MVI part 2

Part 2 is kind of going to be a Debbie Downer, but I want to be blunt and truthful about multivitamins and the manufacturing companies that push them.


We left off talking about products…What about all the kinds of multivitamins? One-a-day, three-a-day, six-a-day, a gajillion-a-day? With iron, without iron? Centrum©, GNC©, Nature’s Way©? Have you been to Whole Foods lately and experienced the shelves on shelves of multivitamins?? It’s overwhelming to say the least. I consider myself ucky that I previously had a job where I learned a lot about different supplements and got to know the reps and the research, so I feel pretty legitimate in giving you advice in this area. So let me give you the low-down.

What to know about the FDA

First of all, something you may not know is that the FDA does not regulate supplements. There are no guidelines or quality controls placed by the FDA like there are for pharmaceuticals. And unfortunately, US manufacturing companies want the cheapest materials possible so they can stay competitive and maximize profits, possibly at your health’s expense. Most companies do little or no testing of their raw materials or finished products.  In 2007, the FDA finalized the current dietary supplement Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) which allows individual US manufacturing companies to come up with their own guidelines. There are certain guidelines companies must follow to ensure safety, consistency, quality, purity, and potency of their dietary supplements, but they are loose and, like I said, determined by the company. The FDA is highly unlikely to enforce compliance and the only time the FDA gets involved is after voluntary re-calls. Aka after the damage is done. Does this freak you out?! Freaks me out!

What to know about products

Now that you are warned let’s discuss what to look for when shopping for a multivitamin. Individual preference will determine how often you want to take a pill. Technically taking a three or six-a-day will contribute a larger safety net, because as I eluded to earlier, sometimes vitamins compete for absorption and taking a pill with food will also change how you digest the nutrients in the supplement. Taking it multiple times spreads out the opportunity to meet your needs. Taking multiple pills a day may be easier on your digestive tract if you are sensitive, as some consumers report discomfort from consuming such a high dose at once. But if you are like me and can’t remember to take a pill to save your life, than a one-a-day would be better for you.

Iron or no iron? Men don’t need added iron because 1) men tend to get enough iron from high biological value sources like meat (pass the bacon) and 2) men have a harder time excreting the extra iron beyond what is needed and that can cause hard black poop. Sorry to be blunt. Women need the extra iron because we don’t tend to be meat-heads and we lose a lot during a certain time of month. Again, sorry to be blunt.

If you are a planning or expectant mother, look for a multivitamin that has DHA added. This is a by-product of omega-3’s that supports brain and spine development. Some multis might even list it as added fish oil. Or you can take a fish oil separate in addition to your multi if you don’t want it all combined, but DO NOT forget to take fish oil at this time. You want your baby to be sharp and developed!

Now for the brands. No labels will say FDA approved or give you any insight as to how the manufacturing went down, so this can be real tricky. But this is what I like and learned from my previous job. This brand Mega-Food© is pretty awesome. When you read the label instead of reading “ascorbic acid” or “beta-carotene” or other sciency terms, you will read “oranges” or “carrots”. This supplement is made from actual food sources, not synthetic things created in a plant. The foods are all from organic produce, spirulina, and yeast. The doses are much lower than what you typically find on a label as well. Because the vitamins and minerals come from actual food sources, they absorb much easier and naturally in your body. Meaning you will likely get what you think you are getting and you won’t experience any discomfort in the process. Also, as of summer 2011, this brand was the only brand that made a children’s multivitamin with zero sugar. If that’s important to you as a parent, keep this brand in mind.

megafood-vitaminsI also like Vitamin Code©, I worked with their reps a lot and they are good people and represent a good company (unless they are fooling us all!). Their multi’s are considered “raw” meaning they add live probiotics and enzymes in addition to the vitamins and minerals. This helps the absorption and will help your gut stay healthy! Alive© is another good brand that has raw products and actual fruit and vegetable ingredients. So I would say those are my top 3.


