Go from dead weight to pull-up machine (variations)

When I herniated a disc in my back four years ago I was limited with the lower body exercises (which were my favorite!) so pull-ups became my go-to strength exercise. I quickly learned that in order to increase my pull-up strength I needed to increase volume and variety in pulling exercises. Here are three ways to step up your pull-up game fast: 

#1 Constant Practice-  In order to increase your strength with pull-ups you need to be practicing all the time. I'm talking 3-4 times per week. I know this seems like a lot but I didn’t just walk in and start hanging from the bar.  Even it is just one or two in our backyard on a tree it counts! 

#2: Focus on variety:

  • Switch up your grip. Grip is really important for pull-ups, often times your grip will fail on your before your back strength. Try neutral-grip, chin-ups and wide grip. I also recommend doing additional grip exercises like farmers walks, towel pulls or using fat grips around a barbell of dumbells. 
  • Do negative pull-ups. Negative pull-ups are a variation of pull-ups where you focus just on the eccentric phase (the way down). I recommend starting with 5 seconds and working up to 20 seconds negative.
  • Use assistance. Work in banded pull-ups or assisted pull-ups in order to increase the volume of reps. This is really good to get used to pumping out multiple pull-ups. 
  • Add weight. This may be more advanced if you have not gotten a body weight pull-up yet but you can combine weighted and negatives to build up your strength. I recommend starting with light weight (2.5 to 5lbs and going up from there). 

#3 Do the small things-  Make sure to supplement pull ups with tons of other accessory rowing exercises plus a variety of muscle activation drills. Here are some of my favorite activation/ mobility exercises:

  • Lower trap raise
  • Scapular retraction 
  • Band pull-aparts,
  • Scapular push-ups
  • SA cable pull-downs 
  • Hanging scapular shrugs 
  • Y, T, W's 

The biggest takeaway here is that it takes consistent practice in order to get great at pull-ups. I’m not saying it is an easy journey but I can honestly say that no other single strength exercise has made me feel so strong, empowered and unstoppable.

RECIPE- Zucchini Turkey Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchinis

  • 2 containers ricotta (I used buffalo)

  • 2 cups spinach 

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil

  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast or parmesan

    Bolognese sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup chopped cremini mushrooms 

  • 1 cooking onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 lb. ground turkey

  • 1 jar or can crushed tomatoes

  • 1 small can tomato paste

  • 2 tbsp. Italian seasoning

  • 1 tbsp. ghee or butter

    Directions: 

    First, cut zucchini into long noodle strips, you can do this with a knife or a mandolin. Layer zucchini between clean tea towels or paper towel and set aside (this will absorb some of the water from the zucchini 

    Make the bolognese sauce. In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in ghee or butter, add ground turkey until cooked through. Add mushrooms and saute until slightly soft. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Bring to a light boil and then reduce heat and simmer for minimum 15-20 minutes. 

    Preheat oven to 350F. Make the ricotta mix, Lightly saute spinach and basil,  until soft. In a large bowl mix spinach/basil and ricotta and set aside. 

    In a large casserole dish, layer the lasagna starting with the bolognese sauce, then add zucchini noodles and ricotta mix. Repeat twice. Top with nutritional yeast or parmesan and bake for 40 minutes. Let cook for 10 minutes. 

The Athlete's Body (3 mindset shifts to own the body you are in right now)

If you have a body you have issues”

This is a quote from an episode of the School of Greatness podcast with Lewis Howes and Kathryn Budig and it has stuck with me. Kathyrn is a yoga instructor and author of several books focused on women’s health, nutrition and self-image. Similar to Kathyrn, I’ve had the honor of working with hundreds of clients from professional athletes to extreme weight loss and guess what? Every single one of them has had issues with their bodies and often still do. You heard me, professional athletes are not exempt, we can always find things we want to change about our bodies, regardless of how they look. This epidemic of regret, doubt, and personal disappointment is known as body shaming and I want to share my own personal struggle with you.

In the words of the iconic Sir Mix-a-lot, ‘baby got back.’ I used to be embarrassed about my big hips, butt and thighs, growing up as a Tom Boy it seemed natural and I never gave it much thought but that all changed when I moved to Toronto and started working in the fitness industry. I was quite clearly ‘not in Kansas’ anymore, working in an extremely busy downtown gym with the “bulk” (no pun intended) of my co-workers made up of fitness models and body builders. This was a whole new world to me, I grew up in rural Nova Scotia and didn’t know a single person who looked like this but in a few short weeks this had become my new norm.

Gone I thought were the Nova Scotian fish and chips, replaced with daily boiled chicken and broccoli and isolated chest and bicep exercises three times a week. I became insecure about my “athletic body”, embarrassed of my curves. I thought I had to be thinner, have more muscle, eat only boiled food, plus, my hips were too wide, my butt was too big and my upper body was not “toned” enough. I had spent my entire life being active, playing every sport, running in the back yard, hiking, biking but apparently that was all wrong, that wasn’t ‘fitness’ and I needed to start over.

The infamous ESPN nude athlete shoots from top right (Pro Boxer Danyelle Wolf, Olympic Shotput athlete, Amanda Bingson, MLB athlete Jose Bautista, and NFL Vince Wilfork). All demonstrating that athletes come in all shapes and sizes. 

The infamous ESPN nude athlete shoots from top right (Pro Boxer Danyelle Wolf, Olympic Shotput athlete, Amanda Bingson, MLB athlete Jose Bautista, and NFL Vince Wilfork). All demonstrating that athletes come in all shapes and sizes. 

