HEALTH & FITNESS
#Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday is considered a holiday by many and the way we eat on that day proves it! Besides Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest feast of the year. An estimated 60% of households eat pizza (great choice since it’s my favorite food!) and other fan favorites like buffalo wings, chips and guacamole, soda pop and of course beer.

To ask people to give up calorie packed foods on Super Bowl Sunday is just not American. Let’s remember it’s just one day! If you want to just go for it this Super Bowl Sunday, then go for it and simply get back on plan Monday morning. But if you’re looking for some cool ways to still eat your favorite Super Bowl foods AND save at least 1000 calories, here are 5 simple food adjustments to make as you’re watching the game and munching away:

Pizza – Make it a thin crust event

2 slices of regular crust cheese pizza – 570 Calories

2 slices of thin crust cheese pizza – 418 calories

CALORIES SAVED - 152

Buffalo Wings – Keep it skinless with your wings

6 small chicken wings with skin - 486 Calories

6 small chicken wings without skin - 204 Calories

CALORIES SAVED – 282

BONUS SAVE – Use barbecue sauce instead of ranch dressing with your wings

Ranch dressing (about 2 tbsp) – 145 Calories

Barbecue sauce (about 2 tbsp) – 58 Calories

CALORIES SAVED - 87

Guacamole - Go red instead of green

1 Cup of guacamole dip – 364 calories

1 Cup of salsa dip - 67 Calories

CALORIES SAVED – 297

BONUS SAVE - Use baked, reduced fat chips instead of regular potato chips

Regular potato chips, 2 cups – 274 calories

Baked Chips, reduced fat , 2 cups - 188 calories

CALORIES SAVED – 86

Beer – Drink less calories & STILL get the Buzz!

2 Regular Beers (12 oz) – 306 Calories

2 Becks Premier Light (12 oz) – 128 calories (best calorie & alcohol impact)

CALORIES SAVED – 178

Soda – Take sugar out of the equation

2 Cans of regular soda pop – 280 Calories

2 Cans of diet soda - 8 Calories

CALORIES SAVED – 272

BETTER CHOICE – Diet ice tea or Zero Calorie Vitamin Water. You save the calories and drink healthier beverages with flavor and taste!

With these 5 simple adjustments you save a whopping 1181 Calories! And if you want to go the extra mile and use barbecue sauce with your wings and baked chips with your dip, you’ll save a grand total of 1354 calories on Super Bowl Sunday, and still be eating the foods you love. Rockin’ your health is always about making the minor adjustments so you can win in every scenario. Now you have a realistic and winning food strategy for the Super Bowl!

Mark Macdonald, CEO and Creator of the Venice Nutrition Program and Author of NY Times Bestselling Book, Body Confidence

#Thursday, January 23, 2014

We have all heard, "You are what you eat". What we should be saying is, “You are what you metabolize”.

The reality is, even if your nutrition and exercise are on point, your sleep is the secret key that unlocks the power of your metabolism and helps turn your body into a fat burning machine! To help you master your sleep and maximize weight loss, it’s important to dive into:

- Your sleep cycles

- The 3 hormones that trigger weight gain when you're sleep deprived

- The 5 strategies you need to master your sleep

First up... The power of 90 minutes

Just like how your cell phone has a battery that needs to be recharged, your body and mind also need to be consistently recharged. Instead of using electricity (like your phone), your body uses sleep. Think of your sleep as powerful 90 minute cycles with multiple stages that repeat all night long. Each cycle has 4 stages and ends with REM sleep (your dream state). Stage 1 and 2 are considered light sleep (that twilight sleep we all know). Light sleep gets your body ready to enter deep sleep. Stage 3 and 4 are deep sleep, which repair and rejuvenate your body. Where deep sleep strengthens your body, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep organizes your mind. REM sleep is your mind's efficient filing system for your memories and thoughts. Once REM sleep is over, the cycle repeats.

