Healthy Classic Shortbread Cookies (v, gf)

If there’s one thing we all love, it’s Christmas baking. Am I right?



I recently asked my private coaching group on Facebook what their favourite holiday treat was. I would pick one and make a healthier version of it to enjoy, guilt-free.

The popular vote? Shortbread.

Cue the macro-friendly magic. 

This recipe is gluten free if you use GF oats for the oat flour, and can be vegan if you use plant-based margarine instead of butter.

macro-friendly, gluten-free shortbread cookies. 3 cookies is 1 serving!

For those on a meal plan with EVLV fit, three (yes, 3!) cookies is:

1 serving of fats + 0.5 servings of “any” carbs


Don’t have coaching, but looking to team up? Head over to our coaching page to see if we can help you!

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©2019 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Low-Carb Peanut Butter Cookies

These low-carb, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, soy-free, leto-friendly cookies will be the best part of you day! Eat cookies and still lose weight.

How to Stay on Track During Any Holiday

The Holidays can be Stressful.

In more ways than one. The impending dread of endless treats. The uncontrollable noshing on high-calorie baked goods that we just KNOW won’t fit into our normal calorie budgets. Not only the dread around food, but the time we get together with family can be stressful and a little more than emotionally draining. This can increase anxiety and lower our usually-much-stronger self control (the control we would NORMALLY use to resist the temptations laid out in front of us). 

Let’s add in the ease in which we feel obligated to go back to our normal, lazier habits when we are away or with family members, and our whole healthier routine we had started goes out the window.  

candy corn halloween candy holidays treats weight loss

And I’m not just talking about Christmas.

New Year’s drinks and Appies, Easter chocolate, Thanksgiving, Halloween candy, National Holiday Barbecues. Even Valentine’s day and birthdays are a reason for people to get together to eat, drink, and be merry.

Talk about a recipe for disaster. 

But it doesn’t have to be if you can implement a few health-saving tips for ourselves. 

Below are 8 helpful hacks that I use around the holidays to ensure I don’t make myself sick and over indulge on things I don’t actually want to. Keep these tips in mind for yourself when you’re in a different routine or environment over the holidays (where it’s easier to pretend the 5 peppermint brownies don’t count in our macros). 

8 Tips To Stay on Track During the Holidays

1. Stay Moving!

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Whatever you do, try to make it as active as possible.

This means something as simple as opting for stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away than you normally would and walking into the mall, or going for a brisk walk around the block of your parent’s neighbourhood when you’re over for festivities (hint: this is also a good excuse to get away from cousins you don’t like..).

2. Stick to Your Regular Routine

You know all those things we do that helps us feel good everyday? Whether it’s meditating in the morning, going to the gym, showering, or even something as simple as eating 2 eggs with oatmeal in the mornings, keep doing it through the holidays! Even if you’re away from home or have people over, do as much as you can to maintain your healthy habits.

winter exercise holidays stay moving

The more you can keep up your daily routine the easier it’ll be to bounce back into everything after the holidays are over. Plus it may help you maintain a sense of control and normalcy in a flurry of screaming inlaws.

3. Choose your Foods Wisely

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Don’t stay away from everything you LOVE, but be rational about what you TRULY want to indulge in.

Be mindful with your serving sizes and don’t mindlessly bite into things you could easily pass on. Save your calories for grandma’s christmas cake and leave those dense, plain Christmas cookies from WWII on the coffee table in the tins where they belong.

4. Eat treats LAST, not First

Always have a rule: ONLY eat the goodies AFTER you’ve nourished yourself with something wholesome and nutrient-rich. This will save you a lot of grief when it comes to blood sugar and insulin regulation. Spiking blood sugar with high-calorie foods are a sure-fire way to lead to the well-known sugar crashes and cravings later on in the day. s well as over-indulgence on the sugary things.

easter candy treats control indulge

5. Bring Your Own Snacks

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Whether it’s for your day of Christmas shopping or your weekend at the siblings house for Easter, bring healthy snacks to tide yourself over. Eat things you know you love instead of shoving chocolate eggs into your mouth with everyone else.

Remember, they aren’t working as hard as you to better their health. Don’t expect them to have healthy snack for you. 

Healthy snacks could be low-fat, low-sugar protein bars, homemade granola bars or healthy cookies, hummus and vegetables, beef jerky or even vegetables and dip!

6. DON’T LET FAMILY PRESSURE WIN

For most of us, Christmas is not a time that we are absolutely excited about when we think about getting together with family. More often than not they’re the worst ones when it comes to heckling you for healthy choices and forcing you to eat/drink way more than you normally would.

I’m personally here to tell you IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO!

And some people might secretly admire you for making healthier choices….

say no to family pressure

7. When it comes to DRINKS, choose wisely

be wise about alcohol consumption

Holiday drinks like alcohol and eggnog stack on copious calories without any nutrient benefits.

And after one or two, those calories can add up fast.

Choose lower-calorie or light alcoholic drinks, diet sodas or juices, and don’t forget to always drink a glass of water in between every mixed drink you consume.

8. Forgive yourself and MOVE ON

So you overindulged. Don’t sweat it, unless you are literally doing so from all the sugar/meat (but seriously I hope no one has to suffer through that).

The best thing to do is forgive yourself, don’t get down on yourself, and return to regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow and the next day.

