Monday, September 22, 2014

Healthy Traveling Tips

Traveling can take a lot out of your mind, body and spirit!

Now that you've worked your way through understanding your ultimate nutritional needs, the next piece of feeding your body is doing so consistently. It's easy to do this when you're at home because you can plan for your meals and ensure they are balanced and timely (more on planning in another post). When you're traveling, it's an entirely new ballgame. And one that isn't easy, to say the least.

I travel a lot and have found that it is nearly impossible to be as healthy on the road as it is to be when I'm at home. So I have to make proper accommodations to be as healthy as possible on the road. Here are a few tips that have helped me in the last few years during my travels (especially in airports):

  • Pack as much home-cooked food as you can. Airplane food could not be more unhealthy. It's loaded with salt and with 'bad carbs' and overall, just isn't nutritionally good for you. (Did I mention it's pretty bland, too?) Packing an easy snack (e.g., Justin's almond butter packs and an apple) or packing a pre-made dish will go much further for your nutrition and your waistline than opting for airplane or -- or airport food, for that matter.
  • Scope out menus beforehand. Are you taking clients to dinner? Are you going out socially with friends or clients? Are you eating on your own? It's so easy to find menus online for most restaurants and it is even easier to take a look at that menu to decide upon options that could be healthy choices before you set foot in the restaurant. If you're not meeting anyone, I find it's easiest to head to the salad bar at Whole Foods to load up on veggies and healthy protein options.
  • Minimize alcohol consumption. Alcohol is such a nutrition-killer. And, if you're on a diet, it's even worse. It's hard to minimize alcohol consumption when you're taking clients out for drinks, but try to drink one drink, then during the second round, order a sparkling water, then if you're still in the mood, order your second drink. If nothing else, try to keep your night to two drinks, max. Alcohol can make you eat more and impair your nutritional choices throughout the night, meaning you likely won't get the ideal combination of carbs, proteins and fats anyway. 
  • Move it! Sitting on a plane for hours on end is tough on the body. Sitting in meetings all day is pretty hard on the body, too. Make some time for yourself to exercise! Exercise doesn't have to be strenuous, but can just be movement - a brisk ten minute walk, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, even parking further away from your destination and walking the distance. Movement is so important to get the blood flowing and does wonders for the psyche, too.
  • Hydrate. It is recommended that you drink eight glasses of water a day, but I know I need even more water when I travel, especially when I'm traveling by air. Every hour, make it a point to drink eight ounces of water. Most airports have those environmentally-friendly water fountains these days and I carry a glass water bottle with me through security and make it a point to fill my water bottle before I board the plane. If you don't have a water bottle, try to buy a large bottle of water (24 oz. works well) and try to reuse it a few times before discarding it. Water is so important.
Have I missed anything? What recommendations do you have for healthy travel?

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Macronutrients are the building blocks of our diet.

There exist three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. All three are necessary for cell repair, growth and metabolism and combinations of these macronutrients in each meal provide calories we need to survive.

Each macronutrient provides a different number of calories:
  • Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram
  • Fats provide 9 calories per gram
  • Proteins provide 4 calories per gram
Alcohol is the only other substance that provides calories, but it is not a macronutrient (e.g., we don't need alcohol to survive).
  • Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram
Each of these macronutrients bring unique assets to the nutritional table. Let's explore them a bit:

Carbohydrates (aka 'carbs'): These are the body's main source of fuel. Not all carbohydrates are the same; there are some carbs -- fiber -- that the body cannot digest that literally just pass through the digestive system and help the body move waste through the body. Carbohydrates that contain fiber include whole grains, veggies, fruits and beans. These are also considered 'good carbs.' On the flip side are 'bad carbs', which don't contain fiber and include white grains and sugars.
The USDA recommends getting 45-65% of your daily calories from carbohydrates.
Fats: Believe it or not, fats provide the most concentrated source of energy for the body. Fats help with vitamin and mineral absorption and promote normal body growth and development. There are three types of fat: saturated, unsaturated and trans fats. 
The USDA recommends getting 20-30% of your daily calories from fat.
Proteins: Protein is essential for tissue repair, immune function, making enzymes and hormones, preserving lean muscle mass and providing energy when carbohydrates are not available. Protein is found in a number of foods, including: meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes/beans and in (very small quantities) vegetables. When we eat protein, our body breaks down these proteins into amino acids, some of which are essential (meaning we need to get them from our diet) and nonessential (meaning our body can make these proteins without deriving them from our diet). Not all proteins are the same, either. Proteins that come from animal sources contain all of the essential amino acids that we need; proteins that come from plant sources do not contain all of these essential amino acids.
The USDA recommends getting 10-35% of your daily calories from protein.
It is important to have a combination of proteins, fats and carbs in each meal. Given the last few posts, let's walk through the an example, referencing Sam from a previous post (Sam is trying to maintain his weight):

