What Should I Eat?!

What should I eat?” may be one of the top questions asked by clients.

The truth is that there are no specific foods or diet plans that will magically make you progress forward. Every body is different, and our bodies need variety in nutrition. It is crucial to focus on a healthy diet, however we want to be sure you aren’t cutting out entire food groups or foods in the process (unless there is a specific health reason and medical guidance to be doing so).

Nutrition is easily the habit most people fall off track with regularly. This is usually because they picked an unsustainable approach, became very restrictive, etc. Instead of thinking of foods as foods you “can” or “can’t” eat, try a less restrictive approach for long-term success.

A great way to approach nutrition in a balanced, sustainable way is to think of foods as foods you should eat more of, eat some of, and eat less of. This approach makes you feel much less restricted and miserable, doesn’t cause you to beat yourself up if you enjoy an ice cream cone with friends, and lasts long term. It’s more of a lifestyle than a crash diet.

Taking this approach allows you to be flexible, adapt on the go, and most importantly: enjoy the process.

The infographic below from Precision Nutrition showcases this approach and how it can be implemented into your routine! Try it out, and let us know what you think.

This fully plant based food list shows you how to choose the best vegan diet foods for your body, goals, preferences, and lifestyle.

Make Self Care a Reality

The main thing in the way of you and self care is typically time and discipline.

Along with that, self care is most definitely something I view as a task easier said than done.

While taking time for yourself sounds nice in theory, when a busy day hits where your kids need a ride, you have an important work deadline, or life gets in the way it is easy to forget your own needs and push those off for another time. Or simply, maybe the self care you’ve seen online just seems completely unrealistic and in turn makes you less likely to want to try at it yourself.

I am here to remind you that there is no “perfect” definition of self care. What works for someone doesn’t have to work for you, because we all have different needs, schedules, etc. It can be as simple or as complex as you need and want!

As mentioned earlier, the two things that often stand in most of our way to stick to our self care routine is time and discipline. Below, I will break the two down and share my tips!

  1. Time. Life is busy and hectic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take time for ourselves! If you have found yourself struggling lately to make time for a walk, reading, or your favorite hobby (note: self care is more than just eating right and working out!) try setting aside 5-10 minutes each day. Start small. Once you’re able to hit that 5-10 minutes each day, try adding more!
  2. Discipline. Just like all other priorities, deadlines, and jobs in our lives, self care requires discipline. To increase your chances of sticking to a self care routine, find something you love and SCHEDULE it into your calendar! Treat it as a non-negotiable portion of your day. Practice saying “no” to extra things on your plate that could get in the way of you and your self care.

Along with the two mentioned factors above, sometimes all it takes is a quick re-evaluation of our current routine. Maybe think about how many minutes you spend scrolling through social media or on your phone, watching TV, etc. Many times, we can create a lot of time for ourselves if we limit the screen time we have each day!

This weekend, take an extra 5-10 minutes to do something you love and de-stress from your week.

Honey Sriracha Glazed Meatballs {Meal Prep}

Eating healthy, nutritious meals helps support our overall wellness in more ways than just physical! Yes, eating healthy benefits our physical body, but it also helps lower stress levels and improve emotional/mental wellness. Having food prepped for the week is a sure way to ensure success, save time, and feel your best!

I tried a new recipe this week for meal prep and needed to share it! It is so delicious!

Honey Sriracha Glazed Meatballs

Original Recipe linked here

INGREDIENTS

For the meatballs:

  • 2 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 3 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together turkey, breadcrumbs, eggs, green onions, garlic powder and salt/pepper until well combined. Shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls (you’ll make roughly 40 balls) and place spaced apart on prepared baking sheets lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
  3. Bake meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.
  4. While the meatballs are baking, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes (the sauce will start to thicken) then toss with the meatballs.
  5. Serve immediately over brown rice and top with green onions and a few sesame seeds. Enjoy!

I served mine with white rice and carrots! Let me know if you try this recipe out, or have one you’d like to share.

-Kristen

Build Your Momentum

“The more you move, the easier it is to keep moving. Maintain the momentum” – James Clear

In the gym, and in life, there is nearly endless opportunity to be pursued. Every moment, everywhere you go, you choose what you do or do not decide upon in each moment. 

Think about that for a second.

Whether you are considering the location of your next trip, how much effort you want to exert looking for the remote, or what portions you would like to eat for dinner; you are constantly setting up, weighing, and executing decisions. There is no way around it. 

This can seem a paralyzing realization at first, until we dissect it a bit further. Your daily life has become what you have decided over months, years, or decades. There is some social influence upon your decisions, but for the most part, your choices are your own. There really is no one else to lay blame or congratulations upon for these daily choices, other than the person with the eyes reading this article (hint: that’s you).

