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Categories: Muscle PRO
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Cleaning up your diet has never been more popular. Whether it's in the gym, at the grocery store, or dining out, "eating clean" is the talk of trainers, nutritionists, chefs, friends, and family. But what does all this chatter really mean?
For most people, eating clean isn't a diet you follow for a few weeks to drop a few pounds. It's a lifestyle—one that involves choosing foods that are minimally processed and contain little or no artificial sweeteners, food coloring, or other additives. Think corn on the cob, not cornflakes; grass-fed beef burgers, not Big Macs. It's how your great-grandparents might have eaten in the days before fast food, GMOs, and Red No. 2.
Advocates extol the numerous benefits of cleaning up your act, from increased energy to shinier hair. Some women say long-standing skin issues suddenly clear up and they sleep better, get sick less often, and feel more productive. And of course there’s the fat loss that comes from sweeping empty calories out of your diet. Research has also shown that this eating style can help with everything from improving blood sugar profiles to reducing cholesterol levels.
It's not hard to eat clean—in fact, with so many people embracing this nutrition philosophy, there are more options than ever to put your diet on the right track. Get started by following these six simple rules. Then check out our two-week clean-eating menu guide (The 14-Day Eat Clean Plan) for some easy and tasty meal ideas to keep you satisfied all day long. You'll never want to go back to your old way of eating.
Forget the old three squares and mindless snacking—in most clean diets you’ll eat five or six healthy, well-planned meals each day. This keeps your metabolism consistently fueled throughout the day by preventing your blood sugar from dipping, so you avoid that 3 p.m. energy lag, when you’re most likely to turn to caffeine and sugary snacks for a boost. With a clean-eating diet, each meal or snack contains a balance of quality protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat to keep you satisfied. A nutritious breakfast of an egg-white omelet and whole-grain toast might be followed with a late-morning snack of a Greek yogurt and some fruit and nuts.
Plan to drink a minimum of about 2 liters or eight 8-oz glasses of fluid each day. Water is key to helping your system function at its best, from glowing skin to healthy digestion. Think of it this way: You can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water.
To help you get in all this liquid, aim to consume about one liter before lunch and another before dinner. Keep a water bottle at your desk, on your kitchen counter, or in your car. Try giving your water a little flavor by adding fresh lemon, cucumber, or orange slices. You'll benefit in so many ways from drinking water throughout the day.
It's easy to talk about eating clean with a full fridge, but if you’re away from home and starving, there's nothing simpler than hitting the vending machine or grabbing something at the convenience store. Plan out what you are going to eat at every meal, and prep your foods ahead of time. Pick a day of the week when you have time to prepare most, if not all, of your meals for the upcoming week. Cook your proteins, steam your vegetables, make a large salad without dressing, etc. Each night, pack your meals for the next day. If you work or spend time outside the home, stow your food in an insulated bag with an ice pack so you can eat healthy any time.
Most clean foods are in their natural state, with few or no additives. When at the store, make a habit of reading ingredient labels. Beware of diet bombs like high-fructose corn syrup, which can show up in unexpected places like crackers, cereals, and yogurt. While trans fats are gradually being phased out of the food supply, ingredients that list hydrogenated oils can still contain these unhealthy fats. Also on the no-go list: artificial sweeteners, colors, dyes, and other additives. If you can’t pronounce it, there’s a good chance it’s something you should avoid. Although research is divided about the benefits and risks of foods made with genetically modified organisms, which have been altered in a laboratory to be given added nutritional value or made resistant to insects or weeds, most clean diets avoid using GMO ingredients.
Although some clean-eating advocates insist on buying primarily organic fare, that's not in everyone's budget. But when possible, reach for organic versions of fruits and vegetables like apples, berries, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which otherwise typically have the highest levels of pesticides. Free-range chicken and eggs and organic milk are also worth extra cash, since they don't contain added hormones or antibiotics.
