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Sunday, February 28, 2010

10 TIPS TO GAIN LEAN MUSCLE MASS (Naturally)

By: Alex Liska

Gaining lean muscle mass can be quite challenging but there are a few tips that i can recommend to make this task easier. Always remember, if you are trying to gain lasting lean mass it is better to take your time and do it right than to rush things, take too many different supplements and experience results that are short-lived.
When I first started weight training, YEARS ago, my goal was to gain muscle mass in my lower body since my legs/glute area was fairly narrow and lacking muscle density. I made a lot of mistakes, I would eat way too many carbs because I thought it would "add size/bulk" and I over-trained my lower body. I was so impatient, i expected to see results over-night pretty much and I wasn't giving my muscles enough recovery time. By taking supplements, I would gain water-weight in my muscles and feel bloated. After I would stop using the supplements (Creatine, Nitric Oxide, Weight-gainers) the results would fade away and I would be back where i started.
Over the years, I made some changes to my training programs, my diet and did all I could to avoid over-training and I reached my goal. Now I can maintain and if anything I could even afford do lose some size in my lower body :)

Nevertheless, here are some tips that I would recommend for some of you that want to gain quality lean muscle mass:

  • Consume between 1.5-2grams of Protein per pound of bodyweight! For maintenance, 0.8grams/lb of bodyweight are recommended.
  • Increase lean protein intake by a few grams each meal (depending on your current weight and goals). Adding anywhere between 3-5grams of a quality protein with each meal can add up to an extra 18-30grams of protein a day for those consuming 6 meals/day. By doing this you are also helping your body get accustomed to absorbing a bit more protein during each meal.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep every night: I would aim for at least 8 hours of sleep. But if this is unreasonable due to work schedule/busy lifestyle, you can try to take a 20-30minute power-nap in the afternoon. You should rest so that your muscles have enough time to recover and grow after a workout.
  • Consume a quality protein shake/protein serving before bed: I like to consume a protein powder that is a blend of Whey Concentrate/Casein because it breaks down slowly over-night, feeding my muscles much-needed protein. You can also opt for 1 cup plain/fat-free yogurt with 15-20 grams of Whey (low-carb) mixed together OR 1 cup of fat-free cottage cheese. To add flavor use Stevia (PureVia Stevia is what I use because it has a nice texture and no after-taste!) and a tsp. of vanilla extract.
  • Decrease the number of reps in each set and perform at least 4 sets of each compound exercise: By decreasing the number of reps you are focusing more on training your fast-twitch fibers and helping your muscles to grow. Example- Perform 4-6 sets of 6-8 reps of Squats (Lower Body), Bent-over barbell rows (Back) & Flat Bench Barbell Presses (Chest) versus 3 sets 12-15 reps.
  • Remember that larger muscle groups recover more slowly than smaller muscle groups so avoid over-training them: I would suggest while trying to add lean muscle mass, train each major body part once a week. Using heavy weights also requires more recovery time than using light weights.
  • Opt for free-weight exercises versus machines: I like to use machines as well but I experience greater mass gains when I use free weights. Ex. Free-weight Barbell Squat versus Machine Leg Press.
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day (More if you are a very active individual): This goes without saying, you need to stay hydrated to ensure that your body is able to carry out its functions. Drinking enough water before, during and after exercise will ensure that you're replacing fluids lost during exercise. 
  • Consume High-Fiber Foods (such as complex carbohydrates) when needed VS. Refined starches/sugars: One of the foods that worked well for me as well as my clients when trying to add lean mass was cooked Oats with 1-2 tbsp Flaxseeds (I add PureVia Stevia/Cinnamon for flavor) for breakfast. About an hour or two after training I will consume a cup frozen berries (cranberries/blueberries/raspberries) with my protein. Complex carbohydrates are more filling, more fiber-rich and burn slower than refined carbs (fruit juices, white flour/bread, bananas, white potatoes, mangoes just to name a few of the carbs I stay away from because they will cause unwanted weight (bodyfat) gain)
  • Be Patient! Give yourself time to reap the benefits of your hard work: Anything that comes too easy in life doesn't last long. The more time you invest into something the better the outcome. Stay focused on your ultimate goals and take small steps to achieve them. Determination is the key.



BEST OF LUCK TO YOU ALL, GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR TRAINING AND DIET!

XOXOXO

-ALEX L. :)




http://www.purevia.com

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scrambled Eggs and Spinach with Feta Cheese (Lean Breakfast Choice)

By: Alex Liska

I like to use frozen spinach when making this because I find that when I use the fresh spinach to cook with I could use a whole lot but once it's cooked it shrinks to almost nothing. I suggest thawing the spinach over-night.

Ingredients:
-1/2 package frozen spinach (thawed)
-1 egg and 250ml (1cup) eggwhites
-1/4 cup skim milk
-2-3 tbsp light feta cheese
-2 tsp. extra-virgin coconut oil
-1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
-1/4 tsp. paprika
-1/4 tsp. black pepper
-Sea salt (the feta cheese is quite salty but if that's not enough you can sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on it)

Directions:
-In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg, egg-whites, skim milk, paprika and black pepper very well. On a med/high heat setting, sautee the onions in 1 tsp. coconut oil until slightly browned, then add the spinach. Now, place the spinach/onions in the bowl and mix well. Use the other teaspoon of coconut oil in the frying pan and scramble the egg/spinach/onions mixture in it and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on how well you like your eggs done. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top of the scrambled egg/spinach and place in a preheated 450-500degree Fahrenheit oven for a few minutes. Everyone's oven is different so check to make sure it doesn't burn, the point of this is for the feta cheese to melt over the eggs/spinach and turn golden-brown. Serve and Enjoy!!! :)

This is a great Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner choice. It's very low in carbs, high in fiber, calcium and iron. Eggs are a nutrient-packed food and the egg-whites really increase the protein content of this dish!
I will be posting more healthy recipes so stay tuned...and don't forget to checkout the VIDEO section of this site for easy at-home workout video clips!

