5 Benefits of TRX.


How does so much time pass in between blog posts?! I’ve been in Australia for over a week now and coincidentally I don’t have my trx with me, but I’ve been hitting the gym regularly. The trx is a good exercise tool that travels easily, but with $60 checked baggage fees on Air Asia (one way!) I brought very little with me to the land down under… I’ll get back to using it again when I’m settled in Sri Lanka though.

Are you familiar with TRX? It is the yellow and black cable system you see hanging around your gym. The TRX training system was developed by a Navy Seal, Randy Hedrick, as a means to find a way to exercise and stay combat ready that could be used in any environment. He developed this suspension system of training first by using a jiu-jitsu belt and parachute webbing but perfected his system over time.
TRX can be used to get a fast and effective total body workout and according to their site, TRX.com, “the TRX trainer leverages gravity and your body weight to perform hundreds of exercises.” All you need is the TRX and your body weight, you adjust your position in relation to the anchor point to make exercises more difficult or easy if need be.

Benefits of TRX.
My TRX set up at a playground in Battambang, Cambodia.

Here are 5 benefits to training with the TRX suspension system:
1. It provides a total body workout that continuously engages the core. Because many exercises can be done at a fast pace, more calories are burned as well.
2. The TRX system will help you improve mobility and flexibility. You can maximize range of motion by adjusting body position, therefore altering weight “lifted.”
3. You can build muscle without lifting weights. There are many exercises that can be performed and resistance can be increased by adjusting body weight, allowing you to always be able to get in that last repetition.
4. Train anywhere! You can use the TRX system at your gym, or if you have your own, you can take it with you. It can be hung anywhere there is a good anchor point. From a tree in the mountains, or on the monkey bars at the park- wherever inspires you most!
5. Develop your functional strength with the wide variety of movements that can be performed. It will help to improve your overall level of physical fitness and help you in your day to day activities.
Here’s a sample full body TRX workout, but before you begin training, ensure you are familiar with the equipment and performing the exercises. If necessary, enlist the help of a personal trainer before incorporating TRX into your regular routine.

Benefits of TRX.
A sweaty session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

TRX Full Body Circuit Training

Start with a 5 minute warm up. Walk on the treadmill, go for a light jog, use an exercise bike or elliptical machine, or do a dynamic warm up.
For this training circuit, perform 15 repetitions of each exercise three times unless otherwise noted, all on the TRX. There are 6 circuits total. Do one of each exercise, rest at the end, until you’ve done three sets of all of them.

TRX Sprinter Start (10 each leg); Low Row; Bicep Curls
TRX Squats; Chest Press; Tricep Extensions
Delt Fly, Single Arm Power Pull, Y Fly
Atomic Push-Ups; Mountain Climbers (30 seconds each); Hamstring Curls
Suspended Plank (30 Seconds); Pendulum Swing (10 each side, alternate); Crunch & Curl
Single Leg Squat (10 each side); Lunge (10 each side)

This is a full body workout that will get your heart rate up. Add this, or any other TRX exercises to your normal workout routine to add variety. Not only will it give you something different to do, but it will engage muscles in the body that are not always targeted through standard weight lifting regimens. Engage the core more frequently, build muscle, burn calories, improve balance and flexibility, and enjoy training wherever you want with the TRX suspension training system!

Recipes to Meet Your Macros

You can easily modify recipes to meet your macros. All you need is your meal plan, a bit of math, and the ingredients for a nutritious meal.

When I go over healthy meal plans and recipe ideas with people, I like to give them some guidelines to follow versus only specific foods or recipes. I like to promote a variety of nutritious foods that can be chosen by the individual so he or she will be more interested in staying on track. Additionally, creating a meal plan with specific recipes is not only tedious for me (because every recipe has to be created and tracked in order to ensure nutrition balances out over the week), but the reality is, most people are not going to want to spend the time it takes to make exact recipes. Additionally, if we don’t like certain ingredients, we are likely going to omit them from our meals.

Recipes that meet macros.
I’m still a fan of low carb, moderate fat, and high protein dishes. (Tuna, veg, avocado).

What does a sample guideline look like then? Calories and numbers are based on clients’ needs, but an example looks like this:

6 ounces of lean protein
1 cup of complex carbohydrates
1-2 cups of green vegetables
1/2 of a small avocado or another source of healthy fat like olive oil

My meal plans are quite “biased.” I do recommend specific foods I enjoy like the avocado you see here to give ideas, but I always take into consideration client likes and dislikes. Avocado is one of my favorite foods and when I’m dieting, there are times I’ll eat up to two a day. My calories come from fat instead of carbohydrates, but both can play a role in a healthful diet, that’s why I include adequate proportions of all three macronutrients at mealtime for the average person concerned about their health and/or looking to lose weight. Because so many people are always on the go, I do recommend some convenience foods and supplements. One hundred calorie packs of almonds or mixed nuts travel easily and and keep portion sizes in check. Greek yogurt is a quick and tasty go-to with both protein and carbohydrates, good for either before or after a workout. I’m a fan of protein supplements as well for a variety of reasons, again, they are convenient. If you have a sweet tooth, like I do, they can quench it a bit without all the fat and calories. I know it’s not the same as a chocolate chip cookie or something like that, but having a daily protein shake won’t break the calorie bank! They are a quick source of portable protein beneficial not only post workout, but any time of day. You’ve read it before, but I’ll write it again, it’s important to get protein in over the course of the day, not just at one or two meals, and supplements are a good way to do that, especially in between.

