I Want Muscles

(Originally published in the Santa Monica Daily Press newspaper pg. 6)
I want muscles. That’s what Diana Ross sang about in her song “Muscles,” written in 1982. But her song was about getting a man with muscles; it wasn’t about her wanting muscles of her own. When I say, “I want muscles.” I want my own muscles.
Muscles are not just for visual pleasure. I agree they look great, but most importantly; muscles are a sign of health and fitness. I have known this since my teenage years when I began lifting weights trying to develop my own muscles.
I have continued to lift weights, run and cycle over the past 25 years, even competing in powerlfiting and bodybuilding in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Now my goal is to grace the pages of my favorite fitness magazine, Oxygen. Not only because their fitness models serve as my inspiration, but also because I have been writing for Oxygen since February.
Unlike writing for SMDP, which allows me complete creative freedom, writing for a magazine is very specific. There are hours and hours and hours of research that go into developing a story and backing it up with scientific data as I did for the November issue on “Leafy Greens,” or in the December issue article “Eat. Train. Heal,” which is full of anti-iflammatory research and recipes.
No matter what research I find for the topic of the month, there must always be recipes that are protein rich. To the weight lifting community, protein equals muscles. As someone who follows a predominantly vegetarian diet, eating enough protein can sometimes be a challenge, but not impossible.
How much protein you need truly depends on your activity levels. Long standing research shows that you need only 0.8g/kg of body weight or the equivalent of 37 percent of your body weight in grams of protein to maintain muscle mass. So a 120 pound person (120/2.2 pounds/kg = 54.55kg x 0.8g/kg = 43.6) needs 44g of protein per day: 120 x 0.37 = 44g. While someone who is starting an exercise program may need 1.2 to 1.4g per kilogram of body weight or 65-76g which is 54 to 63 percent of your body weight.
When you get in to heavy weight lifting to gain muscle mass, your protein needs can be as high as 2g/kg or 109g for that 120 pound person which is 91 percent of their total body weight to be consumed as grams of protein. Some weight lifters claim that protein intake should be 1g per POUND of body weight but I suspect it’s because that math is just so much easier: 120g x 1g/ pound = 120g.
In the end, you need enough calories to get you through your day and through your workouts. You also need the right mix of vitamins and minerals from whole food sources of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, to help your body better convert that food into useable energy. Of course, whatever you eat should also be enjoyable to you, not just tasty but also full of foods that make you feel good after you eat them.
I enjoy chocolate, but if I eat it too often or too much at one time, I feel awful, therefore, I try not to do that. I also love pudding for its creamy texture and mouth feel. It’s a comfort food that generally makes me feel good but traditional boxed versions are loaded with sugar and artificial stuff that, frankly, nobody needs.
So in an effort to help me reach my 109 grams of protein, I have developed a high protein pudding. Portion control is still an issue for me so I suggest doing as I do and dole it out into half cup servings immediately. This pudding makes the perfect post workout snack with its fast absorbing carbs and muscle building protein as an addition to your complete post workout meal.
I developed this recipe to use up some vanilla protein powder but you can certainly substitute with chocolate protein powder and chocolate extract if you’re a chocolate lover. Again, portion control may be an issue so beware. No matter what, have fun developing your MUSCLES!
Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD, CPT, CDE, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Holistic Chef who wants to make the world a healthier place one recipe at a time. You can learn more about Elizabeth, see her videos and read past articles on her website: www.TheKitchenVixen.com
Vanilla Protein Pudding
4 cups lowfat milk of your choice
6 Tablespoons vanilla whey protein powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
6 Tablespoons arrowroot
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Use a blender to blend the protein powder, milk and maple syrup. Add one cup of the mixture to a large mixing bowl and the rest to a large sauce pot. Use a fork or whisk to gradually blend the arrowroot with the milk in the mixing bowl. Heat the rest of the milk mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly. When the milk begins to bubble, add the arrowroot mixture and continue to heat until the mixture thickens. Pour into a bowl to refrigerate and chill, about four hours to completely cool.
Makes about eight (1/2 cup) servings. Per serving: Cost $0.66, Calories 133, Carbs 19, 12g sugar, 11g protein, Fat 1g, 19% DV manganese, 15% calcium, 12% vitamin D.

EAT the WHOLE EGG!!!…by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

Eggs florentineEgg slide

EGGs Rule!

