Quick and Easy Whole Food on the Go!

It’s not enough to know we need to prepare nutritious meals at home — we need to have some simple, go-to recipes that make the process easy!  To start your day off right with lean protein and some veggies (and ensure you make it out the door on time), here’s an breakfast recipe with a ton of variation to fuel your morning right!

Egg muffins

Ingredients

Onions
Chopped tomatoes
Any kind of cheese or leave it out if you prefer
Green chillies
Bell Peppers
Spinach
Mushrooms
Shredded carrots
Finely minced garlic
Chopped chicken, turkey, or lean sausage
Eggs 6 beaten with 2 tbsp milk, black pepper to taste

Instructions
Preheat oven at 400° F
Grease your muffin tin
Add vegetables of your choice along with cheese (if you choose), pour beaten egg mixture on it.
Place muffin pan on the center rack of a preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are light brown, puffy, and the eggs are set.
Let muffins cool for a few minutes before removing from the muffin pan or cups. Loosen gently with knife if they seem to be sticking. Eat immediately or let cool completely and store in plastic bag in refrigerator or freezer. The Egg Muffins can be reheated in the microwave.

Easy, right?  And quick!  Add meat or leave it out — same goes for the cheese.  Mix up the veggies to get the maximum amount of variation in vitamins and minerals intake.  Prepare these on the weekend and you can ensure you’ve got enough for the week and you’re all set for easy, no hassle breakfasts packed full of the nutrients you need to start your day off right!

Looking for a way to support you high school athlete? Think about this!

Parents, boosters, and community members put a lot of time and energy into supporting their high school athletes.  The payoff for all that effort is giving these kids the opportunity to learn the life lessons that will help them become hardworking, responsible, ethical adults who understand how to be comfortable outside of their comfort zone.

But athletics isn’t free — someone has to foot the bill.  Concession stand sales has been a staple in fundraising to support school sports but with Type 2 Diabetes in the high school population on a sharp rise, it’s time to take a look at the practice of selling junk food at athletic events.

Yes, we need to continue raising money to support our teams but are we sending the message we really intend?  It’s time to look beyond what we’ve always done and start to rethink whether there are better ways to meet our fundraising goals.

The Difference between Athletes and Hockey Players

“Between the ages of 14 and 17 is when you can build or destroy an athlete. Only one percent will make it to the higher level, but we want 100 percent to remain players for life.”  –Yves Archambault, technical director of Hockey Québec

Ever considered that there is a difference between athletes and hockey players? The Canadian hockey powers have and have decided to take their player development to the next level to ensure the creation of athletes — not just kids that play hockey until they reach their max potential and retire from that sport.

The idea of “Building an Athlete” (BA) grew out of the Long Term Player Development model where the training of youth players is focused on:

  •  doing the right thing for the player at the right stage in their development
    • adopting a player-centered approach
    • viewing player development as a long term process
    • aligning player development resources (skills manuals, DVDs) with coach development and education resources so that coaches are doing the right things at the right time
    • a need to better educate parents on the hockey development of their child

Building an Athlete takes this player development focus one step further to ensure the kids are not only getting great hockey development but are focused equally on nutrition, both mental and physical conditioning, and developing their overall athletic skills.  The basic idea is to do the right thing for each young person’s development both on and off the ice, at the right time in that child’s development.  It is the experts’ opinion this with create higher quality athletes over the next 10 years.

In the U.S., parents often want to ensure the best overall development for their kids through sports but there are occasions where this goal is subverted by the short term need to win game by game or season by season.

It’s time to rethink and fine tune our attitudes about youth sport in the U.S. and decide what, really, is the final product our youth sports programs should be turning out: players or athletes? Do we want kids that understand the importance of winning or kids that understand how to be upstanding people of integrity.

When phrased like that, there seems to be little discussion on what we really want from youth sports — the question is, what are the adults in charge, everyone from parents and coaches to the governing bodies of youth athletics going to DO about ensuring we are raising generations of high quality athletes that will live out the life lessons they’ve learned from the years of play to make the world a better version of what it is today.