Balanced hormones = a leaner & lighter body

In perfect world, we would all get enough sleep. The problem is the majority of us live in a state of chronic sleep deprivation and that causes big challenges with three main hormones, Ghrelin, Leptin & Cortisol. Look at Ghrelin and Leptin as your two hormones that balance your appetite. Ghrelin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract and stimulates hunger and Leptin is produced in your fat cells and tells your body when you're full. When you're sleep deprived your body over releases Ghrelin, increasing your appetite and inhibits the release of Leptin, preventing you from feeling full. This triggers higher calorie consumption and weight gain.

Now if that wasn't bad enough, the other hormone affected by lack of sleep is Cortisol (your stress hormone). That unwanted belly fat we all love so much (yeah right!), is mostly caused by cortisol. When you're tired, your cortisol levels will naturally rise which directly affects your blood sugar; increasing your appetite and causing cravings. This leads to higher calorie and carbohydrate intake which spikes your blood sugar and causes fat storage.

5 strategies to master your sleep

You know why your body need sleeps and some of the hormonal challenges that are triggered without adequate sleep. Now it's time to get your sleep dialed in and get your metabolism rockin’ in 2014 with these 5 strategies.

Strategy 1 - Set a sleep schedule

As much as many of us hate set schedules, the reality is our body loves them.  Your body's goal is to stay in rhythm and balance, and the best way to do that is by having a sleep schedule. Simply start with the amount of hours you need to sleep each night and wake up feeling rested. The amount of sleep a person needs is individual and genetic so that might be 7, 8 or 9 hours for you.  Once you know your hours, set your bed and wake time each day.  Of course, there will be the occasional late nights (we all have to live a little!). On those late nights, still wake up at your normal wake time and then go to sleep a little earlier the next couple nights until you make up for the hours you’ve lost.  You heard me right; sleep can be made up!

Strategy 2 - Resist the snooze button

It feels so good, hitting that snooze button and knowing you have 30 more minutes in bed.  Well, it felt good until now! That snooze button is a big cause of slowing down and potentially halting your weight loss efforts!  Once you hit the snooze button, your deep sleep and REM sleep is complete and you will only stay in light sleep, which basically does nothing for recharging your body and mind.  It's basically wasted sleep.  You're much better off setting your alarm later and waking up right when it goes off to ensure that you are getting the best quality sleep.

Strategy 3 - Sleep in a quiet and dark environment

Because you sleep in roughly 90 minute cycles, you'll enter the light sleep stage multiple times through the night.  If you sleep with the TV on or any noise that changes in volume, it will wake you as you re-enter light sleep, interrupting your sleep cycles.  If you need noise, try a noise machine for uninterrupted sound. If you like falling asleep with the TV on, set a time to go off in 30 minutes. Sleeping in a quiet environment is only part of the equation. You also want to create a dark environment.  Your sleep hormone is melatonin and it's released in the dark and inhibited in the light. The more natural melatonin your body can release, the better quality of sleep you’ll have. So keep those lights off and shades drawn!

Strategy 4 - Create downtime

We live in a fast paced world and we are pulled in multiple directions.  That non-stop hustling can make it difficult to relax before bed.  This is exactly why parents create downtime routines for their kids; it prepares them for sleep.  If you have ever struggled to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing, creating downtime could be your solution.  Some downtime examples would be taking a bath, reading, listening to music, watching a movie or taking a light family walk, basically anything that relaxes you and helps bring you down from the day.

Strategy 5 - Ditch the booze

Alcohol fools many people.  They think because alcohol relaxes them and helps them fall asleep, then it must be good to drink before bed.  Big mistake! Though alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, it causes major interruptions in your sleep cycles. If you're having a drink at night, make sure it's at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed.  That will help prevent the alcohol from negatively affecting your sleep cycles.

There you have it; your complete 411 on sleep and the exact steps to take your sleep to the next level and drop the pounds even faster!

