Category Archives: Diet

Meal of the Month, It’s not a cheat month!

It is officially upon us the holiday season. This is the time of the year that stress levels tend to increase. We have family pressures, our time become less ours and more dictated by outside forces, we also have ample opportunity to eat poorly. I am here to tell you it’s ok and we will get through this better and ready to attack 2020! Here are 7 tips to make it through this holiday season guilt free and wearing the same pants size you do now (or maybe even an improved body).

  1. Don’t let guilt win. When at the holiday party enjoy yourself. The extra calories are fine as long as you don’t do it everyday.
  2. Don’t count calories at the party. Akin to the first tip, be a human and have some fun.
  3. Know when you cheated and get back on the right path the next day.
  4. Drink 1 gallon of water a day. Not only will it keep you full, it will also prevent you from consuming too many liquid calories.
  5. Forgo on the flavored holiday latte flavor before the party. Like a caveman drink real coffee for a few days.
  6. Keep track of weight and how your jeans fit. These two methods or measuring your stress levels have stood the step of time. If you see an unwanted increase don’t freak out just get back on track at your next meal.
  7. At the holiday party be sure to start at the veggie plate. Fill your stomach with some carrots before going straight to the desert tray.

Bonus tip;

Create a chart with 7 days and 4 boxes per day, each box represents an eating opportunity. Every day put a check in a box when you stuck to your plan. Put an x in a box when you cheated on your plan. Score yourself out each week. Do not be too harsh. If you only followed your plan 50% of the time then just get back at it next week and aim for 60%. If you try to be perfect all the time you’ll only get frustrated and fail. So enjoy the time with friends and family, get some exercise and enjoy the sweets, just not all of them.

 

 

Meal of the Week (burn your turkey edition)

This week for our Meal of the Week we are going to change things up just a bit. We are now 8 days out from Thanksgiving. We all know that this is the ultimate “cheat day.” Here at Union Fitness we truly believe in helping each and every one of our members in and out of the gym. You may spend 1-10 hours a week in Union Fitness and we hope to empower you during that time to be your best self and live your best life. Too often as strength and fitness professionals we all lose sight of the end game, a better life. So with this in mind we are preparing to stuff ourselves on Thanksgiving day with friends and family and invite you to do the same and feel no guilt about enjoying your day.

The other thing we want to do is take care of yourself and others. On Thursday November 28th we invite you (and friends, member or non-member) to come down to Union Fitness and join us in our biggest class. We have named this class the Turkey Burn. If you are using our discount and running the Turkey Trot with our friends at the YMCA we will let you slide on this one. If you are free come down and join in the superclass. All we ask of you is three things:

  1. Bring a canned good so that we may donate to those less fortunate than us. Don’t worry there will be coffee for after the workout.
  2. Bring your Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) and maybe some friends or family to raise their holiday spirits too.
  3. Sign up for the class online so we know how much coffee to bring. We have already added more spots to this class three times so let’s burn some turkeys.

The workout will consist of some cardio class, some lifting as well as a special Powerful with CJ workout. We will have the entire gym to ourselves so should be a great day of training. The workout will begin at 9 AM and wrap up at 10 AM, just in time to check your burnt turkey at home.

If you have any questions please ask any of our staff members. Now let’s empower each other for greatness.

CJ’s Spicy Salsa

It’s Wednesday so that means it’s time for meal of the week. We at Union Fitness love a good spice and nothing says spicy food like a cold day, so with winter creeping upon us we give you this recipe from Charles Jasper (CeJ, CJ, CG).

If you’re looking for some quality spice in your life, I suggest you try out this tasty salsa recipe. After my buddy Anthony B tried it out, he gave me his high five of approval. I’m not a guy that follows recipes to a tee but here is the baseline of ingredients .

