Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Saturday Morning Women's Boot Camp workout

Happy Halloween everyone! To start out our Halloween, myself and the ladies of Lightning Fitness had an EXCELLENT morning boot camp class. Everyone was sweating buckets, including myself.

For today's workout, I incorporated Tabata Rounds, which are work-sets of 20 seconds work with 10 seconds rest for 2 straight minutes. I used the GymBoss Timer pictured about to keep time. These rounds might not sound hard, but, trust me, they were. Everyone was loving the challenge in a sadistic, love-hate kind of way.... (and, I didn't tell the ladies this, but I actually had them work for 23 seconds instead of just 20 :)... I know, I'm evil).

Here's what we did: Following a 15 minute dynamic warm-up we moved to Tabatas, alternating an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise for the 2 minutes:

1) Dips or shoulder press (I only had a limited amount of DBs for all my ladies, 1/2 did bench dips and the other did shoulder press. They then switched for each round).
2) Jump Squats
3) Push-ups (on toes or knees - just as long as form was good - i.e., elbows were tucked in and butt was down)
4) Speed Skaters
5) Bent over rows (with DBs - we used anything from 15 to 30 lbs each hand)
6) Split squat jumps
7) Walking push-ups or Dive bomber push-ups
8) Burpees

Then, rest for 2 -4 minutes (we really needed it.... the rounds were killer) and repeat 5 times.

For myself being 20 weeks pregnant, I did pretty good considering. And, I wasn't the only pregnant woman in the class - my girlfriend Sandy was in the class and she's 17 weeks along. Both of us were feeling it - for me: the hardest part was catching my breath because baby likes to take my oxygen. So, on the third round I only did every other exercise and used that time to ensure everyone was doing the exercises correctly (like the push-ups, bent over rows, dive-bomber or walking pushups). I really needed that break and so did Sandra - she also did the same thing on round three.

The coolest feedback from the ladies was from the two who do triathlons. Both of them commented that the class was just like hard sprint workouts and much harder than the long distance running they do. And, they hardly do sprint workouts because they're so hard.

After we felt like our lungs reached their maximum, we moved onto a core/strength workout for 15 minutes and then did 5 minutes of stretching a cool down. It was a great morning and we all felt great.

Following that workout, my girlfriend came in the gym and her, Sandy and I did a bit more light weight training for about 30 minutes. We used this time to have a good gabbing session talking about "girl" stuff and baby stuff.

I hope everyone also had a great Saturday morning. Enjoy your Halloween night and try not to eat too much chocolate!

In health, Cassandra

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Manitoba Harvest October 2009 Newsletter - Check it out!

I'm a huge fan of hemp food products and one of my most favorite hemp companies is Manitoba Harvest. This company is based out of Winterpeg (I mean Winnipeg... only the Canadians will understand that one... :) ), Manitoba and produces some of the most yummy and nutritious hemp food products inlcuding:

  • Hemp Pro 70 - the first high protein hemp protein concentrate

  • Hemp Butter - just as tasty, but even more nutritious as any other nut butter

  • Hemp Bliss - certified hemp beverage

  • Hemp Seed Oil - a terrific fatty acid composition for health

  • Shelled Hemp Seeds - delicious and easy to digest

This month, the company has published a very cool and interesting newsletter to celebrate the Halloween festivities. Check out their recipe for Gruesome Guacamole, which includes the healthy fat-containing hemp oil and hemp seeds.

To read more, click the link here: Manitoba Harvest October Newsletter

Monday, October 26, 2009

Low blood vitamin D and birth by c-section

Tonight I'm prepping for the class I teach at UConn on Wednesday nights and the topic of the evening is vitamin D. Since the text I'm teaching out of is a bit outdated with respect to the recent findings on vitamin D, I had to do some extra researching to provide accurate info to my students. In my search, I came across this interesting study on the relationship between low blood vitamin D levels and c-section deliveries. So, because my brain is engulfed in thoughts on pregnancy and delivery, I was quite happy to share this all with you.

