pregnant

Top Healthy Foods to Eat When Pregnant

There’s always been a conversation about what foods you’re supposed to avoid during pregnancy, starting with too much coffee and all the way to high mercury fish. There is a lot of controversy on the matter, though, and the best route for that is to see what your doctor recommends for you based on your body and blood work. 

In today’s post, I want to focus on foods that you should be eating during pregnancy to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients needed.  And while the general message of eating a nutrient dense diet and making sure you’re getting a good amount of protein, carbs and healthy fats stands, we’re here to get specific about it all. So with lots of things to cover, let’s just get right into it. And remember, if you're unsure about any foods, always consult your doctor first!

Let's start with some major nutrients that should be incorporated into your diet while pregnant. 

-Calcium is key so the baby can build bones, teeth as well as nerves and muscles. It’s recommended to have 1000 mg daily. 

 -Vitamin D is needed to support the immune system, as well as its ability to support Calcium in its function.  It is recommended to have 600 IU per day. 

-Iodine is a mineral that aids in baby’s brain and nervous system development processes. Taking 290 micrograms daily should be sufficient. 

-Folic Acid is another important one that can help reduce potential risk of neural tube defects. It’s  recommended to take at least 600 micrograms of this one daily.

-DHA is one of the Omega-3 fatty acids, and it is needed for baby’s brain and eye development. 200-300 milligrams daily is recommended for this one. 

-Iron is needed more during pregnancy than you would normally need. It aids in making more blood cells that can carry oxygen to the baby. 27 milligrams are the recommendation for this one. 

While it is important to take all these into consideration, consulting with your doctor about your needs is crucial. A lot of the supplement intake is dependent on what YOUR specific body needs and can tell you that based on your blood work. 

Your doctor will also be able to recommend you vitamin complex and any other supplements that you might need.

Before I get into all the foods and why they are beneficial during pregnancy, I want to mention that there’s no way to know in advance if you’re going to be completely turned off by the smell or taste of these. While you enjoyed salmon before getting pregnant, baby might protest completely against it. Or call for ice cream and pretzels every night. On top of that, cravings during different pregnancies will also be different. 

pregnancy food

I encourage you to give these foods a try and use them for optimal nutrition: 

Dairy Products-yogurt, milk, cheese, you name it, are a great source of protein and calcium that is needed for the development of bones, preventing blood clotting, aiding muscle contraction and regulating heart rhythm.

Milk is not only a good source of calcium, but also is a way to get some vitamin D, iodine as well as protein into your system. Using milk in coffee or smoothie, or even having a bowl of cereal can be a way to work it into your diet.

Greek yogurt is great as it also had probiotics that supports digestive health. If you happen to be lactose intolerant, there’s a chance you might be ok to have yogurt, specifically probiotic one. It’s something worth testing with your doctor to see. 

Legumes-lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, peas, different types of beans all fall into this category. Legumes are a great source of fiber and protein, they also contain iron, calcium and folate that your body needs during pregnancy. 

Folate is an important one, it’s part of the B vitamins, specifically B9 and is needed for the baby to be able to form brain as well as nervous system. 

Lentils are a great source of fiber, that is good for digestive health. 

Sweet Potatoes-is probably one of the most delicious veggies out there. You can fry it, bake it, make desserts with it, you name it and all of them will be as tasty as the other. More importantly, sweet potatoes also contain beta-carotene, a compound that once in the system gets converted into vitamin A. 

Vitamin A is needed for baby’s development, especially in the first trimester, when the cells are being divided quickly in order to become different organs and body parts. 

While you can also get vitamin A from animal sources such as organ meats, too much of those in the system can be toxic, so going with sweet potatoes is a significantly safer route. On top of vitamin A you’re also getting fiber, that will help you stay full for longer and keep your blood sugar in check. 

Salmon- grilled, baked, wild salmon is a fantastic food during pregnancy. Salmon is a source of DHA Omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for a variety of reasons. Our bodies can’t naturally produce DHA on their own,  omega-3s are needed in metabolism of vitamins A and E, salmon consumption been shown to reduce risk of depression during pregnancy, and it’s needed for eye and brain development in the baby. 

On top of all these, salmon also is a source of iodine and vitamin D. 

If you’re worried about mercury, salmon is safe, however you should stay away from these-marlin, king mackerel, shark, bigeye tuna, swordfish. 

Lean meat-is obviously a great source of protein, but also contains amino-acids that are the main building blocks of cells in the body. Protein, being one of the macronutrients, is needed in larger quantities in the body, and by having 3 servings per day you should be able to reach a decent amount of protein per day. 

Apart from amino-acids, beef and pork contain iron, choline and B vitamins, that are great during pregnancy. Iron is truly crucial, it is used by red blood cells and with a growing baby your blood volume increases, and you need more iron. Anemia is also fairly common, especially in the 3rd trimester, so making sure your Iron levels are where they need to be is so important, as anemia can cause potential birth complications.  

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, or you happen to get an aversion towards meats, it is crucial to prioritize your iron supplementation to make sure you’re where you need to be. 

Eggs-are a fantastic food that contains so many different nutrients, as well as protein and fat. Eggs contain choline, a nutrient important for brain development. Vitamin D is another big nutrient that you can get out of eggs. 

A single egg can get you about 150 mg of Choline, with the daily recommendation being 450 mg and 44IU of vitamin D with the recommendation of 600IU per day. 

You can cook eggs in dishes, make an omelet, boil them or cook them on a pan. While some ways are healthier than others, there’s always room to enjoy some eggs. 

Avocado-is a fruit, but unlike many others that are mostly carbs, this one is filled with monounsaturated fatty acids. Avocados contain lots of nutrients and are high in fiber, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, potassium, vitamins E and C. 

Vitamin B6 is known to promote tissue formation as well as skin and aid in brain growth for the baby. It also has been found to minimize morning sickness. 

Avocados are also rich in potassium, that can aid in reliving leg muscle cramps that can sometimes happen during pregnancy. 

There are so many different ways to consume them, from cutting them in halves, adding some salt on top and eating with a spoon, to making guacamole, or using it in a salad or on top of a toast. 

Dried fruit-dates, prunes, figs, apricots, mangoes are a great source of fiber as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. They contain the same amount of nutrient content that a fresh fruit does, but devoid of water. It’s important to keep in mind that dried fruit is higher in calories and while it is easy to eat a lot of it, it’s something to keep an eye out. 

While sugar in dried fruit is natural, it can easily add on. 

Fish liver oil-just like salmon, fish liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, both EPA and DHA, that are needed for brain and eye development of the baby. Fish liver oil is most often made out of cod’s liver. 

Supplementing fish liver oil is a great way to get vitamin D as well as vitamin A. It’s recommended to have one serving per day, as too much vitamin A can be dangerous. 

Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids are sardines, tuna as well as salmon, of course. 

Nuts-if nuts are currently not in your diet, you should definitely throw some in. They are filled with vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and zinc, potassium, vitamin E. On top of that they are just generally a great source of protein and fat as well as fiber. 

While some nuts will differ in their nutritional profile, there’s really no wrong answer. Walnuts will get you some omega-3s and calcium, while peanuts are higher in folate. 

The fats in nuts are considered good fats, so while eating the whole large bag is not recommended, adding them to your meals or as a snack in moderation is 

Berries-that earth’s fruit is filled with so many good things-healthy carbs, vitamin C as well as being rich in fiber and antioxidants. 

Berries are a great source of carbohydrates that won’t spike your blood sugar levels. You can have them as a snack or add them to your meals or smoothies. 

Whole Grains-are filled with fiber and vitamins. Great sources are oats and quinoa. Both of those contain protein on top of other vitamins. 

Main vitamins, that can be found in whole grains are vitamin B, fiber and magnesium. You can eat them as a side dish or mixed it with a meal. Oats are great in the smoothies or baking, and quinoa can be added into dishes and salads. 

Water-while it is not food, it’s so important to stay hydrated when you’re not pregnant and significantly more important when you are. With pregnancy, your blood volume increases by 45 percent. 

While the general recommendation for pregnant women is to drink about 2.3 liters of water, how much water you need is completely dependent on you. Water aids in the delivery of nutrient to your body as well as the baby, so staying fully hydrated is absolutely crucial. 

pregnancy change


Don't Fall for These BS Weight Loss Scams

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

​​We live in a world where from an early age there’s been almost an expectation to lose weight. No matter the price, the constant strive to lose weight is there. And we want results, now! 

