Soccer Culture

11 July 6:28 pm

He doesn’t have to do it.

For Brent Jacquette, his time could be better served enjoying the moments of his day when he’s not trying to make the Widener men’s soccer team better through recruiting and working on drills. But in addition to doing all of that he’s in the Chester community and its surrounding suburbs working diligently on the Chester-Upland’s "Soccer for Success" program.

Soccer for Success is a program that was started just last year with Jacquette as director to inspire and empower Chester’s youth using soccer as a conduit.

Naturally kids learn how to pass and shoot, but Jacquette and his staff also preach what is called the “four pillars” of success:

  • Physical activity
  • Nutrition
  • Mentorship
  • Family Engagement

The great strides Soccer for Success has made since its inception has now been recognized by Major League Soccer.

On Friday, July 12 the League announced that Jacquette was selected as a finalist for its Community MVP award, given to a community leader that “uses the world’s game to make a difference on a local level,” according to MLS chief administrative officer JoAnn Neale.

In the Soccer for Success program, participants are encouraged to have 60 minutes of physical activity a day, followed by making the correct nutritional choices.

Coaches function as mentors to emphasize teamwork and dedication, while also providing a safe and fun setting. When the hour is up, it is almost impossible to get the kids to wind down and head inside.

Vote Soccer for Success director Brent Jacquette for MLSWORKS Community MVP: http://bit.ly/JacquetteVote

Now you have a chance to show your appreciation for Jacquette’s selfless act of civic responsibility.  Fan voting has opened for the MLS Community MVP. Vote now through July 25 using this link: http://bit.ly/JacquetteVoteYou can also show your vote of support by copy and pasting this post on Twitter:  “I vote for the @MLSWORKS @WellsFargo @PhilaUnion #CommunityMVP”

Voting ends on July 25 at noon. The grand prize winner will be announced on Friday, July 25 at 2pm ET via twitter by @MLSWORKS. 

Help us make sure that when the votes are tallied, the winner is Jacquette for all that he does each day in the Chester community. 

03 June 12:09 pm

Summer is finally upon us and people have started to head to the shore for some much needed rest and relaxation.  If you are someone who exercises on a regular basis it may seem like your training will have to take a back seat for the time that you are at the beach.  I personally love to exercise at the beach.  If you want to mix up your training and incorporate some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your routine you have come to the right place. The beach in my opinion is one of the best places to train.

Before we get started, let my briefly explain what I am talking about when we talk about HIIT. For years athletes and weekend warrior have been incorporating HIIT into their routines. Here is just one example: If you played high school football, I am sure that you ran hill sprints.  Well, this is a form of HIIT training. This type of training has become very popular over the past few years but don’t let people fool you, this training is nothing new. What is new is that people are now starting to realize some of the cardiac and skeletal benefits as well as adaptations that can happen when someone implements a safe and progressive HIIT program.

HIIT training is basically short, intense training intervals where your body works at a very high intensity for a specific time and then allows for adequate recovery period.  After a certain time you then repeat the exercise for a certain number of sets and repetitions.

So why is HIIT training beneficial for people instead of long slow training? Here are a few key points that I learned from reading Ben Greenfields book "Beyond Training":

  • Helps to optimize your heart’s capacity to send blood to your muscles.
  • Helps you to go harder and longer in your endurance events when you implement a safe protocol.
  • You can increase your metabolic efficiency and improve your fat burning qualities in less time than you can with long aerobic sessions.

HIIT training is just one form of training. A key point to ask yourself is what are your goals? If you are planning to do triathlons/longer running races than you will still need to incorporate long aerobic sessions into your training (FYI, there are benefits as well to aerobic training). If your goal is simply fat loss than implementing HIIT training into your routine a couple times per week may increase your benefits.

 
  • When I recommend HIIT training I always recommend the following:
  • Wear a heart rate monitor. The interval session should be based off of your recovery. If your heart rate gets to 180 bpm (beats per minute) wait until your heart rate comes back down to 120-130 bpm before you repeat the cycle. I use a Polar heart rate monitor for my training.
  • If you are beginner ALWAYS allow for added recovery. If you work hard for 20 seconds REST for as long as it takes for you to be able to catch your breath and feel comfortable. Going to hard early on in your training is not the goal. The goals are consistency and results over time.
  • Allow 72 hours between training sessions. The days in between are a great time to incorporate some strength training as well as longer aerobic sessions to increase blood flow and improve cardiac function.
  • If you are an advanced athlete, I still recommend wearing a heart rate monitor.
  • Finally the goal is NOT to get your heart rate as HIGH as possible but rather work to a point where it may be tough to have a conversation and then back off. Be smart and as always LISTEN to your body.