Association between vitamin D deficiency and primary cesarean section

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Mar;94(3):940-5

BACKGROUND: At the turn of the 20th century, women commonly died in childbirth due to rachitic pelvis. Although rickets virtually disappeared with the discovery of the hormone vitamin D, recent reports suggest vitamin D deficiency is widespread in industrialized nations. Poor muscular performance is an established symptom of vitamin D deficiency. The current U.S. cesarean birth rate is at an all-time high of 30.2%. We analyzed the relationship between maternal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] status, and prevalence of primary cesarean section.

METHODS: Between 2005 and 2007, we measured maternal and infant serum 25(OH)D at birth and abstracted demographic and medical data from the maternal medical record at an urban teaching hospital (Boston, MA) with 2500 births per year. We enrolled 253 women, of whom 43 (17%) had a primary cesarean.

RESULTS: There was an inverse association with having a cesarean section and serum 25(OH)D levels. We found that 28% of women with serum 25(OH)D less than 37.5 nmol/liter had a cesarean section, compared with only 14% of women with 25(OH)D 37.5nmol/liter or greater (P = 0.012). In multivariable logistic regression analysis controlling for race, age, education level, insurance status, and alcohol use, women with 25(OH)D less than 37.5 nmol/liter were almost 4 times as likely to have a cesarean than women with 25(OH)D 37.5 nmol/liter or greater (adjusted odds ratio 3.84; 95% confidence interval 1.71 to 8.62).

CONCLUSION: Vitamin D deficiency was associated with increased odds of primary cesarean section.

Looking for a new website

As mentioned earlier, I'm looking for a revamp to my current website,

I'd like a new look, a cleaner layout and a few new components. If anyone out there is looking for work, or knows of someone that would be good for this project, please contact me at

Thank you!

Women's Boot Camp Saturday Workout

This weekend in the North East was absolutely fabulous. The hubby, baby (in tummy) and I headed up to Kennebunk Maine to visit the Cressey's and hang out with our good friends Eric and Anna.

We also got a chance to goof around. Above is me (at 19 weeks and not looking so plump thanks to baggy sweaters) attempting to lift a 3 TON anchor in memory of George H. W. Bush (kidding).

Below is Eric, Anna and I on our bikes posing in front of Strong Lane (yes, we're all dorks).

I've finally learned after too many weekends working that we all need to take time on the weekends to enjoy life. This was one of those weekends and it's made me a better and happier person because of it.

Prior to our trip to Maine, I taught my Saturday Morning Women's Boot Camp Class at Lightning Fitness. After engaging the women in a good 10 min dynamic warm-up, we performed the following exercises in a circuit fashion:
***40 seconds of work, with 15 seconds to switch stations. 2-3 mins rest between sets, repeat 3-4 times.
A1) Landmine shoulder press tosses (basically a dynamic shoulder press with the landmine where you throw the bar from shoulder to shoulder)
A2) Dynamax Med Ball Side to Side Wall Slams
A3) Swiss Ball Supine Hip Extensions
A4) Mini Band Side to Side Steps (I like to call these "7th grade dancing")
A5) Ab Wheel Roll-outs
A6) Kettle Bell Deadlifts
A7) Ball-resisted V-sits

Then, we moved to the following exercises in a circuit style with 40/15 work rest. Repeated 3 times:
B1) Tire Jumps (jump on the 600 lb tire)
B2) Burpees
B3) Jump Rope (good to work those kegel muscles...)

Finally, we ended with a bit of core stabilization:
Front Planks/Side Planks
Dead Bugs
Supine Leg Lowering

Then, a good cool-down stretching period.

That was it! And, girl, those ladies were happy and tired! What a great way to start the weekend!!!

After I taught class I did the same workout with my training partner, but then threw in tire flips and a bit more abdominal work. I was pooped!