The athletic body is all different shapes and sizes BUT it will rarely ever look like your favourite magazine cover. I’m sorry to break it to you but you can’t just follow that workout routine found on page 19 and expect to get the body of that month’s cover model, nor should you want to.

The athletic body is strong, functional and confident.  The athletic body has big muscles, lean muscles, body fat, and even cellulite. The athletic body comes in the shape of short men, short women, tall men, tall women. There is no one size fits all when it comes to the athletic body. This is a difficult concept to grasp, we have been fed a steady diet of misinformation from major brands in several industries: fitness, pharmaceutical, clothing, etc. All in hopes of shaming us in the door and opening our wallets for the magical solution. That solution doesn’t work, instead we need to address our personal opinion of ourselves, it is going to take time and work but it can be done and I want to help.

3 Mindset shifts to own the body you are in:

1) Acceptance. Accept the body you have right now, not the future, not the past. This is the body you have and if you don’t love it right now then you never will. Accept that it is ok to have curves, cellulite, imbalances, etc. You are enough, you always have been enough and you will always be enough. It may be the hardest shift to make but the most meaningful.  

2) Respect your body. Your body has done a lot for you, it is has healed your injuries, fought off illnesses, hugged loved ones, and ran as fast as it could away from your big brother. Unfortunately, we are hard-wired to think negatively about our bodies first, there are always things we want to “change” or “upgrade”.  Your body has already done so many amazing things for you, getting you to this moment. Why not show it some love? Respect it and care for it the same way it has respected and cared for you. This means, getting more sleep, eating well, moving every day, meditating, spending time on self-care. ‘You only have one body, why not treat it right’ We should just live based on quality, not quantity, living an extra 15 years in bed-ridden misery because we refused to respect and care for our body earlier is not a desirable fate.

3)  Start Now- It may be hard for you to completely love the body you are in right now, I get it, it takes love, patience, and practice every single day and you will never be perfect, but that’s not the point. We can’t dwell on it, we have to move on and if you would like to change something about your body, take action NOW, not tomorrow, right now. Do you want to start eating healthier? You can have ONE more serving of veg with your next meal, you can add one more glass of water before you go to bed. The best time you can start something was yesterday, the second best is right now.

The process is challenging, and by no means am I perfect. I still struggle on certain days when I wish I was a little bit more or less of something but like everything else worthwhile it is a process.

What does your athletic body do for you? This is not about posting the perfect picture, it is about being proud of the miles it has walked, how high it has climbed and the scars you have accumulated.

I am going to leave you with this badass video put out this week for International Women's day by allure magazine, click here to check it out

- Sylvie (OG Lifestyles)

Ps. My Inner Athlete Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching Program launches this week! Join the wait list here and receive more information with early discounted access. (*** There is no obligation to sign-up for program joining the wait list, it is simply to get more information) 

Top 7 supplements for travel

Traveling can be a stressful experience, beautiful but stressful. Navigating time zones, jet lag, sleep deprivation, foreign food and a sporadic (at best) fitness routine may not be optimal for physical performance, but is it ever fun.  

I am a self-proclaimed “food snob”, especially at home when all of my health food products, fresh produce, organic meat and fish, and supplementation are a short trip away. When I’m out globe trekking this is not always the case, and I’m totally fine with it. It is important to do the best you can do in each situation, sometimes you are able to find fresh caught fish with lots of veggies or the locally recommended burger joint but other times you aren’t so lucky.  

As a nutritionist, I always recommend getting your nutrients from food first, but the reality is we often need a little boost, especially while traveling. Here are my top 7 supplements to travel with: 

1)    Vegan protein powder- Why? Traveling with a good quality protein powder will help stabilize energy levels in the road. My protein of choice is a combination of sprouted brown rice, pea, and hemp protein which grants a wide range of amino acids, plus easily digestible probiotics found in the sprouted grain helping keep you fuller, longer. One of my nutrition principles is to try to include some protein with every meal or snack and having protein powder on hand is a great way to ensure you aren’t consuming croissants only for breakfast. Mixing it into a smoothie, or even easier with water is a makes for a delicious and healthy snack. Vegan protein powder of choice? Biosteel. Check it out here. 

2)    Greens Powder. Why?  I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but I refuse to apologize. #eatyogreens and #drinkyogreens is an important nutrition principle for ensuring essential nutrients in your diet. It can be really tough while traveling /eating out to get in the proper amount of veggie based nutrition, making Greens Powder a must-have. The powder I take consists of a wide variety of nutrients from all sorts of greens, an essential fatty acid blend for anti-inflammatory, digestive enzymes and pre and probiotic for enhancing digestion. You might have to chug it down because they don’t always taste amazing but your body will thank you. (You’re likely chugging down a few other drinks so why not one more.)  

3)    Adaptogenic Herbs. Why? There are a variety of different options but prefer ashwagandha, its many benefits including strengthening the immune system, incredible support on our adrenals, (which are the glands that control our stress hormones) mood improvement capabilities and an energy booster. Potential missed flights plus all the unknowns and new situations can be stressful (also the best part about traveling) and it’s great to give your system a little support.

