Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Supplements: Are They Necessary?

As a personal trainer, I am often asked this question:  Should I be taking vitamins/minerals/supplements/diet pills?  So, here is my long answer to that short questions!


Ideally, we shouldn't take vitamins because we should be getting everything we need from the food we put in our mouths.  But, unfortunately, not enough people eat the proper nutrition that they need daily. And even if we do, so many fruits and vegetables are grown with pesticides and chemicals we are not getting the good stuff from our food anymore, so we supplement (and eat organic when you can).  If you do need to take vitamins and minerals, make sure you are buying high quality supplements- not synthetic ones.  Synthetic vitamins have been formed in a laboratory by reconstructing the vitamin molecule chemically.  Natural vitamins are made from food concentrates such as carrot powder, wheat germ or buckwheat, and their molecular and biomedical combinations remain untampered with.  Synthetic are generally much less expensive than natural, but, synthetic vitamins can actually harm your body and not help.  Do your research to make sure you are getting high quality supplements.

Let me explain a little bit about vitamins.  There are two types of vitamins:  water soluble and fat soluble.  Water soluble vitamins are all your B vitamins and C.  Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble.  Fat soluble vitamins are dissolved in fat and are usually absorbed in fat globules that travel through the lymphatic system of the small intestines and into the general blood circulation within the body.  They are then stored in body tissues and usually remain there, which if you have taken too much, can cause a potentially dangerous condition known as hypervitaminosis.  It is rare, but be cautious of taking too many fat soluble vitamins.  Many people are now deficient in vitamin D- the reason being is the excessive use of sunscreen.  I most certainly advocate the use of sunscreen if you are going to be out for a long length of time, but, if I am just going outside for short amounts of time, we do not use it.  Your body needs a certain amount of  vitamin D from natural sunlight and the sunscreen blocks that absorption.  And, if I do wear it, it is a natural sunscreen and not the chemical filled ones.  Remember, what we put on our skin is actually absorbed faster into our bodies than if we would have ingested it.

Water soluble vitamins are dissolved in water when they are ingested and then go into our bloodstream.  They do not get stored in our bodies.  Our bodies keep what is needed and then the rest is excreted through our urine.  So, because they aren't stored everyone needs a continual supply of B vitamins and C.


Minerals cannot be created by your body (our bodies are able to build some vitamins from the nutrients we consume), so we must obtain them from the foods that we eat.  Once again, if your diet is healthy, you will not need to supplement.  But, if not make sure you are using high quality supplements.  Calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc are just a few of the minerals that our bodies need.  We can obtain calcium from dairy products; iron from meat; potassium from bananas; and zinc from venison, beef or shellfish.  Obviously, if you are pregnant or have any other medical condition, make sure you check with your doctor for how your vitamin and mineral needs may change.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.  They band together in chains to form the essentials things in our bodies needed to live.  Amino acids get together and form peptides or polypeptides, from which proteins are made.  There are 20 amino acids.  Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids; the others need to be supplied in your food intake.  The ten amino acids that we can produce are:  alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine.  The ones we must obtain from our diet are:  arginine, histidine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.  Many people know tryptophan because it is in turkey- it's what makes us sleepy on Thanksgiving!  But, too much of it will cause gastrointestinal discomfort.  Just like anything- you must take amino acids in moderation or you will experience side effects.  One side effect you may not realize until too late is damage to the kidneys.  Protein and amino acids are filtered through the kidneys.  If you are consuming too much your kidneys will have to work extra and that will put them at risk for kidney disease.  Most people do not need to supplement their diets with amino acids.  What we eat daily will supply what we need.  There are other side effects to taking too many aminos including:  anxiety, depression, and muscle weakness, among others.  As always, if you feel you are lacking something, talk to your doctor and make sure they run  tests to determine the levels of amino acids in your body.