XOXOX















-Alex L.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Resistance Bands for Easy At-Home or At the Office Workouts!

By: Alex Liska
Who says you NEED to join a gym to get in shape??? If you have a good set of resistance bands (anywhere between 2$-10$ at WalMart, Canadian Tire or any other exercise depot...) you can workout AT HOME!!! Even at the office... These rubber tubes are convenient and can be easily stored anywhere from your purse, brief-case, closet, drawer or under your bed... just to name a few places LOL...
The good thing is resistance bands are safe to use and they can be easier for some than dumbells or barbells... And for women or those looking to lean out and not add extra mass, you can purchase bands that are not as thick and offer less resistance therefore you are not working as hard or applying as much force against the muscle. I have uploaded a few workouts using bands in my VIDEO section, here is a few of them:



LOWER BODY/SHOULDERS/ROTATOR-CUFF WORKOUT USING RESISTANCE BANDS:


CHEST AND SHOULDERS WORKOUT USING RESISTANCE BANDS:

BICEPS WORKOUT USING RESISTANCE BANDS:


FOR MORE RESISTANCE BAND WORKOUTS/EASY AT-HOME WORKOUTS CHECK MY VIDEO SECTION!!!

XOXOXO

-ALEX L. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alex's Basic Back Workout

 By: Alex Liska

Today I trained Back at the gym and I did a bit of Rear Delts and Biceps...

I was in need of energy, so i grabbed a Sugar-Free, No-Aspartame "Pink-Energy" drink @ Loblaws for before my workout :) I don't typically have anything asides from coffee before training but today i was craving this:


Here is my Back workout... Keep in mind that this is the workout that I designed for myself...it complements my current Meal-Plan and Fitness Goals:

  • Assisted Chin-ups (w/ 30lbs of assistance) 3 sets x 12-15 reps with 30-45 sec. rest between sets:
  •  Wide-grip Lat Pull-downs (75-90lbs) 3 sets x 12-15 reps with 30-45 sec. rest between sets:


  • One-arm Dumbell Rows (25-30lbs) 3 sets x 10-12 reps with  45 sec. rest between sets:

  • Reverse Cable Flys (7.5-10lbs) 3 sets 12-15 reps with 30 sec. rest between sets:

    • Standing Dumbell Bicep Curls (15-20lbs) 3 sets 12-15 reps with 30 sec. rest between sets:





      • I concluded my workout with 45 minutes of Cardio on the treadmill. I power-walked alternating between speeds 3.8-4.5mph on a 10-15% incline.


      • In the change-room, using a piece of paper as a funnel, i mixed 20grams of Whey in my water bottle for my post-workout shake :)

      • After my workout i went to Loblaws to pick up some groceries:
      -Cut Canned Green-Beans
      -Organic Meadows Skim milk (I only picked up "organic" because as you can tell by the pink triangle sticker on it, it was on sale @ Loblaws) haha :)
      -Frozen Unsweetened Cranberries
      -No-Sugar Added/Fat Free Finesse Vanilla Yogurt
      -Egg-Whites (I also got whole eggs, they're at the bottom so you can't see them LOL)
      -Mixed Baby Greens Lettuce
      -Green Bell Peppers
      -Cans of Tuna (Not visible...lol)

      Hope this comes in handy to at least some of you!! :)
      XOXO

      -Alex L.

      Friday, February 19, 2010

      Exercise and Diabetes

      By: Alex Liska
      I decided to write this post about exercise and how it can help those with diabetes because a good friend of mine is a diabetic and I'm hoping after she reads this she will incorporate exercise into her daily routine :)
      For those of you that suffer from diabetes or have loved ones that suffer from this condition I hope that this post is informative and helpful!
      ***Exercise can help diabetics control their disease and also reduce complications associated with the disease***


      Q- What causes diabetes?

      A- There are 2 types of diabetes: Type I (insulin-dependent), occurs mostly in children and young adults. The exact cause of Type I is still unknown but what we do know is that the body either does not produce sufficient insulin or cannot properly utilize the insulin that it does produce.
      Type II (non-insulin-dependent), typically tends to occur in adults over 40 who are overweight. This is not always the case but it is quite common. Type II is the most common out of the two and it accounts for approx. 90% of all sufferers of this chronic illness.
      What happens with those that have diabetes is that their body cannot properly handle glucose and they suffer from elevated blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) which is a condition present when glucose levels in the blood build up and spill over into the urine/bloodstream.

      Effects of Exercise on Diabetes:
      • Helps lower excess blood sugar levels
      • Helps transport glucose out of the bloodstream so that the body can use it for energy
      • Improves circulation
      • HELPS REDUCE STRESS !!! (A huge factor that leads to diabetes)
      • Helps reduce excess weight which can also contribute to developing the disease in the first place
      Regular exercise is highly recommended to those suffering from diabetes. As long as they are not over-doing it, moderate exercise can provide great benefits! Taking it one day at a time, a program that incorporates flexibility, strength training and cardiovascular exercise is a good idea. Let's not forget that DIET IS CRUCIAL for those with diabetes. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND following a carb-reduced diet. Please refer to my posts on low-carb dieting and help yourself to the recipes in my archive for a guide on how to eat:)
      Remember, the less starches/sugars being consumed the easier it is for your body to turn to stored fat for energy. Not only that, but you can prevent spiking your blood sugar levels by eating less refined carbs.

      Here are some tips for those that have diabetes and would like to start working out:
      • When training with weights, focus on a low to moderate intensity level, 12-20 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
      • Perform cardiovascular exercise at 55-80% of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) ***Note that MHR= 220 minus your age***
      • UNDERGO A COMPLETE MEDICAL EVALUATION BEFORE STARTING ANY GYM/WORKOUT PROGRAM (this is a standard safety procedure)
      • Monitor blood sugar levels before/during/after exercise
      • If possible, exercise with a partner/trainer that knows which signs and symptoms to check for hypoglycemia and knows how to treat it. It is recommended to always have a fast-acting carbohydrate (juice/candy/glucose tab) in case of a hypoglycemic emergency!!
      I hope this post is convincing enough to those suffering from diabetes to engage in physical activity and for those that have loved ones that suffer form this condition to encourage them to start exercising!!!