Here are five ways you can HIIT the beach this summer.

Please note before you ever start a HIIT program make sure that you have medical clearance and then you ALWAYS warm up properly. Use your heart rate monitor (120-130 bpm) or the talk test to determine your recovery time. Talk test is when you can have a conversation with someone before going again.

Workout No. 1: Deep sand shuttle runs

  • Set up 2 cones 25-50 yards apart
  • Run from one cone to the next approximately 80-90% effort.  Depending on your fitness level you can run for 25-100 yds. Rest and repeat. 
  • Sets: 8-12 rounds depending on your fitness levels
  • You can run barefoot or with shoes. If you have never run barefoot I would recommend starting with shoes.

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell deadlifts and shuttle runs

  • Grab a kettlebell that you can safely deadlift. If you do not know how to deadlift and hinge than work with a coach who can teach you the proper way to deadlift.
  • Set up two (2) cones 25-50 yds. apart
  • Work set:  Five (5) deadlifts + shuttle run. Rest and repeat
  • Sets: 6-10 rounds depending on your fitness levels

Note: if you are experienced with kettlebells you can substitute swings for deadlifts (both are great exercises when done properly).

Workout No. 3: Body weight squats + Pushups + Striders

  • Set up two (2) cones 25 yards apart.
  • Work set: 10 squats + 5-10 pushups (you can do kneeling pushups if you are unable to do regular pushups) + 25 yd. run. Walk back to the start and repeat when you feel recovered
  • Sets: 6-12

Workout No. 4: Medicine ball routine

Grab a medicine ball that weighs 4-10 lbs. Also, everyone should have a medicine ball for training. It’s one of the best tools you can use.

Work Set:

  • Five (5) squats with medicine ball
  • 10 ax chops with the medicine ball (five right/five left). The ball comes diagonally across your body.
  • One (1) medicine ball chest throw (two hands and throw as far as possible)
  • One (1) run for 10-25 yds.
  • Walk back to the start
  • Sets 6-12 rounds

Workout No. 5: Band training on the beach

This is one of the best ways to train on the beach. If you don’t have bands click this link to purchase. https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Attached 1-2 bands to a lifeguard stand (Black or purple bands are great to start with)

Work Set:

  • Eight (8) chest rows (2 hands into your chest)
  • Eight (8) chest presses (hands shoulder width apart as you press out)
  • Five (5) lateral squats per side (step in the band and step right 5x and then left 5x)
  • 20 yd. bear crawl (butt down and back flat; go slow and breathe as you do this)
  • Walk back to the start
  • Sets 5-8 rounds

These are just five examples of how you can HIIT the beach. As always, train smart, monitor your performance and have fun. Good luck!

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

10 April 9:49 am

If you were to walk into any gym you would see people of all shapes and sizes exercising. You may see the guy in the corner finishing up a set of “ABS” and then lifting up his shirt to see if he now has developed a six pack. You may see the business man texting on his phone as he spins aimlessly on a bike. The point that I want to stress is that everyone has their own way of training which is fine but I would like to share with you five habits of successful exercise.

1. Exercise must be mindful

In her book "Deep Nutrition," Dr. Catherine Shanahan, M.D. talks about the benefits of mindful exercise for fat loss. Let  me ask you a question, do you have a plan every time you go into the  gym or do you just “wing it” and go through the same routine day in and day out?  Do you zone out on the bike while watching Judge Judy? Your mind needs to play a key role in your training. Here is one way you can do this. This week either train outside or try something totally new to stimulate a new response for your body.

2. Monitor your progress

If you are a runner do you track your distance? If your goal is fat loss are you tracking your RECOVERY between intervals? My point is you need to monitor your results. For less than $100 you can purchase a very good heart rate monitor. Instead of just saying “I feel better” let's track some numbers to show the real benefits of your hard work. If we start to measure something we can then improve on our results.

