Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Omega Fatty Acids


Omega Fatty Acids

You hear quite a bit these days about the power of Omega Fatty Acids. Flax seeds are being added to all kinds of things you'll find at health conscious food stores, such as Whole Foods. There's a large section in the vitamin and supplement areas dedicated to Omega Fatty Acids and for good reason. However, it is a bit more complicated than adding a shot of flax seed oil to your coffee in the AM. Is that weird? Well, that's what I used to do in the early 2000's. I was aware of the importance of Omega Fatty Acids and knew I could probably use a little extra here and there. Unfortunately I didn't quite understand that it's a bit more complicated than that.

This is another big one for my lovely vegan friends! I always have you in mind!

What the crap are Omega Fatty Acids?

There are 2 main types-Omega 3 and Omega 6. Oh, I forgot to mention they are not just regular old fatty acids, they are "ESSENTIAL" Fatty Acids. Specifically, polyunsaturated fats that we absolutely NEED to acquire through specific foods. Our bodies cannot construct them out of thin air.

Breakin' it down....

We need a healthy balance of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 in our diets as they each have different and opposing necessary properties.


Omega 3

How do I get it?

Real quick, Omega 3 can be broken down into 3 different forms: ALA, DHA, EPA (do you really want to know the long names? I didn't think so). Plant, nut and seed based sources of Omega 3s (such as flax, soybean oil, walnuts etc) are, for the most part ALA. DHA and EPA are far superior forms of Omega 3. However, ALA can be converted into DHA and EPA by your body, which is the form your body needs it in. BUT! Everyone's body is different. Some people more efficiently synthesize ALA into useful chains than others. Point being, it is smarter to not simply rely on ingesting Omega 3 in ALA form. Ideally you want Omega 3 in its more efficient forms, DHA and EPA, as well. So, that is what I'm focusing on below.

The main source of Omega 3 in EPA and DHA form is from the fat of cold water fish such as:

1. cod
2. salmon
3. herring
4. sardines (yum!)
5. herring
6. mackeral

The not so main source (pay attention vegans and non fish eaters!)

1. microalgae

What? You don't make microalgae every night? You can get it in supplement form. Spirulina is a good source, but there are other vegan friendly DHA and EPA supplements.

****A SUPER IMPORTANT FACT TO NOTE FOR EVERYONE ESPECIALLY VEGANS****

If you are deficient in Vitamin B12 your body will not be able to efficiently (or at all in more severe cases) convert Omega 3 in ALA form into DHA and EPA form. Yet another reason to make sure you are consuming foods and/or supplements that contain Omega 3 in its DHA and EPA form! Please read my post on B12 from April 22. Everything about your body physically and biochemically is a chain. If one aspect is messed up, it will negatively impact everything that comes in the chain after it. For instance, if you have a knee injury and you ignore it, you could very well end up with an ankle injury or some sort of muscle imbalance in your calf on the same side. Same thing with nutrition.

Why is it good for you?

DHA & EPA are the building blocks for the hormones that:
1. Control immune function
2. Reduce inflammation
3. Control blood clotting (prevents overclotting...not a word but it gets the point across)
4. Decrease cell reproduction
5. DHA & EPA are also essential components of cell membranes

Omega 6

Where do I get it?

Pretty much everywhere. Jesus. Omega 6 is found in all kinds of stuff that is found in all kinds of food people eat these days. So focus on Omega 3 a bit more and take a moment to reread the above paragraphs on it.


Why do I need it?

Omega 6 is the building block for the hormones that:
1. Increase inflammation (which is a good thing sometimes believe it or not)
2. Promote blood clotting
3. Promote cell reproduction

Basically, Omega 6 fatty acids are the building blocks for hormones that do the exact opposite of Omega 3 based hormones. I'm sure you now understand why it is super important that we get a good balance of the two in our diets. With the current state of affairs, people in general have a far higher intake of Omega 6 than Omega 3. Omega 6 is found in seeds, nuts and the oils extracted from them. It is all up in junk food and pretty much anything processed.

OK, that's enough for today. Recipe will be for tomorrow, as well as all of the health benefits of a diet full of omega 3! Really awesome stuff for your cardiovascular system (I'm looking at you, fellow crossfitters and athletes!), but beyond that you all are just going to have to wait.