      Best of luck, Have a GREAT weekend!!!!!
      XOXOX,
       
       -Alex L.

      Wednesday, February 17, 2010

      Caffeine and its Fat-Burning Potential

      By: Alex Liska

      With all the hype surrounding energy drinks and different sorts of pills and so on and so forth that give you energy, I decided to write about Caffeine, a "drug" that is so popular and known for its stimulant effects
      Caffeine has got to be one of the least marketed yet most EFFECTIVE fat-burners available. Although it may not help you lose weight taken on its own, if taken in conjunction with exercise (ex. before aerobic exercise) it can increase fat-burning and even help you exercise for longer. The way caffeine works is by increasing the rate at which fatty acids are metabolized and by decreasing the rate of glucose metabolism during exercise. What i would take from this is that if you are ALREADY on a carb-reduced/clean diet the caffeine would immediately begin to work on those stored fats and start to mobilize and burn them. Therefore, whatever calories burned from your workout, more of those calories will come from fat if you have consumed caffeine before your workout.


      Quick-Facts about Caffeine:
      • Lowers the perceived exertion of Exercise
      • Increases Alertness
      • Decreases Reaction Time
      • May help suppress appetite
      • Acts as a Fat-Burner
      • Increases Fat-Metabolism
      I am not going to sit here and list all the reasons why caffeine SHOULD be consumed, especially since most people have been brainwashed by the news to think that caffeine causes all sorts of problems internally (bone density issues, restlessness at night, has too potent of a diuretic effect for some etc...). OK, so caffeine has a few notable side effects, but the fact that it keeps you up at night, i think is BASED ON THE INDIVIDUAL consuming it... I FIND that if i put a splash of cream in my coffee and STEVIA sweetener INSTEAD OF SUGAR, it doesn't matter if i have it before bed, I STILL FALL ASLEEP. My mother is the same way and so are a list of other people I have come across. The only negative side effect i have ever experienced with caffeine is when i consumed it with SUGAR or those flavored creamers/milks. I will be honest with you too, if i just sit and drink coffees at a desk and i am INACTIVE, i will feel a LITTLE bit wired. BUT! If i am active after having consumed it or i am just generally active throughout the day, it has no negative impact on my body at all. If your fear of caffeine comes from having seen on the news that it will deplete the calcium in your body, avoid prolonged high intake of it and consume more calcium altogether. After all, caffeine/coffee is NOT the only culprit in calcium-depletion!!! Other causes are just NOT mentioned because they would go against certain food guides and "known/embedded" ways of eating.
      Some studies have shown that Caffeine can produce a slower heart rate, nervousness, irritability, hypertension and even gastrointestinal distress. HOWEVER, i would have to say i think these things may already be pre-existing conditions that are minimally present due to a poor diet, or a diet that could use some improvements, and then just further provoked by the consumption of caffeine.
      Some NEW studies have shown that caffeine can boost performance in short-term athletic events too. In one case study, athletes took 6-9 mg. of caffeine per kg of body-mass and their exercise performance SIGNIFICANTLY improved during the first 500-meter portion of a "simulated rowing test".
      I PERSONALLY like to have a coffee or a regular tea with a splash of cream in it and some Stevia prior to my cardio and i find that i go for much longer and i am more energized. After that i will have some whey (about 3/4 scoop) mixed in water, do some light stretching and then hit the weights. This routine is something that i have cycled in and out of my training programs for YEARS and EVERY TIME i go back to consuming caffeine before my cardio, it is MORE effective and over time i find that i burn MORE body-fat :)

      If you feel that you would like to try caffeine as a fat-burner or simply for increased energy, I would suggest having it before your workout, first thing in the morning, or after a meal as a dessert. In all instances i have PERSONALLY experienced positive results. As you probably know by now, i would NEVER put sugar or honey or any carb-based sweetener in my coffee, I ONLY use Stevia (french vanilla flavored sometimes for variety) and a splash of cream. This is what works for me. Hopefully it works for you too!! :)
      Before i forget, there ARE caffeine tablets on the market too, and i have a feeling after posting this article people are going to ask me what i think about those. I have tried them and i did not like how i felt after taking them. I like my caffeine to come from natural sources such as Coffee, Red-Rose/Earl Grey/White Tea and SOMETIMES Green Tea (I dont really like green tea, it's just a personal dislike...i know most people adore it and think it's the healthiest thing on the planet LOL). Another GREAT source of caffeine is YERBA MATE tea. It is a herbal tea that can give you almost the same stimulant effect as coffee!

      Yours in Good Health,
       Alex L.

      Monday, February 15, 2010

      Creatine and Training

      By: Alex Liska

      FIRST OFF I WOULD LIKE TO ANSWER THE FOLLOWING POPULAR QUESTION TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY:
      Q- Where does Creatine come from? 

      A- Creatine that is normally present in our muscles may come from 2 different sources: dietary (animal flesh), and/or internally manufactured. Whatever creatine is not present in our diet can be easily made by our liver and kidneys from a few amino acids (arginine, glycine and methionine). About half of the creatine that we use up daily is replaced by our DIET and half is synthesized/produced on its own inside of us (endogenously). The external intake of creatine from supplement sources appears to show negative feedback on our body's internal/it's own production of creatine (this means, more creatine present in the diet means less production by the body, so taking supplements can actually inhibit or stop your body from producing its own creatine as efficiently or often as it should). Creatine is eliminated from the body by our kidneys either as creatine, or as creatinine, which is formed from the metabolism of creatine.

