Archive for January, 2012

Challenge: The Spartacus Workout

“What if?”…………..could be the either most powerful, or the lamest statement I have ever heard. However, if someone throws a “what if?” at me in proper context, I feel like the gauntlet has been thrown out and I must rise to the occasion. If you are wondering what I am blabbing about let me give you the back story. My wife and I were on weekly shopping trip to the grocery store and I was slowly meandering the aisle’s, reading nutrition labels and making snide comments about how everything is bad for you when we took an odd turn. We happen to find ourselves in the magazine section.  So, wanting to continue my pessimistic attitude I picked up the latest copy of Men’s Health to scoff at the ridiculous statements they often make. I did scoff quite loudly and often, page by page.

I came to an article written about the lead character in the TV show Spartacus. The story went on to talk about how when he auditioned for the show he was given the lead, under the condition he put on about 40lbs of muscle. The story goes on to describe his diet and meetings with his personal trainer and how hard it is to keep his physique that he displays weekly in his show. The next few pages that followed are what drew this historic comment, “what if”………

Following the editorial was a work out plan that promised a “Spartan” body in just 6 weeks. It was in big bold letters, just like any other one of their plans that make absurd statements.  “GAIN 35lbs of muscle in 2 weeks with this one exercise”, or “take 10 years off your body with this new fruit”, or even better yet GUARANTEED  SIX PACK ABS SO AMAZING EVERY GIRL WILL THROW THEM SELVES AT YOU EVERY WHERE YOU GO.

I muttered to Sara how ridiculous that sounded. So, my wife being the amazing gorgeous, talented and graceful button-pusher she is said, “Well have you ever tried one of these work outs?” HAHAH I chuckled well of course I……..I……I have not, DAMN how does she do this? So then came those fateful words; the challenge of doom,  “Well what if you did?” AHHHHH a shot at my masculinity, a chance to prove myself right and her WRONG. How could I refuse?  I pounced on it before I could even process that here and now, in the aisle between lavender body soap and cleaning products as Better Homes and Gardens as my witness,  I submitted myself to blistering early mornings of pure discomforts and pain.

“Fine,” I said. Challenge on.

So here is what I have agreed to. The work out is a circuit course that you perform 3 days a week.  You do each exercise for 40 seconds and get 20 seconds to transition to the next exercise for one set, then you get a 2 minute break and repeat the work out 2 more times. All work outs are to be performed with set of dumb bells, as heavy as you can tolerate and still complete the work out; I have chosen 25lbs as my set of dumb bells. The exercises to be performed are dumbbell squat to alternation shoulder press and twist, mountain climber and push up, dumbbell side lunge and curl, plank walkup with dumbbell drag, dumbbell stepover, dumbbell single-arm alternating clean, pushup-position row and squat thrust, goblet squat and alternating reverse lunge, dumbbell Russian twist and last dumbbell straight-leg deadlift and row.

I have agreed to do this for six weeks; I will post a weekly update to include photos and any critiques. I will also be keeping a daily food log. I have given myself an introduction by performing all of the exercises prior to starting the program.

Wish me luck! If any of you would like to take the Spartacus challenge with me, let me know!


Make This, Don’t Buy That: Breakfast Tacos

In this week’s installment of Make This, Don’t Buy that I have decided to take on south Texas’s favorite morning treat, the breakfast taco. Now, some of you reading this are going to question the validity of having a taco for breakfast, but rest assured this item is everything you want in a breakfast. Fast, delicious, filling and AWSOME! Unfortunately, if you buy it from your local gas station, it also comes with a high fat and calorie count….. not something you want to hear. So I have come up with my own recipe and I actually eat this for breakfast every morning, Enjoy!




1 low fat flour tortilla

1 egg and 1 egg white

2oz of low fat queso

1 strip of turkey bacon

I tbl spoon of pico de gallo or hot sauce



Scramble eggs in pan, place cheese on tortilla and top with the turkey bacon and salsa. ENJOY!!

Fat Burning Zone

You may have heard this advice sometime, “If you want to burn fat, you need to be exercising in you fat-burning zone.” Even the cardio machines at the gym have a nice little graph of where your heart rate should be if you want to burn fat versus where your heart rate should be if you’d like a cardiovascular workout.  So what is the “fat-burning zone” and does it actually help you burn more fat?