Motivational kitten of the day says high five if you got your workout in today!!! (If not, then no high five for you)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cindy Sherwin

We all have people in our lives that have inspired and motivated us to take certain paths. I can think of several people in my life who have had huge impacts on the directions I've taken, as well as inspired the courage in me to do so. The woman pictured above is one of them. Her name was Cindy Sherwin. She was a trainer at the very first gym I ever joined in New York. I walked (very nervously) into a class she taught called "Integrity". In short, the class was very similar to a boot camp class. At this particular juncture in my life, I was definitely out of shape and not taking very good care of myself. The most exercise I ever got was riding my bike to and from the bars in Brooklyn. So yeah, not in good shape at all. I admired her right off the bat. She was short (same height as me!), intelligent and tough without being overbearing. She was the type of person that made you want to do everything perfectly no matter how much it hurt because you didn't want to disappoint her. She was also the first person to teach me that no matter how uncomfortable something is, you are the one in control of your body and you can push through that pain. I went to her class every week for over a year. I also went to her cycling classes. She was one of 2 people that inspired me to start doing triathlons. We had some really great conversations and I found myself often feeling like a little kid trying to impress the older, cooler girl. When she left the gym I was incredibly disappointed. When I found out she died of a brain aneurism while on a bike ride I was heart broken. She was training for her very first ironman.

One of the last times I saw Cindy was during my first triathlon in New York City. It was tough. I had a tough swim, I fell off my bike and my knee was all bloodied up. I also dropped my water on the first mile of the 25 mile bike, so I was completely dehydrated when I got to the run leg. At the very beginning of the run there was a really steep hill. I wanted to die. I wanted nothing to do with that hill. I started to run up it, stopped and I heard someone yelling my name. I looked over and she was standing there screaming at me "Go!!! You can do it!!!" So I went and I did it. The next year I did the New York tri again. She had passed away about 3 months prior to the race. When I got to that godawful hill, I closed my eyes, remembered her standing there 1 year ago cheering for me and I sprinted right up it.

As of tomorrow, April 26, it has been 3 years since Cindy passed away, but I will never forget her. She was the person that inspired me to take this path of embracing and sharing a love for healthy living and eating.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Cheating! (Not the Cosmopolitan article kind of cheating)

Yesterday was a lovely day and it was also a "cheat" day for me. Mike & I took the dog on a 2.5 hour hike in Angeles National Forest. Afterwards we went out for a burger and fries at Umami Burger (which is delicious by the way) and then stopped at Auntie Em's on the way home for some dessert. I definitely scarfed down half of an enormous chocolate pistachio cookie and half of a coconut cupcake (also enormous if you must know). Needless to say, this wasn't a normal food day for me, but I'm not beating myself up over it. I did, however, feel incredibly crappy after consuming all of that sugar. While you should be watching what you eat most of the time, if you don't allow yourself the occasional break, then you're setting yourself up for failure. My general rule is this:

When I'm cooking for myself at home, it's going to be clean and healthy but if I'm going out to eat, I get whatever I want.

This doesn't work for people who eat out frequently. If you're one of those people, find another rule. Maybe you give yourself a free day once a week or once every 2 weeks. Whatever is most likely to keep you on the right track the majority of the time is the way to go.

That being said, don't make unhealthy food a reward for hard work. Nothing bugs me more than trainers who, post tough workout, say "Great job!! Now you can go home and eat whatever you want!!" For the love of god, please don't go home after a workout and stuff your face with ice cream like this guy:


How is your body supposed to recover and rebuild after jumping through hoops for you if you give it a bunch of sugar & bad fat to work with? Reward & thank your body by giving it protein, complex carbs and water after a tough workout. This way you are less likely to feel lethargic and sore later on. Not to mention the fact that it takes about 2 seconds of eating cookies to (calorically speaking) undo all of that work. Think about it like this, for every cookie you eat you would have to run 1 mile to burn off the calories you just consumed from that one single cookie. I'm generalizing of course, but in most cases that's not far off the mark. For the cookie I ate yesterday it's more like 3 miles of running.

Special Requests

If anyone has anything in particular food/health/training wise they have questions about or would like me to write about please feel free to comment below. Some of you have mentioned that you are unable to comment. I'm not really sure what the deal is with that, but I'm going to try to change the settings right.....now! If it still doesn't work, feel free to email me (nickelsend@hotmail.com) or send me a message on facebook and I'll address your questions here.

