How To Kick Your Cravings & Live A Lean Life

May 28, 2015

I give in to almost every single craving...

It's true! That wasn't just a sneaky opening line to get you to read this post. Today we are going to talk all about what cravings are, what causes them and how to be successful in your efforts to combat cravings. 

 

A handful of years ago I actually experienced an immense amount of cravings on a daily basis. I told myself I had a sweet tooth, when in actual fact I had an everything tooth! A sweet tooth, salty tooth, wine tooth...you get the picture. My cravings were a direct result of a number of factors: what I ate, what I drank, how much I slept and the amount of exercise I participated in.

 

Let's get started from the top and discuss why your food choices, hydration habits, sleeping routine and exercise schedule dictate the amount and severity of the cravings you will experience. 

 

What is a craving?

A craving is a brain made sensation that creates a desire for a certain taste - sweet, sour, salty or savory. Cravings can also create the desire for escape, stress reduction or relaxation. 

 

What causes a craving?

Cravings are caused mostly by imbalanced hormones. The challenge with this answer is that hormones are something of a buzz topic in the health and wellness industry right now. Imbalanced hormones happen to all of us, all day, every day. When we experience hunger, this is due to an increase in our hunger hormone Ghrelin.  You could argue that feeling hungry is a hormonally imbalanced state. There is nothing wrong with being hungry, we eat and then ghrelin production ceases. But cravings happen when we have chronically imbalanced hormones. 

 

So how do you go about combating cravings?

There are five steps in the combat cravings plan. When I focus on even a couple of these items I notice a stark difference in my ability to overcome cravings because I simply do not experience as many as I used to!

Limit sugary, starchy, refined foods. 

Ok, I know this one sounds crazy. In order to stop craving sweets and refined carbohydrates, we need to stop eating them as often? Yep, that is correct.

 

Unfortunately, a lot of quick snack foods like muffins, cookies, crackers and candy actually create a hormonal and mental state that increases cravings. When we stop eating these types of foods as frequently, we experience less cravings for them. This is one of the main reasons I go out for a warm, freshly baked muffin once a week. This is one of my favourite foods and I love my ritual, but having a muffin every day or every other day actually leads me to crave more sugary, starchy foods. How do I know? I tried that strategy...and its true, a muffin a day creates a muffin top, ha! 

 

Adopting this approach has also helped me to change my palate over the years. I crave sugar less because I eat it less. Fresh berries, dark chocolate or real maple syrup are plenty sweet enough for me these days. And yes, I used to be a sugar-aholic, just ask my old roommate Amy about the sugary things I used to bring home!

 

 

Drink enough water

Before you skip right by this one and say 'yada, yada I know I need to drink water' hear me out. This one MATTERS. To this day I feel a sharp increase in cravings for sweets when I am dehydrated. I'll make this simple for you:

You need to be drinking at least 2 litres of plain water each day, for your health and to combat cravings. Being adequately hydrated tells your brain and cells to lower hunger signals and supports regular cell functioning. This means we are much less likely to feel the need for a quick sugar kick to keep our energy up. 

Get enough sleep

Sleeping less than 6 hours a night changes our entire hormonal situation. We secrete more Ghrelin (our main hunger hormone that is also involved in craving creation) and we secrete less Human Growth Hormone (a hormone that is vital in helping our muscles recover). 

 

The combination of higher Ghrelin and lower Human Growth Hormone does wonders to make our cravings ramp up. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep is a great goal to help you experience less craving craziness. 

 

Follow a smart exercise plan

When we increase our exercise duration, one of the first hormonal changes we see is an increase in Ghrelin. This hormone is produced by our stomach and is responsible for the empty, growling feeling we experience in our gut. The more we exercise, the more our appetite increases. 

 

When I stopped teaching hours of fitness classes each week I noticed a sharp decrease in my hunger and cravings. I am certainly not telling you to stop doing what you love, but if your biofeedback cues are out of control, then changing up your exercise routine to include more targeted training rather than simply hours of exercise duration will do wonders for your craving levels. 

 

Give in to cravings with a strategy

As I said, I give in to almost every craving I have these days. To be fair, I experience very low amounts of cravings as compared to 3-4 years ago, but I also have a better strategy when I want something sweet. I listen to my body, I rarely use willpower because I know it will boomerang back into a bigger craving later, I keep dark chocolate in the house and limited other sweets, I have small bites and then get out of the kitchen and do something else.

 

The key to mastering your cravings is to create a lifestyle in which you have minimal cravings to start with! Then, like I told you in the opening sentence, you can give in to most of the cravings you have because they simply will not happen as often as you may be experiencing at this current moment in time.