As long as it doesn’t become a habit, one day of too much Christmas cake or BBQ surf and turf wont kill your progress.

holidays_joy_food_forgive_indulgence

There are many time throughout the year that test our willpower (and ability to put up with relatives). 

Having a coach is an affordable way to help you plan appropriately for your holidays, and stay away from shoving too many treats in your mouth without noticing.

The more we can prepare ourselves for the holidays, the less torturous it will be. and the less likely you will be to overindulge on the things you could’ve passed on. I know it’s cliche, but if you FAIL to PLAN, you’re PLANNING to FAIL.  

 

 

Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 

 

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Simple Sweet Potato Muffins

I think sweet potato was meant to heal the cracks in my soul. Well, that and peanut butter (let’s be real, PB is the OG for most people).

We may not think of sweet potato as a good alternative to butter/flour in a muffin recipe but it totally works. These muffins are slightly sweet, with a moist, perfectly-dense texture that will make it hard to eat just 1 in a sitting (seriously- hide them from yourself- meal plan-ers get to eat 2 at once! ).

With the option to use a gluten-free oat flour, these muffins are sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, guilt-free, and seriously GOOD. My only piece of advice? TRY THEM NOW. 

And with only 99 calories per muffin, what’s not to love about these quick, tasty, sugar-free treats? 1.7F/14C/6.3P – all you need is a blender or magic bullet (well… and an oven)!

(To cook the sweet potato beforehand, I always just pop them in the microwave for a few minutes, until soft, and peel them after they’ve been cooked.) 

 

 

For those on a meal plan with EVLV fit, two (yeah, 2!!!) muffins is only 1 serving of “any” carbs + 1 serving of lean proteins for your day!

Don’t have coaching, but looking to hire one? Head over to our coaching page to see if we can help you!

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Black Bean Chocolate Cake

cake

Okay, so I’m not a big fan of chocolate 🍫.

I know, I know, who am I?

But seriously, if I could choose vanilla every day I TOTALLY would. While I don’t necessarily LOVE chocolate, I AM a big fan of experimenting with “healthy” foods and food alternatives.

Therefore, I’ve experimented with HEALTHY Black bean chocolate cake 🍰. It’s my latest experiment, and it turned out pretty dang good if you ask me- and I don’t even love chocolate!

This cake is moist, chocolatey, and absolutely delicious; Without all the guilt of eating a giant piece of regular chocolate cake! Packed with fiber and good-for-you micronutrients, you wont even notice it has no flour and you made it with beans.

When people hear “black beans”, they usually shy away from using them in baking. I mean, I agree that’s probably not what they were meant for. But as a healthy, high-fibre alternative to using just flour and butter, this cake adds in a little health to the line up of treats and lower-cal desserts. Plus, higher fiber in our diets is extremely important to our overall health, just see my post here.

If you choose to use gluten-free oats for your oat flour, coconut oil, and Enjoy Life chocolate chips, this recipe will be Wheat/Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, guilt-free, and 100% delicious. If you choose to use dairy or non-GF oats, it’s still soy-free, guilt-free, and delicious, don’t worry.

It’s way easier than it seems to bake with black beans (and not be able to taste them in your cake, duh). The most important thing is to have a good food processor or blender. So without further ado (honestly I never read those long blogs before a recipe anyway), here is my version of black bean chocolate cake for YOU:

For anyone on a meal plan with EVLV fit, one piece is 1 serving of “any” carbs + 1 serving of fats for your day!

Don’t have coaching, but looking to hire one? Head over to our coaching page to see if we can help you!

cake

Want More?

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

The Importance of Fiber in your Diet

Ever been.. ahem.. “plugged up” and taken a fiber supplement like Metamucil or bran to help get things moving again? Ever binged on an excessive amount of your favorite fruits in the summer and “paid for it” later? 

I think we’ve all been there once or twice. 

FIBER is an important part of our diets, and we always hear that we need to get more of it, but what is it really and why is it so beneficial? Turns out there’s a much more substantial side to dietary fiber than just helping us, uh, “go”.

Fiber is a component of plants that the human body cannot digest in the same way it digests our regular food. Therefore, animal products like meat and eggs do not contain any fiber.

Fiber is thought to promote beneficial health effects like:

Cholesterol reduction: Research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet can significantly lower your risk of heart disease, and increasing fiber in your diet can help to lower total blood cholesterol (here and here).

Improved blood sugar control: Fiber may help slow the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates (and therefore sugars) in your gut. This can help treat or prevent insulin-related conditions such as diabetes.

Increases in digestive health and functioning: Fiber may reduce your risk of developing nasty intestinal problems like diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. It has also been shown to help improve these illnesses if you already have them.

Skin health: It may help in moving yeasts and funguses out of your body, which helps prevent acne, rashes or eczema.

Weight management: fiber intake is associated with weight loss among populations. It may help stabilize blood sugar levels to reduce cravings and premature hunger. The jury is still out on whether it helps increase satiety, but it can definitely help some people feel fuller for longer. 

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. 

Soluble fiber readily dissolves in water. When water is added to it, it thickens and becomes sticky, gummy, and/or gel-like. It can help slow the digestion of food and MAY help you feel fuller for a longer period of time. It is important for controlling a spike in blood sugar levels after you eat a meal. 