4)    Probiotics-  Why? They are all the rage right now and for good reason. Gut health is a very popular topic in the nutrition and medical field and there is still a lot we do not know, but, we do know that 70% of our immune system is located in our gut AND there is a very strong gut-brain connection. Probiotics help to enhance digestion, boost good bacteria and are essential for proper absorption and assimilation of nutrients. As mentioned above, the immune system heavily relies on good gut bacteria in order to function properly and avoid illness and inflammatory responses. Probiotics are also key for helping in fighting against constipation and bloating while traveling. (That ain’t no joke!)

5)    Magnesium-   Why? It is a powerhouse mineral and includes a long list of benefits. Magnesium can be used for stubborn bowels (constipation) when that problem presents itself traveling. It also has specific properties that aid in nervous system relaxation, vital for recovery, resting and digesting. Magnesium can also be used in sleep aid, an all too common issue while traveling. 

6)    Oil of oregano- Why? The immune system can be susceptible to illness while traveling so although (in my opinion) it tastes gross, oil of oregano is a powerful anti-microbial and anti-fungal agent, which will help keep you healthy and exploring.

7)    Biosteel’s High- Performance Sports Mix – Why? Because it is awesome! I don’t travel anywhere without it. The blend of electrolytes (magnesium, calcium, zinc, sodium and potassium), amino acids (BCAA’s, l-glutamine, glycine, and taurine), and b-vitamins make it a secret weapon. Especially if you are traveling to a warm country and plan on being active! This all-natural healthy sports mix has electrolytes to replenish those lost through sweat, amino acids to help you recover properly from exercise and b-vitamins to help balance the nervous system, supporting your immune system, and aid in energy production. All crucial for traveling. Check out Biosteel’s HPSM here and get yourself some.

We can’t control how our system will react to a new environment and the travel schedule but we can be prepared with tools to help us thrive while traveling.

Remember to #eatyoveggies.

Sylvie

RECIPE Tuna Stuffed Zucchini

RECIPE: Tuna Stuffed Zucchini 

  • 2 zucchini 
  • 2 tbsp. avocado oil (or substitute olive oil)
  • 1 tin of tuna (preferably wild caught in water)
  • 1 small celery stock 
  • 1 shallot, minced 
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh pickle juice
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh dill 
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • sea salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the zucchini in half and scoop out the seeds and create a hollow area. Brush the zucchini with the avocado oil and roast for 15 minutes. 

2. In the meantime, mix together the tuna, celery, shallot, dill, pickle,  lemon juice and sea salt and pepper. Once the zucchinis are baked, fill the  zucchinis with the tuna mix, top with nutritional yeast and bake for another 10 minutes. 

How to use our past and our future to succeed in the present

This quote has stimulated a huge mindset shift in both my professional and personal life. I believe it is important to set goals and to reflect on our past accomplishments but far too often we are caught up in two places that don’t currently exist, ignoring our reality, the present.

It is so easy to become caught up in a comparison trap, especially with ourselves. We remember that time we seemed to have it all together, time for meal prep, worked out 5 times a week, spent time with friends and dominated at work, we reference everything we do to that version of ourselves. Or, we swing the opposite direction focusing only on future goals, what we are going to do, what will happen, when etc. We believe that both of these existences are better versions of ourselves and we have only to return or reach them.

Unfortunately, our memories or ideas of those places are never quite the truth, who we are now is likely who we were in the past and will be in the future. If we want to improve both we must first be fully present in each moment. We can only shape our past and future through present actions.  

Using our past to be present:

We should aim to focus on the progress to date, rather than what is left to do. When we set a goal, we look at how long or how much effort it will take to achieve that goal, instead, we should focus on our ability to achieve it. One of the best examples I can think of is visualization in athletics. Visualization is a well-known and effective tool for athletes to work on their mental game, which is unquestionably as important as the physical game. For example, a hockey player wants to improve their play. They can optimize their performance by visualizing a time they were successful in scoring a goal during a past game: visualizing the plays leading up to the goal, the exact pass they received from their teammate, and then the execution of the perfect slap shot. By reliving the past goal, they remind themselves of what they are capable of. This leads to confidence in present situations, knowing they have done it before and are capable of doing it again and again.

Using our future to be present:

It is important to examine where we are going, with business, relationships, health etc. We want to set goals to help cultivate a sense of accomplishment and growth. They help shape motivation and commitment. They may vary in their origin (intrinsic /extrinsic) but all add value. Athletes (keeping with our example) will use their goals to celebrate the small wins or “champion moments” they make in practice and life. These ‘small wins’ boost confidence which in turn improves perceived ability. Setting the goal and then reaching it makes them more likely to continue doing the same. The imagination is great at turning ideas into reality and there is validity to the saying “If you can believe it you can achieve it” 

How do we tie it all in? If we use our past and present wisely it will help to bring us back into the present moment, reinforced by our past and hopeful of the future we gain confidence and enjoy striving for every ‘small wins’. This aligns perfectly with our HHH Challenge (Honing Healthy Habits Challenge), remembering what you have already achieved but excited and set on completing Day 21. We can only achieve our larger goal by executing on today’s ‘small win’ which forces us to focus on the process and progress we are making on a daily basis, and that is the key to being fully present! Strive for what you have not achieved, appreciate what you have accomplished and love where you are now!

- Sylvie 

(RECIPE) Maple Sweet N' Salty Roasted Nuts

Photo by Rachel Frennette 

Photo by Rachel Frennette 

I love anything maple flavoured, because A) I'm Canadian and B) It's a major food group according to ELF, and I would have to agree with him. This is a great gift idea or to just enjoy all to yourself. 