In conclusion I will quote Michael Pollan:

“If it is a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t”

But as a second conclusion I would like to reiterate myself and state that at the end of the day you have the choice to do whatever you want. I don’t want to be too pessimistic about multivitamins because they can be great. I order them for patients who need them at the hospital all the time. But take this new information I have provided you and consider these points when choosing a multivitamin. And if you can help it, just eat good food instead.



MVI- medical slang for multivitamins.

What do you think about multivitamins: yes, no, maybe so?

WARNING: This post may be a bit long and broken up because I want to focus on two parts:
1) Who should take multivitamins and why  &

2) What to be weary of when choosing a product

Tens of millions of U.S. adults take multivitamins. In fact, I read somewhere that around 47% of the US population take multi’s. But why? Of course we know that vitamins are quote “life sustaining amines (minerals)” for our bodies and without the essentials like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin A or biotin we would have scurvy, rickets, night blindness or hair loss, respectively-  but why take a supplement? My answer: I have no idea.

You see, I am a foodie. I believe in food, not pills. We can easily get all the vitamins and minerals we need from eating good food. Sure some may be harder to get then others (i.e. vitamin D only comes from fortified dairy or the sun, while b vitamins are in almost any fruit or vegetable, grain, or enriched product), BUT it is completely possible to avoid deficiencies by  consuming edible things. If you can, save your money and skip the supplement aisle and go straight to the produce aisle.

Now there is a caveat, some population groups do need to supplement. Woman who are/ have any chance of being pregnant benefit from taking a multivitamin. This is a time of life where the demand for nutrients is (obviously) increased and a supplement can ensure the extra requirements are met. Especially to make sure you get the right amount of folate to avoid spina bifida, cleft palate, or other congenial defects. Same goes for old folks. Elderly experience a lot of physiological changes as the years wear on, and one consequence is decreased digestion and absorption capabilities. So even if you are 90 years old and eating your fruits and veggies like a boss, you might still need to supplement- especially Vitamin D and calcium or vitamin b12 or folic acid which are better absorbed in their synthetic form. Also any sort of conditions that prevent you from getting enough vitals orally. Such as illness, a diagnosed deficiency, metabolic disorders, etc. Or if you are straight up picky and refuse to eat fruits and vegetables, then you better take a multivitamin for your safety net.

If you are currently taking a multivitamin, and based of the previous paragraph, you feel you don’t actually need it, I’m not forcing you to quit. If you want that comfort each day knowing your gums won’t start bleeding and rot out or you will have super vitamin B energy, I wont take that form you. But be wary…

If you are getting more than enough water-soluble vitamins (the b’s, and vitamin C) you will just pee it out. A lot of times your blood will saturate with a vitamin at a certain dose and anything beyond that just goes to waste. For example: most vitamin C tablets or chewables come in 500 -1,000 mg doses, but your blood levels saturate at 250 mg and excretes the rest. So if you actually want to get your 500 mg in, cut the pill in half and take it twice a day. But this makes a good point here: are you actually absorbing or getting what you think you are out of a multivitamin? Or are you literally wasting your money? And what about vitamins and minerals that compete for the same absorption sites- are you going to absorb the calcium or the iron when you take your multi? Because it’s most likely going to be one or the other.

This will lead us into what kind of product to look for. So I will cut here. Please stay tuned. Happy Saturday.


Celebrity Night

You guys. Last night was the greatest night! I got to meet my long time hero!! This dude.

photo(5)If you don’t know who this is, you should get to know who this is. It’s

Michael Pollan!

Michael Pollan is an author of several amazing books including: Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. He is in documentaries including: Killer at Large and King Corn. Plus he writes regularly for the New York Times. I love love LOVE all of his books and articles. A couple weeks ago I had a job interview and they asked me who my hero was and I said Michael Pollan- no joke. He is my hero because he knows what’s up when it comes to food and nutrition. He is so versed and his research is pretty ground breaking. But not only that, I idolize him because of his ability to connect with the average Joe. He has this really easy-going yet highly motivating way about him. He was completely captivating to listen to, and he reinforces my passion for nutrition and explains why I do what I do. (I didn’t get the job by the way, maybe I should have said my mom or Mother Theresa)?

