21-Day Challenge

3 Weeks to Improve your Energy Levels

Caffeine…

Well, with a challenge focused on increasing energy, you know there will be a topic addressing caffeine.

Most people have a love/hate relationship with caffeine.  And so does our bodies.  If used effectively, like as a stimulant to increase energy before exercising, it can be useful.  If used to keep your eyes open at 10 pm at night to do last minute work, studies, etc. then it’s not so useful.  The kinds of caffeine are different too.

For instance, there are MANY conflicting reports on whether coffee is good for you or not.  My opinion is that is that if you are drinking straight black coffee with no sugar, cream, fillers…you are probably okay.  Limiting yourself to 1 cup might be even better.  We don’t want to have to rely on caffeine to keep us moving, we want our bodies to naturally get in a rhythm of producing energy.  So I am going to say that coffee and herbal tea are okay.

On the other hand…energy drinks are NOT.  There is nothing natural, effective, healthy, or good about these drinks.  They leave you with an unhealthy high of all high’s, and then drop you to the lowest of lows.  End of energy.  Plus they mess with your metabolism as well.  Remember I said that fat loss is a hormone response related to insulin…yeah, filling yourself with sugary drinks is going to prohibit any fat loss for at least 3-4 hours because your insulin levels will be through the roof.

So…let’s work to eliminate unnecessary caffeinated beverages as much as possible.  If you are going to indulge, try to drink them right before or right after a workout.  If coffee is a must, then plan to get up drink a cup and then workout and get your day started.  Limit your intake after that.

Share what your caffeine indulgence is and how you will plan to reduce your intake.

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Morning Protein

My challenge to you this week for nutrition is to double your protein intake for breakfast, compared to what you have been eating.  I want you to make your breakfast your largest meal of the day this week.  This means several things:  you need to prepare ahead of time what you plan to eat, you may have to change the order of what you eat in a day (who says you can’t have steak for breakfast?), and you may have to rethink what you consider ‘breakfast’ foods.

Media has formed and shaped what we consider ‘breakfast’ foods.  And these advertisements usually push high-carbohydrate foods that are highly processed and quick to grab and eat.  This is the worst thing we could be eating in the morning, especially after a good workout and before a long day.   We need to rethink our breakfast foods from what is quick and easy….to what is going to fuel my day most effectively?  Well, when you think of foods that fuel us, we should first think of good solid protein sources–beef, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, tofu, cheese, yogurt, any type of milk, beans, etc.  Then we should think of wholesome fiberous sources of carbohydrates–fruits, veggies, oats, brown rice, quinoa, etc.  We have a FULL day of chasing kids, running errands, working on our feet, focusing on tasks at hand, advising, managing, stressing, reasoning, calculating, and on and on.  We NEED good food to get us going.  So to increase energy, we are getting up early to workout first thing.  Then we are following that workout with a good wholesome breakfast.  Not cocoa puffs and orange juice on the way out the door.  We are talking omelettes with veggies, and steak and potatoes, and ham and cheese, and whole wheat toast and almond butter with a side of ham, fruit salad with sweet potatoes on the side and bacon strips…there are no rules as to what we can eat at breakfast.  The food industry has termed what is conventional and acceptable…that’s it.  So let’s rethink breakfast this week.  Studies have shown the more protein and fat a person consumes at breakfast the less of an afternoon slump he or she will experience.

So let me know what you plan to make for your hearty breakfasts this week, we all love recipes too!  Remember the biggest meal is now breakfast, lunch will be a little smaller, and dinner even smaller yet.  Yes, it will be a change.  But it will be an energy-saving one.  I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

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Morning Workout

I realize that most people are not ‘morning-people.’  Some people are wired to be early risers and are the most efficient at getting things done before 8 am.  Others don’t even move a toe until at least 10 am.  They stay up late, sometimes until the early morning hours getting things done.  I used to think that people should exercise when they were most energized, but I have changed my opinion on that over the years.  Our bodies are wired to wind down at sunset.  The cortisol levels decrease (or they should), our heart rates and blood pressure begins to slow, our organs and systems begin to prepare for rest, our brain waves slow.  That is just the way it is, no matter how hard you fight it.  It happens.  Even people who work nights, and have for many years, still experience this slowing down process internally.  So…because of how we were created to be.