RECIPE: MAPLE SWEET AND SALTY ROASTED NUTS

  • 2 cups pecans 
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread plain nuts over the baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 250F.  Once lightly roasted add nuts into a large bowl and add maple syrup, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, and bake for 20 minutes, then flip and bake for another 20 minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle with sea salt once out of the oven and let cool. 

Enjoy! 

Sylvie (OG Lifestyles)

Top 7 Ways to Eat Healthy While Out

It is that time of year, holiday parties, business dinners, and social get-togethers with friends. I hear from clients (and my past self) that they will “get back on track” or “start a new diet and exercise plan after the holidays”. If it is not a promise of future commitment it is a resignation “it is just too hard to eat healthy at this time of year”. I’m changing the plate and proposing a new ‘line’, it doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult.

I am not pretending that there will be less temptations and triggers this year, trying to send you into a downward spiral of gingerbread and Christmas cookie consumption. BUT, it comes back to being mindful, sticking to your good habits and not losing control of your eating habits. Check out a recent blog I did on how to gain control over your eating habits.

So how do you get through all the dinners out?

These are my top 7 strategies for avoiding crippling overconsumption and guilt while you are out to eat for all these gatherings:

  1. Plan ahead and be prepared. I know you have heard this before, but hear me out. One thing that has gotten me through a busy social calendar and endless dinners is to plan ahead. This means I am planning my healthy meals throughout the day, bringing a snack cooler with snacks to have right before I head off to the event. This helps to subdue hunger and avoid overindulging. Some great examples of pre-meal snacks include a green protein smoothie, hummus, and veggies or a healthy bar like GoMacro, Biosteel etc. If you want to avoid all temptations, eat a full meal beforehand and just have a drink and a small appetizer at the restaurant. 
  2.  Investigate the menu. If you do not have control over the location, make sure to take a quick peek at the restaurant’s website and menu, this gives you an idea of what to expect.  I recommend you make up your mind prior to arriving. You won’t even need to look at the menu when you get there because you have already decided on the steak salad.

  3.  Order first and set the tone for the table. If you are out for dinner with work or friends, always order first.  People will mimic others when it comes to food and drink choices. It is likely that your dinner partners will order in a similar fashion, if not, at least you have avoided an opportunity to be swayed.  Remember you DO make friends with salads.

  4. Choose your indulgences. This is where we get into trouble when eating out, we get the cheesy appetizer, the steak and potatoes as a main, the wine to pair with the steak and decide to say "screw it, we are already here so let’s have the dessert". It doesn’t have to always be this way. What will you actually enjoy? And if you want it all? That’s okay, just share. Split the app, the main and dessert, have only a glass of wine. We get into trouble when we are continuously overindulging without thought to what we actually enjoy, in for a penny in for a pound is a horrible mantra. 

  5.  One meal at a time. This ties into the previous point, if you do indulge, make it one meal. Don’t throw your hands in the air and decide you might as well blow the entire day, or even worse the entire holiday season. We are experts at drowning ourselves in guilt and deciding it’s better to give up completely, it is okay that you indulged now it can be brought under control. 

  6.  Take your time and chew your food.This one is huge, sometimes when we are in social settings we can overeat and not even notice we are eating everything! Slow down, it will aid your digestion and you might even find you don’t want that third serving. 

  7. Load up on veggies. I know, I know here we go again talking about how you need to eat your veggies, but I will not apologize for continuing to bring it up…because #eatyourveggies. I always recommend ordering a salad to start (sorry Italians!), it helps you to fill up (the result of the fibre). I also order extra veggies with the meal instead of finishing the whole loaf of bread. Always ask for salad dressings and sauces on the side, allowing you to monitor quantity. 

When it comes to eating healthy, you are the only one who thinks that you are inconveniencing others. If they care about you they will respect your choices/ look up to you for it and hopefully support you in your decisions.

One meal at a time and then move on. Focus on compassion for yourself, not judgment.

As of the 1st week in December I will be sharing my top strategies for getting through the holidays healthy and happy with my email list. (Healthy and Happy Holiday Guide) Sign up here to join my community and get your free guide.

-Sylvie (OG Lifestyles) 

RECIPE: Thyme Walnut Pesto

RECIPE: Thyme Walnut Pesto

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt 
  • Pepper 

In a food processor  (or blender) add spinach, thyme, and garlic and pulse until mixture is finely chopped. Add walnuts and chop until they are finely chopped. Add olive oil slowly while pulsing in between. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Ways to enjoy this pesto:

  • Add to whole grain pasta 
  • Spread on a wrap or sandwich 
  • On top of fish or chicken
  • Add to a veggie bowl 

 

Your Coffee Questions Answered (+ Coffee Recipe)

Over the weekend I watched the documentary film “Barista”, documenting the lives of 4 baristas on their road to compete in the national competition, I was blown away by the talent. They fling their heart and soul into making coffee an experience, translating it into a comforting and warm feeling that is irreplaceable.

Once (or twice) a week I treat myself to a coconut milk latte, the sloppy cousin of the real milk latte. I love that you are unable to craft beautiful foam designs with milk alternatives (maybe there is a master coconut milk latte designer barista out there). It is perfectly imperfect and I smile every time I sip my symmetrically flawed treat.