The Physiology

Your body has two main sources of energy; carbohydrates and fat. You are constantly going through metabolic processes that break down these macronutrients, producing something called ATP, which is the main source of energy in the body.  To use carbohydrates, your body breaks down the carbs into their simplest form, glucose, and goes through a 10 step process called glycolysis. Glucose is available in your bloodstream after you’ve eaten, is stored in your muscles and produced by the liver. The other way you can produce ATP is by breaking down fat and you use a simple form here as well (the fatty acid). However, in order to use fat, it must be broken down in your adipose tissue (those are your fat cells stored all around your body), travel through the blood stream, be taken up by your muscles and then go through two cycles before you get ATP. It’s a much lengthier process, but the end result is much more ATP.  Because this process is so lengthy, however, you can’t produce energy very quickly. That means that if you are exercising intensely, you will rely on carbs for energy rather than fats.

The bottom line: the harder you are exercising, the more you use carbohydrates, and the lower your intensity, the more you rely on fats.

So what’s the claim?

The idea behind working in your “fat-burning zone” is that if you lower your intensity, you will burn a larger percentage of calories from fat, instead of carbohydrates. Which is true, sort of. The thing you don’t hear much about is that your ultimate fat burning zone is sitting completely still. When you are sedentary, you don’t need energy very quickly, so almost all your energy is coming from fat. Well great! Why don’t we all lose weight sitting around then?  The problem is that you burn very few calories while sitting, so who cares if they all come from fat? The same principle applies to exercise.

Practical Application

Exercising in your “fat-burning zone” usually entails a heart rate of approximately 120-140, however you will burn significantly fewer calories in your exercise session than if you were able to maintain a heart rate of 150-160. Yes, more of them may be derived from fat, but because your total number is so much less, you won’t come out ahead. If burning fat is what you’re after, you can either work out at a higher intensity for 20-30 minutes, or, if you prefer a lower intensity, then you need to increase your time to 60 minutes plus.

How intensely do you like to exercise? Do you prefer longer and slower or shorter and more intense?


The Grapefruit Diet

Have you ever heard of the grapefruit diet? It has come into fashion a few times over the last few decades, and from what I understand, the basic idea is for your diet to consist almost entirely of grapfruit, save for an occasional egg or burnt toast. The claim is that if you stay on this diet for a few weeks, the magic properties of grapfruit will cause the weight to fall right off. Which is probably true; if you only ate grapefruit, you’d barely be eating 800 calories a day, and you probably would lose weight… of course, you would also HATE grapefruit and become severely malnourished.

Have any of you ever tried the grapefruit diet? More importantly, how many of you have made it more than 2 days? I had completely written off the grapefruit diet as a dumb fad that encouraged starvation, but there have been some interesting articles lately about the benefits of grapefruit and weight loss.

In a study by Fujioka et al, 91 obese subjects were studied to determine whether eating half of a grapefruit before meals could increase their weight loss. After 12 weeks on a reduced calorie diet, the subjects who ate the grapefruit lost significantly more weight than those who only drank water or received supplements. They also had lower glucose and insulin responses to their meals, which is a great indicator of reducing your chances for diabetes. However, there was a conflicting study that showed grapefruit did help weight loss, but not any more than just drinking water before a meal.

Another study found that regular grapefruit in the diet had a positive effect on blood lipids. People with high cholesterol saw a decrease in their cholesterol levels after eating one red grapefruit per day for 30 days. Also, because grapefruit is high in water and fiber, it may help you feel full and reduce your total caloric intake each day.

Some things to keep in mind:

-There are some drug interactions with large amounts of grapefruit, so if you are on medications, you need to check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe.

-Grapefruit is also highly acidic, so if you had problems with irritable bowel syndrome or heartburn, this diet may not be for you.

Overall, it does seem that adding grapefruit may have some positive effects, but in some cases water was just as effective. Try eating half a grapefruit before lunch and dinner each day and in combination with a lower calorie diet and exercise, it may increase your weight loss.

Let me know if you’ve ever tried this diet! What do you think?


Weekly Review: Core Sliders

I was browsing this month’s Men’s Health Magazine and saw an advertisement for a new product called Core Slider. The claim is they give you an “extreme core”….whatever that means. So, after much reading and a little curiosity I decided to order the product and give it a try. It took exactly one week for the product to be delivered. When it came it was sitting in a box on my door step. I instantly shredded the box and grabbed the Core Sliders and put on my workout clothes.

The Good: The product is simple; just two, one-piece handles with a plastic ring attached bottom, so you don’t have to put anything together. The idea is that you get down on all fours on the ground, put your hands in the handles and straighten your back. You need to contract your abdominal muscles to keep from falling on your face. Then, as you progress, you move your handles in different patterns to work your abs a little harder.  It comes with a chart of different exercises, a prescribed routine, and a web site that has video demonstrations to complete your ab workout. All of the exercises are both written and pictured. They also include modifications with different positions to do to make the exercises easier. If you ever have used exercise wheel, you will be familiar with the concept.