But that’s enough of my public display of affection. I was able to hear him speak last night on his new book Cooked. To sum it up, Michael Pollan has discovered and decided that the way to attain good health is to spend more time in the kitchen. There’s so much confusion in regards to nutrition and diet and so much all muddled in between. But maybe the answer to good health is really as simple as cooking more. And not the type when you nuke something in the microwave for 2 minutes and call it good. In fact, he made this interesting point: His research has found that the average amount of time people spend cooking each day has decreased over the past 2 decades to a mere 37 minutes. Total. With 4 minutes a day for cleaning up. So what can you assume about that type of cooking? Ahem, Fridays potatoes skins and Stouffers lasagne… And look whats happened to our obesity rates over the same time period…

I can’t give a thorough review of the book because I am not quit finished. I just have about 415 pages left. BUT I am already captivated. There are recipes, humor, nutrition facts, etc. You will laugh and cry and mostly want to get off your butt and spend more time in the kitchen!

photo(4)Did I mention in 2010, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world?

photo(1)I was so giddy when I met him! I wanted to tell him I used his research to complete a policy analysis on school nutrition, and that I used his articles to debate the reorganization of government agriculture subsidies, or at least tell him that he is my hero, but instead all I got out was: “Thank you, thank you so much, really thank you.” I didn’t even take a breath in between those three identical phrases. Gah!

photo(2)We love each other already.

Also, I cannot fail to mention that during the question/answer portion I was selected to ask my question. ME. Out of 15 people raising their hands. And it was like magic because as he was answering my question, he stared right at me. He literally granted me 5 minutes of uninterrupted eye contact. It was like no one else was in the room. Just he and I. Now would also be a good time to mention that I am happily married to my #1. MP comes next though!

P.S. I titled this celebrity night because Ty Burrell was also there. Local celeb night.

Spinach for Breakfast

Let’s talk about breakfast. Why is it sooo many of you don’t eat breakfast!? I guess I can’t relate because hunger comes simultaneously with waking up for me. But still, after all the excessive research (good luck with the thousands of articles there), people still struggle.

{Key high lights of the research include:}

breakfast jump starts your metabolism

breakfast increases focus and concentration at work and school

breakfast can promote good blood sugar control

breakfast is associated with fewer calories consumed over the day

breakfast can add more energy throughout the day

breakfast can control excessive hunger, etc

It’s not really news that when you skip breakfast or wait until the afternoon to eat, you will likely over-eat to compensate for the missed meal. Breakfasts skippers or two-meals-a-day-ers almost always eat more for lunch and dinner or from the handful of snacks in between then they would have otherwise if they just ate a good breakfast.

But let’s talk about the quality of breakfast as well. Say you are in a hurry to get to work, and low and behold sitting right on your counter in front of you is some left over lemon cake from the night before. So you crab a slice and chug down some o.j. (at least you were thinking of Vitamin C). By about 10-10:30 you start to feel a little sluggish. You’re even starting to feel hungry and some unknown gravitational force is pulling you towards the vending machine. The problem here is, although you ate breakfast and got a pretty good amount of calories down, the nutrients in your breakfast = straight sugar. Sugar or simple carbohydrates digest in your body very quickly and leave your stomach empty and feeling hungry in about 2 hours. Typically, when eating a healthy balanced diet, we should feel satiated for around 4 hours post meal. Feeling hungry so soon will cause snacking and/or starving and then binging at lunch.

So what’s a healthy breakfast? Anything that has some complex carbs -which take longer to digest because of the ridiculously long carbon chains- or protein and fat which slow gastric emptying and digestion. It also doesn’t hurt to get some fruits or veggies (yes I said veggies) in at breakfast because if you need >5 servings a day, you better start packing them in! What I really encourage people to do though, is get protein in first thing in the morning. It’s the only way I ever make it to lunch time without collapsing in hunger.