Coffee (in some form) has been a staple since high school, I think it was inevitable, my dad always took coffee seriously. There was a moment in university when I would get a Timmies coffee with ¼ hot chocolate because there were no other options on campus (yes, Tim Horton’s coffee sucks…brace of angry Canadians), but that is the extent of my bad coffee phase. I have also cut coffee out of my life for extended periods of time…it was miserable. These past experiences with and without coffee have made Good Coffee a non-negotiable in my diet. 

We are all unique, our genes and cells have coded our bodies differently, meaning that we all metabolize food and beverages differently. This is very evident with coffee, I’m sure you know one of those people who has an espresso at 11pm and is fast asleep by 11:15pm. I am not one of those people! As with all things it is important to moderate, for me, it’s one in the morning and maybe a second one before a workout. When I worked in corporate fitness, I would have 2-3 minimum often with a treat and typically later in the day. This led to sleep disturbances and adrenal fatigue causing more sugar cravings and coffee withdrawals. If you are experiencing either of these symptoms they are definitely signs to ease up on the coffee consumption.  

Is coffee healthy?

  • Coffee can improve energy levels, the result of caffeine.
  • Improve cognitive function and alertness.
  • Assist in fat burning. Several studies have linked coffee to increased metabolic rate. Caffeine assists fat cells in the breakdown of body fat and its release into the bloodstream, making fat available as fuel.
  • Improve physical performance- Coffee stimulates our SNS (sympathetic nervous system), which helps prepare the body for physical exertion.
  •  Antioxidants- Coffee is jam packed with nutrients- that’s if you are having good quality coffee (not that instant garbage).

What kind of coffee is good for me?

My rule is to let the coffee be coffee, meaning try not to add a little coffee to your milk and sugar. A Frappuccino is essentially a fancy milkshake with some coffee. My favorites drinks are Espresso, Americano and the occasional coconut milk Latte. I will touch on my favorite recipe at the end.

Coffee doesn’t work for you?

No sweat, there are always healthy alternatives (I am not claiming any of these replace a fresh pulled Espresso but they are great options for someone who wants a similar coffee experience with added health benefits):

  • Chaga mushroom: Is associated with numerous health benefits and boasts a large antioxidant profile. It is typically offered in tea form and has a coffee-like taste.
  • Dandelion root/Chicory root (combined):  Dandelion and chicory root are rich in vitamins and minerals and great liver detoxifiers. Both taste best (and most similar to coffee) when they are roasted. *** Tip add some cinnamon for some extra nutrients.
  • Green tea: although still contains caffeine, is a great substitute, high in antioxidants including polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins.
Coffee Berries, the bean is inside!

Coffee Berries, the bean is inside!

What about Bulletproof coffee? Should I drink it?

Bulletproof coffee was created by Dave Asprey and has exploded in popularity. The formula is simple: coffee, MCT oil and grass fed butter. The high fats put our body into a state of ketosis and we begin burning fats rather than relying on carbohydrates for energy. There is a list of benefits for bulletproof coffee including increased fat burning, increased energy, killing cravings and improving cognitive function. Bulletproof-ers claim to be bouncing off the wall after having this magical concoction.

I personally have tried the MCT oil/ grass fed butter and compared it to coconut oil only. To be honest, I did not notice a difference between the MCT oil (from Bulletproof) and the coconut oil (from nature) in my coffee. MCT oil is derived from coconut or palm oil and the MCT brain octane oil that they extract is essentially “supercharged”.

Do you need to use the coffee they provide? I don’t think so, their claim is the removal of mycotoxins (mold and fungi) during the roasting process, BUT as an avid coffee drinker, any good quality coffee roaster will do this same. What does matter is using high-quality beans.  

I love the taste of coconut oil in my coffee and have created a ‘Bulletproof’ recipe of my own:

  • 1 cup fresh brewed coffee
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. Full-fat coconut milk (from the can)
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon (*** cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar levels because of high chromium content).

Blend and take on the day!! 

Do you have a special coffee ritual? I would love to hear from you! 

- Sylvie (OG Lifestyles) 

Sugar: How To Cut Your Cravings

Sugar Cravings Title.png

Sugar Cravings, I have to talk about them because we have all been there!

No matter how hard we try to ‘pretend’ we don’t want sugar it sneaks up on us before we know it a tin of Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies have disappeared and we’re elbow deep in a tub of Ed’s Ice-cream. Am I lying? (I don’t think so, we’ve all done it)

The problem with sugar is that it is so hard to moderate. The more you have of it, the more you want.

What is it about sugar (and carbohydrates) that make it so addicting?

Sugar is most certainly addictive and unfortunately, it’s everywhere! In our face at the coffee shop, in our homes, and even hidden in a lot of processed foods that we may not even realize contain sugar. Multiple studies have been done connecting sugar to an increase in dopamine release (the pleasure neurotransmitter in the brain) and a heightened sense of satisfaction. When these sugar stores are depleted we instantly crave that high.

There could be several reasons for experiencing these sugar cravings such as food allergies, adrenal fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalance, bacterial overgrowth, stress/emotional eating and habitual eating etc. BUT to avoid this blog becoming an entire book we are going to keep it to a general why and a more specific section on what we can do about it.

Carbohydrates in general, have had their fair share of scrutiny over the past decade. Are they good or bad? How much do I eat? When do I eat them? I get asked these questions all the time and it is a very complicated answer. I believe in an individualized approach but as an overriding theme, I have noticed that as a society we rely too heavily on carbohydrates as our primary energy source. The high consumption rate can lead to cravings which in turn creates an unhealthy imbalance in blood sugar leading to many health issues.