Mark Macdonald

CEO and Creator of the Venice Nutrition System and Author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence

#Thursday, January 02, 2014

The #1 New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight and unfortunately most people quit their plan and lose motivation before February 1st.  The next eleven months are then centered around getting back on a consistent food and exercise plan.  Before you know it, the next year is here and weight loss is still your #1 resolution.   This cycle sounds like the definition of insanity; doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

Well, 2014 is the year that the insanity stops!  Here are 3 tips to make 2014 the year you permanently achieve your weight loss goals and ignite your metabolism. 

Tip 1 - Shift your mindset, it’s all about 1%.

By January 1st, the excess bloat and weight gain through the holidays makes us want to get it off as quick as possible, which triggers the "all in" and quick fix mindset.  This puts us in a state where we don't care how the weight comes off, we just want it off!  This momentum can work for a couple weeks but then life gets busy again, motivation begins to drops, we’re less rigid with our food plan and workouts are missed.

The most effective adjustment is to shift your mindset from “all or nothing” to 1%.  Imagine creating 1% health improvements every day for the next 365 days.  Every 1% improvement becomes a little victory to build upon.  The key to winning this new year is working small incremental changes into your lifestyle so that they become a permanent way of life.

Tip 2 - Food is your foundation.

Once you have the right mindset, the next step is getting the right information.  Unfortunately the average dieter is drawn to the hype of quick weight loss and buys a new diet book every 90 days!  The reality is there is no workout that can out work a bad diet. Just like in life, true change is created by implementing the right plan consistently.  Eating “right” is as simple as "eating in 3's", which means enjoying a meal every 3 hours with a balance of protein, fat and carbs.  This way of eating stabilizes your blood sugar, balances your hormones, protects your muscle, burns your body fat and reprograms your metabolism.

The cool thing is you can also eat the foods you love.  Just follow these portion size recommendations based on your hands:

For women - 1 palm of protein, 1 fist of carbs and a thumb of fat every 3 hours
For men -  2 palms of protein, 2 fist of carbs and a full thumb of fat every 3 hours

Here's a Jump Start plan to help you master your food in 2014:

http://venicenutrition.com/jumpstartfemale.aspx
http://venicenutrition.com/jumpstartmale.aspx

Tip 3 - Workout Smarter.

Once your mindset is 1% and you’re eating in 3's, now it’s time to learn how to maximize fat burn by optimizing your exercise.   If you enjoy your workout, you are less likely to quit.  Here are two great ways to keep your workouts fun, challenging and productive.

1). Choose exercises that you love.  There is nothing more boring or monotonous than mindless exercise. So find things you love to do! Maybe it's a sport like tennis, racquetball, basketball or soccer.  Maybe it's joining a running or cycling club.  Maybe it's getting active with your family by going on hikes, playing pick-up football games or my personal favorite, rockin indoor trampoline dodge ball at Skyzone.  My point is this… get out and explore activities that you're passionate about and actually look forward to doing.

2). Activate your core- whether you’re doing push-ups, cardio, cleaning the house or sitting at your desk, strengthening your core is the best way to stay strong, burn fat and prevent injuries. Your fat is burned in your muscle so the more muscle you use throughout the day, the more fat your burn.  Basically your core starts right under your chest and ends about your mid-thigh, and is comprised of your entire abdominal and hip region.   Your core is involved in every movement.  The stronger your core, the stronger your body and the more calories you burn!  It's very easy to activate your core; simply sit or stand up straight and pull your shoulders back. Next, pull your belly button into your stomach and tighten all the muscles in your stomach and back.

You'll feel a big difference when your core is activated and when it's not.  Start practicing by activating your core 5 times a day for 3 to 5 minutes.  Then build up to 5 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes and in no time you'll be keeping your core tight all day long and making your body the powerful machine that it is!

There you have it… 3 easy tips to make 2014 the year you truly take back control of your health and kick all future weight loss resolutions to the curb!

Happy New Year!

