What is a Calorie and How to Manage Them for Weight Maintenance and Loss

You don’t have to know a lot about nutrition to be well aware of this one particular word: calorie.  Calories are like Peter Pan’s shadow, no matter how hard you try and shake them they follow you EVERYWHERE! But what exactly is a calorie and why are we so desperately trying to avoid them?  Better question, how do we properly manage them to maintain or accomplish a certain weight?

What is a Calorie?

By definition, a calorie is “the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.”  What is the key word in this definition?  I’ll give you a hint; it looks remarkably like the word Energy… A calorie is the form of energy that your body uses to ensure the proper daily function of your cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, and digestive system among others. In other words, energy needed to ensure the beating of your heart, digestion, and filling of your lungs with air, etc.  Without calories, we wouldn’t survive.  So why isn’t it that the more calories we consume, the better our body functions.  Trust me, I ask the dear Lord that question every night.  The answer is simple.

Our bodies have what we call a basal metabolic rate (BMR).  That is the amount of energy you expend if you were to just lie in bed all day long.  The body requires this energy to perform those automatic daily body functions like the heartbeat discussed above.  Your body also requires additional calories (or energy), to perform all those activities you perform when you finally leave your bed.  I.e. walking around, typing on the computer, talking, exercising, so on and so forth.

Therefore, we can come up with this simple formula to help us properly manage calories:

Daily energy needs = basal needs + additional activity needs

How to Manage Our Calories for Weight Maintenance:

Every calorie past the daily energy needs total is an unnecessary calorie and leads to weight gain.  Here are the steps to managing your calories to ensure you don’t surpass that energy needs total:

  1. Since everyone’s BMR varies, know what your basal metabolic rate is.
  2. Determine your additional activity needs based off activity level.
  3. Make sure you burn off any additional calories you consume!
  1.  How to find your BMR:
  • Females: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
  • Males: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

EXAMPLE:

Let’s use a 22 year old 5’8” female who weights 125 pounds

BMR = 655 + (4.35 x 125 pounds) + (4.7 x 68 inches) – (4.7 x 22 years of age)

BMR = 655 + (543.75) + (319.6) – (103.4)

BMR = 1,414.95 calories (The calories needed for your body to perform necessary life functions if you were to just lie in bed and do nothing). 

Or you can use an online BMR calculator such as the one provided by Runner’s World located HERE.

2. Find additional calories based off activity level:

  • Once you have your BMR calculated, you must determine how many additional calories are necessary to perform activities beyond your BMR based off your level of activity. Runner’s World has a good caloric reference list for each activity level once it calculates your BMR.

3. Make sure to burn off any additional calories you consumed! 

  • Remember the saying, “a calorie in is a calorie out.”  This is essential!  Here’s why.  If your daily energy needs total equals 2,200 calories (BMR + additional activity needs) and you consume 2,500 calories then you have an excess of 300 calories consumed.  That means you have to burn off 300 calories in order to maintain your weight.  Just be conscientious of how many calories you consume above your daily energy needs total.

How to Manage Calories for Weight Loss:

If you are looking to lose weight, then you need to create a caloric deficit.  In other words, more calories out than in. A loss of 1 pound equals a cut of 3,500 calories.  Obviously you can’t cut 3,500 calories in one day, nor should you ever, EVER try.  A safe weight loss program is to strive for a cut of 500 calories per day.  That means that you should lose about 1 pound per week.  An easy way to do this is to cut your consumption by say about 250 calories, and burn 250 calories via exercise.  This way you can remain satisfied by eating enough and still see results!

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Protein Shakes Made Easy

Making a protein shake shouldn’t require as much effort as the workout prior did.  It doesn’t have to be a messy endeavor and there is no need for a giant blender.  Not if you have the Cuisinart Smart Stick!

I know, I should write corny infomercials shouldn’t I? Picture this one: the picture is in black and white and you’re in the kitchen battling with a haywire blender that is spurting protein shake all over the walls and ceiling.  You’re simply distraught!  Then, the picture turns to color and you’re having the time of your life mixing a protein shake with this tiny blender.  It’s just so easy and you think to yourself, where has this thing been all my life!  Then the voiceover tells you, “This machine sells for $100….but if you order now, we’ll give it to you for 4 easy payments of $24.99!”  You’re so excited to call now for this seemingly great deal that you completely overlook the fact that 25 times 4 is still $100…

Okay, so infomercials obviously annoy me, but that isn’t the point! The point is that this little machine (which doesn’t really cost $100, but rather about $35), is amazing! I use it every day after my workouts.  In fact, it has kind of become my motivation to workout.  Thirty minutes of suffering in the gym is totally worth it when I get to have a shake afterwards.