So my analysis: There is something to getting a workout done first thing in the morning.  You get up before everyone else, before the sun maybe, get your blood pumping, get your ‘me’ time in for the day, get heart rate up, clean out the sludge that has settled in your system overnight, and prepare for the day.

The point is simple: you are energized for the day.  Point-blank.  No arguments.  If you get up early and workout first thing, you WILL have energy to get more done in that day, compared to if you had slept that extra hour.   So my challenge to you this week is:  go to bed earlier, get up earlier, have more energy.  Guaranteed.  Even if you are not a morning person, you need to do this.

So I challenge you to get up early this week and do all of the workouts before you begin your day.  They are short and sweet, so they won’t take long, you can do it!

Let me know how you plan to make this happen.  When do you feel the most energized in your day?

My suggestions:  Set out your clothes the night before.  Have a bottle of water ready in the fridge for you to grab when you wake up.  Splash your face with cool water upon waking up to get you going.  Set your alarm, maybe 2.  Have someone to keep you accountable.

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Day 5

So you rested yesterday, some of you may have felt great today and got out the door early, some may still be in bed.  But, I hope not!

This time of year always marks a time of ‘change’ for many people.  It’s new, fresh, and exciting and a great time to make declarations of goals for the upcoming months.  One at the top of everyone’s list is usually to improve one’s health through weight loss, strength gaining, better eating, faster running paces, etc.  The question is: What is the best way to do that?  And maintain it?

There are so many suggestions, scientific studies, testimonies, self-help, do-it-yourself, lose weight fast, never look back, renew your body ideas floating out there.  They probably all work.  They probably DON’T all work for everybody.

The only goal out there should be to progress.  It is something you can measure, be motivated by, and can be applied to any method.  You need to adapt and improve, if you are not, make a change.  If you are making progress, don’t make any changes.  It’s that simple.

Take this challenge for example, you are all at different abilities starting out.  But you can all make progress, right?  So, the first workout I prescribed…some of you probably weren’t able to finish, some of you might not have been able to do the lunges, some of you probably did it in a slower time than you would have liked…so now you have something to work toward.  Practice, practice, practice.  Make progress.  I bet by the third week, it will be easier.

Same thing with willpower and eating…you will have horrible sugar cravings those first few days.  You will want to succomb, but if you stick it out, you will get mentally stronger and able to resist the urge.  The cravings will begin to subside as the sugar dies off in your body and as you are empowered to overcome this habit.  See?  Progress.

That is what needs to be the motivating factor in your wellness goals for this year.  Make progress.  Little by little.  Be empowered and encouraged by the changes happening within you and outside of you.

What are you going to use to measure your progress over the next 3 weeks?

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Day 4

Rest Day…need I say more?

Today, I challenge you to go to bed earlier than normal.  Maybe a whole hour, earlier… Sleep is crucial to hormone balance, stress control, energy production, and maintaining a strong immune system.  This is your day off from working out, so focus on rest and eating good wholesome fruits and vegetables and lots of protein, and drink drink drink.  As I mentioned yesterday, stress can be a good thing or stress can be a bad thing.  We are hoping to add just enough stress to your body to make it respond in a positive way: for your body to become more efficient at utilizing energy, to become more fit, to use fat for energy instead of stored carbohydrates, to be stronger,  to feel better, and to increase performance in workouts and everyday function of life.  There is a fine line between too much stress and just enough stress.  Too much stress can lead to negative self-talk, long-term soreness and fatigue, burnout, chronic muscle tension, clammy hands, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and headaches-just to name a few.   Whether it’s work related stress or workout/nutrition related stress, the body reacts the same.  So being aware of how you react to stress is crucial to your health and maintenance.

Part of regulating stress is learning when to rest.  So for this week’s workout, rest comes on day 4.  And possibly 5, depending on how you are feeling by tomorrow.  I want you to be in tune with your body, pay attention to how it reacts to this new stress.  If you wake up tomorrow, ready to go because of your extra hour of sleep, then get in your cardio workout while you have the energy.  If you are really sore, not feeling real great, then let yourself off the hook and hit it hard the next 2 days.  Don’t guilt yourself into working out or not working out…let your body be your guide.  This is something I have had to come to terms with, and actually feel more energized and stronger in workouts and in everyday life, as a result.  So rest today.

Feel good about the rest, knowing your body needs it.

How are you feeling today?  How do you react to stress?