Mark Macdonald, Creator of the Venice Nutrition System and Author of NY Times Bestselling Book, Body Confidence

#Thursday, December 12, 2013

I think one of the biggest challenges during the holiday season is when you're told “Oh just drink that, it's the holidays". The entire season becomes a drinking festival.  Fast forward to January 2nd and your left sleep deprived with a bigger waist line and no energy!

I've always chosen to eat my calories instead of drinking them, so I don't drink alcohol.  That being said, the majority of my clients do like to drink.  Their biggest question is how to enjoy the holiday parties while minimizing the fat storage from high calorie holiday drinks like, hot butter rum, eggnog and peppermint martinis.

Here are three tips to help you enjoy some holiday drinking, while minimizing the damage:

Tip 1 - Choose Wisely 

There's a reason why holiday drinks are creamier and sweeter; they're full of fat and sugar!   Here are three options of “drink this, not that":

- Eggnog vs. Vodka & Club Soda - One glass of eggnog contains about 330 calories and 21 grams of fat, while a shot of vodka has only 70 calories and no fat.   

- Hot Butter Rum vs. Red or White wine - Butter rum is made with an entire stick of butter!  One glass of butter rum has about 430 calories and 30 grams of fat, while 6 oz. of red or white wine only has 130 calories and is fat free.

- Peppermint Martini vs. Light & Regular Beer – Nothing says “festive” more than peppermint!  One peppermint martini contains about 230 calories while 12 oz. of light beer has 100 calories.  Regular beer has about 140-150 calories. 

By simply increasing your awareness you can significantly cut additional calories and still rock a couple drinks throughout the holidays.

Tip 2 - Cut the Carbs

Alcohol calories are considered empty calories, meaning they don't provide your body with energy.  However, they're still calories and when drinking the goal is to minimize the fat storing damage.  One of the best ways to do that is to pair your alcohol with a meal and cut all starchy carbs (bread, rice, pasta) from the meal. Simply have a protein (like salmon, beef, chicken, etc.) a little fat if your protein doesn't already have fat (like avocado, salad dressing, nuts, etc.), some veggies (like asparagus, broccoli, spinach, etc.) and your drink of choice.

My good friend, Chelsea Handler, loves her salmon (protein & fat), asparagus & vodka…definitely a meal of champions!  Of course alcohol isn't an even exchange for carbs; this is just a cool trick to keep some extra pounds off.

Tip 3 - Avoid the Hangover 

Hangovers are a direct effect of dehydration.  Alcohol naturally dehydrates you. Add chemicals, fat and sugar from most drinks and bam- instant hangover!  Here are three simple steps to avoid a hangover:

Step 1 - Keep it Clean.  Vodka is distilled and crystal clear which means it doesn't have any additional additives, which helps you to metabolize it better.

Step 2 - H2O it up!  For every drink, counter it with two glasses of water, or more.  Rehydrating your body is the best way to prevent a hangover.

Step 3 - Food is your friend.   Feeding your body small balanced meals throughout the day helps keep your body balanced and your digestive system flowing.  

There you have it; simple and realistic ways for you to enjoy the occasional Holiday Happy Hour and simultaneously avoid your waist line growing like Santa!

Happy Holidays!

Mark Macdonald- Creator of the Venice Nutrition program and Author of NY Times Bestselling Book, Body Confidence

#Thursday, November 21, 2013
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The holidays are officially here, starting with Thanksgiving. And since Thanksgiving revolves around food, many people worry that they will fall victim to the cycle of overeating, feeling guilty and then struggling to get back on track making their health a priority. To help minimize the anxiety and really enjoy the holiday, it’s important to have a game plan.

First, decide on your mindset.  Remember it's only one day! If you want to make it an eating frenzy, go for it. Just remember to get right back on plan Friday morning.

