Tips for Healthy Eating While Working From Home

You are what you eat.  I’m sure you heard that numerous times in your life.  March is National Nutrition Month by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  If you’ve been working from home or sheltering in place, your eating habits may not be as healthy as they used to be last year.  Without dressing up for work, moving around much, and easy access to your kitchen for random snacking, the “WFH 15” may have invaded your waistline.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Fear not!  March is the perfect month to regain control of your eating habits, and it can taste good too!  Week 1 encourages you to eat a variety of nutritious foods daily.  Try a new fruit or vegetable this week.  Raw is always the healthiest way and gives you the true flavor.  Pick fruits and vegetables with different colors because they have different antioxidants and nutrition profiles.  Also drink plenty of water, not soft-drinks and juices.  If you haven’t read a nutrition label before, read a few on the items you normally buy, could be eye opening!

Week 2 is about planning your meals.  From my experience, this is where people fall off the wagon.  When you don’t know what your next meal is, you make impulse choices which usually aren’t good!  You’re in a rush and find yourself starving!  The downhill spiral begins and it’s hard to stop.  Plan healthier meals with your family for everyone to learn new ideas and get on board with healthy lifestyle choices.  It doesn’t have to suck when one person is on a “diet” and can’t eat the same as others in the house.  By planning and cooking healthier, good tasting food, everyone enjoys together and reaps the benefits.

Photo by Sean Hayes on Pexels.com

Week 3 is taking your planning from the previous week and learning new skills to make delicious dishes that are good for you.  Try using fresh herbs, or new spices on meat, chicken, and fish that you already cook.  Stay away from breaded and fried, all you are tasting are breadcrumbs and flower anyway, not the protein you are frying.  You may even feel better and not have a stomach-ache after eating grilled and backed items instead of fried.  Wasting food truly is a sin in many ways.  Make smaller portions or reuse the leftovers in different dishes if you’re sick of the same taste.  Freeze what you don’t use after three days in the fridge if possible.  Your wallet will thank you also because a dollar can be stretched when you repurpose food items for other dishes.  How do you think gumbo and jambalaya became popular?

Week 4 is a good time to make an appointment with a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN).  An RDN is educated on how to work with any special diseases and conditions you have.  They can also give more detailed guidance for weight loss and sports performance than a personal trainer or Corrective Exercise Specialist as myself.  Knowledge truly Is power and combining an RDN’s knowledge with a fitness professional’s knowledge gives you the total package for maximizing and enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle.

You can’t out lift, run, or cycle a bad diet.  Poor refueling choices have negative effects on everything you do and feel physically.  Being sedentary multiplies your bad choices to increase health risk factors like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.  Those are three of the top five killers of Americans annually, and many could be prevented.  Add to it COVID-19 as a risk factor, and you know who has the most negative effects and chance of death, people who are obese.  Approximately 1/3 of all adult Americans are considered obese by the CDC, this does not include the millions that are overweight and headed to obesity.

For more information on nutrition and healthy eating choices, go to myplate.gov, cdc.gov, and eatright.org.

What is the Best Kind of Cardio Workout?

I’m often asked what the best exercises for a variety of body parts are, and for cardiovascular workouts.  In keeping with American Heart Month in February, I’ll discuss the cardiovascular workouts in this blog.  The number one secret nobody will ever tell you about establishing a true healthy lifestyle for heart health, do whatever you like the most!

Photo by Mary Taylor on Pexels.com

“But, Matt,” you say, “running is the best because it clears my head.”  If running indeed clears your headspace, then run.  For me, running makes me angry and I hate it, so not going to happen.  The only way human beings stick to anything that requires a little work is if there is a modicum of happiness that accompanies it.  This is why diets fail 90% of the time, because they are about deprivation with an ending point.  When the diet is over, you go back to your old ways of eating and gain all the weight back if not more.