Next post will be about Omega Fatty Acids and I will be including one of my all time favorite recipes that incorporates OFAs, B12 & lots of color to tie together recent posts into a delicious meal you can make.

Motivation Kitten of the day says Go For It!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vitamin B12 & Motivational Kitten


VITAMIN B12: Wins the award for the most structurally complicated vitamin!!

Vitamin B12 is a really awesome vitamin in my book and essential to say the least.

What do you need it for?

1. Major player in the formation of your blood

2. Key role in brain and nervous system function

3. Necessary for proper DNA synthesis, fatty acid synthesis and energy production

Additional health benefits:

1. Combats asthma in children

2. Increased intake has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of Alzheimer's in the elderly

3. Plays a role in the production of melatonin = better sleep

4. Tests are still being conducted, but in preliminary results an increase in B12 has shown potential for reducing the replication of HIV in positive patients

5. Increases sperm production in men (you know, if you're into that guys!)

6. Can diminish the annoying ringing associated with tinnitus....so all of us rock show goers should be sure to take a post show B12 supplement along with our beer

I mean really, increased sperm, decreased post rock show ear ringing...that's pretty tough to beat in my book!

B12 Deficiency

Vegans, vegetarians and Antacid poppers pay attention!! B12 is acquired through animal related foods, mainly meat. Eggs are a source of B12, but not the greatest. Meat eaters who pop a lot of antacids such as Tums and Rolaids may be on their way to a B12 deficiency as well. B12 is absorbed by your stomach but ONLY if the environment is acidic. If the Ph balance in your tummy has been messed with, your body will not be able to absorb the vitamin. So, take it easy with the Rolaids and non meat eaters, go out and buy supplements pronto!

For the record, I was vegan for almost 7 years. The last few years I really focused on eating healthy whole foods but was still feeling tired all of the time. I wasn't aware of the B12 issue, but that could be a big reason why I felt so much better when I added fish and eggs back into my diet. Pretty interesting.

B12 Deficiency Issues:

1. Pernicious Anemia and Megaloblastic Anemia
Do I even need to tell you what these are? They sound terrifying enough without explanation.

2. Low White Blood cell and platelet counts
I'm sure you can deduce on your own that this would lead to getting sick more frequently.

3. In serious prolonged cases-irreversible nervous system damage and really, nobody wants that.

Symptoms

In general, the symptoms are pretty vague and many cases are asymptomatic but here are some:

1. Lack of energy

2. Irritability

3. Decreased mental function, memory & concentration issues

4. Depression

5. Tingling sensation in the extremities

I'm sure that sounds familiar to lots of us out there. So, get your 1.5 mg a day by eating:

Vegans & Lactose Challenged Vegetarians:

1. B12 Supplements

2. Foods enriched with B12 such as nutritional yeast, soy milk, cereal and energy bars

Meat eaters, Pescatarians & Vegetarians who are Lactose Friendly:

1. Shellfish

2. Trout

3. Shrimp

4. Dark meat of Turkey

5. Chicken Breast

6. Tuna

7. Yogurt

8. Milk
I'm not a fan of milk drinking but if you must

9. Eggs
*not the greatest source because there is something else in eggs that makes it tough for your body to absorb the B12

10. Liver
Yeah, who eats liver? I don't know, but it has TONS of B12

11. Pork & Beef

MOTIVATION

Hmmmm....well, Jenni M. & I have been a little lonely at boot camp. I do know some of you are traveling and without warp zones it's impossible for you to be there of course. I was wondering what I could say to get everyone who so enthusiastically expressed interest there and working out with us. I guess it's like quitting smoking. You're not going to quit unless you're really ready and I think the same rule applies to starting a workout program. You have to really want to make a change. With that in mind, all I can say is I know how amazing it feels to see results, to reach goals and to put your mind and body into something you can be proud of and it feels pretty fucking amazing. Being fit and caring for your body isn't the be all end all of life's happiness but it sure does add to your quality of life big time. Every single day ends with me knowing that I've accomplished something no matter how crappy the rest of the day went. I've gotten faster, stronger & fitter. I'm guaranteeing that I'll be a functioning, active, independent person for a very long time. I know if I could insert into everyone's brain the way it feels to finish a triathlon, or to do your first pull up, or to run a faster mile in your 30s than you could in your teens, or to fit into a pair of jeans you'd given up on, then you would all be there in a heartbeat. Either way, I'll be there and I'm pretty sure Jenni will be there and hopefully we'll see you all there at some point as well! And if I don't, I am totally making you do push ups at the next bar/show/opening/bbq/bday party I see you at!

