Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Ingredients
  

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4-6 Medjool dates soaked overnight or in warm water for 20-30 minutes
  • 1-2 tbsp of pure unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tbsp almond butter coconut butter or other seeds based butter (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin) 1 banana, ripe
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Sweet dark cherries

Instructions
 

  • Combine the ingredients in a blender and whirl on high until well blended into a thick creamy pudding.
  • Divide the pudding into 2 servings
  • Top with pitted cherries or fruit of choice
  • ENJOY!

Notes

The combination of chocolate and avocado may be different to you, but the taste is amazing. Avocado’s give this pudding a nutritional boost, adding fiber, potassium and small amounts of protein. This yummy snack or dessert is filling and delicious!

Does Vitamin D Affect Strength?

This week, I want to share an interesting finding involving Vitamin D deficiency in elite Danish swimmers.

Most people with a basic understanding of nutrition know that Vitamin D is very important for bone health and metabolism. However, the discovery of Vitamin D receptors in muscle cells may indicate that it may also play a role in muscle contraction and athletic performance.

Recently, a study conducted on elite Danish swimmers reported an association between Vitamin D status and muscular strength. The main finding was that muscular strength as assessed by hand grip, was significantly higher in swimmers with sufficient Vitamin D status.

Now the most common way to get Vitamin D is through direct exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, the rest having to come through diet and supplementation. Now I find this interesting, because it’s not uncommon for the sun to take a vacation for a while during Canadian winters. In addition, with swimmers training indoors for hours a day, they might find it especially difficult to meet their daily requirements during the winter months.

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Better pre-workout… Coffee or Beetroot juice? – Part 2 (of 2)

Over the past couple weeks, coffee has been smack in the middle of my blog spotlight. Deservedly so, I mean it stands alone as the only non-supplement capable of providing an ergogenic aid…right?

NOT SO FAST! The emergence of beetroot juice (that’s right, beetroot juice) may offer a viable competitor for coffee as the best dietary pre-workout!

Beetroot juice enhances exercise performance!

By now, most of you are probably thinking what the heck is beetroot juice and how can I use it as a pre-workout? Beets, carrots, rhubarb, spinach, bok choy (basically any dark green leafy veggie) contain a nutrient called inorganic nitrate. When we begin exercising, muscle contraction stimulates the production and release of nitric oxide (NO), which serves to dilate our blood vessels, thus allowing for increased blood flow to the working muscles.  However, during times of low oxygen availability or acidic environments (both occur during exercise), the production of NO becomes impaired. Cue in beetroot juice. During times of need (hypoxia, low pH), dietary nitrate is converted into nitrite and then finally into NO.

Ok, lets move on to the important stuff… does it actually improve performance?

The main benefit discovered thus far is reduced oxygen cost during submaximal exercise. This means that for any submaximal effort, your body does not need to consume as much oxygen. Your body becomes more efficient and you can work harder with less. This can improve your overall exercise capacity by allowing you to train longer.

In addition, exercise performance has also been enhanced by drinking beetroot juice prior to training. Participants that consumed 0.5L beetroot juice before completing 4 & 16km cycling time trials experienced an increase in power output compared to placebo controls for the same VO2. Also, their time to completion was significantly faster! Improvements in high intensity intermittent activities resembling sports have also been noted.

Unlike coffee which targets the CNS, the effects of beetroot juice seem to be targeted in the periphery. Enhanced blood flow and oxygen availability have several important functions that help improve exercise performance. The strongest evidence resides in the sparing of intramuscular phosphocreatine (provide energy for immediate, short duration bursts) stores and blunting the increases in ADP and Pi, which are metabolic bi-products of exercise that result in fatigue.

So coffee or beetroot juice? Well it eventually come down to personal preference. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and others can’t handle the taste of beetroot juice.  At the end of the day (or beginning of your workout) The choice that will give you the best advantage is the one you can do consistently.  

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Exercise, is it keeping our brains young?

Have you felt the effects of quarantine on your body yet? Or even on your brain? Well, there is a good reason for that. Our bodies, and brains, have been trained and specialized for activity like stalking and chasing down prey. Now, not only with the quarantine but also the way we have engineered our lives to fit us and make everything easier, our lives are made sedentary and that takes a heavy toll on our bodies: For the first time in U.S. history, younger generations are expected to live shorter, unhealthier lives than their parents.

While exercise is well known to change our bodies, researchers have long suspected the same might be true of the brain. Research into this is a little more difficult though, but why has been harder to figure out?

Few studies have really looked at what’s going on in the brain while we’re moving. Only recently has technology given scientists the ability to see what is really happening in our brains as we move. Aerobic exercises seem to change both the structure of the brain and the way it operates, which together bolster learning in kids, give adults an edge on cognitive tasks, and protect against the cognitive declines that often come with age.

Brain Waves Get a Boost

Your brain becomes much more active during exercise, Helping with attention, memory, and information processing.

Using tools like an electroencephalogram (EEG), which pick up on electrical pulses, researchers have found that aerobic exercise causes a shift in the amplitude and frequency of brain waves. More beta waves, in other words, means that exercisers may be in a more alert state.

You Become More Sensitive to the World Around You

During exercise, the brain becomes much more receptive to incoming information, leading to measurable changes in vision. The visual cortex is designed to zero in on important features in the environment—the kind of features that might indicate, for example, the presence of a predator or prey—and filter out less important background noise. It’s been found that low-intensity cycling boosted this feature-selectivity ability so the brain was able to better identify specific features during exercise.

It taken a professor of psychology and brain sciences at UC Santa Barbara four years to figure out how to consistently and reliably record an EEG while a subject is in motion.

Scientists have also administered cognitive tests right after exercise—for example, measuring the flicker fusion threshold (the rate at which a flashing light begins to look like it’s steadily glowing) and found the same thing: After exercise, one’s senses are heightened and thus can detect the flashing at a higher frequency than before exercise. Taken together, these findings indicate that people see more clearly and immediately after exercise. They can make finer visual distinctions; their perceptions are sharper.

The benefits of exercise to your brain may begin as soon as your heart rate begins to rise. In much the same way that your muscles demand more energy during exercise, the brain begins gobbling up glucose or other carbohydrates when the body is in motion.

It was previously unknown what the brain was doing with all this fuel, it’s been discovered that the brain uses some of that fuel to build more neurotransmitters, the chemicals that relay messages around the nervous system. The brain may be filling up its stores of essential ingredients, perhaps in order to deal with a sustained period of hunting. This process might be why exercise has been shown to alleviate depression and has been found that during activity, glutamate levels rise in the same region of the brain where stocks of the neurotransmitter have previously been found to be low in depressed patients.

Your Brain Becomes Younger

A few things happen in the exerciser’s brain that make the organ appear younger. Studies suggest that exercise sparks the production of growth factors that nourish new neurons and help existing cells survive. Budding neural cells also need more nutrients as they grow, and animal studies suggest that exercise promotes the release of other growth factors that promote blood vessel growth, which could deliver those nutrients. At least one study in humans has found that active individuals tend to have more and healthier blood vessels, or, in the words of the authors, a “younger-appearing brain.”

These structural changes in the brain generally take at least a few weeks to develop but lead to long-lasting improvements in regions of the brain associated with cognitive tasks, like working memory.

Beyond that, research shows that aging exercisers have increased gray-matter volume in regions associated with general intelligence and executive function, which encompasses everything from attention to planning to problem-solving skills. Studies also show that fit adults have healthier white-matter tracts—the superhighways that connect various regions of gray matter—in the basal ganglia, a critical region for balance and coordination.

So, Is Exercise Magic?

You shouldn’t expect to increase your IQ or anything of that nature, we’re talking about small to moderate effects, which are potentially great for improving cognition and brain health.

But we can envision a future in which doctors prescribe exercise instead of drugs. “Exercise is a potential prophylactic against some aspects of age-related cognitive decline,” Giesbrecht says. “When you think of the fact that we have an aging demographic and the high prevalence of depression, there might be simpler treatments out there, like exercise.” 

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Get back to the grind with you vertical jump program! your brain will thank you for it.

Better pre-workout… Coffee or Beetroot juice? – Part 1 (of 2)

Coffee Improves Endurance Performance.

Wake up, rush through your daily morning routine, and hurry out the door to make it to work on time. While waiting in the Timmy’s drive-thru line you can’t help but get an eerie feeling you forgot something. You continue on with full determination, knowing your morning “boost” is just a couple cars away. Does this sound like you?

Coffee is one of the most regularly consumed beverages, because it provides the energy and focus needed to get through our hectic days. Coffee’s main ingredient, caffeine, acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulator making us feel more alert and focused. In addition, coffee contains anti-oxidants, polyphenols, and tannins… all good for the body. For this reason, coffee has become a popular pre- workout choice of many athletes. But does it actually work?

Part 1 of this 2 part series will focus on coffee and its effects on endurance performance. Runners, cyclists, rowers, I have good news. COFFEE CAN IMPROVE PERFORMANCE!

In A 2016 review (1), coffee was reported to improve time to exhaustion trials by an average of 24% and time to completion trials by 3%… in a 2 hour race that’s over 3.5mins faster… can you say, new PR?!

These positive effects are largely due to caffeine blunting the inhibitory effects of adenosine. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that “inhibits” the CNS. What you are left with are feelings of reduced perceived exertion, pain, and improved vigour during training. At the muscular level, caffeine aids in the excitation-contraction process by increasing Calcium flux. So far so good, right? Well it gets better… there does not seem to be a diuretic response or any other fluid level concerns that could hinder your performance… amazing!

However, what about those of us who aren’t triathletes, marathon runners, or Olympic rowers??

The truth is, the majority of the more common everyday  sports like hockey, basketball, football, baseball, etc, rely on more anaerobic energy systems, and are characterized by short, high intensity intermittent bouts of effort. Therefore, these sports may not receive the same ergogenic benefits from coffee.

Coffee Improves speed-endurance and high intensity intermittent exercise.

Unfortunately, the research on coffee as an ergogenic aid for anaerobic and power activities is not as clear cut. What we do know is that caffeine can aid individuals performing intermittent bouts of high intensity exercise lasting 4-6s long (most of our SST athletes fall under this category!!). In addition, sports requiring speed endurance (1-3min bursts) also seem to be aided by caffeine consumption.

What about resistance training? Can coffee improve my 1RM?

Sorry guys, not this time. Maximal strength seems to be unaffected by caffeine intake.

However… recent studies involving lower body repetitions to failure offer introductory evidence that caffeine improves endurance in the weight room. More reps = more growth = bigger, stronger, and more powerful legs.

  1. Coffee consumption enhances endurance performance.
  2. Coffee consumption can enhance some aspects of anaerobic and power performance.

What if I told you there may be another natural dietary food product that may be superior to coffee as a pre-workout?

That’s right, the emergence of beetroot juice as an ergogenic aid is receiving lots of attention in today’s sports science nutrition research!

Next week, we will find out exactly what all the “buzz” is about…

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Fresh Summer Hummus

Fresh Summer Hummus

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas liquid reserved
  • 1/2 cup tahini sesame paste, optional, with some of its oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus oil for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish
  • Juice of 1 lemon plus more as needed
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning (I often find I like to add much more lemon juice). Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more cumin or paprika and some parsley.

Take a coffee nap?

We all know when we are feeling sluggish or tired we like to reach for our favorite Java or take a nap.  What if I told you that research shows if you do both the results are much better than one or the other?

Here is the catch – YOU DRINK the coffee first and then take a 15-20 minute nap right away!

How does this work?

Adenosine is a byproduct of brain activity, and when it accumulates at high enough levels, it plugs into these receptors and makes you feel tired. But with the caffeine blocking the receptors Adenosine is blocked.  How and why…Adenosine and caffeine compete for similar receptor sites.

Whenever you sleep- adenosine is cleared from the brain. Short naps of up to 20 minutes does not put you into deep sleep and allows the caffeine around 20 minutes to get through your gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream anyway.

What to do- drink a coffee as quick as possible – and one with more caffeine and immediately go to sleep- even if it takes you long time- try- the catch make sure to set your alarm for 20 minutes!

Give it a try!

Come in for a FREE demo with our MaxFit class!

To book please email us at sst@sstcanada.com and we’ll get you scheduled for your demo.

Chicken pesto pasta.

CHICKEN PESTO PASTA

This chicken pesto pasta is spaghetti tossed in pesto sauce with seasoned chicken, tomatoes and basil. An easy dinner option for a busy night! Pasta is easy, inexpensive and kid friendly which means we eat it all the time at my house! This pesto chicken pasta is a family favorite that’s ready in 30 minutes or less.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or you can use pre-cooked chicken like rotisserie chicken simply skip the chicken cooking steps below
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 ounces spaghetti or any other pasta shape you like!
  • 3/4 cup basil pesto look for it in the refrigerated section
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil can also use parsley

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  • While the pasta is boiling, cook the chicken. Season the chicken on both sides with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat and add the chicken to the pan.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Cook time may vary depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts.
  • Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the pesto and toss to coat evenly.
  • Cut the chicken into slices and arrange it on top of the pasta.
  • In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil and salt to taste.
  • Sprinkle the tomato mixture and parmesan cheese over the top of the chicken and pasta, then serve immediately.

Notes

NUTRITION
Calories: 526kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 570mg | Potassium: 671mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1090IU | Vitamin C: 5.5mg | Calcium: 191mg | Iron: 2.4mg

Safe Strength & Conditioning Training For Young Athletes!

Parents often have many questions about strength and conditioning for their children, which mainly stem around their concerns about whether it is safe for their child to undergo this type of training. Some common questions are:

  1. Is it safe for my child to resistance / strength train?
  2. My child won’t be lifting heavy weights, will they?
  3. I’ve heard resistance training can stunt my child’s growth, is this true?

Here at SST Burlington we like to educate our parents on the misconceptions surrounding strength training for youth and point them in the direction of resources that address their concerns. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has recently released a position statement on resistance training for youth. This position states 7 Key elements regarding resistance training for youth:

1. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program is relatively safe for youth.

2. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can enhance the muscular strength and power of youth.

3. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth.

4. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance of youth.

5. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can increase a young athlete’s resistance to sports related injuries.

6. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can help improve the psychosocial well-being of youth.

7. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence.

While the key element in all of the benefits that youth can gain in resistance training are accompanied with a properly designed and supervised resistance training program by a trained professional, the NSCA largely dispels a lot of our parents concerns around resistance training for youth and states a lot of the associated benefits that can come from resistance training.

Programming for youth athletes should be done by a qualified professional, who understands pediatric exercise physiology, and the program needs to be tailored to the individual youth athletes needs, based on an assessment of their movement competencies. Focus should also be on movement and proper lifting technique, where proper and age appropriate progressions are followed.  

If you are still wondering after the NSCA’s position statements (along with 7 other worldwide associations who have published position statements advocating for the benefits and safety of resistance training for youth) if it will stunt your child’s growth, the answer is no, as long as the above criteria are met.

A properly designed and appropriate program will help to build bone density and structure, along with building the neuromuscular system. In development, youth is actually a great time to build bone density and structure, and the fears that resistance training would injure growth plates of youth is not supported by any scientific papers or clinical observations. Furthermore, when discussing injuries, resistance training is a lot safer (in terms of injury rates) than the sports are youth participate in and is a great way to help prevent injuries that occur in sport, by learning movement and gaining strength.

Let’s go over some of our common questions and concerns again:

  1. Is it safe for my child to resistance / strength train?

YES! Provided they are following a supervised, age-appropriate program, designed by a professional with experience training youth.

  • My child won’t be lifting heavy weights, will they?

POSSIBLY! If it is age appropriate for the youth, and they have followed proper progressions and have technically sound form… remember bodyweight is a key form of resistance that all our youth athlete learn how to handle before we add any external resistance. Resistance does also not always mean heavy barbells and weights. Resistance can be medicine balls, pulling sleds, appropriately sized machine weights etc.


  • I’ve heard resistance training can stunt my child’s growth, is this true?
    NO! There is no evidence to support this claim, provided again the program is designed by a professional with understanding of pediatric exercise physiology. This is actually a great time to help our youth build strong bones and get other benefits of resistance training including preventing injuries and improving sport performance.

If you still have concerns regarding resistance training for youth I urge you to checkout and educate yourself by reading the NSCA’s position statement on resistance training for youth or likewise come into our SST Burlington location to talk to one of our qualified coaches you can ease your concerns and talk to you more about the benefits of resistance training for youth.

Click Here to request a complimentary demo session and see how we prepare our young athletes for peak sports performance.

References:

  1. Faigenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, S60-S79.