How to drink alcohol and still lose fat

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if you’ve been looking around the fitness space for a while it’s easy to see that alcohol gets a bad rap. And quite possibly it should, however if you plan on having a life outside of the gym and the kitchen, you need to get good information on how to balance your alcohol intake with your fitness goals. It is possible. 

First of all let's get a few things to consider out of the way. While alcohol does account for around 7 calories per gram, there are a few things to note about this.

First the NET calories or the calories actually absorbed after minusing away the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is actually 6.3 calories per gram. It takes your body energy to metabolize the alcohol.

Second, the calories are mainly empty containing no nutritional value with the exception of carbs in beer and wine. So you need to account for these empty calories in your daily calorie intake, as it will affect your energy balance.

Third, keep in mind the recommendation on weekly consumption for health risks at 14 servings per week for males and 7 servings per week for females. (Why men get to drink twice as much as women in this equation is a mystery to me.) It does however serve a good starting point. If you regularly drink more than that then you may face other health issues down the road other than bodyweight. Just try to keep your weekly total around there.

For the 3 most common types of alcoholic drinks we find the approximate calorie counts as follows:

  1. 1 bottle of beer (330ml) : 150 calories (for a pint roughly double that)
  2. 1 glass of wine (5 ounces): 125 calories
  3. 1 shot of spirits (45ml): 100 calories

So when out on your binge keep track of how many drinks you have. The more accurate the better. One caveat, it is impossible and really no fun whatsoever to do this. A good estimate will do. Just keep it on the high side. If you look at the math then 10 drinks of spirits should get you really drunk and only have about 1000 calories. That is easy to account for during a week, maybe just cut a bit of calories or add another cardio session. Easy, peasy. Here are my top tips to make sure your night of debauchery doesn't totally derail your fitness goals.

1. Nutrition

On the big day, stick to a diet of mainly protein and vegetables, minimizing your carb intake. You do need some carbs in the beginning of the day, so pick a fruit or two, no starchy carbs. Make sure you eat your biggest meal (protein and veggies only) before you go out. You should arrive at the bar with a full stomach. Also, make sure you are well hydrated before. Consume at least one liter of water before going out. Food and hydration will slow down your drinking response, causing you to sip those first few drinks slowly. It will also save you the next morning: drinking on an empty stomach while thirsty is always a bad idea.

2. Stick to the low calorie options

As we saw above pure spirits are your best option to keep calories low. pick your favorite like vodka, gin, whisky and either consume it on the rocks or mixed with water or soda. If you absolutely have to have a soft drink stick to diet coke or something like that. Approach cocktails with caution the can be calorie bombs if you are not careful. Best advice is to stick to the classics and ask for less sugar, while avoiding ones with lots of juice and high calorie ingredients. Sip your drinks slowly and enjoy your time with your friends. If you can, have a bottle of water after every two drinks. You will thank me in the morning.

3. No eating while drinking

This is a big one. Always remember it. Most bar food is notorious for being high in calories. Avoid those yummy peanuts, chicken wings, french fries and such. Once you've had a few drinks, your ability to moderate your choices becomes difficult. If you arrived at the bar stuffed full of protein and veggies you won't be as tempted to eat  If you must snack try edame, its lower in calories and high in protein. Repeat after me "no eating while drinking." It's super important.

4. Get back to your routine as soon as possible

This is self evident I think. Unless you went on a total bender and have the entire philharmonic orchestra playing in your head in the morning, get back into the gym asap. Most people alternate rest days with workout days, so you can use what I call "drinking timing" to ensure you don't derail your fitness regime.

What that means is if you go out on a workout day aka post workout, then you will have the whole next day to recover. This is possibly the best time to have a big night out. Just make sure your post workout meal follows the guidelines above, with the exception of adding one handful of complex carbs to replenish your muscle glycogen. During your rest day make sure to take a 30 minute brisk walk, It will help.

If you chose to go out on a rest day, meaning you are supposed to go to the gym the next day, proceed with caution. Your best option is to have a light night out, limiting your consumption and making sure you go home early to get a good night sleep. Failing that, go workout out anyways. Even if you are hungover, keep your body in its routine. It will be painful, but maybe will teach you a lesson. You may try a supplement like curcumin to reduce the hangover. Just take it with oil and black pepper to aid absorption. Curcumin has been shown to help the body metabolise alcohol.