It’s incredible.
It’s edible.
It’s an egg, although many people think it’s a no-no. The egg is in fact a yes-yes, even a “must-have” for people following a vegetarian diet.
For vegetarians willing to incorporate eggs into their eating repertoire, they can easily meet their needs for many otherwise lacking nutrients. These vegetarians would then be called ovo-vegetarian (ovo representing the egg).

Eggs are rich in vitamins A, D, E and B12 which are often difficult to obtain from a vegetarian diet. Eggs are also a good source of riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc as well as being an excellent source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant also found in seafood, poultry, nuts and whole grains.

To get ALL of these key nutrients, you MUST eat the WHOLE EGG!!

Eggs are the gold standard for protein. When we look at the protein quality and content of other foods, eggs are used as the reference protein because an egg contains the perfect amount of all of the essential amino acids in the perfect proportion.

Think about it. An egg contains everything needed for the nourishment of a developing chick. Of course it should be perfect.

Eggs promote weight loss. In a study of 160 overweight people, those who ate 2 eggs per day lost more weight. All of the participants followed a low-fat diet with a 1,000 calorie deficit, but half of the group ate two eggs per day for breakfast while the other half ate a bagel breakfast containing the same amount of calories and weight mass.

After eight weeks, the egg eaters lost almost twice as much weight, had an 83 percent greater decrease in waist circumference and reported greater improvements in energy. There was also no significant difference between blood levels of total, HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in either group.

Other studies looking at relative risk showed that healthy people can enjoy eggs without increasing heart attack risk.

Although eggs are high in cholesterol, 212 mg per egg, they do not necessarily increase your body’s total cholesterol. Most of the cholesterol in our body is made by our liver, about 1,000 mg per day and another 200-500 mg can come from the diet. In most individuals, cholesterol production is REDUCED when dietary intake increases.

Cholesterol is part of the structure and function of cell membranes. It is a component of several sex hormones, and it is an essential precursor to Vitamin D. Cholesterol is also a component of bile acid. Bile helps your body breakdown fat into useable parts.

Eggs are one of the few animal sources of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin—carontenoids that protect the eyes.

Eggs can be high in beneficial fats. When chickens are fed a flaxseed-rich diet, they convert the Alpha-Linolenic-Acid (ALA) omega-3 fat into DHA, another omega-3 fat. DHA is the Omega-3 fat associated with brain health although both types of omega-3s do help reduce inflammation.

Buy eggs from Pasture Raised hens for the most health benefits. These hens live mainly on grass and bugs and therefore get naturally occurring sources of omega-3 fats. The eggs from these free-roaming feathered friends contain up to 20 TIMES more OMEGA-3 FATS  than their conventionally raised, caged counterparts 🙁

Pasturing is the traditional method of raising egg-laying hens and other poultry. It is ecologically sustainable, humane, and produces the tastiest, most nutritious eggs.

Pastured eggs also have 10 percent less fat, 40 percent more vitamin A, and 34 percent less cholesterol than eggs obtained from factory farms.

Eggs Benedict is a rich egg dish traditionally made with buttered English muffins, topped with Canadian bacon, poached eggs and creamy hollandaise sauce. At nearly 1,000 calories, with 56 grams of fat, 23g of saturated fat, 525 mg of cholesterol and up to 2000 mg of sodium, it’s an occasional treat that leaves little room for much else that day.

Instead try this treat, a nutrient-dense and satisfying yet guilt-free version of Eggs Benedict. A soon-to-be daily indulgence for ovo-vegetarians.

Eggs (Benedict) Florentine with nutritional yeast cheese sauce

2 eggs (omega-3 rich)
4 cups fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen
1 tsp white vinegar

Make the cheese sauce first and set aside. Then steam the spinach and place in two piles on a plate. To poach eggs: Fill a saucepan with 3 inches of water. Bring water to a gentle simmer. Add vinegar. Carefully break eggs into simmering water. Allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Yolks should still be soft in center. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and set on top of spinach. Top with 1/4 cup nutritional yeast cheese sauce on each egg.
Per serving: 280 calories, 15 g fat, 370 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, off the charts for pretty much every nutrient including carotenoids and especially B vitamins from the nutritional yeast.

