Salt? The Unknown Performance Enhancer?

As I have mentioned in the past it seems as if every supplement brand is promising to carry the next best performance enhancing product, when the truth is like 95% plus products on the market today are complete non-sense. Yes that’s right, the supplement guru is here to tell you that most of the crap you probably use is just that….Crap! A total waste of time and money. But occasionally we do stumble across great tips of information and nutrients that will aid us in achieving the results we are after, whether that be to put on muscle mass, or drop body fat. And by now you’ve guessed it, one of the best, if not the best performance enhancing product may very well be a good quality sea salt. Most people, especially athletes do not realize that they expel approximately 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt per hour of physical activity, depending on how rigorous. And on top of this, if you are a coffee drinker, your body will lose an additional 1/2 to 1 teaspoon on average of salt per day depending on how much coffee, pre-workout, energy drink, or whatever stimulant you are having during your day. Now, here is where the problem lies. If you are only taking in the suggested amount of sodium per day that conventional wisdom has recommended since the middle 1970’s then you are having about 2.5-3 grams or 2500-3000mg per day. A teaspoon of salt is between 4.5-5 grams or 4500-5000mg. So if you are a coffee drinker, or energy drinker in general, and work a 9 to 5 regular job, you may be borderline deficient already, without doing any regular exercise. So if you are a gym goer, or an athlete of any kind there is a good chance you are sodium deficient. Simple ways to tell if you are deficient are if you are having muscle cramps during or post workout or low energy on a consistent basis, so much that you feel gassed during your workout. These are the easy signs to watch out for. Most people initially think of magnesium and potassium deficiency when it comes to the cramping and fatigue, but you must remember that sodium is the main driver for these nutrients. And if there is not enough sodium in the blood available the body will start to pull from magnesium and potassium stores to compensate for this. So really think of sodium as the building block behind some of these very powerful minerals. Now, here is the best part in terms of what salt can do to elevate sports performance. Salt is quite literally the best vasodialator on the planet, better than any marketed supplement out there, period. It helps drive more blood into the muscle tissue, preventing the build up of lactic acid, so you can train harder for longer. Additionally, a recent study was conducted on collegiate athletes using salt as a pre workout supplement. Subjects took approximately 1 teaspoon 30-45 minutes before exercise, and on average the athlete’s were able to perform at a high level for an extra 21 minutes! The workout was normally 60 minutes and they were gassed, but after adding in extra salt, they were able to buffer lactic acid better, and fight off fatigue, bumping there workouts to 81 minutes on average. That’s a 35% increase in workout capacity! After reading this study, and also knowing some of the benefits sodium can offer, I decided to try using a teaspoon of salt pre-workout. What the hell, why not right. And I didn’t go cheap either, I actually went out and bought the good stuff. Redmond’s Ancient Sea Salt, which contains 20x more iodine in it’s salt than it’s competitors which is very important to me, being Iodine is a main driver for thyroid function. This is another topic for another day by itself. But I must say that using the teaspoon of salt pre workout definietly gave me a great pump during my workout without a doubt. And post workout I didn’t have any issues with muscle cramps like I normally do when I workout very hard. I have been following this protocol for about 2 weeks now and will continue to do so to see how my performance continues to go. I can say my energy is better not just during my workouts but during the day as well, and I am having no cramping anymore and my recovery is faster, so no complaints thus far. Give this a shot, especially for all you athletes out there or gym goers. It’s worth it.

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Every Day Matters

I am sure at some point in your life you may have heard somebody say this phrase, “every day matters”….And if you haven’t well then congratulations now you did! I was actually listening to a podcast the other day that mentioned this topic and I wanted to expand on this because I feel it is very important to a lot of people’s success in fitness, and is also why I myself have became a big advocate for working out every day. Yes, exercise every day. Not an intense routine everyday, but simply getting to the gym, and getting in a good hour of activity. I say this because mentally when you have to be accountable for getting the task accomplished, and you are able to finish this one task everyday, consistently, over and over, you begin to build momentum in your life. This momentum is huge for people because you are turning this “working out” thing that you started doing into a habit and lifestyle change. Eventually, this hour a day becomes part of your daily routine, no different than brushing your teeth, or taking a shower. At this point, you would almost feel weird if you did not make it to the gym, as if something was missing all day long the day you decided to not go. And it would stay on your mind going into the next day as well. Once you are to this point I like to say you have arrived. To really see lasting change in your body and fitness level you need to take the approach that every day matters. Every day, every exercise, every meal, they all mean something. And when you begin to lie to yourself and say things like, “well I am not feeling it today” so you end up skipping out on your workout. Or my favorite line, “I have been doing sooooo good I can take today off”. These are lies we tell ourselves to attempt to avoid the discomfort of going out and putting the work in. So the next time that little voice in your head tells you to “take it easy” be sure to ignore it and keep pushing forward!