While you should definitely moderate your drinking, I think you still need to have a social life. Many people when they start their journey, they try and quit everything at once. This almost always results in failure. The trick here is to build awareness first and then make sure your daily habits are in line with your goals. It is possible to balance your social life with your fitness life. No one wants to live in a cave. 

If you need some coaching to help you get your nutrition and fitness on track, I am a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer. Hit me up for a free consult below.

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Sunday brunch egg cups

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Today, I just want to share a quick recipe that coincidentally I made for Sunday brunch. Although I have to say its good enough to make any day of the week, even make a batch as part of your food prep ritual and eat over several days. These are super portable and easy to stuff into a food container and throw into your bag for a good dose of protein, vegetables and even a bit of carbs (depending if you like carbs or not). The only equipment you need is a muffin tin (or several) and an oven. Depending on what you use as ingredients these are very Keto and Paleo friendly.

I will put this as a recipe for 6 cups (approximately), but feel free to make more as desired. Let's get egg cupping. 

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 slices of turkey or chicken ham (usually lower in fat than the pork variety)
  • 1 handful of spinach chopped
  • 1 quarter of red capsicum chopped
  • 8 cherry tomatoes sliced 
  • 1 baked potato cut into cubes (substitute sweet potato or leave out if you want lower carbs)
  • fresh basil chiffonade
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a bit of grated cheese (I used parmesan)
  • olive oil

Method:

  1. grease muffin tin with a bit of olive oil
  2. press ham slices into cups to act as the shell
  3. put the potato on the bottom
  4. layer a bit of spinach, capsicum and cherry tomato in the cup. It should be about 3/4's full
  5. beat the eggs with basil, salt and pepper and pour into each cup until full, but try not to overflow (it's nearly impossible anyway so don't worry about it if you do)
  6. top with a pinch of cheese
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. But watch these little things carefully. Burnt egg tastes horrible.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool (I burnt my mouth on the first one) pop out of the tins and enjoy!

Pretty simple huh? Cooking healthy food doesn't have to be super complicated, in fact, you will see that it gets easier the more you do it. If you got a comment or want to shout out click on the buttons below.

I am a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer. It is my mission to help people eat better, move better and feel awesome. If you want to find out if I can help you (hint: I can) then get a free consult by clicking on the big button below.

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Hand-sized portion guide

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When I write recipes or portion out my plates, I usually use hand size portions to control my calorie intake. If you have never run across this method before you might find it a little confusing, so I though I better explain it.

I first learned about hand sized portioning when I was completing my Level 1 Nutrition Coach Certification with Precision Nutrition, and I found this is a very helpful way to control my calories. And because I do make a lot of single serving dishes, it naturally found its way into my recipes, just to make it easier to make. 

Why hand-sized portions?

Well, believe it or not, actually counting calories accurately is pretty much impossible due to several reasons, but two of the biggest factors are the inaccuracy of the calorie estimations themselves (more on this in a future article), and your body's ability to absorb the nutrients or bioavailability. If you are interested to read more check out this article. Now I have to admit, I was once an avid calorie counter, in fact for an overview see my article on calorie counting. However I quickly found (ok not so quickly, it took me 3 months) that it was extremely cumbersome and annoying after a while. Not only to myself but my family as well. For example I used to carry my digital scale with me everywhere and whip it out even in restaurants, I was obsessed.

So enter hand sized portioning. It is based on some very serious science and is just as accurate as calorie counting without all the hassle. There are two basic principles that make this easy.

  1. Your hands are portable, so they go with you everywhere. With practise, it becomes easy to estimate portion size just by eyeball.
  2. Your hands are proportionate to your body size, meaning larger people have larger hands, and smaller people have smaller hands. Meaning you would eat more or less food based on your body size.

Now if you are saying, but what about calories, can we be a bit more accurate? I really need to know how many calories I am eating. I enjoy calorie math!  Well this is simple as well. First of all let's set out the portion size by macronutrient and approximate calorie count.

  • one serving of protein = 1 palm = 20-30 grams x 4 kcal = 80-120 kcal per serving

  • one serving of carbs = 1 cupped hand = 20-30 grams x 4 kcal = 80-120 kcal per serving

  • one serving of fats = 1 thumb = 7-12 grams x 9 kcal = 63-108 kcal per serving

  • one serving of vegetables = 1 fist = we don't count vegetables as they are very high in essential nutrients but low in calories. It's impossible to gain weight by eating too many vegetables. If you don't believe me just try it.

