What You Need to Know About Fish Oil

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Most of us are aware that fish oil is good. It helps your joints, your brain, reducing risks of diabetes, arthritis, it can help your mood… the list goes on.

However, in my never-ending quest to call out the supplement industry on the amount of BS they sell consumers, there are so many horrible fish oil supplements out there.

Right off the bat, according to Labdoor, most fish oils are not even accurate in their labeling. Take a look: here. I’m not a fan of wasting money, and I’m sure you aren’t either. If one of the supplements you take is at the bottom of the list, don’t buy that brand again.

Keep in mind, Labdoor mainly tests for label accuracy and chemicals that hurt your body in the supplement. That DOESN’T mean the ones at the top of the list provide enough omega-3’s, it just simply testing if you are getting what the label says you are.

So, don’t just go to the top of the list and assume those are the best there is.

Why you need omega-3’s

Your body can’t produce omega-3’s. It’s something you need to get in a supplement. Of course, ideally you’d be getting it from your food each day, but not everyone can afford eating quality fish each day. Not to mention, a lot of fish is farmed (which can be good or bad depending on the fish), has mercury, or the label is lying. (Source #1, Source #2.)

^ Seriously, though. You should read those articles. As a passionate sushi-eater, it makes me livid. I haven’t figured out how to guarantee that your fish is what it says it is, but the day I do I’ll be blogging about it.

The benefits of omega-3’s

“University of Pittsburgh researchers recently reported that in adults age 35-54, the higher their blood levels of DHA, the better their performance on tests of nonverbal reasoning and mental flexibility, working memory, and vocabulary.” Source.

Fish oil can also help your body fight against air pollution. Source. For me, this is huge. I live in Denver and am moving to Los Angeles within the next year. Both cities have horrible air pollution, basically where the recommended level is “Don’t go outside” every single day. (Yeah, you won’t find that on a travel guide.)

For lifters, fish oil has also been shown to help with muscle-building. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why or how, but they believe it has something to do with assisting muscle protein synthesis.

How much you need

Generally, you need 1,500 mg of DHA and 1,500 of EPA per day.

Now, when you look at most fish oils, they barely have ~100-150 DHA per pill. So yes, you’d need to take a lot of pills to get your daily amount. Also, most brands will make claims like, “Doctors only recommend 300 DHA and EPA a day,” which is not true. They just want to claim their amount is right.

How can they do that? “The FDA does not regulate omega-3 dosages, and the manufacturer is responsible for determining that the serving sizes recommended are safe for the public. FDA approval is not needed to sell any dietary supplements containing omega-3, provided these ingredients were approved for use before 1994.” (Source.) THIS is exactly why I eye-roll at so much of the supplement industry.

However, there are also rarely any pills with an equal amount of DHA and EPA, so you basically are stuck either overdosing or underdosing for each.

In case you’re like, “WHAT DO I TAKE?”, I take Jim Stoppani’s Omega Jym. I’m not linking it because I don’t want anyone to think I’m getting some kind of monetary kick back for writing this. That’s truly what I take. In 4 pills I get everything I need daily and on days where I go on a sushi binge or eat fish, I cut back.

What else you need to know

You can also take your fish oil in liquid form. Not everyone can or likes to swallow pills daily. Here’s some info on liquid vs pill fish oil.

There are also vegetarian options out there for omega-3’s, but that would require additional research depending on what you’re looking for.

Be sure to read the entire label. Most companies include other BS into their supplements.

For example, a quick google search of algae omega-3’s as an alternative brought up a pill that has carrageenan and caramel color as additional ingredients. You just want a fish oil, why do they feel the need to add an essay of other ingredients?

My goal is always to arm you with the information, research, and studies you need to know so you can make the best decision for you and your health.

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Should You Count Macros? A Beginner’s Guide to IIFYM

If you’ve been around the fitness side of the internet for any length of time, you’ve heard of macro counting, also called IIFYM (if it fits your macros).

Once you know how it works, it’s not too hard to follow. The biggest thing is finding the right numbers for your body and your goals, which we’ll cover.

What are macros?

Macros are:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Protein

These are the three major macronutrients (“macros”) your body needs.

Every food label has these counted on the package, and the general premise of IIFYM is that you have a daily allowance of carbs, fats, and proteins that you must hit every single day.

