Hot Topics in Health & Wellness – Q&A with Nick Pfaff
1. I’m trying to eat more plant-based. What sources of plant-based protein do you recommend?
There's a common misconception that you can't get enough or the right types of protein from plant based sources, but this is entirely not true. Eating a wide variety of whole foods can generally cover all of your protein needs, but examples of high protein plant based foods include quinoa, brown rice, and other whole grains, nut and/or nut butters such as almond or peanut, and other sources can be added to smoothies or salads such as spirulina, hemp seeds, flax seed, and chia seed. Of course there are always beans (legumes) and bean based products such as lentils, black beans, and soy beans. Finally, soy products such as tempe and tofu can also be used in place of meat in many recipes, however the least processing possible is generally a good thing.
2. I want to stay hydrated, but I get bored of plain water. What else can you recommend?
I'd still say water is the best option - when combined with a whole foods plant based diet, it will give you everything you need. A lot of people may not realize that you can also get your hydration in from a lot of fruit and vegetable sources. Otherwise, there are a host of products marketed as "health" drinks - in general you'd want to choose something that is low in sugar and other added ingredients - sticking to the fewest ingredients is always best. People who are working out for prolonged periods of time especially in the heat, should pay particular attention to taking in some sort of electrolyte replacement. If it's flavor your after, people often are able to liven up their drinks by adding slices of citrus or other fruit. I know of at least one person who has even used garlic cloves to give their water a little kick. In general, just about anything is a distant second to water....with sodas and sugary drinks best suited for the "avoid" column.
3. I get muscle cramps and they hurt! How can I prevent them?
Muscles typically cramp for one of two reasons: 1: They are being asked to do something they are too fatigued or weak to do, or 2: They are being asked to do something they are not properly fueled to do. Completing a well rounded strength and conditioning program that includes mobility work, strength, and cardiovascular components is one key. In addition, fueling the body before, during, and after activity is critical not only for preventing cramps, but for improved performance. In the case of cramping related to inadequate fueling, electrolyte (sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) replacement during activity can help prevent them from coming on. As a last resort, pickle juice has been shown in some research to relieve muscle cramps once they've set in. Generally speakingj, however, the best way to avoid cramps is to understand your body's capacity and maintain a proper balance between effort and recovery.
4. I want to work out but I can’t find the time – where can I start?
This is perhaps the most common reason given when we ask people if they are getting enough "MOVE" in their life. The bad news is, we are all strapped for time and it is a very real barrier. The good news is even a very very short duration, when given in the right dosage (or "load" as we sometimes call it) can produce strong gains. Recent studies have shown benefits in as little as 1 minute when appropriate and applied correctly. In children, within minutes positive physiological responses begin including improved immune response. So truly since just about any amount of exercise can be beneficial, all or none thinking is not applicable. We recommend starting by building consistency first, even if only minutes and expanding from there. Another great way to start exercising is to attach it to another habit you already have well established. If for example you do something everyday at a specific time - try to fit exercise in before or after that event so you can build on a habit or routine already in place.
5. What should I eat before/after my run?
As mentioned in a previous question - pre-workout, during workout, and post-workout fueling is important to get the most out of each session. Pre-workout you want something light that will not upset the stomach or be too hard to digest. A complex carbohydrate here would be a good choice such as a piece of fruit or a fruit and nut bar such as a Lara bar, but avoid things that are harder to digest such as foods heavy in fats and protein. During workout, we want to replenish glucose used up during activity and also electrolytes and water that are lost from sweating. Some sort of sports drink is generally sufficient in this case. Post workout, research has indicated that eating something with a 4g of carbs to 1g of protein ratio seems to work best. There is roughly a 30 minute window of opportunity where getting post workout fuel will be best utilized, and we often give our athletes specifically formulated smoothies from our cafe to accomplish this goal for proper muscle recovery.
6. How much protein should I be getting in my diet?
General exercise recommendations are often too high to support overall health and wellness. Most recent research recommends getting between 0.8 and 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So for example - a 200 lb. person weighs 90.9 kg, so this person she be taking in between 73 and 81 grams of protein daily.
