at 11am, so mark your calendars and make it happen. The duration of this challenge will have us wrap up close to Thanksgiving, which should be great timing for making things feasible.
 
You may have reservations about the whole Paleo/Primal diet concept for one reason or another (if you can call evolutionary biology and overwhelming empirical evidence a concept), but were only asking you do try something different for 30 days. Ask you yourself, what do you have to lose?
 

Satiety

 

“If you want an easy to remember way to measure your food…count it in pounds. “How many pounds of meat did I eat today?”. Simple.” – John Welbourn

 
One of the common issues people typically face when switching over to a paleo / primal diet is the issue of satiety. Namely, since we’ve eliminated a lot of our normal caloric sources, and likely drastically reduced our carbohydrate intake, you’re probably noticeably hungrier after meals or generally find it more difficult to feel “full”.
 
We need to first understand that the notion of “satiety” is in fact a hormonal and neurological signal that comes from the brain and the gut. It’s fairly complex and multifactorial, and also typically operates on a time delay. For example, if you’ve ever gone on an ice cream bender, you are familiar with the feeling of going from hungry to uncomfortably stuffed with seemingly little notice in between.
 
If you find yourself constantly hungry throughout the day, here are some tips to help combat your insatiable appetite. First, start by increasing your protein intake. For athletes, especially those looking to gain strength and build muscle mass (read: everybody), shooting for 1 gram of protein / lb. of bodyweight is great number to shoot for. Your next line of defense is increasing your fat intake. Think more eggs (eat the dang yolk!), cooking with butter, ghee, & coconut oil, snacking on nuts and almond butter, and throwing avocado on everything as a few suggestions. Lastly, look at increasing your starchy (roots and tubers) carbohydrate intake- think potatoes of all varieties, squash, yams, and white rice. If you are training hard, you need your quality carbs. Eat ‘em up!
 
Here’s the last thing to keep in mind: if your body composition is good, your performance is good, and you feel good, don’t worry about how much food you are eating. Some people have big appetites, and that’s just fine. If you are eating a ton of food, but things are going well for you and you aren’t piling on the body fat, then don’t fret over calories or portion sizes. Focus instead on your results and body composition.
 

10 Facts about Coconut Oil

coconut oil
 
From our friends over at Custom Fit Meals
 
1. It consists primarily of saturated fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs): Nearly 90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated fats. Many studies have proven that the “artery-clogging” idea was a myth and that saturated fats are not likely associated with heart disease. Secondly, coconut oil’s saturated fats are “Medium Chain Triglycerides” (MCTs), which are medium-length fatty acids that go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they quickly become a source of energy.
 
2. It helps regulate blood-sugar levels and can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes: Coconut oil can help improve insulin use within the body, helping to regulate blood-sugar levels. Additionally, a recent study found that coconut oil protects against insulin resistance, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
 
3. It helps regulate cholesterol levels: Coconut oil is high in lauric acid (a type of MCT), which increases the so-called “good” (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. Coconut oil also lowers “bad” (LDL) cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is essential for the creation of hormones. So basically, it takes something bad and turns it into something that we need!
 
4. It boosts energy levels: MCTs are broken down in the liver, where they are efficiently converted to energy for the body.
 
5. It boosts metabolism and may assist in weight loss: A study reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil boosts metabolism. Researchers found that participants who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil per day burned more calories than those who consumed less. Furthermore, a 2009 study found that women who ate two tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks had lower amounts of abdominal fat, which contributes to heart problems. In addition, they did not gain more weight than those women who did not consume the coconut oil daily.
 
6. It curbs cravings: The high quality fats in coconut oil are extremely satiating. Hunger is an indication that our bodies are not being fed correctly (either in regards to quantity or quality). Proper amounts and quality of fat and protein in our diets provide our bodies with the necessary energy to run properly, and keep our cravings in check.
 
7. It has anti-aging effects and may negate the effects of free radicals: Coconut oil has a positive antioxidant effect on the body by helping to stop the oxidative damage of free radicals. Oxidation is believed to contribute to cardiovascular problems and skin aging.
 