Now let’s say, like most of us, you want to enjoy the delicious Thanksgiving food, but you also want to keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders and minimize any excess weight gain and bloating…these tips are for you:

1.  Eat in 3's all day long.  A big Thanksgiving myth is to starve yourself all day so you can dive into dinner.  When you do that, it actually slows down your metabolism and then causes you to over eat at dinner and store fat. Simply eat when you wake up and all day long, which will keep your metabolism humming and minimize the quantity of food you consume at dinner & any excess fat storage.

2.  Eat your thanksgiving meal twice! Instead of eating one huge meal that forces you to unbutton your pants, simply take your Thanksgiving meal and enjoy one helping. Then three hours later, enjoy a second helping.  This will prevent any big blood sugar spikes and will minimize fat storage.

Bonus Tip - Make sure to balance out your plate with some Protein (turkey) Carbs (sweet potatoes, stuffing & salad ) and Fat (some butter for your potatoes or some salad dressing for your salad). And if you want dessert, you can always make that your third meal. Smaller meals that are spaced throughout the day let you rock Thanksgiving food and stay in shape!

3.  Eat a small protein meal before bed.   A big mistake that many people make is eating a high calorie meal right before bed. This triggers fat storage. A simple adjustment: About 3 to 4 hours after your Thanksgiving meals (notice I said meals!), right before you go to sleep, have a small meal of just protein and fat such as plain Greek yogurt and almonds, a hardboiled egg or a protein meal replacement shake.

There you have it; easy tips to survive Thanksgiving and keep your body functioning like a fat burning machine!

Mark Macdonald- Creator of the Venice Nutrition system and Author of NY Times Bestseller Body Confidence

#Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween is upon us and its candy time! All too often, we tell people that they shouldn't eat candy or need to avoid it.  In theory, that makes a lot of sense.  In reality, many people, (both kids & adults) love candy and when eaten in moderation, it's fine.

Below are my tried and true tips on how you CAN eat candy and what adjustments to make to minimize the fat storing damage and energy crashes. Let’s face it.  Saying "just don't eat candy" only makes people want it more, so here’s how to enjoy your Halloween while staying on track towards reaching your health goals.

1). Understand the 2 different types of candy.

Do you know the difference between skittles & a snickers bar?  Basically there are two types of candy. One type is made of just sugar like skittles, jolly ranchers, hot tamales, gummy bears, etc.  Your body breaks down this type of candy fast and it causes a blood sugar spike (which is why too much candy makes kids coo coo).  Soon after the blood sugar spike, you have a blood sugar crash, making you want more candy.  That afternoon candy craving you have is simply low blood sugar.

The second type of candy has sugar (carbs) with some fat & a little protein, like hershey's kisses, snickers, twix, three musketeer, etc.  This type of candy typically has more calories than straight sugar candy, but because it has some fat and protein too, it won't spike your blood sugar as fast.

This is why you probably feel a bit more satisfied after munching on a snickers bar vs. a box of mike & ike's.

2) Eat protein & fat with your candy.

My son Hunter loves skittles and when he just eats candy alone it causes a huge energy and sugar surge followed by a huge crash.  The solution to the energy highs and lows is simple.  Just have some protein and fat right before eating the candy.  By simply snacking on a stick of string cheese, or a cup of Greek yogurt or sliced turkey & nuts before the candy (your carbs) it slows down the rate your body metabolizes the sugar to help prevent big spikes.  In addition, by eating your protein & fat first, it makes you want less candy because you are preventing the sugar high.

You also want to follow this tip with the candy that already has a little protein & fat (like Milky Way for example).  Despite the fact that this candy is digested slower, it still doesn't have enough protein or fat to keep blood sugar stable, nor is the quality the highest. 

3). Pace your candy.

We get so excited with the abundance of Halloween candy that we "go for it" and indulge like it’s the last candy we’ll ever eat! Pacing your candy means working it into little treats with a couple of meals a day.  For example, after a sandwich for lunch, throw in a Hershey kiss or a small bag of skittles for desert.  When that mid-afternoon craving is coming, have some cottage cheese, with some almonds & berries, plus a bite size snickers or starburst.  By adding the candy at the end of your meal, you’ll find that you feel satisfied and actually crave the candy less.  