Ideal RMR / BMR: 1,950 calories / day
Sedentary allotment of calories: 2,340 (1,950 * 1.2 = 2,340)

Percent Carbohydrates (assume about 50% of daily calories): 
2,340 * 50% = 1,170 calories
1,170 calories / 4 calories per gram = 293 grams of carbohydrates

Percent Fats (assume about 20% of daily calories):
2,340 * 20% = 468 calories
468 calories / 9 calories per gram = 52 grams of fat

Percent Proteins (assume about 30% of daily calories): 
2,340 * 30% = 702 calories
702 calories / 4 calories per gram = 176 grams of protein

Sam's Full Nutritional Profile:
Total Calories = 2,340 calories / day
Calories from Carbohydrates = 293 grams
Calories from Fats = 52 grams
Calories from Protein = 176 grams

If you want to calculate your macronutrient consumption, check out my Macronutrient Calculator on Google Docs.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Calculating Ideal Calorie Intake

How do I know how many calories I should consume?

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the three fundamental pillars of health and wellness includes nutrition. You have to feed your body whole, natural and unprocessed foods in order for it to work toward its optimal capacity. Additionally, it’s important to feed your body to maintain your body weight and if you’re looking to lose weight, to know how many calories to consume (or remove) to aid in that process.

As many people have said before:

Abs aren’t made in the gym; abs are made in the kitchen.

Before we get into any nutrition conversations, it’s important to know how many calories you should consume to maintain your weight and how many calories you should consume to lose weight. For some reason, I’ve always found this process to be confusing, so I’m going to try to simplify it here.

Let’s get started.

If you want to maintain your weight, you need to know three numbers:

Ideal Body Weight (IBW)
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) / Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Daily Calorie Goal (DCG)

The easiest way to think about Ideal Body Weight is to think about how much you should weigh given your height and age. If you calculate your Ideal Body Weight and your current weight is above the ideal range, you might want to consider losing weight. If you calculate your Ideal Body Weight and the number is below your range, you might need to put on some weight. And, if you calculate your Ideal Body Weight and it falls within your range, you’ll want to make sure you’re consuming enough calories to maintain your ideal weight.

Your Resting (Basal) Metabolic Rate is the rate your body would burn calories if you were to do absolutely nothing during the day, and hence, not burn any calories through activity. It is the absolute minimum number of calories your body needs to survive. It’s important to know this number so that you can identify how many calories you should consume to keep your body functioning at its best (before you start to consider how many calories you can eat if you move around at all during the day, work out, etc.).

After calculating your Resting (Basal) Metabolic Rate, it is then important to know your Daily Calorie Goal, meaning how many calories you can consume based on how active you are during the day. To do this, think about your daily activity in one of three buckets:
  1. Sedentary (you don’t really move at all during the day - maybe you sit at a desk all day and don’t really exercise much during the week).
  2. Moderately active (you get in about 1-3 days of exercise and move around a little bit during the day).
  3. Very active (you either exercise 4-6 times per week and/or you have a very demanding job that requires you to be up and about for most of the day).

Here are the steps to calculate all three:

Step 1: Calculate your Ideal Body Weight
I would recommend calculating your Ideal Body Weight using the calculator found at the CDC’s website. The results provide you with information indicating whether you are in a healthy or unhealthy range.

Step 2: Calculate your Resting (Basal) Metabolic Rate
I would recommend calculating your Resting Metabolic Rate using the calculator found on’s website. The results will provide you with information about your baseline calorie needs per day; for example, if your RMR / BMR is 1,300, you don’t want to consume fewer than 1,300 calories per day or your body will go into ‘conservation mode.’

Step 3: Calculate your Daily Calorie Goal
Now that you have calculated your RMR/BMR, use the following guidelines to calculate your Daily Calorie Goal:

If you are sedentary, add an additional 20-40% of your RMR.
If you are moderately active, add an additional 50% of your RMR.
If you are very active, add an additional 60-80% of your RMR.

This calculation gives you an ideal calorie goal that you should try to achieve per day.

Sam’s RMR is 1,500 and he’s sedentary. Take his RMR of 1,500 and multiply it by 30%: 1,500 x 0.30 = 450. 
Sam’s daily calorie goal should be 1,500 + 450 = 1,950 / day.

What did you come up with? 
Were you surprised at your numbers?

Now that you have your numbers, in future posts we’ll focus on how to use them to optimize your approach to eating and exercise.