Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How carbohydrates affect your body. Part 2- Glycemic Index

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I mention Glycemic Index fairly often when talking about nutrition and carbohydrates.  Glycemic Index is also being mentioned increasingly often in the media as well, so what is glycemic index (GI) exactly?

GI is the measure of how certain foods (mainly those with high carbohydrate content) affect blood sugar levels.  The basic idea is that scientists give 10 people equal portions of a food and then measure their blood glucose levels in intervals over the next two hours.  Foods that create a higher blood sugar level or a spike inside the two hour window are rated with a higher GI, while foods that have minimal effect of blood sugar levels are considered low GI.

The standard accepted scale rates glucose at 100 (being pure sugar) and everything else is based off of this baseline.  For example: white bread is generally rated around 70 while an apple is around 40.  Foods are generally classified as either: high GI (70 and above), medium GI (56-69), and low GI (1-55).

The basic idea is that by consuming foods with a lower GI you can control your blood sugar levels which provide you with several benefits.  Lower blood sugar levels means less insulin,and less insulin means less fat storage.  Consistently elevated blood sugar levels also lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, while lower levels are associated with less frequent development of type 2 diabetes.  Lower blood sugar levels are also linked with lower levels of cancer, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.

There are still other factors that affect blood sugar levels such as: the time of day you eat, the amount of carbohydrates you eat (glycemic load), what you eat with the carbohydrates, and even herbs and spices can affect your blood sugar levels after a meal.

By choosing foods with a lower GI over there high GI counterparts you can control blood sugar levels and improve your health very quickly.  Always choose: whole wheat over white bread, whole grain brown rice over white rice, sweet potatoes over white potatoes, and whole wheat pasta over regular white pasta.  Just by making these small changes you can look and feel significantly better each day.  Not all high GI foods are bad especially not in small amounts.  Glycemic load is the actual amount of carbohydrates while GI is only the speed at which your body absorbs the carbohydrates.  5lbs of whole wheat pasta is just as bad as 2lbs of white pasta if losing weight is your main concern.

Carbohydrates are not the evil that most nutritionists and trainers portray them to be, but understanding carbohydrates and how they affect your metabolism and hormones is the key to controlling your weight.  By using both glycemic load and glycemic index together in planning your meals you can have better control of your weight.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How carbohyrdrates affect your body. Part 1- What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy.  All carbohydrates are converted into glucose which is released into the bloodstream and used readily by the body to fuel metabolism.  The body can function without carbohydrates, but maintenance of bodily functions become more complex without them.  When glucose is not present in the body it must convert fats and proteins into glucose, which is not as efficient as utilizing carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are typically classified as either simple or complex.  Simple carbohydrates are usually either starches or sugars and are present in: fruits, fruit juices, sugar,white rice, white potatoes, and refined carbohydrates like white bread.  Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains like: rice, breads, quinoa, spelt, oatmeal, as well as in legumes and vegetables.  The distinguishing factor is that simple carbohydrates are digested rapidly and hit the blood stream quickly (high GI), while complex carbohydrates are not as refined or processed and take longer for the body to break down (low GI).  Unless you are looking to gain weight your goal should always be to limit simple carbs and replace them with complex carbs.

Excess carbohydrates that your body does not use get either stored as fat or stored in the muscle and liver as a complex carbohydrate called glycogen.  When glucose is stored as glycogen it is basically stored in a complex form and is readily available for energy anytime your body needs it.  If your blood sugar begins to get low then your body releases a hormone called glucagon which release glycogen into the blood stream as glucose.  If your blood sugar levels get too high then your body releases insulin which stores the excess sugar as fat or glycogen.  This is why refined and simple carbohydrates have a greater effect on weight gain, since it is in a simple form the body breaks it down quickly causing a spike of blood sugar, which the body then must store. When you consume complex carbohydrates they are absorbed more slowly keeping your blood sugar levels more steady and so you end up storing less as fat as a result.

These are basically the fundamentals and basics of carbohydrates.  I will cover more in depth Glycemic index, glycemic load, and then I will summarize in my fourth post and help everyone to understand how carbohydrates are the key to controlling your weight, whether you want to gain muscle or lose fat it is all influenced by carbohydrates.

11 year old boy fends off sister's kidnapper... with Jiu Jitsu!

An 11 year old boy saves his sister's life with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  If you don't understand how a young boy can fend off a full grown man, then you haven't taken a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class!  If you would like to learn the art there has never been a better time to start then now, whether you are 6 years old or 60 years old, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a ton of benefits to offer you!

Watch the interview of the 11 year old boy who was able to fend off his sister's kidnapper.

If you are still not convinced check out my previous post on Jiu Jitsu and why you should give it a shot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

8 common household foods you shouldn't be eating.

1) Farm raised fish.  Farm raised fish are often raised in terrible environments with little space to move around and are also fed diets that are completely different than anything a wild fish would eat.  These packed living conditions makes them more susceptible to disease so the fish are given high doses of antibiotics to combat sicknesses.  Farm raised fish are given more antibiotics per weight than any other farm raised animal.  Farm raised fish are also fed unnatural diets of corn or pellets (made of chicken feces, corn meal, fish oils, and fish parts laden with mercury); as a result farm raised fish have on average seven times as much heavy metal and mercury contamination as their wild counterparts and far less of the beneficial omega 3 fatty acids.  Farm raised fish (salmon) are also fed artificial dyes to give them their brilliant pink color, because of the poor diet these fish are fed their flesh is often a dull grey color and they are fed dyes to make their skin look healthy.