 

Kicking cravings to the curb is vital when it comes to living a lean lifestyle, and the only way to see sustainable change is to begin taking the steps to create a lifestyle shift. Your lifestyle is how you LIVE. Join me for the next 5 weeks as I coach you on all the ways to eat, move and think for a lean life. My newest program The Lean Living Jumpstart is open for registration until Saturday May 30th only. Grab your fully designed workout schedule including videos, a 30 page nutrition guide with recipes and a flexible menu plan and access to our private coaching group plus oodles more from June 1 - July 5 when you sign up HERE

 

Have a great weekend and hope to see you in our fabulous jumpstart group this June!

 

Lana

 

 

The best post-workout meal formula

May 17, 2015

In case you weren't already aware, there are about one million different opinions on nutrition in the health and fitness industry. I support ideas that are research based, logical and most importantly, functional in our everyday lives. I mean, even if there is a strategy that is completely scientifically sound but we cannot put it to work in our life, it is not a great option for us, right?!

 

This month I am laying out all of my lean habits for you and today we are going to talk about post-workout nutrition. What we eat after our workouts impacts our energy levels, our body composition and our future performance. 

 

You see, a meal that we eat post-workout does need to meet a couple important requirements that in turn help us to recover, help us build lean muscle mass and help us continue on with our day effectively. Post-workout meals are a little different than meals we eat at other times during the day, and this is why:

Embrace the post-workout window

There is a specific time period after a workout when our body uses food differently compared to other times during the day. The 30-60 minute post-workout window is ideal for a recovery meal because the hormonal situation of our digestive system is different. 

 

Remember, when we eat we release a hormone named insulin whose primary role is to lower our blood sugar levels and store calories as fat for future use. Post-workout, an increase in our insulin levels is a GOOD THING. This initiates a cascade of reactions in our body to help us build more muscle mass. We want help increasing our lean mass (regardless if your goal is to look toned, lose body fat or improve performance, lean muscle mass is vital) and this post-workout insulin increase via eating a certain type of meal accomplishes this goal.

Eat a combination of starchy carbohydrates + protein

The type of meal that helps to increase our insulin levels, which we want post-workout, must contain starchy complex carbohydrates. Foods like brown rice, quinoa, yams, oats, bulgur, millet, potatoes and parsnips all fit the bill here. The less processed the starchy carb, the better. Starch after exercise also helps to refuel our muscles for energy and performance at our next workout which is vital for consistency and results. 

 

Not only do we need a starchy carbohydrate source, we need to include a complete source of protein. Foods like chicken, fish, pork, beef and eggs are my favourite ways to eat enough lean protein after a workout. There are many vegetarian sources of protein like hemp seeds, chia seeds, greek yogurt and beans that will also work. Protein is important for helping our muscles recover and lay down more fibres to gain strength and size. 

 

 

One of my fave post-workout meals - a big quinoa salad loaded with veggies and chicken.

Keep your choices lean & clean

We could certainly take the post-workout formula of starchy carbohydrates + protein and run with it to make our favourite foods fit the requirements like pizza: starchy carbs make up the crust and sausage or pepperoni could count as protein. Our results will be negatively affected when we choose more processed foods like cheeseburgers and french fries (another example of carbs and protein). This is exactly why I choose to eat these foods once in awhile. I like pizza, it tastes great, but it is not part of my regular, every day post-workout nutrition. 

Watch the fat content 

Ok, this is a great example of when a good dose of dietary fat is not a great choice. You guys know I am a huge fan of eating enough fat as it helps to keep us fuller for longer and is VITAL for a lasting fat loss diet. Yes, we need to eat fat in order to be effective fat burners. But dietary fat like avocado, nuts, cheese and fattier cuts of meat slow our digestion, and post-workout we want faster absorption of nutrients to get that muscle building, recovery formula working for us. I save my favourite sources of fat for other meals during the day. 

 

Some of my favourite real life post-workout meals include a big quinoa salad with tons of veggies and chicken, tuna in an ancient grains wrap, roasted yams with a bun-less burger and even sushi with tuna and brown rice.

 

When it comes to lean habits, let's remember that we want to have simple strategies that are easy to implement into our lives every day. I think that post-workout nutrition is an important area to master and it doesn't have to be too complicated. Figure out a few simple post-workout meals that you love and keep them as your go-to options. 

 

You will not always nail this formula perfectly, but do your best based on your circumstances and reap the lean rewards. I have practiced the same strategy for my post-workout meals for years and I think it has helped me stay on track with workouts, energy and helped me gain lean muscle too.