8. It boosts the immune system and has strong antibacterial and antiviral properties: Lauric acid makes up almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil. After coconut oil is digested, the lauric acid is broken down into monolaurin, a type of monoglyceride that kills bacteria and viruses, as well as other harmful pathogens.
 
9. It makes for a great skin moisturizer: This cooking oil also works wonders for the skin, keeping the skin’s connective tissues strong and reducing the appearance of fine lines.
 
10. It is ideal for high-temperature cooking: Consisting primarily of MCT fats, coconut oil has a higher smoke point than most polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils. This makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures.
 
11. I typically get my coconut oil at either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods if I’m in a pinch. TJ’s has the best price/quality I’ve seen on coconut oil, and I’ll typically buy a few jars at time because I use it frequently and to ensure there’s always extra in the pantry. The picture above is from Costco; I recently discovered they sell a 54 oz. jar of coconut oil for $15.99, which is a phenomenal price. If you cook with coconut oil like I do, do yourself a favor and give this stuff a try.
 

Don’t Be That Guy (or Gal)

 
don't be that guy
 
The overwhelming majority of folks that I work with have the exact same goals. These goals boil down to the following:
– Feel better
– Look better naked (lose body fat, build muscle)
– Get in shape (round is a shape too) / get stronger / fitter / more athletic
 
With that in mind, the approaches people take to reach these goals tend to vary dramatically. Unfortunately, vigorous misguided effort and lack of effort tend to produce equally poor outcomes.
 
Don’t’ be that guy/gal depicted in the pyramid above. Repeat after me: I will not attempt to out train a bad diet.
 
We all have that friend who is just naturally built to be a runner – ideal body type, athletic make-up, etc. We see this person and naturally draw (incorrect) conclusions about the reasons they look the way they do. Sadly, if you are short, stocky, and also have wide hips, running will not magically make you tall, svelte, and graceful. Do not assign causation to your observations; i.e. Kathy has a great body and is a runner, she must look like that because she runs! Therefore, if I run, then I will look like Kathy too!
 
WRONG! Promise me you will start putting your effort into your nutrition and sleep habits (delayed gratification) instead of that extra spin class (instant gratification). Focus on driving up your deadlift, squat, and pull up numbers, and I guarantee your body composition and figure will also improve. Stop wasting your time chasing fatigue and start focusing on the essential underpinnings of good health.
 

Summer time is here….keep your diet in order?

 
by: Coach Marcus Taylor
 
The summertime is here and when everyone starts peeling off layers of clothes to show off their hardwork throughout the winter months it can be difficult to stay on point with your nutrition. All winter long you have made fitness and dietary promises to yourself about getting ready for the summer. You’ve worked hard and made some gains. But the tough part continues to be your diet, which is common because you fool yourself into thinking you can eat crap because of the work you are putting in in the gym. Wrong..wrong…wrong.
 
Yes, training is important and speaking for myself its a way of life; however, training without the proper diet is like a iPhone without any apps….what’s the point?!?! Training properly is a small (but integral) part of the equation when it comes to overall health. Without the right nutrition you will never reach your true potential. Whether you’re after strength, endurance or aesthetics, nutrition is the biggest piece in the puzzle.
 
Summer makes it harder than winter to me because you have this constant pressure to be in shape for vacations, cookouts and pool parties where you’ll be wearing tanktops and bathing suits (some people will even turn down invites because they aren’t “summer ready”). BUT when attending these events there are always the worst food combinations for a clean diet…lots of hotdogs and hamburgers with buns, potato and pasta salads, sugary “mystery” drinks that’ll have you making socially awkward/inappropriate comments as well as terrible nutritional choices. You can stay the course if you are smart about it. Here’s the gameplan without being the weird person that requests quinoa burgers.
 
1) Eat burgers with no bun. It has become more socially acceptable to see people eating burgers without a carby bun. And if you are at a cookout, hopefully there will be some guacamole. Use that guac as a burger condiment for an awesome meal.
 