      Today, I wanted to talk a bit about my own personal experience with Creatine... A few people have asked me if i use it when training and trying to gain lean muscle mass... I HAVE tried it before once or twice and I've also done a bit of research on it and asked a few other bodybuilders that have used it what they think of this supplement.
      For about a decade or more now, there have been various studies that have shown that creatine supplements can enhance short-duration, high intensity activities for some athletes, BUT! the exact dosage is yet to be determined. 
      One study that i came across actually showed a group athletes (12 males and 12 females) consumed an avg. of 7.7grams/day (0.1gram per kg of lean body mass) of a creatine supplements and they showed an increase in their high intensity exercise performance ability. The group also performed the bench press until exhaustion and were able to perform more work than the group that had not consumed any creatine supplements.
      There are many many MANY examples of studies like this one, however I think it is very much up to each individual to test the waters when it comes to supplements like Creatine, Nitric Oxide and even Whey Protein/Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's) etc...
      I tried taking creatine a few years ago... i tried 1/2 of the receommended serving of Creatine Ethyl Ester, mixed in water and I am going to be honest with you, I did not feel any different during or after my workout. I was not able to lift heavier, do more reps...and I decided i was going to use this supplement for atleast 2-3 weeks before putting it away. This is exactly what i did, i consumed 1/2 a scoop in water before each workout for 3 weeks, maybe even a month and the most i observed was that I was retaining water and had gained a few pounds (of water weight obviously). My pants were tighter on me, especially around my legs and my arms were bigger but not as defined. I actually felt quite bloated. I decided to stop taking creatine and i lost the excess water weight and my measurements went back to what they had originally been.
      After having asked a few other trainers, bodybuilders, friends on different forums and having done my research, what i can conlude is that creatine MAY or MAY NOT work...but the bottom line is that when you take a supplement like this the results are short-lived. You may gain a few extra pounds because the creatine draws water to your muscles and makes them appear fuller, you may even think you are stronger in the weight room; BUT! once you stop taking it you are back at square one...
      You have to ask yourself "Why am i thinking of taking creatine supplements...Is it to gain size? Strength? Increased Energy?"
      There are NO shortcuts in the gym... the best way to gain lean muscle mass and even strength would be to manipulate your sets/reps and use different exercises, use different angles when training, focus on the negative portion of the lift, use a variety of different equipment/dumbbells/barbells, play around with the speed and tempo of each rep... I could think of many ways to shock your body and get it to react along with a very goal-specific diet!!! Diet plays such a huge role in the development and outcome of your training regimen that it is almost impossible to move forward and move past plateaus by just adding in an extra supplement here and there. If the foundation (training and general diet) is not on point, there is no supplement out there that can make up for this.
      If you are needing extra energy I would have to say do it the old fashioned way, have a coffee w/ some stevia if you like it sweet and you can even add a splash of cream in there! I have even tried having a large bottle of filtered water w/ the juice of one lemon, a 1/4 tsp of sea salt and Stevia/Splenda in it to sweeten it. The salt provided my body with electrolytes, and for some reason this beverage (served super cold) woke me up and got me pumped for my workout!!!
      SO, to conclude this topic i would say, I wouldn't personally use creatine again, as I would be setting myself up for fictitious water weight gain, bloating, water retention and it is also costly... I will stick to coffee, green tea or sugar-free lemonade w/ a pinch of salt (my alternative to Gatorade) when i need a boost. The rest, i will leave up to the weights, being focused on my workouts and sticking to my diet :)
      I will definitely keep you posted on any supplements i may randomly happen to sample and like or dislike... Keep checking my site for new updates and coverage on different Fitness/Health topics!

      Best of luck with training, Yours in Good Health,












      -Alex L.

      Saturday, February 13, 2010

      ♥ Happy Valentines Day!! ♥

      Healthy Peppermint Hot-Chocolate Recipe 
      By: Alex Liska ♥

      Ingredients:
      -1.5 cups Peppermint tea (should be piping hot!!!)
      -2 tbsp unsweetened Cocoa powder
      -1-2 tbsp 5% Cream
      -2-3 enveloppes of Splenda or Stevia Herbal Sweetener (depending on how sweet you like it)
      -1 spray (2-3 tbsp) Light cool-whip as a topping (optional, and it only contains 1gr of sugar)

      Directions:
      Dissolve the cocoa powder in the piping hot cup of tea VERY well, mix in the sweetener and cream. Top off with whipped cream. Enjoy!!!

      XOXOX









       -Alex
      1 Corinthians 13:1-13
      If I speak in the tongues of men and angels,
      but have not love,
      I have become sounding brass or a tinkling symbol. 
      And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge,
      and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains,
      but have not love, I am nothing. 
      And if I dole out all my goods, and
      if I deliver my body that I may boast
      but have not love, nothing I am profited.
      Love is long suffering,
      love is kind,
      it is not jealous,
      love does not boast,
      it is not inflated.
      It is not discourteous,
      it is not selfish,
      it is not irritable,
      it does not enumerate the evil.
      It does not rejoice over the wrong, but rejoices in the truth 
       
      It covers all things,
      it has faith for all things,
      it hopes in all things,
      it endures in all things.
      Love never falls in ruins;
      but whether prophecies, they will be abolished; or
      tongues, they will cease; or
      knowledge, it will be superseded.
      For we know in part and we prophecy in part.
      But when the perfect comes, the imperfect will be superseded.  
      When I was an infant,
      I spoke as an infant,
      I reckoned as an infant;
      when I became [an adult],
      I abolished the things of the infant. 
      For now we see through a mirror in an enigma, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know as also I was fully known. 
      But now remains
       faith, hope, love,
      these three;
      but the greatest of these is love.
      ♥  ♥ 



      Friday, February 12, 2010

      ALL ABOUT PROTEIN - Facts, Questions & Answers...


