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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Burn Fat and Recover with This Antioxidant-Packed Dish: Grilled Wild Salmon with Spring Pea Hummus

The wild salmon is fantastic at Bi-Rite this week, and they've been grilling and serving it with a spring pea hummus that is quite simply unforgettable. After a little bit of begging, I convinced the talented chefs at Bi-Rite to share their family recipe with all of you. 

Green and bright with a creamy, crunchy texture, this spring pea hummus is loaded with antioxidants and adds an unexpected kick to your salmon dish. The recipe is large enough for leftovers, so try it as a dip for carrots, cucumbers, peppers and other raw veggies, or roll it into organic turkey slices for an afternoon snack. 


1 LB Fresh Snap Peas (stems removed)
1 Bag Frozen English Peas (thawed and drained)
1.5 LBS Unshelled Fresh English Peas
2 oz Tahini
1 Cup Sour Cream
1/4 Cup Mint (finely chopped)
2 TBL Garlic (minced)
I Bunch Chive (finely chopped)
2 TBL Lemon Zest
Sea Salt

Blanch the snap peas and English peas in salted water for about 30 seconds each. The fresh English peas may take longer given their size, so blanch them separately. Shock the peas in water and drain very well. 

Combine the drained and dry peas with the sour cream in a food processor, and add the garlic, lemon zest and tahini. Note: Set some of the fresh English peas aside to add in at the very end for texture. Pulse the mixture until semi-smooth. 

Add the salt, pepper and herbs and adjust final seasoning with lemon juice and salt. 

We all know wild salmon is loaded with heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory omega-3s, but recent research shows that green peas are an excellent source of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Foods that are high in healthy fats help us to recover during periods of high stress, so be sure to try this dish after a tough workout for optimal results. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Are You A Supple Leopard? The Most Effective Way to Stretch

Is that stretch helping or hurting?
If you still think static stretching is the best way to warm up before a training session or a round of golf, this blog's for you. Static stretching, while often linked to injury prevention, can actually do more harm than good. Recent studies show that static stretching can decrease your vertical thrust power (highly important for those of you looking to sprint faster or hit the golf ball farther). In addition to impairing athletic performance, studies also prove that static stretching does little to warm up your muscles or break down painful adhesions. As a client of mine put it the other day, if you have a knot, pulling on both sides of the string is only going to make the knot tighter.

Those of you who train with me know that I often choose dynamic stretches over static ones, such as the Feldenkrais method and other mobilization techniques using ropes and swiss balls. But the easiest way to get your muscle tissue warm and limber is to use a foam roller. 

Foam rolling is an easy and effective way to improve your athletic performance and reduce your risk of injury. It has been proven to improve circulation, increase blood flow, break down adhesions within muscles (just like a massage), release muscle tightness and reduce pain. Many of my golf clients have seen drastic improvements in their swing simply by adding foam rolling to their workout programs. How? Foam rolling has been proven to increase your range of motion in just a few seconds, allowing you to get more rotation in your thoracic spine in your backswing, or more mobility in your hips in the downswing. Not a golfer? Having a supple, warm body is essential to preventing injury in any activity, whether you're jumping rope, gardening or playing with your grandchildren. 

Here are my favorite mobilization tools:

A client recently introduced me to The Orb. Not for the faint of heart, The Orb will release your psoas and break down tightness in your glutes like no other. 

For thoracic spine mobilizations I highly recommend a 4 x 36 inch foam roller and for larger areas such as the quads and IT band, I suggest the 6 x 36 inch foam roller

And a fantastic book that I can't wait finish: Becoming A Supple Leopard. Sign me up. 

Finally, here's a great video by Titleist Advisory Board member Robert Yang with some foam rolling techniques and tips. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Swap Out Your Protein Shake For This Fat-Burning Breakfast

Are you looking for something quick and protein-packed to eat the in the morning? Have you switched to a gluten-free/grain-free diet but find yourself longing for the cereals and granolas of your past? A healthy, well-balanced breakfast doesn't have to eat up an hour of your time in the morning. This simple recipe is loaded with heart-healthy fats, high-quality proteins and organic vegetables. And (here comes the best part) it can be made over the weekend and stored for grab-and-go breakfasts during the week. 

Why cook when I can just drink a protein shake?

Whenever you drink instead of eat calories, you inadvertently spike your insulin levels, which leads to fat storage and weight gain. Whether your goal is losing weight or keeping your concentration and memory sharp, insulin needs to be in your mind every time you select a meal. Remember, regardless of how they are marketed now, protein shakes were originally designed as a post-workout recovery tool. That's right -- protein shakes are not meant to be a meal replacement. 

According to Nutritionist and Strength and Conditioning Specialist Robert Yang, "If you drink a protein shake, it will spike your blood sugar and insulin far more than eating a whole food meal. High insulin levels are NOT ideal first thing in the morning.  We want insulin levels to be low because low insulin means that fat burning can be at a higher rate...I have consulted with many athletes and clients that start their day with protein shakes.  They often complain about lower energy, less focus, concentration and cravings for sugar later in the day.  Once I switch their breakfast to a whole food meal, many of these symptoms go away.  Plus they lose a few pounds of fat in the process!"