However, not ALL carbohydrates should be treated equally:

Simple sugars are one - two sugar molecules bound together, they are quick and easy to break apart meaning they get digested quickly and enter our bloodstream rapidly. They provide short term energy that quickly fades. Examples of simple sugars include white bread, white pasta, pastries, candies, cookies etc.

Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are three plus carbohydrates bound together. (sometimes as many as 1000) They take longer to break apart and release slowly into the bloodstream, this steady state absorption allows for consistent energy.

Benefits of complex carbohydrates:

  • Energy source for our muscles and fuel for our brain.
  • Help to regulate protein and fat metabolism.
  • Loaded with fiber which is necessary for healthy digestion.
  • Helps with detoxification from the combination of vitamins, minerals and fiber content.

Top sources of Complex Carbohydrates: Vegetables, Oats, Whole grains: Brown rice, Millet, Spelt, Kamut, Buckwheat, Sorghum etc.

Let’s talk about two important hormones that relate to the release of sugar into our bloodstream: Insulin and Glucagon.

All sugar ingested (regardless of form) are broken down into glucose (the simplest form of usable sugar). Insulin helps to guide the glucose from our bloodstream and into our tissues where it can be stored for later use or burned as fuel. A high consumption rate of simple sugars will increase the glucose within the bloodstream and trigger additional insulin release. Our muscle tissue then decides to utilize the glucose, immediately shuttling it to the brain or storing it in the muscle or liver for later use. The last option, which we are often most concerned about is the storage of glucose as adipose tissue, fat. This is our last resort and our body will try to utilize one of the previous options before settling of fat storage.

What about its counterpart? Glucagon. Glucagon, like insulin, is secreted by the pancreas but instead of responding to carbohydrate intake, glucagon is secreted when the body detects protein and will help to metabolize the glucose within the body. Complex carbohydrates contain significantly more protein than simple sugars and will trigger a Glucagon release that will aid in avoiding fat storage. By adding in protein rich foods (fish, chicken, eggs, beans etc.) and you will improve your chances of burning fat rather than storing it.

chocolate pic.png

Now that you know a little bit about the science let’s get into the stuff you really care about: How we can decrease our sugar cravings.

As I mentioned before sugar cravings are individualized but that doesn’t mean there aren’t general dietary solutions that will help you balance blood sugar levels.

1.     Stay hydrated. When we are thirsty and dehydrated our bodies can actually think that we want sugar when really we just need some good old fashion H20.

2.     Eating primarily complex carbohydrates and avoiding simple sugars will greatly reduce cravings, cool it on the cookies.

3.     Eating protein with every meal. As described earlier, protein is very important in slowing down the release of sugar.

4.     Eating fermented foods. These help to improve your digestive efficiency, ensuring you are absorbing and assimilating the nutrients in the food. Our bad gut bacteria will try to monopolize our intestinal ecosystem and because it prefers to feed off of sugar it will create cravings. Fermented foods include kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, yogurt etc.

5.     Avoid processed foods and eat a whole foods diet (meaning eat from nature and avoid any packaged foods). Processed foods are filled with more salt, more sugar, and more fat.

6.     Satisfy your sweet tooth naturally with fruit or something similar to the Maca Macaroons below. Dates are also very high in fiber and can help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. Maca will decrease sugar and carb cravings by boosting serotonin levels (the happy feel good hormone), it also has “bedroom qualities’ as an added bonus.

7.     Eat smaller meals with more frequency will help in avoiding cravings. I’m sure you have heard this before but it really does make a difference. Multiple small exposures help to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. 

Lifestyle Factors: 

1.     Stress is directly related to increased cortisol (stress hormone) which in turn increases blood sugar. If we can decrease and minimize our stress it will do wonders for our body.  Check out my 2-part blog on ways to decrease stress through lifestyle and nutrition.

2.     Exercise helps to boost serotonin levels (the happy hormone) while decreasing sugar cravings.

3.     Notice what triggers your cravings and come up with a new habit strategy for avoidance: For example, you are home alone at night and the chocolate bar in the cupboard is calling your name. Instead of eating it get up and go outside for a walk, call a friend or dive into a DIY project where you can distract yourself from the sweets.

Notable Nutrients:

When we have cravings it is typically the result of a nutrient deficiency in our diet. The more often you consume sugary simple sugars, the more likely you are to be deficient in nutrients. I want to mention a couple really important nutrients for helping to decrease sugar cravings.

  • Magnesium (my favourite mineral) – We often experience strong sugar cravings related to chocolate which ties directly into Magnesium. It is involved in glucose metabolism as well as the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Increasing magnesium will help in reducing sugar cravings. Food sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, beans, almonds, and whole grains (brown rice) etc.
  • Chromium- Vital for blood sugar balance, Chromium helps to bring glucose into our cells for use later. Without chromium, the insulin action is blocked and the level of glucose inside the bloodstream rises. Chromium can become depleted if we consume too many refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, and baked goods). Foods high in chromium: Cinnamon (tip if you drink coffee sprinkle cinnamon each morning), whole grains, oats, onions, broccoli and green beans
  • Zinc – Although Zinc is very important for the immune system, it also is a component of over 200 enzymatic reactions in the body. Zinc is involved in all aspects of insulin metabolism. Foods high in zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • B-vitamins -  Their strong relationship in coping with stress is very valuable. When we are highly stressed our B vitamins deplete quickly and leave us searching for the “feel good” boost. Increase serotonin levels = sugar cravings. Foods high in B-vitamins: dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, bananas, avocados, whole grains, yogurt, and eggs.