The best cardio exercise is the one you have some kind of enjoyment during the process.  This is why people play tennis, racquetball, and adult basketball leagues, they have fun and don’t do it consciously thinking about the benefits to their heart.  The heart will beat faster and pump blood to the needed muscles whether you run, cycle, play soccer, or swim, it does not know the difference.  Your brain knows what limbs are moving and how to initiate nerve impulses that go with the physical activities.  Your heart cannot think and therefore just does its job of beating and keeping you alive.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

There are methods to maximize the time you spend doing cardiovascular training.  In my blog last week, I talked about one called Tabata.  The principle behind Tabata is interval training, where you do short bouts of intense movement followed by rest or slower movement.  The CDC says even five-minute bouts of moderate-to-intense exercise are beneficial for the heart and brain in their 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report found on their website.  The interval training concept focuses on how quickly you can recover from an intense bout before going back to that higher intensity.  Benefits of interval training:

  • Can be done in shorter amounts of time than steady state
  • Any type of exercise can be used (walking, running, swimming, weight training, etc)
  • Doesn’t need any extra equipment
  • Mimics all sports involving a cardiovascular component

Using the FITTE method is how personal trainers work with clients.  So, here’s your free insight!  Frequency Intensity Type Time Enjoyment.  There’s that enjoyment piece again.  FITTE is how you can adjust the variables for maximum efficiency and enjoyment!  Interval training uses all aspects of FITTE to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, which is time spent on the activity. 

Frequency is how many times per week.

Intensity is your heart rate percentage related to your maximum rate.

Time is how long are you doing the activity.

Type is whatever activity you choose to do.

Enjoyment is purely subjective based on your happiness.

Example A using these variables for a 20-minute cardio session:  twice per week on the assault bike doing intervals of 1 minute all out, 2 minutes slower pace.

Example B using these variables for a 30-minute cardio and weights session: three times per week broken into four, six-minute circuits with a minute rest between circuits.

Your heart doesn’t know the difference between the examples.  It loves the process and results either way.  Get off that hamster wheel of a treadmill unless you really LOVE it.  Adapt and adjust the variables to what gives you the most enjoyment.  I guarantee you will stick with it once you practice the adjustments to help achieve your goals!

For more help, please email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  My coaching programs are also available on my website.  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Moderation Examples, Not Extreme Behavior to Achieve Your Resolutions

Extreme right wing, extreme left wing.  Extreme heat, extreme cold.  Obesity, anorexia.  Overuse injuries, injuries from underutilization.

When it comes to new health and fitness goals, extremes are way to common for January resolutions.  Waking up at 5:00AM to run 3 miles when you never wakeup before 6:00AM and haven’t run since PE in high school.  Drop 40 pounds on a liquid diet in 15 days, and you barely drink 3 glasses of water per day.  What are the odds of success in these situations?  Not much.

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

As a fitness industry expert, I have personally gone through different extremes with my body.  None of these extremes have ever lasted long for many reasons.  The body and mind cannot deal with depravation and over training for long periods of time without injuries.  What has lasted is a moderation of healthy lifestyle habits and activities that I enjoy.  The lessons learned from training for a bodybuilding contest and elite level obstacle course races, helps me maintain a fitness level that works for my personality and body type.

  • “I need someone to be super strict with me or I’ll never lose weight.”
  • “I have to workout for two hours every day.”
  • “I’m cutting all carbs from my diet and eating only meat.”

Do any of these statements make you nod your head in agreement?  If so, has that thought process worked for you beyond the length of a program/diet/contest?  If the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second is no.  You have reverted back to your previous self and feel like a failure for doing so.  This cyclic behavior is self-destructive and why your resolutions never work every year.

Regardless if you started and stopped already, or haven’t started yet, try a new moderate approach to changing your lifestyle.

  • No alcohol Sunday-Thursday
  • Replace soft drinks with flavored mineral water
  • Join a group to try new physical activities like hiking or cycling

In an article on NPR about a Swedish study on factors that help keep resolutions, ones that are for pleasurable activities instead of depriving are more successful.  Moderation in your lifestyle can lead to better choices overall.  Look at choices about exercise and food changes with an “if I do x, then I adjust y”.  For example, you’re going to dinner with friends on Thursday night.  Adjust your breakfast and lunch choices to allow for anything you want at dinner.  You fully enjoy the outing without guilt and still on track for your goals. 

NPC Physique competition 2014

Life is meant to be lived, not constantly have the fun taken away.  For 6 years I have maintained body fat percentage around 10% or less.  I don’t skip meals, turn down alcohol, or workout excessively.  The hard work was done during the bodybuilding contest prep.  Since then, I learned that is not the lifestyle for me.  Overall, I don’t drink sodas, keep alcohol to the weekends, and don’t buy sugary foods at the grocery store.  Total calories I eat are more than most people daily, the food is just not processed and full of fat. 