It’s never - “I want to lose 30-40 pounds in a year sustainably that works with my lifestyle”, instead more often than not it’s “I have a _____ coming up in a month, how can I lose 20 pounds in 4 weeks” 

And in case you didn’t believe me, the first search on Google is in a month.  On the bright side, when you type 30 pounds, it gives 3 months before anything else. Not amazing, but better than 20 in a month, that’s for damn sure.  

lose 20 pounds

I want to add a note, that if you have a 100+ pounds to lose initial weight will come off quicker, could very much be 10,20, 30 pounds in the first month or two. However, if the 15,20,30 pounds is the total that you’re trying to lose, sometimes it can be harder and take longer. 

 But why are we even talking about quick weight loss? Oh, right, because companies will do anything, and I mean a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g to get you to buy their product by the promise, or even more so a guarantee of you dropping pounds in days and not months.  

So welcome, my dearest reader (yes, I watched Bridgerton recently and if you haven’t, what are you doing?) to the list of 

7 bullshit things you don't need to lose weight. 

! let’s get into it !

1 - Fad Diets

What the hell is a fad diet? While there’s no exact definition, I shall offer my interpretation of what it is. 

FAD diet is a diet that promises you quick results, usually asks you to eliminate something out of your current diet, becomes really popular for a while, then disappears and comes back a few years later (Atkins now becoming KETO) with a whole new finesse and new research to back it up. 

Hey, listen, truth is, fad diets do work. You want to know why? Because by cutting out a whole food group (which is usually the case) you are eating less. As you’re consuming fewer calories that puts you into a caloric deficit, which is why you can lose weight. 

Here’s the catch! None of these diets tells you what to do when you reach your goal. So, naturally, once you get to where you want to be, you bring back the foods you cut out, you raise calories drastically, and you gain weight back, if not more that you had before. 

FAD diets often perpetuate the yo-yo dieting cycle. You believe it didn’t work and move to another trendy diet just to repeat the cycle. 

2 - Juice Cleanses 

If I had a dollar for every time I heard “I’m just going to do a little juice cleanse for a week, I want to detox”. Let’s unpack everything that’s wrong with this sentence.  

First of all, juicing is not sustainable, and I think there’s an understanding of this because people only do it for a week or two, but the results that come out of juicing are not sustainable either. The weight will drop, a lot of water weight, maybe a few pounds with that, but the moment you introduce “normal” food back. This also leads back to yo-yo dieting cycle, and it just goes on. 

Secondly, by juicing your fruits and veggies you are stripping them of fiber, that we need to feed good gut bacteria, so as a consequence of that you’re also losing some healthy gut bacteria while you’re juicing.

Thirdly, you have not 1, but 2! organs, inside your body, your kidneys and your liver, that are responsible for detoxing your body. By taking away nutrients that your body needs, you’re likely doing the opposite of helping. 

Now, that doesn't take away for certain liquid diets to give your digestion system a rest but it's not a weight loss strategy nor a long term, sustainable plan.

3 - Detox Tea

While regular teas are great for you, black, green, white, fruit, mint, you name it, detox teas are not really good quality teas. Will they successfully get you to lose weight? To an extent, sure. If you spend the majority of your day in the bathroom having major, for the lack of a better word, diarrhea, you will shed a couple pounds. You can also do the same trick with the morning trip to the bathroom and weight yourself before and after the fact. Chances are the scale will go down a bit. 

Point is, detox teas include diuretics, hers, laxatives, high levels of caffeine (that one alone can get you going to the bathroom), as well as medications and even illegal chemicals like phedra, that can cause major health complications and even death. 

On a good day you might just have a good trip to the bathroom, on a not so good day you can face one of the side effects like heart attack, stroke and seizure. 

If you want to get some tea benefits, drink some green tea in the morning and even throughout the day and see how that makes you feel. 

4 - Fat Burners

Fat burners are not FDA approved and some can contain potentially harmful ingredients. Some of the main ingredients are caffeine, green tea extract, carnitine, yohimbe, soluble fiber and so many other ingredients, some of them with very little research on how they work and potential side effects that they could cause.

Another huge factor to look at is, if you have a medical condition or heart health issues or blood pressure condition, it might be dangerous to take fat burners without consulting with your doctor first.

Lastly, fat burners will not do the work for you. They could potentially enhance the results that you’re getting, but you gotta be putting in the work with your nutrition and workouts. There’s no magic pill that will melt the fat without you showing up and doing the things that actually work.

I actually took a fat burner once in college once and it did was leave me feeling nauseous and weird. Don't make the same mistake I did!

5 - Doing cardio every day for hours

While cardio is generally good for you, it can become one of those “too much of a good thing is bad” king of situation. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t do cardio, it’s great for your cardiovascular health and can also boost your metabolism and give you a good workout.

The issue arises when you’re only doing cardio, every day or almost every day for a long period of time. What can happen is by doing so you can start losing your lean muscle mass, that can help you burn calories as well as boost your metabolism. Doing only cardio changes the way your body uses energy, it makes you more endurance focused and with that, your body stores fat that it can use for energy to keep you going for hours. Another potential outcome is that it can raise your appetite, and cause you to eat more, so you won’t be losing weight.

6 - Waist trainers

If you wrap yourself with something, anything really, around your waist, do exercise for an hour or two and then take the wrapping off, chances are you’ll be sweaty underneath.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be as bad if that was the only thing that the waist trainers did. The list of issues with those is one to be aware of. Waist trainers can weaken core muscles, restrict air flow to the organs, cause musculoskeletal issues, put pressure on your organs, lead to digestive issues by causing acid reflux and even fracture the ribs.

When you see a celebrity you like promoting it online, just remember that that’s something that makes them money. They have their personal trainer, chef and a group of people helping them to be in the shape that they are, so any waist trainer or a magic concoction they are promoting is more likely than not to make money.

7 - Eating 1200 calories for years

I can’t believe that we still need to talk about this one, but it happens so much more often than it ever really should. . The real problem is under eating in general, however 1200 does provide a pretty good example of that. What happens when you’re under eating is, your metabolism adjusts to it. So, say you should be eating 2000 calories, but you’re eating 1200, your baseline now is 1200. While this becomes the baseline, your body still knows that it’s less than what you’re supposed to be getting. When you decide that you want to lose weight and bring the calories even lower than 1200, your very smart body freaks out, now it goes into the protection mode and stores everything, because it thinks that you can starve or give even less food. So, to keep your body and organs safe, it stores all the calories you’re consuming to make sure if food stops coming, you have something to work off.

The issue with this is that to recover your metabolism, it’s going to take a long time. Raising your calories up to a healthy adult level before you can attempt a weight loss phase again.

I can go on and on and on about so many other things, like a magic booty workout or a 7-day workout that’ll get your abs, or a 500 calorie a day plan to look like your favorite K-pop celebrity. Point is, the way to lose weight is not a quick fix (if you want to keep it off, of course), and it takes time and effort.

There are only a few simple steps, though:

Moderate Calorie Deficit

Daily Movement 

Healthy amount of sleep

Stress Management

Focusing on whole foods and minimizing highly processed foods

And you really need to show up, day after day and put in the work, and results will follow.

If you want to get on a route to healthy weight loss, check out our Master Your Health Ebook that breaks down a lot of these practical core principles.


healthy food

Why Balancing Your Blood Sugar Can Improve Your Health

It’s true! Balancing your blood sugar levels can significantly improve your health. It's because blood sugar levels can affect so many different aspects within our body. 

You probably heard about people checking their blood sugar levels. Most of the time, we associate it with Diabetes, and most people don’t think twice about it. It all makes perfect sense, though, why would you care if you’re not sick. 

I will tell you why! Because your blood sugar levels, even perfectly normal ones, can tell you a lot about your diet, about your performance in the gym and just general wellbeing. 

Maintaining regular insulin and blood sugar levels can have a range of benefits: 

  • Increased energy levels 
  • Less cravings 
  • Improved move
  • Reduced fatigue 
  • Improved brain health 
  • Reduced risk of developing certain chronic diseases 
  • Better skin health 
  • Better weight management 

You can follow the good old track of prickling your finger multiple times a day- before food, after food, couple hours after a meal, before gym, after gym. There would be a lot of poking happening if you were to follow the traditional tracker route. However, in the past few years, the new type of trackers really started showing up. They are called Continuous Glucose Monitors. Well, they kinda did exist before, they were and are used by people with Type 1 Diabetes, and have a function of insulin pump to even out the levels. They look like this, and have a very specific purpose. 

glucose monitor

We will not be talking about these ones. 

We’ll be talking about Continuous Glucose Monitors that look like this: 

continuous glucose monitor

How does it work?

How do those trackers work in the first place? The device usually consists of the monitoring device (or an app on the phone) and the sensor that gets inserted into the subcutaneous layer of the skin. This sensor creates signals using glucose oxidase reaction and produces a current which is proportional to the glucose concentration in the interstitial fluid (body fluid between blood vessels and cells). 