There you have it a few easy ways do decrease sugar cravings. I hope it was helpful and as always don’t hesitate to ask me for more information.

RECIPE: Maca Macaroons

  • 1 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 tbsp. raw maca powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup soft pitted dates (soak before if too hard)
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 ½ tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 3-4 tbsp. natural raw cacao powder
  • Dash of Sea Salt

In a food processor add almonds, dates, vanilla, salt, maple syrup, maca, and flax. Blend until close to dough-like. Add coconut and pulse until fully mixed. Test the macaroons to see it the dough sticks together. If it doesn’t add a couple tbsp. of water and pulse again until desired texture. Using a small scoop that is 1-2 inches scoop out balls and place on a plate, Add 2- 3 tbsp.  raw cacao powder to food processor and pulse until completely mixed. Roll the mix into 1-2 inch balls. Store in refrigerator.

- Sylvie  (OG Lifestyles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do your eating habits have control over you? (If so... Follow these three mindset shifts in order to gain back control)

Pic- gain control title .png

I know this may seem like a silly question but let me explain… 

For anyone who has ever made an effort to change their nutritional habits or who has gone on any type of diet, you know that the thoughts associated with food can consume you. The thoughts about what foods you are “allowed” to eat? What foods are you not “allowed” to eat? What foods are going to give you the most energy? What foods will help you to manage stress? and so on.

We make hundreds of choices about food every single day! I know that seems aggressive but if you think about the planning that goes into prepping a meal, what ingredients do you have? What do you need to get? Do you even feel like cooking chicken for dinner? Then there are the decisions we face eating out? Are you going to get Baracoa in your Chipotle bowl today? Are you going to get a side of chips? Etc

We are surrounded with food and choices about food. It is inevitable. We HAVE to eat, and sometimes we can feel pretty out of control with those decisions.

As a Nutritionist, I can definitely get wrapped up in thoughts of food… because it is kind of my job to care. However, it has not always been a positive relationship. My thoughts associated with food previously spiraled negatively. As I acquired a deeper knowledge about the science behind food, environmental factors, agricultural factors, etc. I got pretty wrapped up in the mindset of “every food is bad for me”. I know you would think the opposite but taking in a ton of information around food turned out to be pretty overwhelming. I went down the research rabbit hole and adopted a pretty negative outlook on the nutrition and health industry. I became obsessed and definitely let my food choices take control of me.

This is very similar to the mindset I see with my clients, who have been on diet after diet without seeing long term results. They dive in head first tracking every calorie, gram or nutrient they put into their body, they quickly let food take control of their every move.

These three mindset shifts can make a big difference in gaining back control associated with your food choices.

  1. Food Is Food Not Just Fuel -I would be lying if I said that I haven’t used the term “food is fuel” because there is truth to this statement. The issue is that food is so much more than just what it does for us in regards to energy. I’m sure you have heard the analogy of owning a Ferrari and that you would never put regular fuel in a Ferrari you would put premium because it is a high-performance vehicle. For optimal performance, we need to put in the best possible fuel for these powerful engines we call bodies right? Well not entirely, the way we eat, why we eat and environmental factors all play a huge role in our nutrition. The shift for me was to look at food as a whole foods approach rather than just nutrients, calories, macros, or grams of food. Look at the whole picture instead of breaking the food down into parts, this will help us to gain control of our nutritional choices and not become overwhelmed with the abundance of information regarding nutrition.
  2. We Have The Choice As To What Goes Into Our Bodies- Now this is -in my opinion- the hardest shift to make in our thought process. There are so many situations where we think we don’t have a choice concerning what we eat and that is a bad excuse. I know this is tough love but it doesn’t matter that you had cake at the office every single day at work this week because it was a different co-worker's birthday every time. You chose to eat the entire slice of cake. You could have had a bite to be polite, or turn it down (which is also OK).  You have the power to choose what to eat or not to eat!
  3.  Use Curiosity Instead Of Judgement- This was a HUGE one for me in my personal life and with my nutritional coaching practice. Often times we lose control of our nutritional choices when we judge ourselves. Thinking we made a “bad” decision sends us into a tailspin of “poor” nutritional choices. Instead, try to understand WHY you made the choice that you made and MOVE ON. For example, maybe you  ate an entire bag of chips while you only intended to have a handful. Breathe… first step is to question why you may have eaten the entire bag. Was it that you were distracted with watching TV? Were you “stress eating”? Were you in a social setting and following the habits of others around you? It is important to identify your triggers and what it is that makes you “lose control” with your eating habits. Constant judgement of our food choices leaves us feeling guilty and helpless. Be curious, evaluate and then move on. You have a CHOICE every time you eat to make changes.

I am not saying these are easy overnight fixes. Like any habit, you would like to change it takes time and dedication to change, especially nutritional changes. In my new program: Inner Athlete Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching we cover all of the bases involved with making long lasting changes leading to a healthy lifestyle. 

-Sylvie (OG Lifestyless)

RECIPE: Sweet Potato Casserole

YAY! Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays! I love every aspect of the dinner, but in particular...I love the sweet potato casserole. 