2) Corn fed beef (hamburgers).  Corn fed beef shares some of the same problems as farm raised fish.  A diet of corn is not natural for a cow and this causes a host of problems.  For one, corn fed cows are often fed corn to make it cheaper and more efficient to raise a cow.  Imagine if you sat around all day and ate nothing but cornbread you would get fat pretty fast, especially if you were used to eating nothing but spinach.  Since these cows don't need open pasture to graze for grass they can be kept on less land, which means the same overcrowding and disease problems as farm raised fish experience, which leads to... you guessed it, more antibiotics!  Corn is not a regular part of a cows diet so it can affect the cows digestive system and allow it to harbor ecoli, since these cows are full of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick the ecoli becomes resistant to antibiotics, and this leads to some of the major outbreaks of ecoli we have heard about in the news over the last couple of years.  Corn fed beef is also: lower in omega 3 fatty acids, usually washed with bleach to kill microscopic organisms, lower in many vitamins and nutrients, higher in saturated fat, and often fed chicken feces and litter mixed with corn meal.

These are not healthy cows, welcome to factory farming 101.

3) Non organic dairy.  Non organic dairy products can be full of all kinds of things you wouldn't want in your body; this is along the same lines as the corn fed beef above.  Non organic cows are pumped full of antibiotics, live in cramped quarters, are full of disease, eat unnatural diets affecting nutrient content of dairy, and also are pumped full of growth hormones to increase milk production.  When I was in nursing school we learned that almost anything a mother eats or puts in her body can and will be passed on to her baby through breast milk.  If you are drinking milk from a sick, poorly nourished, antibiotic injected animal, you WILL receive all of those things through the milk.  Non organic cows also are usually fed corn and grains which are GMO or non organic, leading to contamination of the milk with any pesticides or fertilizers that bio accumulate in the cow.

4) Refined sugars.  Refined sugars and especially those that are not grown and processed organically can be linked to many health problems.  Some scientists and nutritionists actually believe that sugar acts as a poison in body destroying the liver.  Sugar consumption has been directly linked to: obesity, type two diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and dental carries.  While unrefined organic cane sugar contains some nutrients the white table sugar we often find sitting on the kitchen counter is nearly devoid of all nutrients.  If you must have sweets try your best to buy organic ones or make your own with organic ingredients.

5)  Artificial sweeteners.  The use of artificial sweeteners in food is highly controversial.  Studies have shown relationships with artificial sweeteners to contribute to: various cancers, rebound hypoglycemia, neurological disorders, and migraine headaches.  Though the FDA has currently banned only one artificial sweetener, (cyclamate), many people believe that others such as aspartame and acesulfame potassium should be removed from shelves as well.  The bottom line is this, artificial sweeteners are artificial, they are chemicals made in a laboratory and if it was made in a laboratory then it was never part of nature's plan for us to consume it.  Artificial sweeteners may provide a sweet taste with zero calories, but hey, I have heard that antifreeze tastes sweet too and you won't find me putting that in my tea in the morning.

6)  Soda.  Soda is a very poignant evil in our world today.  That's right, despite all the jobs cola companies have provided, I truly believe there is absolutely ZERO benefit to consuming cola and that by doing so you are voluntarily consuming a poison and toxic substance.  For starters, there is a strong link between osteoporosis and cola consumption; this is why we live in a country where we have the highest calcium consumption in the world, yet we have also the highest rate of osteoporosis.  Colas are extremely acidic in nature, so acidic in nature, that your body must release alkaline minerals into the blood stream to maintain your PH balance.  Guess the main alkaline minerals in your body... calcium and magnesium,and these minerals are the main components of bone.  Now you can see how drinking 2 or 3 sodas per day can cause broken bones.  Soda is basically liquid sugar so everything I stated above about the harmful effects of sugar applies to cola as well.  If you value your: bones, teeth, liver, pancreas, or your shape, you should avoid  soda at all costs.

7). Potato chips.  Potato chips are almost totally devoid of any nutrients while being loaded with fat and carbohydrates.  One serving of chips (11-18 chips) can pack a whopping 150 calories.  11 chips is not even going to put a chip in your hunger and the starch content of the chips will spike your insulin levels leading you to crave more and store it all as fat.  Chips are also usually highly processed with dyes and chemicals, loaded with salt, seasoned with MSG (monsodium glutamte), and fried at ultra high temperatures in hydrogenated oils which contribute to heart disease.  Although there are some healthier options out there, you would do best to leave this american snack on the shelf.