 

Enjoy!

 

Lana

 

P.S. If you want to be the first to know about my new strength and nutrition program coming out this June, join the waitlist HERE for a special discount and exclusive give aways.

How To Break A Bad Habit

May 10, 2015

Habits, habits, habits. The word is everywhere and you've likely been hearing about how important good habits are for your health since you were a wee tot. When I think back, my first encounter with the idea of creating a habit was with brushing my teeth. 'It is something we do every night' my Mom would say. It is a healthy habit.

 

For the purposes of this article, let's consider any bad habit as something you do on a daily or semi-daily basis that is not serving you and your goals. In order to break any habit, we must first see the value in giving it up. 

 

This month in the Blast Fitness Community we are focusing on everything habitual. How to create impactful healthy habits that support your goals, how to determine which habits take too much effort for a small amount of gain and how to get rid of habits that are no longer serving you. I am going to be giving you tools, tricks and short cuts from the latest behavioural psychology research to hit the press. The point is not to overwhelm you, but to guide you into setting yourself up for success over the summer months. 

 

You can think of your daily actions as a collection of habits. Some habits bring you closer to your goals, others take you further away from what you want to achieve. You will be as successful as your habits let you be. 

 

I like focusing on positive actions such as what to eat, how to move and how to think in order to stay on track day in and day out. I spend more time thinking about what I need to do (eat veggies, pick lean proteins, get breathless in my workout) than trying to assess what I don't need to do (eat dessert everyday, finish my entire plate, think defeatist thoughts). 

 

But let us consider this: There is something you do everyday that is holding you back from reaching your goals. 

 

Maybe it is the nightly sweet you have after dinner. Perhaps it is pressing the snooze button and missing your morning workout, or the habitual overeating that happens when we do not deal with our emotions properly. At some point we must address the breaking of old, ineffective habits, and that time has arrived! 

 

It is completely true that breaking an old habit pattern is more challenging that creating a new habit. Our brain and body chemistry favours the continuation of habits as mental and physical patterns. Our body simply does not lean towards helping us change without some mental and physical effort. 

 

Change can be challenging but it does not have to be impossible. 

 

Today I am going to teach you an amazing tool I have used frequently in my own life to break my old, ineffective habits. In the book 'The Power of Habit', Charles Duhigg writes about a phenomenon called the habit loop. The habit loop is a series of events that take place each time we perform a habit. I believe that learning about this process is essential in breaking any habit for good. 

 

Here is how the habit loop plays out in our lives:

  • Cue: The cue is the point in which your attention is piqued. Moments like arriving home, opening the cupboard and grabbing a bag of chips or a glass for some wine. The cue is the feeling we experience of wanting a tool to help us relax or feel good. 
  • Routine: The act of heading to the kitchen, or turning off the main road to lead through the drive-thru. This is the action you take after experiencing your 'cue'. 
  • Reward: The good part! With food this is often a feeling of relaxation or enjoyment. This is characterized by the ahhhhhhhh feeling. The actual tasting of the food part. 

When it comes to breaking a bad habit, the key for you to remember is that dropping a the entire system of cue, routine, reward is a recipe for disaster! Duhigg writes that "you cannot extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it". You will constantly experience the cue to go to the kitchen or head to the drive thru, so what are you going to do to change that?

 

The answer lies in changing the routine. Experience the cues and actively choose a new routine. Heck, you could drive straight past the drive-thru to the salad bar at the local grocery store. Or you could even continue into the drive-thru and order a salad. Remember, we want progress not perfection!

 

Rather than using willpower alone to avoid your current routine for relaxation, change it. Tools that I have used to beat this exact habit using the loop phenomenon are as follows:

  • Cue: I am tired after a long day, I crave relaxation or something to take the edge off and head to the kitchen to perform my normal habit. 
  • Routine: Rather than pour a glass of wine or grab a handful of chips or cookies or chocolate (insert your passion here!) I turn on the kettle for ginger tea or healthy hot chocolate, throw my magic bean bags in the microwave for 3 minutes and use these as my replacement. 
  • Reward: I still experience the ahhhhh feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. This comes in the form of heat rather than a sugar high. 

Sure, it does take some practice to replace sugar with heat or salty potato chips with a hot bath and relaxing music, but remember that extinguishing a habit altogether is futile. We must work to experience the cue, change our routine and still reap the reward we were looking for in the first place. 