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Day 3

So now that we are on to Day 3 of the workouts, you are probably sore.  You are adjusting to a new way of eating, most likely.  Cravings might be starting to hit.  Your body is experiencing some changes.  Therefore your body is going through some stress.  Stress is good, actually, to a certain extent.  We want our bodies to experience just enough stress to be able to adapt and adjust without wiping out our energy levels.  This explains why the workout yesterday was quick and today’s workout is slow and heavy.

For one, the first day was more of an endurance type workout.  We set a timer and continued a pattern throughout, fatiguing the slow twitch fibers.  Yesterday we worked the fast-twitch fibers by completing a high-intensity circuit workout of the abdominal muscles.  Short and sweet.  To the point.  Today you will be working your arms in a slow-paced, heavy lifting type of workout.  No speed, no endurance, just brute strength.  You will have worked all parts of your body in different ways, and then will have a day off tomorrow.  This will allow your body to rest and recover–which is perhaps the most important part of preserving energy.  Then you will follow-up the next few days with cardio.  We have fatigued the muscles, they are working to rebuild stronger, calories are burning…then I have the cardiovascular exercise scheduled to help work the lungs and heart, get blood pumping and circulating, and move the ‘sludge’ built up in our sore muscles.

So I say all that to tell you this:  it is important you follow the pattern I have prescribed the workouts in.  Try not to double up on any one day if at all possible.  Try not to skip workouts or do them in a different order.

There is a method to my madness! 🙂  Which type of workout have you enjoyed the most so far?  Tell me about how you are dealing with cravings..

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Day 2

So how are those legs feeling today?

I decided to just jump in with the biggest muscle group to work first.  The more muscles you are working, the more calories you are burning.  The great thing about strength training is that it requires less time to complete as opposed to cardiovascular training.  It also burns more calories in the long run.  A typical 30-minute strength workout burns approximately 300 calories, then for the hour after, you burn an additional 100 calories+ while your muscles are beginning the repair process.  With strength training, muscle fibers are broken down so much that slight tears are created in the fibers (hence the soreness).  Because the ‘stress’ of the exercise is new on the body, the brain tells the muscles to repair stronger and sturdier to sustain the level of this ‘new stress.’  This is how muscles are built.  This process requires a lot of energy from the body to complete, so the body calls on energy stores in the carbohydrates you eat (which burn calories) to make.  The goal, is to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the body, so that our body begins to utilize fat as a source of energy.  This is a short lesson in how muscle building works and how fat loss occurs.  It is all hormonal, therefore, it takes a lot longer than 1 week for noticeable changes to occur.  Like I’ve said before, fat loss is totally different than weight loss.  Fat loss is the body’s hormonal response to insulin levels going down and gH and glucagon hormones levels going up.  Weight loss is taking your keys out of your pocket so the scale says a lower number.  So…don’t expect to see AMAZING quick fat loss results with this challenge, it will happen if you continue on past 3 weeks with these goals. Right now, we are focused on improving energy levels and that involves adjusting our hormones to work in our favor.  It takes time.

So, back to my initial question.  How are your legs feeling today?  If they aren’t hurting today, tomorrow might be worse.  Usually it takes 2 days before the worst of the soreness hits. Collage of varius Gray's muscle pictures by Mi...  Also, how are those cravings from the foods you are eliminating from your diet?  Usually days 2-3 are the worst, and then the cravings subside…usually. 🙂

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Day 1

Today marks the 1st day of this 21-Day Challenge.  Congratulations, you have made a great first step in improving your health in 2012.  I hope to provide you with insight and ideas for ways to feel better, look better, and be better.  You should have received an email with your exercises for this week, as well as the nutrition goals I sent out as well.  My suggestion with this challenge is just that: to see it as a challenge.  It will require you to test your willpower and mental toughness.  There will be days when you want to cave and give-in, because it’s easier to go back to your old habits.  But trust me, if you get through this first week, you will feel empowered to do this for the next 2 weeks. Obviously after this challenge is over, you do not have to continue this strict regimen, but I DO challenge you to take several

So for today’s initial blog post, I want you to comment on why you chose to do this challenge.  This will be the motivating reason why you push through these next 3 weeks to break old habits and create new, healthy, energy-producing habits!  I can’t wait to read what everyone has to say.

Here we go!!

photo remix: Yoga woman on exercise ball - fli...