3. Have the END in mind

What is your goal? What are you trying to obtain? Is it fat loss your after or is your goal to do ten pull ups? Having the end in mind BEFORE your start is a powerful motivator for people.

4. Everything Matters

Congratulations on having just finished a 45 minute spin class at 6 am. Good for you. However if you go home and eat all processed food, drink energy drinks and caffeine all day and stay up past midnight playing Candy Crush  you will see no benefits from the spin class. We all know that sleep, hydration, nutrition and happiness all play a key role in our health but how many of us are giving our bodies what it actually needs. Contrary to what most people think over the course of the day the “little things” really matter in the end.

5. Time Management

We are all pressed for time these days. Some people are fortunate and they may have 60-75 minutes per day to train. Others like me have a smaller window where we need to manage our day to ensure that we get in a training session. When I go to the gym I see so many people wasting time. They may do a set and then for the next three minutes complain about how the sauna is broken again for the third time  this month or you have the group of ladies who argue about one person taking "their spin bike."

Give me a break. Next time you train have a plan and get after it. I'm not saying you can't say hello to people but your time is precious. Get in, get out and get on with your day!

Remember you can start to build good healthy habits and monitor your progress you will start to see some nice gains in how you look, feel and perform.

Good luck!

Have a question for Union fitness coach Kevin Miller? Leave a comment below. 

25 March 2:55 pm

All of us are pressed for time. Between work, family, social obligations and finding time for ourselves it’s hard to find the time to fit in a good workout. I get asked this question a lot. “How long do I need to train in order to see some benefits”. That is a tough question to answer without knowing the person and having a good understating of their goals as well as their current level of fitness. With that being said, I want to share with you three of my “go to workouts” when I am pressed for time.

Workout No. 1: Hill Repeats

When I think of hill repeats I think of Walter Payton wearing a “Roos” headband crushing hills while other guys are lagging behind sucking wind. Athletes have been running hills for years but it’s that image in my head that motivates me to get out and run up and down a hill.  Hill running is a great way to get ready for speed training and harder workouts that will happen down the road. It’s a great way to “strength train” your legs without the weights. Here is one workout you can try. Ideally you would run on a soft surface but if you are unable to find a gradual soft hill you can run these on the street.

Week 1: 5 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 60 seconds)

Week 2: 6 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 50 seconds)

Week 3: 7 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 45 seconds)

Week 4: 8 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 35 seconds)

Week 5: Omit. No hill running this week.

Note: Start with a gradual hill with a slight incline. If you are a beginner do not go and find the steepest hill in the neighborhood. Find a gradual climb and start with five (5) runs and progress to eight (8) over a four (4) week period. As you get stronger increase the work time until you reach 45-60 seconds.

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell circuit

Just for the record I am "not a kettlebell guy." I am not certified by any organization however, I really enjoy using kettlebells with the athletes and clients that I work with. It’s simply one of the many “tools” that I have in my toolbox to help people obtain the results that they are looking for. I think with the proper coaching they can add tremendous value to your training program. Please note that I would recommend that you work with a qualified coach who can assess/screen you and can teach you the basics of how to use kettlebells. Like all strength training exercises start light and perfect your form before progressing to heavier weight.

Set the timer for 10 minutes and perform the following circuit. Rest as much as you need to in order to maintain good form.

1. Kettlebell swings: five (5) reps

In order to do a proper swing you must learn how to hinge at your hips. The mistake most people make is that they squat instead of hinge. Let your legs do the work and guide the “bell” with your arms.

2. Kettlebell goblet squat: five (5) reps

Hold the kettlebell close to your body and squat as deep as you comfortable can. Push the knees out, keep your chin tucked and stand tall at the finish of the movement. Don’t allow the weight to drift to far from your body.

3. Push ups: ten (10) reps

Maintain a flat back, elbows in and push away at the finish. If you are unable to do a full push up than drop to your knees and perform a modified version.

Rest for 15-30 seconds depending on your fitness level. Repeat for 10 minutes. At the end of ten minutes  record the amount of the completed rounds and the weight lifted.

Workout No. 3: Head to the park

If you don’t belong to a gym however you want to challenge yourself head to your local park and give this circuit a try.

