Summertime Fitness – Hydration and Electrolytes

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With summer officially in full swing, it’s prime time to address hydration and specifically clear up some confusion about electrolytes; what they are, where they come from and America’s “drinking problem” of turning to sports drinks as a source. 

What are Electrolytes?

Chemically, electrolytes are either positively or negatively charged particles that, much like ends of a magnet, either attract or repel each other and other particles within the body. This quality helps regulate many processes, most importantly transport across cellular membranes.

Huh?

Let’s drop the science for a bit and drop some real life knowledge on what this means. Think of the last time you were out at the club. Most likely there was security at the door regulating who came in and how fast the line moved (membrane transport.) Once inside, additional staff patrol the floor helping maintain the cool in the club (homeostasis), as well as escorting out those who have had a little too much to drink and have worn out their welcome (metabolic wastes) and those who never should have been allowed to enter in the first place like the creep on the corner with the sunglasses yellin for more Jagah’bombs (free radicals and other foreign substances.) Frequently, the club will reach capacity and the rate new patrons are allowed to enter is strictly regulated and based on the frequency and volume of guests exiting. The club owners want enough guests in the club to ensure maximum profitability, but not so many that other guests or over crowded or that the club itself becomes unsafe. This is a perfect example of the sodium-potassium pumps that play a huge roll in homeostasis within the cells by ensuring that sufficient nutrients enter to maintain cellular function, but not allowing the cellular membrane to burst from excessive intracellular pressure.

The Sports Drink Dilemma…

Sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water and others typically are misbelieved to be the best source of electrolytes and rehydration. While they can work and even be recommended in extreme circumstances for athletes that perform at a very high intensity as well as emergency situations of dehydration and malnourishment, for the rest of us there is one answer to staying hydrated and rehydrating, WATER. First and foremost, like most other nutrients, if your diet and lifestyle are balanced, you are getting sufficient electrolytes from the foods you eat. To rehydrate, you simply need to drink more water, period.

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It is pretty common knowledge that Gatorade and Powerade are loaded with sugar and other nasties. But Vitamin Water is one of the most deliberately misleading products on the market. Reading the label you don’t have to look very far to see that sugar is the second ingredient listed. But wait, it only says it has 13 grams, is that so bad? Look again, that’s 13 grams per serving. At 2.5 servings per bottle that most people drink easily in one sitting, that’s 32.5 grams of sugar per bottle, right up there with many soft drinks. Keep reading and you see many of the same acidic ingredients that with the sugar contribute to tooth decay and other metabolic issues.

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Electrolytes in Food…

Sodium and chloride are found together in foods as NaCl (aka salt) and work mainly in the body as discussed above to maintain fluid balance and cellular function. Common foods containing sodium and chloride are beef, pork, cured meats like sardines, cheese, olives and other pickled items. If you are still eating processed foods, most are made with additional salt, like in the case of deli meats, chips and other snacks, nuts, butter, margarine, mayonnaise and many condiments.

Potassium is found in lots of fruits and veggies,  especially green leafy ones like spinach, turnip greens, collard greens and kale, the obvious favorite bananas, tomatoes, oranges, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes, prunes, raisins, peas and beans. Potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure and prevent bone loss and kidney stones as well as its work in cellular function.

Magnesium, like the others is found in green leafy veggies as well as nuts, legumes and tomatoes. This powerhouse electrolyte also supports bone and teeth development, nerve and muscle function and the activation of enzymes in the body thus supporting other necessary functions in the body.

Hungry for More?

Jump over to Motility Training for Tom Holland’s 6 HOT Tips for Cool Summer Workouts

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

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This has become one of my favorites, and a GREAT cure for those carb cravings. Thanks to Diane Sanfilippo at Balanced Bites

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350° F

Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, pure vanilla extract and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl. Sift in the coconut flour, sea salt, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice and stir until well combined. Gently fold in the cranberries. Add the butter or coconut oil last as they will solidify as they cool to room temp. In a muffin tin, scoop 1/4 cup of the batter into each lined muffin cup, and bake for 35-45 minutes. Enjoy!!! These are also GREAT to make in larger batches to freeze and thaw as needed.

Elevation Time C’mon!!!

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In the words of my homie, Kool and his gang, it’s time to Elevate and have a good time… Well, he would have sang that after one of these burgers…

We’ll spend plenty of time on here focusing on healthy recipes. But, what about when you’re on the go? What about cheat meals? (Yes, it’s ok to cheat, just cheat smart!) Elevation Burger currently 4 locations in Texas (2 here in Austin) and more popping up across the country in California, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia markets. I can’t recommend this place enough. Let’s look at the numbers. The beef is 100% USDA-certified organic, 100% grass-fed, 100% free-range and 100% ground-on-premises. For those of you not quite so paleo, their fresh cut fries are cooked in 100% heart-healthy olive oil.

When I make it here, I’m in carnivore mode, so I stick with the Vertigo. A stack ’em up, build your own burger with your choice of 3-10 patties and your choice of  toppings. All ingredients are locally sourced when practical and contain no trans-fat. The only thing I would change is a little more seasoning in the meat, but that’s an easy fix right before I dig in. I’m happy to add that the condiment counter stocked with real sea salt rather than the processed iodized junk.

With a vision for an elevated product that is fresh and flavorful, made from the highest quality ingredients and sustainably prepared food that is better for you and the environment, ya gotta try ’em out…

Elevation Burger Site

Elevation Burger Nutritional Info

Vertigo Burger at Elevation Burger

Vertigo Burger at Elevation Burger

Pan-Fried Shrimp with Dill

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This is a great one as a quick appetizer or serve right on top of a salad!

