Thursday, October 10, 2013

Is Quinoa Really Packed with Protein?

Quinoa (Photo by: Pom2, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

You can’t read a health blog or website without somebody mentioning quinoa. What is quinoa? Technically, it’s a seed, but it’s often used as a grain. It’s often touted as a “superfood” or a “supergrain,” primarily due to the fact that it contains complete protein (all nine essential amino acids in good proportion), unlike other grains, which are usually short on one or more essential amino acids. In fact, it’s even frequently described as being “packed with protein.”  It’s also high in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, and some B vitamins. 

Because of all of this, I picked up a bag of quinoa the last time I visited the health food store. When I got home and read the label, I was annoyed to see that one serving had 170 calories, and only 6 grams of protein! I did the math, and that worked out to just 14% protein.

Quinoa may be a good source of many nutrients and have complete protein, but “packed” with protein? Not really. I know many will disagree with me on that, but I don’t consider 14% to be “packed.” Whole oat groats have much more protein, with 8 grams in a 130-calorie serving, which works out to about 24.6%. Even broccoli is more “protein packed” than quinoa, with about 4 grams in a 50-calorie serving, or 32%. Yes, I know that the protein in oats and broccoli isn't “complete,” however, it’s now known that you don’t need to eat a complete or complementary protein with each meal. As long as you get your protein from a variety of sources throughout the day, your body will combine them.

That being said, quinoa can still be a beneficial addition to your diet. That is, if you enjoy the taste. Let’s just say that I was less than impressed the first time I tried it. It tasted more than a bit vegetable-like to me, and as I said in a previous post, I’m not a fan ofvegetables. I found a recipe for quinoa and cheese, and I can tolerate that. I’ll finish up the bag I bought and I’ll continue to search for recipes to make it more palatable, but whether I buy it again remains to be seen.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My First Foam Roller Experience

I'd been thinking about getting a foam roller for quite some time. What is a foam roller? It's pretty much what it sounds like - a piece of foam in a cylindrical shape. You can use it to do various exercises that roll it over your muscles, and you get some of the same benefits from it as you would get from a massage. They're suppose to improve circulation, release muscle knots and tightness, and improve muscle recovery after workouts.

Since muscle tightness seems to be a regular thing for me anymore (even with stretching at the end of every single workout and dedicating one day a week to just yoga and stretching exercises), the foam roller seemed like it was exactly what I needed. While shopping at Meijer the other day, I wandered over to the fitness section of the store just to see what they had. Lo and behold, they had a foam roller for $20, so I grabbed it.

When I got home, I was disappointed to find that the roller didn't come with any sort of instructions on how to use it, however, it was easy enough to find "how to use your foam roller" videos on Youtube. After my regular workout, I anxiously loaded up one of the videos and started following along.

Within about two minutes, I was wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. Not only did I need to contort my body into uncomfortable positions in order to get the roller where it needed to go, but using the darned thing HURT. It's the a good thing I was the only one home at the time, though I think I scared the pets with my constant shouts of "OW OW OW!" I guess that meant I was really in need of a foam rolling. A few of the exercises actually felt good - the ones on the back of my legs - but the rest? I'm dreading the thought of doing them again.

On the plus side, I felt pretty good when it was over. My muscles were extremely relaxed, and I slept GREAT that night, which I desperately needed. I've read that some people do foam rolling every single day, but I think I'm going to stick with once or twice a week for now.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Working out When Sleep Deprived

Like most people, every now and then, I have periods in which I don't get much sleep. I'm going through one of those periods right now. I work at a high school during the school year, and school just started last week. Most high schools start classes ridiculously early in the morning, and my employer is no exception. It takes me a few weeks to get used to getting up at 6:00am. Even if I go to bed by 11:00 or so, I lay there unable to fall asleep until after midnight. I'm naturally a night person, and when left to my own devices, I go to bed around 3:00am and wake up around 10:00am.