2021 doesn’t feel much different so far than 2020.  What you can take into the new year is a more focused view on your health and fitness to strengthen your immunity and reduce risk factors for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.  In turn, you will be happier and have more self-confidence to take on the challenges 2021 will bring you.

For help with your goals, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Join the Athlete in the Game of Life Team on my website and receive a free copy of my book!

Raging With Your Machine. How to Fuel the WFH Body – From Athlete in the Game of Life

The following is an excerpt from my new book, Athlete in the Game of Life, available on Amazon and on my website.

For the moment, however, I want to remind you that your body is a machine. And all machines need the right fuel to keep them operating at peak efficiency.

If you haven’t guessed already, I’m about to talk about a big four-letter word — diet.

The first three letters of the word “diet” spell out “die” — and maybe that’s why people hate to think about it. But instead, maybe we should all make an effort to stop associating healthy food choices with death!  So, lose the term “dieting” and instead, embrace the good feelings you’ll gain just from changing up what you’re eating. It can make a big difference to your overall wellbeing.

Let me break down some primary food categories and how much you should be eating of each.

  • Carbohydrates

Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans are all examples of carbs. You’ll also find some in nuts and dairy products. Carbs have been a little demonized by the media and the no-carb diet fanatics, but your body likes to use them for energy — so ignore everyone and put ‘em on your plate. You need carbs after a workout to replace your glycogen (which helps you maintain your blood-glucose levels). What you want to avoid is processed and sugary goods that contain them.

According to the Institute of Medicine, carbs should make up 45 to 65% of your daily caloric intake.

  • Fats

Fats are another victim of food prejudice, but the truth is they also aren’t always bad for you. Olive oils, fish and avocados are all healthy sources of fat, while processed and artificial foods deliver unhealthy fats. In any event, it’s almost impossible to entirely eliminate fats from your daily diet, as most foods we eat contain them. Just educate yourself by reading food labels to make sure you’re having the suggesting serving size to minimize fat consumption. Fats are worse than carbs, because a gram of fat has FIVE MORE CALORIES than a gram of carbs. So tread carefully.

According to the Institute of Medicine, fats should make up 20%-35% of your daily caloric intake.

  • Proteins

As most of you know, meat, eggs and seafood all contain protein. You’ll also find it in beans, legumes, nuts and dairy. Ingesting protein contributes to a healthy lifestyle, but keto-style diets centering around protein-packed foods isn’t recommended for long-term health. To build lean muscle mass, protein is a must — your muscles use it to rebuild after a workout.

According to the Institute of Medicine, protein needs to compose 10%-35% of total caloric intake.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

1 – Causes of diabetes — AllAbout dot CF

Particular aspects that add to the advancement of diabetes are Genetics That diabetes can be acquired has actually been understood for centuries. Statistic indicates that those with a family history of the illness have a greater danger of establishing diabetes than those without such a background. One reason why diabetes, particularly type-2 diabetes runs in…

1 – Causes of diabetes — AllAbout dot CF

Changing Your Rate of Aging

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, or the beer can doesn’t fall far from the trailer.  This is fairly true on our personality and behavior characteristics but doesn’t have to be so with our physical health.  In a recent study by Professor Michael Snyder, he identified four ageotypes based on health factors.  A common link between them are the controllable factors of diet and exercise that can help identify and reduce specific risk factors.  While your mother has high blood pressure, you can make changes to lower yours even though you have a genetic predisposition.

Lifestyle is a 100% choice regardless of what’s in your wallet.  The healthy and unhealthy purchases at the grocery store and daily physical activity levels are learned traits.  When you’re born, you don’t have a predetermined genetic type of foods that are assigned to you like eye color.  Your parents may choose high fat and sodium snacks for you a child, and of course you LEARN to like or not like them.  As an adult with a source of income, you can make different choices from all the information freely available to you online and in the free magazines at the store.  Because your parents are 40 lbs overweight does not require you to be also.

The choices made in your 40’s have a direct and significant impact on your physical and resulting cognitive health in your 60’s and on.  Identifying potential biomarkers that can lead to diabetes, stroke, cancer, and dementia in middle age will result in a higher quality of life 20-30 years from now.  The same impact is now heavily being affected in your children.  The habits you have today teach them how to shop, eat, and be active as they reach adulthood.  Give them help by helping yourself with healthier lifestyle choices.  Nothing is sadder than seeing three generations of obesity and knowing it’s all a conscious and voluntary choice.