4) Be cautious of low calorie candy because it’s loaded with sugar sweeteners. 

Many times we think we're doing great by focusing on the "no or low sugar" candy.  Remember, the sweetness needs to come from somewhere and it typically comes from artificial sweeteners that are difficult for your body to digest and can cause gas and bloating.  In addition, the chemicals in artificial sweeteners are not the best for your body.  Look for candy that is sweetened with "stevia" or natural sugar, like honey, if you looking for low calorie candy.

Join me on Headline News (HLN) this and every Monday at 1:30 pm for my segment Mike, Mark & Monday – Get it Back in Gear.  This Monday we’ll be talking CANDY and reviewing the tips above!

There you have it, your now know how to indulge with your favorite candy and minimize the damage.

Happy Halloween!

Mark Macdonald- CEO of Venice Nutrition and Author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence

#Monday, September 30, 2013

While we all know that the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is with a balanced diet packed full of whole, nutritious food, many of us struggle to make this happen. If your lacking, the following supplements can  help fill the void.

One of the most important nutrients in our body is calcium, mainly because it does so much to keep us healthy.   In addition to building and maintaining strong, dense bones and preventing osteoporosis, calcium is also required to maintain our heart rhythm and aids in proper muscle contraction, hormone secretion and nerve transmission. Despite the fact that calcium needs increase as we age (approximately 1200 mg per day for females 50 and older and males 71 and older, compared to 1000 mg per day for younger adults), our modern day busy lifestyles may be the reason why so many of us are lacking adequate amounts.  Research proves that three servings a day of high calcium foods such as milk or yogurt, fortified orange juice, and dark leafy greens are a great start. If you are not meeting your calcium needs via diet, it’s very important to take a calcium supplement to fill in the gaps and prevent your body from robbing much needed calcium from your bones.

Vitamin D is so important because your body needs it in order to absorb calcium. Some studies show that Vitamin D may even help to prevent depression, cancer and diabetes, though much more research is needed. It is clear however that without adequate Vitamin D, we risk bone loss and density and increase our risk of bone related injuries.  While many of us take in enough Vitamin D (approximately 600 IUs per day for people under 70 and approximately 800 IUs per day for those over the age of 71) via fortified foods and exposure to sunlight, some of us may be lacking or have greater Vitamin D needs and require a Vitamin D supplement. Your doctor can perform a blood test to determine if a Vitamin D supplement is necessary.

Research shows that Omega 3 Fatty Acids can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve brain function, reduce joint pain and inflammation, and perhaps even protect against heart disease and stroke, thus making them a critical component of optimal health. Omega 3 Fatty Acids can also improve the health of our hair, skin and nails.  Because our bodies do not make these essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids on our own, it’s important to get them through diet or supplementation.  To get the recommended 3000 mg of Omega 3 Fatty Acids per day, aim to eat 1 serving of fatty fish like salmon three times per week or consider a fish oil or flax seed supplement.

The Venice Nutrition Team

#Thursday, July 18, 2013

In a word?  Yes.  Because the Venice Nutrition program is based on eating frequent, balanced meals made of whole, natural food, it is perfectly healthy to follow while pregnant. That being said, there may be a few adjustments that you may need to make while following your program. 

Perhaps you joined the program initially to lose weight, tone up, increase energy or enhance athletic performance. 

Your personal nutritional parameters can still work for you while pregnant; only now the goal is to eat more frequently to make sure that you’re providing enough fuel for both you and baby.   In general, you need approximately 300 more calories per day while pregnant.  So rather than eat larger meals every 3 to 4 hours, it’s best to eat every 2 or so hours (which will add an additional meal or two per day).   Always tune in and really listen to your body; if you feel hungry sooner, your body is letting you know that you need more food, so eat!

