You may or may not know that coach Alexa offers one-on-one Nutrition coaching here at CFH. Alexa is  currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health with a specialization in Human Clinical Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health and is dedicated to helping others achieve their best selves through nutrition and healthy lifestyle. The CORE Nutrition Program is undergoing a slight re-structuring. Alexa will still be offering her nutrition services at CFH, but the structure of the program will be changing slightly for new clients to offer a more thorough intake and initial reset process. Here...

Hey Team! Here is our "Fresh Start Challenge Clean Eating Guide" This is our nutrition packet that we have worked on refining over years or working with new clients that are starting their fitness journey.  A few rules of thumb: Do not be overwhelmed, start small and make improvements that you can build on. You will not see results in 48 hours.  This is about creating long lasting habits. Take a before and after picture, trust us, it will be worth it in a few months. As always feel free to email us with any questions- community@crossfitfederalhill.com    ...

With this time of year comes lots of indulgences and baked goods (gotta love Christmas cookies). Whether you need a last minute dessert to bring to your work holiday luncheon, or are just craving a little something sweet, here is a way to indulge that will satisfy any sweet tooth, using simple, straightforward, and natural ingredients.

Holiday Chocolate Bark

2 bags dark (look for 70% or darker) chocolate chunks (I like Enjoy Life Brand, available at Whole Foods, because they are gluten, soy and dairy free)

¼ cup cashews, roasted and salted

¼ cup pumpkin seeds, roasted and salted

¼ cup dried cranberries

½ t sea salt

Step 1:

Pro-tip: Toast pumpkin seeds and cashews over low heat to add that wow factor to your bark. Don’t wander far during this step because nuts and seeds can burn fast. This will take only about 5 minutes, turn off the heat when you start to smell a nutty aroma being released from the nuts.

Step 2:

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and get a rubber spatula ready.

Step 3:

Melt your chocolate. For this step you will need a saucepan and a glass bowl. Bring about 2 cups of water to a boil in your saucepan. Then place a glass pyrex bowl over top of the saucepan as your water boils. Put your chocolate chips in the glass bowl and wait for them to melt, stirring occasionally. When chips are completely melted, spread melted chocolate across your lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cashews, seeds, dried fruit, and sea salt.

Step 4:

Set it and forget it. Place cookie sheet in refrigerator and leave for about an hour. Once chocolate is set, break apart into small pieces. Enjoy, and share with family and friends!

One question I get asked often is what are ideas for quick and easy lunches. The easiest way to pack a lunch is to make it with dinner the night before. You might get bored of eating the exact same meal multiple days in a row. For this week’s nutrition tip, we’ll take one meal and repurpose it 3 different ways for 3 completely different meals.

Let’s take a basic gains-fueled dinner of chicken breast, sweet potato (roasted), and broccoli. Here’s how you could transform those ingredients into three different meals:

Kabob it – chop everything into uniform-size cubes and place on skewers. You can add some extra things for a little more flair like cherry tomatoes, olives, grapes, or pineapple. Dip skewers in buffalo or barbecue sauce. Franks Red Hot and Tessemae’s are good clean options for sauces.

Soup it – make leftover soup. Again, chop everything into uniform cubes, and place in stock pot. Cover your leftovers with chicken or veggie stock, a can of crushed tomatoes, and seasonings to taste. Optional additions could be rice, carrots, celery, or onion.

Make it a salad – throw your leftovers all over some greens and add some flair from your pantry like dried nuts, seeds, fruit, cherry tomatoes, olives, etc. Top with your favorite dressing.

Next time you have a protein, veggie and starch leftover, get creative and turn it into one of these different meals!

Before we know it, the holiday season will be in full swing. This is one of the most challenging times of year to stick to a clean diet due to the abundance of treats we will soon be surrounded with. So how do you manage to not set yourself back and still enjoy the season?