      HAPPY FRIDAY TO YOU ALLLLLLLLL!!!!! I decided to write this mini article on protein, after a friend on Facebook asked me when to take her protein: Before or After training...This question set off a light bulb in my head and i decided to write about it and publish the response:)
      It is important to consume adequate amounts of protein when exercising and even if you don't exercise, just to maintain healthy bones/muscle tissues and for your body perform daily metabolic functions and maintain a balanced internal environment. The minimum amount of protein required for a human being would be around 0.8grams per pound of body-weight!!! There are very many different sources of protein, some coming from natural sources and others coming from supplements... There are also more effective ways/times to consume these proteins that have proven to be more effective in achieving greater results and maximizing your lean muscle growth. Protein is highly thermogenic, meaning that it elevates your body's internal thermostat and requires more energy to be used. This is optimal for fat-burning as it promotes lean muscle growth and speeds up your body's basic metabolism...
      Protein serves as a means to repair torn muscle tissues after it's been worked which is ESSENTIAL for anyone trying to gain lean muscle mass or even maintain the lean mass they have and burn stored bodyfat!!!
      This article is something I wrote based on what I know about protein, how to take it, when to take it, different sources and what has worked best for me and for my clients over the past decade...I hope this helps you:)

      DIFFERENT SOURCES OF PROTEIN:

      SUPPLEMENTS:
      • Whey Isolate- A quickly absorbed protein powder that is readily available for your muscles to use when mixed in water! Can also be mixed in milk to slow down the absorption rate.
      • Whey Concentrate- A protein that breaks down over a longer period of time and is best taken at night or around times when you are more sedentary and your muscles don't need it right away.
      • Casein- Protein coming from milk, this is also broken down slowly and makes for a great night-time protein. Casein accounts for nearly 80% of proteins in cow's milk and cheeses.
      NATURAL FOOD SOURCES:
      • Eggs
      • Egg-whites (fat-free alternative to eggs or can be used in combination with eggs)
      • Tuna
      • Salmon
      • Cheeses (opt. for skimmed cheese or fat-free cheese for a lower-calorie choice)
      • Chicken (skinless is the best way to go)
      • Turkey (skinless)
      • Skim milk
      • Plain, Unsweetened Yogurt
      • Cottage Cheese (a GREAT night-time snack, proteins in it break down slowly...)
      • Steak (lean red meat is a great source of protein)
      • Lean ground Turkey/Chicken/Beef
      • Pork
      • Fish of all sorts
      • Sardines
      The list goes on and on, but all meats, poultry, dairy contain protein; it's a matter of selecting leaner alternatives that optimize results... You don't NEED to eat only chicken breasts/turkey breasts and fat-free proteins, we need fats in our diets, especially dietary fats and fat to help carry out metabolic functions and fuel the brain and so on so I would say consume a variety of different proteins :)

      WHEN TO TAKE YOUR PROTEIN
      When to take different proteins is optimal when trying to attain a lean, healthy physique. Whey isolate or Egg Whites are best taken right after a workout as they are quickly absorbed and readily available to your muscles. After doing a strenuous cardio session, i like to consume 20grams of Whey Isolate mixed in water, take a 10-15 minute break, do some light stretching and THEN do my weight training. If i happen to be doing weights first, i will eat a meal that is high in protein from natural sources (20grams at least), vegetable and moderate in dietary/healthy fats (olive oil/avocado/nuts etc...) 1-2 hours prior to training. I will do weights, followed by a brief cardio session and THEN consume my protein shake in this instance.

      At night-time before i go to bed i like to consume protein from cottage cheese (about 1/2-3/4 cup) fat-free cottage cheese, with cinnamon and some Stevia to add flavor OR if I'm already in my room and don't feel like going back to the kitchen I keep a tub of MILKY-WHEY protein powder on my night table and i will mix a scoop of that with water. Sometimes i will have some plain 0% yogurt w/ 1/2  a scoop of protein or a glass of skim milk w/ 1/2 a scoop of protein powder in it before bed so that my metabolism is still running properly while i sleep and i am not hungry before bed:)

      Overall though, i think it is essential to consume small amounts of protein several times throughout the day to maintain a steady and pleasant internal environment, to make sure your muscles are being fed/fueled and to optimize fat-burning. 20-30 grams every 2-3 hours depending on what your level of activity is like and if you are male/female is usually a reasonable portion.

      I hope this article serves as a guide to protein/protein sources/when to take protein... if you have any more questions, follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/top_figure) and ask away! Or send me a message (e-mail/Facebook) and i will be glad to help you!!

      NOT SURE WHERE TO GET PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS/WANNA ORDER ONLINE?
      If you check my "links" tab/section i have posted a link to SUPPLEMENTSOURCE.CA where if you enter in the code listed on the link you will receive a 10% discount on your purchase and they deliver to your residence so it's convenient and easy. This is where I order my MILKY-WHEY protein, its cheap and they deliver in a very timely fashion:)
      NOT SURE WHERE TO GET PROTEIN FROM NATURAL SOURCES FOR CHEAP?
      I shop at Food Basics/No Frills when I'm trying to get the biggest BANG for my buck!!! Sometimes though, Loblaws or Metro will have reduced items, so it's worth it to be a wise, savy shopper and try to get good deals so that you can eat healthy for a fraction of the price :)

      Yours in GREAT health,
      XOXOXO,














      Alex L.

      Wednesday, February 10, 2010

      ALEX'S AB-WORKOUT!!! QUICK~BASIC~EFFECTIVE...

      I would like to share with you guys a quick and effective ab workout that can be done almost anywhere, from home to an empty room in your office workplace during lunch, to the gym or even outdoors…

      I like to start this routine off with a 10-15minute brisk cardio warm-up…You can either perform this warm-up by walking on the treadmill on an incline or by going for a brisk power-walk outside. I like to use the treadmill and turn the incline up HIGH, hold on to the handles (for safety of course) and walk fast!!! I found a few illustrations of these exercises...I hope this helps...
      You can perform these exercises in circuit format, meaning one right after the other for 3 completed sets of 15-20 repetitions. (Don’t forget to breathe….preferably inhaling during the easier part of the rep and exhaling through the harder part). Don't forget to  Drink lots of Water to stay Hydrated !!!

      Exercise 1- Lying Leg Raises (15-20 reps):


      Exercise 2- Crunch (15-20 reps) (These can also be done with your arms fully extended and with your legs straight up in the air- a bit more challenging):


      Exercise 3- Bicycles (I would suggest doing sets of 45seconds each for beginners and 60-90 seconds+ to make it more of a challenge)

      Exercise 4- Plank (Remember to keep your abs tight during this one – pull in your belly button towards your spine – keep your butt low and keep your shoulders relaxed…) Hold for about 30-90 sec.)

