CARBS – What are they? Why do I need em? What’s the difference between slow, low, and no no carbs?

Several member of Treetop Training and myself are on a group quest to conquer The Whole30. All for one and one for all!!! Along the pathway it seems that some of us have stumbled upon some deep wells of low energy that seem too vast to escape. Hopefully this carbohydrate tutorial will alleviate some of the energy depletion and get everyone back into fighting shape to continue to fend off the terrible sugar dragon (insert eye roll here).

Carbohydrates are macronutrients; they are one of 3 ways the body gets energy (Calories). Fat and protein are the other two ways the body obtains energy. Carbs fuel the CNS (central nervous system – brain & spinal cord) which controls most of the functions of the body and mind. They are important for brain function, mood and memory. The RDA (recommended daily amount) is based on how much the brain needs to function properly. Thankfully, my brain is small and so I don’t need as many. Heh, heh, heh. Yes, an attempt at humor. The truth is, we NEED carbs to thrive and not be as lifeless as a bump on a log.

Carbs are simple and complex, much like most humans. Think about it simpletons can be fun, but are they really as interesting or riveting as a person with a little depth? Lets look at carbs the same way! A doughnut is simply delicious, and that’s about all the good we can say about it. As an example of simple carbohydrates the doughnut is digested and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.  Simple carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs, not to mention that most foods composed of simple carbs are lacking in vital nutrients and therefore a total waste of calories. Examples of complex carbs are potatoes, yams, parsnips, carrots, swede/rutabaga, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash and other starchy vegetables. These vegetables are prime sources of vitamins and minerals that the body needs, as well as excellent sources of carbohydrates. Eating complex carbs like these promote sustained energy.

Sometimes carbs get a bad rap for weight gain, but eating the right kind of carbs can actually help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. This happens because many good carbohydrates, namely the ones WITH skin, are loaded with  fiber. Fiber makes us feel full! Good carbs are also linked to better mental health because they possibly help with production of serotonin in the brain. PASS THE POTATOES PLEASE! “Carbs may help memory, too. A 2008 study at Tufts University had overweight women cut carbs entirely from their diets for one week. Then, they tested the women’s cognitive skills, visual attention and spatial memory. The women on no-carb diets did worse than overweight women on low-calorie diets that contained a healthy amount of carbohydrates.” (Livescience.com)

Not getting enough carbs is BAAAAA-D. Without carbs, we won’t feel energized, ever. Without glucose from the good carbs, the CNS can be disrupted and cause dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, disorientation and hypoglycemia (HANGRY-NESS). Without enough carbs, the body will go after protein as its next fuel source and start chowing down on all the beautiful muscles we’ve worked so hard for.

In closing, if you are doing The Whole30, do not just assume that this is the new and improved Dr. Frankenstein, excuse me Atkins, diet. Your goal is not ketosis. Your goal is to replace simple carbohydrates with enough complex carbohydrates to fuel your brain and body. This requires work, yes, as most things worth having do. We must prepare our carbohydrate sources in advance as vending machines, fast food and cafeterias are not guaranteed to provide us plain baked sweet potatoes or plain baked butternut squash when we feel faint. Please. please, please do not look at this as a “low carb” diet. This is a balanced way of eating full of delicious and nutrient dense carbohydrates that we are made to enjoy!

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Whole30 Review

whole30

For the past 30 days I have been following the Whole30 method for my nutritional intake. Here are the general rules:

Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.

Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking. (And it should go without saying, but no tobacco products of any sort, either.)

Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on. Again, read your labels.

Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).

Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream… with the exception of clarified butter or ghee. (See below for details.)

Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.

Do not try to re-create baked goods, junk foods, or treats* with “approved” ingredients. Continuing to eat your old, unhealthy foods made with Whole30 ingredients is totally missing the point, and will tank your results faster than you can say “Paleo Pop-Tarts.” Remember, these are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, regardless of the ingredients.

See more at: http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/#sthash.73bdlvmR.dpuf

Today is my 30th day following this style of food intake, so I would like to provide a review of my experience with it. Here are the highlights:

First 10 days were pure hell. I had been sugar free except for honey and maple syrup which I obviously was severely addicted to.

After that everything settled down and became the new normal.