It’s important to aim for as many natural, high quality foods as possible to get the most vitamins, minerals and fiber.  It’s also important to balance these natural sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats to keep blood sugar levels stable and keep both you and baby healthy.

Chicken, pork, egg whites or egg beaters, low fat cottage cheese or low fat Greek Yogurt, lean beef and certain types of seafood (speak to your doctor about low mercury seafood options) are all excellent sources of high quality protein.

Choose whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, beans, a variety of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and salads for high quality carbohydrates.   If having medium quality (medium processed) foods like bread or pasta, aim for the whole grain, high fiber variety as often as possible.

Heart healthy fat choices include avocado, nuts, nut butters, flax seed oil, and olive oil.

It’s also really important to make sure that you are getting enough high calcium food in your diet.

And we know many of you depend on quick “all in one” meals like protein bars and protein smoothies.  Speak to your doctor to make sure that the supplements you take are safe during pregnancy.    

Also, speak to your doctor about taking a multi-vitamin and any other supplements that may be helpful to support the growth of your baby.

The Venice Nutrition Team

#Thursday, April 18, 2013
Aaaah…vacation.  Lots of sun, sand and fun.  In my early twenties, vacation usually involved guzzling fruity mixed drinks under the sweltering sun while stuffing myself with fried food from the buffet.   And exercise?  Umm…does doggie paddling ten feet to the pool bar count?    And sure, it’s fun while it lasts but there is nothing more annoying (or defeating) than returning home from vacation heavier, craving junk food and foggy.  After all, what’s the point of working so hard before vacation to get in shape just to blow it when you finally get there?   Why not live it up while maintaining your health goals?

Now that I’m a little older, I’ve learned how to have fun without packing on extra weight and feeling as though I need another vacation.

Here’s how to stay fit without sacrificing the fun on your next vacation.

Be honest with yourself and your goals!  Unless you’re going away to a spa or fitness retreat, your goal should never be to lose weight while on vacation.  Think about it…how many people really lose weight while veering from their everyday routine? Instead of focusing on losing weight and progressing, shift your mind set towards maintaining your body and goals.   Success is coming home from vacation close to the way you went in!  Now you just have to pick up right where you left off.

Be prepared
.  Staying fit on vacation begins before you even get there.  To prevent cravings and bingeing, it’s important to eat frequent, balanced meals every three to four hours throughout the day.    Pack balanced, portable options like protein bars, protein powder, dried fruit, nuts, and turkey jerky to munch on in between meals or whenever it’s just not possible to sit down to eat.  The goal is to prevent hunger and over-eating.   And always pack more than you think you need; I find I go through these snacks fast while on vacation!


Balance your plate with protein, carbohydrates and fat.   Start with a hearty portion of lean protein (think chicken, seafood, pork) and then add a small portion of carbohydrates.   More than likely, there will be plenty of fat hidden in the meal so no need to add more.


Load up on H20
.  This one’s obvious; particularly, if you drink alcohol.  Being hung over or bloated on vacation is never a good idea!


Take advantage of your surroundings. 
Try a new activity like yoga on the beach, snorkeling, shopping the markets or even a brisk walk in the sand (the unstable terrain engages all of your balancing muscles and helps you burn more fat).   The key is to get moving and have fun while doing it.


Get back on track.
 It’s fine to indulge here and there, especially while on vacation. The key to success? Get right back on track at your next opportunity with a balanced meal to re-stabilize blood sugar and feel your best!


See? Staying on track while away from your everyday routine doesn’t have to be difficult. So relax, already!  Real life will be waiting for you when you get back.

Valerie Cogswell

Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef

Venice Nutrition

#Friday, February 22, 2013
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Friday, February 22, 2013

How much sugar is recommended, and how much do most Americans usually get?