Image by adria.richards via Flickr

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21-Day Challenge-Day 1

This is where you will post about your day’s activities for this new challenge beginning January 9.  I will email you and post on here details as to what each day’s workout, eating will entail.  Don’t worry I’ll give you a heads up, and send you several day’s worth of details so you can plan ahead.  I’m so excited to begin this journey for the next 3 weeks.  Hold on tight, it goes fast!  I hope at the end of this you are feeling better and have more energy!

I am going to encourage you to take this challenge seriously, put every effort into learning and trying to change your habits to healthier ones.  I guarantee if you put in the effort, you will notice a difference.  With that said, I’m not normally a person to push products on you, but I would highly suggest doing this Intestinal cleanse as part of this challenge.  You can read more about it and order the product here: www.healthfree.com.   I would recommend following the dosage advised, and only starting out with 1 capsule a day.  My experience has been to take it at night after eating dinner.  Note: the first few days you will really be ‘cleansing’ your system…

If you have any other questions, please email me or Facebook message me.  I hope I can help.

 

***Edit:  Please let me know what you are choosing to eliminate from your diet this challenge, post a comment below.  Also, like I mentioned in the email, if this food is really a problem for you, you might experience a die-off or withdrawal symptoms (flu-like) as the food is eliminated from your body.  This is a good thing if you will let it happen.  I would suggest taking a multi-vitamin if you are not, and adding fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements to your daily regimen, and even some zinc and/or vitamin c.  Your immune system may take a ‘dip’ as this process is occurring initially.  So we want to try to maintain it while our system is cleansing.

If you are shopping today, here are some of my favorite items for wheat/gluten-free…anyone else feel free to recommend products.

Granola Recipe: (I haven’t tried this one yet, so anxious to see how it tastes)

5 cup oats (please make sure they are certified gluten-free)
2 cups coarsely chopped almonds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (we used apricots, sour cherries, and golden raisins here)
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix together the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Make sure you use a large baking sheet or roasting pan for this. (I prefer the roasting pan, because you can really swirl around those ingredients without spilling them on the floor.) Sprinkle the cinnamon, ginger, and salt over the top. Stir it up.

Toss the bite-sized pieces of dried fruit over the top of the oats mixture. To be honest, you might want more than 1 1/2 cups here. I kept throwing more on until about 1/2 of the surface of the oats had fruit on it. Use your own judgment here. Stir it all up.

Drizzle the maple syrup evenly over the surface of the oats mixture. Do the same with the oil. Stir it all up until everything is well coated — not too sticky, but not dry either. Done? Great. Throw it in the oven.

Bake for 12 minutes, then stir up the granola-in-the-making, then put the pan back in the oven. Repeat this process three more times (it could twice or four times for you, depending on your oven). You’re looking for the granola to be not-at-all wet, golden brown, with a bit of crunch.

Pull it out of the oven and let it cool before devouring it.

Makes 10 cups or so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For dairy-free products, try:  Crescent rolls are non-dairy, so are oreo cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For sugar-free, try:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found some great recipe suggestions while I was there:

http://www.lundberg.com/products/syrup/Eco-Farmed_Sweet_Dreams%C2%AE_Brown_Rice_Syrup.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut oil is really good too

 

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Sugar, Nicotine, Chemicals, Alcohol, Caffeine

Just Say No!

In school, one of the predominant programs that addressed drug addictions was D.A.R.E.  We were taught from a young age to “Just Say No!”  Well, something I am afraid we’ll never hear, but may be more deadly than drugs, is “Just Say No to Sugar and Chemicals!”  The majority of the food we eat in the U.S. today is filled with sugar and chemicals.  What you may not realize is the direct effect these substances have on our behavior, mental clarity, and mood. These substances directly affect our hormones through our bloodstream.  Our body’s were not made to digest sugar or chemicals–they were not a food item God intended for us to eat–neither of these substances grow from a tree or are born from a mother–therefore our body’s don’t quite know what to do with these foreign objects.  So they really don’t do much with them…they just kick these substances out into our bloodstream where they circulate our systems—traveling to our brains–along this route.  Our brains are made up mainly of blood and tissue…so these chemicals get absorbed into our brain tissue and cause all sorts of havoc!  Enough of a biology lesson today, we’ll look into this more as we go.  So your first nutrition rule is to eliminate one of these items from your diet NOW: sugar, nicotine, chemicals, alcohol, and/or caffeine.

Let us know which item you choose and why.

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