Now armed (or should I say handed) with this info we can estimate our individual calories by taking out our digital scale and actually measuring out our exact portion size based on our hand size. Once you memorise these numbers, it is so easy to estimate your calories.

In the next article I will talk about how to determine appropriate portion sizes for you! In the meantime, enjoy this infographic.

 Image courtesy of   Precision Nutrition

Image courtesy of Precision Nutrition

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Kale, pea and shrimp pasta

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Ready for another recipe? I know I am. Pasta sometimes gets a bad rap because it is high in carbs, and especially refined carbs if you eat plain white pasta. I absolutely love pasta, and to avoid too many refined carbs, I switched to wholemeal, buckwheat or other whole grain types. This keeps my fibre intake high and I still get to enjoy something I love. I will say it takes some time to get used to eating whole grain pasta, but it is well worth the effort. When shopping, look out for these healthier alternatives.

This recipe is a good post workout meal. I use carb cycling in my own eating habits, which means I always eat the highest portion of my daily carbohydrate intake right after intense exercise. Its a great strategy to deliver nutrients to your body, right when they need them, especially for carbs. When you exercise you deplete your glucose (glycogen) reserves, and eating carbs post workout kickstarts your recovery so you can work out heavy again. Even if you normally are trying to stick to a low carb diet, post exercise is NOT the time to do this. Use other days and times to restrict your carb intake. Give your body what it needs.

This recipe can be made in about 15 minutes, making it perfect for those rush times, especially after the gym and starving. Alternatively, prepare in advance and keep in a food container to bring with you. As always, keep a well stocked fridge and you should have no problem getting this together. I like to set aside Sunday as my meal planning day, but really it's up to you. I also cook pasta in bulk and freeze individual portions, so that I can whip up a batch of pasta super quick. Always remember planning is the key to your nutrition success. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 shrimp peeled (I used frozen)
  • 10-12 sweet pea pods chopped
  • 1 clenched fist of Kale
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 500 ml organic pasta sauce  
  • 3 cupped hands whole grain pasta cooked el dente or less
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • parmesan cheese

Note about measurements: You may notice I use some rather unusual measurements (cupped hand, clenched fist, etc), this is because it is often far easier and more sustainable to use these hand sized measurements to help you control your portion size. I will create an article on that soon.

Method:

  1. in a large pan, add a bit of olive oil and saute the shrimp until pink, remove and set aside. 
  2. add garlic and pea pods and saute until the garlic begins to brown
  3. add kale and continue to stir
  4. add pasta sauce and heat until hot stirring occasionally
  5. add pre-cooked pasta and shrimp, tossing to combine
  6. season as desired with salt and pepper (think more pepper and less salt)
  7. when heated through transfer to serving bowl
  8. garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh torn basil leaves and dig in

See? Super easy and nutritious. Stay tuned for more great recipes. Like, follow or subscribe.

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Recovery: what you need to know

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If exercise is important (and it is), than recovery is just as, if not more important. Truth is we don't build muscles at the gym, we build them when we recover. And the higher intensity we workout at, the more we need to plan for recovery. Especially as we age. 

In this article, I will explore basic recovery as well as share some things I do to help myself get the most out of my workouts and recovery time. Just to benchmark, I have a very heavy workout schedule with at least 5 days per week of physical activity averaging about 12 hours between weights, Muay Thai, and running, sometimes working out twice a day. You can get by with less and indeed if you are new to exercising, 3 days a week is more than adequate, aiming for 3-6 hours total workout time, which for those of you who love math, would work out to 3.6% of your total time per week at the high end. And take a day off from exercise every other day. 

There are two types of recovery, passsive and active. They both do different things, and Ideally you should consider both in your recovery protocol.

Passive

Passive recovery is just plain resting, sleeping, eating and giving your muscles a chance to recover. Lay by the pool or the beach. Just chill.  Essential here is a good sleep ritual to ensure you get a good 8 hours (plus or minus) and good nutrition with plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals. I love naps, and they can be super beneficial too.

Active

Active recovery refers to actually doing low intensity movement, like walking, stretching, massage, foam rolling, swimming, etc. The idea here is you want slow muscle contractions to slightly elevate your heart rate and help your body deliver nutrients to your recovering muscles. Active recovery should NEVER be too strenuous. As well, stretching, massage and foam rolling help with keeping your muscles nice and limber and ready for the next session.