Breakfast ideas:

  1. Scrambled eggs– Although I am not a huge egg fan and this sounds boring, I have found this to be the golden breakfast. For one you get the good protein, but also it’s the best way to use up your left over produce! Throw in some spinach or leefy greens, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, potatoes, you name it. Scramble it all up with a little cheese and s&p and you have a healthy recycled breakfast!
  2. Green smoothies- I am all about this trend. No you do not need a Vitamix or crazy expensive utility, I use my $30 hand-me-down Oster blender. Throw in any leafy greens you have (expect maybe not ice berg lettuce…) some milk or juice, berries, bananas, oranges, some greek yogurt or protein powder, some peanut butter, some flax, etc and blend a delicious breakfast together.
  3. Oatmeal– high fiber= feeling full for a while! Add berries, milk, and nuts to add some extra something something. Instead of brown sugar try some agave, a little goes a long way.
  4. Left Overs- This isn’t a joke. When you are in a hurry, why not have left over salad or soup for breakfast? I have even had cold chicken breast and potatoes (something about not reheating it makes it seem more breakfasty). Try it sometime- I dare you.
  5. Greek yogurt and fruit- there are a million varieties on the grocery store shelves these days. Greek yogurt provides more than double the protein content as your regular yogurt. This stuff is designed to keep you full and focused. And definitely satisfied because it’s delicious!
  6. Protein bars- this is my go to when I am in a hurry. Take one on the road or snack on it throughout the morning. My favs are Cliff bars, Balance Bars, and Think Thin bars.
  7. Breakfast salad– a little combination of all the above. Combine fruit (apples are a really good one to have for this), some nuts, some sprouts, and a dollop or two of greek yogurt to make a fruit salad of sorts.

Now that you have some recipes to get you through the week, go out and do it! IMG_2933** cut down the time it takes to prepare your green smoothie- chop up all the ingredients before in individual baggies, freeze, and add to the blender with milk and juice and you’re on your way!

IMG_2934I am pretty serious about my protein bars!

Some bad news, some good news

As the title suggests, I have some bad news and some good news. I will start with the bad so we can end with the good, obviously.


Have you seen this article floating around the world wide web? I highly suggest reading it before continuing on with my post, but if not (it is a free country) I will brief you…

So there’s this company, Monsanto (which I will explain more in a minute), and they’ve gone ahead and gotten President Obama to pass a bill that basically provides sanction to the continuation of growing genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds. I will not go into too much detail regarding GMO’s and GE’s now, because that’s a topic for another day, but this is what the bill means:  It gives the go ahead to continue to plant and sell man-made crops, even if the health risks are unanswered. This means the USDA cannot regulate Monsanto’s production of GMO’s. Monsanto can continue to plant and sell these foods to us and we will have no idea (GMO labeling is not required or available on any food packaging at this time). So if that isn’t troubling enough, my biggest issue is the power the government is giving this company. So let me elaborate more on that.


Monsanto = The devils. They have basically monopolized the agriculture business here in the U.S.A. They have a lot of money and lot of power. Companies like this seriously influence politicians and several laws that can affect you and I, and they usually don’t have the people’s best interest in mind. For example, the MyPlate method, or previously, the Food Guide Pyramid, has been under revision for over a half-century because constant battles between health and medical scientists (who advocate health) and big corporations like Monsanto, the dairy industry, and the meat industry (who advocate profits). Who do you think usually wins the battles?

Monsanto specializes in growing corn, soy beans, and cotton because the government subsidizes these crops. Doesn’t sound too bad yet? Well there are some problems:

First, soy and corn are in EVERYTHING, and usually not the good stuff. Soy lecithin is a common ingredient found in everything processed (check labels of your Kudos bars and Cheetos and you will find it) and corn makes good ole’ high fructose corn syrup, which is also in most things processed. Corn is the number one thing we are feeding our live stock. Not fresh grass that is high in omega-3’s and healthy vitamins and minerals, but rather processed corn meal. Kids eat processed corn, our cows eat processed corn, and we all end up with diabetes and heart failure. Too dramatic? Check out this article for more detail.