  • Monkey bar pull ups: 5 reps
  • Body Weight squats: 10 reps
  • Resistance band 2 hand presses: 5 reps
  • Single leg squats to a park bench: 5 reps/side
  • Bear crawl for distance (30 yds)
  • Rest and repeat for time (10-20 minutes)

If you do this workout people will look at you funny and some people will ask you what you are doing. My response is normally “I am training”. The next question is normally “How are you exercising without any equipment” to which I respond “ I have all the equipment I need at a park. It’s one of the best places to train”.

It goes without saying. Before you do any workouts you need to warm up properly. For some people that may be 5-10 minutes. For others like me I need 10-15 minutes to get moving. The key point to remember is when you are pressed for time there are several  ways that  you can train. You just need to make health a priority and stop making excuses!

Train hard and train smart!

Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (link: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc) on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

 

 

21 February 10:03 am

Hey fans!

We would like to announce the launch of the official Philadelphia Union Store Twitter account @PhilaUnionShop!  Follow us for all of the latest product information, sales, and store happenings.

We want to bring a new level of access for our fans.  Connecting with our fans and providing them with information and special offers is important to us, and we hope that through the driving force in social media that is Twitter we can make that happen.

Have the inside track to the newest offerings from the Philadelphia Union. Find out what some of your favorite players are wearing and buying for their friends and family.  

Also, we will offer exclusive contests and discounts available only through Twitter.

To kick things off, want to know all about the new home kit that will be unveiled at the Union's "Meet the Team" event on March 4? Before you head to Dave and Busters on Columbus Blvd. for the festivities kicking off at 6 p.m., join the crew here @PhilaUnionShop  at noon for a one-hour take over of the Union's Twitter account (@PhilaUnion) to talk all things pertaining to the jersey (and more) and check out a bit more of a sneak peek before the full unveiling later that night. Kick off MLS' annual Jersey Week with us. Have a question about the kit? Submit it during the takeover with the hashtag #JerseyWeek.

Again, we hope @PhilaUnionShop becomes your home for all the latest on not just Union gear, but the lifestyle of our players, staff and supporters like you.

Cheers,

From the crew behind @PhilaUnionShop

19 February 1:11 pm

This week I want mix it up a little and instead of focusing on one topic I want to write a post about ten (10) quick fitness tips. I hope that one of these tips will help you reach your fitness and health goals in 2014.

1. When it comes to warming up most athletes would rather skip the warm up and get right into their training. I understand that things like foam rolling and dynamic movements are not the most exciting drills, however, I believe a proper warm up sets the tone for training. I truly believe spending 15-20 minutes at the start of every session on soft tissue and range of motion drills/movement patterns is important to your long term health.

2. Running wind sprints/gassers at the end of training is NOT speed training. Doing these types of runs has its place when it comes to training.  However, if your goal is speed training you need to do your speed work at the beginning of your training session when your central nervous system is alert and fresh. Also, the time spent doing speed training should be short with a long recovery between each run.

3. High school female athletes would all benefit from incorporating strength training into their routine. Simple total body movements like kettlebell deadlifts, band assisted pull-ups and one-arm rows would go a long ways towards improving their strength and performance. In my experience, female athletes who can demonstrate adequate levels of strength both perform better on the field/court and have a lesser chance of injury.

4. If you have chronically tight hamstrings find someone who can teach you how to reposition your pelvis and breath more efficiently instead of just lying on your back and cranking in your hamstrings. You will be amazed how simple solutions can affect how your hamstrings feel. I would recommend that you seek out the expertise of someone who has taken a course by the Postural Restoration Institute.

5. Instead of following the latest diet fad in an effort to lose fat listen to your body and find out what works for you. Eat real food, make small changes that can eventually become habits and finally look at your health as a long term plan not a quick fix.

6. Going for a walk outside is a great way to reduce your stress and improve your health.

7. If you want abs I would recommend that you look for them in the kitchen not at the seated crunch machine. Clean up your nutrition and implement strength training into your routine and you may find your abs by summer.

8. The majority of runners would benefit greatly by implementing both power and strength training into their program. I believe by cutting back on mileage and implementing a good strength training program runners can reduce their chance of injuries.

9. Learn to decelerate properly if you want to excel on a field or court. Athletes that can decelerate and then accelerate can change the game.