 Some foods high in soluble fiber include:

Whole grains (Oatmeal, psyllium, oat bran, brown rice, flax seeds are generally highest)

Beans and peas (Lima and kidney are generally highest)

Vegetables (Plantain, artichoke, Brussel sprouts, squash, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potato, onions, and carrots are generally highest)

Fruits (Blackberries, oranges, passion fruit, grapefruit, apricots, mango, prunes, apples, and blueberries are generally highest)

 

Insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to your stools and therefore allows food to pas more easily through your digestive system. It is also cited for removing wastes in our intestines as it passes through. It may also aid in keeping your intestines at an optimal pH, which is important for healthy functioning.

Some foods high in insoluble fiber include:

Wheat bran

Beans (Kidney, Broad, Pinto, soy, and Navy are generally highest)

Lentils and chickpeas

Most whole grains (Barley, wheat, millet, bulgur, popcorn, oats, and flax seeds are generally highest)

Vegetables (Beetroot, spinach, Turnips, peas, squash, and okra are highest)

Fruits (Apples, raspberries, figs, kiwi, mango, bananas, pears, and strawberries are highest)

Nuts (almonds are highest)

Have you ever heard of the term “net carbs” ? This is the popular belief that fiber, since it is mostly indigestible in the small intestine, does not need to be included in your daily carbohydrate count. For example, if you ate 50 grams of carbohydrates in a meal, but 10 grams of those were fiber, then 50g – 10g = 40g of “net carbs”.

Well that’s neat! So I can eat more carbohydrates during the day and just subtract the fiber content? Awesome! More carbs!

But not so fast. This concept isn’t accurate at all. Here’s why.

Dietary fiber passes through the small intestine (where the other nutrients are digested) and is instead fermented in the large intestine. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, the energy content (aka calories) from fiber is still absorbed and utilized in our bodies.  

Generally, men and women over the age of 18 should aim for at least 25-50 grams of dietary fiber per day in their diets (that means both soluble and insoluble fiber combined).

Be sure to increase your intake of fiber slowly and to drink more water as you do this, which can help prevent gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Also be sure you are getting your fiber from a variety of sources, as you want a good balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet. 

It is important to note that not all fiber acts as a stool softener or laxative. In fact, a lot of fiber can help regulate your bowel movements to be more “normal” if you’re having too many. 

Turns out fiber has a lot of hidden benefits that make it important to include in our diets. Besides keeping us regular, it can help us live a healthier life altogether.

 

If you’re tracking your macros or calories, it’s paramount to also be tracking your fiber. If you think your gut health is lacking one way or another, take a look at how much of the “fun” stuff you’re getting in. you’ll be able to see it on your nutrition-tracking app. Aim for 25-50g daily from your diet. And if you want to fit “junk” foods into your diet, be sure to get in enough fiber first. That way you (hopefully) won’t have to pay for it later! 

 

 

Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 

 

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

What to Look for on Food Nutrition Labels

 

Now that you’ve discovered the basics of macronutrients and how they relate to your caloric intake, let’s talk about some different aspects to look at regarding our food nutrition labels. 

The food industry is sneaky. While it has to disclose most information about its food products, it doesn’t have to educate you on how to decipher its labeling. Remember, the more educated you are about your foods the less the food industry can persuade you with savvy marketing ploys. So being conscious of what you’re digging into will allow you to make more informed decisions of what (and how much) you’re consuming.

Here’s a little bit of information on what to look at/for when you’re reading those obscure numbers on the nutrition labels of your foods.

 

Let’s start at the top and work our way down:

Serving size 


The information listed on the nutrition label is usually for one serving. Many foods will have more than one serving per package. The best way to determine your serving size is to follow the label instructions for measurements (ex: grams, oz, or mL) as opposed to products numbers (ex: 15 chips), as each individual food item is not always uniform in size (and if you’re like me, I am going to pick the biggest, crunchiest …. carrots [chips] …. first)

 

Calories 

 

Remember, this number is rounded. So now that you know how to calculate your macros and why it’s more important than simply tracking calories, just use this number as a general reference if you want to know how much energy you’re consuming.

 

 

 

Total Fat

This first number is going to be your TOTAL amount of fat in the serving suggestion. this includes unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.

a.) Saturated fats: Saturated fats have been given a bad rap for the wrong reasons, blamed for causing heart disease and contributing to obesity. Recent research is proving this not to be so true. In fact, eating too much of anything (more calories than you burn) is the leading contributor to these diseases.

Fun fact: Saturated fat has recently been shown to improve brain functioning, nerve signalling, and immunity just like other fats do. It could also be a possible precursor to increased testosterone in males. Some reviews (here, here, or here) found that those who consumed higher amounts of saturated fats have no higher rates of cardiovascular diseases than those who consume less. Other studies (here, here, or here) concluded that replacing saturated fats with healthier types of fats lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. One thing that’s know for sure, is that it is paramount to consume adequate amounts of omega-3 fats in the diet to ensure a healthy heart and blood.

Bottom line: don’t worry so much about saturated fats as long as you’re getting in an appropriate level of unsaturated fats like omega-3’s every day too.