Another problem is this thing called mono-cropping. Have you seen either of these?food-inc 610jXoOi8hL







I am no dummy, I know these documentaries are a major form of propaganda, but they do describe the mono-cropping business well. Basically soil likes diversity. Most crop scientists and farmers know that to have successful crops and healthy soil you switch out what you grow year-to-year. So one year you might choose to grow potatoes, and the next year on the same plot of land, you could grow onions, the next year turnips. What happens when we crop the same thing over and over (ahem, corn) ? Well maybe we need a crop scientist to explain better, but basically it corrodes the soil. The crop yields year-to-year will lessen, the product will be challenged, and eventually we are going to ruin the ability to farm and plant on our own country’s soil. Imagine the day when even in the summer months, prime harvest season, all our tomatoes are from Chile and our berries are from Switzerland?

That may not matter to many people, but think of the carbon footprint traveling food all over the world leaves? From semi’s, to jets, to cargo ships, we are using a lot of energy and consequently polluting the earth. I will tell you what, I am sick of the Smog Lake City status! Also, think of the thousands of failing farms that are forced out of business because of the big wigs like Monsanto who are in it to make a quick profit for the cheapest cost, regardless or the consequences for our crops, health, or local farmers. And if all of this isn’t convincing enough, when there is a zombie apocalypse and exporting/importing food goes to boot, I hope we have some food laying around here on our own soil!

Feeling overwhelmed much? Well not to worry, here comes the good news!!


We still have a lot of agency and choice when it comes to our health and food choices. It may seen unrealistic that we as individuals can do much to combat companies like Monsanto, or the policies that govern our lives, but there are small things we can always do.

One of the things I was the most passionate about during school was sustainable food systems. I heart supporting local food business. From farmers markets, community gardens, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) we can get involved and make a difference. CSA’s, for those who don’t know, are partnerships between local farmers and consumers who buy shares in the farm in exchange for weekly supplies of fresh produce. This partnership provides small-scale farmers with economic stability, while ensuring consumer participants high-quality produce usually below retail price. Plus it definitely lessens the carbon-footprint and CO2 emissions when we are getting our produce from less than 20 miles away.

My friend referred me to Utah Farms CSA. and I loooove my baskets! We have been getting varieties of lettuce, sprouts, eggs, cheese, honey, potatoes, and onions and surprises like juice and barely. And, I have actually been saving money on my monthly grocery bill because with every basket they provide recipes to use the ingredients. I spend less getting the few extra items I need to make the delicious and super nutritious meals.

I am getting so excited just writing about this right now. I want everyone to sign up! If this isn’t turning you on, consider some other ways to eat locally.

The farmers markets will be open for business soon! Or when you grocery shop, look for local products usually designated by this sign: images

Check out Edible Wasatch magazine for lists of several local places to eat or buy delicious goods. And if nothing else, try planting something yourself (this is my major summer goal) even if it’s as simple as a basil plant.

Food is a most precious commodity, and I am really excited about eating locally and empowering ya’ll to make good choices everyday so that one day (a girl can dream) big corporations won’t dictate the food future of our nation or the people’s well being. Power to the people!

P.S. Check out the recipes section for some recipes included with my baskets this past month!


So it’s back to school for me. Which means less blogging, not that I do this regularly anymore, and more topics coming straight to you from my classroom. Because I am learning some cool stuff and I am excited to share.

Today’s topic is population interventions. No, that does not mean new forms of birth control or China like implications. It means, how can we change our environments to allow communities (populations) to be more active, healthy, nourished, etc? I am loving this concept lately. We tend to heavily focus on individual counseling and health education to better our health. Which I am all for. That’s what my career is, that’s how I spend my days. But I am getting really excited about this notion that making changes at a population level is more effective and, in this case, fun.

Have you heard of The Fun Theory campaign by Volkswagon? This is precisely the point I am making and what I want to get involved in . PAHLEASE check out these vids. I promise you will love them…

So aren’t they cute? I mean, there is the whole issue that none of these ideas are cost effective or really practical, but I want to take this to heart to make health practices more fun.