Diet

Diet is such an interesting part of it all. What you eat during the day might not have the effect that I would have while eating the same exact foods.

If you have any sort of  athletic goal, figuring out what foods work best for you can be that factor keeping you from achieving your highest potential. By using a CGM, you can get the information that you need to get to the next level. It provides you with real-time insights about your body’s response to the foods you’re eating, the times of the meals that work better than others and the effects of food if it’s consumed before or after the exercise. 

Fitness

Athletes are the new group that can hugely benefit from wearing the tracker, even for a month. CGM provides potential to increase performance, speed up recovery and be helpful in endurance training. 

Health- prevention of chronic illness

Improved Performance & Energy Levels:  CGM can allow you to have an almost instant performance boost. Instead of spending weeks or even months trying to figure out what works for your body and what doesn't, CGM can give you information that you need to adjust your lifestyle instantly. 

Have you ever felt sleepy or sluggish after a meal? Most of us have. This can be correlated to a higher carbohydrate meal. It makes your blood sugar levels spike up causing Hyperglycemia, to which your body, in reaction to high blood sugar pumps insulin, to even it out, causing the blood sugar levels to drop really low (Hypoglycemia). This leads to the sleepy, foggy, unfocused feeling that we get after. Our brains are responsible for burning about 20%, sometimes even more, of the daily calories.

Metabolic Fitness: Metabolic fitness refers to the ability of our bodies to use different food sources for fuel in the most effective way. 

When the blood sugar rises, your pancreas secretes insulin, causing the blood sugar levels to be taken up by the cells of the body. If you are regularly having higher glucose levels and higher levels of insulin, there’s a chance of developing insulin resistance, which can in turn lead to metabolic syndrome and after that to Diabetes. 

What insulin resistance does, it causes less sugar to be taken up by the body, so then the actual blood sugar level is higher on average. Not only that but you’ll also have higher levels of insulin in the blood.  These factors can prevent fat from your adipose tissue from being mobilized and used as a fuel source. On top of that there are other issues like inflammation, oxidative stress and others. 

A lot of chronic illnesses are also rooted in metabolic dysfunction, some being- heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity. 

Some ways to determine good metabolic fitness include: 

  • Blood sugar rising minimally after the mean and quickly returning to the baseline
  • Blood sugar staying in the tight window where it ranges
  • Having the fasting levels in the low-risk range

Tips for managing blood sugar levels (findings from wearing the glucose trackers and other studies): 

balanced meal

Tip 1: The Order in which you eat your food matters. Starting with fiber rich foods, like a salad before the meal, can aid in the digestion process and keep that sugar spike minimal. 

Tip 2: Meal composition makes a difference. Consuming only carbs can cause the blood sugar to spike, however, if it’s combined with some protein and fats, that can keep it from climbing up. 

Tip 3: Exercise can allow you to ‘cheat’. Even something like a low intensity steady walk can aid in keeping your blood sugar in check, especially if done after a meal. When it comes to high intensity workout, after that, you can basically eat a variety of combinations and not have blood sugar rise. 

Tip 4: Eating later in the day may complicate things. 6pm dinner and 10 pm meal have different effects on your body. Our bodies release melatonin (sleep hormone) in the evening to tell us that the bedtime is approaching. Not only that, but it inhibits insulin secretion by building on receptors on the pancreas. Late night hyperglycemia and following hypoglycemia can really disturb sleep. 

Tip 5: Poor sleep can spike your sugar. Following an unhealthy sleep pattern, not getting enough sleep or getting poor sleep can increase the variability of up and down movements of the blood sugar that following day. 

Tip 6: Meal pacing matters. Eating quickly on the go is something that is almost unavoidable these days, but doing that can also influence the blood sugar fluctuation. Eating your meal normally and really spending time doing it can aid in minimizing those fluctuations and keeping them in a tight range zone.  

Some people claim that it is the next big thing for optimizing overall health, longevity and athletic performance. Others say that it’s overrated and doesn’t provide the information that is needed. 

Where is the truth? Somewhere in the middle, like most things?

It just depends. It depends on your goals, how influenced you are by the information like the one that tracker will give you and really the need for this data. 

If you are someone who is easily influenced by the information, you obsess over the number of calories you burn, always trying to do better, you see your step goals and push to hit more and more steps, you track your food religiously and get triggered if you overeat, maybe adding another device to track your data isn’t for you. Also, if that is the case, taking some time off all the tracking can be beneficial. 

On the other hand, if you’re someone who works well with extra data and wants to improve performance, make sure nutrition is as balanced as it possibly can be and push yourself to that next level, then it is something to consider. 

Currently, there are a couple of different brands on the market, other than the trackers that are created for diabetics. Supersapiens (not for sale in the U.S.) and Levels being the biggest ones. Both are in the $200-300 range per month, and you receive a box with the tracker and everything else you need to get the party started. And for Levels there’s even a waiting list to be able to get this new piece of tech.

Either way there are some great takeaways just from learning to managing blood glucose spikes with or without these new wearables.\

P.S. Looking to optimize your health? Don’t forget to check out my Master Your Health Ebook with over 95 pages of nutrition tips, food lists, grocery list planner, meal plan organizer, workouts, recipes + so much more!


healthy fats

Will Eating Dietary Fats Make You Fat?

Just like carbs, fats get a bad rep often. With keto on the rise, lots of people are going for a fat heavy diet, however there are still people who believe that fats will make you fat. So, for that reason, let’s start with some myths about fats that are still going around and break down why they are not true!

7 Dietary Fat Myths

healthy fats

Myth 1: All Fats are Unhealthy 

There are different types of fats for a reason, and they are not the same. There are healthier and less healthy fats. Nutritious ones include those made by mother nature including essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and are helpful in absorption of vitamins in the body.

Myth 2: A low fat diet is the best way to lose weight 

Macronutrient breakdown is not the most important thing when it comes to losing weight. While yes, you can achieve your weight loss goals on a lower fat diet, it is in no way shape or form a necessary component. For weight loss, you need to be in the caloric deficit, and that can be achieved in a variety of ways. 

Additionally, going too low in fat can cause a variety of issues. Fat is a key component for many functions in the body. 

Myth 3: Our bodies don’t need fat

That’s just a lie. Macronutrients are called Macro for a reason, macro means large-scale. These are the nutrients our bodies need in a larger amount. All of them: fats, carbs and proteins. Neither of these nutrient groups should be eliminated from the diet. 

Myth 4: All fat-free foods are healthy

If you are someone who’s trying to follow a lower fat diet and in order to avoid fats goes for fat-free or low-fat labeled foods, it’s important to be informed. While yes, the amount of fat in these products is lower, in order to make up for it brands tend to add sugars or refined carbs and can be higher in calories in general. It’s important to read the nutrition label and keep an eye out for those added sugars. 

We would recommend focusing on ​​the good fats instead of going for processed foods that might be advertised as low fat, though. 

Myth 5: Eating fat will cause weight gain

While it can be true, this can be said about all food in general. If you eat in a caloric surplus, you will gain weight. It doesn’t matter if these calories are coming from carbs or fats or proteins. If your goal is to keep weight off or lose weight, you can follow the rule of fists or count calories to make sure you’re consuming enough for your goals. ​​

Myth 6: Fat raises cholesterol

This one is only partially true. First, not all fats can raise cholesterol, and on top of that some even can lower the levels, keeping them at a healthy level. Overconsumption of trans fats, however, can raise cholesterol levels, so it’s important to prioritize healthier types of fats/ 

Myth 7: Eating Fat will increase your risk of heart disease

This is similar to the previous myth. Eating large amounts of unhealthy fats in the long run could increase your chances of developing heart disease. Advice here would remain the same, prioritize healthy whole food fats that provide the nutrients that are essential for your brain and day to day performance. 

So now that we covered some main myths and misconceptions, let’s rewind and start from the beginning, 

What Are Dietary Fats Anyway? 

avocado

Lipids, to the most of us knows just as fats, are a macronutrient group that you get through your diet. Fats are a necessary part of nutrition and are responsible for a lot of processes running smoothly in the body. What do fats do for us, you might ask? Here are a few main functions:

-As a source of fuel.

-Fats provide insulation as the body’s fat stores.

-It provides aid in absorption of fat soluble vitamins.

-Acts as an energy storehouse.

-Supplies essential fatty acids. 

-Fats create a protective padding for body structures as well as internal organs.

-Fats are a part of all the cell membranes.

-They promote healthy skin.

Ok, all of those things seem pretty important, don’t they? But why do we have this notion about fats being bad, then? It is a simple misconception or is there truth to it? 