So there you have it. Whole foods win, yet again. 

Since time is a main concern for most of you, try this simple recipe for a satiating and nutritious breakfast you can enjoy, even when you're rushing out the door. 

Spinach, Green Onion and Smoked Salmon Frittata 

1 Cup chopped spinach
3 green onions
12 pastured eggs
1/3 pound smoked salmon, chopped (can also use ham)
1-2 shallots or 1/4 of an onion
3 tablespoons chopped dill 
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 
Celtic sea salt
Fresh pepper
1.5 oz Andante goat cheese or other high quality goat cheese*

*For those who tolerate dairy

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Saute the onion (or shallots), green onions and butter in a 10-inch stainless steel pan over medium-low heat for roughly five minutes. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream and add the chopped smoked salmon, dill, spinach, goat cheese, salt and pepper. Poor the mixture over the sauteed onions and let sit for roughly 2 minutes. Then transfer the pan into the oven and bake for roughly 40 minutes, or until it puffs up (use a knife to make sure the mixture is fully cooked). Cut the frittata into meal-sized portions and store in the fridge for breakfasts (they also make a great snack or post-workout meal). 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Burn Off Holiday "Joy" With This Four Minute Workout

Ah, the first week back after the holiday whirlwind. That magic month when the gym is packed with people you've never seen before. The beginning of that special time when you have to wait an hour for a cardio machine. If the crowds have you discouraged from training, or if the idea of a five-mile run makes you want to hide under the covers, you're in luck: Just twelve minutes of high intensity cardio a week burns more fat and calories than one hour of cardio a day. 

Ballistic exercise, not endurance cardio, is without question the best way to create high caloric expenditure and body fat metabolism. According to fat loss expert and Titleist Advisory Board Member Dr. Mark Smith, burst training burns five times more calories than slow, steady cardio. When it comes to fat-loss and exercise, think of calories like the fuel in your car. You want to be a gas-guzzling SUV, not a fuel-efficient Prius. After being pushed into rapid acceleration (such as in a ballistic sprint) your body goes into fat burning mode for recovery, boosting your metabolism for the rest of the day. Endurance training (the long slow stuff, as Smith calls it) simply doesn't produce the same fat burning response, regardless of how many miles your put on your wheels. 

In addition to elevating your metabolism, a study documented in a recent article in The New York Times found that people who ran on a treadmill for a mere four minutes three times a week for 10 weeks raised their maximal oxygen uptake, or endurance capacity, by about 10 percent and significantly improved their blood sugar control and blood pressure profiles.

So if your goal is to get lean, toned and tight for the New Year, think quality, not quantity. Burst training isn't as intimidating as it sounds. A simple ballistic exercise that I love requires no equipment and can be performed virtually anywhere. Simply set up two markers 15 feet apart. Start the exercise by lunging down and touching one marker, then sprint as fast as you can to the other and touch down. That counts as one. Then sprint back to the opposite marker again. Time yourself for 30s and keep track of how many touches you can perform. Not only highly effective for burning fat and boosting metabolism, ballistic exercise has also been proven to increase both club head speed and power in golfers. So if your New Year's resolution was to gain some extra distance, add some intensity to your training. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Got Magnesium? The Relaxation Mineral

While we hear quite a bit about the importance of Calcium, we don't hear much about Magnesium, an essential mineral that roughly 80% of us are deficient in.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, Magnesium should be called The Relaxation Mineral. "Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff -- whether it is a body part or an even a mood -- is a sign of magnesium deficiency. It is an antidote to stress, the most powerful relaxation mineral available, and it can help improve your sleep."

So what does tight, irritable and crampy translate to in medical terms? Magnesium plays a major role in the action of your heart muscle, the creation of ATP (energy) in your cells, the proper formation of bones and teeth, the relaxation of blood vessels and the regulation of blood sugar levels. According to recent studies, the health benefits of Magnesium have been grossly underestimated. Magnesium can greatly benefit those who suffer from:

* Inflammation
* Migraines
* Fibromyalgia
* Atrial Fibrillation
* Cardiovascular Disease
* Type 2 Diabetes
* PMS 

Unfortunately a simple lab test is not the best way to measure Magnesium levels. So, being on the lookout for some common symptoms of Magnesium deficiency might
be the best way to diagnose yourself. Some common health issues associated with Magnesium deficiency include:

* Coronary Spasm
* Abnormal Hearth Rhythms
* Seizures
* Muscle Cramps or Twitches
* Kidney Stones
* Chronic Fatigue
* Irritable Bladder
* Anxiety
* Angina
* Osteoporosis

Do you crave chocolate….more than the average human? Chocolate cravings are often a sign of Magnesium deficiency, as the cocoa bean contains a very high level of the mineral. One of the best ways to get a healthy level of Magnesium is actually through your diet. The whole foods with the highest levels of Magnesium are:

* Shrimp
* Seaweed
* Collard Greens
* Avocado
* Coriander
* Pumpkin Seeds
* Flax Seed
* Almond Butter
* Dandelion Greens
* Garlic
* Basil 

