Food Friday: White Bean Bundt Cake

Oh, the looks I got when I told my friends I was making a white bean bundt cake. In concept, beans and cake apparently don’t mix. In reality, they definitely do! I found the recipe at Joy the Baker’s website (my secret favorite things are filled with butter… shhh…). I totally appreciate her sense of fun with cooking, and her tendency to sneak beans into things.

I’ll take a moment here to address the fact that this cake recipe is going up on a blog dedicated to exercise, nutrition, and health. Despite all the magazine covers saying otherwise, there’s no quick and easy way to a six pack, but that doesn’t mean living a healthy lifestyle has to be a lifestyle of deprivation and work. Time and again, we find that when it comes to a sustainable healthy lifestyle, finding ways to enjoy healthy life choices – food, drink, activity, and all that – is the key to making it a lifestyle, instead of that thing that you tried once. Everyone is different, but to me, that means cake sometimes.

Now, about this cake. It is, in fact, cake. No beans in sight, since they puree up and blend right in, providing an extra hit of protein and moisture to the cake while cutting down on the butter that you might otherwise use. The batter was delicious (I licked the bowl). The cake is delicious. Just be careful not to overmix it (fold the dry ingredients and buttermilk in gently, and don’t worry if it doesn’t get thoroughly mixed in). This is the mistake I always make, so our version came out a little chewy – not the fault of the beans!

Check out Joy the Baker’s recipe for White Bean Bundt Cake – just in time for holiday parties!

White Bean Bundt Cake

Anatomy Basics: Your Quadriceps

QuadricepsThe first-and-foremost quadriceps fact: It’s not “a” muscle. Rather, it’s a muscle group – four muscles, to be exact, working in concert to perform certain movements. Hence the “quad” in the name. Clever, right?

Your quadriceps (or quads) are one of the three large muscle groups in your thighs (the other two? Hamstring and adductor groups – keep checking back, we’ll get to these eventually). They play main and supporting roles in walking, running, jumping and landing, cycling, kicking, swimming…. ok, in many, many movements. You want them to be strong, so you can walk around and do stuff, and long and not too tight, since they can be a major player in knee pain. No one likes that.

Location: The front of the thigh. The four muscles all start at different points on the pelvis and femur (the long bone in the thigh), but join into one tendon that extends over the front of the knee and kneecap, and attaches to the tibia (the long bone in the lower leg).

What it does: All four muscles work to extend the knee, and one of them helps flex the hip.

What that means for you: Well functioning quads mean you can get around on your own two feet, and do fun stuff like go hiking, or play sports, or walk the dog – whatever floats your boat!

A good exercise for your lats: Squat and lunge variations like the split squat are great for building quad strength. Make sure you do them well though!

 

Want To Survive The Holidays With Your Waistline Intact?

No big surprise here: The holiday season can be a dangerous time for our fitness goals – especially if one of those goals is weight loss. Though the average weight gain over the holidays is lower than one might expect – about an extra pound per year, but over time, this “one pound” adds up – and it’s hard to lose weight while your gaining it. Holiday activities can also make it challenging to maintain our normal exercise and eating habits. We work hard for the rest of the year to looking good, feeling better, and enjoying life – should we let the holidays set us back?

Not at all. Part of enjoying life is enjoying the holidays, and to try to minimize our involvement is both unrealistic and not a whole lot of fun!! That doesn’t mean you should give yourself a free pass to indulgence, though. You may get more enjoyment out of that buffet if you don’t make three trips down the line, and going easy with your serving sizes at dinner means you’ll actually have room for a little bit of dessert – without forcing it in! There are plenty of other strategies that can help minimize the impact of the holiday season without minimizing the fun.

Fix Fitness & Bodywork, a personal training provider based in Alexandria, Virginia, offers us a Holiday Strategy and Success Guide, full of tips to enjoy the spirit of the holiday season without enlarging your waistline. We hope you find it helpful!

Exercise of the Week: Single Leg Hip Lift

This is one of my favorite warm up and glute activation exercises. It can serve as both a test of the ability of the glute muscles to fire, and a good exercise to help them get stronger. The positioning of the legs mimics a more functional position (read: more realistic), in that we have one leg going “forward” and one going “backward”, just like when we walk or run. Hugging the knee towards the chest also helps keep the work in the glutes, not in the back. Trying to get higher off the ground is a common mistake with glute bridge/hip lift variations, but bringing the knee towards the chest makes that much more difficult to do. Last but not least, doing this exercise slowly and making sure you lift and lower the hips evenly, rather than rolling to one side or the other, will help keep the core engaged as well. Bang for buck deluxe!

Exercise type: Glute activation

What it does: Improves glute activation ability and strength

How to:

Single Leg Hip Lift

  • Lay on back with one heel towards butt and other knee bent towards chest
  • Use top knee to hold tennis ball onto chest just above hip bone (keep thinking about pulling top knee towards chest as you move)
  • Use hands on top knee if needed, to help maintain position
  • Squeeze glutes and push through heel of bottom leg to slowly lift hips off the ground
  • Hold hips up for 3-5 seconds, then slowly control back to ground
  • Aim to minimize hip wobble or movement as you lift and lower
  • You should feel this: in your butt, not your lower back

You should feel: Through the glute on the bottom leg. If you are feeling it in your lower back or hamstring (back of the thigh), check out Troubleshooting the Glute Bridge – many of those tips apply here too!

 

Disclaimer: This does not constitute medical advice, and not all exercises may be suitable for all people. Please consult your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are right for you. If these exercises increase pain or any other symptoms, please stop immediately and consult your health care professional. For best results, get your doctor, physical therapist, and personal trainer/exercise coach talking for a united approach – as well as your chiropractor and massage therapist if you see these. To find out who I refer to in the Alexandria area or the rest of Northern Virginia, please get in touch.

Food Friday: Banana Chocolate Chip Protein Pancakes

Banana Chocoloate Chip Protein PancakesIt’s getting cold around here. While that calls for scarves (my favorite) and winter jackets (not my favorite), the cold weather can also call for nice, warm breakfasts. Usually that means eggs, eggs, and more eggs, but you can only eat so many eggs before needing a change of pace. The problem with many breakfast options is that they are carb-heavy without many other nutritionally redeeming qualities – your traditional pancakes and syrup is just simple carbs and simple carbs. Hello, insulin spike!

What’s a better option? Protein pancakes! And not just your usual protein-powder-plus-water-and-cook pancakes, but honest to god pancakes, cleverly loaded with protein sources that come from your refrigerator and not a bucket. Georgie Fear, my go-to for healthy and delicious recipes, has a couple of great options, including this one for Banana Chocolate Chip Protein Pancakes. They are so good that even my non-healthy-option husband will devour them, and I often double the batch and keep some in the fridge for a post-workout snack. For a non-syrup topping option, I love to eat these with a spoonful of plain or vanilla yogurt on top (the good kind of yogurt with only ingredients that you can pronounce). These are definitely on the menu for this weekend!

Finding Social Support

Very rarely do people accomplish meaningful lifestyle or habit changes without some sort of help or support. Changing any habit can be difficult, and the bigger the change, the more challenging people often find it. It shouldn’t come as any surprise then, that lifestyle changes like establishing a new exercise routine or sticking with a new eating plan can be some of the most challenging of the bunch.

The science behind behavior change – and there is a thriving one – tells us that the people who are the most successful in creating new habits are the people with a good network of social support. So what, then, does social support actually mean? And more importantly, how do you get it?

Social support is actually exactly what it sounds like: having the support of one (or hopefully more) of your family, friends, co-workers, and the like, in making your desired change to a new behavior. These are the people that are in your corner, providing encouragement, keeping you accountable, and reminding you why you want to make that change in the first place. This support can take so many forms – from text messaging to cooking dinner – but the crux is that the behavior of the support network should promote the new behavior you want.

Unfortunately, many people don’t have a whole network of support that they can count on. In fact, many people who are seeking to make a positive lifestyle change – be it diet or exercise, or even things like not drinking as much or kicking a smoking habit – may feel that they don’t have even a single person on whom they can depend to help motivate, inspire, and keep them moving. Considering that people tend to subconsciously think and act like the handful of people they spend the most time with, what happens then? Are they doomed to struggle with the process of change, succeeding after a long time and a lot of work – if at all? Well, actually, no.

Though our face-to-face social network has a tremendous impact on our activities and behaviors, that doesn’t automatically mean that if they won’t change, we can’t either. It’s always worth asking if people want to make the change with you – you may find that your group of friends and family would themselves like to be more fit and healthy. Even if they don’t, you can still ask them to help you work on making your desired changes. You can ask them if they mind if you “report to them” with your progress and daily efforts, and ask if they will help support you by not suggesting or doing things that will make your new habits more difficult to stick to. If you’re trying to eat less ice cream, asking your spouse to stop offering it to you after dinner might be a big help.

Since your “in-person” social network is an important aspect of social support, it might make more sense to seek out other people with the same goals and habits, if your current network isn’t giving you the support you need. There is a reason that businesses like Weight Watchers work so well – becoming involved with a group with similar interests can help keep you on track, and becoming a part of  a support system for others working on the same changes can be energizing and motivating in itself. While Weight Watchers might not be the best option, it’s certainly not the only choice. Meetup.com is full of groups meeting to support each other (and have fun with!) their diet and exercise – among many other things –  and joining a gym can work as well, if you find one that you like and whose members you feel comfortable with. There are easily a half dozen social exercise and fitness Meetup groups in Alexandria, VA alone – not counting the groups started by specific gyms in the area. And don’t forget – you can also have a club of two. Your own personal trainer or coach can fulfill this role almost as well as everybody else altogether – they should be providing that support as much as they provide exercise guidance or a stretch at the end of a session.

If you are struggling to find support from an in-person network, you can go also virtual. While I normally don’t suggest that people spend more time at the computer, the Internet can actually be very useful in finding and providing social support. There are numerous forums available that focus on diet and exercise topics – everything from their impact on general health to specific areas like bodybuilding or a gluten free diet. Regardless of what change you are pursuing, there’s a good chance that there is a very large group of people who are all interested in the same behavior and achieving the same results, all right at your fingertips.

What’s the take-home message? Support is out there! You may need to search for it sometimes, but there are always people who will be in your corner. Once you find them, positive change is inevitable.