CeJ’s Salsa Party
1-14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1-10oz can diced tomatoes w green chili
3- cloves of garlic
1/2-onion of your choice
2- jalapeños
Couple squeezes of honey( I used hot honey)
1/2- Cup of cilantro
A Bump of Salt
Lime Juice
Toss all these into the blender, pulse it up and enjoy!
Stay Spicy my friends,
CeJ

Cayt’s Meal Of the Week

For those that may not know, powerlifting is a weight class sport and in hope to maintain the theme of the upcoming meet, I am going to talk about my mindset going into weigh-ins this meet.  This may be my first full power meet that I don’t try and cut weight to make a weight class.  The thought alone messes with my head a little for a few reasons, but I am trying to find peace with it being an option.  I am slightly above weight so once we reach 7 days out I will decide if it is something I can and want to manage.  

For someone with a past of eating disorders, I am very aware of my own triggers.  I am still learning how to entirely combat those feelings, but I am also learning to accept that it will be a process of good and bad days and even better and worse moments.  Leading into this meet, I am acknowledging that a few of my personal triggers are developing and when this happens I have to prioritize those that I can control and cannot control.  

With that said, for the time being, my goal is to eat enough to regain energy, to train and recover as necessary, and to COMPETE well.  

I made a big pot of chili over the weekend for one of my meals.  I rarely use measurements and tend to use my eyes as a judgment call for recipes like this.  However, these are all of the ingredients: 

93/7 ground turkey 

90/10 ground beef 

Black beans

Light red kidney beans

Dark red kidney beans

Carrots

Celery 

Onion

Green, yellow, and red pepper

Tomato sauce 

Diced tomatoes

Chicken broth

 

Meal of the Week – Mariah’s Cilantro Lime Salmon

Can you say superfood?! Salmon has so many health benefits as well as being uber tasty! It’s probably top of my favorite sea meals. Going forward, I’m trying to incorporate new dishes into my prep besides just chicken and rice. I want to add some flavor to my routine so let’s see how these couple weeks go, and I’ll keep you updated!

 

So back to what you came for. Salmon is a good source of potassium, balancing blood pressure, and your immune system. It also is an anti-inflammatory so helping with recovery thanks to its Omega-3s for all my lifting friends.

 

With this main dish, I would pair it with 1 cup of 5 min white rice I usually squeeze lime juice and garlic powder to give it some flavor as well as 1 cup of steamed brussel sprouts. I just buy mine from Aldis usually cost around $1.27 for a bag. Their 5min white rice usually comes out to be $1.70.

 

So delicious! And guess what it takes only 20 mins for the whole meal, so if you’re looking for a quick dish this week this one is a goooo!

 

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 10 mins

Total time: 15 mins

Serving: 6

 

Ingredients:

2 tbs oil

1 lime (juice/zest)

2tbs cilantro, coarsely chopped

½ jalapeno, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped (I used 1tbsp of minced garlic)

2 lb salmon fillet

 

Directions:

  1. Puree the oil, lime, juice, and zest, cilantro, jalapeno and garlic in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Place the salmon on foil on a baking sheet, pat dry, season with salt and pepper, spread on the cilantro and lime mixture and bake in a preheated 400F/200C oven (or barbecue) until just cooked, about 10-15 minutes.

 

Nutrition:

245 Cals

14g fat

1.5 g carbs

30 g protein

 

Lindsey’s Quick Ramen Bowl

During our “fake fall,” my cravings for warm, comforting things came back full swing – weighted blankets, sleeping in, pumpkin spice everything, and naturally, soup.

 

It’s 90 degrees out right now, so that’s a bummer, but I’m still on the soup train. I’m working fairly late, so by the time I get home and take care of BB, I have to get food in pretty quickly in order to get to bed on time. For a long time, that meant eating a prepared salad and calling it a night, but I’ve been making a little more effort as of late. Here’s a soup option that won’t take more than 15-30 minutes (with a little prep). It does include a few special ingredients, but I’ll include some substitutions that you’re more likely to have on hand.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 pack Brown Rice and Millet Ramen (from Costco, but use any ramen pack, no seasoning)
  • Avocado oil (or your choice cooking oil)
  • Veggies of your choosing, sliced thinly (and lots of them)
    • I used Napa cabbage, carrot, red bell pepper, snow peas, and a ton of shiitake mushrooms
  • 4-8oz of prepped proteins of your choosing
    • I normally use chicken thighs that I’ve pre-prepped. Today I did 2oz of those, 3 oz. shrimp, and 3oz pre-cubed tofu (it was a hard training day, needed the calories and protein)
  • Lime Juice
  • Fish Sauce (or soy if you don’t have it on. you, just go light)
  • Sesame oil
  • 8oz chicken bone broth (I love this one with turmeric)
  • Water to taste
  • Herbs and toppings of your choice (I did a huge handful of Thai basil I was gifted and half an avocado)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Make:

  1. Slice and dice your veggies, set aside in a bowl (I like to group my slower cooking veggies in one bowl and my faster cooking veggies in another).
  2. Prepare your protein(s). I shelled my shrimp and set aside, then sliced up my cooked chicken and set it aside with the cubed tofu.
  3. Bowl the ramen according to the packaging in a small pot. When it’s finished, drain and set aside.
  4. While the ramen is cooking, start cooking your protein and veggies. In a medium-large pot set to medium heat, warm the avocado oil. When it’s hot, add your protein if cooking from raw. If you’re using cooked protein, go right in with the slow cooking veggies. Season with salt, throw a lid on it, let them cook.
  5. Once they’ve started to brown, add your slower cooking veggies and your proteins. Season with salt again. I cover and make sure to shake them around a bit.
  6. By this point, your ramen is ready to go. When the veggies are cooked to your desired done-ness (I like them pretty crunchy, so it’s quick in my kitchen), throw in your noodles.
  7. Immediately top with your chicken bone broth and enough water to reach your desired soup consistency.
  8. Season with fish oil (a few splashes is plenty), lime juice, and a bit of sesame oil.
  9. Let everything simmer together for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Top with your herbs/toppings of choice, throw it in a bowl and go to town.

This particular bowl came out to 750cals, 62g protein, 69g carbs, and 23g fat. Right on target for me, and totally customizable for you!

Meal of the Week – Alison’s Edamame Noodles

Say hello to my newest obsession: Edamame Noodles. 

 

I stumbled upon these bad boys at Aldi this weekend while my kids were searching for the perfect noodle. (Unbeknownst to me, I might have found mine too!) They settled upon linguine and I popped these organic, gluten free & vegan noodles in the cart too.  A good gluten free noodle is hard to come by, so naturally I was a little wary.  I’m happy to report that they got a gold star from me!

 

  • Tastes good
  • Fast cook time
  • Cheap
  • Healthy
  • Versatile

 

I’m always excited to find a noodle that has a hefty amount of protein and just one serving (about 2 oz dry) packs a massive 24g of protein, only 20g of carbs and 3.5g of fat.  Wins all around!

 

For lunches this week, I tossed the noodles in about ½ teaspoon of pesto sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, paired with BBQ grilled chicken and fresh from the farm green beans.

Fitness Over the Holidays

It’s mid-December and the holiday season is now fully upon us. What does that mean? Probably a little less time in the gym, a few more cookies than usual, and hopefully a lot more time with friends and family. Good things all around in my humble opinion.

If you’re traveling over the next few weeks, you might be feeling a little anxiety about skipping your workouts and training sessions. Here are a few quick and maybe unexpected tips to help keep you on track:

Stop stressing.

Hey you, when’s the last time you actually took a prolonged rest? Did I hear never? Well, look’s like now is your time! And what better occasion could there be to give your body the rest it needs to recover than when spending lots of quality time with your loved ones? You’ll likely be eating a little more than usual, giving your body some extra fuel to use towards recovery. When January 1 comes around, you’ll feel refreshed and super motivated to get back to your normal training routine.

You can still keep your health goals in mind.

Remember that not every meal in the month of December is a holiday meal – most of the time you’re going to be eating the normal, healthy food that fuels you. Right? If not, give that some thought. Holiday food is delicious and should be savored, and it loses its luster when you’re overindulging. Eat grandma’s famous nut roll and enjoy the hell out of, but not every night for a week. You are capable of moderation, and your body will thank you for it.

Use travel as an opportunity to try new fitness things.

One of my favorite things to do when I go home to visit family is to try out different gyms and studios. Never tried yoga? Find a local studio and rent a mat! Climbing gyms abound recently and are a ton of fun, even for casual climbers. Think spinning isn’t for you? You might be surprised.