Today’s shake consists of:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Banana
  • Spinach
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2% Greek yogurt
  • Unflavored whey protein isolate. 

Honestly, it seems like a lot more work than it actually is.  The steps are excruciatingly simple. I did a photo documentation to prove it to you!

The Cuisinart Smart stick comes with a plastic measuring cup that all the ingredients go directly into.

Once all your ingredients are piled in, push them all down with the blending stick itself and push the button on the stick until everything is blended to your desired consistency.  This next picture is about halfway done…unless you like super chunky shakes!

In about 1 minute, voilà, you have a delicious protein shake! It typically fills the entire measuring cup, however I shared some of my shake..then drank some of it, so this next picture has quite a bit less shake than usual.  Sometimes my kindness is a curse!  The next shake (peanut butter banana) will have the right amount…I promise!

 Check out this awesome machine via Amazon, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, or really anywhere that sells appliances.  If you’re content with your blender, at least check out this recipe!

Happy shaking!

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Spinach Strawberry Avocado and Salmon Salad

Here is another super quick, easy, and delicious recipe for you that packs a mean antioxidant punch!  It contains exactly what the name suggests and makes for a great summertime lunch.  The hardest part of this salad is poaching the salmon, a process that sounds much more difficult than it actually is and the entire recipe should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes.

Once you learn how to poach a mean salmon it can become quite the versatile fish dish. You can pair it with any fresh vegetables, spinach (sautéed or raw), or anything else that suits your fancy.  I’ll include the steps to poaching salmon within the recipe for easy reference.

Remember: I make my dishes for myself only, so all the nutrition information is based off of a single serving size.  Also, don’t let the seemingly high calorie count scare you off.  It may seem rather high, but you have to remember that this dish consists of A LOT of heart healthy fats from salmon, avocado, to sunflower kernels, all of which kicks up the calories and fat content…but in a good way!    

Servings: 1                    Calories: 498                    Calories From Fat: 280

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. fresh salmon filet
  • 1-2 cups spinach leaves
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • 3-5 strawberries cut up
  • 1 tbs. dried sunflower seed kernels
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. raspberry blush vinegar (check picture below)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil optional (this adds about 40 total calories and 40 calories from fat).

Steps:

1.  Salmon: Here’s how to poach salmon (or really any type of fish).

    • First, place your salmon in a skillet (skin side down and meat up) and fill with water until the water level hits about half way up your salmon. 
    • Add seasonings to water and atop salmon filets.
      • I add my amounts to taste, but if you’re more a math person and like to use set guidelines, try these: If using a powder, 1/4 teaspoon should suffice.  For a dried herb or spice, try about 3/4 teaspoon.  And if your herb or spice is fresh, use roughly 2 teaspoons.  Just keep in mind these are simply guidelines and some herbs and spices are much stronger than others so use proper judgement!  Here are the spices and herbs I use: Lemon juice, fresh garlic, dill weed, rosemary, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  I like to avoid using salt, but to each their own.  The more seasoning added to the water, the more flavor the fish will absorb.  Just don’t go crazy putting too much directly on the salmon…
    • Turn heat on medium high and cover for about 5-10 minutes or until salmon is cooked through.
    • Once salmon is cooked it will be flaky and have a slight light opaque pink color.  If you can’t beat the urge to check it, stick a fork in the thickest part of the filet.  It should flake apart when ready.

2.  Salad: While the salmon is cooking on the stove, toss your avocado, strawberries, sunflower seeds, and spinach in a bowl.

3.  Dressing:  In a small side dish, whisk together your raspberry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil so it is well combined.  

4.  Top salad with your salmon, mix in the dressing, and enjoy!

The Raspberry Blush Vinegar I am referring to in this recipe is one of my all time favorite things to put on any salad.  It offers little calories, no fat, and a delicious flavor.  It also limits the need to add olive oil, although sometimes if I’m feeling crazy I’ll throw that in as well.  This is what the bottle looks like and can be found at almost any local grocery store.