Nutritional Yeast Cheese Sauce

3 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup filtered water
1 Tablespoon stoneground mustard
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoons white pepper
1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cups nutritional yeast flakes
(found in supplement section at Whole Foods)

Mix flour and oil in a sauce pan set on medium-low heat. Add all ingredients EXCEPT nutritional. Bring to a boil on medium heat, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Add nutritional yeast and mix well. Simmer 8-10 minutes. Serve over eggs today over brown rice and vegetables tomorrow. Store in fridge for up to two weeks.

Nutrition for Volleyball

Beach Volleyball Anyone?

(Originally published in the Santa Monica Daily Press newspaper pg. 6 & in the American Volleyball Coaches Association publication pg. 27)

During a recent visit to PA, my home state, I told a friend that I was living in Santa Monica. Her response was, “Wow! That’s the like the Mecca of beach volleyball.” She lives for volleyball.
I don’t know if Santa Monica actually is the Mecca of beach volleyball, but there certainly are a lot of volleyball nets set up on the beaches. I often glance at the heated games as I jog by on the path. Being only 5’4”, I’ve never felt that volleyball was my game.
Recently, a friend who coaches college volleyball, asked me to write a nutrition article pertaining to eating for performance while on the road. I figured since I live in the Mecca of volleyball, I might as well share this information with those of you who are tall, or athletically adept enough to play beach volleyball.
No matter what sport you choose, optimal nutrition each and every day can make all the difference in your performance. Volleyball is an especially demanding sport that requires both explosive energy and endurance. For quick bursts of energy like jumping and spiking, anaerobic metabolism kicks in and is fueled by stored carbohydrates, aka muscle glycogen. When playing multiple sets, endurance is needed, optimal blood sugar and a combination of circulating fats and amino acids from protein will help to ensure you’re in for the long haul. Proper hydration is also an essential part of the equation.
To ensure all of your energy needs will be met while you’re out playing for the day, eat a good meal 2-3 hours before you plan to play. Your meal should be high in carbohydrates from sources such as whole grains or starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, along with lean protein such as an egg white vegetable omelet or a protein shake each combined with a little healthy olive or flax oil.
When you head out, be sure to pack as many portable energy and hydration sources as you can fit in your cooler or bag. Packable fuel might include energy bars with 10-15 grams of protein and limited added sugars. Sandwiches made with whole grain breads, lean organic meats, fresh vegetables and mustard, make great pre-workout meals. Skip the mayo and other high fat options to ensure your meal is digested in 2-3 hours, prior to play time. When you have an hour or less and need some fast fuel, opt for fresh or dried fruit. Energy bars with less than ten grams of fat will do the trick too. Just be sure to drink 16 ounces of water to help dilute the delivery of carbohydrates into your blood stream. See attached recipe to make your own portable fuel.
Hydration is key any time of the day but especially for active days in the sun. Drink at least 16 ounces of fluid before and after an event and 4-6 ounces for every 15 minutes of activity. Sports drinks work well to rehydrate and refuel when you don’t have time to sit and eat yet still need to replenish blood sugar for continuous play. But commercial sports drinks can be filled with artificial colors and flavorings that no one needs.
Make your own sports drink by combining four ounces of water with four ounces of juice such as grape, cranberry, pomegranate or similar flavor juices plus 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Mix enough to last for the time you will be playing. If you plan to play for two hours, you might want to mix up to 48 ounces, multiply the recipe by six. Some people don’t like math but it is a universal language. It’s the same in every country. So you should really take this opportunity to learn to love it!
For more math, make the Beach Volleyball Bar recipe and divide into eight equal portions. Then pack up a few servings and enjoy your tasty fuel-on-the-go. It’s so worth the math and the effort for less than half the cost of any comparable store bought bar. And that’s using only the best organic ingredients purchased at the Santa Monica Coop. Now get out there and play, and don’t forget your homemade sports drink and bars!
Beach Volleyball Bar

1 cup raisins or dates (10 each)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup natural peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1 cup vanilla whey protein powder (100g protein)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets Cereal
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
Place raisins or dates and water in food processor and process. Add peanut butter and process until smooth. Add protein powder and salt and process to combine thoroughly. Add more water as needed. Add the dried cherries or cranberries and the cereal and pulse just enough to combine. Place a two foot long piece of wax paper in an 8×8 inch dish with half of the wax paper hanging over the edge. Pour mixture into dish. Use the wax paper to press the mixture evenly in the pan. For best results, place in freezer for one hour to help firm. Cut into eight equal pieces. Wrap individually and refrigerate or freeze. Per serving: 230 calories, 6g fat, 29g carbs, 4g fiber, 15g protein.
For more bar recipes visit the Oxygen Magazine website and pick up a past copy of September 2010 issue of Oxygen magazine for an in-depth article on protein bars complete with six customized high-protein snacks

The Importance of Being Hydrated by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

Quenching a Thirst for H2O IQ

Published on pg. 7 of the SMDP weekend edition, May 10-11, 2008: click link for original article


“How much water should I drink?”