10. Stand in front of a mirror and the muscles that you can’t see (i.e. glutes, hamstrings, upper back) are the ones that you most likely need to spend more time training. The muscles in the front are your “show muscles” and the muscles in the back are your “go” muscles. Make sure that you have a good balance between the two if you want to have a balanced program.

Hopefully you can benefit from a few of these tips. Good luck with your training!

Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog: philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

06 February 10:43 am

When the alarm clock goes off in the morning do you automatically think about the 10 things you need to do before lunch? Do you lay in bed stressing about what you should do first? If you are like most people (which includes me) you have a lot going on. With all of these responsibilities comes added stress. With added stress comes inflammation in your body. Some stress when managed properly (i.e. exercise) can be very beneficial to your overall health. However, when we have added stress (i.e. work, financial, relationship, etc.) this can wreak havoc on the way we feel. Below are some tips to help you manage your stress.

1. Write down your must do list before you go to bed

Instead of saying you have a lot to do today sit down and write on a piece of paper or on your computer five things that you must do tomorrow. By writing this down the night before you can have an outline of what you really want to accomplish for each day.  As you accomplish each task cross it off and move on to the next item on the list. If you get done all five feel free to add one to two more items to the list. The simple act of writing this list will give you structure

2. Learn to breathe properly

After you wake up and have your coffee or smoothie take five minutes and take some deep diaphragmatic breaths.  The reason I recommend people incorporate breathing into their daily routine early in the day is because it allows you to relax and focus on what is happening with your body. It also gives you a chance to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system which helps promote recovery. In my experience it is a great way to start your day.

3. Exercise regularly

Most people who exercise on a regular basis feel better. One thing we need to keep in mind is that exercise is a form of stress. However, when people listen to their body and establish and follow a plan exercise can be a great way to relieve stress. Here are three (3) ways to incorporate exercise into your life.

  • Walk: Go for a long walk outside. Instead of walking on the treadmill at the gym get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. This simple tip can help relieve stress in people.
  • Strength Train: Set aside 30-45 minutes 3-4 times per week to incorporate some strength training into your routine. When people lift weights properly they feel better after a training session. Keep the volume low/medium but the intensity high.
  • Yoga: Set aside two (2) days per week to do either a group yoga class or an in home program. I personally do not do a lot of yoga however, I know several people who truly believe in the health benefits of incorporating yoga into their weekly routine.

Here is an extra tip when exercising. Wear a heart rate monitor to see how your body is responding to your training. This is a great tool to use to see the changes that are taking place while you train.

4. What you think matters

The only thing that we have control over is our thoughts. If we have a tendency to think negative than this will affect how we feel. This is easier said than done and it is something I need to work on.  The next time you start to stress over something that you are thinking about stop for a minute and take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths and see how you feel.  I don’t expect you to have positive thoughts all day long but do your best to be aware of your thoughts and how they may negatively affect you.

Stress is something that all of us have. Some stress can be positive and how we think about stress is critical to how it affects our body. The next time you feel overwhelmed take a step back and try to incorporate some of the tips mentioned above.

Good luck!

“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

04 February 1:22 pm

On Friday, Jan. 31, the Philadelphia Union Foundation hosted a PowerPoint presentation to students at YSC Academy to discuss the importance of giving back to the community. The presentation primarily focused on educating youth and promoting values such as integrity, trust, respect and accountability.

The event addressed how soccer can be used as a tool for social change. Rick Jacobs, the keynote speaker and executive director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, discussed how students now have a chance to change their community by giving back in their own unique way.

Students here have the opportunity to get something from the game and have the chance to give back. “The plan is to go beyond the soccer fields and give back, because that’s what it’s all about,” said Jacobs.

  • Click the graphic for more information on Cocktails and Cleats gala

Many athletes are living examples that excellence is a reinforcing value for success. Jacobs went on to connect the game of soccer to real life.  “In a game, you are constantly thinking about the next play. Where am I taking this touch? Where is my next pass going? Where can I change the game?” said Jacobs. “In life, your vision should always be up. Look to see where you can make the greatest impact -- where can I make a change?”

While the Foundation is still young, it has already completed many projects. As part of its efforts to give back to the community, the presentation reiterated the critical need for change in Chester. Jacobs encouraged students to think about what they can do to make a difference in Chester.