I highly recommend investing in the Raspberry and Fig flavors, however, they have several other fantastic flavors as well! 
*I am not a Registered Dietician (yet), and all nutrition data is an estimate compiled by me via NutritionData.com using amounts added to my plate.
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Seasons (52) of Love

Today I have found a sense of hope for eating out and staying healthy…as well as a new favorite restaurant in which I will soon become the equivalent of Norm from Cheers!  This wonderful place is called Seasons 52.  Upon entering the building I was hit with a great atmosphere.  Classy and sophisticated for an older crowd, yet still fun and inviting for a younger crowd.  Really the best of both worlds.  The restaurant featured a giant wine room that housed their award winning wine selection – 60 wines by the glass – and a bar that enclosed a piano for live entertainment.  Our server was extremely knowledgable (and being a server myself I am very judgmental towards others), and gave us a great run down of the history of the restaurant as well as the way the menu works.  The name Seasons 52 comes from the idea that their main menu changes with the main seasons and the small section on the side of the menu changes 52 times a year to accommodate the always changing fresh seasonal foods.  Naturally, being August, I got to choose from the Summer menu.  This menu featured items anywhere from Organic Edamame, Organic Lemongrass Salmon, to Oak-fired Buffalo Burgers with guacamole and roasted pepper salsa, and a spicy sour cream!  Here’s the kicker and the part that really got me excited…everything on their menu is natural or organic and 475 calories or less!

After the crash course on the menu ceased we got to the important stuff, ordering our wine.  Our server let us taste three of the four Pinot Grigios before making us finally settle on one.  (They were all so good)! To start we ordered The Maryland Crab, Roasted Shrimp, and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms, under Parmesan-Panko Crust.  One bite and I became one of those creepy patrons who had to take a picture of everything before I ate it…or at least before I ate all of it.  Sadly, I only got to take a picture of one of the five stuffed mushrooms.  The others were devoured too quickly.

I had to convince my mother we didn’t need a second order of this phenomenal appetizer. After much blood, sweat, and tears, we finally decided on one entree. How could I pass up an opportunity to get a 475 calorie or less burger? So I settled on the Buffalo Burger mentioned earlier, while my mother settled on Stuffed Poblano Peppers.  I use the word “settled” very lightly here as it tasted like anything but settling.

My burger was tender, juicy, and just simply incredible.  The guacamole had great flavor without taking away from the taste of the buffalo burger and the roasted pepper salsa and spicy chile sour cream packed a good punch to clear the sinuses. It came with a fresh side salad which I gobbled up equally as fast.

The poblano peppers were just as stimulating to the taste buds.  It will be hard not to order the same exact thing next time, but I’m determined to taste everything on the menu!

I was sufficiently stuffed after my appetizer and entree but when does that ever stop me from getting a dessert…or five. (guilty face).  How can you not when they are only $2.50 a piece and well under 475 calories!

Okay, I’ll admit we may have gotten a little trigger happy and taken a few bites before remembering to take the pictures. Don’t worry, they didn’t come to the table half eaten. We ordered the Blueberry Cheesecake (my personal favorite), Key Lime Pie, Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli, and the Pecan Pie with Vanilla Mousse.  Our server threw in his favorite of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse.  I can definitely see why he loved it so much.  It was a perfect rich and creamy balance of chocolate and peanut butter.  You really can’t go wrong! I would love to say we didn’t finish all these sugary desserts but…

Hey, we’re only human.  Why are there only three of five empty dessert shot glasses you ask? Well, it was a blood bath between the two of us for the first two desserts and once they were devoured, our server removed the evidence from the table.  In other words, he took them away before I could capture the picture.

Overall, our dining experience at Seasons 52 was beyond incredible.  I can’t wait to go back again…and again…and again.  Especially when they change out their menu to fit the fall season.  After all, it is my favorite season! I highly recommend checking out one of Season 52’s many locations around the country…or at least their website to peek at their menu and find a location near you!

You can check them out at: http://www.seasons52.com/default.asp

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Lentil Chili

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Chili is one of my favorite dishes of all time.  However, the sluggish feeling you get after eating such a heavy dish is not.  I spent many nights slyly adding “Lord, please bless this earth with healthy delicious tasting chili,” … Continue reading

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Finding Your Target Heart Rate

Most people know that one of the best ways to ensure you are getting the most out of a cardiorespiratory workout is to monitor your heart rate, making sure to keep it in your target heart rate zone.  However, what most people don’t know is how exactly to find your target heart rate zone.  Luckily Dr. M J Karvonen did the number crunching for us back in 1957 and gave us what we so cleverly named, the Karvonen method.  His method is now the golden standard for finding the most accurate target heart rate based off of age and resting heart rate.   His formula looks a little something like this:

HRTarget= ( (HRMax– HRRest) * %Intensity ) + HRRest

 Trust me, upon first glance I decided I would much rather read the entire Harry Potter series in at least three of the 67 different languages printed before applying any energy into figuring out that formula.  However, I soon remembered I really don’t know any other languages aside from key words such as beer, bathroom, and a wide assortment of swear words so I ventured into learning the formula and realized it really isn’t as difficult as it appears. Here’s what you need to know:

Resting Heart Rate (HRrest):  As the name suggests, this is your heart rate when you are at rest, meaning you have not recently performed any vigorous activity.  The average person’s resting heart rate is anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute.  Prime athletes at the top of their game have been known to have a lower heart rate closer to 40 beats per minute.  This is because the more conditioned your heart is, the less it has to work to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body.

Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax): Your maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate that can be safely obtained and held during exercising.  There are several formulas for obtaining maximum heart rate, some including standard deviation and some not.  The  most commonly used formula is 220 – Age.  This is the formula we will be using.

Target Heart Rate (HRtarget): An individual’s target heart rate is the desired heart rate range they want to be in when performing a physical activity.  This range is calculated by figuring the intensity of workouts in relation to your resting and maximum heart rate.  The average target heart rate zone is somewhere between 60-90%.   A beginner should strive to achieve a heart rate somewhere in the 60% range while only advanced athletes with a doctors go ahead could strive for the 90 percentile range!

Now that we know the crucial terms, let’s decipher the above formula in Karvonen’s method.

Step 1: Determine your resting heart rate

  • Place your index and pointer finger on your carotid artery of your neck (located between the jaw and collar bone), and count your pulse for 60 seconds.  You may also count for ten seconds and multiply the beats per second by 10, however the longer you count the more accurate you will be.  Therefore I recommend counting for the full 60 seconds.
  • Be sure to do this three days in a row right as you wake up in the morning while your heart rate is still truly at rest.  Alarms tend to scare the bajeezus out of us when we’re in a deep sleep so if you have to set an alarm in the morning to wake yourself up, be sure to allow your heart rate to come back to it’s resting rate before attempting to measure the resting heart rate.  Otherwise you will have some crazy and potentially dangerous results!

EXAMPLE:

Day 1: 70 bpm

Day 2: 68 bpm

Day 3: 69 bpm

 (70 + 68 + 69) / 3 = 69 bpm

Step 2: Determine your maximum heart rate.

  • Simply subtract your age from 220.  Let’s use an example of a 27-year-old individual.

EXAMPLE:

220-27 = 193 bpm

Step 3: Plug in your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate with the desired intensity of between 60-90% into Karvonen’s formula.

HRTarget= ( (HRMax– HRRest) * %Intensity ) + HRRest

Lower Intensity = 60%

Higher Intensity = 90%

HRmax = 193 bpm

HRrest = 69 bpm

Lower Target Heart Rate (60%) = [(193 – 69) x .60] + 69 = 143.4

Upper Target Heart Rate (90%) = [(193-69) x .90] + 69 = 180.6

So the target heart rate zone for this well trained 27 year old athlete training at 60-90% of their ability would be between 143 – 180 bpm.  Just keep in mind, training at 90% intensity is for advanced athletes only!

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The Perfect Running Companion – GPS Garmin Forerunner 405CX

This past week and a half I have been on vacation enjoying sunchine, relaxation, oh and vacation food –foods on my no fly list! Don’t get me wrong, I was visiting a whole slew of phenomenal chefs and we had some great meals in the mix, however the occasional pizza and birthday cakes I ate my weight in are foods I normally don’t eat much of anymore.  So, it was only natural that after a few days I had to put my vacation on hold and lace up my running shoes.  I’ll admit, this two-mile jog was rough on so many levels.  It wasn’t my best time, coming in at average of 10 minutes per mile, and not to make excuses but…here are my excuses: It was over 100 degrees, continuously up and down an elevation of about 1,000 feet more than what I’m used to, and I’ve been stuffing my face with multiple forms of chocolates and carbs while thinking my short walk from pool chair to bar sufficed as exercise. (I thoroughly enjoyed the latter).  At least I sweat out toxins by the pool right?

The good news – aside from not having to call the ambulance I had on speed dial to pick me up from the side of the road – is that I finally got to really test out my fancy Garmin Forerunner 405CX Running Watch with Garmin Connect.  I had been meaning to get a review up on the watch for a while now (since Christmas when I got it) so here is a little breakdown.