For all of the information out there, Americans still are getting fatter with more health problems and wondering why medications are more expensive.  Is it laziness or denial or both?  Recognition and admission are the first steps to changing your ageotype, then you have to execute on the changes.  It really isn’t rocket science to stop eating high fat and ultra- processed carb foods.  Small adjustments now yield big changes and a happier existence in the future.  Your rate of aging can slow down to allow you more enjoyment with family and friends in years to come.  Additionally, your entire extended family reaps the benefits and may actually join you in helping themselves reduce their own aging rate.  Life is truly a win win at that point!

Secrets of How Exercise Helps Your Memory

You hear and read articles about why exercise is important for older adults mentally.  Maybe you wonder how exercise really works for the brain, and can it also help you the same way it does someone over 65.  The answer is yes it can.  In fact, studies are showing that how much exercise you do in middle age has a large impact on brain health twenty years into the future.  The three major areas your brain improves are in executive function, speed of processing, and short-term memory recall.  Science is still debating how much improvement for memory can happen, but the signs of dementia can be reduced.

Executive Function

When you hear the term Executive Function, maybe you think of an act by the president or CEO of a company, or part of the President of the United States’ action plan for trade.  Executive Function is plural, because those are all of the actions you take for granted on a daily basis.  Actions like brushing your teeth, buttoning a shirt, and getting out of bed.  Remembering how and why you’re doing these tasks is vital for basic life.  Stimulating the brain through exercise and physical activity helps you to perform these tasks flawlessly and without much conscious thought.  When you see an older adult with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, these simple functions are mountains to overcome.

Speed of Processing

How fast you process information from your five senses and respond can be a life and death situation.  As you age, you naturally slow down and decline in how quick you think and move.  Race car drivers experience this and retire in their early forties.  While they are in peak physical condition, their responses have slowed by .01 or .001 which means winning and second place, or even crashing or not.  Take that to having a conversation or normal driving to the grocery store.  Slower response times can make a conversation difficult and driving deadly to yourself and others.  Exercise keeps the brain primed for quicker and appropriate responses to stimuli everywhere around you.

Short Term Memory Recall

“Where did I put my keys?”  We all have lapses such as this and forget where you put them last.  Aging makes issues like this more common.  Seniors can remember a vacation in 1982, but not what color their shirt was yesterday.  By elevating the heart rate, all humans can build new cells in their hippocampus to stabilize and improve short-term memory recall.  For youth, therefore exercise is vital to helping academic achievement and test scores.  Doing a bout of exercise before a complicated task improves the brain’s ability to recall the information needed for that task, like a math test.  The effects are short term and are lost over time, which is why the CDC says 30 minutes a day are mandatory.

The type of exercise has various effects on other cognitive networks, but I’m not going into those details now.  Elevating your heart rate is the largest factor to make all of these functions better.  You must sustain a minimum of 70% of your maximum heart rate for 11-20 minutes daily to reap the benefits of science.  While you won’t suddenly become a rocket scientist in a day, consistent exercise along with dietary changes, can drastically improve brain health.  The best part is you don’t have to make the improvements consciously, the body does it automatically and your quality of life is maintained through the years.  Go raise that heart rate!  Every part of your brain and heart thanks you for being a good friend to them.

For an evidence-based program to build your cognitive function through physical exercise, Movement Academy’s Active Aging Program is right for you.  Whether you’re an individual or an organization, there are options to meet your needs.  Go to https://movementacademy.net/senior-program/ for details and sign up as an individual.

Exercise Prescription for Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia

To date, no medication exists to stop dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.  No medication exists to prevent them either.  What really happens biologically in the brain for these two horrible breakdowns to occur?  A buildup of the beta-amyloid protein in the brain and specifically the hippocampus, increases the rate of cognitive decline due to atrophy.  The causes are both genetic and lifestyle, with lifestyle becoming more prevalent to cause risk factors.  Lifestyle is 100% voluntary, remember that.

As science progresses and more studies are done to find out how to slow down and prevent the protein buildups from happening, one common prescription remains constant and it’s free of charge!  Exercise!  Funny how exercise and proper diet seem to be a common answer to reduce risk factors, intensity of certain diseases, and used as a symptom reliever in others.  You can’t take a pill or liquid serving with each meal to replicate the benefits of a moderately healthy diet and moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise.