  1. Decide what you want out of this holiday season. If you want to smash the Open in February and PR all your lifts in January, then you will need to stay focused these next two months. On the far end of the “clean eating” spectrum, there is the 100% clean all the time end, where you WILL need to make sacrifices, give up things, and be “that” guy or girl who isn’t drinking at the Christmas party. If you are very focused on your training or have specific weight loss goals – this is where you might be. There is nothing wrong with being “that” guy or girl- just have a strong why behind your actions and remind yourself of that why constantly– that way forgoing certain things will not feel like deprivation, it will simply be a part of the process you are undergoing to get to where you want to be (*Tip*: in formulating your why- try to frame it around something positive. So instead of having your “why” be I want to lose my love handles, change that why to: I want to be comfortable in my own skin and feel strong in my workouts every day. Your Why is the reason behind your goals). I recently read an interview with Andrea Ager where she talked about being 100% paleo for an entire year straight with no cheating. She was asked if she went crazy, and she said no, she was so focused on her training and making the best choices for her body that she didn’t see her diet as a negative thing, it was just a part of the process (side note: she no longer follows paleo, but I thought this was a good illustration of dedication). If you are giving things up and feeling like you are missing out, come back to your Why.

2. Remember the real reason for the season. We hear this expression all the time this time of year. The reason for the season is giving thanks and spending time with family. It’s not desserts and drinking. If you want to indulge in some of Aunt Betty’s pecan pie that she only makes on Thanksgiving, do it. If you feel yourself going too far off the deep end, remind yourself why you are there in the first place and what you are celebrating. You are there to connect with friends and family, maybe these are people who you only see this time of year. Shift your focus away from food to toward the real reason for the season.

I hope these tips help you to stay on track this holiday season and make the most out of your holiday get togethers!

In our Power Supply gift card giveaway Liz K asked a great question about salt and balancing salt consumption for hydration but not consuming too much. Salt is an electrolyte and plays an extremely important role in hydration as well as other cellular functions in your body. So it’s kind of a big deal. Too much sodium isn’t a good thing and that also goes for not enough sodium, especially if you are active and sweating frequently. The reason why sodium gets a bad rap is because there is an abundance of sodium in processed foods. We want to eliminate processed foods from our diets as much as possible but in the case of salt we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater – meaning we don’t want to eliminate or restrict sodium consumption altogether in the absence of processed foods in the diet.

Whole foods have only small amounts of sodium naturally, which means that if you are eating whole, single ingredient foods as your primary food sources you won’t be getting much salt and you can and should add it to your food.  Generally speaking, you can just add salt to taste in your food. Whatever salt you would add yourself is guaranteed to be way less than what a food manufacturer would add.

Not all salt is created equal. Raw, natural and unprocessed salt has major minerals and trace minerals (required in smaller amounts). White table salt does not have these same things. Himalayan salt, celtic sea salt (basically any salt that has a color other than pure white) will have minerals which are stripped out when the salt is processed.

In summary, on a whole foods diet, when you are eating the right type of salt and adding it yourself, add what tastes good!

In our Power Supply gift card giveaway, John F. asked for us to elaborate around some clean eating myths that are out there.

First, let’s talk about what clean eating IS:

  • Personalized! Everyone is different, what works for one person might not work for someone else
  • Not restrictive! If you feel hungry, you are doing it wrong. Clean eating should fuel your body adequately with real, whole foods that are satiating.
  • Not a fad or a short term fix! Clean eating only produces long-term results when it becomes a lifestyle. Change the way you view clean eating and you will change you life.

Now, let’s talk about what clean eating is NOT.

Myth #1: Clean eating is restrictive

This is the biggest pet peeve of mine when it comes to what people think clean eating is. Clean eating is not restrictive when it comes to quantity or choices. Clean eating is adequately fueling your body based on what you ask of your body on a daily basis. When you ask a lot of your body, you need to refuel your tank with what may feel like a lot. How much to eat is a very specific to who you are and what your goals are. A few things that play a role are:

  • How much you work out
  • Your size and whether your are looking to add muscle or lose fat
  • Gender
  • Age
  • How active you are outside of the gym

Clean eating should always prioritize whole foods over anything else. It’s not just about “hitting your macros” (protein, carbs and fats), but micronutrients found in whole foods play a role in everything from hydration, to metabolizing your food, to optimizing recovery and preventing muscular soreness and cramping. Any time someone tries to “sell” you clean eating, in the form of bars, shakes, or any other products, you should critically evaluate ingredients and any claims they are making.

