Monthly Archives: October 2013

Alcohol And Weight Training (Or Even General Fitness & Health)

For the past 7 weeks (of a 12-week decision), I made a choice not to drink any alcohol as part of my first time ever weight training program. Can I hold out for another 5 weeks? Hell yeah – it’s easy for me. But, will I? Should I?

In my case I only drink rum. From a health standpoint, rum has been linked to reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. I have no proof on that, nor do I deem it important enough to find research studies on the subject. There is more widespread belief that a glass of wine a day is beneficial. But alcohol dehydrates, and when trying to gain mass/muscle, you strive to have your muscles hydrated.

Here’s my take on alcohol in relation to my goals. I’m not training to compete, so I’m not taking my fitness to the degree a competitor would. But, I’m trying to maximize any potential gains by being smart with nutrition. That being said, there “may” be room for an occasional drink, but it has to be planned for. Alcohol is known as “empty” calories. There’s approximately 70 calories in a shot (1 oz.) of rum. At home you can control your pour, but at a bar, one drink might be 2 ounces or more. When you are weight training to build muscle, you major concern is the tracking of macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, fat. In addition, based on scientific calculations, you want to achieve a specific daily calorie intake. So all that rum does is add calories and nothing else. And at the end of the day, excess calories is what makes you gain weight. Therefore, if I plan to go out and have a drink, I will assume an average of 2 ounces per drink (at my local watering hole, one drink is more than that) and have to figure about 150 calories of zero beneficial nutrition. That means in order to meet my daily macronutrient and calorie goals, I’ll have to make sure the rum calories are not in addition to my daily intake as calculated. I prefer to get my daily calories from healthy food sources (now that I am consciously thinking about and tracking nutrition).

For me, alcohol is more a social thing. I love the taste of chocolate. I like the taste of rum, and I don’t mind the “buzz” of a drink or two. But as I’ve progressed with my healthy lifestyle, alcohol doesn’t have it’s own place anymore – it’s just an add-on. I anticipate that only at particular parties or social events, I may have a drink and milk it all night. Other than that, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my “regular” Friday and/or Saturday night drinks. This past 7 weeks I’ve seen how easy it is not to drink alcohol, and I truly do not miss mornings of lethargy after a 2+ drink night.

Cacao (Cocoa) Powder – Are They All The Same?

Other than the brand name and the several varieties within each brand name (sweetened v. unsweetened, various flavors like Hershey’s special dark) , I used to think all cacao powders were pretty generic. Hershey’s, Ghiradelli, specific store brands – all appeared on the level to me. I generally pick up whatever is available when I’m running low on stock, and use it mostly to add to smoothies and Greek yogurt.

I grabbed a brand I never heard of and brought it home. It looked cool and had the word “superfood” on the label – great combo, chocolate and superfood 🙂 ). When I took the Hershey’s out to compare, I took a quick glance at the nutrition label (I was expecting around 10 calories and 1g of fat for one tablespoon, just like the others I’ve used), and my eyes were opened to the cacao powder world. For a 2 tablespoon serving, 150 calories and 9g of fat.


I had to investigate, me being a chocolate connoisseur. So I emailed Sunfood for an explanation:

Good morning,
I just purchased and tried your product for the 1st time in greek yogurt – great!!
Nutrition question – if I look at the label of Hershey’s cacao powder and yours, why are the calories and fat so much higher in your product where both labels ingredients only say 100% powder?
Thank you,
Jonathan Parker

Shortly thereafter, I received a response:

Hi Jonathan,
Thank you for your inquiry. We’re glad you’re enjoying our raw cacao powder and we’re happy to try to answer your question.
The main differences between our cacao powder and Hershey’s is that ours is not Dutch processed (processed with alkali) and ours is kept below a 120 F temperature throughout the process. Because our cacao powder is pressed slowly and with less friction in small batches, I believe that it results in a higher fat content. Essentially, we’re not pressing all the oil out with fast and high pressures that result in higher temperatures. Hershey’s cocoa is first roasted and then Dutch processed, which probably allows more of the cacao butter/oil to eventually be pressed out. Hershey’s also processes extremely large amounts of cocoa with much faster and higher temperature processes. Their resulting cocoa powder is likely lower in fat because of this.
I hope this helps. Please let us know if we can help with any further clarification.
Kind regards

So all cacao/cocoa powders are in fact not created equal. Depending on your daily nutritional goals, using the low heat (minimally) processed cacao powder has many benefits. Here’s just one article I found relating to this:

I have uses for both powders. When I want a quick shot to reach daily macro and calorie requirements, the lower heat processed cacao powder added to Greek yogurt is a robust 290 calories (or 215 calories if I use only one tablespoon). The cacao powders like Hershey’s added to an already loaded caloric recipe adds flavor without affecting it’s overall nutritional value much.

Variety is the spice of life.