8). White bread.  There are quite a few reasons that white bread is much more unhealthy than it's darker cousin whole wheat.  Wheat consists of three parts: the bran (husk), endosperm (starch), and the germ (embryo).  White bread removes the bran which provides most of the fiber of wheat and also removes the germ which provides most wheat's nutrients and leaves only the endosperm which is basically pure starch and empty calories.  To top it all of the refined endosperm is then bleached with chemical agents and dried at extremely high temperatures destroying any nutrient value that may have been present in the flour before.  Most flour also has added gluten which is becoming more and more known as being a strong allergen in people's diets.  Before baking, sugar or high fructose corn syrup is then added to feed the yeast that allows the bread to rise and become fluffy.  White bread is highly refined, processed with chemical bleaching agents, empty of any nutritional value, impacts blood sugar negatively, raises cholesterol, and high consumption can be linked with increased belly fat and colon cancer.

If you eat any of these foods on a daily or weekly basis you may want to reconsider your food choices.  Eating any of these foods can contribute to an array of health problems later on in life.

Thank you to all my readers and as always, make sure to add me on facebook or like my articles if you enjoy the content I cover.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thank you to my readers.

I want thank my readers and fans for helping my blog to reach 2,000 views in it's first month.  Even with the holidays slowing traffic I was still able to reach my goal.  This month I am looking to double traffic to 4,000 views so please be sure to add me or like my page on facebook, send recommendations to your friends, like my posts, and share them facebook.  The bigger my blog gets the more I will strive to add new content and articles.

Thank you again to everyone! And look for a new post on Monday!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Observations on a black Friday.

On my home page today I saw several stories of mayhem that occurred on this year's black Friday.  It seems like every year we hear of horror stories of people getting trampled, shot, killed, robbed, and beaten for items at rock bottom prices.  It saddens me that we live in a society where people value saving 30 dollars on a flat screen more than they value human life.

At my last job I was making over 2 grand per month and since moving to Atlanta to train full time I do not even make half as much, yet I am happier than I have ever been.  The pursuit of your dreams in life is what provides true happiness.  We don't all dream of becoming world champions, celebrities, or politicians, but every one of us has inner hopes and dreams.  Most of us choose to silence these inner voices and whether we see it or not, when you kill your dreams you kill a part of yourself as well.  There is a light within all of us, every single person on this earth has a purpose, every single one of us is on this ship called earth and we have the power to steer our lives, we hold the power to shape our destinies.

Material possessions cannot make you happy, far from it, material possessions are like weights tied around your waist.  You are in a giant ocean of life and you have to swim to stay afloat, every thing you own weighs you down and makes it a little harder to float until you can't float at all.  Truly, the things you own, own you.  I do believe that money can buy happiness to a certain extent, but I do NOT believe that any amount of possessions can ever make you happy for long.  Money can buy freedom, and freedom allows you to follow your passions, it allows you to follow your dreams fully, but this in itself is the problem.  Money allows you the freedom to follow your dreams, but most people expect money before they follow their dreams, they want to own everything they want and be wealthy, then they can write their destiny.  People expect to: be successful without trial, have money before they are broke, win without defeat; and sadly this is not how the universe usually works, on the contrary most people only become wealthy as a BYPRODUCT of following their dreams.  If you want true wealth of body, spirit, mind, and finances it must come as a result of following your own dreams.  Your success will only come after a time of trials and tribulation.  You must endure to the end for what you want, you must be willing to take anything life gives you and use it to become closer to your goals.

Your happiness cannot be purchased in a Walmart on black Friday no matter how much you are willing to pay for it.  Not until you can throw away desire for physical things and truly look at yourself can you ever be complete, not until you learn to work with all people in a spirit of love and harmony can you ever achieve your dreams, not until you say you are willing to suffer to have your victory will you ever win.

You are not the clothes you wear or the car you drive, you are not the house you live in or the country you were born in, you are not the color of your skin or the god you worship, you are whatever you desire to be.

The wonders of seaweed.

Seaweed is truly an amazing gift from nature.  Sea water itself is incredibly similar to blood plasma in composition, and it contains almost every single mineral needed for the human body.  Seaweed takes these amazing minerals and concentrates them into a tasty treat.  Seaweed is a wonderful salty snack packed with nutrition.  Seaweed can be used in place of salt in soups and broths, added to salads and stir fry, or baked into delicious seaweed chips.

Seaweed has powerful cleansing actions on the body.  Studies have found that seaweeds can actually bind to toxins in the body and help remove them from your system.  Seaweed is packed with potassium, fiber, vitamin A, chromium, iodine, iron, and the b vitamins.  Seaweed has been found in several studies to: possess powerful anticancer properties, boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, and help speed fat metabolism.  Dulse, kelp, and nori are all fairly easily accessible types of seaweed in America.

Seaweed has been eaten for hundreds of years in Japan and throughout Asia as a staple in their native diet.  Give some seaweed a try I know you will like it and it will probably become a new favorite instantly!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Six ways to control your waistline this thanksgiving.

American culture has chosen a lot of foods that aren't always the best for you for this holiday.  I'd like to do a quick post on some common foods you will find served on turkey day, which ones to chose and avoid, and also some tricks you can employ to avoid overeating and feeling like one giant gas bubble.

1). Before you eat anything, drink 8-16 ounces of water.  Not only does water speed metabolism and help you feel more full, but it also aids in digestion.  Water will help you to avoid overeating and help you digest the food if you do over eat.