So in summary, eat better, not less, if you want to make #gains, but also take the time to learn how much you actually need/ should be eating to achieve your goals. Next week, we will look at Myth #2: “Good for you” means good for everyone.

Myth #2: “Good for you” means good for everyone

I recently came across an infographic on the NY Times website. They had nutritionists and regular people rate foods based on their perceived healthiness. While there are a lot of conclusions you could draw from this infographic, the main takeaway should be that there is a lot of disconnect between what people perceive as healthy- between both nutritionists and real people alike. While it was super interesting to look at, the main problem with it is the underlying assumption that what is good for me is good for you, too. Let’s take white potatoes for example. For someone who is insulin resistant and overweight, a lower glycemic carbohydrate would be a better option than white potatoes. On the other hand for an athlete who is working out everyday, burning tons of energy and struggling to gain or maintain their weight, I would not consider white potatoes to be bad. Even kale, which which is chock full of nutrients, when consumed in large quantities has been linked to adverse health conditions, like hypothyroidism. So for someone experiencing that condition, kale might not be “good.” We are constantly bombarded with information on what and how much to each- but everything you hear and read should be taken with a grain of salt.  Often times foods deemed as super foods aren’t all that, and other times foods that are “shunned” by the concensus (egg yolks anyone?) aren’t what they are made out to be. Fact check everything you see, and if you are truly concerned with achieving the optimal diet for YOU, consult a nutritionist, not the internet.

So we exposed two clean eating myths, and I hope by now you are starting to see that the main myth or idea that we are trying to debunk is that there is a specific set of rules around what clean eating is. These perceptions are constantly changing. Pretty much any food, depending on who you ask, could be deemed “unclean” by a certain group of eaters. For example, any type of grain to a paleo enthusiast, any type of meat to a vegan, the list goes on and on. The bottom line is that you need to make decisions for yourself based on what you learn (from reliable, verified sources) and what you feel in your body. Be open to the opinions of others and respect others pursuing their version of “clean eating.”  The bottom line in a clean diet is to be true to whole foods, that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat a variety of foods – especially fruits and vegetables. And don’t cut yourself short. Nutrient deficiencies are caused both by choosing the wrong foods and not enough food.  Lastly, eating “clean” should make you feel good – and this is related to way more than just the food you put in your mouth. It has to do with the company you share when you eat, and the emotional and psychological impact your diet has on you overall.

 

This is a question I get asked on the regular. There is tons of opposing research out there about the health benefits or detriments of drinking coffee. I myself am an avid coffee drinker and rarely show up to a morning class without a cold brew in hand. I don’t think coffee is inherently bad, but over consumption of anything can lead to negative impacts on your health. If you are wondering if coffee is bad for you- what you should ask yourself instead is “Is my relationship with coffee bad for me?” (You could actually flip this and ask yourself this question about pretty much anything you consume- food, etc.). I would argue that the answer to this question might lean towards “yes” if…

  • You have a physical dependency resulting in headaches or other physical discomfort in the absence of coffee
  • You feel like you “need” coffee to get through your day or drink throughout your day as a crutch
  • You get inadequate amounts of sleep (you average less than 7 hours of sleep per day) and also consume multiple cups of coffee per day (2+)

If your answer to any of the above questions is no, and you feel like you could forgo your daily caffeine fix and be OK with it, continue to enjoy coffee in moderation (1-2 cups daily). If you answered yes to most of these questions, you may want to reevaluate your relationship with coffee. Coffee is a diuretic and over consumption in place of water can lead to dehydration. Caffeine can also be an appetite suppressant, so if you are consuming coffee throughout the day, you may be preventing your body from signaling hunger to your brain effectively. For more food for thought, check out this article on the Whole 9 Blog about coffee consumption.