The saturated fats listed on your nutrition labels have already been included in the total grams of fat listed above it, so don’t count them separately.

b.) Trans fatThis fat is a byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils, and is added to foods to help increase flavour and shelf-life stability. It has been banned in many countries and the FDA no longer recognizes it as “safe”. It has been shown in many studies to increase our risk of cardiovascular disease when commercially produced. It naturally occurs in small amounts in some animal products, but a recent review didn’t find any links to increase health concerns with it. Bottom line: Try your best to avoid it. So far, science has done a great job linking the commercially-produced trans fats  to the increased risk of many health problems. Like saturated fats, any trans fats listed will have already been included in your total fats above.

The trans fat and saturated fat in your food product usually WON’T add up to your total fat numbers. As we can see above, 0.5g of saturated fats + 0g trans fats DOESN’T add up to the 7g of fat listed above. This is because most nutrition labels don’t include grams of unsaturated fats in their foods. They would merely be included in your total fat numbers.  

 

Cholesterol 

While it has a bad rap, cholesterol is a molecule naturally made in the body, and it’s critical for our cells to adapt to temperature fluctuations, produce hormones, and even help us digest our food. There is NO convincing research to support the claims that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease and atherosclerosis. In fact, many natural sources of cholesterol (like eggs) are more beneficial than harmful for us- not to mention they contain important vitamins and minerals along with healthy fats). So unless you have a pre-existing heart or artery condition and your doctor recommends you avoid cholesterol in foods, don’t worry so much about it.

 

Sodium 

As a mineral, it doesn’t contain any calories. Just like saturated fats and cholesterol, it has a bit of a bad reputation. While many studies in the past have correlated sodium intake with high cholesterol, one must realize high sodium usually comes with an unhealthy diet overall, which will increase your risk for many chronic diseases. But sodium intake itself has actually not been proven to cause fat gain over long-term ingestion, and frankly, your body needs it to function. Sodium is crucial for every single cell in your body, especially for nerves and muscle to function optimally. Consuming excess salt has not been linked to hypertension either, and it has been found to be especially beneficial in bodybuilders. Yes, inconsistent levels of sodium (say, an irregular amount in one or two days) will cause short term weight gain due to water retention. 

The bottom line: Unless you already have high blood pressure, kidney problems, are salt-sensitive, or have another condition that requires a low-sodium diet, I wouldn’t stress too much about your sodium intake. always make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. 

 

Carbohydrates 

The number of carbohydrates are going to be your TOTAL carbohydrates, including sugar, fiber, and starches. 

Dietary fiber: Fiber is extremely important in the diet, and is cited to be a big indicator of regulating your digestive health and increasing feelings of satiety (so you’re fuller longer). I have a full post about the importance of fiber. But, bottom line, make sure you’re getting enough! Fiber will give you a LOWER caloric value per gram than other carbohydrates, but still include your fiber count in your overall carb intake, as it is broken down and utilized quite well in the large intestine for energy.

Sugar: This is a huge discussion topic for me (check out my post on sugar here), and the source of many health misconceptions. Sugar is not inherently “BAD” like many people preach. Yes, too much sugar is not going to help you or your blood sugar levels so moderation is probably best. But sugar in all forms is a carbohydrate and news flash: ALL carbohydrates you eat will be broken down into glucose before it enters your blood for transport to the rest of your body. As long as you’re getting in enough fiber throughout the day and staying within your caloric limits (hitting your macros), you won’t be gaining weight if you eat a little bit of the sweet stuff. Fun fact for all you agave-loving fructose-hating people: The type of sugar you’re consuming doesn’t make you gain any more weight than another type, since they all have the same caloric value per gram. 

Ensure ALL of your carbohydrates don’t come from sugar- getting in enough fibre is paramount to your health. The bottom line: don’t freak out over the sugar content of foods, but don’t go on a candy binge either. Sugar is just another carbohydrate, so eat it in moderation with enough fibre-rich foods. If you have any problem regulating your blood sugar, then please listen to all medical advice from your doctor and not me. (Read our full article on sugar by clicking HERE)

 

Protein 

If you’ve read my post on the basics of macronutrients, you know the importance of protein in your diet, so be sure to look out for higher-protein foods if you have trouble getting in enough!

 

 

 

 

What are those numbers on the right? 

Those are your percent daily value, or %DV. This value is based on your country’s valuation of a “healthy” standard diet. It is usually based on a 2,000 calorie diet. If you are tracking macronutrients, then you will have been given a specific nutrient and caloric amount that is INDIVIDUALIZED to you. Therefore, I usually find it helpful to just ignore these numbers as they will only confuse you. If your nutrition labels states percentages of your “standard daily value” on the right, they will more than likely explain their nutrient breakdown below the label or somewhere else on your food packaging. 

 

Being able to fully interpret nutrition labels is going to be an important tool in your arsenal of dietary intelligence. It is not obsessive, it is being aware of what you’re buying and consuming on a daily basis (and that’s why companies HAVE to put nutrition facts on things). The more aware we make ourselves, the less we can be coerced by unrealistic marketing. So go forth, interpret your nutrition labels, and conquer the convoluted world of human nutrition.  

 

Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 

 

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Top Nutrition Tracking Apps for 2017

How do I track my macros or calories without writing everything out?

Writing down every food we consume is tedious and time-consuming and, let’s face it, so last decade. I mean, who even knows how to write anymore? Don’t they just teach emoji-grammar in school? Luckily, with a few tap-tap’s of our thumbs, fitness apps on our phones or tablets can do all the calculations for us, and even tell us how many macros we have remaining throughout the day!