“You can’t do 1,000 things, but one small thing can make a difference,” said Jacobs who believes that giving back and helping out within the community is something that everyone should be involved with.

The Foundation presentation not only focused on giving back, but also becoming a well-rounded person. It aims to provide a positive impact in character development by developing athletes into men that can connect the skills learned on the field to real life. “It is important to complete the circle,” said Jacobs. “Not only developing as an athlete, but as a person and player.”

The YSC Academy students understand that giving as much on the field as off the field is the ultimate success in life. The off field wins can be seen through volunteering with charitable outreach programs and community initiatives. The students already came up with their own ideas such as Breast Cancer Awareness walks, soccer tennis tournament and AIDS and HIV fundraisers.

After the warming applause, the students broke into groups to continue working on their community projects that will be used in conjunction with the Foundation over the new few months.

Perhaps the one great thing of note: throughout the hour long presentation, Jacobs routinely came back to one phrase: “You have to willingly sacrifice.” 

He describes those who want the quick rewards are those who do not willingly sacrifice. To Jacobs, selfless sacrifice reap rewards down the road that becomes apart of you -- and it's this notion that can become the cornerstone for success.

For more on Philadelphia Union Foundation and its mission, visit: http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/foundation 

Union intern Jaclyn Cammarata authored this report

22 January 2:08 pm

So you finally did it?  You have been on the fence about giving up gluten for a few months but today is the day that you have marked on your calendar as Day #1 to go gluten free. Maybe you decided to give it up for medical reasons and you think this will improve your overall health. If that is the case, I wish you the best of luck. Maybe you just wanted a change and your coach/trainer or coworkers are all talking about the benefits they have seen from giving up gluten. Either way you have decided to throw out all of your bread and pasta and have embarked on a new lifestyle.

  • Click the graphic to the right and sign up for Kevin Miller's Philly.com chat on Jan. 29! 

Before I share some tips with you, the reason I am writing this is because I decided to give this a shot. I read the book "Wheat Belly" by Dr. William Davis and I understand the potential risks to gluten. I have also read books by Robb Wolff "Paleo Solution" as well as Dr. Loren Cordain "Paleo Answer" on the potential dangerous of gluten for some people.  I wanted to try this nutritional change because I wanted to see for myself how I felt after eliminating gluten for a period of time.  I would like to make it very clear that I am NOT a nutritionist. Everyone responds differently from nutrition so what may bother one person may not affect someone else. The tips and suggestions listed below are nothing more than observations that I made while trying this new routine. 

Remember, if you have a specific medical condition you need to speak to an expert and decide if a change like this is good for you.

So what exactly is gluten anyway? It is the naturally occurring proteins in wheat, barley and rye. It helps the elasticity of the dough in breads, baked good and several processed foods.  When you walk down the aisles of most food stores you can bet that the majority of products contain gluten. It is even in products like soy sauce as well as salad dressing.  If you are planning to make this change your normal food shopping routine is about to change as well.

Being from Philadelphia I love bread. Everyone knows that the roll makes the sandwich. So going gluten free for me is tough. I love to eat sandwiches as well as several other products that contain wheat (i.e. cereals, pizza, pasta). I understand that there are gluten free breads and pizza but let’s not kid ourselves, I have yet to find a really good gluten free roll or pizza. I decided to do this more as an elimination diet to see if I have any food sensitivities. My plan was to eliminate gluten for a period of time (15-30 days) and then reintroduce it back into my daily routine and see if I have any effects like the following:

  • Digestion discomfort
  • Brain fog
  • Increase joint pain
  • Slower recovery from training

To gauge my recovery, I used Heart Rate Variability each morning to see how my body responded to the change. This is a simple test that tracks my “readiness” to train and gives a quick snapshot of my central nervous system. Each morning I would track my heart rate to see how it would fluctuate over this trial period. The product that I used was from Bioforce HRV.

Here are five (5) tips that I believe you need to know if you decide to give this a shot.

1. You have to like to cook

If you are someone who likes to go out to eat 2-4 times per week I don’t think this diet is for you. Why, because gluten is found in so many foods and sauces that going out is going to be both expensive and very hard to go gluten free.  Sure, you can eat gluten free products but in my opinion it’s very hard to eat out a few days a week and improve your health.  You have to learn to cook basic meals if you plan to make this switch.  Keep things simple. Learn to make 8-10 basic meals ranging from eggs in the morning to simple dinners with a lot of vegetables, proteins and quality carbohydrates.