Top things I do to promote recovery:

Nutrition

I am a big nutrition nut, in fact I am a certified nutrition coach, and I know for a fact that good exercise and recovery starts in the kitchen. Your post workout meal, ideally eaten with 30 minutes to 2 hours of your workout should be your largest of the day, and include plenty of lean protein, and lots of colourful vegetables with some complex carbs added. Post workout your muscles are hungry, as you just depleted your energy stores, so your body will actively replace the lost glycogen (carbs). The protein will help rebuild and repair the damage cause to your muscles, and the vitamins and minerals will aid the whole process. More on that in the future.

Sleep

Getting a good night sleep is paramount to good recovery. Most of your good hormones (such as IGF and HGH) are released at night when you are hugging your pillow, so almost all of your muscle rebuilding happens at this time. If you are not getting around 8 hours a night, your body won't recover. The best way to accomplish this is set yourself a regular bedtime, and make sure to relax and prepare to sleep about 30 minutes to one hour before. One great idea is NO electronic devices during this time, TV, mobile phone, tablet, etc. Also good is to avoid emails and anything that makes you think too much. It's time to relax and there is always tomorrow. I also think a hot shower or some camomile tea can help a lot. If you have a lot of trouble you may consider supplement such as ZMA or Melatonin.

Foam rolling

Getting and using a foam roller for 10-15 minutes on your off days (from workouts) can really help. Foam rolling promotes myofascial release, where the layers of your muscles tend to get stiff and adhere to one another. It's like a self administered deep tissue massage.  I try for about 3 sessions a week just to keep my muscles released. I focus on my tightest areas like hamstrings, upper back, glutes, and hips. I will produce an article with more details at future date. Keep an eye out for that.

Go for a walk

I'm big on this one. A short 20 minute walk on most nights will keep you feeling loose and ready to go the next day. Just a decent pace will do, no need to speed walk. just elevate your heart rate a bit and relax. It also helps promote sleep. At least for me. 

Take a day off

If you are like me (ie super motivated) this is tougher than you think it is. I take one complete day off (usually about 36 hours) from any high intensity activity, but will still do some active recovery. From a nutritional standpoint, I would also tend to eat slightly less carbs on this day but lots of protein and vegetables. Or I take a free day and have some of my favourite dishes. Carbs, fat and macronutrient breakdowns be damned,  Plenty of veggies though and still exercise portion control. After all, what's the point if you don't kickback, relax and enjoy every now and again. You need balance.

Always remember your body needs to recover, or you will overtrain, resulting in possible injuries. So enjoy your time out of the gym just as much as you do in it. 

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Apple, cinnamon and oatmeal power shake

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I love shakes. I really do. From a nutrition standpoint, they help you get the energy and nutrients you need to function at your best. However, it is important to remember these aren't free calories, meaning you must consider the calories in your overall energy balance. If you are like me, you often struggle to eat 3 meals a day, and using a shake helps to get the calories and nutrients needed for optimal performance. The trick to a really good shake is to use as much whole food as possible, so don't rely on supplements too much. Of course protein powder is a must, but go sparingly on other processed supplements (an exception here is powdered greens). 

 I use shakes primarily for two purposes pre workout energy or post workout recovery. But not both at the same time. So if I have a solid food meal a couple of hours before a workout, I would drink a shake post workout to aid recovery. Or if I know I will need an energy boost to power through a workout later in the day, I would consume a shake about 1 hour before starting. Ideally, you want to deliver nutrients when your body is going to need them the most.

This shake is definitely meant to be consumed around the workout period. It is high in carbs, protein, healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants. Just perfect for what your body needs around intense exercise. 

To make this, all you really need is a good blender. In fact, consider buying a good blender as a investment in your health. Once you have that, you will find making shakes a breeze. Look out for more great shake ideas. The sky is the limit. 

 

Apple, cinnamon and oatmeal power shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 small apple cut into chunks
  • 1 cupped hand of frozen mixed berries
  • 1 cupped hand of cooked steel cut oats
  • 1 1/2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 palm of greek yougurt
  • 2 tbsp LSA (Linseed, Sunflower and Almond)
  • 200ml water

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to your blender
  2. blend until well mixed
  3. drink now or put into a blender bottle for later

*Around 600 calories

 

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