MS Health and Wellness Newsletter
The Future is Clear When You Focus
by Todd DeStaebler
Happy New Year!! For most of us, it’s back-to-reality after a short or long year-end break. There’s so much to do and seemingly no time to do it. We’re producing quality deliverables for Morgan Stanley and for Capco as internal contribution. We have personal interests that we could probably give more attention to as well. Did you accomplish everything in 2015? How best to get it all done? Divide your time among all your goals and dedicate time to focus on each one.
When you focus on a task, the lack of distraction will lead to much improved results. By giving your complete attention, you’re less likely to overlook details and more likely to provide added value. Last May when we examined mindfulness, you learned how to train your brain to resist distracting thoughts. When we refer to focus, we're really talking about decisiveness, prioritization and action.
"When we refer to focus, we're really talking about decisiveness, prioritization and action"
The client comes first, of course, right? But what about looking out for yourself – number one?! There’s a common lament that says when everything is a priority then nothing is really a priority. However, if only one thing at a time is a priority, everything actually can be a priority. Here’s a process to guide your focus.
First, make an assessment of the big picture. What do you want to accomplish this year? While a year may seem like a long time period that lends itself to an infinite list of goals, it’s really a small chunk of your life. A great way to illustrate this would be a goal to make partner which is a multi-year effort. Another popular example would be a bucket list which people write out as they look out across the span of their entire lives.
Most of us this year won’t focus on making partner or celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary with your spouse, but we can focus on an earlier step in either process if we choose. The focus required is top-of-mind, daily acknowledgement of what you value most. So let’s break it down.
What do you want to accomplish this year that would bring you the most joy and best align with your values? Some accomplishments may be precursors that pertain to long-term goals like we’ve been discussing and some may be stand-alone end goals. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as you’ll be happy making the effort required to achieve them and the achievements themselves. That effort is you taking action. Circumstances won’t fall into place by themselves to deliver your goals to you.
When you have your list, figure out what you need to do this month, this week, today, and even in the next hour if you’re crazy busy. I’ve found it extremely helpful to schedule busy days to the minute when I have a massive list of things to do (fortunately those days are rare). Too much time can be wasted when we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by an overwhelming volume of things to do and don’t know where to start. By deciding where to focus your attention, and when you’ll focus on each task, you needn’t worry about when everything is going to get done.
When we’re worried about everything that needs to be done, nothing gets done. When we’re focused on getting something done, eventually everything will get done. And since you’ve focused on what comprises the “everything” that needs to be done AND decided when you will focus on each item, your tasklist is much more manageable. Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t know where to start – or when”? Pick a “when” and focus.
Remember that “sometime” isn’t on any clock or calendar. Too often we meet an acquaintance and part ways saying “we should get together sometime” and, although we each mean it, there’s little chance of actually meeting up again because neither one of us set a date to meet or to follow-up with dates that would work. To do items without a due date are the items that never get done, or only get done while we’re procrastinating.
So welcome to 2016, the year is still young and you can make it the best year ever by deciding what you will focus on doing, and when you’ll do it. We’d love to publish success stories if you want to share yours for a future newsletter. I’d love for you to be one of those people who tells a success story and ends with “if I can do it, anyone can do it”. Good luck and have a great year!
Cycle Those Carbs: A Nutrition Strategy for a New Year
by Chris Giannetto
Happy New Year Capco MS! I haven’t even started thinking about my resolutions yet. I hope to have something written down by the end of January. If you have a health and wellness related resolution for 2016, the Health and Wellness committee is here to help! We hinted at this article (not so subtly) in the past and finally we wanted to give you a nutrition strategy that could help you meet your goals in the New Year!
So what exactly is carb cycling, how does it work, and why should you use it? Carb cycling (also called calorie cycling) is a nutrition strategy where the amount of carbohydrates consumed on a given day is dictated by the level of activity. Most carb cycling plans break down into 2 or 3 unique days, low and high, or low, medium, and high. On a low carb day, you would restrict the number of carbs in grams to half your bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds your intake on a low carb day would be 100 grams or less. On a high carb day you would bring this number in grams up to 1.5x or even 2x your bodyweight. Most plans that include a medium carb day would have you eating your weight in grams for that day. We should note two important things before moving on.