The Bad:  While it’s pretty cheap and easy to store, there is a large learning curve that may keep people from actually using it.  The easier positions don’t really give you the workout you are looking for, and the normal positions are really hard to master.  Although they do deliver the desired workout, you really need to have good abdominal strength to even get started. For example, my wife can’t even come close to completing half of the workouts and none of them for the prescribed time.

The Ugly:  They say to do the exercises on a yoga mat or a towel, but even if you do your knees hurt. I had to get out some knee pads to finish my workout. Also many of the exercises replicate the exercise wheel, and really put a lot of strain and pressure on your back. Is this a good ab workout? Yes, if you already have some experience with ab exercises and you don’t have bad knees. However, they cost 23 bucks and you can buy an exercise wheel for 9 dollars so overall, I don’t really know if they are worth the price.

Have you ever use Core Sliders or a similar product? What do you think?


Could Spices Improve Your Weight Loss?

Call me old-fashioned, but I am always very wary of weight-loss supplements. From everything I’ve ever read, diet pills are either totally ineffective, or they have deadly side effects. Most of the time, the greatest effect you’ll get from a diet pill or weight loss supplement is an increase in heart rate from caffeine. However, there has been some exciting research lately about some natural herbs and spices that may aid in your weight control or even help reduce your diabetes. Keep in mind, these are not magic bullets and adding these spices probably won’t mean you’ll drop 20 pounds by tomorrow.


There have been several studies done on the effects on cinnamon, specifically looking at whether cinnamon can reduce your glucose and insulin response to a meal. (For more info on glycemic index, glucose and insulin, check out a past blog entry) In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding cinnamon to pudding significantly reduced the blood glucose of subjects as compared to eating pudding alone. This means that a meal with cinnamon won’t spike your glucose (and therefore insulin) as much as that meal would without the cinnamon. Other studies have also shown that cinnamon can reduce your fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Cayenne Chili

Keeping your meals spicy may also help reduce your glucose and insulin levels after a meal. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that adding cayenne chili powder to a meal reduced insulin levels as compared to that meal alone. Using fresh chili powder may also affect your metabolic rate (how fast you break down nutrients and burn calories). In a study in Thailand, women who added fresh chili pepper to their meal  not only reduced their blood glucose following the meal, but also increased their metabolic rate for 30 minutes after eating.



Curcumin, derived from tumeric, is an orange/yellow spice often found in Indian or Asian food, and has been a topic of interest because of its anti-inflammatory properties. There is some new, exciting research about curcumin’s ability to inhibit the fat storage process and reduce obesity. This study demonstrates that curcumin reduced the number of adipocytes (fat cells) that were produced and reduced Fatty Acid Synthase, which is an enzyme that stimulates the production of fatty acids. While this is exciting, do keep in mind that this research has not yet been done in humans, and the effects may not be dramatic.

While this type of research is still new, it’s a interesting way to think about your weight loss. Just by adding some spices, you could improve your blood glucose and potentially increase your metabolism. Plus, food that is spiced increases your olfactory response (meaning you enjoy the smell and taste) and you may find a meal more enjoyable. You may slow down your meal and realize you are full sooner, therefore decreasing your total calorie intake.

Have you ever experimented with spices? Do you think they could aid in weight loss?


Make This, Don’t Buy That: Southwest Taco Soup

This week’s installment of Make This, Don’t Buy That is Southwest Taco Soup.  Being that I live in south Texas, Mexican food is everywhere. I love Mexican food, but the only problem is that everything I love happens to be drizzled with queso and served with chips! Not really what I had envisioned for my diet. So I have taken it upon myself to find a recipe that fulfills my craving, but lends a hand to my waist line. So instead of a Nacho Bell Grande (700 Calories, 42 grams of fat) try this soup. Now I will say that there is no meat in this recipe (I am in no way a vegan, and feel free to add low fat ground turkey or chicken if you like), but this recipe is truly excellent. Enjoy!


1 can diced tomatoes

2 cans black beans

1 can corn

1 med onion – chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 jalapenos – seeded and chopped

1 can vegetable broth

2 teaspoons cumin


Garnish: chopped cilantro, plain yogurt, lime


In vegetable oil brown chopped garlic, chopped jalapeno, chopped onion, corn and cumin for 3-5 min. Add tomatoes, beans and vegetable broth. Cook until soup is heated (about 5-10 min). Add water/broth to adjust.

Let me know how you like it!


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