2. You have to plan ahead

If you work in an office you will have to wake up early and make your lunch for the day. You will also need to make breakfast and have some healthy snacks during the day. You can kiss your bagel with fat free cream cheese goodbye. Planning is critical if you expect to follow this lifestyle change.  I would make sure that you always have some snack options with you when your foods cravings hit because trust me those cravings will hit you hard around days 1-3. Examples may include homemade trail mix (raw nuts/seeds/dried fruit) or energy bars that you either made or purchased.

3. I hope you like salads

At least 4-5 times per week you will most likely be eating a salad with a lot of vegetables and protein (chicken, fish, steak, nuts, etc.). Bread contains gluten so unless it is gluten free bread you will be giving up the delicious rolls that Philadelphia has to offer. This will be one of the hardest changes for you.  Salads are great so make sure that you load them up with several kinds of vegetables and mixed greens as well as quality sources of protein and fat to get the nutritional benefits of eating salad.

4. You will be eating more fat

When you give up grains you need to make up the calories somewhere. You can only eat so much protein and fiber. What worked well for me is an increase in fat. The proper fats when eaten at the right time can really improve your health and make you feel comfortably full.  Examples include the following:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut milk
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Raw nuts (macadamia, pumpkin seeds, walnuts)
  • Lean high quality meats.

5. Your energy will probably drop the first few days.

Most of us eat far too many processed carbohydrates. Our blood sugar is always up and down. We feel good after a bagel and coffee and then 1-2 hours later we crash and reach for a bag of Cheetos.  When you give up grains you will most likely feel sluggish days 1-3. By day four I felt really good. I believe my body started to work more efficiently (I still ate carbohydrates) and began to utilize fat as an energy source along with quality carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, plantains, berries).

The reason I wrote this post is because I think some people just jump right into a total overhaul of their nutrition without understanding some very important details. Some people eat a bagel two days into going gluten free and then get frustrated and then give up and go back to their old routines. You need to understand that going gluten free takes some work in the beginning and changing old habits can be very hard. Give yourself a break and don’t be so hard on yourself. Tell a friend you are doing this because you will need the support when those cravings hit.

Sure you can just buy all gluten free products but honestly, I don’t think that is the way to go. The reason being most of those products are very expensive and I think some of them offer little nutritional value over products that contain wheat. I personally like to cook so for me this was an easier switch but I will tell you that it can be difficult.

I only tried this for 15 days. So by now means was this long experiment.  Over the course of this short period I felt really good and did see an improvement in my digestion, energy, as well as my heart rate variability scores. I also felt that my sleep improved due to these changes.  I decided to reintroduce gluten in the form of pizza and I did not have any effects in how I felt. So the good news is that I do not think I have sensitivity to gluten.

In the future I am not going to give up gluten forever. If I want a sandwich I will eat bread. If I want a slice of pizza I will eat one. I will limit my exposure because I honestly did feel better without gluten over this short period of time.  Was it the gluten? I can’t say I am 100% sure but I really did not change anything else in my routine. I still did the same exercises and kept the rest of my day the same for the most part.

If you decide to give this a shot I would recommend reading any book from Sarah Fragoso. She is an expert in the area and has several cookbooks that can help guide you along the way.  Right now when you go food shopping most foods stores have one aisle dedicated to gluten free products. I believe in the near future you will see more and more products becoming gluten free. Is this a fad or is it real? Honestly, I am not sure. I do believe after reading a few books on the topic that medically there can be benefits from eliminating it from your diet.

What I tell the athletes and other clients that I work with is to give it a shot and decide how you feel. Nobody knows your body like you do.

As I stated before, as long as you do not have any medical issues what’s the harm in giving this a shot?  You may surprise yourself and your performance on the field or in the weight room may just improve.

Good luck with whatever nutrition plan you follow in 2014.