Just because you've decided to make a change in your eating habits doesn’t mean your friends and family will follow suit. So don’t turn into that person who makes everyone else feel bad when you're going out to eat. Almost every dining establishment will have healthy options, and if not you can ask for some simple changes to keep you on track.
Choose salads topped with grilled chicken or lean protein. Ask for dressings or sauces on the side, and use your fork to dip into the dressing before you take a bite so you still get the flavor without the calories and fat. Or choose a lean protein, grilled, with steamed vegetables and a complex carbohydrate like sweet or regular baked potato, brown rice, quinoa, or whole-grain pasta.
One of the benefits of eating clean on a regular basis is being able to indulge in a food that's not so "clean" once in a while. If the vast majority of your diet adheres to the rules above, give yourself permission to have your favorite cheat meal without guilt. In all likelihood, you'll feel satisfied but ready to return to your clean-eating regimen.
They may sound perfect for your eating plan, but these healthy-sounding options are really junk food in disguise.
Some of the smoothies that you'll find in the refrigerated aisle or at fast-food restaurants may say they're "all natural" and contain real fruit, but they’re often loaded with extra sugar (some with more than 100g of the sweet stuff!).
Make your own smoothie with fresh fruit, plain fat-free yogurt or a vanilla protein powder, and ice.
They seem like a healthy way to start your day, but bars are often created with processed ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin (a filler), sugar, partially hydrogenated oils, and more.
Look for bars where whey protein, nuts, seeds, and oats are the primary ingredients.
Packed with sugar, artificial colors, dyes, and other additives, these so-called performance drinks may be marketed to help you power through your workouts but can ultimately hamper your results.
Add branched-chain amino acid powder to water—it’ll help aid recovery after a workout and stave off hunger in between meals.
Often laden with sugar (up to 24g in a 6-oz serving) and processed ingredients, it's not quite the health-food fare it seems to be.
Choose fat-free plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit to sweeten it while providing added nutrients.
Yes, they're zero-calorie, but according to several studies, the artificial ingredients can compromise your diet efforts by actually leading you to overeat.
Drink water (plain or carbonated) with slices of fresh fruit for natural flavor.
Think running a marathon is tough? Try logging upwards of 150 miles across some of the toughest terrain on the planet. That’s the type of challenge professional ultra-runner Jax Mariash likes to embrace. Last year, she became the first woman (and the fourth runner of all time) to complete the Grand Slam Plus, part of the grueling 4 Deserts Race Series. The races cross some of the hottest, windiest, driest, and coldest deserts in the world, including Africa’s Sahara Desert, China’s Gobi Desert, Chile’s Atacama Desert, and Antarctica; plus a “roving race” in the extremely humid climate of Sri Lanka. Mariash placed first among women in all the desert races and second in the Sri Lankan race.
Each race of the Grand Slam Plus stretches 155 miles and takes a week to run, with distances ranging from six to 50 miles a day, with one rest day. Support is limited: Runners must carry everything they need to survive in the elements, including food (about 2,000 calories per day), sleeping supplies, clothing, and safety equipment like blister kits, bandages, sunscreen, a utility knife, and head lamps. Race organizers will provide medical aid only in extreme cases, as well as a tent (shared with up to nine other runners each night), plus hot and cold water.
In addition to the five Grand Slam Plus races, Mariash also took part in eight other smaller races last year, including the Jackson Hole Half Marathon, Huntsville Marathon, and Antelope Island 50K. Each ultra-race brings its own set of challenges. “On Day 1, Stage 1, Race 1 of the entire year in Sri Lanka I puked four times, twisted my knee between two logs, went off-course for 3 kilometers, and wasn’t sure I could get to the first checkpoint,” she says. “Two days later, I sprained my ankle and ran the rest of the race hobbling.” In the Gobi Desert, temperatures climbed to 130°F on a day when the racers had to complete 50 miles. “My shoes melted, and I had an extreme case of blisters,” recalls Mariash. By the time she got home from the race, the skin along the bottom of both feet had peeled away.