1 gram of carbs = 4 calories.
1 gram of fat = 9 calories.
1 gram of protein = 4 calories.

When you have the right number of macros for your body, it equals the right number of calories for your current goal (weight loss, maintenance, muscle gain).

Let’s just cut right to the chase:

Does macro counting work?

Yes and no. (Helpful answer, I know.) I’ll explain.

We’ll talk about the problems first:

  1. Labels aren’t always correct.
    Calorie counts on food can be off by 20%. 20%! The FDA also doesn’t check the accuracy of food labels before they are sold to you. You could be consuming two hundred extra calories (or more) that you didn’t even know you were eating. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that on average, packaged food contained 8% more calories than their label claimed, and restaurant meals were closer to 18% more (You can read more: here). So, this means you could count your macros perfectly every day and still be baffled on why you aren’t getting the results you want.
  2. The apps that track macros can be wrong.
    I’ve tried MyFitnessPal a lot and it doesn’t want to play nice. If you make your own food and don’t eat packaged foods for every meal, expect it to be slightly off compared to if you figured it out yourself.
    Plus, if you have any food allergies (I do), the data on these apps for substitutions will drive you nuts.
  3. People quit too early.
    If you want to try macro counting, you need to stick with it for at least two weeks if not longer. Too many people try it for a week, don’t lose weight, and quit. Plus, sometimes you picked macro numbers that aren’t right.
  4. Macro counting does not consider other health factors.
    This is the biggest personal problem I have with IIFYM. People eat fast food because “It’s in my macros, bro!”, but here’s an article from a professor at Harvard University about why processed food makes us fatter. Yes, of course it’s mostly calories in vs. calories out, but I’m not going to pretend like all processed foods are just wonderful.
    There may not be enough studies for the internet science nerds who barely even lift, but I’ll continue eating organic forever even if other people find it a waste of money.
    If you have thyroid issues, metabolism problems, needing to avoid salt, prefer to eat less sugar, or just don’t want to eat a bunch of processed shit food, you can still count macros but just know you have to figure those other things out yourself.
    Also, if you’re a 24/7 ball of stress (like I can be with a huge deadline for work), that absolutely throws everything to shit. Stress/anxiety/depression/sleep deprivation all completely throw off important factors in your body that can negatively impact your results.
  5. Macro counting does not account for micronutrients.
    I always have used the analogy that macros are like a car: it’s the whole shell, the seats, the great color, basically the whole external part. Then, micronutrients are like the gas and the oil in that car. You can drive on almost empty for both of those, but the damage will catch up with you.
    Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive.
    These are not counted in a macro-counting diet. That’s why I think so many of these “fitness professionals” suffer endlessly from fatigue, soreness, bad moods, inflammation, and a long list of other issues, because their cars are running on empty.

Now that you know some of the major problems, here are some reasons you might want to try macro counting:

Balanced dieting

When we just count calories (the common weight-loss approach), there’s no determination on where we specifically get those calories. Getting all your calories from carbs in a day is much, much different than getting a balance from protein, fats, and carbs.

So, macro counting helps you get those calories from the three most essential areas.

I know, I know, everyone always says it’s simply calories in vs calories out, but if you want a much longer post on why that’s not always accurate, here you go.

Essentially, your lifestyle has more to do with your calories than you think. This is why Michael Phelps eats thousands and thousands of calories a day but he’s not morbidly obese whereas the rest of us eat a few extra hundred calories here and there and see it in our bodies.

However, most of us sit for the entire day (whether we want to admit it or not), so we’ll assume that our macros fit within the average recommendation.

How many macros do you need?

This is a complicated answer. Through years of testing, the best thing I have found is to simply experiment with your own diet.

I know, that’s a super frustrating answer, but every time I’ve tried someone’s “set” macros, they don’t work well and I wouldn’t want to just tell you some numbers and you take them as the only possible numbers.

Macros can change depending on your activity level, metabolic type, body fat percentage, goals, and personal preference.

Mentioning metabolic type, there’s a book called the Metabolic Typing Diet that’s absolutely fascinating around the idea that our diet today is heavily influenced by where our ancestors came from. In today’s modern world, we can eat food from a grocery store that comes from anywhere on the planet whereas our ancestors could only eat locally. Depending on where they lived, his claim is that we have a certain preference toward certain diets.

That’s just a side note, and not something you need to know to count macros, but if you’re determined to learn, it’s worth a read.

But generally this is a decent macro break down, or at least somewhere to start:

1 gram of protein per pound (although I gained size eating less than that).
0.5 gram of fat per pound.
0.5 – 2 grams of carbs per pound.

Of course, there’s so many people out there who get shredded and look great on a completely different set of numbers.

Some people go completely zero carb, some have high carb, some have low or high fat, etc.

If something isn’t working for a week or two, change the numbers, especially in the fat or carb section (going low protein isn’t really helpful), but be sure to do one at a time. Don’t just drop both fats and carbs from your diet.

The BIGGEST Tip

It’s not sexy or fun like a cool app, but I highly, highly highly recommend keeping a food journal.

Just go to the store and get one of those cheap, big notebooks like you used in school.

It’s annoying at first, but after a few days you’ll be able to see your health from a larger picture.

Instead of just writing what you ate and your macros each day, also track things such as:

  • How you feel
  • How much sleep you had
  • How each meal makes you feel (your mood, your digestion, etc)
  • Your focus
  • Your productivity and energy
  • How stressed you feel throughout the day

Of course, you don’t have to track all of those categories, but I do and it’s been the biggest lightbulb.

For example, I thought I functioned better with higher carbs, but I realized through my tracking that I was always much happier and way more productive with a protein and veggie lunch. I’m also not such a raging bitch when I actually make the time to have a huge breakfast, not just a light meal or skipping it all together. It seems obvious when I write it out, but when you’re so focused on other things it’s not always that obvious.

I learned my natural flow of energy and what my body preferred to eat at certain times of the day, what foods were not working, what foods were working, how much sleep I needed each day, and I’m sure there’s still so much to learn as I keep this up.

I just quit my macro counting apps and switched to paper a few months ago, but it’s been the best tool yet.

If you have any macro counting tips or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Also, SUBSCRIBE, because I share tips and give free downloads for making your fitness journey easier.

5 Tips for Eating Healthy on A Budget

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“Healthy food is so expensive!”

We’ve all heard that or been guilty of saying that, haven’t we?

The thing is, it’s not always true.

People look at stores like Whole Foods, a store that recently got in trouble for overcharging customers, and think they can’t afford to eat well.

Sure, Ramen is insanely cheap, but have you seen the price of things like McDonald’s recently? In 2005, a Big Mac was $3.06 and in 2012 it was $4.45. Are they insane?

(Also, I know, I know, economics/inflation, etc., but roll with my point.)

That doesn’t mean eating healthy is always cheap, either. However, there are tricks here and there to eating well and also saving money.

Here are 5 of my favorite tips right now:

  1. Ripe vegetables and fruit.

There are quite a few stores here in my city that offer discounted fruits and veggies (even organic!) when they’re fully ripe and only have a limited amount of shelf days left.

Instead of throwing them away, there are a few stores that discount them to get rid of them. People are so weird when they hear this because they think it means it’s like moldy and full of bugs or something. It’s just ripe. Chill, weirdos.

2. Specialty stores.

I just discovered this secret recently, but I am OBSESSED with small, specialty grocery stores. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money at this Asian market just a few blocks from my house.

Compared to the bigger stores, this small store has rice for a FOURTH of the price. I eat an insane amount of rice, so I am in all kinds of heaven. They also have boxes that contain hundreds of tea bags for just $3. IT IS HEAVEN.

Don’t be scared to try stores that you haven’t been in before.

3. Buying in bulk.

When most people think of bulk, they only think of stores like Costco. While I’m wildly in love with Costco, I also have learned that a lot of stores sell items in HUGE quantities through their online options. Which leads to point #4:

4. Online shopping.

You guys, there is SO MUCH cheap, healthy food online. There are so many stores that want to get customers hooked on their online shopping option that discounts are basically everywhere. Plus, having food delivered is awesome, let’s keep it real.

5. Meals that make a lot of servings.

Going back to my earlier point, I love rice. I have a rice cooker that pretty much makes everything heaven. Cooking a whole batch makes about five meals for the next few days.

Any healthy meal options that are just single serving is a quick way to blow through your food budget if you need to save money.

 

Excuses are for suckers. Don’t let expensive food get in the way of your goals. Hack the system and make it happen.