Fats are not inherently evil, just like carbs, there are healthy fats full of nutrients, and there are fats that are not as good to be consumed on a regular basis. It is true that the essential fats and fatty acids are needed on a daily basis, saturated fats and cholesterol on the other side are not something to be consumed daily. In this post I want to talk about which fats are the good ones and which ones are bad, and mainly, why they are good or bad. 

Types of Dietary Fats

There are a few main types of fats: saturated, unsaturated and trans fats, and it’s important to know the difference between them. 

Saturated Fats- are the fats that can be found in meat as well as other animal products like butter and cheese. It is also commonly found in palm and coconut oils that are used in a variety of foods. Some of the foods that are high in saturated fats are-fatty meats, cream, sour cream and ice cream, baked foods like biscuits, cakes and pastries, palm oil as well as coconut oil. Obviously, whole food sources would be healthier than these processed food choices. 

Saturated fats are a bit of a nuanced subject. Saturated fats are slowly being recognized by some experts as not as bad or as unhealthy as was previously thought and in fact could even have some benefits in the right amounts. Due to a few observational studies, saturated fats were overly demonized and linked to heart disease. Recent studies have come out like this meta analysis with 347,747 subjects from a total of 21 studies, that showed there was “no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart or cardiovascular disease”. Multiple analyses have confirmed this although it is still taking time to trickle down into a lot of dietary recommendations.   

Now does this mean you should go dosing everything in butter? No, probably not but the good news here is that a balanced diet focusing on whole foods including saturated fats in appropriate amounts could absolutely be beneficial!

Unsaturated Fats- these fats can be found in plant sources as well as fish. Unsaturated fats are the ones widely recognized as healthy and important for a balanced diet. They are found in foods like salmon, avocados, nuts, and olive oil. These are the fats that should be implemented into the diet on a regular basis. 

Unsaturated fats can be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. 

Monounsaturated fats are great for protecting your heart. There are fats in olive oil as well as avocados and some nuts like almonds, peanuts and Brazil nuts. 

Polyunsaturated fats are known for lowering bad cholesterol. There are two main types of these fats- Omega-3 and Omega-6. Both of these are considered essential and should be incorporated in the diet. 

Omega-3s can be found in fish like herring, salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel. 

While most people get too much omega 6s in their diet, make sure enough omega-3 it is recommended to have 2 servings of fish per week. Omegas can also be taken as a supplement if needed. 

Trans Fats-  can also raise cholesterol levels and increase the chance of heart disease. They can be found in margarine, certain snacks, baked goods as well as fried food. Trans fats shown on the ingredients list of products and can be seen as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Trans fats are the one you want to avoid as much as possible. 

To bring it full circle, ​​fats are crucial to a variety of internal processes and should be prioritized in the diet. Here are some of these foods: 

Healthy Dietary Fats Grocery List

Healthy fat

-Avocados

Avocados contain about 77% fats, unlike most fruits that are mostly carbs. The core fatty acid in avocados is called Oleic Acid, which can also be found in olive oil. They are a great source of fiber and potassium, can lower LDL cholesterol and are, on top of it all, absolutely delicious. 

-Eggs

 There’s a lot of misconception about eggs being unhealthy, however, while yolks are high in cholesterol and fat, it has been found that cholesterol in eggs doesn’t affect blood levels of cholesterol in the majority of people. Eggs are a great source of protein, they are filled with vitamins and antioxidants. 

-Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate has about 65% of fats, it’s rich in fiber, magnesium, iron and copper. It’s filled with antioxidants, can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. 

-Cheese

Cheese is high in nutrients, it is a fantastic source of vitamin B12, calcium, phosphorous and selenium. Some cheeses are also ​​high in protein and a good source of fats. 

-Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, protein and other nutrients. 

-Nuts

Nuts are a fantastic source of “good” fats and fiber, as well as protein. Almonds, walnuts, macadamia, Brazil and other nuts are great snacks and are filled with magnesium and vitamin E.

-Chia Seeds

Chia seeds tend to be overlooked as the source of fat, but one ounce of chis seeds contains about 9 grams of fat. They are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds have anti-inflammatory effects and can lower blood pressure. 

-Full-fat yogurt

Full fat yogurts are filled with benefits. They are a great source of probiotics, can improve digestive health and can lower risk of heart disease. 

-Extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil is one of the best oils to be cooking with. It contains vitamin E and K and is yet another great antioxidant food. It lowers inflammation, lowers blood pressure, can improve cholesterol markers and is hands down one of the best sources of healthy fats out there.  ​​

Keep these foods in mind next time you go grocery shopping. Enjoy fats in your diet and leave us a comment with your favorite fatty foods.


Truth About Birth Control

You probably heard a lot of different takes on birth control. There are people who swear by it, saying it's God’s send, and it changed their life. And there are people, who are completely against it no matter what.

Where does the truth lay, though? Well, it really depends. But before we dive into who should and shouldn’t be using birth control, let’s dive into the basics and start with understanding what periods are and how they work in general. It only makes sense considering that on average a women with a period would menstruate for 3000 days during their lifetime.

How does your period work?

To better understand how birth control works on the body, we should first really understand how the body works in the first place.

Usually, the menstrual cycle lasts 29 days in 10 to 15 percent of women and can be as short as 26 and as long as 36 days.

Day 1 of the cycle is the first day of your period/ first day when you see the blood. What happens during this time is estrogen and progesterone drop, which in turn makes the lining of the uterus begins to shed and that is what causes your period.

This hormonal dip causes the brain to release follicle stimulating hormone that triggers growth of the follicles in the ovaries and prepared the egg for ovulation.

Day 8 is around the time estrogen begins to rise.

Day 9-10 you may notice higher sex drive, that’s due to testosterone rising during that time. With that testosterone increase your libido also increases about 5 days before ovulation, while the egg only lives for 24 hours, you are fertile for 5-6 days out of the month.

During days 12-14, elevated estrogen triggers luteinizing hormone, that in its turn starts the ovulation phase. This is the time when the egg travels down the fallopian tube and from there either gets fertilized by sperm or starts to dissolve to leave the body during your period. The first half of the cycle is known as follicular phase.

Days 15-28 are what’s known as a luteal phase, and during that time progesterone is the leading hormone.

Why was it important to go over this? To have understanding of what hormones are at play and what they do to your body. 

What is birth control and how the hell does it actually work? 

Since we are talking about birth control, this question is the most important one that can help you have full information about the pill and how it affects your hormones and endocrine system as a whole. 

There are two main types of the pill. There's a combination kind and progestin kind.

The combination pill contains both estrogen and progestin and is considered to be more effective, as well as has less breakthrough bleeding. What it does, it suppresses ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to block sperm from getting through, changes your tubal mobility as well as thins the uterine lining.

Progestin-only pill is recommended for women who have reactions to synthetic estrogen, that is in a combination pill or the ones who are breastfeeding. While it does stop the ovulation, it’s only in about 60% of women.

The goal of birth control in general is to break the communication between your ovaries and your brain. By cutting this communication, though, other hormones can be affected as a side effect.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to birth control. When it first came out, women graduated from college at higher rates, were able to get better jobs and make more money. There are currently more female CEOs than there ever has been before. In the medical field, about 75% are female providers, whether it’s doctors, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants.

And that’s on top of the physical benefits of controlling pain levels, managing endometriosis or extremely heavy periods, keeping acne at bay and even being able to skip your period all together.

What are the side effects?

While the benefits of birth control are huge, and can even be considered life changing for some, we shouldn’t forget about the side effects either.

For instance, did you know that the pill is associated with higher risk of autoimmune disease, heart attack as well as thyroid and adrenal disorders.

If you ever actually read the paperwork that comes with your prescription, you might’ve seen that there are quite a few side effects, some of them being:

-headache

-Nausea

-Sore breasts

-Changes in the periods

-Spotting

 These side effects are pretty well-known and if you’ve used birth control your provider must’ve told you about these. There are more side effects, though, that are not often discussed, though. Those come after you stop using birth control. 

This is called post-birth control syndrome, and it comes with a pool filled with potential complications. Again, not to say that everybody who’s off birth control will get those, not in the slightest, but knowing about them is important nonetheless, especially if you’re getting off birth control with a desire to get pregnant as quickly as possible.

Who shouldn’t be using hormonal birth control?

There are multiple conditions and reasons to skip on hormonal birth control. For example, if you are over the age of 35 and are a smoker, using combination pills might not be safe for you. That is something that should be discussed with your provider.

Combination pills are not recommended for people who had:

  • Diabetes
  • Liver Disease
  • Breast Cancer
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Migraine headaches with aura (seeing flashes or lines)
  • Heart attack, stroke, or other serious heart condition
  • Blood clots

Progestin-only pills are not recommended for people who had

  • Breast Cancer
  • Certain forms of lupus

The truth is, the majority of the people will not have any issues on the pill. However, there are situations where complications do arise and when these happen it’s dire to contact and speak to a doctor or a nurse. 