 

  

 

One of my favourite routine changes is to make this healthy hot chocolate with one tablespoon of good quality cocoa powder, a couple drops of stevia and hot water. My old strategy for overcoming a nightly craving was to use my willpower to get through the discomfort. Sometimes this is a useful tool, but more often than not, our willpower is fickle when we are tired, stressed or drained. Changing our routine with the simple swap of chocolate bar to sugar free hot chocolate or ginger tea works much better! 

 

Before I let you go, it is important to address the idea of balance. You knew this was coming, right?! For me, I notice better results physically and mentally when I do not eat sugar and drink wine daily. I do have a glass of wine or two a few times a week, and I keep a dark chocolate bar in my pantry almost always. I stay mindful with enjoying these foods and choose to have them out of enjoyment, not out of daily habit. The best part of this strategy for me has been that I actually savour these foods more this way. I am less likely to reach for a wine glass simply because that's what I always do. It is a conscious choice now. 

 

So pumped for you to try these tools this week. What habit are you going to break? Remember that choosing only one habit to start changing is a great idea. You will experience some friction, but not as much as dropping the entire routine altogether.

 

To your success, 

 

Lana xox

How 3 Fit Pros Do Cardio

April 25, 2015

You may or may not be aware of the fact that there is a mini war against cardiovascular training within the health and fitness industry as of late.  To be honest, I am not all that shocked. The industry as a whole likes to make black and white claims – a food is good or a food is bad. A style of exercise is the best, or a certain workout is the worst. And in the past few years, cardiovascular training, has come under fire. Claims such as ‘cardio burns all your muscle!’ or ‘cardio makes you starving’ are commonplace in some circles.

While I do support this type of black and white thinking for a handful of food items (kraft dinner, cheez whiz and diet soda) and a couple of exercise regimens (anything that is unsafe or makes outrageous, untrue claims) I largely believe that success is found in the gray areas where we individualize our approach over the long term. That is another way of saying, find what works for you in your life. You’ll know you’ve found what works when you can consistently eat well and exercise regularly, and you make it a regular practice of listening to your body and doing what it needs. 

Today we are going right to the heart of the cardio debate. I have asked two of my favourite fit pros, they are certified, smart and strong women, what they do for cardio and why. I have jumped in to add my own story and stance too. 

 

Michelle, myself and Shira at a Deadlifting Workshop in Venice Beach, California last month. 

What I want you to take from today’s post is this: 

There is no one size fits all approach to cardio training, but there are some important physiological distinctions to make so that you can make it work effectively in your life.

Not all cardio is created equal. HIIT or high intensity interval training is characterized by short bursts of all out effort followed with dynamic rest. A steady state cardio session is characterized by moving at the same intensity over the duration of your workout. A typical example of this would be jumping on the elliptical for 45 minutes.

The type of cardio you choose to do will affect your body composition, your hunger levels and your lifestyle. 

Let’s jump in with my girl Shira Nelson of Mom Beyond Baby. Shira is a runner, and I know many of you are too! Here is her story and what she does for cardio these days. 

 

Let’s talk running for a minute. I started running competitively around 2003 in college. I have run hundreds of races and gone through a complete shift as to the “why” behind my runs.  I used to run miles and miles, injured and tired because I needed to lose the weight. I rebounded about 50 pounds after recovering from an eating disorder. Of course I did other things but running was always something I had to do. 

Fast forward to where I am now and running is purely something I do because I want to. I love to run. I love the silence. I love the mental clarity and I love the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I am a minimalist when it comes to running, no music & no equipment, just me and the run (and now my dog and a jogging stroller). 

As a busy mom it is something I crave. I get a true 'high' from a run and it is something I can do anywhere I go with my children. I still race frequently but I have no schedule as far as my weekly runs. Here is why...

When I stopped making myself run for all of the other reasons (weight loss, because I was 'bad' and ate pizza, because I binged, because my pants were tight) I got the results I had been looking for. I did take some time away from running to spend more time walking (I know - boring to runners) to see what happened to my cortisol and other hormones. When I saw muscle definition, reduced stress and of course, less injuries I embraced this change. 

I no longer have weekend mornings for long runs and time to run doubles. That is ok. 3 or even 6 miles is perfect for me, and for my body. No matter what you hear about what is 'best' or 'ideal' in terms of exercise for fat loss, keep in mind that exercise needs to be enjoyable. If your only time to workout is 5am, it better be something you like or that 5am wake up call will only last so long. 

Next, I asked my Arizonian friend Michelle Rycroft of Ripped By Rycroft what her cardio routine looks like and why.


If and when I do cardio, it is always in the form of HIIT or high intensity interval training. My go to workout is 100m sprints or bleacher running. 