      I like to finish off this session with 20-30minutes of cardio, this is optional and will just add to the results...You can go for a walk, swim, jog, bike-ride or use any other indoor cardio machine (elliptical, stair master etc...) This will Just burn a few extra calories and you don't have to do it after every ab workout...its up to you :)
      If you can perform these *4 exercises one after the other (circuit form) for 3 sets* 2-3 times a week and follow a clean eating regimen (refer to my article on Eating Low-Carb/Alex’s Top10 Foods/Supplements) I PROMISE YOU WILL SEE RESULTS!!!


      Best of Luck and Keep me posted on your success!!!

      XOXO
      Alex L. :)


      Monday, February 8, 2010

      Late-Night Snacking...


       
      (1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese)

      Hi Guys!!! I hope you all had a great weekend and your week's off to a good start:)
      I received a message on Twitter from a friend who explained to me that one of her concerns is eating late at night... to which i responded "There's nothing wrong with eating late at night, it's all about WHAT YOU EAT" :) You see, it's not good to go to bed starving because your metabolism WILL slow down, this is not something that we want when trying to stay in good shape. The key is to consume smaller meals that are substantial, high in protein, moderate in healthy/dietary fats, low in carbs, high in green veggies throughout the day (5-7 small meals, depending on your level of activity). But if you happen to be hungry before bed ITS OKAY to have something light, like a zero-carb/fat-free yogurt (Silhouette, Astro-Zero, or BlueMenu are a few options) or a cup of plain 0% yogurt with some Stevia herbal sweetener... You can also have some green veggies such as Spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage etc... with 1/2 a cup of cottage cheese (fat-free or 1%). Another option would be a glass of skim milk or 1/2 a can of tuna w/ some light mayo or olive oil (about 1-2tsp) and green onions! 1cup celery sticks w/ 5-6 shrimps (from a cooked shrimp ring) also makes for an extremely light but satisfying night-night snack ;)
      Try to be creative; put together a tiny snack and have a glass of water (add freshly squeezed lemon for flavor) and then head to bed. It's better this way, because you won't have to force yourself to sleep with a growling tummy and a headache... If you want more ideas for light night-time snacks i can think of a few, you can add me on twitter, send me a tweet and i will let you know what i had as a night-time snack for the day:)
      Well, i hope this eases your mind and comes as a relief to those of you that have been brain-washed or preached to about the "dangers of eating after 6pm or 8pm" or whatever...LOL... oh, and before i forget!!! I just recently tried having some carbonated water (Perrier) with 1/2 a lemon juiced into it and an envelope of Splenda sweetener when i woke up in the middle of the night hungry and it helped me get back to sleep. Carbonated water seems to be more filling, and the added flavor also helps!

       
      Enjoy the rest of your Monday!!
      XOXO, 

      Alex L.

      Sunday, February 7, 2010

      Salmon Caesar Salad Recipe (A Lean Dinner Choice)

      Hi guys!! hope everyone's having a good weekend so far... Here is a recipe for a Lean dinner plate, i chose salmon instead of the conventional "chicken" caesar salad because it is high in Omega 3-6-9 (essential fatty acids) and is soooo tasty! I wanted to share this with you guys....

      Ingredients:
      -4-6 oz Salmon steak/fillet
      -1/2 tsp salt & paprika
      -1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil OR Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (to fry the salmon in)
      -2tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
      -2-3cups chopped Romaine lettuce
      -2 tbsp Renee's light Caesar dressing (sold @ loblaws/metro/food basics)
      -Freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese (about 1/2- 1small handful)
      -optional= 1 tbsp slivered toasted almonds (adds a very nice touch)
      -add black pepper to taste!


      Directions:  
      Heat up a skillet/frying pan and sir the Salmon in the coconut oil/olive oil (don't forget to add the salt and paprika to it) until very lightly browned on each side (i like my salmon slightly undercooked-its up to you if you want it more done). Top with freshly squeezed lemon juice and let it sit in the frying pan for about 1 minute. In a Large bowl, mix the romaine lettuce with the Caesar salad dressing and dump it out into a large plate, top off with Asiago/Parmesan cheese and you can also sprinkle the toasted almonds on now. Place the Salmon (sliced) on top. You can sprinkle it with some more fresh lemon juice:) and black pepper!

      This dish is high in protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, calcium and very low in carbs. A great lean dinner choice!

      ENJOY!!!


      XOXOX,
       
      Alex L.

      Friday, February 5, 2010

      FRIDAY NIGHT *STRESS-RELIEVER* BROWNIE (LOW-CARB/LOW-FAT)

      Hello my friends!! I'm sure everyone has had *quite the week* and is looking forward to going home this evening and unwinding....perhaps having a nice, relaxing bubble bath, followed by some......Brownies ?!?! :-D hmmm....let's mak'em HEALTHY BROWNIES!!! What i did was, i altered my grandma's brownie recipe, editted out the refined sugars and starches and made this into a wonderful, healthy alternative to the conventional brownie...yet it still tastes GREAT!