Life is not an endless wave of infinite decisions, simply because our brains would explode if it were. The human body and brain love ‘cruise control’; that is, our decisions become simpler over time as we make them more frequently.

This is where momentum comes into play. Momentum is a thought process, a belief. You can simply relax and allow the wave of your daily decisions to be made for you, or you can start to nudge yourself in a certain direction. It will seem a fairly significant challenge at first. Start small. Stay small. Then, once you have established some momentum, push yourself a little further along in that direction.

Going to the gym multiple days a week may seem a challenge at first, if that has not been your typical daily decision. Starting small may be as simple as one day per week. Then, once that gives you some momentum, push to two days.

Cooking healthy meals for yourself may be uncomfortable territory. Start with a simple, easy recipe on a day off. Once you establish a routine, work into two meals. Then, once you are comfortable, become a chef. Only slightly joking, but hopefully the point is hitting.

Change may seem like standing at the foot of a mountain, especially in unknown habits and skills. You know what you must do to get up that mountain, though? Take a step. Then another step.

Build your momentum. Climb the mountain. Then, enjoy the view.

-Brad

Mastering the Basics

In any endeavor the simplest and basic things are often the most overlooked. The basics are essential and are what build a great foundation for any major goal, but also our health. The basic principles for a healthy, happy, and whole life can be categorized into diet, quiet, movement, and happiness. Think of all of these as spokes on a wheel. Once one is removed, the wheel becomes flat and is unable to roll smoothly. With more than one removed, then it may not be able to roll at all. 

  1. Diet is very important because in health and fitness, it is known that you can never out-train a bad diet. It does not matter how hard you work, if your diet is poor, then you will always be limited and most likely just be an unhealthy person with a “fit” body, which gyms across the world are filled with. Everyone is different, so there is no perfect diet for everyone, only a perfect diet for YOU. The basics are just drink clean water and eat food that came from a healthy plant or animal. Sick animals and plants make for sick people. If you can find organic locally grown produce and meat then even better, but if not just do what you can. Some effort is better than none. 
  2. Quiet can be categorized as rest, recovery, and meditation. You are not building muscle when you work out, you are only stimulating muscle to be built. Getting quality sleep is so extremely important for not only overall health but building muscle and burning fat. Poor disrupted sleep alters metabolism and boosts your body’s ability to store fat. Also, it is essential to rest the mind as well through some sort of meditative practice. When was the last time you just sat somewhere, didn’t look at your phone, didn’t worry about something in the future or the past, and just did nothing? If you have done that, you’ll know how refreshed you feel even after just five minutes of silence.
  3. Movement is obviously essential in any health and fitness journey, but they key here is knowing how to move and how much is needed. If you do exercises your body is not ready for or do them with poor technique, you will most likely get injured, and being injured is the opposite of being healthy. Also, too much movement can be very destructive towards your health as well. If you are doing more exercise than your body can recover for, then you are never getting better, you are either staying the same or regressing. Not every single set in the gym needs to be taken to failure and not every workout needs to make you sore for the next week. Overtraining not only affects your movement goals but crosses over into the other categories as well. Start small and slowly add on. It’s less about what you do in a day and more about what you are doing month to month. 
  4. Happiness is very important for living a healthy life. What’s all of the working out, eating properly, meditating, and rest worth if you are perpetually unhappy with your day-to-day life. You need to define what your dream is and cut out all of the things that are not conducive towards it. You know more than anyone else what makes YOU happy, so only YOU can guide yourself towards those things and live out your dream. This doesn’t mean you have to be happy 24/7, because I am not sure that is healthy either. To be human means to experience the good and the bad days, but if your days are more negative than positive, then it is time to make a change.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” – Lao Tzu. 

-Ravi

What’s Your Limiter?

The weather is getting nicer outside, so you and your family decide to go for a hike. You’re loving the outdoors and family time, but halfway through your hike you have to stop because you can’t catch your breath. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to run a half marathon, but your legs feel like they’re going to explode when you hit mile 8 every time you try to extend yourself. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain in your shoulder for years, you’ve seen your doctor, you’ve done all of the therapy you’ve been told to do and your shoulder still hurts.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

One aspect of your health that you may not have considered until now is the way your body moves and uses oxygen. We have all been told how important breathing and oxygen is to our health, but rarely is it explained why these things matter, or more importantly, what we can do about them.