The bigger question is how much carbohydrates do Americans consume?  And the answer is too many.  You see, all carbohydrates (even healthy ones like fruit, oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables, etc…) are broken down by our digestive system into glucose (sugar).   Since excess carbohydrate intake is largely to blame for our society’s increase in obesity, the real question is how many carbohydrates should you consume per meal to prevent the negative results of excess sugar intake?

The answer is blood sugar stabilization.  Let’s begin by explaining blood sugar’s role in your body.  You see, glucose (or sugar) in your bloodstream is responsible for fueling your nervous system and creates the bulk of your body’s energy source:  ATP, the same energy required for every movement you make.

By stabilizing blood sugar levels with the right nutrition, you create balance (homeostasis) within your body.  Your body then releases what it doesn’t need like stored body fat, toxins and excess sodium and protects your lean muscle mass to ignite your metabolism.

Here’s how it works. Whenever you over-eat or indulge in a carbohydrate-heavy meal, your blood sugar spikes (above 120 mg/ dl) and your body stores fat.      Just the opposite happens whenever you skip a meal, eliminating the carbohydrates and calories that your body needs to thrive or work out on an empty stomach.  Blood sugar levels drop too low (below 80 mg / dl) and your body is forced to burn lean muscle mass for fuel in place of body fat.  This loss of lean muscle slows your metabolism and makes it nearly impossible to reach your goals.

The fact is that though many people eat “healthy,” they fail to eat “correctly” and inadvertently spike and crash their blood sugar levels all day long!

Stabilizing your blood sugar (keeping levels between 80 and 120 mg/ dl throughout the day) will naturally help you look and feel your best.  You’ll optimize your workouts by giving your body the fuel it needs.   You’ll burn body fat, protect and increase lean muscle mass, eliminate sugar (carbohydrate) cravings, boost your energy and continually break through stubborn plateaus.   In short, stabilizing your blood sugar will help you to achieve your goals permanently!

The 3 Factors to Stabilize Your Blood Sugar:

  1. Meal Intervals – Your body is a “refuel as it goes” machine and needs to be fed consistently!  Eat one hour within waking (before exercise) to kick start your metabolism and then every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day until bedtime. Your last meal should fall within one hour of going to bed to help prepare your body for fasting.  Frequent meals will keep blood sugar levels steady and help to prevent you from overeating and spiking blood sugar or skipping a meal and causing blood sugar to drop too low.
  2. Nutrient Ratios - Each meal should have a balance of complete protein (animal or soy protein), with a small amount of healthy fat and a small amount of carbohydrates to keep blood sugar levels stable.  It is critical to get the correct nutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) in every meal. 
  3. Meal Size - Your body can only process a certain amount of food at once and eating smaller meals every few hours will keep blood sugar levels steady. Each meal should be roughly the same size (same amount of calories). 
So how many carbohydrates should you have per meal?   This varies per individual, but overall a balanced meal of 35% protein, 35% carbohydrates and 30% fat will keep your blood sugar stable and give your body the right dosage of sugar to achieve optimum results.

What are the health risks of too much sugar or the equivalent?

Anytime your blood sugar spikes above 120 mg/dl, your pancreas over releases the hormone insulin.  When this happens your body shifts into fat storing mode.  So the more blood sugar spikes you have, the more fat you store.  This can lead to an onslaught of health challenges including obesity, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.   

Let’s discuss Type 2 Diabetes.  Type 2 Diabetes has a genetic component to it, but the main trigger of the onset of this medical challenge is years of over consuming carbohydrates and spiking blood sugar levels.  Eventually the cells that respond to insulin (your hormone that lowers your blood sugar) become insulin resistance and this causes your blood sugar to stay elevated, leading to Type 2 Diabetes. 

The solution is to start stabilizing your blood sugar now and you can most likely prevent the disease and if you already have Type 2 Diabetes, start following the 3 principles above to get your blood sugar levels back in balance.

Mark Macdonald- Creator of the Venice Nutrition System, MonaVie Nutrition and Fitness Expert and Author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence

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