Anyway, at first, I debated whether or not to continue exercising, or if I should take a break and resume once I've adjusted to the new schedule. The vast majority of fitness websites and bloggers will tell you, "Sleep is important! Take a break and get caught up on sleep!" Of course sleep is important. It's when the body is recharging and when most muscle growth and recovery takes place.

Unfortunately, the advice to "take a break and get caught up on sleep" is geared more toward people who have a bad night of sleep every once in awhile. It's useless to those who, like me, are trying to adapt to a new schedule. It's even more useless to those with insomnia and other chronic sleep issues, because getting caught up on sleep may not be as simple as these folks make it sound. There's also the fact that regular exercise can help people with sleep disorders eventually get more and/or better sleep.

I decided that I'm certainly not going to stop working out for these few weeks. Whenever I stop for that long, I have a heck of a time trying to get back into it. It's exactly why I'm in the shape I'm in now. I'm even still doing my TurboFire workouts. For those who aren't familiar with TurboFire, Chalene, the instructor, will say, "You're not tired!" once or twice during the workout. The first time I heard that after a night of only 4.5 hours of sleep, I thought, "Yes, I am tired!" I still got through the workout, but I had to do it with less intensity than normal.

When I get between 5 and 6 hours of sleep (which is most nights as of late), I can exercise at pretty close to my usual intensity. I do it when I get home from work, and I may feel like there's no way I'm going to get through it when I start, but I do get through it. It also energizes me so that I can get through the rest of the day. I don't think I'd be able to do any heavy strength training while sleep-deprived, but the resistance band workouts that come with TurboFire are fine.

I think the good old "listen to your body" advice is probably best when wondering whether or not to exercise when you haven't had enough sleep. For some people, exercising in a sleep-deprived state may be a bit too much. For others, it will give them an energy boost, and may even help them improve their sleep.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Confessions of a Veggie Hater

Photo by: Sadik Khalid and released to the Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the reasons "dieting" can be difficult for me is that most healthy meals found in dieting books are chock-full of veggies. I have never enjoyed vegetables. If anybody ever put a scoop of something like the above broccoli and carrots on my plate, I'd have to fight my revulsion (though I'm sure it's a perfectly lovely dish for folks who enjoy that kind of thing). When I was a kid, I'd fall asleep at the kitchen table when my mom tried the "you aren't leaving the table until you eat your veggies" trick. I'd still rather spend the entire evening sitting at the table than force myself to eat most veggies. Yes, I know vegetables are extremely healthy, and I know that taking vitamin pills just isn't the same as getting nutrients from real food sources. I WANT to like veggies. However, the taste and smell of most vegetables literally makes me feel nauseous.

I've often heard thing like, "There have to be some vegetables that you like! There's no way you can hate all of them." or "Your mom probably didn't cook them right when you were growing up. Try them prepared different ways." Well, I've tried several kinds, and I've tried them prepared many different ways. I almost always end up unable to force myself to swallow - as gross as it is, I end up gagging and spitting them out. I have found I can force myself to eat a little bit of raw baby spinach or asparagus, but I can only eat a small amount before my taste buds say, "Okay, enough!" I've also heard the tip to chop up vegetables and add them to meals I already really like, and I've tried that, but I can taste the vegetables, which ruins the flavor of the rest of the food for me.

I do like most fruit, however, so I try to eat at least a couple of fruit servings every day (though I sometimes run out of my supply and need to go a day or two without). I also discovered "Amazing Grass Green Superfood," which is basically dehydrated and powdered wheatgrass and other vegetables, so I add a scoop of that to my smoothies and protein shakes. The chocolate in the protein powder and the fruit in the smoothies masks the flavor pretty well. I know it's not as beneficial as fresh stuff, but at least it's something. Now that I'm in my 40s, I have to try to get at least some vegetable in me any way possible. I can also manage the V8 Fruit Fusion stuff, but don't ask me to drink a plain V8! Blech! I've also recently found that I can add a very small handful of greens to my blended smoothies and consume them that way. Still, I know I'm probably not getting enough.