2). A good tip to start off would be to try to make at least half of your first plate vegetables.  Vegetables are loaded with fiber and help you feel full so eating them first will encourage you not to overeat on the bad stuff.  Common vegetables on thanksgiving are broccoli, green beans, salad, carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash.  You can basically feel free to eat all of these foods that you want guilt free, but a few words of caution would be: avoid green beans in the form of green bean casseroles they are often loaded with sodium and fats, avoid canned yams as they are often drenched in syrup and sometimes even covered with marshmallows, and although corn and white potatoes are vegetables if you are looking to stay lean this year you should limit these veggies.

3). Turkey is a good source of protein and the white meat is usually extremely low in fat, making it a good choice for your dinner, but be warned that this meat is loaded with tryptophan which is a naturally occurring amino acid commonly sold as a sleeping aid.

4). Avoid eating excessive carbohydrates if you wish to maintain your waistline this year.  I am not demonizing carbs here, but be warned that carbohydrates can cause: water retention, indigestion, heart burn, bloating, and gas, especially in large amounts.  If you don't want to look or feel like the blimp flying over the thanksgiving day football game, then try to limit these foods: macaroni and cheese, stuffing, white potatoes, rolls, cornbread, and other breads.

5). If you have followed the previous tips in the article so far, then at this point you are probably already pretty full from: water, veggies, some turkey, and of course a few of your favorite not so good for you foods as well.  Now its time for dessert... I won't tell you you can't have dessert, but I'll recommend eating only one or two servings tops if maintaining your weight and waistline is important to you.  Fruit is usually a good choice if its available, and even with pie, a pie with fruit or pumpkin is usually better than say, Boston cream pie, or pecan pie.

6).  So the meal is over now, and you aren't feeling too guilty, you drank water, ate veggies and turkey, and limited your carbohydrate and sweets consumption, but you still can't help but feel full, uncomfortable, and bloated... Have no fear!  You remembered your raw, unfiltered, apple cider vinegar right?  Raw, unfiltered, apple cider vinegar (I usually buy Bragg's), contains tons of active enzymes that help break down food, its also acidic which helps break down foods even more, and it is also highly alkalizing for the body so it will help to restore your regular PH balance after a big meal.  Take 1 or 2 tablespoons of this vinegar mixed with 4-8 ounces of water after your meal to help with digestion, and to avoid gas and heartburn.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers.  I hope this post will help you make healthier choices and not feel too bloated after your meal, but if you go overboard anyway, try not to be too hard on yourself... it is Thanksgiving.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Can you be a vegetarian and an athlete?

People become vegetarian for many different reasons;  these reasons can range from health maintenance all the way to animal rights.  I have personally tried different vegetarian diets and did not feel like my performance was optimal without any animals products in my diet, but that doesn't mean that I think being a vegetarian is wrong, or even non optimal.  I have come to the point where I am happy to say I am a flexitarian (a person who eats a mostly vegetarian diet with occasional meat).  I'd like to share some stories of athletes that are very successful with a vegetarian life style and explain some of the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet so that you can make your own decision.

UFC star and strict vegan Jon Ficth.

The first group of athletes I would like to mention are: Jake Shields, Nate Diaz, Nick Diaz, Jon Fitch, and Mac Danzig, these men are all combat athletes at the highest level and are all vegetarians.  Jake, Nate, and Nick are all training partners and Jake Shields (a life long vegetarian) convinced his buddies to start up a lacto-ovo diet (these vegetarians eat dairy and eggs but no meat).  They all make strong claims that their vegetarian diets speed recovery and allow them to work harder than anyone else.  Jon Fitch is a fairly recent convert to vegan ism after his wife slowly convinced him about the benefits of a vegan diet.  He has also made claims about recovery time being decreased and also says he feels better in his training than he ever has before.  Mac is a strong advocate for animal rights.  He has stated in interview that at age 13 he witnessed a pig being slaughtered and they made eye contact, which made a profound effect on his life.  Mac is a strict vegan and also claims to enjoy a host of benefits from a vegetarian diet.  None of these men exhibit poor performance or seem hindered by their diets in competition, on contrary they are all well known for being exciting and dynamic fighters.

While there are many athletes who enjoy vegetarian diets that I could cover I want to mention just one more, his name is Brendan Brazier.  Brendan is a professional iron man triathlete, while this is impressive enough in itself he also follows a very strict, raw, vegan diet.  Brendan participates in super long distance running, biking, and swimming.  He recently even set a record for longest distance covered in 24 hours of straight running.  Not only does he eat a vegan diet, but also a diet where about 95% of his food consists of raw uncooked fruits and vegetables.  I personally own his book and recommend it as a good read for anyone considering a vegetarian and especially a vegan diet.  Another impressive quality is that in opposition to most triathletes and long distance runner Brendan sports a healthy looking and muscular frame.

