It’s a New Year – Hopefully You’re Not On The Resolution Train

It’s been over a month since I made a blog entry. In hindsight, there were probably two driving forces keeping me from making an entry.

One was the thought of the holiday season and its effect on one’s nutrition. As an observer, food plays a major role in one’s nutrition over the holiday’s. There is much weight added to the importance of food in one’s life during the holidays (I don’t mean scale weight, but that too is an issue) – whether it be a family holiday dinner, office holiday party, etc. Many people go to great lengths to put on an impressive and memorable spread. And even if one is conscious with regards to the nutritional value of the foods they create and serve, sometimes it’s just the sheer volume that overrules.

The second, and stronger reason why I didn’t post, is the never-ending train of resolutions. Everywhere I turned, someone somewhere was stating that now was the time to lose weight and get in shape. “It’s a New Year” they say. Motivation spews resolution over the holiday season.

I take a different approach with health concentric motivation, one to me that is simpler and easier to manage. “Lifestyle” is the key ingredient, the major focus. What I interpret in many of the health resolutions I see is a focus contextually revolving around weight loss. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but it’s an incomplete approach and promise, to me a major reason why a majority of the resolutioners only last a month or so. Failure is largely due to unrealistic goals. I believe in that moment you decide to cross that bridge and begin your journey into the healthy lifestyle, that you need to look beyond the goals you set. Weight loss will come with effort. Becoming a more fit version of yourself will come with effort. Your body will follow those efforts. Goals are a great thing – monetary goals, business building goals, personal goals. But those goals should be looked at as benchmarks, and nothing else. There is end point if you truly begin living a healthy lifestyle.

I don’t mean to lessen what you are accomplishing if in fact you made a resolution to yourself and have embarked on your journey. I just hope you see beyond a number you set for yourself. Losing weight is a positive, but doing it by creating lifelong habits with give you a better chance of becoming a healthier you.

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.

Does Your Age Affect Your Nutritional Choices? Ask My Mom.

My mother has brought up an interesting point to me several times regarding my blog. In short, she reads my blog and feels it’s more relevant towards people much younger than she is – a stubborn, hard headed, won’t budge, wonderful loving mother who knows best of 80. She feels that many of my blog entries are pointed to those people who are active. The first time she mentioned that, I thought to myself how much good information I was putting out, and that if she took just one piece of one blog entry and incorporated it into her life that I’d be successful (and she has on several fronts). When she mentioned it again, I really listened and thought a little deeper.

At 53, I make the assumption that I have plenty of life to look forward to (barring “whatever”). I have made the “healthy lifestyle” a hobby of mine (a very strong hobby). A lot of my blogging is based on my nutrition, tying it into how I fuel my body properly to attack my workouts that I do regularly, and to face life at a higher level than others my age. Over the years I have greatly altered my nutritional choices. No longer do I eat pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, and candy (just to name a few). I gave up soda (except with my rum), and currently I am alcohol free during the 12-week body building stage I am doing. My son who is 30 views things differently. His concentration is more on his children and economic future (as it should be). He understands the benefits of the healthy lifestyle, but just like myself at his age, priorities of the family come first by nature. He eats fairly healthy, but isn’t focused on it. So what I consider a “cheat” meal/food that I avoid now, to him may just be a thought like “I probably shouldn’t eat that”. I am assuming this because that’s how I was. I’ve always leaned towards the healthy side of eating, but in no way was I strict with myself. Now being an empty nester for almost a decade, I’ve had more time to devote to researching and living healthy.

My mother, at 80, has an entirely different view. The part where she needs to be on a low sodium low cholesterol diet isn’t necessarily a function of age. But the idea of how far to “compromise” nutrition is viewed much differently at 80 than it is at 53. No need to beat around the bush here. At 80 years old, you are in the twilight of your life. The things you enjoy are greatly reduced due to age. My Mom and Dad can’t drive around the country with a camper and boat in tow like they used to. They don’t jump in the car for a day trip to Mohegan Sun. But what does this have to do with nutrition?

My mother does understand nutrition, and she knows how she should eat based on her current facts of life. But food is enjoyment to her, a true pleasure. Therefore certain foods that I’ll say to avoid, she’ll say she enjoys it too much to give it up. Circumstances arise where comfort food or other “unhealthy choices” present themselves. Age may prevent you from doing many things you used to enjoy, yet food is a constant. At our house we don’t have family barbeques often, but when we do I cook for everyone. When all I’m eating is the chicken and salad, she’ll happily dig into the hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausages. Why? Because for the few years she sees herself on this earth (whether it be 1 or 20), she will only compromise food to a point, because it really makes her happy. She has good balance, and although I may say she could do better, I understand her viewpoint. If she was my age I’d probably tell her she was only using excuses, but I believe at 80 her viewpoint is a reality. Give her credit. She’ll only occasionally indulge by either eating too much food or unhealthy foods. The rest of the time she eats salads and other healthy choices.

