Simple Cioppino with Prawns & Cod

27 Nov

Looking for an easy, low-carb, protein rich and elegant fall or winter meal? Serve up a bowl of this simple cioppino developed by Matt Hyra — a delcious, Medeterranian fish stew. This version saves time in the kitchen and at the seafood counter by limiting itself to prawns and cod, but if you feel so inclined, throw in muscles, scallops, clams or whatever your “fruits de mer” your heart desires. Continue reading

Fish for Fantasy: Ten White Fish Recipes To Die For

2 Oct

Rebel Yelling for New Fish Flavors

“There’s a change in pace, of fantasy and taste…” It has been twenty-eight years since Billy Idol gave us Rebel Yell, and with it, Flesh for Fantasy. I’d like to believe, cool as Billy is, that he would be on-board with a slight revision of lyrics in support of lean fish protein: “Sing it! Fish, fish for fantasy. We want, fish. Fish for fantasy!”

Regardless, for those of you looking to up your intake of lean protein, spice up things in the kitchen, or try out something new, here are ten white fish recipes to die for. Stay tuned for “Fish for Fantasy 2” and “Seriously Sexy Salmon.”

Eat up!

Commander K Continue reading

Blender Love! 9 Delicious Shake Recipes to Fuel Your Body

2 Sep

Good nutrition is critical to getting results from a fitness program. As the Fitness Commander has explained before, nutrient timing is equally as important as simply eating clean when it comes to getting lean. Eating the right mix of macronutrients at the wrong time can get in the way of both fat loss and muscle gain. To keep your body moving in the right direction, remember two things: First, dietary fat in the blood stream within 60-90 minutes of a workout is your enemy — even good fats like salad dressing, avocados and nut butters. All of these choices are acceptable at meal time and bed time, but stick to carbs and proteins alone both before and after hitting the gym. Second, in order to refuel your body after a workout, keep the carb to protein ratio in your post workout shake or meal to 2:1 or 3:1 in favor of carbohydrates. In addition to using the protein to repair the body following rigorous exercise, the body will use the additional carbs to drive glycogen back into the muscle cells allowing you to regain your energy stores faster.

Sound confusing? Worry not! The Fitness Commander has collected and developed a menu of delicious shake recipes and divided them into two categories to make eating right a no-brainer. Continue reading

Oatmeal Pancakes and Veggie Quiche Cups to Go

30 Aug

Looking for a healthy new way to start the day? Try out these low gylcemic index, good protein recipes from South Beach. Eat up and enjoy!


(Originally from South Beach Diet, Arthur Agatston MD, © 2003. Serves 1)

4 egg whites
1/4 c low fat cottage cheese
1/2 c old-fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

1.  In a blender or a food processor, blend together all ingredients until smooth.
2. Spray a medium-sized skillet with cooking spray and set heat to medium
3. Add the pancake batter to the skillet and cook until sides are lightly browned.
4. Top with a low-sugar syrup, butter, peanut butter, of fresh fruit.

Nutrition content per serving: 288 calories, 4g fat, 28g protein, 451mg sodium, 5g fiber, 32g carbohydrate. Makes 1 serving.

(Originally from South Beach Diet, Arthur Agatston MD, © 2003. Serves 6)

1 package frozen chopped spinach
3/4 c liquid egg substitute
3/4 c shredded, reduced-fat cheese
1/4 c diced green bell peppers
1/4 c diced onion
3 drops hot-pepper sauce, optional

*Any combination of low glycemic index veggies, lean meats and cheeses works with this recipe, so create your own favorite combination and then drop us an email to tell us what it is!

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Microwave spinach for 2 1/2 minutes on high. Drain excess liquid.
3. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups. Spray the cups with cooking spray.
4. Combine the egg substitute, cheese, peppers, onions, and spinach in a bowl. Mix well.
5. Divide evenly among muffin cups.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Nutrition content per serving: 77 calories, 3g fat, 9g protein, 160mg sodium, 2g fiber, 3g carbohydrate. Makes 6 servings.