If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, well, I’d have a lot of dollars.


Water is so important that the Center for Disease Control dedicates the first week of May to drinking water.You should not need a nationally recognized organization to tell you the importance of drinking water. But you might need one to remind you how lucky you are for having one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world.


The research I did to earn my Master’s of Science in Nutrition was on the study of water and weight management. Actually, I looked at other people’s research and came up with a big conclusion. Water is the key to long-term weight management.


Water is a macro-nutrient; similar carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Unlike those other big nutrients, however, water does not supply any calories; not a single one. Yet, water can make up the largest proportion of your food.


Water adds only good things to food and beverages. For one thing, the addition of water to food helps you eat fewer calories in the long run.


When it comes to hunger and satiety, your body wants bulk or volume, but only up to a point. You can not simply drink water all day and think that you will never be hungry. However, by adding water to foods and choosing more water-rich ingredients, you will add bulk which will help reduce your overall calorie intake.


To implement more water into your diet, simply eat more soups, salads, vegetables and fruits, and yes, drink water.


Exactly how much water you need is always up for debate. When we talk about purely drinking the stuff, the numbers vary from six to 10 of those all-pervasive eight ounce glasses. Perhaps that is why eight (8 ounce) glasses has been thrown out there so often, being a happy medium and all. In healthcare we use the following guideline: your body weight divided by two equals the number of ounces you need to drink each day. For example: 200 pounds, 100 ounces.


According to the World Health Organization the average person needs two liters (67 ounces) of water per day for drinking and up to 70 liters per day for all uses including cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, flushing toilets, growing stuff, etc. Yet, here in America, the land of plenty, it is estimated that on average, we use 1,400 liters per person, per day. WOW! There are some countries where they don’t even have enough to drink each day.


According to the CDC, water plays a big role in the overall success of a society. Just having access to water can change the economic status of a community over night.


I read a book called “Every Drop for Sale” about the potential for war over water. In the book, the author told a story of a community in Africa where the women would spend half of each day walking a trail to obtain fresh water.


These women where given the opportunity to develop an underground plumbing system but had to come up with $1,000 to pay for the system. It took a lot of work and budgeting for the community to raise the money, but they got it together, got their water system in place and as a result, the women were able to take the time they use to spend “fetching” water and instead built a greater income and home life for their families.


Their community began to prosper until, in the middle of the night, some thieves took their plumbing system to sell on the black market.


Needless to say, the community went downhill overnight because they had to again spend their days “fetching” water instead of increasing the economic status of their families.


So from now on, when you gripe about the fact that you are suppose to drink eight (8 ounce) glasses of water each day, please think about how lucky you are to have access to water which in turn enables you to go to work, play with your children, or walk along the beach.


Next time you do walk along the beach, please stop and look at the ocean in awe and know that although the world is 70 percent water, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population lacks access to safe water. FYI, ocean water is not drinkable unless it has gone through a process known as desalination; a process to remove excess salt and minerals from water.


If you are still uncertain about how much to drink just sit quietly and listen. Your body will tell you. “What’s that body? You say you are thirsty? OK then. Here you go. Have some water.” Glug, glug, glug … Ahhh! Now was that so hard? Sometimes we make things way more complicated than they have to be.

Chocolate “Make-You-Thin” Mint Recovery Shake by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

Guilty Pleasures

Published on pg. 10 of the SMDP newspaper weekend edition April 5-6, 2008, click link for original article


It happens every march without fail. It has nothing to do with age, experience or will-power. You order them out of habit and there they are — Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs and Do-Si-Dos. You empty box after box and consume, thousands upon thousands of calories.


March is known in this country as Girl Scout Cookie month. It is also National Nutrition Month. Coincidence? I think not. In 1933, the Girl Scouts held their first “home-made” cookie sale and 40 years later the dietitians created National Nutrition Month. As a dietitian, it is my duty to educate. OK, here goes, “Those cookies are not very healthy, please limit your intake.”