First, a low carb day is by no means a ketogenic diet. “Low” doesn’t mean “no”. You’ll still be eating carbs which sets you up for proper bodily function over the long term. Second, it’s important not to think of this as a “diet”. While the carbs you take in, regardless of the day, should always come from healthy and primarily complex sources, you aren’t falling into the diet trap of eliminating a certain food, food group, macro nutrient or what have you. Yes, you’ll be eating mostly healthy things in reasonable portions, but isn’t that the goal of healthy eating habits anyway? Carb cycling ensures that you’ll never be too deprived for too long as it really isn’t asking you to sacrifice anything. It shouldn’t be thought of like a typical diet which has connotations of giving up things you enjoy.
Structuring the plan will depend largely on your goals. First, let’s take a look at what actually constitutes a low or high carb day. A low carb day will be any rest or cardio day, regardless of the type of cardio. Even if your cardio of choice is HIIT style, this is still a low carb day. The only exception would be very long distance training such as marathon level distance training. A high carb day would be any day in which you engage in very heavy or demanding strength training (or leg day!). If you do not engage in regular weighted exercise, every day is low carb day. While we won’t go into the science of why in this article, this shouldn’t be thought of as a bad thing. Limiting (but not eliminating!) your carb intake will provide you with enough fuel to maintain healthy function, but not too much as to begin causing negative side effects.
The number of low to high carb days will depend on your goals. If you’re primarily interested in losing fat, you’ll be looking at roughly 5-6 low carb days with one high carb “refeed” day. This requires some smart scheduling on your part. Towards the end of the low carb cycle you definitely won’t have as much energy to move the weights you’re used to moving. You need to make sure you’re working hard enough in the gym to stimulate fat loss (while keeping as much muscle as possible to keep your metabolism burning as quickly as possible) but not so hard that you risk injury due to reduced energy. If your goal is fat loss you’ll still be training on low carb days.
Carb cycling can be used to gain muscle, but before discussing the details of that, let’s look at how carb cycling affects the body. Any kind of weight loss requires a caloric deficit. The human body, however, doesn’t like being in a caloric deficit for very long. Once the body realizes that it isn’t receiving enough calories to continue working optimally, it has a few defense mechanisms that kick in. First and foremost metabolism begins to slow down. As a result the body will burn fewer calories at rest than normal (which starts to set the stage for fat gain).
Secondly, production of the hormone ghrelin goes into overdrive. Ghrelin is affectionately known as the “hunger hormone” and is what’s responsible for regulating appetite and giving you that awful hunger feeling in the pit of your stomach. The higher your levels of ghrelin the hungrier you’ll feel which sets you up for binge eating which, in a reduced metabolic environment, will lead to overall fat storage despite going through all the deprivation that typically comes with a diet.
Lastly, the production of the hormone leptin (the antagonist hormone to ghrelin) stops. Leptin is the satiety hormone and lets you know when you’re full and should stop eating. After a long period of being in a caloric deficit (and also in obesity) sensitivity to leptin decreases which means you’ll have to eat more and more to feel full despite the fact you don’t need the extra calories.
Carb cycling effectively tricks the body by introducing the concept of a high-carb (and for reasons we won’t mention in this article, only high carb, high fat won’t do it) refeed day. Just when the body starts to panic and produce the negative effects of caloric reduction, we throw in the controlled refeed day to essentially alleviate the body’s fears and stave off the negative reaction to a caloric deficit. I say controlled because this day isn’t an excuse to binge eat junk food, it’s just eating more of the healthy carbs you would normally eat (i.e. eating a lot more J). A cheat meal does have its place in regulating our sanity but this should not become a weekly occurrence unless accompanied by a heavy weight training session. Intense exercise temporarily changes the way our bodies process nutrients. After an intense leg training session, you’re very unlikely to store food as fat regardless of what it is as long as the portion size is kept reasonable (a whole cake is still not a good idea).
Now what if we want to use carb cycling to build muscle and speed up our metabolisms even more? Gaining any kind of mass (fat or muscle) requires a caloric surplus. We can approach this in a couple ways, the first and most obvious being to eat more food every day. The problem with this is that while you will gain muscle, you won’t be minimizing the accompanying fat gain. It isn’t possible to gain solely muscle with no fat (the opposite is true as well, you cannot lose fat without losing some muscle as well). The key is to maximize muscle gain while minimizing fat gain by cycling your carbs. Base your carb cycling schedule around your training schedule.