How to Eat: Nutrition 101

13 Jul

Nutrition 101 (“The Rules”)

1. Immediately upon waking, consume 18 ounces of water.

Consuming 18 ounce of water first thing in the morning boosts your metabolic rate by 25% — for almost 90 minutes. In addition, our bodies are clinically starving and dehydrated when we wake up in the morning. Either state (let alone both) makes it impossible for our bodies to add lean or burn fat. In fact, both dehydration and starvation lead to the reverse: fat preservation and muscle loss. To stay adequately hydrated throughout the day, aim to drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight. This means that 8, 8-ounce glasses of water won’t be enough. Ifnecessary, remind yourself that the process of lipolysis (fat burning) requires one additional molecule of water, so fat loss cannot occur in a dehydrated body. Adequate hydration also boosts muscle strength by 17% (when measured by number of reps prior to failure). Bottom line: drink up.

2. Eat breakfast as soon as possible after waking — ideally within 15 minutes, definitely within the first hour.

Again, when we wake up, our bodies are starving — the result of a 6-8 hour fast while we slept. In order to get your metabolism going, eat as soon as possible after waking. Breakfast should be a mix of lean protein, carbohydrate and fat. A whey protein shake and steel cut oats, eggs and fruit, etc.

3. Eat every 3-4 hours, all day long.

In order to preserve muscle and keep your body burning fat, you will need to fuel every 3-4 hours. For most of us, this means we will eat 5-6 times per day (3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks).

4. Eat lean protein with every meal and snack.

Every meal should contain about 30 grams of lean protein (or 25g of whey protein, which is more absorbable thanprotein from other sources). Snacks must also include lean protein. What does 25-30 grams of protein look like? Examples include a 5 ounce can of tuna, 4 eggs (with yolks), 1.5 c cottage cheese, or 5-6 ounces of any animal protein (chicken, beef, pork, etc.).

5. Avoid refined carbohydrates and focus on eating whole foods.

Eliminate “white” carbs from your diet: bread, crackers, cereal, pasta, white rice, cookies, pretzels, etc. Instead, focus on eating as many whole foods as possible — vegetables, cold weather fruits (apples, pears, berries — nothing tropical), oats and grains in their natural, unrefined form, etc. This will mean that the majority of your meals will take the form of lean protein and vegetables (a salad with tuna, chicken or smoked fish; grilled protein and steamed or grilled vegetables; eggs and fruit, etc.). It is acceptable to include starchy carbs into your diet twice per day, as long as they are not white starchy carbs. You will likely want to have your first serving with breakfast (oatmeal, 1/2 Ezekiel Whole Grain English Muffin, etc) and the second immediately following
your workout.

6. Avoid artificial sweeteners.

Research continues to suggest that artificial sweeteners are as detrimental to the body as real sugar, particularly in that they stimulate the appetite and set your body up to crave MORE sugar. What’s worse, some are known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Sweet and Low, for example, was originally developed by Montesano for use as rat poison. If you must use artificial sweeteners, stick to stevia or agave as both are plant based — not lab-developed.

7. Time and engineer your pre and post workout meals to maximize your results in the gym.

This means avoiding fat and refined carbohydrates the hour prior to working out and avoiding fat for an hour after working out. PRE-WORKOUT: 60-90 minutes prior to working out, give your body a mix of lean protein (25-30 grams) and whole (low glycemic index) carbohydrates. If you are eating 90 minutes prior to exercise, it is also fine to include some good fat (salad dressing, avocado, peanut butter, hummus, nuts) — just make sure you quit eating fat 1 hour prior to exercise. POST-WORKOUT: As soon as possible following a strength training, interval training or circuit training workout, give you body 25-30 grams of lean protein (ideally, hydrolyzed whey protein) and 50-60 grams of simple/refined carbohydrate. Yes, you read that correctly. Immediately post exercise is the one time per day that it is acceptable to consume simple carbs. Why? They will quickly refuel your muscles with glycogen and speed recovery. An example of a post workout meal would be whey protein powder put through a blender with water, ice, a banana and one tablespoon of chocolate syrup. In a pinch? 2.5 cups of low fat chocolate milk will do.

8. Eat immediately prior to going to bed (unless you have heartburn).

How much we eat per day determines what we weigh — not when we eat it. In order to keep the body fueled as long as possible while we sleep, eat just before bed. In order to stimulate the hormones that burn fat and build and repair lean muscle, make your last meal a blend of lean protein and some fat. 2% cottage cheese, greek yogurt and nuts, or a whey protein shake blended with ice and peanut butter are all excellent pre-bed meals.