 Sweet potatoes are my "super food". I highly recommend them as a "high performance" food: meaning that they give you endless energy and are jam packed with nutrients, more so than regular potatoes. Although I think that potatoes have been treated unfairly over the past decade, they are still  loaded with nutrients and a source of long lasting energy. (Also a complex carbohydrate.) 

So what is so great about sweet potatoes? Other than the obvious: being delicious, they are one the the highest foods in beta carotene and Vitamin A which are incredibly important for our skin as well as very powerful antioxidants. Sweet potatoes also include B-Vitamins which help us to deal with stress as discussed in my last blog. 

I had to put a little healthy twist on the classic sweet potato casserole... I hope you enjoy:)

RECIPE: Sweet Potato Casserole 

  • 4 large sweet potatoes 
  • 1/2 cup almond milk 
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg 
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Topping: 

  • 3/4 cup mixed walnuts and pecans (or just 1 of these)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. melted coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 350  F.

2. Cook the sweet potatoes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes. Add cubes to the boiling water and cook until fork tender (about 8-10 minutes). Then drain.

3. Put Sweet potatoes back into pot and add the rest of the ingredients (excluding topping ingredients). Using a hand mixer, mix all ingredients (you may want to add more milk or spices).

4. In a separate bowl add the topping ingredients until coated. 

5. Grease an oven dish with coconut oil and then add sweet potato mix and top with nut mix. 

6. Bake until the topping is browned (about 15 minutes). 

ENJOY! 

- Sylvie (OG Lifestyles)

The Low-Down On Stress and Nutrition

In my last blog I covered some of my top strategies for handling stress utilizing lifestyle techniques. This week I am going to cover dealing with stress through nutritional efforts.

Stress is a funny thing, it can cause intense desires for cake and have us slamming back cup after cup of coffee. As initially satisfying as this may be it is the worst thing we can do when faced with stressful situations. I know, I have been there!! As I mentioned in the previous post I used to work in a very stressful corporate position and I would escape stressful situations by eating coffee cake and drinking pumpkin spice lattes. (I know it is the season but we all need to cool it on pumpkin and sugar everything!)

In my case it led to severe adrenal fatigue which in short means that the adrenal hormonal system gets burnt out in trying to deal with mental, emotional and physical stress. The symptoms can include extreme fatigue during the day but difficulty sleeping at night, low overall energy levels, and intense sugar and salt cravings. 

What about Cortisol?

It is crucial to talk about cortisol when it comes to diet and dealing with stress. Although cortisol could have an entire blog to itself, I will try to sum it up effectively.

What is cortisol? It is a very crucial stress hormone which plays many important roles including immune function, regulation of metabolism and maintaining homeostasis in the body. Cortisol is released in higher amounts throughout the day especially first thing in the morning and during exercise. It’s release gradually slows throughout our day and is lowest in the evening as we naturally “wind down”. The most important cortisol function for our topic is the elevated release during daily stressful situations.

The connection between adrenal fatigue and cortisol? These stressors (small or large) can accumulate in our bodies and eventually lead to nutrient deficiencies. Chronic stress will elevate cortisol levels and can lead to symptoms like weight gain, high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, mood swings possibly leading to anxiety and depression. NO THANKS!!

Enough with the bad stuff… let’s chat about taking action. What can we do to control stress through our nutrition?

Aside from the lifestyle factors we can dominate our stressful situations by having a kick ass diet.

My overall nutrition strategy is to add in the good stuff first! When it comes to stress there are definitely some things we need to get under control first. My first recommendation is to cut out simple sugars (sweets, baked goods, white bread, white rice etc.) and cut down on stimulants like coffee, tea, energy drinks etc. Over consumption of these simple sugars will cause imbalances in blood sugar levels which leads to ups and downs in energy levels throughout the day and can lead to adrenal fatigue. 

Instead focus on fibre rich whole grains and vegetables, known also as COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES

  • Vegetables
  • Brown Rice
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Oats (* increases serotonin levels- The feel good hormone)

These whole grains provide fibre and protein which will help to balance blood sugar levels and give you consistent energy levels throughout the day.

PROTEIN

Amino acids (breakdown of protein) are also essential for nervous system function and dealing with stress.  In particular L-tryptophan which is responsible for relaxing the brain (nuts and seeds, turkey, tuna, oats) also found in raw cacao (chocolate!).

HEALTHY FATS

Omega 3 fatty acids have been heralded for their amazing anti-inflammatory properties but they also play a really important role in decreasing cortisol levels. In addition to those roles they are a MAJOR player in proper brain function and mood regulation. 

OK obviously I need to mention veggies…

Yada yada yada… eat your veggie! Why does everyone keep saying that? Well simply put because they are jammed packed with nutrients we need in order to deal with stressful situations.

There are some specific heavy hitter nutrients (vitamins and minerals) which need mentioning:

 B-VITAMINS

B-Vitamins help the brain transmit information through neurotransmitters in-particular dopamine and serotonin which are the “feel good” hormones.

  • Vitamin B6 is important in assisting in neurotransmitter function and creating a calm mood as a result of increased serotonin levels. Foods rich in B6 include: bananas, legumes, carrots, spinach, eggs etc.
  •  Vitamin B12 aids in your body’s metabolism, it helps breaks carbohydrates into glucose, the sugar that helps your brain to function properly. Foods high in B-12: shellfish, poultry, beef and eggs
  • Vitamin B5 helps to regulate our adrenal function and assists in the production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Foods high in B5 are chicken, avocados, whole grains, and sweet potatoes