There are plenty of calorie-tracking apps you can download on your phone that take the grunt work out of tracking. Here are 5 I think are best for tracking your macros or caloric intake.

 1. MyFitnessPal

Best for Newbies who want to get serious

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably the best app for beginners or first-timers. It is easy to navigate and user-friendly, not to mention it has every food you could imagine, along with a mostly-accurate barcode scanning system. You can save and re-use specific foods, and foods you eat often will always show up first in your search bar. While you are not “allowed” to set your macronutrient goal (unless you subscribe monthly, but who has time/money for that when you could be out buying chicken breast?), many people can set their calories to zero and track that way. They also provide a weekly breakdown of your nutrition as well as your daily macronutrient breakdown.

 2. MyMacros+

Best for the experienced/goal-getting bodybuilder or carb cyclers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This app was created by a former bodybuilder, so you know it’s legit. It’s great for people who have different macronutrient goals on different training days, and they have an extensive library of foods to search. It allows you to save different macronutrient “goals” should you require a different caloric intake on non-exercise or more intense-exercise days. One thing I love about this app is it syncs up with the Avatar Nutrition app, a comprehensive, evidence-based virtual coaching platform that is only ~$10 per month. 

 3. MyNetDiary

Best for the intermediate macro-tracker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost exactly like MyFitnessPal, except if you pay for the “pro” app (just a one-time fee) then you are able to set your own macronutrient goals. Just like myFitnessPal, it has a huge food library as well as a comprehensive barcode scanner. Be sure to scroll through your set-up settings as, just like most of the tracking apps out there, it can sync to your step counter or health app on your phone and may adjust your caloric needs based on how many steps you get in every day, which is not something you want turned on.

 4. Nutritionist+

Best for the real rookies of macrnoutrients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This app is relatively new, and costs a few dollars. So far it has great reviews as a perfect app for beginners or “food rookies” who need some extra help along the way. It has portion-ccontrol ideas and pop-up alerts (you can turn those off) to remind you to eat your next meal or weigh-in. Buyers beware: if you don’t turn off the setting, your macros will automatically adjust if you input body composition changes when you start to see results! So if you want to keep them the same be sure to search through the settings before getting started.

5. Lose it!

Best for social dieters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This app is a new one, but it’s awesome for Apple users who want to sync it with the HealthKit on their iOS. While it has many options, one of them is the availability to track your macronutrients (or even just your calories) under the “nutrients” tab. It can also suggest healthy restaurants nearby if you want to stick to your diet but also keep your foodie friends around. 

 

If you still prefer to write everything down free-hand, or just want a general idea of what you’re eating without having to be specific about every meal, online databases are plentiful. It’s also a good idea to cross-reference nutritional data of whole foods or anything you are unsure about on your app, as it’s not always 100% accurate (for example, cooked chicken breast versus raw). My top four for nutritional reliability are below: 

Online databases that can also help with nutrition facts of raw or whole foods are:

nutrientdata.com

caloriecount.com

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

twofoods.comthis website allows you to compare two different foods side-by-side to make the best choice to fit your macronutrient goals

Hopefully this was beneficial in helping you pick out the best apps to try out if you’re new to the nutrition journey or just wanting to switch things up! Leave a comment below on what YOUR favourite app is to track your macronutrient intake and why!

 

Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 

 

Want to read More?

< Check Out More Articles <

 

©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Is PROTEIN really Muscle-Building Magic?

PROTEIN. It’s the answer to all things bodybuilding, and maybe life in general for those living the “Bro way”. The golden chalice of youth and gains is filled with chocolate-flavoured whey and chicken breast. But how do us mere mortals know how much protein we need to take in every day? And why is protein such an important aspect of getting that optimum, muscular physique?
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Is protein the golden macronutrient for muscle growth?
 
Eating protein does one essential thing for our bodies: it increases Muscle Protein synthesis (or MPS). MPS refers to the rate of protein synthesis of actual muscle fibres. This is used as a marker of muscle growth. Consistent increases in MPS will result in visible muscle growth over time.
*In order to have muscle GROWTH, our MPS must exceed muscle breakdown.
Layne Norton released a study in 2012 suggesting Leucine, an amino acid (there are 21 that make up proteins in foods), may be the most important determinant of MPS in the body.
The bottom line? Amino Acid availability (aka protein we consume) has been found to increase the stimulation of MPS and can result in higher muscle anabolism (building) than if we don’t eat adequate amounts of protein.
 
So we increase our MPS by eating more protein, and lots of it, right?
 
Well, yes and no. Just like everything else in the science world, nothing is that black and white. Yes, consuming bolus amounts of protein DOES increase our muscle protein synthesis, but there are other factors that also play a large role, like:
 
Resistance training increases MPS up to 24-48 hours

1. Resistance training has huge effects on increasing MPS 24-48 hours after your lifting session. Resistance exercise and proper nutrient intake has been shown to be significantly more effective for increasing MPS than simply nutrition or exercise on their own.