“Change things in order to make the right

                               behaviors easier to enact”

Thank you for indulging me in this non-nutrition topic. Next up. Why do Japanese live the longest. The answer has some nutrition involved…

My Favorite Thing

A lot of my friends have gotten pregnant or had a baby this summer it seems. Crazy to be in that phase of life… but the beauty of new babies is that they remind me of my favorite thing ever. For those of you who know me well, you know what’s coming…


Yes, that’s exactly right. Breastfeeding. In my English 2010 class we had to write a persuasive research paper, and my professor encouraged us to think of a topic we are very passionate about so it would be easy to defend. Well after two weeks of trying to come up with something I was more passionate about then Deron Williams, I started my paper “The Breast is Best”

So ladies, truly the breast is best. Let me tell you why. First of all, human milk contains over 200 components, most of which cannot be duplicated in formulas. It’s been said that “human milk is an elegantly designed natural resource.” I want that framed in my bedroom. Elegant is the truth! Human milk is formulated to act as a sole source of complete nutrition for infants for up to sixth months. The composition of milk is changeable over a single feeding, over a day, or over the first few months of life. What I am saying here, is that human milk can change the composition of vitamins, fat, protein, etc to be exactly what the infant needs. No switching up formulas, adding vitamins, or stressing. And not only is breast milk formulated to nurture, but also to protect infants from infectious and chronic diseases. Can your Enfamil do that for you? NO!
So let me lay out the difference for you here:

This is a chart provided by WIC (a national program from Women, Infant, and Children). Look at all those fabulous things that you can only get from breastfeeding alone. Even from the very beginning, the first 3 days after an infant is born, the woman produces colostrum. Colostrum is a thick yellowish fluid that contains secretory immunoglobulin A and lactoferrin. Why is this important? Well exposing your infant to these immunoglobulins so early in life will set their immune system up for good health the rest of their life. Numerous studies show that breast-fed babies have stronger immune systems.

Other benefits for the baby:

  1. Human milk is isosmotic and meets the requirements for infants without having to add other fluids.
  2. Human milk has a lower protein content than formulas, and therefore will not overload the immature kidneys with nitrogen.
  3. Whey protein in human milk forms a soft easily digestible curd (aka you wont get those clay-like diaper surprises like those you find with formula fed infants.)
  4. The higher cholesterol content in human milk has been linked to lower serum cholesterol levels in people later in life who were breastfed.
  5. Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), promote optimal development of the central nervous system. (Side note- some formulas now contain DHA, but others do not.)

On the flip side, babies who are formula-fed compared to breastfed infants are more likely to have: pneumonia or asthma, ear infections, diarrhea or constipation, allergies, meningitis, UTI’s, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and illnesses in general. I know this seems shocking and a little scary? But the studies don’t lie.

And let’s quickly talk about the benefits for momma’s. One time I over heard two ladies talking about the arrival or their unborn bebes. One (who was expecting her first) was discussing her indecision whether to formula feed or not. The other (who was a veteran mother) quickly jumped in with the affirmative; yes she should absolutely NOT breastfeed. Her reasons were because “you will feel like a machine, always tied down to dish out the milk. You’re body won’t feel like your own, you will be tired, and you will never feel sexy” Seriously, she said that. Well I won’t argue with the last statement, but I was ready to jump in and print them off a copy of “The Breast is Best!” I did not want this total stranger to miss out on the mommy benefits.