So if you were to decide to become a vegetarian there could be some potential problems that lay in wait for you down the road;  these problems can include: iron, calcium, vitamin b12, and omega fatty acid deficiencies.  These deficiencies can be avoided but will require some pretty involved planning on your part to do so.  You must learn the sources of these nutrients and ensure that you get significant amounts of them each day to prevent deficiency.  Vitamin b12 and iron deficiency can both cause anemia, which can impact athletic performance extensively, while omega-3 fatty acids are important for: brain function, healthy joints, immune health, and to fight off inflammation.  You must also ensure than you get adequate protein intake from plant sources including: nuts, beans, lentils, and soy.  Pea protein isolate and soy protein isolate are both excellent supplemental proteins for vegetarians.  While it is not impossible to consume adequate protein through plant sources it is much more involved than when you consume animal products.

On the flip side, vegetarian diets can bring with them a whole other set of benefits including: lower cholesterol, a healthy heart, lower blood pressure, lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes and cancer, and also a longer life span.  Vegetarians often report increased energy levels, mental clarity, and increased recovery, although these are subjective and not easy to measure.  Vegetarians also enjoy the peace of mind that they do not eat animals that were raised in poor living environments.  Whether you are an advocate for animal rights or not, I doubt there are many people who can watch the horrors of factory farming on FOOD INC. and not become disgusted with the current meat and dairy industry.

I'd like to close with my personal beliefs and experience with vegetarianism.  The most accurate definition for my diet would be flexitarian

I am not saying that I don't agree with a vegetarian diet, only that a vegetarian diet does not agree with me.  I know plenty of people who enjoy vegetarian diets and the list of athletes I provided should serve as a way to reinforce the idea that a vegetarian diet CAN be a viable diet even for professional athletes, but you must learn and be knowledgeable on the subject.  The only way to know for sure is to give vegetarianism a try and see how you feel with it.  There is a good chance you might never go back.

I recommend getting or renting Brendan Brazier's book THE THRIVE DIET if you are interested in learning more about raw foods or becoming a vegan.  Please feel free to comment here or on my new facebook page if you have any tips, suggestions, or personal experience with a vegetarian diet.

Here is a food blog by fighter Jon Fitch where he runs through a day with a vegan diet.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and why should EVERYONE try it?

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a new and quickly growing sport here in the United States.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was first brought into the public eye in the 90's when a 180lb man named Royce Gracie arrived on scene at the first Ultimate Fighting Championship and went all the way to win the entire tournament.  The early UFC tournaments basically served as unintended infomercials as people watched a relatively average looking man dominate: boxers, kick boxers, karate masters, and muscle bound men in a decisive fashion.  It became apparent as martial arts battled other martial arts that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was a serious art, and that even a small man could learn to defend himself against other highly trained fighters.  Contrary to what we see on T.V. in the form of MMA, BJJ itself is a not striking art.  Although in self defense BJJ practitioners learn how to defend basic strikes: punching, kicking, elbows, and knees, they are not part of the typical curriculum.  In BJJ athletes and students learn proper use of body mechanics and balance to: control your opponent, achieve mechanically superior positions, and apply holds and joint locks to subdue an opponent.  The basic principle is that even a small child could learn to subdue a large man with the proper technique.

Okay, but why should you give it a try?  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is: an excellent workout, promotes humility and humbleness, builds character, promotes abstract thinking and logic, promotes flexibility and balance, and can boost confidence.  Most of the people I meet who train in BJJ are better people because of the sport.  It seems like BJJ truly becomes a lifestyle for most of those involved, this isn't to say that everyone develops ambitions of becoming a world champion, but most end up: eating better, losing weight, becoming more confident, and more humble at the same time.  People of all ages can benefit from BJJ class; I have personally met 60 year olds and 6 year olds who are starting their journeys in Jiu Jitsu, I have met large and small, black and white, male and female, and people from all different countries all together in one class.  At my current gym (Alliance Atlanta) we have all different nationalities, colors, and body types.  In a way BJJ can truly unite us all together.

BJJ class is also an excellent place to meet friends and people of character.  I don't truly bond with many people (and a big part of this has to do with my own obsession of Jiu Jitsu) but, I have made many lifelong friends in BJJ.  There is a large community of people involved in the sport and it is constantly growing; you meet tons of interesting people every day: doctors, lawyers, producers, business owners, and laborers.  It is truly amazing that people who may never have had contact with each otherwise can share a common bond of Jiu-Jitsu and be the best of friends.  I always have a great time when I spend time with someone that shares my love of the sport; we may be doing any numbers of things, but we are united in our passion for the sport.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lifestyle is a healthy and exciting life to live.  People often start out doing BJJ to learn self defense, and end up: losing weight, making friends, learning to eat a healthier diet, and sometimes people even meet a best friend or a find a date.  The possibilities are endless in Jiu Jitsu, there are countless ways that it can change your life for the better, but you have to take a leap of faith and go to that first class;  there is nothing to be afraid of, for the most part, the BJJ community is full of wonderful and diverse people who will accept you just as you are.  So the only question left is what are you waiting for?!  Get online and find a gym near you, call the school and set up your intro class or just walk in and talk to the instructor.  I guarantee he will be happy to see you and I am pretty sure you'll be happy you gave it a try.

Please take a few seconds to check out my new website Http://

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shopping on a budget

Shopping for healthy foods can be expensive especially if you buy organic food like I do.  Here are some quick tips that can save you cash at the store so you don't have to break the bank to break your bad eating habits.

