Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nutrition Principles to Live By

Nutrition seems to be the #1 reason people do not get their desired results in their fitness program.  Healthy nutrition does not mean, “dieting”.  And healthy nutrition does not mean you have to eat steamed broccoli with chicken everyday.  Healthy nutrition is about consistently following these ten nutrition principles to get your results. 

FYI, the definition of "principle" is: A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.  With that said, principles are not written in stone and do not have to be followed perfectly.  That is not the idea.  Principles are behaviors that are performed consistently to get a specific result.  When you instill healthy principles in your life, you will be a healthier person.  Pretty basic right?  But yet, it's something that our society has an issue with as 68% of America is overweight or obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  
Improving with the below principles will escalate your results in your fitness program. 

Principle #1: Eat vegetables and fruits.  These foods should be our main carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates will give us energy and brain function to have high-level days.  We need these quality “carbs” for improved performance.  Vegetables and fruits are nutrient and fiber dense and supply the body vitamins and nutrients so we can have energy, health and vitality.  A diet rich in fiber promotes heart health, normal bowel function and helps the body absorb nutrients and fluids from the foods we eat.  You can basically eat high quantities of vegetables.  In my opinion, the more the better.  

Principle #2: Eat lean, low fat proteins.  Eggs, chicken, turkey, lean red meat and fish can be options.  Lean proteins help us build lean muscle.  When we build lean muscle we increase our metabolism.  When we increase our metabolism we burn more calories throughout the day.  Whether you are looking for fat loss or muscle gain, eating adequate amounts of protein is critical for desired results.  For weight loss, aim for a minimum of 1/2 - 3/4 of your weight in grams of protein (example: 130 pound female looking for fat loss should eat 65-97 grams of protein each day) .  If you are looking for muscle growth, aim for ¾-1 gram of your weight in grams of protein (example: 200 pound male looking for muscle growth should eat 150-200 grams of protein each day).  

Principle #3: Limit the processed foods.  The majority of our food should be fresh choices.  After you have gone grocery shopping you should be stocking most of the food you bought in the fridge not your cupboards.  Processed foods have limited nutrients and should be consumed sparingly throughout the week.  Shop the perimeter of the grocery store as the majority of healthier foods lie there.  When looking at your food intake, processed foods should be 10-15% of your consumption.  Stick to this principle and not only will your results go in the right direction but your energy will increase, you will get less stomach issues, you will be forced to eat higher quality foods and performance will improve.  

Principle #4: Drink your water.  This principle needs to become a habit.  Don’t leave home without a water bottle.  When that water bottle is by your side you are more likely to drink so take it everywhere you go.  Substitutes like Crystal Light and Lipton Iced Tea do not count as water intake.  Do your best to stay away from liquid drinks with simple sugars and/or artificial sweetners.  To add flavor to your water, add some strawberries slices, a handful of blueberries or some cucumber.  

Principle #5: Food log.  Being aware of the food that goes into your mouth is very important.  When you know you can modify accordingly.  You do not need to food log all year long.  Whenever you have hit a plateau or are looking to jump start your results, food logging for 2-4 weeks can get you dialed in and refocused.  Pay attention to the big picture, not just one meal.  Look for consistency not perfection.  Find your calorie needs and do your best to hit the number. Things to look for when food logging: your processed food intake (is it too high; go back to the 10-15% rule discussed above), servings of vegetables and fruits (aim for 5-7 servings), your protein intake (look at Principle #2) and the consistency of your calorie intake throughout the week (you do not want big jumps from day to day; try your best to be consistent in your calorie consumption each day).  For an easy to use food logging resource, check out  They also have a phone app that is simple to use during the day.  

Principle #6: You need your healthy fats.  Many people think eating "fats" will make them fat but that is not the case.  Olive and coconut oils, raw nuts, almond or natural peanut butter, avocados, and fish can be great options.  Good fats, like omega 3 fatty acids can protect against memory loss, reduce the risk of heart disease, ease arthritis, joint pain and inflammation and can support a healthy pregnancy.  Having a serving of healthy fat post workout will assist the recovery process after tough training sessions.  Aim for 3-5 servings of healthy fats each day to support a heart healthy plan.  


Principle #7: Plan.  Get to the grocery store, plan a few dinners ahead of time, cut up your vegetables on Sunday night, and cook up some chicken breasts at the beginning of the week.  These planning strategies will set you up to be successful during the week.  If you do not have a plan, you end up running around without direction and this leads to poor food choices.  Most people that are successful, whether in their fitness programs, running a business or managing a professional sports team plan!  They set up success steps for them to achieve the desired goal.  The more organized you are and the better time management you have, the more successful you will be.  

Principle #8: Drop the empty calories.  Now when I mean "drop", please do not take it literally and assume you can never have any of these foods to get results.  But it is crucial to consume these foods very sparingly in order to see a change in your physicality.  Alcohol, cakes, pastries, candy and sodas are examples of empty calories.  These foods supply minimal nutrients to the body but are loaded with calories. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a few beers during the week (because let's face there's nothing like a cold beer at the end of the day) but the majority of my calorie intake will be nutrient dense and quality foods.  Pay attention to the big picture.  