Benefits for Mom

  1. Breastfeeding stimulates the hormone oxytocin (needed for milk ejection) which stimulates uterine contractions to return the uterus to non-pregnancy size. What’s sexier than that?
  2. Breastfeeding delays the return of fertility for the duration (aka save some bucks on birth control!)
  3. Many women who breastfeed experience psychological benefits, including  increased self-confidence.
  4. And need I mention the bond that is formed between the mother and the baby. Every mother I know who chose to breastfeed says it was the most special time to attach and grow close to their new infant.
  5. But if that’s not a good enough reason, lactating can require up to 500 calories a day, so those who breastfeed typically get back to their pre-pregnancy weight much quicker. So if the gym isn’t for you, you should highly consider breastfeeding.
  6.  And finally, women who nurse at a younger age and for a longer duration have lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

I apologize if this post is uncomfortable. Should I be concerned that talking about breasts and uterine contractions are so easy for me? Maybe it’s just obvious WIC should offer me employment. Please check out their website, I will post it again. WIC. If you need more advice as to how to actually go about breastfeeding, this is your link. They offer classes and employ amazing mentors. This is also a good one. There are no excuses, unless you have AIDs.

You know you want me…

News update: 

I am available, willing, and excited to offer you my nutrition services!

  • Do you know anyone looking for a private nutrition counseling session?
  • Are you or someone you know interested in personalized meal plan?
  • How would you like someone to help you with your meal planning and grocery shopping?
  • Or do you need a guest speaker for an event, class, seminar, etc?

I want to help you out!

Please check out my contact information under the “About” tab and feel free to contact with me if you are interested in any sort of nutrition coaching. I love love teaching at an individual or group level and would happy to arrange something with you or a friend. So spread the word; it’s never too late to live happy and healthy!

Carbs and Exercise

Alright all you activity goers, let’s talk carbohydrates and how to select them. Remember the tid bit here about how carbs store as glycogen in the liver to be used during activity? Keep that in mind during this discussion.

Our carbohydrate needs is one the most controversial topics in the nutrition,dieters, and exercise world. This is because there is no official requirement for this nutrient class. There is no such thing as a carbohydrate deficiency (there is such thing – and seen too much in third world countries – fat and protein deficiencies) because there are no essential carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be produced in a lot of different ways in our bodies if necessary, and there lies the problem. How can we set a minimum or maximum requirement?

Dieters always want to cut out carbohydrates and fill up on protein, but those who follow high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets will find themselves pretty fatigued half way through their exercise routine. But wait, can’t fat be converted to glucose to be used for energy during work outs over 20 minutes? Yes, but this process is slow. If your body is already low on fuel (aka glucose) you are going to feel totally drained before the fat converting magic even happens. If you don’t feel energized you can’t finish your work out. If you can’t finish your work out, you won’t burn calories, If you don’t burn calories your diet really isn’t going to help much in the end. See the problem?

But on the flip side, sometimes we go over board with the whole carbohydrate and exercise thing. The best example I can think of is 5k races. So a little over three miles, this race can easily be done in 30 minutes if you jog. Yet, we have a station half way through passing out Gatorade and orange slices. And then when we complete the race they hand out bagels and chocolate chip cookies. Those who organized the race must know a thing or two about running and nutrition, right? So I need to fill up with everything the 15-year-old volunteers throw at me, right? Wrong. The volunteers aren’t handing it to you because it is the best nutritional choice for you, but rather it was donated and the people have grown to expect and demand it! The truth, you don’t need to carbo load for a work out like that. Whatever stores you have from dinner the night before should be sufficient, and calories still count! A person burns around 300 calories during a 5k race, and one cinnamon sugar bagel and a swig of Gatorade will cost you around 600. Owch.There goes all your hard work to complete that race!

So where is the balance? Remember this chart I told you I would come back to? Find where you think your calorie range is by multiplying your weight in kg (divide your pounds by 2.2) by 25-30. Use 25 if you are sedentary or trying to lose weight, 30 if you are extremely physical or trying to gain weight.

ex- a 120 lb female who jogs 45 minutes a day

120 lbs / 2.2 = 54

27   (medium activity level for weight maintenance)

54 x 27 = 1458 kcals/ day

Once you find your calorie level, look at how many calories should be from carbohydrates when using the 50-25-25 rule. So our example 120 lb female, let’s call her Rapunzel. would need around 700-725 calories of carbs or 175 grams (4 calories per gram of carbohydrate) per day. So what choices does she have and what does that mean in real life? Rapunzel doesn’t count calories…