The ultra-runner community is a tight-knit one, with only about 100 to 200 racers taking part in the most extreme events, about 35% of them women. The dropout rate typically ranges from 7–19%. Mariash considers most of her fellow competitors family. “We’ve gone through rock bottom together and have picked one another up.”
Mariash’s training is relentless. “When you are running in some of the harshest terrain in the world with 15 to 20 pounds of equipment on your back, you have to pay attention to your strength along with your endurance. You can’t just do the minimum and expect to succeed.” From her home base in Park City, UT, Mariash works out six to seven days a week, no matter the conditions. Once or twice a week she runs with a pack that weighs up to 20 pounds, to help develop her muscular endurance. She’ll add in one or two interval workouts a week to build speed. Most weeks find her logging anywhere from 45 to 100 miles. She’ll also add in four to five days of strength training, including a full-core series.
With so much stress on her body, Mariash says her recovery days are just as important as her training. “Without both, performance suffers,” she notes. Her recovery routine includes weekly 90-minute massages, daily naps, and at least 20 minutes on the BEMER mat, a physical therapy device that helps increase blood flow through capillaries.
Mariash sticks to healthy whole foods, “the simpler, the better,” she says. Staples include bison, avocado, feta cheese, Greek yogurt, and dark chocolate. She stays away from bread and pasta, but a daily beer provides some well-deserved carbs.
To power her through her grueling workouts and races, Mariash relies on a mix of supplements and whole foods, including Beet Performer beet juice, Honey Stinger waffles, and energy gels and chews. She’ll also have coconut shavings and nuts on hand for sustained energy.
“Because you have to carry all of your food in a backpack, you need to stick to the bare minimum,” says Mariash, who estimates she loses at least 10 to 12 pounds each race. Hydration is critical. Mariash drinks a gallon of water a day, increasing to 2.5 gallons when racing, spiked with a rehydration powder called Drip Drop.
But all the training, fluids, and fuel in the world aren’t enough to get you to the finish line if you aren’t mentally prepared. “You have to develop a serious level of mental grit,” says Mariash. “You cannot even think of giving up, or all hope is lost. There are some really low and dark moments out there—you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.”
MONDAY: Off or 3-mile run + strength training
TUESDAY: a.m. speed run (12 miles), p.m. easy run (3 miles slow) + strength training
WEDNESDAY: medium-long run (11 to 14 miles) + strength training
THURSDAY: a.m. speed run (12 miles), p.m. easy run (3 miles) + strength training
FRIDAY: easy run (3 miles)
SATURDAY: very long run in the a.m. (26.2 to 31 miles)
SUNDAY: long run (20 miles with a 20-pound pack)
If you’re serious about your training, there’s a good chance that the bulk of your diet revolves around a few key staples. Sure, you might mix it up here and there, but for the most part, you stick to the chicken and the egg.
And while protein-rich choices like chicken, eggs, fish, and whey do deliver, they aren’t the only foods that can help sculpt a phenomenal physique. Our bodies thrive on variety. “Eating a wide variety of food helps alleviate that feeling of boredom you get from serving up the same dishes day after day,” notes Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., C.S.S.D., and author of The Superfood Swap. Even more important, changing it up also ensures you’re getting all the key nutrients your body needs to function at its best.
That doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey on your grilled chicken breast and broccoli. “It’s not about daily variety; it’s about a weekly one,” says Blatner. Start by dividing your weekly grocery list into sections: fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy, and fats. Then pick one new food per week or one new food per category per week. Here are suggested swaps for each category that will help expand your menu without sacrificing your need to eat clean.
Click through for some healthy swaps that will amp up your routine.
Chicken is a menu mainstay for most of us, but pound for pound, chickpeas beat chicken breast on almost every nutritional count. One cup of chickpeas provides 15 grams of easy-to-digest protein, a hefty dose of iron, fiber, negligible fat, and plenty of B vitamins.