If you’d like to become more physically active outside of the gym, or if you’re looking to improve athletic performance, or if you’ve been searching for answers to nagging injuries- the limiting factor in any of these scenarios may very well be how you’re moving or using oxygen as a fuel source. Your working muscles need a steady supply of blood flow and oxygen in order to maintain your effort, and your ability to do so is going to be most limited by one of three primary mechanisms:

  1. Respiratory limitation
  2. Delivery limitation
  3. Utilization limitation

Respiration:

The air outside of your body is oxygen-rich. In order to draw this oxygen-rich air into your body, muscles such as your diaphragm contract, expanding the area of your chest which surrounds your lungs. This is called inhalation. The incoming air fills your lungs, and oxygen diffuses from your lungs into your blood stream. When your diaphragm relaxes and other nearby muscles contract, air is pushed out of your lungs, back out into the environment around you. This is called exhalation and the combination of these two processes form the essence of respiration. Both inhalation and exhalation are extremely important, and if either is weak or lacks endurance, you will experience what we call a respiratory limitation.

Delivery:

Once your lungs do their job by putting oxygen into your blood, it is the job of your cardiovascular system to deliver that oxygen-rich blood to your body’s vital organs, including the muscular system. This process can be restricted by a number of factors, including how quickly your heart beats, how much blood leaves your heart with each stroke, as well as the amount of resistance to blood flow that exists elsewhere in the body. Any one or a combination of these factors can contribute to a delivery limitation.

Utilization:

The last stop for our oxygen molecule as it makes it way through your bloodstream is the target tissue, which could include your internal organs or in this example, your working muscle. As blood reaches the working muscle, oxygen is delivered to the muscle cell where the cell’s mitochondria take that oxygen muscle and use it to create chemical energy for that muscle to perform the task you’re requiring. An inability of the muscular system to effectively and efficiently take oxygen out of the blood and put it to use within the muscle cell is called a utilization limitation.

Any one of these systems could be a potential limiter when it comes to successfully performing physical activity. More importantly, once you’ve identified your primary limiter, the way that you approach your training will likely change to some extent. If you’ve determined that you’re respiratory limited, this is your lowest hanging fruit and as such we want to immediately address your respiratory limitation with specific training protocols. These respiratory protocols may be completely different than the type of training we’d implement in the case of a delivery or utilization limitation.

As always, it’s better to assess than to guess! From there, we can help you develop a specific training program to help you live a more fulfilling life outside of the gym and achieve any physical activity related goals you have.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is a non-negotiable for any goal.
What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is training the brain and the body to fall asleep and stay asleep by implementing behaviors that foster healthy sleep.

Sleep is part of the autonomic nervous system, just like our blood pressure, digestion, and breathing. Because sleep is part of the autonomic nervous system, it means that we don’t control it and cannot force ourselves to fall asleep. However, we can train our bodies to fall asleep better just like training our muscles in the gym. So, we asked our coaches their favorite tips + facts about sleep!

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants before bed (4-6 hours before bed).
  • Create an area in your room that fosters good sleep. Make sure the room is cool and get rid of technology. Figure out what a “calm” space looks and feels like to you, and try to implement it in your room! If there is chaos in our room when we try to sleep, it makes it much more difficult to get good quality rest.
  • Avoid working out right before you plan to go to sleep. The hormones produced during exercise can make us feel more alert and awake, making it harder to fall asleep.
  • Coach Ravi explains sleep is the ultimate recovery tool and one of our basics needs other than food, water and air. Most people benefit from 8 hours. Lack of sleep affects your bodies ability to regulate hormones and also affects cognitive performance.
  • Coach Ravi says to limit screen time before bed! Light and activity stimulates our brains, disrupting melatonin production in our brains. Melatonin is the sleep hormone,critical for restful sleep.
  • Our bodies thrive off of routine and schedules! We are meant to be able to fall asleep and wake up at the same time everyday, without an alarm clock. Once you create a routine that works for you, your body becomes accustomed to that routine and understands when it is time to wind down.
  • Implement a morning routine. Wake up earlier and slow down your morning like Coach Brad. Do your CARs, drink your coffee and meditate to set a positive outlook of your day.
  • Make sure you aren’t using your bed for anything but sleep or intimacy. Once our brains begin to associate our sleeping space with a behavior that is not sleep, it becomes more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Sleep isn’t just an aid for recovery, but for our immune system says Coach Braxton. Sometimes sleeping to soft music can aid the process of falling asleep.
  • Avoid eating large, heavy meals before bed. We aren’t saying that eating after a certain time will impact your fitness goals. However, eating a heavy meal can cause distress on the digestive system, keeping us awake longer. Easy to digest foods, such as a banana, are great snacks for before bed.
  • Coach Adam acknowledges what the data shows- there is a direct correlation between sleep quality and weight loss. If you’re going to implement a sleep schedule, you should carry it through on the weekends.

Sleep is often overlooked, but should be viewed as just as important as our workouts. This week, aim to increase your sleep!

Small Victories Equate to Big Wins

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick to them.”- James Clear

We so frequently get caught up in thinking that to make the changes we want in our lives, we need to be doing everything at once. In reality, this is not feasible and doesn’t take into account the day to day complexities that come up. Although it seems counterintuitive, small changes actually are more impactful than loading too much onto our plate.