Protein Lemon Squares

Check out this new dessert recipe that tastes absolutely delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 Cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 Cup egg whites
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • The zest of one lemon see note below
  • 1 package sugar-free lemon pudding, Jell-O brand
  • 1/2 Cup Splenda, the kind for baking, or use Stevia, which I would recommend.
  • 1 Cup flour of your choice regular, a low carb mix etc I recommend an almond/coconut blend
  • 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup vanilla Pro-3 protein
  • 1/2 Cup no-sugar added blackberry jam

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and take your jam out of the fridge so that it sits at room temperature. This makes it a lot easier to drizzle.
  2. Get your lemon zest ready. Set a bowl down to collect the zest. Then use the lemon zester to scrape off the yellow part of the peel. If you’re using a cheese grater, rub the lemon in one direction, against the sharp edges of the holes. You only want to collect the yellow part, so turn the lemon as you go, letting the zest fall into the bowl.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and egg whites. Set aside.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, Splenda or Stevia, protein powder, and sugar-free lemon pudding.
  5. Mix both bowls together thoroughly. Pour into your baking dish. With a spoon, drizzle several lines across the top of your batter. Using a knife, make whatever pattern you’d like on top but be sure to push the jam into the batter a bit.
  6. Pop the pan into the oven for 30 minutes or until you poke it with a toothpick, and it comes out clean. Everyone’s oven is different so keep an eye on it. Allow a couple minutes to cool before eating, that jam gets pretty hot. Cut into 9 pieces and enjoy!
Lemon Squares

I Broke My Own Rules…

So I was laying in bed the other day, it was 4:45am, and I was wide awake. Now, I normally get up around 5:30am anyway so in less than an hour it will be time for me to start my day. Normally, if I feel “ready” to get up, I just get up and get my day started, I don’t roll back over and go to sleep. I find that it makes me feel like a slug the rest of the day. And against my better judgement I rolled back over and fell asleep. I made up excuses in my head, literally telling myself I didn’t have that much to do so why not sleep in. Worst mistake I made all week. Why? Because not only did I get bombarded by the alarm clock at 0530, I actually hit the snooze and fell asleep until 6am. When I finally woke up I actually felt much worse than I did at 4:45am when I was up and ready to go.

Why am I bringing this up you may ask? Because there is something important anyone can learn from a simple situation like this. When you aren’t feeling it, or are on the fence about executing something, that is when you really need to do it. Do it anyway. Don’t feel like working out? Do it anyway. Even if you are a little off that day, do it. Go through the motions. Because you will find that even going through the motions will have you feeling better than if you just skipped out all together. And pushing through days like these can be a huge momentum builder as you move forward. Don’t make excuses, instill some discipline, and get shit done!

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One Simple Way To Burn More Fat Without Extra Cardio

Here is one tip you can use in your weight training if you are not already to really get your metabolism going, without any extra cardio. Simply by adding drop sets, back off sets, or rest pause sets at the end of an exercise can bring the intensity level up to get your body burning fat more efficiently. Now, for those of you that may not be familiar with any of these techniques, let me explain them here….

The Drop Set– A drop set is performed after the last set of really any exercise you may be doing. For example, let us use the bench press as an example. Say you planned on doing 3 sets of 6-8 reps per set. Then, on the last set you do 6 good reps with great technique. Maybe you could have got 7, but stop at 6. Then when you finish your set strip off about 25% of the weight you had on and immediately perform another set to absolute failure. Congratulations, you just did a drop set!

Back Off Sets- A back off set is performed similar to a drop set, except the weight is even lighter than the drop set. Instead of stripping off 25% you are taking off up to 50% of the weight and going to failure, allowing you to really rep out the weight you are doing. This technique works best in my opinion for smaller muscle groups like biceps, triceps, calves, etc.

