We Are What We Eat

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I’m finally getting around to my weekly blog, just in time to go trick-or-treating with my kids. I’m writing this to remind myself how far I’ve come and to give myself some motivation to stay away from the less than nutritious candy and goodies that my kids are going to get tonight. My next blog on Friday will be about kids and nutrition.

One of the things that I have learned along the way that really helps me eat healthy and avoid too much junk food is the fact that we literally are what we eat. The proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that we eat on a daily basis are used to fuel the millions of chemical reactions within our bodies on a regular basis. The protein that you eat will be used by your body for the next 6 months. Our brains and eyes are composed mainly of proteins. Our structure and movement is controlled by proteins. However, proteins are not just simple foods. One gram of protein from a cheeseburger or pizza is not that same as one gram of protein from an egg. Low quality proteins like cheeseburgers and pizzas lead to inferior performance of our muscles, organs, and brain.

One of my favorite sources of information for nutrition and athletic performance is Dr. Michael Colgan. In one of the blogs that he wrote he talks about how truly complex proteins are and the importance of eating quality proteins. He says, “Titin, for example is our longest protein. It enables muscles to contract optimally. Titin is 34,500 amino acids long, all in precise sequence. If even one amino acid is missing, or in the wrong place in the sequence, titin does not work properly, and muscle contraction does not work optimally. If you can’t gain muscle and strength the way you should, check the quality of your dietary proteins. Even the hemoglobin that carries your oxygen is a protein. If you are panting like a grampus trying to train for that marathon, check the quality of your dietary proteins.”

Keep in mind that muscle contraction does not just occur in body builders. Muscle contract in every movement that we make from walking to bringing in the groceries to picking up our kids. You may be able to exercise away the calories from bad food, but you cannot use exercise to fill in the amino acid gaps and turn low-quality protein into high-quality protein.

Here’s the full article from Dr. Michael Colgan: http://www.isagenixhealth.net/blog/2012/05/29/depressing-bodyfat-look-to-your-proteins/

It’s not just protein that matters though. In a recent study by the American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a constant diet that is high in saturated fats and refined sugars has been shown to damage the blood-brain barrier which allows more harmful chemicals into the brain. Here’s the full article. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121001171115.htm?fb_action_ids=3936408609965&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=.UIl_uXMWyU0.like&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

All of the food that we put into our body effects it in one way or another. It’s not just a matter of calories in vs. calories out. We must be very careful to give our bodies the best fuel available. According to Dr. Colgan, the best protein available is undenatured whey protein from range-fed cows. This whey consists of eight different proteins, each with 21 amino acids, each of those amino acids have different effects on the human body. I truly believe that good nutrition is the reason why I feel so much better than I did a little over a year ago. It didn’t happen at first, but because I was trying to follow my coach’s protocol I just took the protein shakes, ate lots of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and complex starches. Now a little over a year later, I can’t believe how much better I feel. My exercise is easier, even though it’s more intense, and I have more energy. The quality of the food we eat does matter.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.

Jessica

Women and Weightlifting

I want to talk this week about the importance of weight-lifting and lean body mass in weight loss.

Everyone likes to talk about percentage of body fat, but what’s really important is the percentage of lean body mass that we have (muscle, bone, etc). Our muscles are like the engines of a car in that the muscles burn most of the fuel (calories) that we eat.

Unfortunately, over the age of 35 (I’m almost there, but not quite), women tend to lose muscle. This is exacerbated by skipping breakfast, yo-yo dieting, and many of the quick-fix fad diets that come and go on a regular basis.

If you were to get a flyer in the mail from the local grocery store that read in big bold letters, “10 POUNDS FOR $10!” You would more than likely think, “10 pounds of what?” and put the flyer down, wondering why the marketing guys didn’t catch that typo.

Why aren’t we as critical of these quick-fix diet ads that we see on TV and on the Newsstand all the time? Lose 10 lbs in 10 days!?! 10 pounds of what? Most of that 10 pounds will more than likely come from water weight and muscle and maybe only a little fat.

It’s important to keep in mind that our bodies require good carbs and healthy fats to function optimally. When we don’t get this, our bodies break down muscle for the energy stored there. Less muscle equals lower metabolism. So as the years go by and we jump from low-fat to low-carb diets, we are wreaking havoc on our body composition and any hopes we have for healthy fat loss.

Further dieting may help decrease fat, but it will not replace lost muscle or fix the altered chemical composition of our muscles. Even loads of cardiovascular exercise will burn additional calories. Neither dieting nor cardio will help with body shape.