“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc) on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: philly.com/philly/health

 

06 January 1:15 pm

You just finished a great workout at the gym.  As you finish up your last “rep” you feel so good about yourself. You made it to the gym today and everything felt great. You were able to keep up with the rest of the group with the workout and you can’t wait to get back to the gym tomorrow. You have decided that this is the year that you are going to fit into your “skinny jeans” or compete in your first adventure race. You have taken the steps that are necessary to get you off to a good start. You have joined the gym and have told all of your friends that this year you are going to improve your lifestyle and change your “bad” habits.  As you drive home you start to think about what you are going to eat for dinner. As you head into your house you open the fridge you notice that all you have is a bottle of hot sauce, a pizza box with two pieces of pizza left over from the weekend and three bottles of sugar filled sports drinks.

Does this sound familiar? I think it is pretty common for people to neglect their nutrition plan when they start a new training program. You have good intentions but you have no idea where to start in terms of your diet. Knowing where and how to start can be confusing. One day you hear from a coworker that you must follow Paleo. The next day your girlfriend/boyfriend says that you need to become a Vegan. You get my point. It can be frustrating to say the least. I am going to make this very simple for you.

Here are TEN (10) foods that you should always have on hand just in case you come home and you need to make a quick nutritious meal.

Because we all know that your nutrition plays a pivotal role in your progress towards a healthier life.

1. Avocado

These should be in every house unless of course you are allergic to them. Why, because they are packed with vitamins and nutrients and can be eaten with breakfast, lunch or dinner.  As we continue to learn fat is vital for optimal health and avocados are at the top of the list in my opinion. Add them to a smoothie or simple eat them solo in order to reap the benefits of this fantastic food.

2. Meat (beef or chicken)

I am not going to get into the difference between corn fed and grass-fed beef in this blog. When I talk about beef however, I am talking about the BEST beef that you can afford. I always recommend grass-fed from a farmer/butcher (I personally do not like store brand grass-fed). Meat offers several nutritional benefits (protein, omega 3 fats, B vitamins, etc.) that are hard to beat.

3. Kale

Kale is packed with Vitamins A and C and offers several   benefits to people who consume it on a daily basis. Personally I like to throw kale in a morning smoothie with coconut oil and some fruit because I do not like the bitter taste of kale. With that being said it offers a host of benefits that I recommend you look into. If possible I would always recommend that you buy organic kale.

4. Coconut oil

Coconut oil has been called by many a true “superfood”.  It can have a positive effect on brain function as well as weight loss.  It’s a medium chain fat that when taken before a workout can provide a tremendous boost of energy.  Also, it is great to cook with since it can be heated to a high temperature. 

5. Frozen berries (raspberry/blueberry)

If you like to make smoothie than berries (frozen or regular) are a must. Berries are high in antioxidants and vitamins. They also taste great so make it a point to add these to your plan. If you have frozen blueberries, leave them out and let them defrost for 15-20 minutes to get added nutritional value when thawed out.

6. Sweet potatoes

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap by many people over the past year. If you are looking for a great way to fuel up after a workout add in a sweet potato with your meal.  It will slowly raise your insulin while providing nutritional value. They also provide B6 as well as Vitamin C as well as a host of additional nutrients.

7. Eggs (organic or free range)

Eggs provide 13 essential vitamins. Most people throw away the best part, the yolk. If you want to get lean and feel energized start to add eggs to your weekly plan.

8. Macadamia nuts

When you need a quick snack these work great. They provide Vitamin A, iron as well as zinc and magnesium. They are also easy to digest so they make the perfect snack or an addition to a salad or meal.

9. Kefir

I started to implement Kefir into my plan this last year and I love the way I feel after eating this fermented dairy. It helps strengthen the immune system and is a great way to add probiotics to your diet. Make sure that you purchase this from a trusted source and I would recommend that you buy this from a farmer or a reputable health food store. Most store brands have added sugar that you could do without. It’s a great addition to a post workout or breakfast smoothie.

10. Mixed green salad (organic preferred)

A fantastic way for you to eat some raw food is to make a salad every day. It’s simple. Add some mixed greens, peppers, avocado, cucumbers and olive oil. Make sure that when you eat your salad you stay away from fat free dressings. You want the fat because many of the vitamins are fat soluble so this helps with the absorption of these nutrients.

There you have it, ten foods that should ALWAYS be in your house. In a pinch you can make a great meal with these foods. Good luck with your new plan for 2014!

“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (link: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc) on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/