I can maneuver nutrition discussions with my mother to health reasons, noting why eating particular foods are either beneficial or harmful. I can remind her of her medical conditions that doctors say require a low sodium low cholesterol approach. There is a wealth of information on the subject of nutrition, and I could post link after link. But not here, not now. I know she’s already mindful of her requirements. What she is doing with food isn’t dangerous, so I don’t feel compelled to make her “see the light”. She already understands and “sees the light”, and has found her healthy lifestyle path, one that works for her. That’s what the premise was for me setting up this blog in the first place – find a healthy lifestyle path that works for you.

My Current Daily Nutrition – Bulking Stage

Weightlifting/Body Building in the build/bulk stage requires eating a calorie surplus, in my case calculated to 2,800 calories. In the past year+ I’ve been cooking a lot more because I’ve been researching and focusing on my nutrition. Getting in my daily exercise operates on auto pilot, as I find it easy, regardless of how I feel, to workout daily. Eating is a day-to-day thing. I do not plan out my weeks menu and cook as such. Usually the night before I’ll give it some thought, and I’m always shopping ahead so there are many choices in the house.

Here was my menu today:


My daily Shakeology meal replacement shake. I get a jumpstart on my overall nutrition and calorie goals as this weighs in close to 800 calories. Added to my scoop of chocolate Shakeology – 2 tbsp. each of unsweetened shredded coconut, flax see, PB2 chocolate, wheat germ; 1 tbsp. Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa; 2 cups of mixed fruit; 2/3 cup low-fat chocolate milk; 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk.


I went out to lunch today to a nice place in Falmouth, MA called Crabapple’s. I ordered Baked Haddock & Scallops with sides of mashed squash and a fruit cup. I asked to go light on the butter (that’s still engrained in my head – eating lean).



I cooked at home while watching the pre game of Monday Night Football. On the stove I grilled a 6 oz. center cut pork chop – cooked in Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tsp. coconut oil, 2 tbsp. pica de gallo. In the rice cooker, I mixed 1 cup brown rice, 1/2 cup quinoa, 1/2 cup black rice – served myself 2/3 cup cooked.


Mid morning – 3 oz. baby cut carrots with a tbsp. humus; 1 cup Puffins Peanut Butter cereal. Afternoon – 5 oz. dark meat turkey. Before dinner – bakery bread 1 slice death by chocolate (my cheat for being cheat free last week).


Post workout shake consists of Dymatize Elite Gourmet and Hammer Recoverite. Right before bed (waiting for me in the fridge) – Dymatize Casein and 1 tbsp. Natierra Trail Mix. I drink plenty of water during the day – a minimum of 8 glasses, and sometimes up to a gallon.


I use MyFitnessPal ( to track my food, and do this daily. I find it to be an invaluable tool if you really want to take your nutrition to the next level. I can quickly see my calories, proteins, carbs, fats sugars. All foods originating from home are measured. I do my best at restaurants to estimate portion sizes. There is a margin of error in tracking daily nutrition. I am fairly detailed, but estimating at a restaurant suffices. Sometimes I’ll use the bar code scanning feature of MyFitnessPal to quickly upload a food. The above is just a representation of one day. Foods like avocados, almonds (nuts), salmon, etc. are part of the mix. I don’t eat the same menu every day.

The above logged in as follows: 2,808 calories, 322g carbs, 75 g fat, 243g protein, 28g sat fat, 120g sugar. I’m guessing I could add 100-200 calories for the margin of error.

I’ll probably take away the cereal as that’s added sugar, which I get plenty of eating fruit (I was using it as a starch portion). There are many theories as to the amounts of macros needed to gain muscle mass based upon many factors like weight, where I am currently at 153 lbs.. The most important factors to me are that I’m getting my protein in, timing my carbs for workout fuel, and supplementing where I see fit. You can judge for yourself if you consider this a “healthy” day, but right I’m working hard at fueling my body to gain muscle.

Whether you are bulking like myself, or you are eating to lose weight, the approach to nutrition should be the same. Have fun with it, with the realization of how very important it is to living a healthy lifestyle, more so than the workouts. Exercise and nutrition need to work in unison.