- noticing chest pain or discomfort

- experiencing severe pain in the abdominal area

- headaches that come out of nowhere

- aura migraines, where you see flashes

- back or jaw pain that’s accompanied by nausea, sweating and troubled breathing

- skin or eyes becoming yellow  

On top of that it’s also important to keep in mind birth control method while breastfeeding. Combination pills are ok to start at the earliest 3 weeks after giving birth, and they might leave traces of hormones from the pill in breast milk. On the other hand, progestin-only pills are safe to use while breastfeeding. 

The main message here is to have a gynecologist to discuss all those things with to make sure that you are choosing the best and, more importantly, the safest route for yourself, and that might not even be the pill at all. 

How to make the decision?

Truth is, the decision is solely up to you. We believe that the most essential part is to have full information about the benefits and side effects and go based on whether that is something that can benefit you the way you need it to. Reading this post, the best thing to do would be to see what information is true for you specifically and make that choice based off that.

Another great tool would be to read a book by Dr. Jolene Brighten where she goes more in depth into the hormones, understanding if you have an imbalance and ways and nutrition to help you on that journey.

 

And while this book became highly controversial with people labeling Dr. Jolene as an anti-pill person, which is not the case, and this book can be a great tool to have in your toolbox.

If you don’t want to commit to reading a book, we are all busy, after all, here’s a link to the podcast episode that talks more about birth control, the book itself and is something that you can listen to while doing day to day activities.

Master Your Health Podcast with Dr. Jolene Brighten


How do you like your mushrooms? The psilocybin debate

There’s been more and more talk about mushrooms lately. The conversation about it being a potential tool in minimizing anxiety and depression. While it is logical to think that mushrooms could potentially increase anxiety, and sometimes they do, however it’s been discovered that the active ingredient in mushrooms-psilocybin has been found to have a positive effect on reducing anxiety. 

On a chemical level, psilocybin is similar to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for modulating mood, helping with focus and memory. Mushrooms have an ability to help balance serotonin levels in the system and boost that mood. 

Is it Legal?

Well, the short answer is no. Psilocybin is considered to be a Schedule I drug in the United States, which means that it has a high potential for abuse. Mushrooms themselves are not a scheduled substance, even though the main ingredient is. 

With that being said it does make research harder and getting funding for the research, however these days there’s definitely a growth in the research and the amount of data on the matter. 

With all the research that’s been conducted, it has been found over and over again that people who were interviewed for the trials or who shared their experiences have found that the benefits for mental health have been very present in the situation. 

How does it work? 

Being a psychedelic, mushrooms affect the levels of serotonin in your body. While we know of serotonin as the happiness hormone, it does significantly more than that. It is responsible for a plethora of processes in the body, mood being one of them, but also affects sleeping, eating, memory function, and cognition. 

With the popularity rising, we get more and more information about what people are doing . We are able to find out some information on how it’s done. 

Majority of people repost taking anything up to 10% of a full dose. 

When it comes to taking mushrooms, people do generally take a full dose to have a “trip”. There are recommendations to do it with people you trust, in nature, so you can connect to yourself and the earth and be safe with your friends. 

During those “trips” it’s common to have hallucinations, feel change in your senses, and you could have a variety of spiritual and emotional experiences. 

There is always a chance of going through a bad trip, especially if you have PTSD and trauma that could come up during the trip, people mention getting paranoid, having scary hallucinations and experiencing deep fear. 

With that being said, microdosing doesn’t eliminate risks 100%, because each person reaction is different, but it definitely minimizes the dissociation with reality, while providing the benefits of psilocybin.

So, what happens when you microdose?

While each experience is different, there are some benefits that have been reported over and over again. Most of the information comes from personal experiences, and we are getting more and more trials data and more trials that are underway. 

The current research shows improvements in mood, increased creativity as well as boost of energy and improvement in the ability to focus.

Of course, another big one is the report of people who struggle with depression and anxiety feeling better and using microdosing to help manage the symptoms. 

In the research from 2019 the survey including 400 people, it has been found that microdosing was more effective than using prescription drugs, but less effective than using the full dose. Similar results were found in the study from 2021. That study also discovered that microdosing has been found beneficial for people with ADHD as well. 

One big catch is that it has also been discovered that there might be a placebo effect while using mushrooms. While it doesn’t mean that mushrooms don’t have their beneficial effects, it is definitely something to keep in mind. 

Should you do it?

There are so many factors that will influence that. Since it is not legal, we are not here to endorse it or encourage it, but at the end of the day it is up to you. 

Mushrooms don’t work for every person in the same way, and they don’t work for some people at all. Different people react differently and while it can be really therapeutic others might not have a good experience. 

The best strategy would be to talk to a therapist who has experience in psychedelic therapy and see if that can be a beneficial practice to incorporate for your mental health routine.

If you have done it or been someone who’s been using microdosing for your mental health, let us know in the comments down below how it went for you and if you have any first-hand tips and tricks. 


woman weight lifting

10 Reasons Why Lifting Heavy Sh*t is Good for Women

I just want to get toned…. I don’t want to get bulky.

The amount of times I heard that, at this point is too much to count. There is this connotation that if you lift weights, you get bulky. It is probably the biggest fear women have and a huge reason they stay away from strength training and stay in the cardio area of the gym. Sometimes they also take some classes, but weights are scary.

So, I’m just going to say it… Strength training doesn’t make you bulky.

Again, for people in the back… STRENGTH TRAINING DOES NOT MAKE YOU BULKY.

Toning up IS strength training-you are building lean muscle and cutting down your fat, hence toning up.

lifting weights

There is a variety of different ways to strength train:

-   Hypertrophy

This is the main way to grow muscle. With this type of training, you use moderate to heavy weights to trigger muscle growth.

-   Circuit training

Circuit training usually involves a routine where you do a full body workout, going from one exercise to the next with little or no rest at all.

-   Maximum strength training

With this type of training, you’re going heavier in weight and only doing 2-6 reps. This is something to progress to, when enough strength is built already, and exercise form is good.

 -   Explosive power

This type of training is one of the more advanced and is a combination of strength and speed. It is a great tool in sports.

The best way to be active is having a combination of Strength training and cardio or endurance training. There are also many different ways you can do strength training. For example, if you’re just starting out, body weight exercises will be effective in order to start building muscle.

Once you train more regularly, and you feel like body weight is not enough anymore, these are your options of progression:

-   Machines

A lot of people are scared of diving into free weights from the get-go, so machine workouts can be the step towards that. You get controlled movement with those, so form, while important, is not the top priority at that time. Cable machines also fall into this category; however, those do require some more familiarity with the proper form and execution of the movement.

-   Resistance bands

These are either rubber or cotton bands that create resistance when they are stretched out.

-   Free weights

These are dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, vipr. Free weights can be used for the majority of the movements. They work great in a combination with cable machines.

If you’re working out at home, things around the house also can count as free weights, like cans, water bottles, backpack filled with things, books. When it comes to home workouts, you can get pretty creative with tools you can use.

No matter what you’re using, you would want to stick to a routine for about 6 weeks or so before changing things up. Your muscles get used to the same movement, so in order to keep growing and building lean muscle, you want to change things at that 6-week mark.

Click Here to Get My Master Your Health Ebook with strength and fat-loss based workout programming for beginners and intermediate levels to working out.

woman weight lifting

What are the benefits of lifting heavy shit, thought?

  1. You become stronger

That one is pretty straight forward. When you strength train, you do become stronger. You can notice it in everyday activities too, simple things like carrying groceries or even feeling like you have more energy to do things.

Strength training is also a great tool in improving performance in sports.

  1. It’s a great way to burn calories

While we are told that cardio is the way to burn calories, and it is a way, strength training is also great at burning calories. The difference is that when you’re building muscle, you also increase your metabolic rate-muscle burns fat, letting you burn more calories even when you’re not working out.

  1. Great tool for body recomposition

While you can’t spot reduce fat, building muscle can help you replace and cut the fat, you will be able to change the way your body looks while not necessarily targeting the number on the scale.

  1. Reduces risk of injury

Consistent strength training is a great tool in improving range of motion, developing mobility of muscles as well as tendons and ligaments. With that, you build stability and strength of the main joints that decrease your risk of injury in day-to-day activities, as well as when working out.

  1. Improves heart health

Strength training has been found to decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels as well as improve blood circulation in the body. Strength training also is great for managing blood sugar levels, which, if high, can be a risk factor when it comes to heart disease.

  1. Aids in hormone control

Insulin is one of the main hormones that is directly connected and affected by physical activity.