A recent study the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease by Dr. Rong Zhang showed regular aerobic exercise maintains the integrity of white matter in the brain which is linked to improved executive function.  Last time I checked regular aerobic exercise isn’t available at CVS for the drive-thru pickup window.  You do have to get out of your car and off the couch for the exercise prescription to work properly. Another study in Medical News Today preserves the brain health of people with mild cognitive impairment.  Are the studies a coincidence?  Likely not as they were done with enough of a sample and published in reputable journals.

An important key to the results of the studies are the moderate-to-vigorous intensity levels a person must achieve to see the desired results.  Basically, if your heart rate is not elevated to the point of labored breathing, you’re not going hard enough.  A leisurely stroll from the front door to your car is not moderate-to-vigorous.  Neither is a leisurely stroll around the block or in the mall shopping.  Sweat is involved and it is work.  The alternative is to lose control of basic body functions and have somebody wipe the drool off your chin at an earlier age than you expected.  Which do you choose?

What constitutes aerobic exercise you ask?  Anything to elevate your heart rate for 20-30 minutes in a session.  Yes anything.  Whatever you like doing physically, do it a little harder, it’s that simple.  Lift weights, play tennis or racquetball, jog, play pickleball, etc.  Didn’t your doctor tell you the same thing years ago when he or she put you on the first blood pressure medication?  No doctor will tell you exercise, and healthy eating are things you need to avoid at all cost, I promise you.  In fact, I’ll give you $100 bill if they say so.

What are my credentials to make such statements and claims?  I am a certified personal trainer, currently certified by NASM since 2014 and overall since 2008.  I work with clients over 60 years old daily.  If my authority and the medical community’s authority don’t convince you otherwise, stock up on Depends undergarments and have a ton of paper towels available to wipe off that drool because you’ll need them much sooner than later.

Pill Popping: There is a Better Way for Good Health

Remember the handful of pills your grandparents used to take on a daily basis?  Maybe you played with their pill boxes to store Legos, doll parts, or a myriad of other small objects.  You didn’t think one day those pill boxes could be yours and your parents.  Unfortunately, if you’re similar to the majority of Americans who don’t take care of their health, living out of a pill box is a reality.

Today doctors prescribe medicine at an alarming rate for every ache, pain, possible condition, prevention of conditions, and for the hell of it.  A pill brings you up, another down, and another one in case the other two didn’t work.  Instead of treating the root cause, doctors are trained to treat symptoms in the name of good health.  Have you seen the health level of your doctor?  That’s another story for another day.

With obesity and type 2 diabetes linked, more medicines are being developed to give you an alibi for making bad lifestyle choices.  Yes, pills are like rabbits and multiply quickly with continued poor decisions over years of living.  I’m not talking about legitimate genetic diseases that need controlling with specific medications.  Do you know what helps those medications for genetic diseases to be more effective?  Yes, Pinky, the same thing we do every night, moderations in diet and exercise.

I have trained hundreds of clients since 2008 and none of them ever said they want more pills to take daily.  It’s quite the opposite, how can they get off all those damn pills!  They finally had enough and realized it’s their lifestyle creating a prime environment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and other risk factors.  If they made a couple slight daily modifications to their normal day, the risk factors and pills seem to disappear.  Another unfortunate event is medicine’s amazing marketing.  Doctors are quick to prescribe pills instead of prescribing lifestyle changes.  Pharmaceuticals are huge business and doctors enjoy various perks when they write prescriptions.

Let’s imagine a utopia where health clubs, farmers, and personal trainers called on doctors to have them prescribe exercise and food changes for lifestyle risk factors.  It could be revolutionary!  “Joe, I want you to exercise three times a week at Zook’s Training Studio and don’t buy anything in a box from the grocery store.  Come back and see me in three months.”  What kind of results will Joe see?  I’m betting his results will be life changing, cost less money in the long run, and make him a happier person than adding three more pills to his daily regimen.

The ugly truth is taking a pill is easier than making lifestyle modifications and doctors overall are readily prescribing them instead of treating the actual cause.  One day maybe my utopia will occur.  Businesses are still profitable, just different types, and the American economy shifts its spending to healthier alternatives.  Maybe people take more vacation because they’re healthier and have the energy to do stuff.  If someone somewhere really loves taking 10-15 pills a day, please have them contact me because they definitely are the rarest of the rare.