Pre-Race Nutrition: Fueling for a Marathon, Half Marathon or Other Endurance Event

21 Jun

You’ve trained for months, and now race day is less than a week away. At this point, you have done about all you can do to prepare your body with exercise –periodized training runs, HIIT, strength conditioning, pre-habilitation exercises, foam rolling, etc. In these last few days before the big race, it is time to get focused instead on proper pre-event rest and nutrition.

Even if this is your first endurance event, you are probably already aware that you will need to reduce your volume of exercise during the week prior to the race. This is called “tapering.” Most coaches suggest reducing the distance of your runs by half during the week before an event, but maintaining your previous level of exercise intensity. In other words, run half as far at the same pace, not the same distance at a slower one. It is also critically important that you protect both the quantity and quality of your sleep in the days before an event. Do whatever it takes to rest well, as a tired body cannot perform at its best. A good rule of thumb is seven uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep, the following suggestions might help: keep a cool temperature in your bedroom, eliminate ambient light as much as possible, avoid carbohydrate within 3-4 hours prior to sleep and caffeine within 8-10 hours of sleep, keep the same bedtime from day to day, and mist your sheets with lavender extract.

Pre-Race Nutrition

Everyone has a slightly different idea about what good nutrition looks like leading up to, during and after an endurance event – probably based on what has worked for them or for their athletes. This will be no different for you, and a certain amount of trial and error will likely be involved in determining what your body best responds to. That said, the time for trial and error has a name: training. Race day is not a good time to experiment. Hopefully, the process of race training has taught you which pre-run meals improve the quality of your performance and which detract; which sports drinks, gel packs or hydration aids you can tolerate and which upset your stomach; and how you can best lug all of this along with you without chafing and/or biomechanical awkwardness. If you haven’t intentionally kept a journal during training, consider implementing this strategy prior to your next event. However, chances are that even without a journal, you know more than you think you do about the conditions under which you best perform. Think about the training runs on which you felt strongest. What did you eat that day, and how did you sleep the night before? If pre-race panic is causing your mind to go blank, take a deep breath and implement the strategy outlined below.

1-2 Days Prior

Your body will require additional carbohydrates during the event. This is why endurance athletes “carbo-load” in the day or two leading up to a run. “Carbo-loading,” however, is not jargon for uncontrolled bingeing on all things starchy. If you have been following a high protein diet, consider adding additional carbohydrates two days prior to your run. If not, adding additional carbs during the 24 hours prior to start time will be enough to adequately bolster your body’s glycogen stores. How much carbohydrate is enough? Aim to consume 60-70% of your calories in the form of carbohydrate on the day prior to your race. In order to maintain your overall caloric intake, offset the additional calories from the increased number of carbohydrates by decreasing your intake of dietary fat. Do not reduce your intake of lean protein.

The Day Before

Aside from increasing your intake of carbohydrates, maintain your overall pattern of eating. If you have been eating three meals and two snacks per day, stick to that pattern. Also, spread your carbohydrate consumption across the day’s intake rather than attempting to consume your body weight in pasta at dinner the night before the race. One large, carbohydrate-heavy meal the night before is likely to disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling bloated and sluggish at the starting line. A better strategy is to have oatmeal and fruit (along with some lean protein) at breakfast, a sandwich on sourdough or a bagel at lunch, and pasta with marinara sauce, vegetables and a grilled chicken breast at dinner. Avoid fat and fiber the day before the event, as both slow digestion. Skip cream sauces with the pasta at dinner and stick to “less gassy” vegetables: tomatoes, squash, green beans, and mushrooms. Skip the broccoli! Above all, on the day prior to the race, get and stay hydrated. Water and sports drinks will be sufficient. Supplementing with additional sodium may be tempting, but can backfire and result in dangerous over-hydration.

The Morning Of

Continue to focus on carbohydrates, lean protein and water, still avoiding fiber and any significant amount of fat. Consume a breakfast of 250-300 calories approximately 2-3 hours prior to the race. A fruit and protein smoothie is a good approach, other authors suggest bagels, bananas, cereal bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Avoid dairy if it causes you to feel congested or results in a sour stomach, otherwise low-fat milk and yogurt products are fine. If you aren’t sure how dairy affects you, skip it. Drink coffee if it is part of your normal routine; race day is no-time for a caffeine withdrawal headache. Again, race is day is the worst possible time to try something different. A new, exotic pre-race beverage procured at a pre-race expo is an unknown. Try it out on a training run next week. Today, stick to what works for you.