I struggled with binge eating before, and I had a few fruit binges (which I attribute to over exercising and not refueling), but overall my chronic bingeing is subsiding.

I don’t weigh myself, ever, so I don’t know the before/after on that but all my clothes still fit the same.

While I don’t feel smaller, my skin feels tighter and my muscles are more visible through my skin, as if maybe I lost some fat.

Never having stuck to any eating plan, except paleo, this was a great accomplishment for me.

Learned that I thrive off of protein way more than carbs, and that I need a proper balance for my body type/activity level at every meal. This means, there is no longer room for mindless consumption. I have to be awake and aware of proportions.

Increased my water consumption to almost 100 oz. a day which is effortless to drink

Experimented with lots of new to me vegetables and meats

Became glaringly aware of my abuse of food and dependance on it as a coping mechanism

Whole30 is as transformative as each person wants it to be. For me it’s been about adopting a healthy and grateful relationship with food, at a higher level of awareness than before starting it. I will continue to practice this way of life indefinitely.

So, overall I think it can be a very beneficial method for identifying food intolerances, creating awareness of mindless eating and learning how to be present in food selections, and it can also help with weight loss. Having gone 30 days with eliminating all of the items listed above, for me the next step is better meal balancing between carbs, fat and protein. Additionally, I feel that I do still have a problem moderating sugar intake, so moving forward to the next 30 days I will be eliminating fruit for at least 5 days out of 7 per week. Food intake will only consist of meals and will not include snacking. Intermittent fasting will also begin in this next 30 day cycle, which for me, means no eating after 7pm and no eating before lunch on certain days of the week.

I am not a nutritionist, so I will not advise that anyone follow this program. I can only say that it is working for me which encourages me to continue to practice and perfect it to my individual needs. With that being said, if you are longing to see the gym results and you have been consistently busting your butt without seeing them, then you need to put your food intake under a microscope. If you continue to do what you did, you will continue to get what you got. Nutrition is the part of the fitness equation that allows your hard work to be seen, so put your fuel on trial and get rid of whatever may be holding you back.

9 Ways to Break the Fast

Breakfast has long been heralded as the most important meal of the day. The ancient Romans frowned upon breakfast because they believed it encouraged gluttony (yeah, ok Caligula and crazy ancient Romans who watched people get slaughtered for fun, clearly they were hangry!). During the Middle Ages and times of extreme religious regimes nightly fasting was rigidly practiced, so by morning time people would be very hungry and ready to break their fast. The Industrial Revolution introduced the structure of a work day and due to the caloric needs required by labor, early meals would be eaten to fuel work. Around the turn of the century some guy named Kellogg, who apparently was not a very tidy chap, left out some boiled maize and it went stale. Cha-ching, Cornflakes arrive on the scene rewarding his mess with a multi million dollar industry! All the neat freaks out there, go ahead and re-read that sentence!!! Shortly after Mr. Kellogg’s discovery of delicious, stale, boiled maize the American government began promoting breakfast as the most important meal of the day. Where the money flows the government goes, and in this case I’m glad they decided to drive the breakfast bandwagon.

Science reveals to us that our brains use 20-30% of our energy intake (food is energy). That is significant when you think about how small the brain is compared with the rest of our bodies. Most of us need, or at least want to be on our A-game at work and skipping breakfast can really impact our performance. Research has shown that routinely skipping breakfast is linked to lower verbal skills, lack of motivation as well as lessened ability to think critically and problem solve. Since the body is so adaptable if we habitually do not eat breakfast, eventually the body will stop sending hunger signals to the hypothalamus and over time the body will progressively have an aversive response to the idea of breakfast. The University of PA conducted a study whereby they found that breakfast skippers scored an average of 4.6 points lower on total IQ than breakfast eaters. We live in a competitive world people! I want that 4.6 point advantage, so pass the egg n’ nana pancakes!

The preventative benefits of breakfast are numerous and range from physiological to psychological. Physiologically, breakfast has been shown to aid in weight loss and weight maintenance, lower blood sugar, insulin and cholesterol which in turn lowers blood pressure. Psychologically, breakfast is tied to maintaining blood sugar levels and avoiding blood sugar spikes and crashes which can exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Withholding breakfast nutrients from your brain and body can result in increased anxiety symptoms, panic attacks and a low affect.

