Healthy Weight

If Not Sugar, Then What??

Last week we talked about some of the harmful effects of added sugar. BUT, if you are going to have sugar, which kind is the right choice? This week we’ll look at honey, coconut sugar, brown sugar, raw vs white sugar, and even stevia. We have to realize there isn’t a simple answer when it comes to added sugars/sweeteners. Added sugars is where the clear majority of health issues lie. Watch your labels and start playing sugar detective to know what you are eating!


Honey contains a few more calories than table sugar but unlike stevia or table sugar, it contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants making honey more like a food than a sugar. Unfortunately, most non-raw honey has been filtered, heated/pasteurized and processed thereby negating many of the health benefits in an attempt to prevent crystallization once on a store shelf.
(Caution: If you are allergic to bees, raw honey could potentially cause reactions!)

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar/coconut palm sugar (not to be confused with palm sugar) is made from the sap of coconut trees and is less processed because the sap is extracted and then placed in heat to dry. It has a couple minerals and antioxidants and a lower glycemic index than table sugar thanks to inulin (a type of fiber). Coconut sugar contains the same number of calories as table sugar, but the amount of nutrients is negligible unless large quantities are consumed so it should really not be consumed for its “nutrition” – it is still ultimately added sugar.

Raw Cane Sugar

Raw cane sugar (also called turbinado sugar) is extracted from the sugarcane plant and not refined. Although in large amounts, no sugar is “good”, raw sugar would be a better alternative than white table sugar since it retains some minerals. Raw sugar includes unrefined cane juice or powder (Sucanat and Rapadura) and date sugar.

Beware: White sugar can be labelled in disguise as refined or dried cane juice and refined cane sugar!


While all of our article has been designated to explaining different types of sugar, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a natural sweetener that appears to be in good standing. Stevia is a sugar-free and calorie-free South African herb made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has a glycemic index of zero so it doesn’t raise blood sugar. It appears stevia COULD be your best choice for a sweetener without the additional calories of local honey, etc BUT be careful of overly processed stevia products as in general the word “processed” often means “processed with chemicals”.

Also, be aware of overuse as it can cause you to develop more of a taste for sweets. According to “crude stevia extracts and whole-leaf stevia are not approved, the Mayo Clinic notes, because there are concerns about their effects on the kidneys, cardiovascular system and blood glucose levels.”

In summary, granulated white sugar/table sugar is the most chemically processed and refined of sugars. Brown sugar is just white sugar with added molasses, thus containing even more calories and sweetness. Choosing artificial sweeteners vs a “better” sugar is a choice you have to make based on the information available to you. There is no simple answer it seems. Our advice? Watch your labels, know your sugars, and choose what is best for you while exercising moderation!

The Devil in the Details…Sugar!

Sugar inside the body – blood sugar – is a sticky substance that coats the red blood cells. If left in the bloodstream (instead of being burned as energy) the particles will start to stick to the cells, interfering with blood circulation and oxygen exchange! Research has even shown that white blood cells are less efficient at fighting illness when exposed to sugar. Be careful of added sugars in your diet, especially if you feel an illness coming on!

One thing to think about here is the difference between complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates come from vegetables and whole grain sources and break down more slowly, releasing glucose into the bloodstream more steadily instead of creating a spike in blood sugar. Read more about glycemic index here at

WARNING: Sugars Hiding On The Label!

Did you know there are 56 different names for sugar?? Watch your labels and look for sneaky sugar words like dextrose, sucrose, sorbitol, rice syrup, and so many more! Read the full list here!

You also have to be aware of “healthy” sounding sugars like Agave. Agave is made by treating agave plant sugars with heat and enzymes which leads to a highly refined end product still heavily loaded with calories and still…sugar! Even raw, unfiltered, organic, locally produced honey which certainly has some positive properties and benefits is still ultimately sugar – so stay sharp if fat loss is your goal!

Added Sugars can lead to Excess Weight. Why? Sugar in the blood that goes unused completely ends up being stored as fat. Too much fat in the body can lead to obesity, and obesity is known to trigger diabetes and heart disease, among other common diseases.

Diabetes is not directly caused by too much added sugar but excess weight raises the risk for diabetes. Once a person has diabetes, added sugar can make it worse since your body becomes less efficient at regulating blood sugar (glucose) due to spikes and drops in insulin. Worse yet due to the disrupted blood circulation, diabetes can cause high blood pressure and ultimately heart attack, stroke, eye conditions, nerve damage, and kidney damage.