2) Eat a hearty salad. If on vacation you’ll have your choice of where and when to eat but at least once a day have a solid salad. If you’re going to someone’s house then bring an extra large portion of your favorite salad for you to share with others.
 
3) Drink what you bring. Most summer event invites request that you bring some alcoholic beverage so in that case bring something that’s more conducive for YOU. Nothing uber sugary is the key. Tequila with lime juice instead of a margarita OR apple cider instead of a Corona are some options. Stay away from their beer cooler.
 
Remember to have fun this summer and that some slip ups aren’t that bad…Don’t be weird about your food but don’t slide into a vortex of gluttony either. Stay class Silver Spring!
 

Paleo Bulking Protocol

 
One unexpected consequence experienced by folks who are already fairly lean when adopting a Paleo diet is additional unintended weight loss. Typically when people make the switch from some variation of the Standard American Diet (whole grains, dairy, refined foods, etc.) to eating real food, carbohydrates tend to reduced most drastically of all 3 macro-nutrients (Protein / Fat / Carbs).
 
Now, if you goal is weight / fat loss, reducing carbs in addition to total caloric intake tends to be a very effective protocol. However, if you are making the change for more health / performance related reasons, you need to be mindful of this potentially drastic reduction in carbohydrates. This is particularly true for people who are currently very active (CrossFit anyone?), as most athletic endeavors rely on glucose (carbohydrates) as a primary fuel source. You can’t CrossFit at a high level on a low carb diet, it simply doesn’t work. Doing so is a recipe for crashing when it comes to your energy levels and recovery from workouts.
 
Here’s a better solution if you are already squared away in the body composition category and need to fuel your athletic performance: simply substitute quality starchy roots and tubers with the grains and any sugar you are currently consuming. For example: sub a sweet potato / yam / squash a the bowl of pasta. We don’t need to replace the entirety of the carbs we are currently eating with better carbs options (i.e. 300 grams of crappy food with 300 grams of “paleo friendly” carbs). We shouldn’t however reduce the amount too drastically, at least at first, to make those rough early stages of Paleo life more tolerable.
 
Lastly, if you are already lean and have a high work output of training/activity, good carbs are your friend. Eat fruit, sweet potatoes, yams, white rice (maybe not every day), etc., wantonly. This is especially true on days you workout, as we want to aid in the muscle rebuilding and refueling effort. So if maintaining your weight is an issue now that you are eating clean, first up the quality carb intake, and second increase your portion sizes. Don’t stop eating when you are full, keep plowing forward and eat until you have fueled your activity and muscle building goals.
 

Whole30 Reflections

 
by: Marcus Taylor
 
So last Thursday my wife and I (#TeamTaylor) finished our Whole30. As some of you know, it has its ups and downs. We had moments where we wanted to kill each other because we craved some sugar, didn’t know what to cook, got tired of what we were eating, etc. Two weeks into it we sort of fell in line with the program. We made meals that we could take for lunch as well as have for dinner. We found meals that were just as good as their “non-paleo” counterparts and cooked those often. Socially, we still went out with friends and had fun but didn’t succum to binge drinking or fatty foods.
 
Just to add a little background…My wife, Shavonn, and I just got married in September. One great piece of advice I got from a close friend was to “have a family project”. To find a goal and accomplish it with your new spouse. This will help to build your marriage and continue to strengthen your bond as a unit. Insert Whole30 for #TeamTaylor.
 
I actually appreciated the experience of cleansing my body and attaining a goal with my spouse. We both saw physical results (Me=9lb loss and Her=5lb loss) as well as emotionally bonded over this. We both needed each other and would not have been able to do this without one another. Shavonn and I feel great and are motivated to continue along this path. We are now going to an 80/20 (Paleo/Non-Paleo) rule when it comes to our diet. We feel that we have finished setting up the guidelines for a healthy lifestyle in which we will pass on to our future children.
 
My advice and tips for the Whole30…
1) Plan your weekly meals and pack them daily
2) Experiment with meals before you undertake the Whole30 challenge
3) Have a dedicated Whole30 partner or group (this will make you less likely to cheat)
4) Map out your cheat meals for the day you get off (you deserve it)