We talked about 3 or 4 day splits which would mean 3 or 4 medium to high carb days with the remaining days as cardio/rest and low carb. Using medium or high is generally up to you, if you really want to be more aggressive in building muscle then use more high days. If you want to take things slower and see how your body reacts use more medium days. Your leg day(s) should generally always be high carb regardless. The amount of muscles used on a solid leg day is far and above any other, part of why training legs is as much a mental battle as physical. It’s completely exhausting and you’ll need the extra energy. The nice part about structuring a plan like this is that while low carb days are no fun, there’s never really more than two in a row. High carb days are always just around the corner!
This still works by effectively tricking the body. You’re providing more calories and fuel for muscle building on days where there is a stimulus introduced that favors anabolism (muscle building). After a workout your body will be starving for nutrients to start repairs. By providing additional carbs on those days, not only will you be giving yourself the energy to really tax your muscles more, you’re giving your body the fuel it needs to repair itself properly. These short term caloric surpluses are counter balanced with lower calorie days when there is no muscle building stimulus.
Ultimately this approach will add muscle at a much slower rate than a traditional “bulking” state where you would eat a large caloric surplus daily regardless of activity level. Remember that regardless of how much you eat there is a maximal rate of muscle you can build in a certain time period, there is no maximal level of fat gain. Carb cycling will, however, add fat at a significantly more manageable rate which is more important. Living a healthier life is not a sprint.
As we have mentioned in the past the goal is long term sustainable results. There’s no sense gaining 5 pounds of muscle along with 10 pounds of fat as you will then have to diet back down to strip off the fat. Along the way, you’ll lose a good deal of that newly gained muscle as well. It’s like taking two steps forward to take one and a half steps back. Even though you will gain a little fat with carb cycling, it will counter balance with the muscle added. If the rate of gain stays roughly equal you won’t even notice you’re carrying the extra fat.
All of this carb cycling sounds like a lot of work but realistically it isn’t so bad after you get started. To start, pick which days are going to be low or high days. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to get a rough idea of your carb requirements based on your body weight. After that it really just takes mindful eating, paying attention to nutrition facts and serving sizes. Even then you only have to do this so much until you have a pretty good idea of what you usually eat. After that you can get away with just eyeballing most things. If you’re going to spend the time in the gym, do everything in your power to ensure it’s time well spent!
Regardless of whether you try out carb cycling or not, portion control and mindful eating are helpful practices to develop in our pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. We’ve always talked about sustainability and the importance of not depriving yourself. This system allows for both of these things. Healthy living doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be a miserable experience. Make 2016 your year to reach your goals and more!
The Virtues of Ben Franklin's 13-Week Plan
by Todd DeStaebler
Benjamin Franklin, a printer by trade, is one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. He is responsible for many things that relate to health and wellbeing: he created of the first public library and fire department, wrote Poor Richard’s Almanack, and improved himself by focusing on 13 virtues he thought would make him a better person.
He decided upon his lifelong program in his early twenties aboard a ship crossing the Atlantic. He decided to focus on one virtue each week and track his progress living his life accordingly. At the end of thirteen weeks, he’d start over so that, by the end of a year, he’d have spent four weeks total on each. He continued to track his daily interactions until his death using a simple matrix with the days of the week across the top and the list of virtues down the left column. The tracking sheet in the image below covers one full quarterly cycle.
The virtues were as unique to him as your goals are to you. If you need a tangible reminder that you need not tackle all of your goals simultaneously, Ben Franklin’s method provides an excellent basis from which to craft your own.
For the curious, Franklin put his focus on each of these once a week each quarter:
A busy life can be had without the hectic craziness often associated with it when you know that you’ll address something at a particular time. Creating and following a plan will allow you to be just as busy, but with less of the feeling that you have a million things to do all at once.
Gym Memberships in 2016
by Chris Giannetto
Last month, Capco partnered with “The Complete Body” gym, conveniently located right across the street from 77 Water Street! Discounted memberships are available through Capco benefits. If joining a gym is on your to do list in 2016, check out “The Complete Body” as part of your assessment.
Whether you select Complete Body or another gym is entirely up to you, and there are specific things you can look at when making your assessment:
1. Convenience – you want to join a gym that’s easy to get to and is available at the times you prefer to workout. Convenience factor also includes the number of other people using the gym during peak hours. It’s worth it to go 15 minutes out of your way to a less convenient gym if it means it will be less crowded when you’re planning to go. Most gyms will give you a tour of the facility before you sign up, try to go during a time you would usually work out so that you can see what a typical crowd will be like. There’s nothing worse than finishing your warmup to find a 20 minute wait for a cardio machine or a bench to open up.