 

 

Food, Mood, and the Athlete

You’ve heard the positives (often via commercials) and the negatives (often from foodie purists) on meal replacement “foods”.  These foods are designed to provide, according to the manufacturers, nutrition to fuel performance in easy, convenient packaging for athletes on the go. But our contention has been that something is lost when food goes through the processing it takes to pack all that powdered protein and lab created vitamins into a bar that has a decade long shelf life. Emily Deans just published a great article explaining, in clear terms, why our body NEEDS whole foods.

She, as a practicing psychiatrist with a bent toward how evolution and environment play into mental disorders, has broken down the need for whole foods into two easy to understand ideas (at least as it relates to brain development):

Our brains evolved to work with the raw materials provided by whole, minimally processed foods. Processed foods will interact poorly with the brain in two basic ways:

  1. Unbalanced, micronutrient-poor but calorie rich food leads to overabundant energy without sufficient cellular repair machinery to deal with it, leading to inflammation and damage. It would be like putting purified alcohol in the car in lieu of the gasoline the spark plugs are designed to work with.
  2. Processed foods will introduce novel chemicals, particularly from grains and food dyes that will cause inflammatory reactions in certain people.

As athletes, we know how critical optimal brain function is to high performance.  Concentration, will-power, split-second decision making, and reaction time are critical brain functions.  No matter how much raw fuel and muscle to utilize it the body has, if the brain isn’t functioning optimally, the body won’t be able to either.

So let’s get back to whole foods versus highly processed foods:

When you’re eating whole foods, the macro-nutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) are being consumed in ratios we have, through our evolution, learned how to utilize.  Most high carb foods contain lots of fiber which slows the absorption of the carb, which eliminates the sharp blood sugar spike followed by dramatic blood sugar crash.

Micronutrient (vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, etc.) are also being consumed in ratios that are balanced to the body’s needs.  Which means you are unlikely to miss a nutrient like fat that helps absorb other nutrients like vitamins.  It is likely that nature has provided the means for us to utilize the nutrients in foods in the combinations they are naturally found.

We can’t say the same thing about a meal replacement bar that has had all the fiber stripped out of the grains.  Along with the fiber, many of the vitamins and minerals have been stripped out, as well.  But it all gets added back in, right?  Well…some of the more well-known micronutrients do — but only the ones we have identified and understand.  And adding back does not create the same outcome because micronutrient proportions are going to be much different that those found in nature.

Let’s face it, with water and air pollution, many of our foods (even whole foods) coming wrapped in plastic, we are not living in the world our bodies evolved in.  We are going to suffer some of the effects of our changing environment because we just can’t help interacting with some of what isn’t ideal for us.  And let’s be honest, sometimes, highly processed foods are the most sensible choice we can make.

But…we need to make sure we are truly balancing our short-term needs for convenience, portability, and athletic demands with the long-term needs of ensuring our body is getting the nutrients it needs in a form that it can make use of.

Knowing the Rules so you can break Them

A while back, I found myself part of a discussion with a few of our coaching and PT staff.  It centered around philosophies of running style and how, in an effort to address pain and/or injury, these professionals approach adjusting client’s running form.  The consensus was:

There is not a single best running form for everyone.

Mechanical nuances makes it impossible for a one-size-fits-all running style.  That being said, our physical make-up (two legs, two arms, one spine in more or less good condition) is similar enough that general principles can guide us as we refine our running skills.

Several problems arise when individuals seek to change their running style.  First, they might adopt the Now Trending running form as gospel.  The best example that comes to my mind is barefoot running.  For a brief time, barefoot running was touted as “the best way” to reduce injuries and return to a more “natural” running form.  As the injury rates (and lawsuits) bear out, plenty of people who weren’t injured suffered injuries from this more “natural” gait.

