2014 : Do this NOT that

Hi Reader and Welcome to 2014!

It’s a brutal world out there with CrossFit and low carb mania and unnecessary gluten avoidance… Let’s navigate a few of the years trends (including CrossFit) and list a few generic tips too.

Have you missed me?  It’s been a while since my last blog post (I’ve been a busy girl) so I thought I would jump right back in after my 7-month break.  We begin anew in January, right?

So, getting back to work on my blog has brought me to some things I’ve been noticing and that I have opinions about.  Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea (nor does it mean it’s not right for you).  My big issue is : make sure you are informed!   On the lighter side, read this funny article by a blogger in Australia about fitness trends across the pond.

As always, I’m not bashing anyone’s food or fitness habits.  If you’re happy doing what you are doing, go for it, especially if it’s helping you eat better or gets you movin and shakin.  These are just my personal tips, for the new year, including trends and general blunders to avoid in 2014.

Fads beware!

Do Water, Not “ade”

Short and sweet: Gatorade, et al is appropriate for the endurance junkie or high intensity sports team player, but not for the rest of us. It’s purpose is to replenish the electrolytes that are lost during long bouts of aerobic activity, like running a marathon or playing competitive sports. Those exceptions are the only time I recommend a sports drink. All others should forgo the sugary drinks such as Gatorade, Vitamin Water or Powerade (which are just as sugary as a Coke). Every ounce of sugary drink you drink, is one less ounce of water that your body will receive. Not a good idea!

Your body needs water, so give it some.

Do Limit Sucrose, Not Carbs

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you already know that I dislike diets (yes, it includes Paleo, unless you intend to permanently eat this way).  The low carb diets are no exception.  I don’t actually disagree with a lot of the philosophy of most low carb plans (limiting processed and refined), but I disagree with “low carb / no carb” because it leaves out an entire food group that is absolutely necessary for the body.  Carbohydrates are a critical part of our main energy system.  Most people are recommended to consume 50-55% of their diet in carbs (according to the USDA).  If I made the rules, I would advise 60-65% (especially for athletes or those who are very physically active, like runners).  Most of our natural fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates.  An apple’s calories are 100% carb and a sweet potato’s calories are 93% carb.  WHY would we want to omit an entire food group from our diet? Especially one that is necessary for our production of energy that we use for our active lifestyle.

This, in my opinion, is forsaking health for skinny.

One more thing, my biggest issue with Paleo is no beans.  That’s just crazy and silly, in my opinion.  Beans are wonderful foods, but like everything else, should probably be eaten in moderation.  I’m not saying eat beans 4 times per week.

Like I said earlier, if it were my way, we would consume mostly carbs with a little bit of protein (more on protein below) and a little bit of healthy fat.  A dinner plate would be colorful, full of healthy and natural carbohydrates and it would be full of macronutrients and fiber.  If you’re wanting to slim your waistline, there are plenty of healthy ways to accomplish this, besides limiting your carbs.

Do limit the high sucrose (table sugar) foods and focus on natural, whole foods.  If it comes out of a factory, keep it to a minimum.

Do Colorful, Not Supplemental

Supplements are a very controversial subject and they remain a source of constant debate.  There are many readers who will disagree with my professional opinion on this subject and that is fine (we can agree to disagree).  However, if you’d like to be open minded, read the three points below and if you still disagree, at least you considered the other side.

Before I state my opinion on the subject, I want to say, there is a time where supplements are needed.  If you have a diagnosed (by a doctor) deficiency, then obviously, supplements are needed.  This is not what I am condemning.  Supplements can be very safe and effective when they are prescribed by a doctor, who knows the appropriate dosage and monitors the effects.


The biggest reason that I denounce supplements for the rest of us is because there just isn’t enough research out there for me to be a fan of self dosing (especially herbal supplements!).   I really like it when I can form an opinion based on science.  This industry needs more research (and possibly more regulation) before I jump on board.  It’s especially confusing when you begin to read in depth about it.  There are many mixed reports with some stating a lot of the supplements aren’t even effective, meaning, they don’t actually absorb the way we think they are.  So, we are wasting our time and our money.  The supplement market in the US is a $68 billion dollar industry!  Does that incite the thought that there might be a lot of money being spent on making you THINK they are safe and effective?  Good.

Bottom line: that is a lot of money we are spending and somehow, our health isn’t improving…

And that’s not all. Some of the herbal supplements may be filled with “fillers” that are unsafe for some of us, like those of us trying to avoid gluten in our diet.  According to the NY Times:

Policing the supplement industry is a special challenge. The F.D.A. requires that companies test the products they sell to make sure that they are safe. But the system essentially operates on the honor code. Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are generally considered safe until proved otherwise.

Under a 1994 law, they can be sold and marketed with little regulatory oversight, and they are pulled from shelves generally only after complaints of serious injury. The F.D.A. audits a small number of companies, but even industry representatives say more oversight is needed.  

The full article can be found here and it is an eye opener to see what they found in some of the pills they randomly tested.