Muscle mass has an ability to increase insulin sensitivity.

Strength training also has an ability to help you lower chance of getting diabetes, compared to people who don’t exercise.

  1. Helps improve mobility as well as flexibility

While this one doesn’t seem directly logical, strength training is great at helping you get more mobility and flexibility by continuously increasing your range of motion (ROM).

It has been found that weightlifting is equally as good at increasing ROM as stretching.

  1. Strengthens your bones

Weight training is fantastic for strengthening your bones. What happens when you lift, is you put stress on your bones, which sends a signal to bone-building cells that get activated and go into action building stronger bones.

  1. Makes you feel better about yourself

This one might be more ego driven, but damn, isn’t it great when you check yourself out in the mirror thinking how happy you are with all the progress you’re making?

The cool thing about this one is that it translates so much into your day-to-day life-you are feeling better about yourself, being more self-confident can go a long way in your relationships, work and any other endeavors.

  1. Improves your mood

Exercise of any sort is often associated with being a tool to battle anxiety and depression. Weightlifting is not an exception. Exercise promotes release of endorphins-the happy hormones, that’s why a lot of times after you leave the gym you feel like you can take on the world.

The point is, lifting weights is one of the best things that you can do for your body. Don’t get me wrong, if you completely hate it, don’t do it. While the benefits of muscle building are great, you do still get benefits from doing physical activity in general.

The reason for this post is to break some of the assumptions and misconceptions about weightlifting and what it does to your body. Unless you’re a bodybuilder in the category that requires you to become bulkier and bigger, you will be able to build nice lean muscle and look as feminine as you want. It is important to add that the best results are achieved when combining strength training with a diet that’s designed for you and your goals.

By Co-Author: Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


Healthy products sources of carbohydrates.

Carb Cycling - Are You Up for a Challenge?

Carbs are good for you

By now, you should know that we love our carbs over here. You need carbs for energy, hormone production and function, promote digestive health and just are needed by your body to function properly. And they are absolutely something that you shouldn’t be afraid of when losing weight! It's all about finding the right portion for you and your goals but not fearing this very important macronutrient. 

There, sometimes, can come a time when on your weight loss journey you’d hit a plateau and the scale wouldn’t budge. So, instead of throwing your calories down even more and being on a very low calorie diet (you really shouldn’t do that) a great tool that can work and help is Carb Cycling. 

Healthy products sources of carbohydrates.

Which brings us to the question-what is carb cycling?

I wish it wasn’t as obvious as it sounds, and I could come in with some cool definition and explanation. Carb cycling is when you go back and forth between low-carb and high-carb days. High-carb days, usually being associated with the days when you train really hard and need that extra energy. 

Initially, this diet was primarily by athletes and bodybuilders who needed to cut down on fat while building muscle mass or have extra energy for long distance events like marathons. In the more recent years, this diet gained popularity and became more mainstream within regular people just trying to lose some weight. 

There are many ways different methodologies break down how much of each macronutrient you should eat each day, however a good amount of them do keep carbs on the 40%+ side. 

There are many different ways that you can set up your carb cycle. Some people use a breakdown of high, low and medium days, others just stick to high and low. Just like a lot of things, it all depends on your body, metabolism, how well your body digests carbs. 

You can do high-carb higher-calorie on workout days and low-carb lower-calorie on rest days. 

You can carb cycle within a single day by eating high carbs around your workout and skipping them for the remainder of the day. 

You can also do a couple of weeks of low-carb and have a re-feed week with high carbs. 

You can rotate between the high, medium and low days. There isn’t really one perfect way or set of rules for one.

Doing a diet like this also does require you to be pretty advanced with your macro counting, so if you are someone who never counted macros, this type of diet will be challenging for you as it required a lot of fluctuation in food from day to day. 

You must also not forget about the protein and fats in your diet. When adding or lowering carbs, we want protein intake to stay the same throughout the week while adjusting fats based off the carbs. Meaning, on low-carb days you’d be eating more fats while on high-carb days fat intake will be lowered. 

How Exactly does Carb Cycling work?

While there aren’t much human research on the matter, the effects are based on biological mechanisms as well as data from people who used it as a tool. 

When you consume carbs your blood sugar goes up, the pancreas releases insulin that then takes glucose into your cells. Once glucose enters the cells, there are two options-glucose gets converted into glucagon and is stored to be used for energy or gets stored as fat. 

When you eat high carb diet regularly, the body could create too much insulin and cause weight gain and potential development of type 2 diabetes. This however is mostly associated with calorie surplus. 

What can carb cycling do for your and your health? 

1. Boost up your metabolism for fat loss

When you are in a caloric deficit, when losing weight, there are a few different ways that the body can react to it:

Your BMR (basal metabolic rate) drops, meaning your metabolism gets used to the calories it's receiving as a norm.

The energy expended during exercise also decreases. 

As your weight decreases, you usually have to adjust calories and keep decreasing them in order to keep yourself in the deficit. There can also come a point when you hit a plateau and the weight won’t budge, even in the deficit. Your metabolism has this amazing way of adapting. It is what’s known as metabolic adaptation. Once the body adapts to lower calories, you either have to do a reverse diet and take a break from dieting to bring your baseline up, or keep lowering your calories in order to be dropping more weight. 

When you add in carb cycling, because of the different calories and different amounts of food, your body is able to kick-start your metabolism back up and prevents it from adapting to one thing. 

2. Aid in hormone regulation, while being in the calorie deficit

Staying in a caloric deficit for a long time can affect some of your hormones- leptin, thyroid as well as testosterone and estrogen.  Leptin, potentially being the one to keep most attention on as it plays a huge role in hunger as well as metabolic adaptation. 

Leptin is one of the hormones that’s responsible for the feeling of hunger. When you have extra weight, the levels of Leptin in the system are high. However, when you cut your calories down, even if it’s for a few days, Leptin drops and sends a signal to the brain telling it to eat more to prevent starvation. 

Some hormones, such as thyroid and reproductive hormones, are connected and influenced by the changes in Leptin. If leptin drops, they drop as well. 

When you do carb cycling, during the high-carb days leptin levels will go up and will send a message to the brain saying that everything’s great, and you’re well-fed. So when you do low-carb days you might not even feel as hungry as you would otherwise on lower calories, and it will make those days easier to get through. 

3. Can help support athletic performance while being on low-carb diet

Most of our energy comes from carbohydrates, we know that. However, there’s a way to teach your body to use fats for energy. And I’m not talking about switching to Keto. Having those low-carb days does aid in using fats for energy when your glycogen stores are depleted. This is specifically great for when you are doing long-form cardio like a marathon or a race. 

With carb cycling, your body uses the fat for energy during those low-carb days, but then the glycogen tank gets filled on high-carb days. This gives you energy to burn from fat and now from the new supply of carbs. 

This particular claim is not researched as deeply as it should be to make hard statements, and this information is based on people who’ve done it and how the body responded to it. 

4. Aid in muscle gain while loosing fat

Usually, when we think about growing muscle mass or bulking, there’s an association of fat gain that accompanies it. However, people who do carb cycling claim that they can gain muscle while not gaining any fat. The key here is Insulin. 

Insulin gets a bad reputation, but it is necessary for regulating blood glucose levels and delivering glucose to the cells in our body. It also plays a part in muscle growth and glycogen storage. 

When you have a high-carb day on a training day, you use insulin’s recovery as well as muscle building properties.

When you eat low-carb on rest days or cardio/conditioning workout days, you can not only optimize fat burning, but also improve insulin sensitivity and make the most out of those high carb days. 

Who would benefit from carb cycling? 

Before we get into this, I do want to reinstate that Carb Cycling is a more advanced technique, and you need to have a fairly good grasp on your nutrition and habits before diving into it. Which brings us to the first type of person who would benefit from this diet:

  • You’re someone who’s got their habits down. 

As mentioned before, you need to have a pretty good grasp on your nutrition, your sleep and stress, training split. If that sounds like you, and you want to switch things up a bit and give carb cycling a try, you’re ready for it. 

  • You are already pretty lean but want to push it to the next level

When you get really lean, getting rid of even a bit of remaining fat is hard, especially, if you’ve been in the deficit for a while. So tricking your metabolism with carb cycling can help get to the goal physique and feel like you’re getting more food on those high-carb days. 

  • You are someone who is trying to cut the weight down and change body composition

Carbs tent to hold on to water, so doing carb cycling can help you get that water weight down, and also, assuming you’re in the calorie deficit, trim down that fat. 

  • You’re trying to grow more muscle

If you’re someone who’s already fit and wants to grow muscle, carb cycling can be a way to get you to your goal with more gains. If you are just starting on your fitness journey, carb cycling might not give you any major leg up in muscle building, but is definitely to keep something in your back pocket. 