 
2. Hormones also play a huge role. Insulin and testosterone are the two most important.
The effectiveness of MPS is not maximized without the presence of insulin, which is increased the most with ingestion of carbohydrates. Studies using protein ingestion paired with carbohydrates tended to increase lean body mass more than just a protein source alone (here, here, here). This may be through insulin’s ability to stimulate nutritive flow into muscles and receptor signalling. Research suggests insulin can inhibit the increase in muscle breakdown following exercise also.
Increases in testosterone are seen after bouts of resistance exercise like weightlifting. Testosterone plays a role in our physique by decreasing protein breakdown, increasing MPS, and may improve the efficiency with which our bodies use animo acids to build new proteins. While the role of testosterone is still not fully understood, studies have shown that supplementing with testosterone increases lean body mass in test subjects (no pun intended), yet some studies have failed to see an increase in MPS just from higher testosterone levels alone. But like anything about the human body, reactions are not usually dictated by one single mechanism or hormone but rather a cascade of stimuli. 
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So, how much protein do we NEED?
 
Higher performance needs? You probably need more protein too

The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein intake is 0.8g per kg body weight, or 0.36g per lb. This is considered the absolute MINIMUM to meet your daily nutrient requirements. It does NOT take into account physical activity, let alone resistance training. So if you don’t do anything active and aren’t looking to change your physique in any way, use those guidelines.

 
The higher your performance needs (or the more intensely you workout) will affect your protein requirements. If you are any kind of athlete, you need to consume more than the RDA in order to reach your physique or performance goals. 
Eric Helms released a systematic review finding sufficient levels of protein for resistance-trained athletes to be 2.3-3.1g per kg (about 1.05-1.40g per lb) of fat free mass (NOT total bodyweight). Menno Henselmans’ article regarding the current research found that 0.82g per lb bodyweight to be sufficient for maximizing protein synthesis. Anything more ceases to yield any benefits, even when dieting.  
 
So the general “golden rule” of 1g per lb bodyweight circulating the gym-rat world may not be entirely necessary, but if you’re a beginner it may be a nice round number to start off with.
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What about protein timing?
 
Nutrient timing may be beneficial when it comes to gaining muscle

A 2006 study showed an increase in muscle mass and strength in people who consumed protein pre- and post-workout (versus people who didn’t, but still ate the same amount of protein throughout the day).  A 2010 study found that consuming protein immediately after a strength training session improved recovery compared to a placebo. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether it was the timing itself of the protein, or the overall protein intake that resulted in the faster recovery. Either way, there is a multitudinous amount of research pointing towards pre- and post-workout nutrition as being an important factor in your fitness goals. Research points to MPS rates being elevated up to 24 hours after your weights session, so ultimately it’s your overall intake throughout the day that matter the most. 

To MAXIMIZE your protein synthesis, Layne Norton’s research suggests consuming at least 3g of leucine per meal, and eating larger doses of protein every 4-6 hours may help maximize muscle protein synthesis (aka an anabolic effect). If you have the extra time, meal frequency might help you maximize your MPS. Eating a bolus amount of protein (30-60g) in one sitting every 4-6 hours may help to keep MPS elevated throughout the day, making your muscle building potential more consistent throughout the day. 
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What happens if you eat MORE protein than the recommended amount?
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Well, first let’s get this out of the way for you #bros: ** EATING EXTRA PROTEIN DOES NOT MEAN BUILDING MORE MUSCLE ** The key is to balance out your daily caloric intake between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in order to maximize your physique or performance goals.
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But on that note, let’s address the critics on too much protein. 
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Too much protein – bad for the kidneys?

The biggest concern with too much protein is kidney damage, as protein does modulate renal function. if you have healthy kidneys and are not on a protein-restricted diet, there isn’t much research to suggest higher protein intake over time is damaging. Research suggests that potential damage occurs when subjects eat “too much, too fast” as opposed to increasing your protein intake over a time period. A 2000 review suggests that protein intake under 2.8g per kg (1.27g per lb) does not impair renal function in athletes. 

Same goes for the liver. There is no current evidence to suggest consistently “higher” (but still normal) protein intake is harmful to the liver, unless you consume a ton of protein after a 2-day fast of no food at all or have an unhealthy liver to begin with. 
There is also some evidence that regular exercise can help to alleviate any possible adverse effects of a higher protein intake on organ function. 
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Truth or myth? Our bodies can only absorb so much protein at one time.
Pair your protein with other macronutrient sources, like carbs and fats.

Well, kind of but not really. The small intestine, where protein is digested and absorbed into the blood stream, is very efficient at slowing digestion over time in order to absorb all the protein you consume. Keep in mind, though, that eating more protein in one sitting won’t increase your MPS past its maximum, which is usually achieved at 30-40g of animal protein to get the minimum benefit from leucine, as stated above. 

Since the potential benefits of consuming higher levels of protein include building and preserving muscle mass, burning fat, and increasing performance output, why is 20% of our daily intake suggested?
 
Well, for one protein is a terrible energy source. If we only need specific levels to maximize MPS, then the rest of our calories should be coming from fats and carbohydrates (Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Macronutrients for a breakdown of why they’re important). Other aspects of health like proper digestion (and getting enough fiber), blood sugar regulation, hormone regulation, brain function, and diet variety should also be considered- their ideal functioning needs to come from other macronutrients. Other than the present-day cave men, who really wants to eat chicken breast and tuna all day, every day? Not me, that’s for sure #GiveMeBread&PeanutButterAmIRight?
Protein intake won’t matter is calories aren’t controlled too

So, Protein = muscles, right? Yes, protein is a fuel for your body. But you still need to pair it with consistent resistance training and recovery over an extended period of time to see real physique changes like weight loss or muscle growth. 