The best carbohydrates you could select are those that are fiber-rich and/or have a high water content. Eating these types of foods will slow your digestion, help you feel full, and give you lasting energy during your work outs. These complex carbs would be fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Obvi.  A lot of people get this notion that a calorie is a calorie, a carb is a carb, I’m going to have a danish pastry before my runs and fill up on donuts the rest of the day. Well first of all, people really tend to overestimate how much they actually burn off, and secondly, even if you stay in your calorie allotment, you’re body isn’t going to sustain its glycogen stores as well with these simple sugars. So prepare yourself to consistently consume good complex carbohydrates if you want to slim down or perform at your best.

Now the good part. What to pick. Print this out and put it on your refrigerator, please.

Best Carbohydrates

Fruits (60 calories per serving)

Apple, orange, pear, nectarine: 1 small (tennis ball size)

Peach or plum: 1 medium (fist size)

Banana – 1 small (5-inch) –mostly we eat bananas that count as two serving sizes…

Kiwi: 1 whole

Grapefruit- 1/2 of whole fruit

Grapes- 1 cup or 17 if you want to be exact

Cherries- 12 to be exact

Berries – 1 cup

Mango: 1/2 small

Tangerines or clementines : 2

Pineapple: 3/4 cup diced (can you dice pineapple? you know what I mean…)

Canned fruits (no syrups added): 1/2 cup

Vegetables (25 calories per serving)

Raw vegetables : 1 cup

Cooked vegetables : 1/2 cup (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbaef, green beans, eggplant, onions, etc)

Green pepper: 1 whole

Asparagus: 7 spears cooked/ 14 spears raw (please tell me if you eat these raw!)

Leafy greens: like 5 cups

Carbohydrates to Choose with Caution (aka watch portions)

High-starch vegetables (80 calories per serving)

Beans(black, lima, kidney, pinto, etc): 1/3 cup

Corn: 1/2 cup

Corn on the cob: 1 medium ear

Peas and lentils: 1/2 cup

Baked potato or sweet potato: 1 small (tennis ball size, we mostly eat double this…)

Pasta/rice ( 80 calories, choose less if you like)

Couscous: 1/3 cup

Rice (brown or white) : 1/3 cup

Quinoa : 1/4 cup

Noodles (whole wheat or white): 1/2 cup

Bulgur: 1/2 cup

Breads/Cereals/ Crackers (80 calories per serving)

100% whole wheat bread : one slice (actually around 100 cals, so you must read labels!)

Tortilla (wheat or white): 1-6″

Mini pita bread (5″): 1

Bagel: 1/4

The rest in this category can be found on labels, please read them!!!

I challenge you to keep track of your carbs for just one day. Notice portions, refer to this chart, and see how well you did. This experiment can at least give you an idea of where you could improve, or maybe you will be pleasantly surprised with yourself. If you have specifics on other not-listed items, feel free to ask me!

Next up, to carb load or not to carb load?


I have been reading this great book and I have been pleasantly surprised that I agree with the nutrition advice. One concept I would like to share today is the 50-25-25 rule.

This rule says that 50% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 25% of your daily calories should come from protein, and the last 25% of your calories should come from fat. According to Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, this is good advice for runners (and may I add most athletes). This theory of calculating our daily allotment into three groups rather than individual and specific calories will lighten your dieting burden loads.

This rule does 4 important things:

  1. It allows you to incorporate moderate amounts of carbohydrate int your daily diet
  2. It gives you sources and options for foods that give quick energy for physical activity
  3. It provides the right balance of protein and fat to give you continued energy
  4. It allows you to remain content and satisfied throughout the day while still losing weight and having enough energy

As I continue to blog and break down the three macronutrients I will give you specifics and suggestions and this 50-25-25 ratio will make more sense. This is a teaser post I guess you could say.

I also want to share this chart. This breaks down calorie portions. Again, consider your personal calorie range and keep this in mind for the posts to come!

50-25-25 Calorie Distrubution

 Daily Calories                   Carbohydrate kCals         Protein kCals             Fat kCals