  • Your body doesn’t tolerate carbs that well

If you’re someone with an underlining medical condition, like issues with blood sugar control, or you get  inflammation after eating a lot of carbs, carb-cycling could be something to explore. You could potentially feel better after carbs if the majority of the carb intake is around your workout time. 

  • You enjoy that structure of eating. 

That one is pretty straight-forward. You want to like whatever eating regimen you have, be it intermittent fasting, paleo, vegan, whatever really. So if you find yourself enjoying carb cycling, and it feels easy for you, why not stick to it long term.

How to do carb cycling:

Below there are a few different examples of how to set up your carb cycling routine. Whether you’re using high-low days or adding carbs before after workout and doing day cycling. The numbers (grams) for macronutrients are just an example, yours would need to be calculated specifically for you. 

carb cycling
(Photo via Healthline)

carb cycling

So to sum it up, while you can go very low in carbs for low-carb days, we’d recommend doing 20-30% difference, which are not going to be as drastic as the numbers in the tables presented above. 

So, if your norm is 150 grams of carbs per day, low day would be around 100 grams and high day would be 200. 

To reiterate this yet again, carb cycling is advanced. If you feel like you’re up to the challenge, then absolutely go for it. Or, if you’ve been doing it for a while and have any tips or tricks, share them in the comments down below.

By Co-Author: Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


Meal Prep 101: Our Top Tips to Get You Started

New Year usually means new goals. New goals professionally and often physically. ‘Tis the time when the desire to lose those pounds is stronger than ever. 

One thing to focus on even more than just weight is the healthy habits that support these goals. In fact, tying your goals to a bigger reason (i.e. to feel & perform my best, to keep up with my kids etc…) and really focusing on positive healthy habits will lead to better outcomes overall!

That's why meal prep can be such an essential tool for your overall health and wellbeing.

We're honestly just so deeply passionate about meal prep! Why are we so passionate about it? Well, there are few reasons: 

-   First and foremost, meal prep saves you time and money.

-   It adds extra time to your day, that you don’t have to spend cooking, so it makes you more productive in other areas of life.

-   It helps you stick to the plan that you have- whether it’s weight goals or just an intention of eating out less.

-   It’s so satisfying once you’re done with it.

Unfortunately, if you were never the person to prep food for even half of the week before, it can be intimidating. Where do you start? How many containers do you need? How much food to prepare?

This post will help you get started in no time, we’ll break down some of the common ways that you can optimize your cooking getting ready for the week and figure out a meal planning routine that fills your specific needs.

no size fits all

Meal prep is personalized. You do it for you, and your needs are different from my needs. Right? The number of meals per day, it can be 3 meals, it can be 5 meals. You might love chicken, so you’ll have more chicken, so it’s something that you should plan with your own preferences and focusing on the things that you enjoy.

So where to start?

Planning! Meal prep requires planning. You need to figure out what you want to eat for the coming week, and start cooking based off of that.

There are two main ways to make food ahead. You can make the dishes themselves-everything already mixed in together and divided into their own container, or you can prepare each ingredient separately and have a buffet style spread. You need to assemble it every time, but everything is already prepared, and it takes only a couple of minutes to put together.

The other question is do you want to cook breakfast, or have it prepped as well, that goes for the snacks being organized beforehand too.

All of it is personal, and you’re the boss who decides how to do it.

To keep it organized, let’s start with each meal of the day and then finish up with some amazing snack ideas to make your life as simple as possible.

Breakfast

Breakfast is one of those meals where it’s up to you whether to prepare them ahead or not. However, we are here to provide you with some ideas and options of easy and quick breakfasts.

Smoothies

Smoothies are a great and easy breakfast option, and they can be stored in the fridge or a freezer for a week or even longer.

A great tool for that are these smoothie and snack storage bags. They are freezer safe as well as dishwasher safe and can be used in so many ways.

Here are a few simple smoothie ideas:

To make it more of a satiating meal, adding some protein powder and collagen peptides can provide additional nutrients and vitamins as well as protein.

Collagen Peptides is one of the favorite supplements to take, they have the flavored powders and the unflavored powder as well, and those can be great for green smoothies, where you don’t want that added flavor.  You can check them out over here: 

Collagen Peptides

As far as bags go there are plenty of different brands and you can find them in Target, on Amazon, direct websites, Costco sometimes will have some on sale as well. If you want to support me, click the link below for these storage bags:

Stasher Silicone Bags

Overnight Oats

 

Overnight oats are a great and easy breakfast to prepare ahead of time. You can use containers or mason jars for that, add any of your favorite toppings, like nuts, chia seeds, fruits, nut butter and make 5 all within total of maybe 10 minutes of prep. 

In the morning, you grab it and enjoy right away. And on top of the convenience, it’s just so aesthetically pleasing.

Egg Bites / Egg Cups

Egg bites are great. You can make them at home yourself on the meal prepping day, but if that’s not something you want to put your time into, they are also sold prepackaged in the store. Of course, by cooking it yourself, you know exactly what goes into it and all that good stuff.

Another great thing about making them at home is that you can put anything you want into it, rather than trying to find something that matches your preference.

Boiled Eggs

That’s literally it. Do you need to add something to boiled eggs to make a well-balanced breakfast? Yes. Do you need to bother with cooking in the morning? No.  

Boiling some eggs once a week can help you have a solid source of protein and fat for breakfast, then you can add a veggie, make an avocado egg sandwich, or have a bento box style breakfast where you have some cheese and a fruit and maybe hummus and crackers. Once again, all depends on what you’re into taste wise.

You can also keep those eggs for a quick snack, add some sea salt on it and just go for it.  

Protein Muffins 

If you’re more into sweeter breakfast than savory, making some protein muffins before the week is a great grab and go breakfast. You can essentially make it any flavor, add your favorite protein powder and nut butter for even more protein and have something sweet, while not be overly high in sugar, to have with your morning tea or coffee. 

 Protein Waffles  

If you are like me and enjoy some cold or reheated waffles, that’s a great, easy breakfast. Kodiak Cakes is a great brand for high protein breakfasts- they got muffins, waffles, instant oatmeal and even frozen already cooked waffles where all you need to do is throw it in a toaster.

Lunch and Dinner

Buffet Style

buffet meal prep

Buffet Style is a great way to meal prep if you want some flexibility and variety with your meals. With this method you cook everything separately.

To make a well-balanced meal we need some protein, carbs, fats and veggies.  The best way to organize this is to pick a couple protein sources for a week, so when you get bored by one you can switch it up, for example going for chicken and salmon. Same thing with carbs, maybe having some rice and potatoes to switch up them once again. You get the idea.

When you are done cooking, you organize everything in separate containers and when the mealtime comes, you assemble a plate that you feel like eating at that moment.

Dish Style

Homemade Organic Vegetarian Chili with Beans and Cheese

By dish, I mean a full recipe dish like a turkey chili or curry or pasta with meatballs, and you have one giant container of that one dish that you have for a few days. You can think of it as a leftover style of meal prep.

Salad Jars

salad jars

It would be wrong not to mention a salad jar in this post. And of course, we are not talking about a side salad. This is a meal salad filled with all the nutrients that you need. The easiest way to get some ideas for that would be on my Instagram, but here are some ideas for you to try.

With a salad jar, by putting dressing and wet ingredients on the bottom, the salad stays fresh even if you eat it 3-4 days after you made it.

Snacks

Snacks are the best, aren’t they?

Having snacks pre-prepared can be such a great aid in the diet too, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, and you know that your pre-prepared snack is within your calories, and you don’t have to count or think about it.

Fruits- apple, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, whatever your favorite fruit is. You can add some nut butter with an apple, or make a rice cake with nut butter and a fruit, that’s delicious and nutritious as well.

rice cakes

Veggies- cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli. These veggies can be eaten by themselves, paired with hummus or some ranch dressing.

 guac humuus

Chips and crackers- there are plenty of healthy and nutrient dense. One of the favorite brands is Simple Mills, that you can order by clicking on this link. A great tip is to measure a serving size and separate into zip locks. So, when you’re feeling like having that snack is to grab a serving without having to measure it at that moment.

cracker

Now, that we are done with the food side of things and ideas of WHAT to make, let’s get into HOW to make meal prep enjoyable and fun. None of these is sponsored, but simply are the personal favorites. 

Some great tools to use when meal prepping:

1. Tupperware 

tupperware

Getting nice set of containers can be a huge motivation to get cooking. It’s nice to look at and makes meal prepping more exciting.

While you can get sets on Amazon or Target, I found the best prices to be in Costco.