Serve it up: Roast in the oven with salt and spices; or mash and mix with egg whites and seasoning for chickpea burgers.
Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t wheat— it’s a seed (and naturally gluten-free). Buckwheat comes in many useful forms, from flour to noodles. One cup has 23 grams of protein and almost 100% of your daily needs for magnesium.
Serve it up: Make pancakes with store-bought buckwheat flour; sub regular noodles for soba noodles; or sub buck- wheat groats for a.m. oats.
Naturally gluten-free, these nutritional powerhouses often get overlooked. Amaranth and teff are packed with calcium, B vitamins, fatty acids, and protein. They each contain 26 grams of protein in one uncooked cup, compared with 24 grams for quinoa.
Serve it up: With slightly heartier textures, both can be ground to make flour, or even toasted or popped to make crunchy toppings.
Lower in calories, carbs, and sugar than sweet potatoes or yams but almost as rich in vitamins A and C, pumpkin is a great “orange” swap. Whenever possible, purchase a whole sugar pumpkin to roast or bake. Just pierce the outside skin with a knife or fork, pop the entire pumpkin into the oven, and once done, cut in half, scoop out seeds, and dig in. You can also scrape the flesh into a food processor to make your own creamy pumpkin puree. Short on time? Purchase BPA-free cans or boxes of pure pumpkin.
Serve it up: Toss pure pumpkin into pancake batter, your morning oats, or a smoothie.
Microgreens are the tiny greens grown from vegetable seeds. They contain roughly five times the nutrients that their bigger counterparts have and are picked just after the first leaves have developed. The most common options include red cabbage, beets, cilantro, radishes, alfalfa, peas, broccoli, chard, and kale. Search your store for in-season varieties.
Serve it up: Microgreens are best eaten raw. Replace a third of regular salad greens with microgreens; or toss in a smoothie for extra punch. Remember that a little goes a long way.
Duck eggs may not be available at your local supermarket, but most high-end chains (including Whole Foods) and local farm stands will carry them—and for good reason. Because they are larger and have a thicker shell, duck eggs can stay fresh up to six weeks. They are alkaline-forming, contain omega-3s, three grams more protein per egg, six times the vitamin D, and twice the vitamin A as chicken eggs. Plus, those with chicken egg allergies often do not have a duck egg allergy.
Serve it up: Duck eggs have a richer flavor and provide a creamier texture in baked recipes. Whip up a tasty omelet or blend a few duck eggs with some greens and bake in muffin tins for delicious, heart-healthy egg muffins.
Sea vegetables, such as nori, kombu, arame, wakame, kelp, and dulse, are some of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet. They contain all 56 minerals and trace elements for proper physiological function. Some varieties contain 10 times the calcium of cow’s milk and more iron than red meat. They are also a natural electrolyte due to their bioavailable sodium-potassium balance.
Serve it up: Most sea veggies are sold in flake form and can be tossed into soups, on salads, or added to salad dressings or sauces; or buy nori sheets and roll up some delicious at-home sushi.
Skipping whey protein powder in favor of one made from ingredients like brown rice, peas, and hemp means you still get high levels of amino acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, plant-based proteins are often easier to digest.
Serve it up: Buy blends with two or more proteins to cover your bases. Or go for hemp protein, which has loads of aminos and vitamins and a nutty flavor.
While people love to eat yogurt, yogurt often doesn’t love people. Dairy can be hard to digest, and since 70% of our immune system is found in the gut, we need to take good care of it. While kefir, a fermented yogurt, is a step in the right direction for beneficial gut health, sometimes the probiotic claims made by manufacturers are lessened by refrigeration, the manufacturing processes, and fluctuating temperatures. Eating dairy-free fermented foods can be a smarter option. If you can’t part with your yogurt, look for coconut kefir (often available in health-food stores), or try a satisfying kombucha, kimchi, miso, or sauerkraut, all of which supply your gut with beneficial bacteria without the aggravation of dairy.