      Ingredients:
      -1 cup grinded oats (i like to grind mine in the coffee grinder, you can also use a blender)
      -1/3 cup grinded Flaxseeds (the cheapest form of flaxseeds is buying in bulk, "Metro" and "Loblaws" sells them like this, if not, try Food Basics or NoFrills.... they come in a plastic container for pretty cheap!!! :)
      -1/2 tsp sea-salt
      -1 tsp baking powder
      -1 cup butter (preferrably stick form-unsalted) OR YOU CAN USE COCONUT OIL INSTEAD =)
      -1/4 tsp Ginger (this is a serotonin-booster ;) combined w/ cocoa = heavenly addition!!!)
      ***1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (this is OPTIONAL!!!! adds a nice ZING though.... )
      -1 cup Frys Cocoa (NoName Cocoa is fine too!)
      -1cup Splenda + 5envelopes STEVIA herbal sweetener
      -2 omega eggs and 1cup/250ml(1 small carton) egg-whites --- THIS ADDS EXTRA PROTEIN ;)
      -2tsp vanilla extract (Jamaican Vanilla tastes the best----sold @ West Indian stores)
      ***1cup chopped nuts (this is OPTIONAL!!!! don't add this if you're allergic to nuts lol)

      Directions: Stir together grinded oats,  baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Melt butter/Coconut Oil in a large saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in Cocoa. Blend in Splenda/Stevia, eggs/eggwhites and vanilla. Blend in dry ingredients and nuts. Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350degreesFahrenheit (180celsius) oven for 30-45 minutes or until done. You can check to see if they're done by poking a toothpick through the brownie, if it comes out clean then they're done!! Let Cool.
      ***NOTE*** These friendly brownies are high in essential fatty acids (omega 3-6-9), high in fiber, iron, antioxidants, flavonoids, protein, vitamin B6, and electrolytes (potassium/sodium) ... They WILL make you feel GREAT after you eat them. I promise :)

      Now that your brownies are ready, it's time to watch a Movie/DVD or take a bubble bath and enjoy your yummy and Healthy baked goods... and perhaps indulge in a nice, Healthy glass of Dry Red Wine!!
      A tip when buying red wine---Make sure that the wine is ranked a ZERO (0) or maximum a ONE (1) ...ask the staff at the LCBO to find you a 0 or 1 wine....these wines are "low glycemic" therefore lower in carbs than say, a sweeter wine that would be ranked a higher number... i REALLY hope this helps!!!

      With Love,

       










      XOXOXO
      -Alex L.

      Thursday, February 4, 2010

      EMPTY STOMACH CARDIO

      Well, well, well.....over the past say, almost decade, i have been preached to about "empty stomach cardio" ... getting up EARLY in the morning and performing my cardio session before breakfast...some "fitness experts" have even suggested i pop a fat-burner or 2 before doing this cardio...
      Okay, EVERYONE has a different opinion on this and i respect everyone's personal views and such.... HOWEVER!!!!! I can speak from my own personal experience.... EMPTY STOMACH CARDIO WAS NOT MORE EFFECTIVE FOR ME than cardio that i would otherwise have performed AFTER the consumption of a light meal... i actually found that i was VERY tired, lacking energy and could not even complete my cardio sessions when i would do them before eating breakfast. As a matter of fact, i was SOOOO hungry by the end of the empty-stomach cardio session that i ate almost twice as much for breakfast as i normally would have :( ... I will go as far as saying that i may have even caused METABOLIC DAMAGE by performing "empty stomach cardio"for soooo many days of my life... I find this method of "Fat burning" or "weight loss" to be completely useless and counter-productive... I look at it as "DRIVING YOUR CAR WITH NOOO GAS IN IT" who does that?!?!? Not anyone i know... if you look at it form a logical standpoint, the key to weight loss/fat reduction is to INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM...to do so you would need to provide your body with a LITTLE bit of fuel before performing an activity. I like to have a small serving of fat-free, low carb, or plain yogurt w/ some stevia in it and even a teaspoon of instant coffee and some vanilla just to give me a boost. Even a scoop of low-carb whey protein mixed in water does the trick...anything to get your metabolism reved up and functioning works great!!!.....
      "Food gives your body the energy to perform the most purposeful exercise possible. If you can only run 10 minutes on an empty stomach but 20 with a bit of breakfast, you may want to consider eating something small before exercise. Food also helps to clear your head, wake you up and provide you with the balance and co-ordination necessary to perform a safe workout."(as quoted by PTS Kaleena Lawless on EzineArticles.com)
      "They Say" that overnight your body is fasting therefore you wake up and are all of a sudden "burning stored fat" when you immediately head over to do your cardio session...BUT!!! How do we know that our body is resorting to burn stored fat when it barely even has enough energy in it to carry out regular metabolic functions? Almost anyone who is a beginner at exercising will see results off ANYTHING that they do....so it's not that they are losing weight because they are exercising in starvation mode, it's that their body is responding to MOVEMENT in general since they have been sedentary!!! We ALL need a base source of fuel, for heaven's sake! Even a light spinach salad with some cottage cheese (1/2 a cup) 30-45 minutes before a cardio session is ENOUGH to help you have a LONGER, MORE EFFICIENT, PLEASANT cardio session...
      So... i'm gonna leave it at that. This is just my opinion, personal experience as well as the experience of a handful or so of clients that I train... We find that by eating Low carb, Higher protein, Moderate fats (mainly from healthy, unprocessed sources), and by having a light meal 30-45 minutes prior to working out or doing cardio, WE SEE BETTER RESULTS and enjoy working out a HECK of a lot more :)

      I do plan on doing some more research and perhaps creating a poll on people's opinions and feedback on this matter as it is rather significant to those that want to lose bodyfat in an effective, safe way :)


      Yours in Good Health,








      XOXO.... Alex L.

      Tuesday, February 2, 2010

      ALEX'S TOP 10 LIST OF FOODS/SUPPLEMENTS!