This week I'll get some video of our workouts so you can all see what we're up to. :)

Happy Monday!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pregnancy, RD and Excess Omega-3 fatty Acids

My apologies to anyone checking my blog and wondering what the heck is going on. It's been a crazy few weeks. So, for now, a quick update and then a cool research study to discuss.

First: I passed my Registered Dietitian exam two weeks ago (Oct 5th). So now, after many long years in school and a year internship, I'm finally able to say that I'm a RD. Yay!
I was so nervous about the exam. I used two different study guides to help me pass, and thankfully, they worked! The exam was pretty tough and I didn't study as much as I should have, but... hey, it doesn't matter!!! I passed and can now officially practice nutrition and dietetics.

Second: My pregnancy is progressing along very nicely. I'm sitting at 18 weeks right now (due date, March 25, 2010) and looking more pregnant every day. It's amazing: some mornings I wake up and swear my belly has grown over-night.
I'm definitely now in maternity clothes, but am starting to appreciate the new curves I've developed. I try to just stay away from my non-maternity clothes because only a small handful (well, very small handful) of them still fit,,,, especially those that were tight around the bust or the belly.
I can't say I've felt the baby move yet, but I sure have seen it. One day this week when I was in the gym for example, my whole tummy was shifted towards the left and looked lop-sided. It was wild and very noticeable.

For training: my intensity went way up between weeks 12 and 16, but lately, it's been going back down again. I do try my hardest to kick my own butt in the gym, but sometimes my lungs don't want to catch up.

Tonight's workout was the following, which required 1+ minutes between sets:
Set A, three rounds, 10 reps:
A1) KB Front Squats - 35 lbs
A2) Cable crunches - 119 lbs
A3) Chain push-ups - 20 lb chain over my back.

Set B, four rounds, 40 seconds at each station, 15 seconds between each exercise. 2 min rest.
B1) KB Swings - 60 lbs
B2) Sandbag Pulls and Squats - 20 lbs
B3) Renegade Rows - 20 lbs each hand
B4) Tire Jumps (jump on a tire)
B5) Snatches - 55 lbs (45 lb oly bar plus 5 lbs each side)
** This was brutal... I was dying by the end, but it was a good dying :)

Tomorrow's workout will be something similar - about an hour of total work time, plus going for two walks with my doggies in the morning and night.

Third: I'm teaching 5 boot camps a week now and absolutely loving it.
  • Two through South Windsor CT Parks and Rec on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 645 pm.
  • Three through the gym I also personal train out of, Lightning Fitness, on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday mornings at 9am (the pics of our new gym with 3,000 sq ft aren't up yet, but will be soon).
If you live in the area, contact me and I can let you know more details.

I'm also teaching a nutrition course at the University of Connecticut, and enjoy it a lot. It's an undergrad course, but the students I teach are just fabulous and some of them really are in love with nutrition (I remember being in their shoes when I was an undergrad).

Finally: I'm looking to completely revamp my website with client testimonials (I do online and in person nutrition counseling), the magazine articles I've written, new services I offer and an upcoming e-book (about pregnancy, nutrition and exercise). I'll keep you posted with the details.

Now, a research update:

While perusing the literature on pregnancy and nutrition, I came across this series of interesting studies on omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.

Abnormal neurological responses in young adult offspring caused by excess omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) consumption by the mother during pregnancy and lactation.

Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2009 Jan-Feb;31(1):26-33. Epub 2008 Sep 16