Hopefully by now you are on board with breakfast. So lets extinguish the excuses for evading it!
Excuse: I just don’t have time in the morning.
Solution(s): Get up 10 minutes early, Prep the night before, have a portable option you can eat on the go.
Excuse: I’m not hungry.
Solution: If you start eating breakfast regularly your body will begin to signal the hypothalamus in your brain so that you will start to want breakfast again. It may take 1-2 weeks.
Excuse: Breakfast makes me ravenous around 10am.
Solution: Eat a breakfast that includes protein, drink plenty of water all morning, and for pete’s sake you can have a snack at 10am if you’re feeling hungry!
Excuse: I have no desire to prepare anything.
Solution: There are things you can eat that require zero prep.

This brings us to 9 suggestions of how to incorporate breakfast into your healthy and busy lifestyle.

Night Before Prep Breakfast Ideas:
1. Chia pudding
2 tbsp. black chia seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened plain almond milk
dash of cinnamon
1/2 banana
a few berries or strawberries
7-8 raw almonds

Combine seeds, cinnamon and milk in small bowl or large mug, stir. Slice fruit and add to mixture with almonds. Let sit overnight. Consistency is like tapioca.
more about the health benefits of chia seeds here: http://www.nuts.com/cookingbaking/chia-seeds/premium.html

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2. Egg muffin cups
8 eggs
8 ounces cooked meat, crumbled
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced onion
dash of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ). Grease 8 muffin cups (with coconut oil) or line with paper liners.
Beat eggs together in a large bowl. Mix meat, bell pepper, onion, salt, black pepper, and water into the beaten eggs. Pour egg mixture evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake in the preheated oven until muffins are set in the middle, 18 to 20 minutes

3. Stuffed Sweet Potato
1 Small sweet potato
1 boiled egg
1/4 avocado
1/4 tsp. salt
drizzle of 100% maple syrup

Bake sweet potato in microwave
Mash up boiled egg and 1/4 ripe avocado and salt
Slice open baked potato, stuff egg and avocado in, drizzle very lightly with 100% maple syrup.
(You may want to heat this up in the morning, but it will only take 45 seconds!)

Super Speedy on THE GO ideas:
1. 2 Boiled eggs, banana
http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-boil-eggs-perfectly-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-202415
2. Unsweetened greek yogurt mixed with a few berries or banana, sweetened with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. If you are eating the fat free yogurt add a few raw almonds
3. Low Sodium Ezekiel Bread English Muffin with 1 tablespoon of natural nut butter and either a few apple or banana slices

The Morning of Ideas:
1. Open Faced Egg Sandwich
1 piece Low Sodium Ezekiel Bread
1/4 avocado
onion slices
tomato slices
leafy green of your choice
2 eggs
garlic powder
cayenne pepper
salt
turmeric

Prepare eggs in your preferred style and season with above spices to your taste preference. Stack 1 piece of toast from the bottom up: leafy green, tomato, onion, avocado, eggs. Eat with a fork and knife and savor!
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2.Treetop Smoothie:
Large handful of washed spinach or kale
handful of frozen strawberries
1/2 large banana or whole small banana
1 scoop garden of life raw protein powder
1 tbsp. natural nut butter
8-10 oz. unsweetened plain almond milk

Throw all above ingredients in the blender. If it is not green, then you need to add more greens! Yum yum yum!!!!!

3. Egg N’ Nana Pancakes
2 eggs
1 ripe banana
dash of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder

Mash banana in bowl, add dry ingredients and 2 eggs. Stir all together. In skillet heat either 1 tsp. coconut oil, olive oil or just a clean cooking spray. Slowly pour “batter” into skillet in pancake form. I’ve heard if you have heat resistant cookie cutters you can actually pour the batter into those forms. It should make about 3 pancakes. Watch the pancakes closely. When bubbles start to appear on top of the pancakes, it’s time to flip them. They aren’t like yo momma’s pancakes, so you have to be careful and they likely won’t look perfect, but your body does not care. Cook the other side and serve it up with some fresh berries and a small drizzle of 100% maple syrup.

That’s all Treetoppers! I hope this is a helpful and convincing case for breakfast. Have a great day and thanks for reading!