Rest Pause Sets- Here is one last technique that will really challenge you, the rest pause set. After performing your last set of let’s say ten reps on a lat pull-down, take about 15 seconds rest, and perform another set. Try to get at least 5 reps. Then take another 15 seconds rest and do another set again for as many as possible to failure. This one is killer, but it works.

Try using any variation of these in your training and I guarantee over time you will not only see changes in your body, your exercise capacity and endurance will go up too.

Lat Pull Down

Low Carb Taco Casserole

Taco Casserole 2

Here is an awesome recipe I found the other day that I wanted to share with you guys. Here goes….Check it out!

Taco Casserole Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 pounds ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 chopped tomatoes, large
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Anaheim peppers
  • 1 cup grated high-quality sharp Cheddar

Ingredients for Tortillas

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons Avocado Oil or Coconut Oil

Directions

In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of oil and saute the onion until soft, 5 minutes. Add the ground beef. As it cooks, season with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, dried oregano, sweet paprika and salt. When the meat is almost cooked, stir in the tomatoes. Turn off heat and set aside.

For the anaheim peppers, set the peppers over the flame of a gas stove, or under a broiler. Cook the peppers, turning as needed, until the entire pepper is blackened. Put the peppers in a sealed bag or container to steam and cool; rub the blackened skin off with your fingers. Chop, then mix in with the meat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, tapioca flour, cumin, chili powder and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the water, eggs, and oil. Slowly add the coconut flour mixture to the wet ingredients, whisking constantly to eliminate clumps.

Heat a tablespoon of avocado oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Pour a little less than 1/4 cup batter in the hot pan. Let the batter sit untouched for one minute then put a lid on the pan and cook one minute more. Flip the tortilla and fry for 1 to 2 more minutes. Continue frying tortillas until the batter is used up, making sure there is always a thin layer of warm avocado oil or coconut oil in the pan.

Preheat oven to 375 °F

Coat the bottom of a 2 quart square or round baking dish with a little oil. Add a layer of 4 tortillas. Cover with half of the ground meat. Add another layer of tortillas. Cover with more ground meat and the grated cheese.

Bake 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting. 

Optional: Add lettuce, tomatoes, and diced avocado as toppings once casserole is baked and cool. Enjoy!

The Importance of a Morning Routine

Is This You?

So….How many of you wake up, and hit the snooze button at least 3-4 times before ever actually leaving the bed? And once you do finally leave the bed how long is it before you actually do something productive with yourself, whether that be exercise, read, or begin some tasks for your job? If you are in the general average then you probably aren’t actually doing anything for at least another hour after you already laid in bed for the first hour. So now we have the first two hours of the day dedicated to….Nothing! Except maybe eating breakfast. And unfortunately these are the same type of people, including some of my closest friends that will tell me, “Derek, I have no time to exercise” what else can I do to lose weight. And being a good friend I will take a look at their current routine and try to help them optimize what they are doing, but in a lot of cases I was not necessary at all. There was no secret, tip, or pill that I was going to give to help them accomplish what they wanted. It all came down to their daily routine and habits!

Benefits of a Routine

Routines can have a profound impact on helping organize your day much more than you think, but it does take some discipline. Getting up a little earlier, or prepping meals ahead of time is not the most convenient, but there is nothing convenient about getting the results you want, it’s just a matter of how bad do you want it? Once you get past the first couple weeks, and this new routine becomes habit you will start to notice some of these benefits…

  1. Reduced Stress– When you actually get up and have your day scheduled, it takes a lot of undue stress off of your life. This way you are not forgetting about taking care of important tasks you may have had for the day.
  2. Gain More Time– When you start holding yourself accountable to your own schedule, the amount of time you will free up can sometimes shock you.
  3. Be Able to Eat Healthier– When you are unorganized and flying by the seat of your pants it is very difficult to get in the right foods you need to meet your fitness goals. More times than not you end up at a drive thru eating trash food. Being on a schedule will free up more time so you can prep some simple, healthy meals instead of relying on quick food options.
  4. Feel Fulfilled– When you put together a daily routine, and you accomplish those little tasks everyday, there is something extremely fulfilling about this process. Because by doing the little things everyday, this leads to big results over time. Fitness and weight loss is the best example of this. Eating the right foods, and not skipping workout sessions is the quickest way to see better results in the gym. But these two things are counting on YOU to fit them in your schedule.