If you’re looking for a cool place to lift, don’t hesitate to ask the UF staff! We may know a place that suits you (we’re all meatheads after all).

If you’re going to lift, consider simplifying your training.

Union Fitness is a pretty sweet spot and we have a lot of cool equipment you probably won’t find at your basic commercial gym. Be flexible in your training for these few weeks. It’ll be easier on you mentally to head into the gym and just focus on the basics. This doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself! Maybe this is the week you give try a set of 20 reps on your squats?

No access to a gym? Work out at home with Fitness Blender!

I recommend Fitness Blender to friends all the time for travel workouts. They have tons of workouts that can be done with just your bodyweight (or you can include any equipment you have access to). You can choose how long you want to work out for, what body parts, and what type of training.

When in doubt, do burpees.

They’ll destroy you no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Happy Holidays from the Union Fitness Team!

To supplement, or not to supplement….

One of my favorite questions- “what supplements should I take?”

 

Everyone from mom and dad to Ray Lewis have turned to supplements at some point in their lives. Why? Sometimes out of necessity- doctors orders. Sometimes to gain a perceived edge over their competition. And sometimes out of ignorance.

 

I don’t want to comment on the morals of the fitness industry- it’s a rabbit hole I’m no interested in going down for the sake of this article. The industry as a whole is “OK.” But I’m going to be critical of the supplement industry, and deservedly so.

 

Supplements ARE NOT regulated by the FDA. They can be made in someone’s kitchen, branded, marketed, and sold anywhere, even GNC. Of course GNC decides what to carry and what not to carry, but no matter what, NONE of the items on their shelves are FDA approved. Do I think the FDA regulations do a good job of protecting us- the short answer is no. But would ANY oversight in the supplement industry be helpful- yes.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR (Buyer Beware)

Fat burners, Testosterone boosters, Weight gainers, Detox pills…the list goes on.

 

Fat burners raise your heart rate, period.
Test boosters lower your estrogen levels so your testosterone is higher (relative).
*FYI gents, we need estrogen just as much as we need testosterone.
Weight gainers are typically loaded with sugar.
Detox pills…how about let your liver and kidney’s do their job?

 

So we’re back to the question that almost everyone asks- “What supplements should I take?”

 

How about this- “Should I consider taking a supplement?”

 

A supplement is defined as something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.

 

Answer these questions honestly, and you can very quickly determine what, if anything, you should be taking:

 

  • Are you getting 8+ hours of sleep per night?
  • Are you hitting your caloric maintenance number?
    (A surplus will cause you to gain weight, a deficit will cause you to lose weight- obviously goal dependent)
  • Have you had blood work done to determine if you may be deficient in any vitamins or minerals?

 

If you aren’t eating well balanced meals or are getting a lot of processed foods, you’re missing out on essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). If you aren’t getting 8 hours of sleep, your body’s hormones are already out of whack. And if you don’t know what, if anything, you’re deficient in, why supplement? You don’t even know what you’re supplementing.

 

And supplementing poor habits is a waste of money. Eat healthy. Sleep more. If you can’t take commit to those things, put your wallet back in your pocket and save your money.

 

Now, I realize most of you will not go through all of this before supplementing. So I’ll give you the basics, as I see them. This is not a recommendation and I am not a doctor.

 

ZMA
Zinc, Magnesium, B6
One of the greatest supplements ever invented. It will help you sleep and provides two minerals that the majority of the population is deficient in. *the most bang for your buck

 

Vitamin D3
We don’t get enough sunshine in Pittsburgh, so this is likely another area where you could be deficient. It will take months after starting supplementation to see a significant improvement in levels, but this should all be checked through blood work. Remember, it is fat soluble, so it needs to be taken with food that contains fat.

 

Magnesium
I prefer glycinate because it is absorbed easily with little GI discomfort. Too much magnesium will having you running to the bathroom, so start with small doses. Again, most people are deficient here. Magnesium is used in over 300 chemical reactions within the body…it’s important. And if you go to the gym regularly, you need more than the average none gym goer to put it technically.