Not all of us are forefoot runners.  Not all of us will unconsciously alter our foot’s landing pattern to the forefoot just because we reduce the level of cushioning provided by our running shoes.  Some of us will continue to clomp along landing heavily and shockwave after shockwave of impact through our feet, knees, hips, and up our spine.

The flip side of that coin? Barefoot running has improved the experience of a select group of runners.  It all depends on what idiosyncrasies you’re bringing to you runs.

A second example is Good Form Running.  With its quick cadence, shorter strides, and focus on arm swing, this is a highly structured running form.  Again, while it’s great for some, this regimented form is going to cause problems for others.

The real keys to being a successful runner are to find a form that optimizes your natural physiology, take time to strengthen both your prime moving muscles AND your joint stabilizing muscles, and to improve the efficiency of your movements.  This is a tall order and takes consistent and intentional training.

If you’ve got pain or suspect your are dealing with a physiological dysfunction, it’s a smart move to get in to see your Physical Therapist sooner than later.  They will work with you to determine the likely source of your problem and suggest ways to improve the situation through form changes, strengthening, or both.

If you’re feeling healthy and strong but want to take your performance to the next level, it may be time to see a Performance Coach.  A gait evaluation, speed work, or perhaps even shoring up your base might be what you need to get you there.

The take home is: although we all have components to our movement that are our very own, we have to know the basic rules of performance before we can tweak them.  And that, more often than not, takes a professional with the skills and knowledge to guide you through the process.

 

Life Lessons from a Champion

Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, you’d had to have been living under a rock to not have heard about Derek Jeter playing the last game of his pro career this last September.  While you likely know about his career and possibly you know about his program Jeter’s Leaders, you may not know he has recently announced a publishing partnership with Simon & Schuster.

What really piqued my interest about this publishing deal is one of the lead books aims to keep kids healthy, educated, AND engaged in sports.  His book The Contract  is set during Derek’s first Little League year and discusses the first baseball contract he ever signed — one drawn up by his dad in an effort to ensure Derek lived up to his responsibilities in all aspects of his life not just in the pursuit of baseball.

From his experiences, he has distilled a list of 10 Life Lessons to help kids grow on along the path to their dreams.

Derek Jeter’s 10 Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams:

1. Set Your Goals High
2. Deal with Growing Pains
3. Find the Right Role Models
4. The World Isn’t Always Fair
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
6. Have a Strong Supporting Cast
7. Be Serious, but Have Fun
8. Think Before You Act
9. Be a Leader, Follow the Leader
10. Life is a Daily Challenge
If you’re struggling to help your youth athletes along their path, this may be a great resource for you.  The credibility of the man who has walked the talk may help them to connect the dots between personal values and athletic success.  In an era of athletes behaving badly, an athlete taking the time to share solid values that can be used for success on and off the field is a refreshing change!

Drinking your meals on the go…some things you may not have thought about

With our busy schedules, shakes and smoothies can seem like a great option for ensuring we get the nutrients we need AND keep ourselves out of the drive-thru lines.

Recently, Fooducate posted an interesting article comparing the benefits of juicing versus blending.  It got me thinking about two important points to consider when deciding whether you should reprioritize so you have time to sit down and chew or whether drinking your meal on the go is an actual necessity.

1. Chewing takes time — which means it is an effective limit on how many calories we can consume in a given amount of time.  The more **processed a food is, the less chew time it takes. Think about how fast you could consume medium McDonald’s shake (700 calories) versus how long it would take you to consume 700 calories of chicken breast (that’s 15 ounces….almost a pound!) Obviously, the chicken would take much longer to eat.

Drinking your calories makes controlling your portion size all the more important.

2. Blenders and juicers are some of the most contaminated pieces of equipment in American kitchens.  As your blending your morning smoothie, are you also drinking high levels of Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold?

Make sure you’re following your device manufacturer’s cleaning instructions or click here for some help!  It is likely that you’re not doing everything you can to ensure your healthful drinks contain only healthy ingredients!