Here is your motivational kitten photo of the day. I thought about posting a video of the first woman with an amputated leg to finish an ironman (makes me weep every goddamn time) but I'm sure this is as effective. Everyone loves kittens and not everyone loves emotional moments in athletic events backed by terrible music. We'll save that one for later on.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

COOKING WITH OIL & SHELLEY TRIES CROSSFIT

COOKING WITH OIL

If you do an internet search on "healthy cooking oils", you're going to find yourself reading some conflicting opinions. To set the record straight on where I stand regarding food in general, the more natural the better. I would be more supportive of cooking with organic unsalted butter than with an oil free of saturated fats that has gone through some ridiculous processing in order to get it into a bottle and on store shelves.

The important thing to know about cooking with oil is that they all have different smoke points. Once an oil reaches a temperature higher than its smoke point, it will start to break down. This is bad nutritionally speaking as well as taste wise. So, while your extra virgin olive oil is a wonderful thing, it's not the be all end all in the kitchen.


Beyond smoke point, the fat base of all cooking oils differs as well as the process the origin food has gone through to extract the oil. In general, cold pressed oils are best because as mentioned above, oils have smoke points that are often reached when processed using heat. Oils obtained through heat based processes will often be put through additional processes (such as bleaching and deodorizing) to make them "edible". (yuck) Not to mention the fact that the beneficial properties have already been compromised. Expeller pressed oils are oils that have been removed from the origin food using a machine rather than chemicals. Also good, but sometimes heat is a factor here as well. So what's the solution? There's a lot to consider, but this article most closely follows my general opinion. The only disagreement I have here is the opinion on olive oil. You can safely and healthily cook with olive oil.

By the way, vegetable oil is often made from (genetically modified) soy and canola oil sucks regardless of what some people say. The information below about why canola oil sucks can be confirmed in many places:

"...modern canola oil processing is far from gentle and is what is responsible for making it can-ugly. The oil is removed from the seed by a combination of high temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extraction. As you will recall, traces of the solvent usually remains in the oil. Then, the oil is further refined, bleached and degummed, each step requiring exposure to high temperatures and chemicals. Since canola oil has a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, these easily become rancid and foul smelling during these high heat processes. It therefore has to undergo another refining process called deodorization. This deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fats – which can be as high as 4.5%.

Now, canola oil is one of the most commonly used oils in processed foods. Since this oil has already been damaged by its refining process, it then undergoes another process that I have already described called hydrogenation, which further increases the trans fatty acid content of a given food. Canola oil is preferred in the processed food industry not only because it is cheap but because it hydrogenates better than soy or corn oil – an important component for shelf life stability, but not human health." Source: Diabetesincontrol.com Dr. Pescatore, MD and Certified Nutritionist

MOTIVATION

Today my totally amazing friend Michelle Pullman joined me for her first Crossfit class. I am happy to report that she loved it and will be returning. Yeah Shelley!!!! She totally kicked ass and it made me smile. It's always so great to see people take that first uncomfortable step into a new situation and find themselves smiling and proud when the experience is over. Afterwards we ate some amazing home style Mexican food at Cacao Deli in Eagle Rock. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.




Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time for Timer!, Crossfit & Variety

BREAKFAST





Eat your breakfast or this guy will GET YOU!!!

While I'm not going to recommend eating lunch meat and steak for breakfast, I will say that I do agree with Timer here and would rather you eat that than nothing. Coffee alone doesn't cut it. Why?

When you skip breakfast after not eating for several hours overnight, your paranoid body goes into fasting mode. This means you aren't burning calories and you'll feel sluggish mentally as well as physically. That is a bad time all around.

CROSSFIT & THE POWER OF VARIETY

In March I joined a Crossfit affiliate in Pasadena and I find myself excited to get there every morning. The workouts are varied, intense and challenging. The first 3 weeks I found myself as sore as I was when I very first started working out. It blew my mind. In 7 weeks I've seen remarkable results in my overall performance and stamina. With that in mind, I've decided to follow the Crossfit Endurance program to train for my first half ironman. What this means is that instead of my usual tri training consisting of long multiple hour workouts (and a general cranky attitude on occasion that is incredibly annoying I'm sure), the vast majority of my training will be under 45 minutes in duration and involve lots of sprinting and resistance intervals. I am still trying to wrap my head around this but if people use this method to successfully train for ultramarathons (100 mile runs!) then I'm pretty certain it will get me through my race. Wish me luck. I'll occasionally post details here as my training progresses.