3 tbsp Clarified Butter

2 lbs Large Fresh Shrimp

¼ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1 Lemon, juiced

1-2 tbsp Dill, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

1. In large skillet, melt butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, then cook shrimp (seasoned with salt) until reddish-orange and firm, about 2-3 minutes tossing and stirring throughout cooking. Set aside in a serving bowl.

2. In small bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice and dill to make a vinaigrette. Pour over shrimp and toss well and serve warm.

To Paleo or Not to Paleo… Or, Where the Journey Began…

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No way… That can’t be good for you… Wait, you mean you don’t eat any bread or pasta or fill in the blank??? I can’t tell you how many times those words have come out of my mouth when the subject of the Paleo diet came up. To each their own I figured, but I definitely knew it wasn’t for me when the idea was introduced. With a vastly wide range of clients under my watch, many have asked me about the Paleo diet and other low/no carb diets so I wanted to get this info posted.

Where did the Paleo Diet come from?

While the Paleo diet has been around since the early days of the human story before the dawn of agriculture, the modern understanding of it was published in 1975 by a gastroenterologist named Walter L. Voegtlin after studying anthropological evidence of Paleolithic eating habits in an effort to discover methods of treating modern ailments such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. His research pointed to evidence that our ancestors diet consisting mostly of proteins, fats and whatever fruits and vegetables could be gathered was effective in treating many of these conditions. Fast forward to present and there is an overwhelming amount of information being made available on the subject from the likes of Gary Taubes, Robb Wolf and others from print to podcast.

What is the Paleo Diet?

Without sounding too much like a Geico commercial, it’s simple… If a caveman could find, catch or kill it, it’s Paleo. Basic rules:

  • Lean meat, fish and seafood
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • No cereals or grains
  • No legumes
  • No dairy
  • No processed foods

Why Paleo?

Without getting too deep into the exact science behind it, let’s stick to the basic theory for this post. I will get into further breakdowns in future posts or you can read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes or “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. The modern human genetic code is believed to be 99.9% the same as it was 10,000 years ago, several thousand years before the dawn of agriculture. Contrary to what our friends at the American Dietetic Association have to say on the need for grains and complex carbs in our diets, our bodies not only are not made to efficiently process these products, many of the same grains that our tax dollars are spent subsidizing each year are actually making us fatter and sicker.

It essentially comes down to reestablishing hormone balance in our bodies, specifically insulin. Think of insulin as a parking lot attendant controlling incoming traffic, or in insulin’s case the processing and storage of glucose from carbs.  Glucose is processed into glycogen in for storage in the muscles and liver for future use.  Just as the lot attendant has a limited number of spots available, the muscles and liver can only hold so much glycogen. When the lot is full, drivers begin looking for other less desirable places to park such as side streets and alleys. This additional glucose begins being stored in fat cells.

Does it work?

This is a good point for me to tell the rest of my story. As I said earlier, when first introduced to the Paleo Diet, I was 100% sure that it was not for me and skeptical of what results, if any, could be seen from such a drastic nutritional change. But, because I wanted to be able to speak from experience when consulting my clients I committed to a 30 “trial” to see for myself. I figured what the heck, 30 days of suffering and then celebrate with some homemade pasta to carb back up when it was all over.

The first week I almost caved. Around day 5 I was really dragging, trying to focus in class was a struggle and had next to no motivation in the gym. Somewhere in the next couple days I started noticing a significant change in my energy levels, most immediately in my energy when I would wake up in the morning. I keep a pretty crazy schedule between my job, being a full time student, weekly volunteer work at a local hospital and duties in the Guard. If there wasn’t some form of caffeine in my system when I woke up, I was a zombie for the day. This changed almost immediately around that one week mark. I actually felt awake when I would wake up. The next change I noticed was a more sustained level of energy during the day. Does that mean I am bouncing off the wall every day? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that the amount of energy I feel when I wake up is typically how I feel at the end of my day and directly attributable to the quality of sleep I got the night before. Most noticeably, the ups and downs in energy during the day were gone.

Physically I lost 7 lbs immediately in the first week. This was not my desire and was a huge factor in me almost quitting the trial before I lost any more weight. Right around that same 1 week point, I began putting the weight back on and getting back to my normal 172-175 pound range, but I had droped my body fat percentage by 4.5%. I did not notice any noticeable increases in any 1 rep max lifts, but this also could be attributed to the fact that my schedule during the 30 day trial did not allow me to work out more than twice in any given week. I did notice an increase however in my cardiovascular endurance as well as my muscular endurance in pushing for additional distance and reps.

Should you go Paleo?

A better question to ask is, are you committed enough to go Paleo. First and foremost, as I tell every client, get your diet CLEAN! If you are not disciplined enough to maintain a clean diet, you shouldn’t even consider Paleo because you will not commit to it. There is no kinda going Paleo. Prior to my 30 day trial, my diet was clean. If I had a cheat meal it was a loaded baked potato or lasagna, not a trip through a drive through window. Get your diet clean first.

So should you try Paleo? I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation. Only you can decide if it is right for you, but commit to a full 30 days and don’t cheat. Only then will you get a clear picture of what results you will receive. Remember what I said about hormone imbalance. If you cheat in the middle, your body will readjust back to storing fat. Be committed for the full 30 days and then decide if it is right for you.

Famous last words…

No way… That can’t be good for you… Wait, you mean you don’t eat any bread or pasta or fill in the blank??? My 30 days have come and gone and my 30 day “trial” has become a lifestyle from which I can’t imagine going back to my old ways. I’ll let the results of commitment to a strict Paleo Diet and 1-2 days in the gym a week speak for themself…

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