Diet pills or diet supplements

This is a short answer:  NO!!!  There is no quick fix.  If someone tells you that all they do is take some pills or supplements and they stay thin and they don't even have to workout- run fast and far away!  First of all, if there were some magic pills to help you lose weight- it certainly wouldn't be healthy.  As I have said in previous posts:  exercising is important for so many more reasons than just losing weight.  Exercising reduces blood pressure, heart rate, risk of cancers, risk of heart attack and stroke, risk of osteoporosis, it stabilizes your blood sugar levels, improves mood and energy and the list goes on and on.  Let's do it the healthy and natural way- eat nutritious foods, high in vital nutrients and not chemicals, and exercise.  That's what is good for your body!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Granola Anyone?

I love granola!!!  It's a great source of fiber, protein and carbohydrates.  I like to make my own because you can customize it any way you like.  Add in the type of dried fruit and nuts that you like- the fat in nuts is a good type of fat, by the way!  I use my granola for breakfast in the morning- sprinkled on organic yogurt, and also in my homemade granola bars.  Below is the recipe for a basic granola and also for the granola bars I make.


3 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup canola oil- I only use organic canola- because of the possibilities of gmo's.  Or you can use coconut or any other type of oil that you like
1/4 cup honey- I use raw
1/4 of demerera sugar- an unrefined type of sugar that looks like brown sugar- larger crystals than regular sugar and a brown color.  Or you can use an organic brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or a little more if you like vanilla flavor)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 salt
2 cups add-ins like dried fruit, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with natural parchment paper (regular parchment paper is coated with chemicals!!)  Whisk together the oil, honey, demerera, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.  Pour over the oats and toss well.  Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes.  Let cool completely, then transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in add-ins.  Store in an airtight container.

Granola Bars

4 TBL butter
1/4 cup demerera sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups of granola
1 cup of puffed rice cereal- you will want to get this from a healthy grocery store- the "normal" brands of rice cereal contain chemical preservatives that are cancer causing.
1/4 cup of dried fruit or nuts ( if you have a lot of this in your granola- you do not have to add more)

Put butter, demerera, honey and cinnamon in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring, reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and add in granola, rice cereal and fruit or nuts.  Stir until well coated and combined.  Pour into an 11 x 7 (or two 9 x 5 pans) foil lined and greased pan.  Use a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly oiled and lay on top of the granola- press down and evenly spread the mixture into the pan- well compacted. Let cool and then remove to a cutting board and cut into about 16-18 bars.  About 130 calories each

Monday, March 5, 2012

March Challenge!!!!!

Can you believe it's March already????  How have you done with the January and February challenges?  Are you still free of high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes?  I hope so!!!

The nutrition challenge for this month is:   to remove all nitrites and nitrates from your diet.  Nitrites and nitrates, (referred to as sodium nitrites/nitrates on many food packages) are found commonly in foods that are cured or processed, such as:  deli meats, hotdogs, sausage, bacon, etc.  Why do we not want to eat them, you ask?  Well, when you eat nitrites, they can be converted into nitrosamines, which are potent cancer causing chemicals.  Specifically colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancers.  Research has also found that people who consume nitrites and nitrates are more likely to have COPD, which is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, DNA mutations, and if you are a child you have an increased risk for brain tumors.  In fact, nitrites/nitrates are so dangerous that the USDA tried to ban the use of them in the 1970s but were overridden by the meat processing industry.  This chemical is what they use to cure all their meats, give them a bright, fresh color,  and  keep them from spoiling on the shelf. Thankfully, due to the increased awareness of their dangers, many supermarkets are now offering deli meats, hotdogs, bacon, etc. without sodium nitrites/nitrates.  Naturally occurring nitrites/nitrates can be found in certain vegetables, but, because they are natural and not artificial chemicals, there is no harm to you.  Please read your food labels to make sure you are not consuming any of these cancer causing chemicals.  You will be doing your family's health a huge favor!!

Now, how are your workouts coming along?  Have you been able to increase your cardiovascular exercise?  How about adding in some weight resistance training?  Remember, you must overload your muscles past their normal ability in order to see change.  Exercise shouldn't be "easy".  You should have to push yourself!!  So, for this month try to add in some old fashioned calisthenics, such as jump roping, push ups, mountain climbers, running sprints, and bear crawls.  You really don't need a fancy health club to get exercising- you just have to motivate and push yourself to new limits!

Have a great March everyone!!!