But…

Now, after reading this there are going to be plenty of people that still have the mentality of well, my schedule is already so crazy, I just can’t fit anymore in so I guess the chips will fall where they fall. Let me tell you, that is an excuse. I have yet to meet one person that wasn’t able to find the time to exercise during the day at some point. It’s literally 4% of the day. Discipline, Consistency, and holding yourself accountable are the biggest parts here. You just have to decide to do it.

Keto Coconut Cheesecake Bites

Here is an excellent dessert to try sometime if you need to satisfy that sweet tooth without feeling guilty. Check it out!

Ingredients (Cheesecake)

  • 3 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon liquid stevia
  • 1.5 teaspoons coconut flakes

Ingredients (Crust)

  • 2 cups raw, unsalted macadamia nuts
  • .5 cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • .25 teaspoon salt

Directions (For the crust)

Process macadamia nuts in food processor until finely chopped. Add coconut, coconut oil and salt and pulse until the ingredients come together and the texture is similar to big grains of sand.

Use a Tablespoon measurement to drop scoops of the crust into a 12 count silicone cupcake pan. Use your fingers to press the crust down evenly and firmly in the bottom of each cupcake space.

Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.

Directions (Filling)

Dissolve the gelatin in 1 cup hot water by whisking vigorously. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, blend cream cheese until smooth. Add crème fraiche, sweetener (optional) and coconut flavor and blend until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in gelatin, beating until thoroughly blended in.

Pour the batter into the cupcake pan on top of the crusts, filling each space close to the top. Chill at least 2 hours, until set.

To remove the cupcake bites, press from the bottom of the silicone cupcake pan to lift each cheesecake up. Done! Enjoy.

keto cheesecake

Understanding Hormones & Weight Loss

Have you ever had that friend that even when they diet and exercised like crazy they still seemed stuck in a plateau that they could not get out of? I think we can all think of somebody that has done this before, but usually not all for the same reasons. One reason may be the closet eater, who hides the fact that they are gorging on bad food choices behind closed doors. Or the excessive drinker, that says they only drink a few beers once a week, and it’s more like 10 beers at 2-3 times a week. The above two examples are not who we are talking about today. We are talking about the guy or girl that is actually putting in all the hard work but just can’t seem to get past that hump. Why is that? Well, the answer could be as simple as your hormones are not in an optimal state for fat loss….Here may be why.

Feeling Stressed?

We have all heard that stress kills right? Well, not only does it kill you, it also kills any fat loss or muscle gain progress as well. Studies have actually shown that when you are in a stressful state for consistent periods of time you can eat the perfect diet for your goals and still not lose body fat. In fact you will either stay the same, or you may even gain weight! So why does this happen? What is triggered in us that is causing this stress?

Cortisol

Cortisol is the stress hormone, responsible for that fight or flight response in the body that gets released when we are perceived to be under stressful situations. When cortisol stays up it is actually benefiting fat gain, and preventing muscle gain simultaneously. Now lets go back to the question of what is causing this in us? What is causing cortisol to stay elevated? Well, there are a number of things that could be plaguing our day. Here is just a small list…

Job or work environment, family life, Time Management, money management, over training at the gym, excess alcohol consumption, and consistent bad sleep.

This list probably covers the top stressors the average person has in there life. I would say out of all of the issues listed above, the number one issue leading to elevated cortisol is consistent bad sleep. You should always try to get at least 6 hours of sleep each night. Now, I know they say 8 hours is considered best, but I am trying to be as realistic as possible. Quite a lot of us are busy people these days. For example, lately I am in bed around 10 to 10:30pm, and will be up at 4:30am ready to go. Whatever your time window is, please remember to not completely neglect your sleep. Try to make 6 hours be your minimum. Also, remember to keep the “blue lights” off when you go to bed at night. Blue light is the light emitted by television screens and phones, and can interrupt healthy sleeping patterns.

In regards to some of the other stressors listed above I highly doubt anyone is suffering from over training, since it is very difficult for the average person to even over train in the first place. But, as far as the rest of the list goes if you want to make a conscious effort to reduce stress try yoga or even meditation. Look for something you can do to unwind and calm the body. Maybe even massage therapy would be a great idea as well. Just keep in mind if you are at a sticking point in your fat loss results and you know in yourself you are doing all the right things then you may want to consider taking a look at your normal routine and figuring out what changes you need to make to get yourself moving in the right direction. Always remember we are here to help so if you need any assistance in figuring out what to do please feel free to contact me at our email address and we will get it figured out.