Serve it up: Use kimchi or sauerkraut as a topper for stir-fries, omelets, or salads. Aim to have one fermented food with each meal, in addition to a well-made probiotic at the start of the day.
The nutritional superfoods of the plant-based world, seeds such as chia, sesame, flax, sunflower, hemp, and pumpkin, pack a healthy punch and can be eaten raw or tossed into virtually any meal for an added boost of macro- and micronutrients. Smaller seeds, such as chia, hemp, sesame, and flax, do not need to be soaked before munching. However, larger seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower, benefit from soaking overnight for optimal digestion.
Serve it up: Blend a tablespoon of chia or flax into protein puddings, dips, nut butters, or smoothies.
While we all love peanut butter, almond butter, or anything that ends with “butter,” the types of nut butters you find in grocery stores can be full of added oils and sugar. Brazil nuts can help lower cholesterol, are high in magnesium and calcium, and exceed your daily needs for selenium in just one handful.
Serve it up: Making a smooth and creamy Brazil nut butter is a cinch. Purchase 1 to 2 cups Brazil nuts and dump into a food processor with 1⁄2 tsp salt. Process until nuts turn into a powder. Continue to scrape down sides until nuts turn smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use in place of other nut butters.
Butter (even the omega-rich grass-fed variety) has its limitations, but coconut oil continues to gain in popularity as a healthy fat with a variety of uses. Research shows coconut oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antioxidant properties, which makes it a true power food. Bonus: Our bodies like to use coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides for energy instead of storing it as fat.
Serve it up: Eat a tablespoon of coconut oil to stave off colds. Swap coconut oil for butter in cookie recipes, or use on sprouted toast or in place of olive oil. Want to go beyond the kitchen? Trade your conditioner for coconut oil. You can even use it as a full-body moisturizer or to treat skin conditions like eczema.
Courtesy of the WB Games
Twenty-five years ago, Ed Boon forever changed the video game industry with the release of Mortal Kombat, a game whose controversial violence sent politicians and parents into a tizzy. Today, as the head of NetherRealm Studios, he’s changing the industry again with a cinematic narrative structure never before seen in fighting games. In advance of the release of the hotly-anticipated Injustice 2 on May 16, Boon sat down with M&F to talk about what players can expect in the new game, and to look back at his legacy and the crazy days surrounding the first Mortal Kombat. As humble as he is creative, Boon says neither he nor anyone on his team expected Mortal Kombat to have the kind of staying power that it did.
M&F: The first Injustice game played so well, but as a developer you have to deliver something that is both more of what people love, but also different. As you approached Injustice 2, besides the story, where did you find room for improvement with gameplay? Was there anything about the first one where, once it shipped, it didn't sit well with you and you wanted to change it?
Ed Boon: There wasn't anything that I thought was inherently broken or anything, but with every game we always feel like there is something we can do better. We gave the players a little bigger palate of options, of standard modes they can do. For the people who are really into fighting games, there's different ways of escaping when you're in the middle of a combo, and you can start rolling when you dash, and whatnot. The players walk faster; there are a lot of knobs that we've turned based on what we've learned.
But the biggest feature in Injustice 2 is what we're calling our gear system. Imagine thousands and thousands of costume pieces in the game that you can unlock, acquire, and equip to your character.
Batman might get a special cowl, or a special chest symbol. And those pieces actually enhance your fighting ability. They might give you a little more strength, a little more defense. It might unlock a mode. The constant collection of new gear, and leveling up, upgrading your character, is like making your own custom version of Superman, Batman, Flash, that is really the most significant new game feature that we've added.
M&F: That kind of customization is always a big draw for gamers, but in terms of keeping things balanced for online play, is anything that enhances a character’s strength or speed—things that actually affect game play—is all of that unlocked through play, or is any of it available as DLC?