2. Fitness offerings – decide what you want to do during your gym visits (e.g. work with a trainer, participate in classes, use particular types of machines like ellipticals, use free weights). Be sure to take a look at the variety and amount of equipment available. It’s always a good sign to see more than one squat rack, multiple incline benches and tons of adjustable benches. No matter how many “no curling in the squat rack” memes the internet creates, there will always be someone curling in the squat rack. This is an even bigger problem if there is only one squat rack! Also make sure the gym you’re looking for will support your goals. For example if you want to get big and strong but you’re training at a UFC gym with a few weights in the back, you’re probably in the wrong gym! The opposite is also true, just because your gym has a “Kickboxing” class, this probably isn’t enough if you actually want to learn a martial art.
3. Facility – look for what’s available before, during and after your workout such as locker rooms, showers, water, towels, or food.
4. Trainers – Working with a trainer can be a great experience, especially if you’re just starting out in fitness. Trainers are always going to be a large expense. Even at the less “luxurious” big box gyms like Crunch and NYSC, you’re looking at over $1,000 for roughly 3 months of training. If you’re training at a specialty gym (or Equinox because they upcharge everything) you’ll be looking at much more. This sounds like a lot but given the right trainer, it could literally be one of the best investments in yourself you’ll ever make.
5. That said, it’s important to be able to spot a good trainer from a bad one. Firstly, you should look at the education credentials of the trainer. While “book” smarts will almost never translate to effective practice, you do want to see someone coming from a physical education, military, sports therapy, or other sports medicine background. Also look for someone with a certification such as NASM. This shows you that your prospective trainer is interested in training people as a career and they’re dedicated to learning all that they can about that career. Unfortunately, most of the trainers you’ll come across in big box commercial gyms have backgrounds like theater or acting (trust me I’ve seen it all). These are probably not people you’d want to be trained by. While they could have just had a career change, it’s more likely that they just hopped on the fitness bandwagon (admittedly a career choice with relatively low barriers to entry) to pay the bills. Not someone you want to shell out over $1,000 for.
6. Also you’ll want to make sure your trainer actually looks like they practice what they preach to others. Your trainer doesn’t necessarily have to be a fitness model, but they should look the part of a personal trainer. As vain as this can be, this goes back to finding someone who’s interested in fitness as a career and lifestyle, not just a “job” between jobs.
7. When it comes down to their actual approach to training, your trainer should offer to sit down with you before you even start to give you an assessment of your current fitness state. They should listen to your goals and create a plan for you to succeed. Almost anyone can put together a generic, cookie cutter program. It takes knowledge and skill to customize a plan for a specific client. Your trainer should push you and hold you accountable for sticking to the program, remember that they also want you to succeed for their own purposes as well. Think of a tattoo artist, they want to showcase their best work to other potential clients. A personal trainer wants to train successful clients because it’s really the only way to gauge their own ability as a trainer. This is slightly unfair because a large portion of your success will be resting on your shoulders. As such a good trainer will also be assessing you as a client. You both have to mesh for long term fitness success. Remember that the greatest form of success for a personal trainer should be the client who no longer needs them. We hope you become that client!
Quick Hits - January
Gluten free isn't for me - A gluten free diet is a prescription for a medical condition (celiac disease) and should not be followed by everyone. If you haven't been told to go gluten-free you should not. There are little to no benefits of a gluten-free diet and doing so can make you less healthy, not more due to nutrient deficiencies according to available research.
Health and Wellbeing Committee
If you like what our committee produces, thank one of the people below. If you don’t like what we produce, let us know what we can bring to you this year. Last year we brought you a newsletter each month, lunch-and-learn sessions on productivity, the Capco 401k plan, disaster preparedness, and fitness benefits at Capco. We hosted a pot-luck lunch and a bowling night to keep us active and socially engaged.
If you’d like to join the committee, just say the word and you’ll be invited to our next bi-weekly meeting. If you want to submit a one-off newsletter article or coordinate a brown-bag session or team activity without joining the committee, reach out to any of us. Here are the current members:
Todd DeStaebler (Co-chair)
Chris Giannetto (Co-chair)