I'm sometimes made to feel like something is wrong with me due to this. That's it's all in my head. Well, it very well may be in my head, but in my mouth rather than my brain. I recently found out that there's an actual biological basis for veggie aversion. Some people simply have more taste buds than the average person, and therefore taste things more strongly. These people are called "supertasters," and the bitter compounds in veggies are often overwhelming to them.

I'm not completely sure I'm a full-blown supertaster, however, since it seems that most avoid things like coffee and sweets as well. I can't get by without my morning cup of coffee (though I only like mild or medium roast coffee - I can't do the "robust" stuff), and my enjoyment of sweets is one of the reasons I'm trying to lose weight! Still, I definitely taste the bitterness in veggies, and strongly. I know that people often say iceberg lettuce doesn't have a taste, well, I taste it (and I don't like it). At the very least, thanks to a taste experiment in biology class, I know I'm sensitive to PROP, which is a chemical similar to the stuff that makes veggies bitter.

Anyway, I'm still trying to find some milder veggies that I may be able to tolerate. If anybody reading this has any suggestions, please feel free to let me know!

Friday, August 16, 2013

My TurboFire First Month Results

I just completed my fourth week of the TurboFire fitness program. If you're not familiar with TurboFire, it's one of those "extreme" fitness systems put out by Beachbody - the same company responsible for the more well-known P90X and Insanity programs. TurboFire is basically a series of kickboxing and dancing hybrid workouts on crack. There's some HIIT (high intensity interval training), and a little bit of strength training and stretching incorporated as well.

I admit that I haven't followed the calendar exactly. I've needed to flip flop some of the days to get them to work in my schedule (it seemed like the long workout days always fell on days I had limited time, and the shorter HIIT workouts fell on days I had all the time in the world). I also added a little extra resistance training, because the official calendar that came with my set only had three strength training days for the entire month! I prefer doing strength work at least twice a week.

Anyway, on to the results! (Sorry... no pictures. I'm not comfortable putting those half-naked "before and after" pics of myself online for the world to see).

5 pounds lost
1" lost from my waist
3/4" lost from my hips
1" from my arms (each one!!)
3/4" from my thighs

Not a super-dramatic change, but still pretty good! I'll take it, especially since I'd been stuck on a plateau for three weeks before I started TurboFire. I still have at least eight weeks to go. My set has a calendar for 20 weeks, but I don't know if I'll stick with it for that long. The workouts are enjoyable for the most part, and the instructor, Chalene Johnson is fun and very motivating. However, I tend to get "workout ADD" after awhile, and I'm sure I'll be ready for something different before long. We'll see.

*For the record, I am NOT a Beachbody coach, and I do not have any sort of connection with the Beachbody company.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Yet another weight loss blog...

Like many people, I'm trying to drop some excess weight. It's not the first time for me. I was always pudgy as a kid and teenager, and when I started college, I finally decided to do something about it. I started working out and following a low-fat diet, and within six months or so, I'd dropped 40 pounds and was finally at my ideal weight. Unfortunately, I quickly became so obsessed with keeping the weight off that I completely deprived myself of foods most college students enjoy. I desperately missed those foods but wanted to stay thin, which led to the development of an eating disorder. After a three year battle, I defeated the disorder.

Some years later, I'd gained back all the weight I'd lost and then some. I lost it again a few years ago by exercising and controlling my food portions. Then, about a year later, I became laid off from my job. When people get laid off, it seems that they either take advantage of the time and spend more time working out and cooking healthy meals (in between job hunting and figuring out what they're going to do for money, of course), or they sit around feeling depressed and eating whatever they can buy for cheap. I was part of the latter group, and gained that good ol' forty pounds yet again.

That brings me to now. I'm back to work, and I'm also working on ridding myself of those pounds once more. I started exercising and watching my food intake three months ago as of this writing, and so far, I've lost 17 pounds. I started this blog as a way to keep myself motivated (and to maybe help me keep those pounds off for good this time), and also to post my random thoughts and musings about the world of fitness, nutrition, body issues, and weight loss.*

*I am not a nutritionist, doctor, or certified fitness instructor, so please take what I write with a grain of salt.