What about recipes? Here is where you can have some poetic license in the kitchen using guidelines provided. It’s important to read labels and keep in mind what condiments and sauces are high in fat, salt, and sugars, but you can create plenty of tasty dishes with fresh herbs, spices, and low calorie vegetables. Onions, garlic, turmeric, lemon grass, chilies, and so much more add flavor and nutrient benefits without adding extra calories to your meal. Yes, there will be a few extra calories, but a few calories from some onion and garlic is much better than hundreds of calories from high sodium sauces and marinades.

If you want to create a recipe that yields 4 meals, multiply the above numbers by four. What main protein source do you want? How about carbohydrates? What flavor combinations? A simple, “one pot” meal like a stew or even a chili is always good. How about a sweet potato chili? You can use both beans and diced sweet potato. Here’s a brief breakdown for 4 servings:

2 tbsp oil
1 cup onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp pepper
1 can low sodium diced tomatoes
1 cup canned beans, rinsed
1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups diced sweet potatoes, boiled

Serve with a lime wedge and 1/4 of an avocado. Add a dash of salt for additional flavor.

To make the meal, heat olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet. Add garlic and onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add ground turkey and break it up with a spatula. Add seasonings and cook until lightly browned. Add diced tomatoes, beans, broth and stir. Add in diced sweet potatoes last and heat until hot. If you add raw sweet potatoes, the chili will take longer to cook, sample as you go. A simplifying alternative is to used pre diced butternut squash that is sometimes available in the frozen foods section at your grocery store or you can buy it fresh. Sometimes Costco sells diced and peeled butternut squash. You can freeze what you don’t need. The same goes for chilis and stews. They are easily frozen and can be used later. If you’re feeling ambitious, whip up a double batch and save some for later.

Recipes that meet macros.
Bulk meal prep was underway with all these vegetables ready.

The more you follow basic guidelines and experiment with different recipes in the kitchen, the easier eating healthy becomes. You don’t have to eat bland meals and boring meals to be successful with weight loss.

Carnitine Confusion

This is another one of my articles inspired yet again, by my travels through Thailand. I see products all over filled with one type of supplement or another and carnitine is common. You may have heard of this compound before. Do you take supplemental carnitine? What is it good for and do we need more than what is provided in a healthy diet?
Carnitine comes from an amino acid and is in almost all of the body’s cells. It was initially found in meat and you may have seen it written as L-Carnitine, propionyl-L-Carnitine, and acetyl-L-Carnitine. If you have ever seen it touted for its ability to burn calories or provide energy, that is true. It helps bring certain fats into the mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell) so they can be burned, or in more scientific terms, oxidized to make energy. It also removes toxic compounds that are generated in the mitochondria by transporting them out. So, carnitine does help burn fat and prevent build up of toxic substances, but that doesn’t mean extra carnitine will lead to extra fat loss.
As far as recommended intakes are concerned, most people do not need supplemental carnitine because our bodies can make and store what we need. Most of it is concentrated in skeletal and cardiac muscles that can and do use fat from food as fuel. There are a few exceptions for needing supplemental carnitine, however they are very specific and related to genetic and medical issues. The liver and kidneys synthesize carnitine from the amino acids lysine and methionine and animal products are the best, naturally occurring sources of carnitine. It is found in meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products (primarily in whey), and then of course, there are products with added carnitine.

Carnitine Supplementation
Carnitine is naturally found in fish and meat.

So what’s the scoop, or the goop?! The Food And Nutrition Board (FNB) has not set recommendations on intake amounts as they concluded it is not an essential nutrient after reviewing various studies. A good place to look is at the metabolism of supplements in question and see what happens when we have too much. Our bodies are able to regulate and maintain proper blood concentrations of many substances and compounds in the body, that whole homeostasis thing, and so our kidneys do that for us with carnitine. Even those who may not consume much carnitine, like vegetarians and vegans, are able to maintain proper blood levels. Furthermore, and according to the National Institute of Health, most (54-86%) of the carnitine that we do eat is easily absorbed in the small intestine and enters into the bloodstream. Guess what happens when we eat too much? The kidneys will excrete it in our urine, it helps maintain that stable blood concentration. So while we may want more of a good thing, something that helps us burn fat, extra amounts do not really help if its weight loss we are looking for.
With that, however, there may be some instances where additional carnitine, more specifically, acetyl-L-carnitine, is warranted. This form of L-carnitine is better absorbed in the small intestine and gets into brain tissue better (it can cross the blood brain barrier more easily). Regarding athletics, there has been inconsistent evidence showing that carnitine enhances performance, helps the body use more oxygen, improves metabolism during exercise, nor has it been shown to increase intra muscular levels of it. When it comes to aging, and some other instances, added carnitine maybe beneficial. It may play a positive role in improving mental function and lessen deterioration in adults with some cognitive impairments and Alzheimer’s disease. Supplemental carnitine may help manage cardiovascular and peripheral artery disease, fatigue caused by chemotherapy for cancer treatment, type 2 diabetes; and in HIV and AIDS, it may slow progression and reduce neuropathy associated with the disease. But, these benefits are very specific and if you are affected by any of them, speak to your doctor for more case specific treatment regarding supplemental carnitine, Furthermore, many studies yield mixed results, so more research is always needed.
In short, we excrete carnitine beyond what the body needs, so supplements to improve athletic performance or to speed weight loss are largely ineffective. In the case of products with added carnitine, you can eat or drink them if you like, but like all things, do so in moderation. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I like the cool, fruit flavored jelly pouches in Thailand that have various supplements in them, but I only eat them occasionally and do so mostly because they are tasty and refreshing in the heat! Overall, eat a healthy diet with lean protein and skip the supplemental carnitine.