Of course, there are also some great Magnesium supplements on the market. My two favorite sources of Magnesium in supplement form are Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Citrate (most will benefit from 400-1000mg per day). With supplements it's important to remember that many vitamins and minerals work synergistically. So when supplementing with Magnesium, remember that you need adequate amounts of Vitamin D3 (latest studies suggest 5000 iu's per day) and selenium in order to properly absorb the mineral.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Brain Food: Coconut Milk and Turmeric Marinated Chicken Skewers

I was at BiRite last week and couldn't resist trying their coconut milk and turmeric marinated chicken skewers. I had just been reading in Grain Brain about the numerous health benefits of turmeric and coconut, so I was thrilled to see both in one simple dish. Luckily, my friends at BiRite were kind enough to share their recipe with me so that I could share it with all of you. 

So why are coconut and turmeric such wonder foods?

Turmeric is a proven cancer-fighting, antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal spice that has been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. As David Perlmutter points out in Grain Brain, there's a direct link between diets rich in turmeric and a decreased risk of neurological disease. Perlmutter asserts that one of turmeric's secret weapons is "its ability to activate genes to produce a vast array of antioxidants that serve to protect our precious mitochondria. It also improves glucose metabolism. All of these properties help reduce risk for brain disease."

Full of heart and brain healthy saturated fat, coconut is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. In addition to being anti-viral, anti-bacterial and most importantly, anti-inflammatory, the fat in coconut is essential for insulin regulation and metabolism. It is truly a wonder food that accelerates your weight loss and reduces your risk of disease in the process. 

Simple and quick, pop these skewers on the grill or broil them for a nutritious and satiating meal. 

Coconut Milk and Turmeric Marinated Chicken Skewers


1 can of full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon of freshly grated turmeric 
1/2 to 1 tablespoon fish sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 lb chicken breast and/or thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, fish sauce, turmeric, sea salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the bowl and coat evenly. Cover and let marinate for at 24 hours. When you're ready to cook your meal, simply thread the chicken onto skewers and broil or grill them until fully cooked. I've been serving mine over a simple salad, but the flavor in this recipe is subtle enough that they would go well with a variety of vegetables. 

HELP! I've never seen turmeric. Can I just buy it ground up? 

Fresh turmeric is best, and it can be found in the produce section of your grocery store, usually near the ginger. It looks like this

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Is Fruit The Health Food You Think It Is?

Most people who come to me for nutrition coaching make the same common mistakes when it comes to sugar: they eat fruit and grains for breakfast and they go on juice cleanses when they want to drop a few pounds. Now many of you reading this might find it odd that I put those mistakes under the bracket of sugar. Isn't sugar the stuff in candy, cookies and soda? Freshly-squeezed juice and organic fruits can't possibly be bad for you, right? Wrong. 

We've been conditioned to believe that fruit is beneficial for our overall wellness. It's continually praised as a health food, rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Yet experts in the field of obesity and cognitive performance have found that our bodies can't necessarily tell the difference between the sugar found in fruit and the sugar found in a can of soda. When you eat sugar, regardless of if it comes from a mango or Twizzlers, it stimulates insulin secretion and consequently, fat storage. I'm not suggesting that fruit isn't better for you than candy, but if your goal is blood sugar regulation (which in turn leads to a smaller waist and a bigger brain*), you should only sparingly incorporate fruit into your diet plan.

If you're going to eat fruit, I highly suggest you eat it whole instead of juicing it. While the water and fiber in eating a whole piece of fruit dilutes its effect on your blood sugar, according to neurologist and author of Grain Brain David Perlmutter, "If you juice several apples and concentrate the liquid down to a 12-ounce beverage (thereby losing the fiber), lo and behold you get a blast of 85 sugar calories that could just as well have come from a soda. When that fructose hits the liver, most of it gets converted to fat and sent to our fat cells." And as Gary Taubes says in his book Why We Get Fat, "Even though fructose has no immediate effect on blood sugar and insulin, over time --maybe a few years--it is a likely cause of insulin resistance and thus the increased storage of calories as fat."

Even if you don't struggle with your weight, there is an undeniable link between sugar consumption and decreased cognitive performance. Surges in blood sugar levels lead to an inflammatory response that negatively impacts your neurotransmitters. According to Perlmutter, "Neurotransmitters are your main mood and brain regulators, and when your blood sugar increases, there's an immediate depletion of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, and dopamine." So what's the result? Brain fog, depression, fatigue, mood swing, anxiety and over time, the shrinking of critical brain tissue. Need more evidence for the link between sugar and the brain, becoming a diabetic doubles your risk for Alzheimer's disease). 

Still Want Fruit? Some Tips:
-Only eat organic fruits
-Eat whole fruits instead of juicing them
-Stick to low-glycemic fruits such as berries and apples (if you peel the apples they will contain even less sugar)
-Always eat fruit in combination with proteins and/or a high quality fat to mitigate the blood sugar response.

*Interested? Check out Grain Brain. It's one of the most persuasive reads for the link between neurological diseases and sugar.