Possibly, the most important reason that I don’t approve of supplements in the diet is their risk of toxicity.  If you ingest too much of a vitamin (like Vitamins A and D), you could be putting your health at serious risk.  It’s nearly impossible to get too much from our foods.  Almost all documented cases of vitamin overdose came from supplements.  Some vitamin toxicities have serious consequences like kidney damage, abnormal heart rhythms and even hypertension.

Instead of taking supplements, try eating color.  The more colorful your plate, the more vitamins and nutrients (variety).  It’s safer and better for you.  AND it will benefit your digestive health too, which supplements cannot do.  The more veggies and fruits we eat, the better our digestion works because they clean it up.

So, if you still must and still thinking of supplementing your diet with vitamins and herbs from a bottle, please consider consulting your doctor first.

Do BFF (Best Fitness Friend), not solo

Caucasian couple running together on path

Everyone needs a BFF (Best Fit Friend).  We are social creatures who thrive on compatibility with others.  Let’s take this social behavior and apply it to our exercise life.  Find a friend (a current friend or make a new one) who is:

~Similar in strength and size – we work better while working alongside another person who is on the same level as we are.  It’s not as fun if we are next to someone who is twice as strong or half as strong.

~Likes the same type of exercise as you – this is a no brainer, if you like to run and your partner likes to swim…  Well, I guess you could Tri.

~Scheduley compatible – like that word?  If you find a friend who is working nights at the hospital while you work days at the software company, it will be too difficult, which will make it less likely to work.  Set yourself up for success!

Try splitting a personal training session for a cost break.  Or, your personal trainer may have a person they could introduce you to and set you up to exercise with.

It doesn’t have to cost money, you can hit the running trail together, run your own outdoor boot camp session or grab a mat and hit your living room floor for an exercise video.  The important thing is that you help to motivate each other to show up and help keep each other within good form during strength training session (especially if you don’t use a trainer).  AND safety bonus when you’re outdoors, two is safer than one.

Do New, Not What You’re Good At

One of the best ways to reignite your fitness fire is to try something new!  I love to run.  I have loved to run for a while now.  I’m at a point where the running is less exciting and fulfilling so I’m thinking of trying a mini triathlon or maybe swimming instead.  The first time I ever tried paddle board, I absolutely loved it!  Now I cannot wait to get out there.  The point is, please don’t hold yourself back.  RUTS ARE BAD! ~ you can quote me on that.

Also, your muscles are darn smart!  They know what is coming next because you’ve done the move a few times before.  Muscle memory is a beast sometimes and the best way to overcome this is by doing something totally different, like swimming vs. running or biking vs. walking or TRX vs. lifting.  If you are extremely fit, you probably know this problem intimately.  The good news is that it forces us to keep it fresh!


Do Safety, Not Risky

Now that I’ve instructed you to try something NEW, we should chat about CrossFit since I would qualify it as the biggest fitness trend of 2013.  The fitness industry is a wonderful place for a person to really branch out and be their own innovator and cultivator of new things.  WHICH I love, however, it comes with a downside.

Before I get too far into this one, I am not condemning CrossFit. I actually think it’s brilliant, especially since it’s worked so well to get sedentary people into a gym.  I am all for that.  I love to see something inspire the masses!  BUT like the supplements, if you’d like to be open minded, I URGE you to read my points below and make an informed decision.  Please research further before participating in CrossFit.

Did you know that not all CrossFit coaches are nationally accredited certificate holders?  Meaning they are not required to be trained as a Personal Trainer or other specialty certificate that helps you to know that they are knowledgable.  The NCCA – National Commission for Certifying Agencies helps the consumer to know who is knowledgable and trained to a certain standard.  Safety depends on trainers and other fitness professionals knowing certain aspects of the body, safety and most importantly for CrossFit, ways to avoid serious injury.  Read this statement from NCCA’s website:


The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) was created in 1987 by ICE to help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public through the accreditation of a variety of certification programs/organizations that assess professional competence. Certification programs that receive NCCA Accreditation demonstrate compliance with the NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs, which were the first standards for professional certification programs developed by the industry.

The NCCA standards require demonstration of a valid and reliable process for development, implementation, maintenance, and governance of certification programs. NCCA uses a rigorous peer review process to establish accreditation standards; evaluate compliance with the standards; recognize organizations/programs which demonstrate compliance; and serve as a resource on quality certification.Certification organizations that submit their programs for accreditation are evaluated based on the process and products, and not the content; therefore, the Standards are applicable to all professions and industries. Program content validity is demonstrated with a comprehensive job analysis conducted and analyzed by experts, with data gathered from stakeholders in the occupation or industry.

There is an epidemic of a condition called Rhabdomyolysis.  It is a very serious condition that can cause death.  In extreme over exertion, it is a very real risk.  The very basic description of Rhabdomyolysis (most commonly referred to Rhabdo in the fitness industry)  is kidney failure caused by muscle injury.