Actually, what I want to say is, “Please don’t eat them.”  I was a girl scout too. I’m sure I pushed my fair share of these processed sugar and fat bombs, and I definitely ate more than my fair share. But now, as an educated Dietitian, I simply cannot advocate their sale. Cookies were my downfall; a true comfort food. They don’t really provide any comfort at all, instead they cause weight gain and blood sugar fluctuations that make you want to eat and more, and more and more… until…now you’ve got a weight problem.

Still got a craving for a cookie or two? Well that’s simple to satisfy by making your own from the exact same ingredients. Simply start with sugar, add enriched flour (a.k.a. processed flour without any naturally occurring nutrients), some more sugar disguised as corn syrup, followed by “vegetable shortening” which could be any combination of tropical or hydrogenated fats, plus some sweetened condensed milk (milk and more sugar) intertwined with high fructose corn syrup (sugar that decreases your inhibitions) and then cocoa, but it is processed with alkali, a.k.a. “dutched” cocoa which negates the health benefits. To top it all off, a list of not one, not two, but four artificial colors, dyes.WOW! With all that sugar and artificial stuff, I need to recover just from writing about them.


You might think I should just offer up a more calorie friendly cookie recipe, but frankly, when it comes to cookies, portion control is the underlying issue. Portion control is usually the issue for most foods and for many of us who battle with our weight.


Research has shown that it is shear volume (big portions) that we seek when we eat. The best way to meet your flavor needs and be truly satisfied is to fill up on fluid filled foods, such as fruits, vegetables, soups, salads and shakes where the “bulk” macro-nutrient is water. And water will never add “bulk” to your bod. Maybe that is why cookies and milk are so much more satisfying than just the cookies alone.


The most popular Girl Scout cookie in terms of sales is the Thin Mint, followed by Samoas and Tagalongs. So in lieu of Thin Mints, I offer my Chocolate “Make You Thin” Mint Recovery Shake for recovering from cookie overdose, plus suggestions for adapting this shake as a Tagalong, which in the shake form is called a “Fat-Be-Gone.” Both shakes are chock full of fluids, for filling and hydrating, plus protein for post workout muscle recovery, good carbs for repletion of glycogen stores (stored energy in the muscles), and a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant nutrients to facilitate energy pathways and protect precious cells.


Start with alkaline-free (non-dutched) cocoa which is rich in catechins, a class of antioxidants like those found in tea, red wine, apples and pomegranates. Catechins may help protect against certain cancers and aid in the prevention of heart disease. Next add some mint leaves. They are rich in a natural anti-inflammatory agent known as rosmarinic acid. Mint leaves and most leafy greens are also rich in carotenoids, typically thought of as the yellow-orange pigment in particular fruits and vegetables. The 450 known carotenoids offer a plethora of protection such as the prevention of heart disease, cancer and macular degeneration; the leading cause of blindness. Mint leaves are also a good source of vitamin C.


Then add cinnamon. Cinnamon offers some more disease fighting protection in the form of an antioxidant known as cinnamaldehyde which helps to reduce blood clotting thereby reducing the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Cinnamon has also been shown to reduce the rate at which the stomach empties after a meal and can in-effect aid blood sugar control. Plus, cinnamon enhances sweetness, especially in chocolate (cocoa) and fruits.


Simply follow the recipe, blend and enjoy. Guilt free, energy enhancing and disease preventing, as eating and drinking should be.

Chocolate “Make-You-Thin” Mint recovery shake

1 cup almond or organic milk of your choice
6-8 ice cubes
1 Tbsp unsweetened, Alkali Free or Non-Dutched cocoa powder (Bulk or Ghirardelli, Dagoba or Chatfield’s)
30 fresh mint leaves (If available, buy chocolate mint from Maggie’s at the Farmer’s Market)
1/2 cup protein powder such as Whey
1-2 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 tsp cinnamon

To make a NUT Butter “Fat-Be-Gone,” omit mint leaves and add 1-2 tsp natural organic peanut butter or raw almond butter


Pour milk in the blender. Throw in the powdered stuff and cinnamon. Add the molasses and the mint leaves (or peanut butter.) Blend. Add ice cubes gradually and more liquid as needed to reach a milkshake consistency. Pour, drink and enjoy!
Per serving: 260 calories, 6g fat, 23g carbs, 6g fiber, 33g protein, 10% DV Vitamin A, 6% Vitamin C, 25% Calcium, 36% Iron