JERF. Maybe you’ve heard it before. It means Just Eat Real Food. The first time I ever heard this phrase was a few months after starting CrossFit and I can honestly say it changed my life. Figuring out what I should and shouldn’t eat was made so simple with those four words. CrossFit has been around for a while now and the dynamics of the sport have changed a lot in the past couple of years. What started as an underground cultish sport has become so mainstream that Hollywood actors and rappers are getting into it. What started as a backyard brawl is now the CrossFit Games. When I started CrossFit I couldn’t enter a CrossFit box without hearing the words “Paleo” or “caveman.” Lately, those words seem to be slipping out of favor and have been replaced with other words like “macros” and “flexible.” To me, this just shows that times change and so do people. Whether you choose to count macros, calories, or what have you, the nutritional path you take towards achieving your fitness and aesthetic goals should be built upon a foundation of real, whole foods. Counting your macros and sticking to them can lead to weight loss, muscle definition, and gains, I don’t doubt that for a second. But sometimes I think people need to be reminded that there is much more to total health than these things. Macros, or macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), comprise your food on an energetic level, but micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and minerals, are equally important and beneficial and are required in trace amounts for optimal human function.  If you take a one way “if it fits my macros” approach, ignoring food quality, or severely restrict any one macronutrient in your diet, it could lead to vitamin or mineral deficiency.  Deficiencies can take years or months to show up or diagnose. If you get sick often, feel “off” or tired most days days, get lots of headaches, feel tired in the morning when you wake up, you could be suffering from one. I recently did a nutritional assessment for someone. They brought a food log of three days. Each day consisted of protein bars, beverages, and coffee up until dinner which was their only meal of real food (protein and vegetables) all day. In this person’s eyes, they were eating all day but wondering why they were so lacking in energy. While a bar or powder can be a good substitute to jumpstart recovery after the gym or hold you over until a meal, they are nutritionally inadequate when consistently consumed in replacement of actual meals of real food. The bottom line is to get your nutrition from real food as absolutely often and consistently as possible. Period.

For times when you are on the road, or decide to go out, use these ordering tips to navigate any menu, make the most out of any situation and not sacrifice your health.

Neighborhood joints you can trust – in my opinion, these are gold. While you can sometimes find decent options at large chains, I would always recommend seeking out smaller neighborhood joints that you can trust- the type of places that will have no problem answering questions on how their food is prepared, what ingredients they use, etc. A trustworthy local restaurant is worth its weight in gold if you are someone who likes to eat out often. When ordering, choose entrees that are protein and vegetable-centric, as opposed to dishes where noodles, pasta, or rice are the main focus. Choose foods prepared in a straightforward way (roasted, baked, grilled), and avoid sticky sauces and and glazes.

Fast chains – Fresh and healthy fast-casual chains are becoming more and more popular. You can definitely find and put together decent options at places like this. When ordering off of the menu- choose lean proteins, olive oil and vinegar for dressing whenever possible, ask for dressings, sauces, and mayo on the side, and if possible skip the cheese and ask for extra protein or avocado instead (or both!). Remember that these tweaks aren’t about making your meal “skinny” or lower in calories – these tweaks will increase your consumption of protein and healthy fats as opposed to ingredients that will weigh you down without adding much added benefit for your health. Regardless of your stance on dairy – like it, love it, or avoid it- cheeses and cream-based sauces and dressings available at chain restaurants are highly processed and will contain a plethora of random ingredients- my recommendation would be to avoid this type of dairy altogether. This isn’t new news, but Panera has a hidden menu that contains lean, protein rich basic bowls without bread. Try it out next time you are there!

While making these adjustments to your order might have you feeling like “that guy” or “that girl” just remember, restaurants are in the business of serving customers and they make permanent changes to their menus based on customer feedback and requests! One example is the gluten free menu craze- They wouldn’t exist if consumers didn’t make their preferences known.


Use these quick tips to stay healthy and not sacrifice your hard earned gains next time you are at a restaurant! If you have any specific questions about ordering out or staying healthy- let us know at crossfitfederalhill@gmail.com