Personally, I have faced moments over the years where I had an “all or nothing” mentality. I know, from speaking with clients, friends, and family, that many others can relate to this too.

Maybe it was the day you overate at breakfast and decided that you would eat whatever you wanted the rest of the day. Or, maybe it was the day you ran late and missed your morning workout, so gave up on being active that day.

While it is easy to let frustration and defeat get to us, I like to remind myself and others that we can simply “adjust our dial”. All you have to do is think of your most ideal (Level 10) activity or movement. Then, think of your Level 1.

Precision Nutrition gives great examples of this, seen in the photo below.

Having a dial allows us to be flexible, fluid, and stop hitting pause on our goals. Just because you didn’t get your full workout in doesn’t mean that you have to give up for the day. An extra few flights of stairs and steps can equate to your movement win for the day!

Once we rid ourselves of black and white behaviors, we stop putting our goals on pause. Below, Precision Nutrition showcases how the “pause mentality” hinders progress:

no progress over time graph

So I challenge you, to adjust your dial when life gets thrown at you. Aim for better, not perfect.

Small victories equate to big wins.

-Kristen

Click here to read more from Precision Nutrition.

Enjoy the Process

Lately, I have been really thinking about health and wellness goals. I have made blogs about finding your why, aiming for your situational best, and things of that nature. A common trend I have with these concepts is practicing self-love and appreciating ourselves for all that we do. However, when it comes to health goals, we focus so much on just what we want as an end result and we begin to ignore the journey that gets us there.

Let’s reflect together. How many times have you set a health goal that was appearance related?

Many people have goals that are related to losing weight, toning, getting those 6 pack abs, etc. You get my point.While there’s nothing wrong with having a goal to lose a realistic, healthy amount of weight, sometimes it shifts our goals to more surface level and unfulfilling.

Focusing solely on the goal, and not on the process, robs us of the chance to give ourselves credit along the way. Instead of thinking “I am only successful at this and happy if I lose 10 more pounds”, start recognizing the daily wins in between. If we only focus on the outcome, we will start to never be happy even when we get to that initial desired outcome.

We can shift our mindset from “I would be so much happier if I lost 10 pounds” to “I may not be where I want to be, but I am so proud of the hard work I continue to put into each workout and my diet”.

Let’s start working more towards enjoying the process, than thinking we only matter once we achieve the goal.

You are worthy now, and later, of self-love and appreciation!

-Kristen

Why Mobility Matters

So why does mobility matter? Well first we have to look at the very definition of mobility, which is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. The key words here are freely and easily. Many of us may be able to bend over and touch our toes or reach up and grab something off the top shelf, but it doesn’t feel very free or easy to do so. 

This feeling of being “tight” or “stiff” is nothing more than a product of our modern lifestyles. Our bodies are very smart, but more importantly, very efficient. So, when we are sitting a lot in our day-to-day lifestyle and not squatting below a chair’s height or not doing much things that require us to reach our arm up over our head, the body says well I’m not in this position often, so I don’t need it. Thus, we are left feeling “tight” or for a better term, immobile. Almost no one feels like they have immobile hips sitting in a chair, but the second they try to squat down below the height of the chair, everything locks ups.

So, then you might ask yourself, well I don’t need to squat below a chair’s height in my everyday life, so why would I need to work on hip mobility? I would then remind you that everything in life is in motion and interconnected. From the ground up, all of our joints work in harmony. Poor ankle mobility leads to an overworked knee. Poor hip mobility leads to an overworked lower back, and so on. I’ve known people who’ve thrown their back out bending over to put something away in their bathroom cabinet or putting their socks on. 

This leads us to the one of the main misconceptions regarding the spine and the lower back which seems to be a problem for many people. If our spine wasn’t meant to bend forwards, backwards, side to side, as well as twist, then it would be made up of one large bone instead of 33 different vertebrae. We always hear, keep a flat back, sit up straight, keep a perfect posture. Well, there is no perfect posture and we often say at Paragon that our next posture is our best posture. Also, how often when you are picking something up off the ground, outside of the weight room, is your back perfectly flat, or the object is perfectly centered in front of you? The answer is very little. This doesn’t mean you should try to pick up something super heavy with a round back, because there is still room for injury if you have not been training your body to handle load in that position. Just like you can injure yourself trying to bench press something way heavier than your body can handle.

Finally, we must remember that everything in our body can be trained, from our muscles, to our joints, to our respiratory and circulatory system, to our mind, and so on. And, when we finally train all of these various aspects of our body/mind in a harmonious balance, we achieve one of the greater feelings in life, which is the ability to move and think freely, which leaves the door to possibility wide open. 


-Ravi