7. Good carbs and bad carbs – how can I tell the difference?
The whole carb debate often boils down to what your specific goals are. In an endurance event such as a marathon, carbs such as sugar can become vital to success, but generally speaking and for someone with general health goals who is not at mile 21 of a marathon, we should be trying to consume carbohydrates that are in their natural form. In general the more processing that has been done to the food (not just talking carbs here), the less nutritious the food will be for you.
8. How many days a week should I exercise?
As is always the case, this question can be answered with another question - what is your goal? And where are you starting? Someone that is in great shape and has been working out for years can handle a much higher training load than someone who just started. In addition, the type of exercise you do comes into play. If you plan your training plan accordingly allowing one energy system or muscle group to recover while others are working, an individual can handle working out every day. Most research tells us that 5 days per week at 30 minutes per session of cardiovascular exercise is the bare minimum to MAINTAIN health. If your goals are health IMPROVEMENT, more will likely be needed.
No, but sometimes in the essence of time and ease, protein supplementation can insure you are getting an adequate amount for proper muscle recovery. There appears to be no "special" formula as most marketers of such products would have you believe as long as you are getting in a combination of carbs and protein after a bout of exercise. Once again, whole foods will do just fine.
10. I hate running! What are my alternative for cardio exercise?
The best kind of exercise is the exercise you'll actually DO....CONSISTENTLY...over a LONG PERIOD OF TIME. Find something you enjoy, that gets your heart rate up to around 180 beats per minute minus your age, and that you can do for around 45 minutes continuously. So for example if you are 50 years old, a heart rate of around 180-50=130 beats per minute should be intense enough to see benefit, but not too intense. Dancing, Rowing, Biking, Elipical, are all good options and that's not an exhaustive list. But don't give up on running just yet - the more you do it, the easier it gets as your body adapts, and the more you'll enjoy it!
11. My doctor recommended 30 minutes of exercise 3x/week, but I don’t belong to a gym – what
can I do on my own that I’ll be able to keep up with regularly? This will depend on why your doctor has recommended exercise. Are you looking for strength training, flexibility, or are you looking for cardiovascular training? In general, there are many things you can do to exercise without gym access - all you need is a pair of sneakers. Assuming this same doctor has cleared you to begin physical activity, walking, jogging, stretching, body weight exercises such as squats or push-ups can all be done without special equipment. Try to get your heart rate up into a range that is about 180 beats per minute minus your age or you can use a "rate of perceived exertion" scale. So for example if you are 50 years old, a heart rate of around 180-50=130 beats per minute should be intense enough to see benefit, but not too intense. There are exceptions of course such as those taking certain medications, so always listen to your body and don't push if there is pain or unusual discomfort during exercise. Essentially asking yourself how hard on a scale from 7 to 20 am I working - the answer should generally be someone around 12-14 to get benefits from the exercise.
12. How can I encourage my kids to become more active?
Do it with them! Kids don't often listen with their ears, they listen with their eyes. If they see an active lifestyle is a part of their parents' lives, they will be more likely to embrace it themselves. Joining teams and other groups that will combine exercise with fun, and utilizing the power of social connections (CONNECT) can have a huge impact here and encourage kids to stick with it long term (ENDURE).
13. What are your top 3 recommendations for getting “beach body” ready in two weeks or under!?
This is a hard question to answer because we utilize our five human elements (Move, Fuel, Recover, Endure, Connect) to promote healthy lifestyle, and anything that could be recommended to get drastic results in only 2 weeks likely won't support a long term health promoting related goal. We also tend to shy away from metrics associated with appearance and instead focus on healthy behaviors and achieving healthy behavior consistently. Are you exercising enough and the right way? - MOVE - Are you eating the right amount and the right things? - FUEL - Are you getting enough sleep and recovering adequately between workouts? - RECOVER- Are you in the right frame of mind mentally to handle life's stresses and setting yourself up for long term health? -ENDURE- And are you surrounded by people who are supportive of your health goals and lifestyle? - CONNECT- If you focus on mastering these behaviors and do them consistently over a long enough period of time, the metrics will take care of themselves.
Nick PfaffPrevention Consultant, Pro-Activity Associates, Partner