 

Creatine
This is one of the most studied supplements ever. It helps with athletic performance by facilitating ATP production (ATP, if you remember from high school biology, is cellular energy). If you dose this too high, it will strain your kidneys.

 

Moral of the story- don’t try any of these without consulting your doctor.
Sleep more.
Eat better.
Then supplement, maybe.

Holiday Healthy Habits

 

I would bet that during the days after Thanksgiving, Google sees a sharp increase in searches for weight loss tips and tricks. Most of us have been there: maybe went a little too hard on the sweet potato casserole and pie, feeling a little bit bigger than we’d like after, and hyperaware of the 5 holiday parties we have just around the corner. It can be tempting to let those negative voices push us towards some quick fix juice cleanse we found on Pinterest in a desperate effort to shed the 5 pounds we supposedly gained since Thursday. I’m here to gently push you in the opposite direction. We’re here for lifestyle change, and a normal healthy lifestyle necessarily includes (over)indulgence sometimes.

 

Our main goal here at Union Fitness is to encourage all of our members to adopt healthy, maintainable habits for the rest of their life. That means that sometimes we’re going to have days where we eat whatever we want (and a lot of those days come during the months of November and December). There is no shame in that, and it’s truly not something to worry about. The key is getting right back to your normal routine, avoiding those quick fixes you’re seeing in your Facebook ads. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind this holiday season:

 

DO: go right back to your everyday diet.

The holiday came and went, and it’s time to get back to your normally scheduled routine. Sometimes one day of total indulgence leads to a weekend, a whole week, or even a whole month of full-on binge eating, especially if you’re prone to black-and-white thinking patterns. If you find that you can either stick with your diet and training routine 100% or not at all, this is probably you. Remember that just like eating one salad won’t magically make you healthy, overeating one day won’t magically make you unhealthy either. Our health is determined by what we do regularly, and hopefully for you that means a diet with lots of whole foods!

 

DO: be realistic about weight gain.

Yes, I’m sure we’ve all put on a few pounds since Thanksgiving. Most of that weight is likely due to increased water retention and bloat (that’ll happen when you load up on carbs and sodium, like most of our favorite Thanksgiving foods). By getting back to  your normal routine, you’ll see that weight drop back down to normal ranges very  quickly.

 

DON’T: ever use a Pinterest cleanse or detox.

Just don’t. They’re all terrible. Your liver is really, really good at removing toxins from your body. A magical drink is not going to fix anything, and in reality will just make you more predisposed to binge when you’re “allowed” to eat again. Think long term.

 

DON’T: let the holiday season be an excuse to binge eat.

Humans are really great at rationalizing. “Well our work holiday party is next week, then my family holiday party is the following weekend. May as well just live it up for the next  month and get back to it for the New Year.” While this line of thinking is tempting to our baser instincts, it will absolutely set you back in your performance and aesthetic goals. In addition, the habit of binge eating is incredibly difficult to break: eating lots of food does make us feel good in the short term, but makes us sick in the long term. Humans are also really bad at long term thinking, so do yourself a favor and nip this one in the bud now. Every meal is an opportunity to feed yourself well and progress towards the health and fitness you want. Don’t let one or two meals stand in the way of that.

 

DON’T: turn to overexercising or fasting to negate your holiday eating.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may feel the urge to fast or exercise a lot longer/harder than usual following a big meal. While these methods may feel logical in the moment (especially for black-and-white thinkers), they fall under the category of purging behavior. Despite what some chart equating a piece of pie with the exercise that will burn it off suggests, you don’t need to punish yourself for being indulgent over the holidays. It’s ok to enjoy your meal a little more than usual sometimes. Like getting in the binge habit, breaking the purge habit is similarly difficult, and can lead right back to binge eating. These are opportunities to practice some self-compassion.

 

Finally, DO: thoroughly enjoy the holiday season!

Food is far from the most important part of this season. We get to spend quality time with friends and family, give (and receive) gifts to those we love, enjoy the earliest and prettiest parts of winter, and take some time to relax. Every day is a gift. Enjoy it. Enjoy   every part of it, right down to your mom’s Christmas cookies and the champagne toast on New Year’s Eve. We only get so many.