What’s the answer? Weight-bearing exercise will increase muscle tone and improve the chemical composition of current musculature thus increasing our metabolism.

Women should not be afraid to pick up heavy dumbbells. It will not turn us into big muscle-bound creatures. It will actually create curves (think of a nice round derriere instead of a flat one).

The first of the two women pictured above is Lisa Aukland. She doesn’t accidentally look like that. She lifts extremely heavy weights and does not take illegal drugs. She looks like that by choice and is very happy with her body. Her self confidence is something that I wish for every woman so I would never make fun of her. Even if I wanted to, I could not get that look. I do not choose to pursue her level of musculature though.

The second woman is Lori Harder. She is a fitness model that has been on the cover of many magazines. She eats clean and trains hard all the time to be ready for a photo shoot at all times. She doesn’t count calories, fats, or carbs and eats 5-6 small clean meals a day to go with her training. Her look has also taken time to perfect, but I’ve met her in person and she really does glow with the health of someone whose body functions at its optimum level.

Okay, so lets get off that treadmill and pick up some weights.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.

One Buff Mama Begins

I want to start this blog off by saying how grateful I am for what great friends and family I have. I have a wonderful husband who is more and more amazing every year. He works hard for us and is a great father to our two incredible kids. I am so thankful for our kids and how sweet and smart they are. I am also grateful for our home, our church family, and our great friends here in the Beaumont, TX area. My family and friends all over the country are also a great blessing and mean the world to me. I could go on, but it would take a while and whoever reads this might just get a little bored.

There is one thing that’s important to note. Even though I have always had amazing family and friends, I have had an amazing husband for 11 years and two incredible kids for 7 and 4 years, I have not always had gratitude. In fact, sometimes I have been downright negative. When I look back now I realize how much negativity and even depression really affected me for years. I’ve also had sleep problems and a general lack of energy as well as off and on stomach pain.

So, what has changed? Well, I had always worked out, but a little over a year ago I decided I wanted to take my workouts to the next level and be like the competitors I had seen in magazines. I signed up with Cathy Savage Fitness in August of 2011. I started their nutrition and exercise protocol. But even then I tried to “game” it. To see how much I could cheat and still be okay. I was going through the motions and I didn’t really get it.

New Year’s came and so did the new competition season so I signed up to do a competition in the middle of April. The thought of standing on stage in a bikini and 4 ½ inch heels really helped keep me focused. As the weeks and months went along I started seeing some great results and was amazed at not only how great I looked, but how great I felt.

I started to learn more and more about nutrition. Our bodies really do use the food that we eat to rebuild muscles, create new cells, and perform many of the processes and functions that we take for granted everyday. We truly are what we eat and we can’t out-exercise a bad diet, no matter what calorie-counters might tell us.

If we feed our body processed junk and excessive amounts of fat and simple sugars, it can’t help but create less than stellar bodies down to the cellular level. However, if we give our bodies truly nutritious and whole foods, every single cell in our bodies will thank us by performing to maximum capability.

That’s what I discovered as I ate my 5-6 healthy small meals per day of whole foods, with two of my meals being my Isagenix shakes. My body felt great. I had more energy, slept better, no longer had cravings for junk food. And I was honestly, truly happy, like a fog had lifted. I felt better than I had in many years.

However, now that competition season is over and I’ve let myself slide a little, I’m not feeling as great. I don’t know why I do that to myself. I know I should eat the good stuff, yet I find myself mindlessly junk sometimes. I actually keep a little of it (Chex mix, granola bars, makings for s’more) in the house for occasional snacks for my kids. I justify it by saying that I don’t want them to feel too deprived. Since I did not start out eating healthy when they were younger, I want to wean them into healthy eating. However, they actually end up eating less of it than I do sometimes. The sad thing is that most of the time I’m not really hungry or craving anything. It’s like I’m on autopilot.

As I’m preparing for the coming holiday season of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, I have decided that I will not continue to fall into these traps. I will be getting on stage for the first competition of next season in about 6 months. When I do, I want to know that I gave it my all. But most of all, I want to feel as good on the inside as I look on the outside.

Those of you reading this may sympathize with my feelings. You may feel trapped in food ruts or you may just want to feel better and have enough energy to truly enjoy what a great life you have. I hope you’ll join me these next couple of months as I blog about my journey to my next competition and try to avoid the big pitfalls of the holiday season, while not depriving my husband and kids too much along the way.