When we eat too much sugar, the process called glycation can occur. When this happens, some of the sugar we consume sticks to the proteins in our body, causing our body tissues to lose their elasticity. It is not just our skin that is affected, but also our internal organs. The faster that the body loses its elasticity, the faster aging occurs!

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and other white flour products tend to be very high in sugar and will cause an inflammation of the skin. Additionally, when we eat too much sugar, the process called glycation can occur. When this happens some of the sugar we consume sticks to the proteins in our body, causing our body tissues to lose their elasticity. It is not just our skin that is affected, but also our internal organs. The faster that the body loses its elasticity, the faster aging occurs! Skip the added sugar and age gracefully!


Goals! You just gotta have ’em!

It’s well into the new year and whether you had a resolution or not, you may have goals that have not come to fruition. It might just be how you went about forming your goal in the first place! Let’s talk about how to set solid and attainable goals.

Here’s a great example that I know many of us could work on: “I want to drink ½ my bodyweight in ounces of water every day for the next 30 days.” There is a how much, how often, and it is realistic!

Set a Deadline!

Just like an open-ended work project, you will likely keep pushing it off knowing you can do it tomorrow…or never. Consider having both short term and longer-term goals ranging from this week to 6 weeks to 6 months to a year. Your long term goals can have shorter sub-goals within them that will help you reach them – get creative! Just be sure to set a deadline.

Write it Down!

Why is your goal important to you? WRITE it down. If it doesn’t make you tear up a bit, it may not be important enough for you to follow through with! In the example above, drinking water, maybe you’ve been excessively fatigued, and you regularly walk around dehydrated. Your fatigue causes you to say no to playing with your kids, getting your “me” time running with your friend, or missing other life events that are important to you.

Writing goals and the “why” for them makes everything more real, and when goals are more real they are more attainable!

Be Prepared to Sacrifice!

Not everything of course! But if it required no changes to achieve your goal well, you’d have already achieved it now wouldn’t you?

You may want to ask yourself, “Is this something I’m willing to give up what I want NOW for what I want MOST?” If it’s not, you may not be ready for your goal. In our example of water, you may be craving that coffee, soda, or other habitual food/snack that is taking you away from your goal. There will be challenges along the way, but choosing rewarding goals will ultimately overcome and outweigh any strife involved in reaching them. Just make sure your goals are healthy and realistic!

Confide in Someone!

Share your goal with a confidant; a friend, your trainer, a family member, or someone you feel safe with but accountable to. Be sure to communicate to the person you share it with that you want them to hold you accountable! And that you want them to call you out if you are not taking proper steps toward your goal or perhaps taking steps away from it. One more thing that’s very important – don’t get mad at them for taking you seriously!

List Action Steps!

List at least 3 action steps you are going to take in order to achieve your goal. In the case of drinking more water:
1) I am going to buy a 40 ounce water bottle and make sure to consume 2 (assuming ~160 lbs person) servings a day.
2) I am going to keep the bottle with me wherever I go so I don’t have a reason not to sip regularly.
3) I will start by drinking 12 ounces of water first thing in the morning when I wake up.

Of course you can list more than 3 steps, you can even list steps you can take daily to move in the right direction, but the purpose of the exercise is not to get discouraged by those lofty goals you’ve set. Bring them down to Earth by listing concrete steps you can take to make them happen!

Step Up Your Snack Game!

Healthy Eating can be quite a challenge. Nearly anyone who has tried to make positive changes to their diet can admit this. As you start to build new habits however, you might find that meals are more manageable, but what do you do when hunger strikes in between meals? For many of us, our workplace has a room similar to this one that begs to answer the question…

The word “Snack” is most often associated with something less healthy, or natural, than a small meal, but keep thinking about how you can form your days around small meals, whether that is 3 or 5 times a day. No matter what though, sometimes you need that fast snack. Here are some great options for you:

Be prepared!

Keep It Simple

Roll a piece of cheese or a pickle in some lunch meat to get a quick protein boost. Look for natural meats without added nitrates and a short ingredient list.

Chia Pudding

Whether for a breakfast or for a snack, chia pudding can fit the bill! Simply combine chia seeds with coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
Get creative by adding protein powder, fresh fruit, cocoa powder…you name it!
Check out the recipe here!