      1) COD LIVER OIL- The most concentrated and reliable source of vitamin D, vitamin A, DHA (a fatty acid that is essential to the health of your nervous system and eyes. It is vital to preventing depression) and EPA(a fatty acid that promotes a healthy cardiovascular system and decreases inflammation throughout your body. Its anti-inflammatory properties makes EPA especially helpful to people who suffer with arthritis.)Can be taken in liquid or capsule form daily.
      2)COCOA POWDER- Diets high in flavonoid-rich cocoa powder and dark chocolate have a favourable effect on LDL ("bad" cholesterol and also help produce tons of serotonin. Cocoa powder is also HIGH in fiber and LOW in sugar, contains 0grams of sugar therefore is great for low-carb diets. Also rich in flavonoids & antioxidants!
      3)COCONUT OIL- Contains anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Helps cleanse the digestive tract and is rich in MCT's (Medium chain triglycerices- beneficial fat source that is quickly absorbed by the body). Best source is "Cold pressed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil)
      4)GARLIC- Thanks to its antiseptic properties, garlic is great at keeping your insides clean and is also anti-inflammatory and is known to reduce blood pressure. Has shown to be beneficial to those with diabetes and is also good for preventing weight gain. Garlic can be used as a seasoning for foods, tastes great:)
      5)COLLOIDAL SILVER-Colloidal silver supports the natural defense system of the body and is powerfully alkaline (it is important to maintain an alkaline environment in the body versus an acidic one!)colloidal silver has been recognized as a powerful, natural antibiotic. It works by acting as a catalyst, disabling the enzyme that single-celled bacteria, fungi and viruses require for the metabolism of oxygen (meaning they cannot survive!!!). Available @ most health food stores, i even found some @ the organic section in Loblaws. It comes in a little bottle with a dropper. I like to drink water w/ a droperful of Colloidal Silver sometimes...
      6)SPINACH- This is a very nutrient-dense food. It’s low in calories yet very high in vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients. Excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, magnesium, folate, manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B2, potassium, and vitamin B6. It’s a very good source of protein, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc, dietary fiber, and copper. Also a good source of selenium, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acids. Available frozen and fresh!!
      7)PLAIN YOGURT- Plain yogurt is an amazing lactobacillus acidophilus/probiotic source that is good for maintaining a healthy intestinal flora. This is essential for women, as they are more prone to UTI's, yeast infections and such. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that we sometimes lack. They help fight yeast/fungi that can be at an overgrowth due to diets high in starch/sugar and also high levels of stress!! Yogurt is high in calcium and also protein and can be used to make delicious desserts/breakfasts. The best way to consume it essentialy would be plain or w/ frozen berries. Stevia is best used to sweeten it, as sugar is NO GOOD!!!
      8)STEVIA- Let's face it! We all crave sweets sometimes, so what better to use as a sweetener in our baked goods/desserts/dishes than a herbal, low calorie, low glycemic herbal sweetener? Stevia is extracted from plants/shrubs mainly in Paraguay, Brazil and can be purchased in enveloppe form or a multi-potent powder/liquid form as well :) Can be used in combination w/ other sweeteners such as Xylitol (also a natural sweetener) and Splenda. Great for aiding weight loss and lowering blood sugar for diabetics!
      9)WHEY PROTEIN- I like to use low-carb or plain fat-free whey protein as a supplement when i can not get my protein from natural food sources. After a workout i use whey isolate (quick absorption rate of protein) and before bed i use whey concentrate (slower absorption rate of protein). It is convenient and easy to use. I use a paper as a funnel, drop my scoop of protein into my water bottle, shake it up and drink it. Easy and simple!!
      10)DRY RED WINE- WE HAVE ALL BEEN BRAINWASHED INTO THINKING ALLLLLL ALCOHOL IS VERY VERY BAD FOR US...PLEASE READ THIS LITTLE QUOTE I PICKED UP FROM winepros.org: "POLITICAL SUPPRESSION- Although wine may be the oldest remedy and prophylactic still in use, there was an entire generation of medical professionals, especially in America, that obtained their medical education during the historical period known as Prohibition. Medical texts for nearly twenty-five years were purged and censored of any mention of alcohol, including wine, for any application other than external. This medical generation became educators to the following one, perpetuating medical ignorance of the potential health benefits of wine."
      The truth is, it's like a game of broken telephone... one guy in a white coat says "dont drink wine, its bad" and it gets spread through generations. Well here are some of the benefits of dry red wine: It is HIGH in RESVERATROL and QUERCETIN, these compounds may boost the immune system, block cancer formation, and possibly protect against heart disease and even prolong life. Ever heard of the French Paradox? Well one thing it mentions is how the French (who consume DRY RED WINE DAILY) have a MUCH LOWER rate of heart disease than Americans. I am a firm believer in having one glass of wine a day. Again!! EvErYtHiNg in moderation!!! :)

      I hope this information comes in handy to you ALL...i will continue to post info and guides to foods/supplements that can help us all live longer, HEALTHIER lives ;)

      Yours in Good Health...XOXOXO
      -Alex L.

      Monday, February 1, 2010

      THE BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL

      There is SOOOO much controversy when it comes to fats, which ones are good and which ones are bad...in the past, due to negative publicity from mass-producing Soy/Corn companies/industries, Coconut Oil had been given a bad rep and had been flagged as a food that is "too high" in saturated fats therefore it was deemed "bad for people" ...this makes me really sad :(  Coconut Oil is a NATURAL healing product amongst many other things... This is an article i will publish or perhaps even write a 5-paragraph essay on one of these days LOL....but today i will keep things short and sweet. 

      Here is a list of just a FEW benefits of the consumption of "Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil" :

      -Stimulates thyroid function
      -Contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT's) that boost the metabolism
      -MCT's cannot be broken down by high heat therefore coconut oil is great for cooking
      -Anti-viral, Anti-Bacterial AND Anti-Fungal
      -Will NOT raise cholesterol even though it naturally contains saturated fat
      - Fats breakdown into H2O to hydrate the body
      -Helps with repair of the skin/hair nails
      - Tastes great and can be used as a substitute for butter/oils in recipes
      -Has been shown to SLOW DOWN the spread of HIV in NUMEROUS research studies conducted worldwide
      -Excellent food for the brain and long-term energy production
      -The MCT's in coconut oil are SOOO easily and quickly absorbed by the body that they DO NOT turn to fat
      -Helps fight cancerous cells thanks to it's potent anti-viral/anti-fungal and Anti-Bacterial properties!!

      I could go on...but there you go... a few of the benefits of this SUPER-FOOD... again....i don't believe in gorging on ANYTHING...but having a TBSP of coconut oil first thing in the morning or as a snack CAN ONLY BENEFIT YOUR HEALTH :) I will try my best to keep everyone updated on this marvelous food and other super-foods as well...For more info on other healing foods as well as recommended sources of Coconut Oil, please visit http://www.WestonAPrice.org

      XOXOX...Alex L.