1) Avoid buying premade foods.-  Most of the time it is much cheaper to make your own meals than to buy something premade.  For example: for an organic burrito you may pay 2-4 dollars depending upon the store and the brand of the food.  To buy ten of these may cost between 20-40 dollars total.  For that same 40 dollars you could easily buy organic chicken or beef, all of your spices, organic beans, organic tortillas, and make 15 or even 20 burritos yourself.  Chances are your portions will be bigger as well!

Look for bulk bins like this at your super market for added savings at checkout.

2) Buy in bulk.  Often times you may find that you can find bulk bins at some health food stores where you can get organic foods like: oatmeal, beans, rice, lentils, nuts, and seeds for cheap.  Usually these bins pour out into one of the bags available from the store, you can either leave them in bags at home, or invest in some good tupperware so you can store foods longer.  This also applies to things like produce and meats, if these items are on sale or are cheaper per pound at a higher amount try to take advantage of it.  Often times I will see apples marked at 2 dollars per lb, yet there are 5lb bags for 4.99 in the same store.  I am not advocating buying more than you need, but if you will eat it or you can find a way to store it its a good way to save some money.

3) Shop around.  By not buying things at the first place you see them sometimes you can find them cheaper somewhere else.  For example I frequently shop at 3 different stores.  I have a rough idea in my head about what things are at each store, and where things are cheaper.  I may not be able to find seaweed at store b or c, so I have to use store a.  Sometimes a, b, and c all carry an item and then I of course chose the store with the lower price for the item in question.  This also applies heavily to online shopping.  You can often order bulk supplies from online cheaper than you buy them at the store.  Many websites offer lower prices for higher quantity purchases, make sure to check into this especially on bulk items and dried goods.  Nutsonline is a very good website for bulk dried goods and powders.

4) Avoid buying drinks.  Drinks you buy at the store like: tea, cola, juices,and lemonades can be incredibly pricey.  These drinks often are not filling and are usually pasteurized at high temperature which destroys a high level of the nutrients that may have been present before heating them.  Juices are also high glycemic, and don't usually provide dietary fiber.  To save dollars at the store, leave juices on the shelf and just buy fresh produce instead.

5) Pay attention to serving sizes and weight.  Some companies will engage in trying to trick their customers.  I often see two boxes of cereal sitting next to each other.  One box is significantly bigger than the other and also slightly more expensive than the other and it would appear the bigger box is the better value, but if you look closely you will see often times the larger box actually has less food inside!  By reading on the front label you can tell how much weight is actually present in the box.  Many companies use much bigger boxes to give off the illusion that there is more content, but reality is not always as it seems.

If you follow these guideline you should be able to save some dollars each week when you are buying your groceries.  If you have any other creative ideas, please feel fee to comment below and add your input!  Thank you to my readers, and please subscribe to email updates or add me on facebook if you haven't already to receive notification when I publish a new post.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Four supplements that burn fat.

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I would like to cover a few of the supplements I use personally in the process of leaning out before a competition as well as shed some light on a few other supplements that I believe have some merit in my next supplement post.  For the most part, I am a firm believer in simplicity, I think as humans we tend to over complicate things to the point of no return.  I like to take supplements that have plain labels and ingredient lists that don't exceed four or five things tops.  Most of the products you would be handed at a vitamin store, in order to help you lose weight, would have ingredients lists that take up half the bottle, and also have proprietary blends (so you won't even know for sure how much of anything is in the product).  By keeping it simple and buying standardized supplements from small companies you have a much better chance of getting what you pay for and you can also save some money in the process.

1) Psyllium husk.  Psyllium husk is an insoluble dietary fiber supplement.  The direct effects of this supplement will not cause fat loss (but, it will cause weight loss), pysllium has no direct properties that burn fat or speed metabolism however, psyllium husk does have some beneficial effects that will help you lose fat and inches around your waste.  First off, psyllium husk is almost pure insoluble fiber and has the following beneficial effects on weight loss:  fiber lowers glycemic index of other carbohydrates you eat with it, which lowers insulin levels, fiber helps cleanse the colon which will cause some weight loss, and fiber taken before meals will also lead to a full sensation and help you to eat less at meals without being hungry.  Taking nine tablespoons of this supplement three times a day in divided doses with meals will definitely encourage weight loss both from fat and from the colon.

2) Green tea or EGCG extract  EGCG is the main fat burning ingredient found in green tea.  You can chose to buy a standardized extract that specilifically lists the amount of this ingredient or you can do what I do and drink 6-8 cups of green tea per day while you are looking to trim down.  If you opt for the pill form make sure you find an extract that has at minimum 200mg of EGCG per serving and take one serving three times per day with meals.  If you chose to drink the tea itself brew 4 bags in the morning, then rebrew the same 4 bags two times more throughout the day.  I touched on green tea more in depth here if you care to learn more.>  Drinking green tea also gives you the benefit of the caffeine that is present in the tea, which is also a strong and proven fat burner.