These two reasons are not enough to say drinkable meals are a bad choice — and quite the opposite in the case of blended fruit/veggie smoothies high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.  But you may want to consider balancing out the portability and ease of consumption of your drinkables with salads and lightly prepared foods and making sure you spend some of the time you’re saving my drinking your meal on the go cleaning up the blender you used to prepare that smoothie.

**For this discussion, consider processing anything that happens to the food to move it further from it’s most basic state.  Marinating, cooking, blending, and chewing all break down the chemical structure of food to some extent.  The completeness of this breakdown will determine how quickly the food enters the blood stream in a form useable by the body as fuel.

Are Tight Hips Slowing you Down?

Today’s post is from our Performance Coach, Steve Ball.

Steve Ball

Many exercises work the hip flexors, the front part of the hips, necessary for maximizing speed and quickness. But fewer exercises work the hip extensors, or the glute and hamstring muscles. Too much hip flexion and not enough hip extension can lead to an imbalance called anterior pelvic tilt. Too much of a forward tilt, and you won’t be able to stride through a full range of motion, limiting your power.

Hip flexors are commonly used in abdominal and cardio routines. They are the prime movers in Leg Lifts, Sit-Ups, Decline Sit-Ups, and V-Ups, as well as in elliptical work, the arc trainer, and stair climbing or stepping. High-rep intervals of exercises such as Mountain Climbers and Burpees also work the hip flexors, as do walking and running.

Testing for Overuse

Many people have tightness about the hip and don’t know it. It may feel like stiffness in the front hip or thigh, or it may cause pain or tightness in the lower back on one or both sides. To gauge your hip tightness, try the Thomas Test. Be sure to test both legs.
•Stand at the end of a table or your bed.
•Sit just on the edge, grab one knee, pull it to your chest and lie back, keeping your other leg fully relaxed.

If your thigh starts to come up off the table, the iliopsoas (primary hip flexor) is tight. If your leg begins to straighten, the rectus femoris (front of quads) is tight. In either case, you should avoid excessive hip flexor work and add hip flexor stretching and hip extensor work to your routine, along with hip extensor work.

Remedies for Tight Hip Flexors

If your hip flexors are tight, you should avoid Leg Lifts, Sit-Ups, Decline Sit-Ups and V-Ups. These exercises will only increase hip flexor tightness. Instead, for your core routine, use exercises that specifically target the abdominal wall and lower-back muscles rather than the hip flexors.

Alternate Core Routine:
•Planks – 3 x 30 sec (working your way towards 60 sec)
•Side Planks – 3 x 30 sec (these will be harder, so work toward 45 sec)
•Bridges – 3x 60 sec (easier than planks, focus on using the glutes)
•Roman Chair Back Extensions – 3x 10-12 reps (this exercise needs little weight added to it)
•Stir-the-Pot – 3 x 5 circles each direction (work up to 10 each way)

Also, vary your cardio routine to avoid overuse of any specific joint. Try biking, swimming, rowing or skiing to vary your movements. This is especially beneficial for those who are not runners or those who find it difficult or painful to run.

Lastly, focus on hip extension. Romanian Deadlifts are an especially important exercise, because they help develop the glutes, hamstrings, back and shoulders. Hip Thrusts, Bridges, and Glute Presses are also good for developing the hip extensors.

Hip Extensor Routine:
•Romanian Deadlift – 3 x 12-15 reps
•Rolling Bridge – 3 x 8-12 reps (body weight only, best to use a foam roller under your feet)
•Hip Thrusts – 3 x 8-12 (best to put the upper back and shoulders on a bench with the bar across the hips)
•Glute Press – 3 x 12-15 reps (either a machine or on all-fours with a band)

Be sure to use weight that allows you to complete the set with some discomfort without sacrificing technique. Focusing more on hip extension and less on hip flexion is crucial to avoiding overuse in the hips, preventing improper tilt of the pelvis, and maintaining lower back health.