Ellipse Breakfast Muffins

Need a quick breakfast that can be eaten as is or jazzed up? Check out our Classic Ellipse Breakfast Muffins with just oatmeal, egg beaters, applesauce, and baking soda.
Add-On’s: nut butter, yogurt, etc
Add-In’s: fresh or dried fruit
Add-With’s: cottage cheese and fruit!

Need Something Salty?

Try roasted chickpeas! Toss drained chickpeas with olive oil and salt/garlic salt and bake 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees until browned and crispy. Want a little kick? Add a dash of cayenne pepper!

Apples A New Way

Apple Snack

Have a sweet tooth that NEEDS to be tamed NOW? Try slicing an apple all the way across to get full flat circles slices. Spread nut butter on the slice and add toppings like chopped nuts, unsweetened coconut, or even a few dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs.

Make a "Small Meal"

“Crack Slaw” has a great combination of protein, vegetables, and seasonings! The recipe calls for Dole Coleslaw mix but consider using broccoli slaw for an extra vitamin boost! Find it here!

Sweet Craving?

Get your sweet fix by mixing peanut butter (or powdered peanut butter) with plain greek yogurt and maybe even a dash of sugar-free pudding mix to make a great fruit dip!

What to Eat, When to Eat, and What it Means for Your Workouts

Thankfully, it seems the era of fad-diets, fat-free, no-carb or other diets that entirely slash a whole category of macronutrients is coming to a close! But with that said, it is still difficult to find reliable information on proper nutrition! Let’s take a look at how eating factors into the effectiveness of your workouts, and maybe we can make sense of some of this.

“What should I eat before/after my workout?”

For most of us who exercise for health and not training for a high-level competition, our meals will contain some combination of high quality protein, high quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and some fruit and vegetables 1-2 hours before and/or after your workout to get the maximal benefit. Whether it is “and” vs “or” will partly depend on the intensity/duration of your activity, daily caloric intake and what is on the menu for the rest of your day

Break it down for me: What’s important – and Why?

Protein can help maintain muscle size, reduce muscle damage, provide your bloodstream with amino acids when it needs them most, and helps you adapt to your exercise over the long term! But most people are at least somewhat aware of the importance of protein for strength training – what about carbohydrates?

Pre-Exercise carbs fuel your workout and help with recovery/muscle retention with even shorter, intense workouts. Post-exercise carbs however should come from whole foods like fruits and vegetables because these are better tolerated by the system than insulin-spiking refined carbohydrates and are just as good at restoring muscle glycogen over 24 hours.

Alright…but tell me more about “When”.

If you ate a normal-sized, balanced meal a couple of hours before training (or a smaller shake closer to training), then you have 1-2 hrs after training to eat your post-workout meal and still maximize the benefits of workout nutrition.

But if you are like many who work out early in the morning or directly after leaving work, and you ate only a small meal within the last 3-4 hours before your workout, or you are in a fasted state, then you should consume a meal within one hour after your workout to prevent a slowed recovery. A whole food meal pre/post workout provides many things including important phytonutrients that build muscle, supply energy, decrease inflammation, and boost recovery.

Ya know, it just isn’t the same for me!

You might be right! In the end, the total amount of protein and carbohydrate consumed over the course of the day is far more important to lean mass gain, fat loss, and performance improvements than any specific nutrient timing strategy. If you are a high-quality eater (you are only looking to tweak minor things) check out this infographic that further breaks down your meals by body type!

When in doubt, keep it simple and fill each nutrient slot:
Protein – Scrambled Eggs with veggies
Fat – 1 “thumb” of cheese
Carb – 1 slice of Ezekial toast or fruit

Now we’ve got some recipes to help make finding a well-balanced, complete meal a little easier for you!

Asian Scrambled Eggs:

Shake up your eggs with a few new elements like some incredibly healthy ginger root and nutritious snow peas!
Check the recipe here!

Classic Protein Pancakes:

Rolled oats, eggs, cottage cheese, fruit – these pancakes have everything you need to call them a complete meal!

Find this recipe and more on our previous blog post here!

PB & Chocolate Banana Shake:

1 scoop choc protein powder, 1 fistful of spinach, 1 banana, 1 “thumb” of peanut butter, and 8 oz choc unsweetened almond milk. Blend and enjoy!

Need even more ideas? How about Banana Cream Pie Oatmeal?? Peaches and Cream Omelet?? You can find those and MORE in Precision Nutrition’s Gourmet Recipes List!

Instant Gratification in the Kitchen!

Maybe one of the trendiest gifts last year was The Instant Pot!