 
The biggest thing to remember, though, is that protein will have no effect on your physique if your caloric intake is not controlled. Simply eating more protein may land you in an over-eating phase and cause you to gain fat. No matter the macronutrient, calories are calories and extra calories will be stored as fat. Also keep in mind that consuming foods high in protein doesn’t mean protein is the ONLY macronutrient in that food- it could land you in the high-fat or high-carb levels as well, so be sure to do your homework on nutrition (learn how to interpret nutrition labels here) before raising your whey-filled chalice of gains.
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Some High-protein Foods Include:
– Meats (Chicken, beef, fish, pork, etc)
– Dairy (Yogurt, cheese, milk, etc -preferably low fat options)
– Soybeans/soy products
– Eggs/Egg whites
– Protein Powders or bars (vegan or non, like whey)
– Roasted Peanuts (while low in overall protein and higher in fats, peanuts contain the highest levels of leucine per gram of protein)
– Beans/Lentils (keep in mind these are also higher in carbs)

 

Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 

 

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.

Is Organic Food BETTER for you?

You’ve been there. Standing in the grocery store making a major philosophical, ethical, and economic decision- holding a bag of organic carrots in one hand and a bag of non-organic in the other. You may remain there for a minute or more, weighing the pros and cons of your choices and, once you’ve made the steely resolve to live a longer, healthier, happier (but a little bit poorer) life, you put the non-organic carrots back on the shelf and the organic carrots in your shopping cart. You feel a sense of satisfaction, and maybe a little pride, making the decision to spend the extra two dollars on more nutritious, sustainable food. And damned if those organic carrots didn’t taste like the rich sweetness of healthier values later that night- obviously much better than those dusty old conventional carrots would’ve tasted.

Organic food has become a fast-growing trend in the past 5 to 10 years. Toting higher nutrients, better production conditions, and cancer-curing healthfulness among other things, consumers (like you and I) are willing to pay up to 50% more for organic produce than non-organic. But which claims are truly proven by research?

Does ORGANIC really mean it’s BETTER?

I’m here to help you make the most informed decision.

Based on multiple surveys, there are 4 primary reasons people buy organic foods:

  1. It is more “nutritious” (more vitamins & minerals, more antioxidants and phytochemicals)
  2. It has less toxins like pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers
  3. It is better for the environment/ecosystem to produce organic foods
  4. It is more humane

While these claims seem conceptually legitimate, is there any science to back them up?

Let’s explore each concept from a more scientific standpoint.

1. Organic foods are more nutritious

Now, there are many ways to define “nutritious”, but I’ve broken it down into our main subcategories:

1.) Organic foods contain higher levels of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) than conventional

Published research actually doesn’t show much significance between the nutritional value of organic vs. conventional foods. Some studies show there is a higher level of SOME nutrients in SOME foods, the main vitamins and minerals studied being vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. But the percentages found were not highly significant when compared to plain old non-organic foods. For example, a 21.1% higher level in iron still doesn’t raise the mineral content of that food by a significant enough amount to matter since levels were low to being with.

The bottom line: The higher levels of micronutrients found by some studies (and not by others) are so small that, unless you ate an excessive amount of one organic food (like 100 pounds of beets), you wouldn’t get a nutritionally-significant benefit from eating organic versus conventional when ONLY considering nutrient value.

2.) Organic foods have higher levels of antioxidants (including phytochemicals and phytonutrients)

Conventional practice aims to limit all the “environmental stressors” on production of foods, usually via pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and sometimes other predation mitigation techniques. While this allows produce to grow quickly and efficiently, it doesn’t give plants the opportunity to produce any natural defences against outside stressors (like some environment changes, predation, or competition with other organisms). Phytochemicals and phytonutrients are produced by most plants as a defense mechanism against the world around it. Antioxidants are a group of phytonutrients, some of which have been linked to potentially mitigating the effects of some disease-causing free radicals in our bodies. Conventionally-grown produce has been shown to have lower levels of these plant defence compounds than organic production, mainly because organic foods have been linked to increased opportunity for predatory attacks on foods (for example insects).

The bottom line: The jury is split on this aspect of organic production. some foods have been shown to contain higher levels of certain antioxidants than conventional, while other foods remain the same or show an insignificant difference. For example, a few studies found no difference between levels of phytonutrients between organic or conventional strawberries, lettuce products, and black currants. Yet other studies concluded that organic strawberries, apples, and peaches DID, in fact, have higher levels. So far there is no research that shows phytonutrients are in any way beneficial to your health or longevity. In fact, some studies show high doses of certain antioxidants may actually increase mortality (yikes!). 

Covering all we have thus far discussed, a systematic review of several studies looked at many aspects of “nutritiousness” of organic food and determined that any and all published literature thus far lacks strong evidence of organic foods being nutritionally superior than their conventionally-produced counterparts.

2. Organic foods lack the “toxins” used on non-organic foods

Now there are two main aspects of “toxins” people tend to consider- chemical residue from synthetic compounds used to help increase growth of foods, and micro-organisms or harmful bacteria that could make us sick.