This article was originally published here.

A Surprising Health Issue for Elite Athletes

Here’s an interesting issue amongst elite athletes:

A new study found that oral health may be a significant problem amongst elite athletes.

Really??  Who knew?  Doctors and dentist have long known an unhealthy mouth can cause be part of greater ill health but I, for one, hadn’t ever given any thought to athletics contributing to greater oral health challenges!

As survey of athletes at the 2012 London Olympics found:

“18% of athletes said that their oral health had a negative impact on their performance and 46.5% had not been to the dentist in the past year.”

This is more than a matter of not taking time to brush (although, how many of you are brushing the literal as the PSA’s recommend?)  Athletes have some special obstacles to overcome when maintaining the health of their teeth and gums.

First, many of the sports drinks, goos, and gels are high in sugar.  That’s exactly what’s needed from a sports performance perspective but from an oral health perspective, the high sugar and acid levels of sports supplements can erode enamel in much the same way soda does.  And even something as simple as dehydration can play a role in tooth decay since saliva acts to prevent erosion and tooth decay.

Added to these issues, athletes, many times, are under nutritional stress as they strive to attain proper nutritional and caloric demands to both fuel their training and meet the everyday demands of maintenance and repair of bodily tissues.

While the study frames the issue for elite athletes, non-elite level athletes face many of the same pressures.  Many studies link oral health to the overall health of an individual and all of us want to live the healthiest life we are able.  So take some time to remember a part of our body we don’t normally consider when thinking of athletic performance: your mouth.  And don’t let the health of your teeth and gums get in the way of your performance.

 

 

Budgeting for what’s important

I recently sat down to create a new financial budget.  As many of you budgeters already know, budgeting when and how you spend you money is a great way to keep yourself financially in tip top shape.  But sometimes, a budget get stale or loses it’s meaning because, over time, goals have been accomplished but new goals haven’t replaced them.  So then, the budget becomes more about an autopilot function, which often, does not serve our best financial interests.

In an effort to be a rockstar home financier, I took some time to research household budgets to see if there were some skills and techniques that could offer better results than the ones I was currently using.  One of the most impactful things I found was one expert’s point that budgets are continually in flux.  Car repairs or other expenses pop up unexpectedly and you have to deal with them somehow.  Hopefully, when that happens, you’ve got enough money in savings to cover those costs and reduce the stress that goes along with unexpected expenses.  Some expenses, however, are not unexpected, like the fact that my heating bill will be increasing as it gets colder.  How much it increases is a little bit of a mystery right now depending on the weather but I can say with certainty, it will increase every month from now until March.  This means, once I get my budget set, I will need to make adjustments to it for the foreseeable changes coming my way AND still keep putting some money away for unexpected expenses.

As I was working all of this out, it occurred to me how similar my time budgeting is to my financial budgeting.  Obviously, like money, we all have a limited amount of time.  We can use that time however we want but if we’re not careful, we could burn through our allotment and not accomplish the things that are really important to us.

As with money, there are always foreseeable time “expenses”, things like work, family dinners, and cutting the grass. There are also unexpected “expenses” like a friend coming into town which means whatever you had planned is likely to get tabled when you make the time visit with them.

Attaining performance goals is just like being successful at attaining financial goals.  It takes time, intention, planning, and the willingness to sacrifice immediate gratification for success that, at times, may be far off in the future.

Also, much like financial budgeting, performance budgeting needs constant evaluation to make sure the process we are using to improve our performance meshes well with the other “expenses” in our lives.  For most of us, performance can be our top priority at some times, but not all the time.  How we budget our time during those periods with unexpected “time expenses” unrelated to performance will mean the ultimate success or failure of our athletic performance over the long haul.

So what do you think?  Is it time to get out the pen and paper and redesign your time budget?  Are you using your training time optimally to ensure you get the greatest return on your investment?  Don’t guess — be sure.  Your ultimate success is riding on your answer.