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3 FA) during pregnancy and lactation benefits fetal and infant brain development and might reduce the severity of preterm births by prolonging pregnancy. However, diets that are relatively rich in omega-3 FA can adversely affect fetal and infant development and the auditory brainstem response (ABR), a measure of brain development and sensory function. We previously examined the offspring of female rats fed excessive, adequate or deficient amounts of omega-3 FA during pregnancy and lactation. The 24-day-old offspring in the Excess group, compared to the Control group, had postnatal growth retardation and poor hearing acuity and prolonged neural transmission times as evidenced by the ABR. The Deficient group was intermediate. The current study followed these offspring to see if these poor outcomes persisted into young adulthood. Based on prior findings, we hypothesized that the Excess and Deficient offspring would "catch-up" to the Control offspring by young adulthood. Female Wistar rats received one of the three diet conditions from day 1 of pregnancy through lactation. The three diets were the Control omega-3 FA condition (omega-3/omega-6 ratio approximately 0.14), the Excess omega-3 FA condition (omega-3/omega-6 ratio approximately 14.0) and Deficient omega-3 FA condition (omega-3/omega-6 ratio approximately 0% ratio). The Control diet contained 7% soybean oil; whereas the Deficient and Excess omega-3 FA diets contained 7% safflower oil and 7% fish oil, respectively. One male and female offspring per litter were ABR-tested as young adults using tone pip stimuli of 2, 4, 8 and 16 kHz. The postnatal growth retardation and prolonged neural transmission times in the Excess and Deficient pups had dissipated by young adulthood. In contrast, the Excess group had elevated ABR thresholds (hearing loss) at all tone pip frequencies in comparison to the Control and Deficient groups. The Deficient group had worse ABR thresholds than the Control group in response to the 8 kHz tone pips only. The Excess group also had ABR amplitude-intensity profiles suggestive of hyperacusis. These results are consistent with the Barker hypothesis concerning the fetal and neonatal origins of adult diseases. Thus, consuming diets that are excessively rich or deficient in omega-3 FA during pregnancy and lactation seems inadvisable because of risks for long-lasting adverse effects on brain development and sensory function.

From Me: After reading through this study, the authors described similar situations occurring in human women and their offspring from excess omega-3 fatty acid consumption. It seems that the exact dose in humans to achieve this same effect in you or I is not the main issue, but rather the issue is the ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6s.

Yes, omega-3s are beneficial, but from this line of work, and others, you can really get too much of a good thing, especially from fish oil.

In order to prevent harm to your baby/fetus/child, keep the fish oil to a reasonable dose: 1 to 2 grams of omega-3s per day (from 3 to 6 capsules of fish oil) is often enough to show benefits for your infant. If your diet is quite high in total fat, you could use a bit more omega-3 to balance out the omega-6. A good ratio appears to be a ratio of about 7:1 to 3:1 of omega-6 to omega-3. Any more than that might likely lead to negative consequences.

In health, Cassandra (and baby)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Do Your Genes Determine Which Diet Means Weight-Loss Success?

Recently, Katherine Hobson of U.S. News & World Report interviewed me for her article, titled,: Do Your Genes Determine Which Diet Means Weight-Loss Success?

This article is really great. It discusses why some women (and men) do better with certain diets/diet planning versus other individuals and other plans based on their diet-gene interactions.

She interviews plenty of other nutrition experts, PhDs and MDs and comes up with a lot of really interesting (and factual) information.

Thanks Katherine!

In other news: I just returned from a 5-day trip to Sedona AZ, which is one of the most beautiful places in the desert I've ever seen. My husband has the pics on his laptop, but I'll post some here and on my facebook profile this weekend (add me as a Facebook friend if you haven't already). We went there to celebrate a good friend's wedding, but also get away on vacation. We went with 7 other friends, stayed in a mansion (VRBO), rented Mercedes Benz cars (the groom worked at Enterprize and got us all sweet rides), saw the Grand Canyon, and enjoyed the beauty of Arizona. My baby also got to climb a rock face and see a tarantula (gross!). Overall, it was a great time and I did a lot of recreational exercise (hiking, climbing) which was fabulous.

This weekend I'm studying for my RD (Registered Dietitian) exam, which I'm taking on Monday. This exam finally allows me to have the designation of RD after all my years of school and after doing a year-long dietetic internship. So, other than working out (which, I've finally got my energy back and have been kicking butt in the gym... tonight I pushed the prowler and did 5x3 log press cleans amongst other great lifts), I'll be just studying, which is just SO much fun.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! Be back soon.