So what's the point of all of this information? The point is that variation in the way you workout is HUGELY important. Surprising your body and moving it in all different ways at different speeds is what keeps your fitness in a constant state of progression. The wonderful thing about Crossfit is that the workouts are different everyday and someone else has determined that for me. Get out of your 30 minutes on the elliptical machine rut and go outside for some sprints, try some pull-ups, buy a jump rope, go on a hike, or better yet, do all of these things! When you do the same workout day in and day out your body acclimates to it and the progress you saw initially will stop. Not to mention the fact that you're going to get bored. Switching it up keeps you interested and keeps the results coming. (That's what she said)

DAY 1 OFFICIAL TRAINING

For the record, I have been going only to Crossfit for the past month now. No cycling or swimming and the longest distance I've run is 2 miles that were broken up into shorter segments. Today I put that Crossfit only training to the test to see if those short intense workouts would actually translate into a nice long endurance workout. I did 30 minutes of sprint intervals in the pool and 70 minutes of spinning with lots of sprints and 2 solid hills. This is a pretty typical "in race training" workout for me and I'm usually exhausted after. Today, after no long cardio bouts for a month I totally kicked this workout's ass and don't feel the need to take a 2 hour recovery nap. Awesomeness.

P.S. Boot campers if it works for me I bet it'll work for you! The more comfortable you get with the basic movements, the more variety and intensity I'll be adding so you'll always be seeing progress if you show up regularly.








Rainbows and Motivation

RAINBOWS















What lovely....peaches you have there!

Color is an indicator of the unique health benefits provided by different fruits and vegetables. As a rule, you want to eat 3 or more different colored fruits and vegetables daily. Eating them raw is ideal but not always easy to do. I ate a bunch of raw kale last week and I'd be lying if I said I really enjoyed it. But I'm sure my insides did!

Here is a nice article that breaks down the benefits attached to different colors:

















My recipe for mango salsa
Lots of color and a delicious way to get some raw veggies. It works over any kind of meat, over salad, rice (stay away from that white crap!), with chips and as a condiment on all kinds of burgers and dogs.

2 avocados
3 yellow and red tomatoes (organic recommended)
1/2 large mango
1 small sweet pepper chopped (organic recommended)
2 jalapenos chopped
1 small shallot chopped
1 lime squeezed
cilantro, chopped garlic, cayenne pepper, salt to taste


MOTIVATION

This 78 year old nun started competing in triathlons in her 50s! She is truly amazing and continues to compete in iron distance events now in her late 70s. She's living proof that we are capable of long, fulfilling and active lives with the right amount of determination, commitment and healthy living. Check her out:

Iron Nun

Garlic, Onions, Water & Cancer

GARLIC & ONIONS

I love this image.
Found on Flickr:
HHokschirr



Garlic and onions contain many wonderful nutrients and cancer fighting properties. The way you prepare your food is essential. Cooking onions and garlic over high heat can decrease and destroy a lot of the benefits they could be providing you. If you are cooking with garlic and onions, chop them finely and let them sit for at least 5 minutes (ideally 10 minutes) before cooking. As they sit, elements contained in the cells, now ruptured by cutting, will come together to form stronger compounds that can withstand heat. Cook over low to medium heat. Onions can be cooked for a duration of up to 15 minutes and still maintain these compounds, so start with the onions and add the garlic in a few minutes later.



WATER

water
This Sunday I will be running in this race:

Don't worry boot campers, it is in the morning so the 5:30 class will go on as scheduled!

It's a short 3.5 miles to raise awareness and funds for worldwide water shortages. There are a lot of run/walk races this time of year and almost all of them raise money for charitable organizations. It's a fabulous way to get a workout in and help some really wonderful causes.

CANCER

On July 31st I will be doing my first half ironman:


This is an all female half ironman raising money for cancer charities. I am especially excited because it takes place on the same day as the Vineman Ironman. Once I'm finished I'll be able to watch some truly amazing athletes finish up their race. Very inspiring.

Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
Full Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run