During the Event

During an endurance event, your body will require 25-60 grams of carbohydrate every hour beginning the second hour of the race. (If you ate a good pre-race meal 2 hours prior to race time, you will not need to fuel during the first 60 minutes). If you know sports drinks will work for you, great. If not, bring whatever gel packs or carbohydrate aids have worked during your training runs and consume them at hourly intervals. Your body is burning up to 700 calories per hour during a race. Now is not the time to think about cutting back. You will also need to consume approximately 8 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes during the event. Dehydration can impair performance by as much as 17%. To maximize your efforts, keep fueled and continue drinking water.

Post-Event Fueling

To begin the process of refueling and repairing the body after a race, consume a meal with a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio as soon as possible after crossing the finish line. Have a friend meet you with your favorite protein powder and IDS waximaize, or in a pinch, chocolate milk. Cheese pizza, which is often offered at the finish line, is also not a horrible choice – it does contain both carbohydrates and protein – but if you’ve been eating really clean, it might also make you sick. Nutrition bars with a 3:1 ratio are also fine, as are bananas and protein drinks.

As soon as you are hungry, eat again – getting back to your prior nutrition plan as soon as possible. Your body will need quality proteins, complex carbohydrates and good fats in order to return to its pre-race levels of health and energy. Finally, congratulate yourself on a job well done, but avoid alcohol on race day. If you are at all dehydrated, alcohol will only set you further behind.  

Exercise, Endorphins & Depression

31 May

It happens to all of us: an illness or an injury sets us back and we have to temporarily reduce our intensity, a lack of sunshine makes us feel more sloth than superstar, or we just have a thoroughly craptastic string of luck or days. Whatever the cause, our motivation wanes, depression starts to creep in around the edges, and it gets tough to get to the gym. Then, if you’re a gym rat, fitness fanatic, or recent devotee, you probably use this “workout failure” as a convenient cat-o-nine-tails with which to flog yourself until motivation and morale improve.

Emotional masochism, however, isn’t helpful. What might be? 15-20 minutes. Research suggests that just 15-20 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise is enough for our pituitary gland to begin pumping those wonderful,  feel-good, morphine-like endorphins. (The key, as with most things, is to get out of breath.) This little nugget of knowledge can assist us in two ways: First, if coming up with “a whole hour” for a “good workout” is “adding to your stress load,” drop your attachment to 60 minutes. Or 30 for that matter. Find 20 minutes to workout, if need be, in your living room. 20 minutes a day probably won’t be enough in the long run to accomplish most fitness goals, but it is enough to put the feel-better train in motion — and all we know what typically happens once the train has left the station. Second, if you find yourself in the gym thinking “I don’t want to be here. I look fat in these pants. I should really get back to that expense report, and if traffic is bad, I won’t be right there when baseball practice ends and little Johnny will inevitably be abducted and I will never forgive myself for the loss of my only child…” STOP. Tell your inner critic to “stick a sock in it” and resolve that if you still feel like leaving after 20 minutes, that’s completely permissible. Chances are, once the endorphins have begun to flow, you’ll feel like staying. If not, that’s ok too. You’ve done enough to give your brain a little surge of happiness, and taken one step forward toward battling the blues.

Looking for a sample endorphin-friendly, 15-20 minute workout? This was my approach earlier today, and I’m happy to say, I feel much better now… thankyouverymuch.

5 Minute Warm-Up/Movement Prep

Knee hugs, pull backs, traveling lunges with rotation, lateral lunges, squat-to-stand progression, drop lunges, inch worms, stability ball push ups, wall slides, ankle mobility, and T’s, Y’s, W’s and L’s on the stability ball.

Interval/Circuit Workout: 1 minute on, 20 seconds off, 4 rounds — just over 15 minutes

Heavy Kettlebell Swings (go hard), Resisted Leg Drop with Grey Cook Band (core/active recovery), Medicine Ball Slams (go hard), Alternating Reverse Lunges with Grey Cook Band Row (active recovery/strengthening lower trapezius).

Moral of the story: endorphins don’t suck. Make it a priority to do just 15-20 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise and hop aboard the train back to happy.