Glass Containers

Plastic Containers  

2. Egg Cooker

Egg cooker is a game changer, no joke. It makes eggs perfectly the way you want them, and you don’t have to set up a timer or boil water. If you enjoy boiled eggs, this is for you. 

Egg Cooker

3. Baking reusable sheets

If you’re not only on a meal prep journey, but also on sustainability journey, getting reusable baking sheets is a great idea. While they can be harder to clean, you’ll be saving the planet as well as money spent on foil.

Baking Sheets

4. Mason Jars

mason jars

Mason Jars are great for… you guessed it, Salad Jars. If you love the salad jars as a way of meal prepping some salads, these are gods send.

Mason Jars

5. Slow cooker or pressure cooker

pressure cooker

For this category I’d recommend pressure cooker over slow cooker, because a lot of times pressure cookers also have a slow cooker mode, so you’re getting both in one.

Pressure Cooker

Slow Cooker

6. Air Fryer- true game changer

air fryer

While there are so many different air fryers, I’m adding the one I have and love. But if you don’t like this one, there are plenty of other ones on a market and they are truly life changing!

This particular one also comes and goes in Costco for, if I’m remembering correctly, $50ish.

Air Fryer

7. Blender- bullet or ninja or vitamix

For my smoothie lovers out there. These are two of my favorites on the market. Both are great, Ninja could be argued to be more powerful. All depends on your budget and needs.

You can also blend soups, souses, dressings, you name it. Love me a good blender!

Bullet

Ninja 

Vitamix

8. Waffle maker

waffle makers

Waffle maker is a tool that’s way more versatile than just for making waffles. While the original purpose is great and protein waffles are a fantastic breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can use it to make eggs or fruit or pizza.

Waffle Maker

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


Marijuana: A Miracle Drug or Just an Excuse to Get High?

I know we did a little tease a few weeks back with CBD and if it gets you high. Well, this time around we’ll be talking about THC, and yes, this one does get you high. 

I do want to point out that we won’t be talking about recreational use. It’s a personal choice, and we are not here to promote it nor talk against it. When it comes to this, we’re Switzerland. What we will be talking about is the medical uses of Marijuana and the research behind it. 

But first, let’s get sciency about it. What is THC anyway, where does it come from and how exactly does it work. 

weed

(this is what THC molecule looks like)

A lot of people use the word marijuana interchangeably with the word cannabis, however, they are not the same. Cannabis refers to all the products that come from Cannabis plant. Marijuana, on the other hand, is derived from the Cannabis plant and possesses larger amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD (click here to read a post on that) is another cannabinoid that we talked about, however that one doesn’t possess any psychoactive qualities that do make you “high” like TCH would. 

So, when we are talking about medical Marijuana, we are referring to using the whole plant or parts of it to treat medical issues. While FDA doesn’t recognize the entire plant as medicine, it did approve some cannabinoids. The research keeps being conducted on the matter and the usage of medical marijuana is monitored to make sure that the effects are beneficial for relieving symptoms that might be occurring. 

Cannabis Flower

(Cannabis Flower)

FDA currently has 3 synthetic cannabinoids and one plant derived cannabinoid. 

-Marinol (dronabinol), syndros (dronabinol) and cesamet (nabilone) are the synthetically produces THC that are created to treat Anorexia in adult patients with AIDS as well as nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. 

-Epidiolex is a plant derived cannabidiol that is used for treatment of seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex. 

So what THC is used for?

Pain

Medical Marijuana is often times used for the relief of chronic pain, post surgery pain, elderly pain. Research has shown positive results in a multitude of studies. 

2015 study on using marijuana and cannabinoids for chronic pain has reposted positive results. It even included potential ability to treat nerve pain.

In 2018 during a review of 47 studies that included 4743 participants using medical marijuana for chronic pain. 29% of people taking cannabinoids experienced a reduction in pain compared to 26% of people taking placebo. Unfortunately, these numbers are not significantly meaningful, and people who did use medical marijuana also reposted side effects more frequently than people using placebo. 

Anxiety and depression

The research for the treatments of anxiety and depression is still in the early stages. At the current stages, researchers share potentiality for helping achieve normal endocannabinoid function as well aid in mood stabilization. 

Researchers at University of Buffalo have been looking into the use of cannabinoids for depression that’s been caused by chronic stress, and been focusing on the endocannabinoids- natural chemicals in the brain that our body produces. These chemicals are responsible for emotions and behavior, as well as motor function control and cognition. They are also similar in their makeup to cannabis. While current research has been done on animals and not humans it has been discovered that chronic stress affects the production of endocannabinoids and can lead to depression, and by using cannabis these levels might be evened out and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Cancer

With cancer there might come a point when the drugs just don’t help and medical marijuana use for treatment of pain in cancer patients have been one of the most heard about uses for medical marijuana. 

In a study with 17000 people with cancer 70% of those people reported improvement in pain management. Studies also shown that people using medical marijuana need less pain medications. Recently, it’s also been found that certain cannabinoids can slow the spread of some forms of cancer. 

Relying solely on marijuana to treat cancer should not be an option, however it has been shown to be a great aid in managing symptoms. 

Epilepsy

Epidiolex, which as CBD product, has been approved by the FDA for treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Epidiolex has been tested in three different double blinded studies that totaled 516 patients who suffered either from Lennox-Gastaut or Dravet syndrome. It has been found that if taken alongside other medications for the conditions, Epidiolex has been shown to be effective in reducing frequency of seizures when compared to the placebo group.  

As far as side effects go, people reported sleepiness and fatigue, as well as insomnia and sleep disorder, rash, decreased appetite to name a few. 

There’s still a lot of research to be done, and while there are some promising results overall. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

Research on the matter of PTSD is new and the information varies from study to study.

The subject of PTSD is still pretty new when it comes to research of whether medical marijuana helps elevate the symptoms. And while there is still a lot of research to be done, some recent studies do show promising results. 

There are two studies that show the effect of cannabis on amygdala- that part of the brain that is responsible for fear response to threats. Cannabis has been found to lower the activity in this part of the brain, it has also been found to play a part in alleviating some traumatic memories. 

The study that was done by Wayne State University did have only 71 participants, with some receiving placebo and some getting medical marijuana treatment. People receiving cannabis, however, showed the change in amygdala activity and reposted less fear while using THC. 

Another study done by Brazil's Federal University of Paraná focused on how cannabis can help remove the memories of trauma. They followed on the lead by the Yale professor- Andrew Sewell, who was proposing that cannabis can help overwrite those memories. 

Nausea and Vomiting due to cancer chemotherapy

Dronabinol (Marinol) is a drug that contains THC, designed to treat nausea and vomiting that’s caused by chemotherapy. 

In a 2015 review of 23 studies, that had 1326 participants, on cannabinoids being used to treat nausea and vomiting, it has been found that it is significantly more helpful than placebo, and is close in effectiveness to the other medications used for treatment. 

Eating Disorders 

Cannabis has been known to be an aid when it comes to treating anorexia or other disorders that cause weight loss or low appetite. One of the effects of cannabis is increased appetite, which can help people who are struggling with keeping the weight up, gain or maintain where they need to be.

Sleep Issues 

Throughout many studies, it has been shown that cannabis benefits sleep. Studies that have been done on other issues such as PTSD, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain have derived information about sleep as well. It’s been shown that cannabis helps people fall asleep faster, have better quality of sleep, and aids in having less disturbances during sleep. And while these results are for people with other medical conditions and there hasn’t been too much research done for sleep issues themselves, it can be unclear if the sleep improvements are due to the improvement of other symptoms or a direct effect of cannabis. 

Cannabis Strain Closeup

How can you consume medical marijuana?

While there are a few drugs on the market to treat cancer related pain and nausea as well as weight loss associated with AIDS, the majority of the cannabis comes in forms of:

-Dried leaves of the buds for smoking

-Edibles-cookies, brownies, gummies, beverages

-Oils, either for vaping or adding to the drinks

-Topical solutions like creams, patches

-Spray for the mouth

-Pill and capsule form

The truth is, while there is a lot of good data to support the positive effects of medical marijuana, there are also countless side effects that can arise.

Some of them are:

-Memory issues

-Difficulty concentrating

-Dizziness

-Headache

-Anxiety and paranoia

-Increased appetite

-Increased heart rate

-Dry mouth and eyes

Marijuana also does have psychoactive qualities that provide the “high” and can make you feel confused and unable to control your movement in the way you normally would.

Medical marijuana is prescribed by the doctor (that part that makes it medical), so it is important to communicate with the doctor about all the potential risks as well as be honest about how cannabis affects you and makes you feel.

It is critical to keep all the information in the back of your mind when it comes to having a conversation with the provider, both good and bad, and do your own research on a deeper level to make sure that it is something that can be beneficial for you.

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio