Apr 28, 2009

Nutrition 101: Knowledge is Power!

The MY DIVA DIET mission is to give you as much power as possible to lead a life of superior health and happiness in the body you’ve always wanted. Increasing your knowledge about nutrition can empower you to succeed.

MY DIVA DIET was designed from over twenty-five years of experience (via personal application and training clients) and education in the fitness industry, and it is backed up by sound nutrition. It’s not a quick-fix solution, nor is it a gimmick offering false promises while your health actually declines. In fact, we have used nutrition as a main source in explaining and expanding on certain topics and in our guidelines, special designs, guides, tips, charts, meal options, and recipes.


Nutrition is defined as the relationship between food and the health of the human body. When you achieve proper nutrition, all the essential nutrients are supplied and utilized in a balance that maintains optimal health and well-being. Good nutrition is essential for normal organ development and function, normal reproduction, growth, and maintenance, optimum activity level and working efficiency, resistance to infection and disease, and the ability to repair bodily damage or injury.

Balance is the basic principle of nutrition. The nutrition your body needs for health and exercise cannot be found in a single nutrient, but in a proper combination of all the essentials, including water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other needed properties like fiber. These nutrients provide the foundation for building the body that you want, while allowing you to stay healthy in the process.

Here are some short definitions to help you build your nutritional vocabulary:

are molecules that can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain before healthy molecules are damaged. Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C are powerful antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants.

Carbohydrates are the best source of energy for all bodily functions, especially the brain and central nervous system, and for muscle exertion. They also assist in the digestion and assimilation of foods. Carbohydrates are made up of the chemical elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which provide us with immediate and long-term energy. Carbohydrates also help regulate protein and fat metabolism.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that work to destroy free-radical and damage-causing disease agents. They are found in dark orange, red, yellow, and green fruits and vegetables.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance (lipid) produced by the liver and required for good cellular health. If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it sticks to your arterial walls. This buildup is called plaque, and it can narrow your arterial passages or even block them completely. High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease. Since the body makes its own cholesterol, dietary needs are low. High- cholesterol foods are mainly found in animal products like egg yolks, meat, poultry, seafood, and high-fat dairy products.

Fats–or lipids are the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. There are three classes of lipids: triglycerides, phospholipids, and sterols. There are three “essential” fatty acids that cannot be made from the breakdown of other substances in the body and must be supplied by the diet: linoleic, linolenic, and arachidonic acids. These polyunsaturated fats are necessary for normal growth and for healthy blood, arteries, and nerves. In addition to supplying energy and providing valuable nutrients to the body, fats act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins. Natural oils also nourish the skin and scalp.

Fiber is the indigestible substance that is found in the outer layers of plants (grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts) that aid digestion and clean out the intestines.

Free Radicals are groups of atoms that form when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. When they react with important cellular components like DNA or cell membranes, they can impair cell function or kill cells entirely. The body uses antioxidants to prevent free radical damage.

Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories (energy). Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism, and other body functions. Since “macro” means large, macronutrients are needed in large amounts. Macronutrients in the diet that are the key sources of energy are namely protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Micronutrients are certain vitamins or minerals (iodine, vitamin A, iron, zinc, and folate) that are only needed in minute amounts. They play a role in the production of enzymes, hormones and other substances, helping to regulate growth, activity, development and functioning of the immune and reproductive systems.

Minerals are essential nutrients the human body needs in small amounts to work properly. They are necessary for building strong bones and teeth, controlling fluids inside and outside cells, turning the food we eat into energy. They also help with blood glucose levels, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and much more. Minerals can be found in most plant foods (whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables), seafood, and some animal protein.

Phytochemicals are chemical substances that act like antioxidants and are found in fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals appear to block the processes that lead to cancer, and it’s possible that they reduce tumor formation.

Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants that work like a weak form of estrogen. They may create an environment that helps prevent hormonally-linked types of cancer from forming, including breast and prostate cancer. They may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, provide protection against osteoporosis, and alleviate menopausal symptoms. Foods that are high in phytoestrogens are flax seed, soybeans, and tofu. Other plant foods contain smaller amounts.

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds found in fruits and vegetables that help prevent cancer and heart disease. While polyphenols are found widely in plants (whether in roots, leaves, fruits or vegetables), the best sources are in green and black tea, wine, onions, apples, strawberries, nuts, and yams.

Protein is an essential nutrient. “Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the human body.” It is critical for the maintenance of good health and growth and development of all body components. All tissues, bones, and nerves are made up of protein. It is the main building material for muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails, and internal organs, including the heart and brain.

Vitamins are organic food substances that regulate the functioning of our bodies and cells, and they are found only in plants and animals. The body cannot make its own vitamins; they must be supplied via diet or supplements. There are two main categories of vitamins: water-soluble (B-complex, vitamin C, and bioflavonoids) and fat-soluble (A,D, E, and K).
* Nutrition Resources (two great books):
  • Nutrition Almanac Fourth Edition, by Gayla J. Kirschmann and John D. Kirschmann (1996)
  • The Tufts University Guide to Total Nutrition, by Stanley Gershoff, PH.D. Dean Emeritus of the Tufts University School of Nutrition (1996)
Knowledge is Power–Just make sure you get accurate knowledge!

Speaking of Power - check out my blog about American Gladiators and Nitro's new book. Here is a clip of the game--Power Ball when I competed in 1990!

Apr 22, 2009

Six-Pack Abs–Small Waistline: The Smart Way!

Most of us females (and men) want toned arms, toned legs, a nice firm butt, and a small waist. Some of us even want "six-pack abs". So whether you want six-pack abs or a small waistline, the training is the same. Keep in mind -- "YOU CAN NOT SPOT REDUCE FAT'!

What that means is this: you can do all the abdominal training in the world, but if you don't have low body fat (around 10-18%), you will never see your abdominal muscles or experience a tiny waistline!

So the goal is two-fold: build your abdominal muscles AND lower your overall body-fat percentage. In order to get "six-pack abs" and/or a small waistline you will need to incorporate a proper diet and add both cardiovascular conditioning and weight training into your regime–this will ensure you build muscle and lose the fat!

But it is important to build your abs with a complete program, which is called "Core & Balance Conditioning" (abdominal strengthening and conditioning). This type of training supports the balanced and development of the deep superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominal and muscles of the back. Most health and fitness programs you will find are not based on sound physiological principals and they focus too much on aesthetics instead of function. In actuality you can do both simultaneously–build a great physique and a body that will function its best!

First, STOP doing all those crunches on the floor–in fact stop doing SO many crunches–period! These are two common mistakes made in training and will only lead to muscle imbalances, poor posture, and neck issues. Add an abdominal training that incorporates all of the abdominal muscles (and related muscle groups); external and internal obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, psoas, quadratus lumborum, and cervical flexors.

Here are some core conditioning exercises that will not only add the muscle you want but will ensure great posture, muscle balance and protect your back and neck from injury! This is the kind of training that will also improve athletic performance and if you are not an athlete, will make you look and function like one!

Important Notes:
  • Always consult your doctor prior to starting an exercise program.
  • These exercises are for those of you who are healthy and fit and do not have any injury that would prevent you from doing them or cause harm to an existing injury.
  • When using a Swiss Ball make sure it is of high quality and properly inflated.
  • You may need a fitness professional to learn all of these exercises and which ones are best for your particular situation (limitations).
  • Hire a fitness professional to ensure proper technique, order, sets, repetition and pace.
Lower Abs

Hanging Leg Raises

Lying Leg Raises on floor or bench (bent knee and straight legs)

Reverse Crunch on Bench
Swiss Ball Reverse Crunch

Oblique Exercises

Russian Twist with Swiss Ball (upper body and lower body)

Side Lying Leg Raise on Floor

Wood Chop with medicine ball or cables
Cross Crunch with Pelvic Counter Rotation
Swiss Ball Side Flexion

Upper Abdominal Exercises

Swiss Ball Crunch

Cable Crunch
Double Swiss Ball Crunch
Straight Arm Lat Pull Down
Machine Crunch
There are many ways to do crunches!

Back and Ball Training
Back Extensions on Hyperextension bench

Supine Hip Extension: Feet on Ball

Prone Ball Roll
Supine Lateral Ball Roll
Forward Ball Roll
The Superman (on Swiss Ball)
Seated Posture Trainer

Let's Train! www.MyDivaDiet.com

Apr 20, 2009

Six Components to an Effective Exercise Program

* Notes
The wide-ranging health benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, and obesity
  • Helping keep joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible
  • Helping increase metabolism, energy, and endurance
  • Reducing some of the effects of aging
  • Contributing to mental well-being (including alleviating depression, stress, and anxiety) and ensuring better sleep
  • A properly designed and executed exercise program can improve or protect posture, help keep bones and muscles stronger, and maintain joints, tendons, and ligaments injury-free.
  • Exercise can help improve your skin and enable your internal organs to function better.
  • Exercise helps you lose body fat by:
  • Burning calories when you are exercising and increasing your metabolism for many hours afterward
  • Increasing your lean body mass, which:
    • Equals a higher sustained metabolic rate
    • Leads to a firmer, more sculptured physique
  • Exercise makes you healthier, feel better, look younger and more alive—it’s sexy!
* Exercise Rules
Exercise is FACTOR #5 of MY DIVA DIET'S "Five Factors Affecting Body Fat and Health"
  • There is only one main exercise rule when your goal is to lose fat and gain health: exercise is mandatory. So find something active you enjoy doing and make it part of your life right now.
  • Exercise is crucial for fat loss and good health. It is also essential for maintaining low body fat and a fit physique. However, the frequency, duration, and intensity of your exercise will vary depending on your goals and other circumstances.
  • Don’t be extreme with your exercise program.
* A Quick Guide to Exercise
  • The best thing to do when you’ve been cleared by your doctor and are ready to begin an exercise program is to hire a Certified Fitness Professional. That way you will not waste time, money, or risk injury.
  • An exercise program should consist of the six components shown in the following chart. Each workout should fit your age, current fitness level, and any medical or physical limitations you may have. Your goals, lifestyle, exercise interests, and commitment level should also be taken into consideration when your exercise program is designed.

Six Components to an Effective Exercise Program
Purpose–Types of Activity–Frequency–Duration–Intensity

#1 Cardiovascular conditioning
  • Purpose: Supports your heart and lungs, has many other health benefits; has a major impact on fat loss
  • Types of activity:
  1. Biking, running, fast walking, stair climbing, rowing, etc. (outside or indoor)
  2. Consider: A spin class or a group aerobics class
  • Frequency: 3 to 5 times per week
  • Duration: Approximately 30 to 45 minutes
  • Intensity: 75 to 85% of your maximum heart rate

#2 Strength and endurance training
  • Purpose: Helps build muscle, strength and endurance, and bone density; has many other health benefits; increases lean body mass, which supports fat loss and makes you look firmer.
  • Types of activity:
  1. Weight training with free weights and some machines
  2. Circuit training
  3. Consider: Pilates, which covers some strength, core, and flexibility training
  • Frequency: 3 to 5 times per week
  • Duration: Approximately 30 to 45 minutes
  • Intensity: Depends on the number of sets and repetitions, weight load, and the rest period between sets

#3 Flexibility training
  • Purpose: Enhances your joints’ ability to move through a full range of motion. Keeping your muscles flexible will help improve physical performance and posture and reduce the risk of injury, low back pain, and muscle soreness; increase the flow of blood and nutrients to tissues; and help improve muscle coordination. It not only will make you feel better but function better.
  • Types of activity:
  1. Stretching exercises (either alone or within a class setting)
  2. Consider: A yoga class
  • Frequency: 3 to 5 times per week (perhaps after an exercise program)
  • Duration: Approximately 10 to 20 minutes (or more, if you have the time)
  • Intensity: To the point of tightness, not pain

#4 Core and balance training
  • Purpose: Supports the balanced development of the deep superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominals and muscles of the back.
  • Types of activity:
  1. Core conditioning can be done with weights, exercise bands, medicine balls, or a Swiss ball (a large rubber ball used for exercise and physical therapy)
  • Frequency, duration, and intensity: Core training can be incorporated into your exercise program (either with your weight training or in a class setting)

#5 Corrective exercises
  • Purpose: Help improve posture and target ideal posture, defined as “that state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity.” It is during ideal posture that the muscles function most efficiently.
  • Types of activity:
  1. Exercises that help offset any muscle imbalances you may have developed through work injuries, sports, a poorly designed exercise program, or simple neglect. Corrective exercises help put your body back into its proper postural alignment so you not only function better but look and feel better. You can use weight training and flexibility techniques as well as a Swiss ball, foam rollers, and other modalities.
  • Frequency, duration, and intensity: You can incorporate corrective exercises within your regular exercise routine, as long as they are tailored to your particular postural issues.
#6 Functional training
  • Purpose: Improves functional movements that the body is engineered to do in everyday life—walking, running, climbing, lifting, bending, etc.— through a complex series of motions by several of the body’s systems, including the nervous system, the muscular system, and the skeletal system.
  • These movements are important because they give us the ability to perform a variety of tasks—at work, at home, for recreation—now and in the future.
  • Types of activity:
  1. Functional training should be a part of your exercise program so that your body can do all the things it was meant to do—even at age 80!
  • Frequency, duration, and intensity: You can fit your functional training into your weight training sessions.

ACE Certified Fitness Trainer,