Principle #9: Train to eat.  You have a party planned on Friday night.  You know there will be high calorie foods and drinks consumed.  The idea is to make sure you are in the gym, not skipping workouts the entire week.  Do a few extra minutes of cardio and hit a few extra repetitions in the gym.  Then enjoy yourself.  One day of poor eating will not hurt you.  The idea is to get right back on it the next day with a good workout and healthy eating habits.  

Principle #10: You are not looking for perfection.  Improvement is what we are after.  If you try to be perfect, you will fail and you will end up frustrated.  This is not what healthy living should be about.  If you are looking for results, then you need to get focused and do your best to eat nutritious foods and be consistent. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Inspire" Someone Today

What a week...

One week ago, I got the call no father wants to get.  I was in the middle of a training session and my wife's (Stephanie) doctor was on the phone.  Stephanie was going in for her normal check up to see how our baby was doing.  She was 35 weeks pregnant and the excitement of a new child entering this world was dynamic.  We were so close, 18 days to the due date to be exact.  The doctor's subdued and serious voice made it clear that something was wrong.  Honestly, I am not sure the exact words he said.  I just remember, "lost heart rate and died".  I guess you can say that I went into somewhat of a shock.  I quickly left work and drove to the doctor's office.  Many thoughts were running in my head, "What happened?"  "Why?"  "Is this for sure?"  "Did I hear the Dr. correctly?"  But the biggest thought was, "How is Stephanie?"  She was devastated.  I was devastated.  We lost our child.  We sat in the office crying and holding each other as we tried to contemplate everything that just happened. 

We still had to give birth and the Dr. advised a "normal" labor and that we do it that afternoon.  But nothing would be normal about this labor.  During the 22 hour hospital stay, there were pockets of time where it felt as if it was a normal labor but that thought would quickly go away knowing we would not be taking home a beautiful child.  As the time grew closer to give birth, our sadness grew deeper and deeper.  By the way Stephanie was unbelievable and showed major courage and strength during this very tough experience.  
On Wednesday morning at 9:45 am we gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  We nicknamed her Inspire.   We held her, we cried, we smiled, we were sad, we were humbled.   Life is so fragile. And we only get one.  Unfortunately Inspire was unable to live in this life.  But we can live with Inspire in all of us.  Her beauty was like an angel.  Her eyes closed were peaceful.  She was amazing.  

Instead of asking questions of why, or what if, or when was the last time we heard the baby move or could we have done this or that, let's start the journey of moving forward.  Let's live for our Little Levine.  Let's be a little better in our day to day lives.  Let's INSPIRE others to be positive, to be healthy, to live life at a high level.  Let's get rid of gossip, negative thinking and poor judgement. Life is too short to nit pick and be negative.  Let's come together as a community and strengthen our relationships and our friendships.  Inspire will always be with us, maybe not in flesh, but in spirit.  And the human spirit is one of the strongest forms of man kind.  So use her optimism, use her inner beauty, use her inspiration to get you through a tough time, maybe on your next run or bike ride or your next triathlon or workout, because she will give you determination, she will give you peace and she will give you the strength to move forward.
This tragic ordeal has really given me a chance to really think about Life and what it means.  The thoughts are running in my head and I am trying to manage the ups and downs my emotions bring.  But one thing that I do know is that Life is Awesome!  And it must be lived with faith and vision.  Faith is believing in something without any proof.  It's having complete trust that there is a plan.  And this plan can be amazing if you decide to live your life with optimism and in a humble and unselfish way.  Bad things do happen. And I am not going to sit here and keep asking why these things happen.  But when these tragic things happen, it fuels my fire to live even harder, and better, with more motivation, and to INSPIRE more people.  Living with vision runs parallel with living with faith.  We can not live based on our circumstances.  Our vision will continue to move us onward and know there are better days ahead.  And this vision will create resilience so we can get back up after we have fallen.  
As we move forward through our daily lives, I ask a big question, "How will you live today?"  Will you wake up with negative thoughts, blaming other people for a misfortune and walk around with your head down?  Or will you decide to live to inspire others and create positive thoughts?  Will you give back to your community?  Will you live a healthy life?  Will you take responsibility for the things you want and the goals you want to achieve?  I encourage you to be a little better than you were yesterday, to not accept average in your life, to hold your head high and believe in your abilities.  I encourage you to support others and inspire other people to live at high levels.  I encourage you to wake up EVERYDAY (even the tough days) and LIVE HARD!  Take it head on.  
If you had made it this far so far, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  Do me a favor today, go out and "INSPIRE" someone.  And then do it again tomorrow and the next day.  Continue this process for 20 days in a row.  Be aware of that feeling it will give you.  You will be empowered and motivated each day because you are out there helping others reach their success.  If you reach a tough day, or an obstacle that stops you head on, be resilient to keep going.  Find that determination we all have inside of us and push forward.  
I leave you with a quote that was printed on a memory card for our little INSPIRE...
"Obstacles will come and resilience is needed.  And when we get back up after we have fallen, strength will be gained.  We must have faith and vision knowing that God has a master plan for all of us."


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