3) Synephrine or Bitter orange-  Synephrine or bitter orange extract is a supplement that is very similar in fat burning action to ephedra, but is considered much safer and doesn't actually raise the pulse rate.  People with any sort of heart disorder are generally discouraged from using caffeine, ephedra, or other stimulants, but synephrine goes around this issue without raising blood pressure or pulse rate in most studies.  Although synephrine does not appear to be as effective at fat burning as ephendrine in most studies, it is also quite a bit safer.  Doses range from 10 mg to 30 mg per capsule, I usually take 30 mg, three times per day when I am looking to trim down.

4) Water!!.  If you have read my blog before you know how much I love water and I know water is not a supplement but it's importance cannot be over stressed.  Water is necessary for metabolism and the more water you drink the more effective your metabolism keeps going.  Most of us have been told eating smaller meals is good for metabolism and that it is like throwing little bits of wood into a fire to keep it going;  water works much in the same way for weight loss.  I normally drink around 1 gallon per day of water, but when I am trying to lose weight I try to drink up to 2 gallons per day.  Water must be warmed to body temperature before it can be processed by the body, so drinking cold water actually burns calories.  Water also helps you to feel full and not over eat which can help you cut calories without going crazy.  Read more about water here>

5) Cayenne.  Cayenne pepper is a well known thermogenic.  Thermogenics work by raising body temperature, which raises basal metabolism, which in turn burns calories and fat.  Cayenne pepper also stimulates the immune system, and increases blood flow.  If you can stand the heat try to add some cayenne to a few of your meals each day, or if you don't like spicy foods you may want to look into getting cayenne in capsule form.

Look for a later post where I'll teach you how to put it all together: supplements, weightlifting, cardio, and diet, all in order to trim down and lose body fat.  For now if you are looking to trim down its always safe to assume: if you eat smaller more frequent meals, drink extra water, get more active, eat a little bit less, take extra fiber, and try to eat a vegetable at each meal, you will probably start losing weight or inches.  Please leave any comments or questions below, and don't forget to add me on facebook, or subscribe for email updates when I make a new post.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Healthy eating with a hectic schedule.

Eating healthy doesn't have to take too much time.  Since a healthier diet means that you avoid processed foods you often miss out on convenient foods like T.v. dinners or fast food, but that doesn't mean you have to spend all day preparing food yourself either.  In many ways I actually spend less time cooking and preparing food than I used to because of my diet being healthy.  The vast majority of my diet is fruits and vegetables so it is very easy for me to grab a bag of spinach and eat it in the car on the way to a BJJ class, and then pull a banana and a protein shake out of my bag and have that after training.  When the majority of your diet is fresh, raw, fruits and vegetables you don't have to do much prep for a snack or meal.  I also eat a lot of nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, etc.  I usually only eat 1 or 2 cooked meals per day and I prefer it that way for several reasons: cooking takes longer than grabbing a piece of fruit, raw foods have all of the natural enzymes and nutrients intact, and cooked foods take longer to digest (when you are constantly coming from or going to a workout you don't want a stomach full of food). We have all heard we need to eat 6 meals a day and very few of us, if any of us, have time to cook 6 meals per day.  Here are some ways you can still eat healthy when you don't have time to prepare a meal.

1). Graze-  I am constantly eating something; eating small bits here and there of healthy foods is an easy way to save time in meal prep.  By grabbing a little something frequently you can curb hunger and decrease prep time.

2). Make big meals and reheat leftovers-  Think of a homemade T.V. dinner.  Sometimes I  make a huge pot of chili on Sunday or Monday and eat a serving every day during the week.  It takes much more time to actually cook something yourself so if you have something in the freezer or refrigerator ready that you can just heat up you can save time in a pinch.  This can get old though if you don't like the meal so use something you would like to eat again.

3). Make 2 snacks a day nuts and fruit-  Nuts and seeds are incredibly healthy and also very convenient.  Nuts take zero time to prep, just throw them in a zip lock bag or Tupperware and eat them when you are ready.  Pair a serving of nuts with a piece of fruit, or even add dried fruits like raisins or prunes and have your own trail mix.  To save even more time you make big batches of trail mix and grab a handful as you walk out the door.  One of my favorites is a handful of cashews, a handful of almonds, and a small handful of raisins.

4). Pack the night before-  I work every other weekend 12 hours shifts at my nursing job.  Working for 12 hours straight, and being on your feet constantly is hard enough, pair that with constant stress and its incredibly hard to eat healthy.  12 hours is a long time and eating every 3 hours means I need to have at least 4 meals there to have throughout the day.  I spend about 1 hour on Friday evenings preparing all of my food for the day.  I usually take things like: fruit, nuts, and protein bars that I can carry around with me and have as a snack.  I also take things like: boiled eggs, carrots, and cheese for additional snacks.  Then I take my actual lunch which is usually a salad with chicken or steak, soup, fruits, and sometimes a sandwich.  By packing the night before I can ensure I have enough food which saves me from needing to go out for something unhealthy.

5) Get used to bars-  Finding a good protein or energy bar can be a life saver when you are in a time pinch.  Having the ability to open a pantry and grab a healthy snack that's prewrapped can save you a ton of time.  I try not to depend on bars too much, but do I usually take one with me to work.  If you work 5 days per week, then taking a bar along with you might be a good idea.  I personally like builder bars, any other cliff bars, larabars, and raw food bars.