Ed Boon: No. It is absolutely something that you earn by playing the game. By playing through our story mode. By playing through our new multi-verse mode. By playing online against other opponents, you're constantly getting drops of characters. Keep in mind that we're launching with like 29 characters. So there's hundreds of pieces of gear for each one of those 29 characters. So there's thousands, and thousands, and thousands of pieces of gear in the game to earn. You can't basically buy your way through it. You basically have to level up and get more and more experience, and continue to modify your character.
Courtesy of the WB Games
M&F: Looking back at the first Mortal Kombat, it was vilified in the press. Does it ever strike you how improbable it is that the franchise not only survived but is still so popular a quarter-century later?
Ed Boon: I certainly don't think that any of us expected it to be. When we made the first game we were weren’t thinking “In 25 years we're still gonna be big.” Everything was a surprise to us, and it just kind of snowballed from there. We continued to make games, and with every game we really wanted to introduce something new that nobody was expecting us to do. I think that's what keeps the game fresh. The last Mortal Kombat we did, Mortal Kombat X, was nothing like Mortal Kombat 1, or Mortal Kombat 2, and that's why I think people keep coming back. They know that we're going to do something new with every game.
M&F: You will be remembered as a pioneer for getting games the same kind of respect and freedom as movies enjoy, with that original fight to keep Mortal Kombat in the hands of the players. Back then, when politicians were grandstanding on your creation to score political points, did you think that it was fight you could win?
Ed Boon: Well, we didn't think it was a fight that we wanted to have, to be honest. The objection at the time was that there was no such thing as a rating system. All medium—movies, TV shows, music, and games—they need some kind of indicator of the content that's in there. I think that because games did not have one at the time, and Mortal Kombat was really pushing that envelope, that was the objection. So we were all on board with the idea of making a rating system, and letting people know what they're buying.
M&F: After Mortal Kombat 3, the series had a couple of entries that, you wouldn't say they were bad, but they're not remembered as fondly by fans. To be fair, most of the games in the polygon era didn't necessarily age too well. Do you look back on anything in between MK 3 and the modern era, and do you consider anything in that time frame a misstep?
Ed Boon: Well, in full disclosure, a couple of those games I was not involved with, so I certainly don't want to speak ill of something that somebody else worked on, even if it had the name Mortal Kombat. I agree that after MK 3 and before Deadly Alliance, as far as impact on the industry and sales [the series fell behind]. I don't think that Special Forces did as well as some of the other games that we did. But Deadly Alliance was a great return to forum that we followed up Special Forces with.
M&F: Is there a valuable lesson you learned from watching how Special Forces did, where you realized, "OK maybe this is a place where the the series cannot go. This is not something that the players want to see."
Ed Boon: Well, I did not work on Special Forces, but I think it was really just a matter of execution. I just don't think that that game had the same level of polish and attention that maybe Mortal Kombat 3 had, or Deadly Alliance that followed it.
M&F: NetherRealm has developed a great narrative formula for fighting games that has really proved its staying power. Because it works so well with DC Comics and has worked so well with Mortal Kombat, is there an existing IP out there now that you would like a crack at with this formula? If you are now contractually limited to Warner Bros. properties, you have opportunities maybe with Mad Max, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Matrix…Do you think down the road about anything like that?
Ed Boon: Right now we have our hands pretty full with Mortal Kombat and Injustice. I suspect it might work well with some of them, but that narrative formula you were talking about was built around a fighting game. It was all about the narrative of why these two people have a conflict, and the player would kind of resolve the conflict by defeating the other opponent, and then it would continue with the story. I think you would have to find an IP or a license that had combat or conflict central to its nature so you can kind of script it into it. But we really are excited by the fact that our narrative sets us apart from other fighting games, so much. It really makes it a lot more like a cinematic experience.
M&F: Is there anything else you want to add about Injustice 2?
Ed Boon: Well, it comes out May 16, and after the game is released, we are going to do a steady drop of DLC characters—nine of them. That's going to go all through the summer and into the fall. So we're excited about the constant new characters that are going to be dropped into the game.