Did you receive one and feel intimidated to get started? Have you been looking at these things wondering whether you should add another gadget to your kitchen? Well this week, we’ve got some tips and recipes that might just have you falling in love with it!

Why make the switch?

“But I love my crock pot!” Well, maybe the most important reason is the difference between cooking with pressure vs conventional methods.

Pressure-cooking retains much more of the nutrients from your food! Boiling only retains around 40-75% of nutrients vs 90-95% with pressure! The higher the temperature and cooking time, the more nutrients are lost.

Still not convinced? Pressure cooking also reduces cooking times, reduces energy costs of cooking and makes cleanup easier! With this tool, whether you can stand the heat or not – you won’t need to spend all day in the kitchen.

No Soak Chickpeas!

If you’ve ever made beans from dry, the time it takes from soak to complete can be more than you want to take on vs just resorting to buying in cans. Chickpeas seem to be especially challenging to get right. These Instant Pot beans will change your mind! Check it out:

Rinse and drain 1# pound bag of dry chickpeas and toss in Instant Pot. “Pressure Cooker” setting on HIGH and adjust to 35 minutes. Naturally release pressure for 15 minutes and then quick release the rest. Voila! Refrigerate or flash freeze any extras.

Hard Boiled Eggs!

Now admittedly – hard boiled eggs aren’t all that hear, so why have we included them on this list? Have you ever had a hard time peeling eggs when their fresh? The Instant Pot has you covered! Toss 1 cup of cold water in the pot. Place eggs (however many fit comfortably) on the trivet in your pot. Set to “Pressure Cook” on HIGH for 8 minutes. Quick release your pressure and submerge eggs in cold water. Enjoy easy to peel hard boiled eggs in a hurry!

Whole Chicken??

Oh it’s fast…Save yourself a trip to the store, a few dollars and a whole mess of sodium by cooking up a juicy, tender chicken in about 30 minutes!

Place 2 cups of water, 1 medium onion, 2 large carrots, 4-5 cloves of garlic, and 3 stalks of celery chopped in the Instant Pot. Add the trivet. Separate the skin on the breast of the chicken and shove in some salt, thyme, and oregano. Place the chicken breast down on the trivet. Set the pot pressure to “Meat or Poultry” and set time to 25 minutes. Naturally release the pressure and the chicken falls right off the bone!
*(Note, the bigger the chicken the more time this takes to come to and down from pressure. You may need to allow for up to 1.25 hrs of pot time to be safe)*

Chicken Stock/Bone Broth!

Health gurus everywhere are raving about bone broth these days, and for good reason. Google “health benefits of bone broth” and you might be surprised – there are a lot!
It’s good for digestion, hair, skin, nails, liver, and more! Chicken stock can be intimidating to think about if you’ve never done it, but really it is simple.

Grab your chicken carcass from yesterday’s whole chicken and some assorted veggies like onion, carrots, celery, and fresh herbs (these veggies can be the left-overs from other choppings including leaves, skins, etc.). Toss it all in your pot with 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp salt. Add water until your pot is filled 2/3 of the way. Select “Soup” set the pressure to “Low” and time to “120”. Let the pressure come down naturally and strain the liquid. Done! And that is a tiny fraction of time it takes on the stove-top.

Chuck Roast In A Flash!

Place a 3-4 pound roast in your instant pot and cover with 5 wedged potatoes, 1 small bag of baby carrots, 2 quartered medium onions, and 2 cups of water combined with 3-4 beef bouillon cubes.
Place the lid on your pot and set on Pressure Cook (normal pressure) and set time to “60”; letting the pressure naturally release after. Prep for about 90 minutes of “pot” time, and you’ve got a wholesome meal that couldn’t be easier!

Rock Thanksgiving With These Drinks and Apps!

Well Thanksgiving is nearly here, and if yours is anything like most friends and family will descend upon an agreed upon location, all hauling heavy, over-the-top dishes that almost universally contain extra sweetness and a higher-than-usual volume of carbohydrates!

It’s a celebration meal designed for giving thanks, but instead we often find ourselves crying, “uncle!” at the hands of a feast low in quality nutrition and very high in sugar and calories. Either that, or you find yourself getting inquisitive stares from across the table as they notice your plate isn’t piled high enough to block your view!

BUT NOT THIS YEAR WE SAY! Start planning now to freshen up the variety and the quality of the meal, and most at the table will probably thank you for it!