  • ANT+ and Garmin Connect: The ANT+ is the USB stick you plug in to your computer so that all the stored data from your watch will transfer over to the Garmin Connect website.  It uploads every little detail about your run, such as elevation, average pace, temperature, distance, calories, best pace, a map of your run, etc. Here’s a screenshot example of my latest run uploaded to garmin connect.

ImageI think one of the coolest features is seen in the blue “time” chart at the bottom right hand corner of the picture, and the green “elevation” chart, which unfortuantely you can’t see, that is located directly underneath it.  The big blue troughs represent the times I ran the slowest, and the elevation chart under it matches those dips with huge spikes in the elevation.  It is fascinating to see exactly what gave me a run for my money.  Now at least I know where my problem areas lie…hills! I suppose this makes sense since I currently live in the flattest part of Florida, with an elevation of roughly 10 feet.  Let me put this in perspective: back in the day I had to park on a hypothetical hill during my drivers test to prove I knew what to do because we had no real hills accessible!

  • Touch Screen Bezel: I was a bit nervous about this one because I thought my sausage fingers would accidentally hit something that would erase my workout mid sweat.  Fortunately they child proofed the watch for people like me.  You can lock the watch on a single screen so you can’t hit anything while working out, but I found this unnecessary as it is rather handy to be able to switch through time, pace, calories, etc. with a single touch. It also makes scrolling through the menu screens extremely easy with just the swipe of your finger and for that reason, the bezel may be one of my favorite parts of the watch.  Not to mention the clean look it gives the device only having two buttons sticking out!
  • Interval Training: Since I’m a huge advocate of circuit workouts, one of the criteria I was looking for when picking out a watch was wether or not it had the interval training feature.  The Garmin Forerunner 405CX has the ability to set a workout and rest duration in miles or time, as well as the amount of reps you would like to do.  It even notifies you once your workout or rest duration is up and you’re ready to move on to your next rep.  For example, you can set your workout duration for 2 minutes or 1 mile and your rest duration for 1 minute or a quarter mile.  Once your two minutes or mile is up, the watch will beep to let you know it’s time to rest and will automatically begin counting down the 1 minute or quarter mile rest period.  Once that rest period is up, it will beep again and begin the second 2 minute or one mile rep, and so on and so forth for however many reps you choose to do.  It’s like a mini personal trainer!
  • Virtual Partner: Speaking of mini personal traininer, the Forerunner 405CX offers a virtual partner – someone to run against and keep you motivated.  You can set the pace you would like your virtual partner to run.  This is usually the goal pace you want to strive for – in my case it’s a 7 minute mile.  As you run, with the touch of a finger, you can switch menus to see how far behind (or ahead) of your virtual partner you are.  This motivates you to run faster and push yourself harder!
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Another reason I settled on the Forerunner 405CX is for the heart rate monitor that can be used to monitor calories torched during interval training. This heart rate monitor is shockingly comfortable for something you strap around your chest while working out. It even offers a Premium Soft Strap HRM with flexible straps all around rather than just in the back if you so desire.  I haven’t had any issues with my original though so I haven’t felt the need to upgrade.
  • Cadence Sensor For Biking: The Forerunner 405CX is compatible with the attachable Garmin Cadence Sensor and Bike Mount for biking.  It’s much more fun to be able to strap the watch on to the bike and just go without having to map out your route and distance before hand.  Instead, you plug the watch in to your computer at the end and the Garmin Connect site does the mapping for you, giving you your average speed, calories, distance, etc.
  • 1,000 Lap Memory: Sometimes life happens and we are lucky to squeeze in our workout, let alone time to upload them to the computer each time.  Luckily, the people at Garmin recognize our oh so popular lifestyles and gave the Forerunner 405CX a crazy memory of about 1,000 laps.  For me, that’s about 1,000 miles considering each of my laps is only a mile.  Unless you’re running marathons on the daily, that memory storage should last a good while.

I have nearly fried my brain trying to think of something I even slightly dislike about the watch and am still coming up empty.  I suppose my only con would be that the watch isn’t waterproof, though I don’t utilize the pool enough for that to deter me from buying it.  However, I have recently become addicted to obstacle races such s the Spartan, Warrior Dash, and Tough Mudder.  It would be nice to wear the watch during those races but I don’t think the muddy water they force you to swim through would do it much good.  Overall, the watch is simply amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a normal sized, comfortable, and effective GPS running and interval training watch! I’ll admit it is a bit pricy but total worth it!   

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