For one, I hate cardio, don’t ever put me down for it. Two, I used to be a cardio bunny. The more the better until I learned that I can achieve the same benefit by either lifting weights faster (metabolic conditioning) or choosing HIIT (high intensity interval training) over traditional steady state cardio.

Our bodies tend to adapt to steady state cardio over time giving us less bang for our buck, so you end up needing to do more of it to get the same benefit. With HIIT you only need a couple sessions a week for 15-30 minutes to achieve the same benefit as a 60 minute steady state session. So less is more when it comes to cardio! You only need to do enough to achieve the results you’re looking for and no more. I always recommend starting with the least amount possible and building up from there if needed.

And finally, I weighed in…


My own journey with cardio training has included almost every workout under the sun. I started off playing soccer, volleyball, basketball, running track (the 400m) and figure skating as a child. All of these sports had elements of interval based cardio and some required more steady state training. As I moved on to teach step aerobics, cycling classes and complete a number of half marathons and one full marathon in Honolulu in 2007, I noticed my hunger levels go up. I also had to continue with my cardio training or else I would gain body fat relatively quickly.

Now, as a result of listening to my body and trying a different approach, I have moved away from the traditional approach to cardio training. I do less steady state aerobic movement. A typical week of cardio training for me includes a metabolic conditioning workout and one interval stair workout or hill sprint workout.

I experience significantly less hunger with this approach which aids in making great food choices.  If one week goes by and I miss my cardio interval workout, my clothes fit the same and I spend less overall time exercising. For me, this has translated into me enjoying my workouts more!

What you will see is that we choose to approach our cardio routines differently, and we all have a great reason for why we do what we do.  Shira, Michelle and I have all moved from a large amount of steady state cardio to a shorter duration, higher intensity model. What I want you to see is that the number one reason we changed our approach was due to the fact that we wanted to see results without spending so much time running or on cardio machines.

Steady state, long duration cardio is simply not the most effective way to lose body fat. It can significantly increase hunger levels and can negatively effect cortisol levels (our main stress hormone) when we are doing too much. High cortisol makes it much more challenging to achieve a leaner physique.

But, this does not make all forms of steady state cardio - namely running and long distance cycling, bad. If you love them, keep it up! Remember, enjoyment of exercise is paramount for sustainability. However, if you are choosing these forms of exercise solely to see a change in your body composition, there are better strategies, like those we discussed today. 

Above all, I need you to remember this:

First, we need the courage to look objectively at what we are doing and ask ourselves if it is working in our life. If it is not, we then need the persistence to try something different and see if it works better.

Dedicated to your education and here for your inspiration, 

Lana xox 

How To Do A Hand Release Push-up

April 18, 2015

The most effective exercises to burn body fat, build muscle and see physical results from exercise have one major thing in common - they target more than one muscle group. From bootcamps to personal training sessions, the majority of the exercises I prescribe for my clients target the biggest muscle groups in our body, ask the exerciser to move in varying ranges of motion and often include more than one joint to be active in the movement. 

 

Think of the engine in your car - how many cylinders does it have? How much gas does it take to run your car for a week? Exercises that target small muscle groups (unfortunately, these are usually the featured moves in most girly fitness magazines) are like the smart cars of the exercise world. When we perform tricep extensions and ab crunches, they do not cost us much fuel. The human equivalent of the gas you put into your car is calories - and we know that we must burn a significant number of calories in a workout in order to see physical change. 

 

Environmental awareness aside, we want our bodies to act like a V8 engine, a gas guzzler! When we are at the gym, we want bang for our buck. During the training sessions I create, I choose exercises that target more than one muscle group, require us to move in multiple planes and focus on activating the biggest muscle groups in our bodies. 

 

Why? Because your body responds to the demands you place on it. Focusing on small muscle groups to tone and tighten unfortunately gives little stimulus for our body to burn fat or gain muscle. Targeting big muscle groups with exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, pull-ups and planks helps our metabolism to become super effective. On the other end of the spectrum, side leg lifts and even bicep curls with loads of 5lbs do not create the hormonal situation that helps us burn body fat and gain muscle mass. 

 

Here is one of my favourite upper body and core exercises, the hand release push-up. I first learned this move from Jen Sinkler of Thrive as the Fittest. Jen shares effective exercises that give a great bang for your buck in terms of your time in the gym. 

 

 

Check out the video to get some of my favourite cues for this challenging exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, back extensors, mid-back muscles and deepest core stabilizers. Not only does this muscle target big muscle groups which contribute to the overall caloric-requirement of this move, it helps improve your traditional push-ups too.

 

Enjoy!

 

Lana :)