6) Sweet potatoes-  Sweet potatoes can be cooked in the microwave in about 5 minutes and are a good source of nutrients and calories.  Just wash them well, poke holes in top and bottom with a fork and place on a microwave safe plate for 2 minutes 30 seconds, then flip them over rub with a little bit of oil and microwave for another 2 minutes and 30 seconds. You can read more about sweet potatoes here if you would like to learn more about them

7) Purchase some whey protein-  Whey protein is very convenient and one of the few sources of protein that doesn't need to be refrigerated.  You can put a scoop in a shaker cup and you have a great post workout snack that takes just a few seconds to put together.

Popeye didn't have time for a salad, but he still ate his spinach.

8) Don't be picky.  What I mean by this is to eat for functionality.  Maybe you don't have time for a salad with all the fixings but still need to eat something.  Grab a plastic bag, stuff it full of spinach, and eat it with your hands.  It may not taste the best but if you are really in a hurry eating spinach with your fingers can save time.  I love doing this, and I actually like to pretend that I am a dinosaur when I am munching down spinach with my hands!  A salad with dressing and tomatoes might taste better, but whats more functional?

9) If you have to do fast food...  I think about the best place out there if you have to do fast food is subway.  If you order honey oat bread it is whole grain and high in fiber, plus they have real, veggies.  A salad is always going to be your healthiest option, unless you are at taco bell and then it is actually your worst option, so if you have to eat fast food, try to eat something green.  You will definitely feel better afterwards.

Don't buy this salad!!  If you don't believe me look up the nutrition facts!

There's my list of suggestions for eating healthy in a pinch.  If anyone has any other suggestions feel free to comment below, or leave any questions that you may have.  This is not an all inclusive list I'm sure but they are some of the tricks I use to find time for meals in between workouts.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A beginner's guide to power lifting.

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As promised this article will explain what lifts to perform to increase functional strength and stability, and to ultimately build the base of your weight training system.  I will also give a brief explanation of each lift, offer some of my advice and tips on each subject, and ultimately give you some good resources to check up on and follow to help you with any issues you may have while starting out or later down the road on your journey.  I will update and add new articles on different routines for more advanced lifters, and also talk about different routines you can use to develop specific traits like power or endurance in the future.  This article will serve as the platform for new lifters and ultimately will be what I recommend for any beginning lifter, or anyone who doesn't have a significant strength base already.  Feel free to check out these links to a great website that has established standards for lifters on most of the core lifts.  Check them out and see where you stand on each of your lifts.

Bench Press-
Overhead Press-

The beginners program looks like this:

StrongLifts 5x5 Workout AStrongLifts 5x5 Workout B
Squat 5x5Squat 5x5
Bench Press 5x5Overhead Press 5x5
Barbell Rows 5x5Deadlift 1x5

It is called Strong Lifts 5x5. is the host website.  You simply do this workout 3 days per week.  Start out with workout A, take a day off then perform workout B.  Alternate workout A and B with at least one day of rest in between each workout and add 5 lbs each time you successfully complete the workout.  This method works and is one the best ways to build strength in a beginner.  The goal is to start out the first week with a weight that is very easy!  Focus strictly on the form of your lifts, and make sure your form is perfect!  The first four weeks you will complete easily, but continue adding weight and you will be adding huge weights onto the bar each session before you know it.  The main thing with this program is this... DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING!!!, do not add exercises, do not add more weight than recommended.  This program is based off an old and proven method of power lifting called linear progression.  By adding exercises, doing more than recommended, adding too much weight etc., you will create over training, hinder recovery, and ultimately prevent strength gains.  Do the program as written.  I lift Mon, Wed, Fri, and take off the weekend.  If you are looking to gain serious strength you must ensure that you eat enough as well.  Do not try to gain strength on a caloric deficit, it will not happen, make sure to eat for strength gains.  If you are overweight and wanting to trim down, try to eat enough to just maintain your weight.  Slowly body fat will be replaced by muscle and then when you have a solid strength base you can begin to shed fat, which will be much easier thanks to all of the newly earned muscle.

If you would like to download a free template of the workout off the strong lifts website you can go here-

Please be advised if you would like your free template you will have to complete a short survey and sign up for email updates as well, if you don't want to do this, then feel free to just copy what I have here in this article and plug in your own weights.  The website is an excellent resource and I encourage my readers to check there for awesome articles and tips on form and troubleshooting.  I will do my best to create an extensive archive here on this site, but just know stronglifts has been up and running for over 4 years and has a plethora of lifting information that goes into much more detail than I am able to bring to the table.

Squat info-
Bench Press info-
Overhead press info-
Deadlift info-
Bent over row info-

Please check out the links above, read them and watch videos to ensure you use proper form.  Proper form is absolutely essential to avoid injury and promote the full range of benefits from this type of training.  If you are considering investing the time to improving strength and doing this program please at least take the time to check out some of these great resources and read a little bit on the topics.  Feel free to leave any comments or questions you might have about anything in this program.  There is an excellent source of knowledge in stronglifts website as well, but I would be more than happy to answer any questions here on the blog.  Please pass this article on if you think it could help someone!

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