I am not saying that CrossFit is the only cause of Rhabdo.  It’s not, you can get it from ANY physical activity that causes exertion in the muscles.  What I AM saying is that CrossFit has a high risk for causing it.  People with training certificates from a NCCA agency, have been trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of exertion.  They also have been trained to know the safe work rate pace (intensity, progression and duration) of all individual fitness levels and they SHOULD risk stratify you, during your initial consultation.  This step is vital to a safe exercise session.  The detailed risk stratification by a certified personal trainer may include a fitness level test, which tells them what you are capable of doing, safely.  I cannot stress this enough.  My training certificate from the American College of Sports Medicine really focused a lot on risk and safety; it taught me the dangers of overtraining and overexertion.  Any person who wants to teach, instruct or coach should be trained sufficiently in the gross anatomy of the body, the common injuries associated, the safe progression of exercise and the signs and symptoms of all health related risks to exercise.  This typically takes a person 3-6+ months to achieve this understanding, not 18-hours (which is the CrossFit level 1 criteria).

Tips for CrossFitters:

~Find out if your coach is certified in the fitness industry (with a NCCA agency – this is VITAL).   Here is a list of accredited agencies that one can hold a certificate from.  If you are just beginning CrossFit, find a coach that is licensed through one of those agencies.  There are tons of trainers who are also certified in CrossFit.

~Or if they are not certified, do they hold a degree in a related field (kinesiology, biomechanics, physical education, sports medicine, etc…)- the certificate and degree normally go hand in hand, but it’s possible to have the degree without the certificate (and that is fine).

~Even if they are certified by a NCCA agency, make sure you do not over exert yourself, no matter what your coach is pushing.  You are the expert on your body and you should pay attention to what it’s telling you.

Do Carbs, Not Protein

Most americans, even our athletes, way over consume Protein. Partly to blame is our thought that we have to have meat (which is high in protein) to make a meal.  Think of the menu at a restaurant. Every meal is centered on some type of meat or fish.  The USDA recommends 10-35% of our diet consist of protein.  First of all, how is this large of a range helpful?  Second of all, 35% protein seems excessive!  Holy Cow!  Ask your doctor what their recommendation is.  I would almost guarantee, it’s not 35%.  Who came up with this number?  I would venture a guess, that your doctor’s opinion will probably more closely align to the ACSM recommendation of 12-15% of total daily caloric intake.  I think this range is a healthy goal.  Research this a bit before taking my word for it.

Think about 12-15% for a moment.  Assuming you are eating 2000kcal per day. I am using this number because a lot of nutritional guidance uses a 2000/kcal diet.  One of these choices would be enough protein for ONE DAY – not one meal, but one day:

8-oz chicken breast


5-oz salmon




3-slices of turkey bacon


This is far below what most Americans consume and even farther, still, below what Paleo dieters are likely eating.  A word about Paleo: I like the premise of Paleo, but disagree that the amount of protein recommended as “healthy”.  The body needs an abundance of fruits and vegetable (which is the part of Paleo that I 100% agree with), which is where smart carb eaters get their carbs.  I agree, we should be limiting mainstream  carbs like breads, crackers, sweets, white potatoes, white rice, etc…  I’m not saying never eat those things, I am saying your carbs should be mostly veggies and mostly fruits.  For instance, raw carrots are approximately 88% carbs (meaning 88% of it’s total calories).  This is not a bad food, let’s not treat it as such.  How about tomatoes.  One raw tomato is approximately 83% carb.  You get my point, right.  Most fad diets (low carb included) are fad for a reason: the reasonable person cannot maintain it longterm, so it fades into the background once we realize it.

The only time I feel there should be an exception is someone who is going to extreme measure to attain hypertrophy (increased muscle size).   Then maybe add another 10%.  I am not saying I agree with weight lifter’s protein habits.  I don’t.  I actually don’t agree with any extreme.

The remainder of the % for the day is fats and that’s an entire subject on it’s own, so we will skip it for now.

Do Rhythm, Not Disruption

Ever heard the term circadian rhythm?  It’s an interesting theory about the biological cycle of our body each day.  Emerging research says some interesting things about the effect of sleep disruption (outside of the normal circadian rhythm) on our bodies.  Staying up too late, sleeping too late, getting up too early, going to bed too early and jet lag can all effect our circadian rhythm.

This article from Science Daily quotes this research on mice:

While not any more active than the control mice, the disrupted mice were impulsive, a behavior measured in part by how long they wait to emerge into the light from a dark compartment in a cage. They were slower to figure out changes made to a water maze they had mastered, suggesting reduced mental flexibility. Physically, their body temperature cycles were disorganized when compared to their peers and the levels of hormones related to metabolism, such as leptin, which regulates appetite, and insulin, were elevated. Consequently the mice gained weight even though they were fed the same diet as the controls.

So, it might be worth working on your circadian rhythm if it’s out of whack.  You can train your sleep habits with diligence and it might just be worth it.

PS getting out of bed before your body clock restarts each day around 4am has been linked to abdominal fat and increased appetite.  Ouch!

In close, go forth, be smart about trends and fads.



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