1.) Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are the main cause of concern when it comes to chemical residues. While organic practice regulates against the use of synthetic pesticides, pesticides themselves can STILL be used as long as they fall under a “safe” list and can be no less harmful for the environment or farmers. For example, sulphur is safe to use on organic produce but can cause major skin problems in the workers administering it. That being said, the workers administering pesticides to conventional produce are the most at-risk for health problems.

While organic produce has been found to possess lower levels of pesticide residues than its conventionally-grown counterparts, chemical residue still exists on both types. Additionally, there have been no findings to suggest the consumption of such low levels of “toxins”  effect our health and are actually of no concern to us when consumed in such small amounts (our bodies have been evolutionarily designed to expel most chemical compounds we don’t need or use).

2.) Some people claim that organic foods raise concerns about the concentration of bacteria, microorganisms, and/or other pathogens in the food being brought to the market. This is because organic practice tends to use more natural fertilizers and growing conditions like manure and slurry, yet may lack the strict cleaning processes or chemical deterants that would prevent microorganisms from harming us on conventional foods. It’s actually been found that the organic practices of farming can increase the chance SOME of your organic foods contain bacterial pathogens that can get passed on to us, but not by any significance. In meats, the information is inconclusive (some studies show that organic meats contain much higher levels of bacterial pathogens while other studies find no difference), and the chances of bacterial pathogens being present are generally the same regardless of farming method. There HAS been some promising research to indicate that organic production can decrease rates of antimicrobial resistant bacteria when compared with similar conventional foods.

On the note of toxins, we must discuss something people may not consider when it comes to organic produce. Allowing plants to set up their defence mechanisms in response to higher environmental stressors of organic production practice will cause them to produce natural toxins in defence. These toxins fall under the same categories as pesticides and, even though they’re naturally-produced, are considered of some concern to human health. “Phytoalexins” are one such group of toxins produced by many plants in response to a wide range of environmental stimuli present in organic production. Aflatoxins fall under that umbrella term and have been shown to cause immune-system problems and GI-toxicity, even in small amounts.

3. Organic is more sustainable for our environment

Organic production practices are considered better for the environment, being cited as contributing to less greenhouse gas emissions, healthier soil, and better ecosystems surrounding production farms. Organic production itself can be defined as an “ecological production management system” that promotes and enhances biodiversity (more plants/animals), biological cycles (more nutritive turnover and decomposition), and biological activity of soil (more active dirt critters). On average, organic farming requires less energy demands than many conventional farms. It also tends to contribute more positively to both agro biodiversity (the breeds of plants used by famers) and natural biodiversity (the wildlife/ecosystem surrounding the farms) of the land, although there is no conclusive evidence that organic farms are better at preventing soil leaching or expelling less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of land (Although since organic farms tend to be smaller in total area they technically contribute far less emissions overall). Many agree that organic production is considered more environmentally-friendly because the higher soil fertility and biodiversity may allow organic farms to be less dependant on external sources and more self-sufficient (and less wasteful) in the long run. This may be a key tool for stimulating small-scale business and supporting increased economics in areas were food security may be low.

4. Organic is more humane.

Ethical considerations actually play a large role in the drive to consume organic foods over conventional. While it’s true that, to be an organic animal producer, welfare is a key component of the system, it’s not necessarily true that the welfare regulations for organic farming are any better than the conventional regulations, especially in Canada where our animal production regulations are almost on par with many leading European countries on major meat welfare practice. While organic practices are perceived to allow animals more natural behaviour and environments, they also raise concern for lack of mitigation in the aspects of parasite control as well as dealing with disease and sickness. That being said, organic production tends to allow animals more space, time spent outdoors, prohibited teeth/beak/tail docking, and access to organic feed.

 

** There is also no convincing evidence  that organic foods taste or look any better (on average) than conventionally-produced foods (In case you were wondering). 

Oh lord! Well, what now?

We’re damned if we don’t but damned if we DO!

Either we are contaminated with synthetic pesticides or natural toxins! Either we pump animals full of antibiotics or we get overrun with parasites! Suddenly those organic carrots you cooked up for dinner don’t feel so healthy after all.. Seems like a bit of a lose-lose situation we are getting ourselves into over here, but this is why it’s crucial to look at all aspects of a topic as opposed to what you hear on the news or read about on your Facebook feed (fake news is real, people… Haven’t you heard?). 

In my own conclusion, I’d say, if you have the money to spend and want to feel good about yourself for a fleeting moment in time, buy organic. You’ll be supporting successful marketing if nothing else. But don’t feel like a horrible person if you’d rather save the extra bucks. It should be considered a beneficial method of production as opposed to a health benefit to our bodies. And if you’re missing out on certain foods because you can’t find them in the organic section, don’t just NOT get it- give the conventional stuff some love instead.

The best thing to do for yourself is to eat a balanced diet filled with a variety of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that (organic or not) contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that aid in overall health- and be sure to always get in adequate amounts of protein!

It’s important to remember that just because a food is more natural doesn’t mean it’s naturally better for you. And, organic or not, be sure to always wash those carrots.

 

 

Interested in coaching with EVLV fit? Head over to our coaching page to see our qualifications – and ask all your questions in our contact box! 

 

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©2018 EVLV fit

EVLV fit is not a physician or registered dietician. This website, the information disclosed on it and all of its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical health problems. It should not be used in replace of advise from a medical physician. Always consult your doctor, physician, or qualified medical health professional for health matters.