Time to get your appetizer vocabulary up to speed! Crudites (kroo-dee-tay) is a French word that means a vegetable that can be cut into sticks, thin slices, or bite size pieces and served with a cold dip. Try this easy, healthy, avocado hummus dip! Blend 2 avocados, 1 can drained chickpeas, ¼ c lemon juice and olive oil, and 1.5 TBSP tahini (optional). Salt/Pepper to taste.

Prep double the veggies and double down on another dip with this excellent version of spinach dip! No Mayo, no cream cheese or sour cream!

Check out the recipe here!

Baked Blooming Onion! Who can resist snagging a piece of a blooming onion?? Try a healthier version by baking and plating with a greek yogurt based dip. Cut the base off an onion, cutting into 12-16 sections (not cutting all the way through) and “flower” the petals, dredge in 2 egg white wash, and coat with ¼ c panko + ¼ c ground almonds + 1/8 c parmesan and spices. Bake 40-45 minutes at 375.
Find the recipe here!

Want a dip with a kick? Combine 8oz plain greek yogurt + 1 tsp sriracha sauce + 1 tbsp parsley.


Add 1 shot of vodka over ice, mix 16 oz water with an “on-the-go” packet of Crystal Light or Similar powder. Pour half the mix over the vodka/ice and add a splash of lemon-lime or ginger ale soda. Toss in a blender for a blended drink! Get creative with your favorite flavors. Only about 110 calories: Cheers!

Combine a packet of Swiss Miss 25 Calorie hot chocolate mix, 3/4 Cup Hot Water and 1 Peppermint Stick. Ready to kick back with something a little more? Add a quick shot of vodka, but keep in mind that will set you back an additional 100 calories. You decide what it’s worth!


Are you hosting Thanksgiving? This year, buy a BIGGER turkey and rock those leftovers (or snag unwanted leftovers from the host)! Check out these great Ellipse Fitness recipes to use that leftover turkey!

Turkey Enchiladas

Turkey Tortilla Soup

Junk Food Disguised as Health Food

Health Food might be the largest growing industry with regards to groceries on the shelves. It seems like every week there is some new product out there making outrageous claims and taking up residence on the fancy shelves nearby the organic produce…that’s how you know it must be good! Right?

Well let’s talk a little bit about some wolves in sheep’s clothing, junk food disguised as health food, and foods that were designed for one specific population or usage but are being used too generally by the public and regarded as “healthy”.

Clif Bars: Perhaps these bars have pictures of cliff-hanging rock climbers on them because you’ll need to participate in that level of adventurous activity to burn off all the sugar lurking in these! The “Crunchy Peanut Butter” flavor has 17g of added sugars (see label: first ingredient is brow rice syrup. A sneaky way to say added refined sugar.)! Although the rest of the ingredients are not too bad these bars are not an ideal way to spend 250-300 calories. Instead try an RX Bar. They contain no added sugar and any sugar in the bar comes from natural sources like dried fruit.

Slim Fast: “Meal replacement” shakes took the dieting world by storm during the 1990s and 2000s. They’re quick, easy and promise convenient, steady weight loss. However, we now know that they are more likely to leave you hungry continuously because chewing is an important process for feeling satisfied from the food you eat, AND check out this number from Slim Fast’s flagship Chocolate Milk Shake: 18g added sugar in the only 190 calorie shake! That’s nearly half the calories from processed sugar. Not only will you still be hungry, but you are in for a sugar crash!

Sabra Hummus: Read your hummus label carefully! Chickpeas, Lemon juice, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), Tahini. That is all it should contain aside from added spices for flavor. Sabra and many other varieties of hummus in the grocery aisles are made with vegetable oil which is significantly less healthy than EVOO, and contain preservatives like potassium sorbate. Additionally while many people think of hummus as a high-protein snack it only packs 2 g per 70 calorie serving, which is ok! Not everything you eat needs to be high protein, but it is important to know what you’re in for.

Whole Wheat: Many people think of “whole wheat flour” or “whole wheat bread” as a health-food, but standards for what passes as “whole grain” are quite low. Most of these products are just about as “healthy” as white bread or white flour. Most “whole wheat” is just as processed and refined, has a nearly identical glycemic index, low fiber content, and likely has sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and/or hydrogenated oils. *Hydrogenated or Partially-hydrogenated oils (mono and diglycerides) are essentially Trans Fats that don’t have to be labelled. AVOID THEM. Nature’s Own is one popular bread brand out there with many ugly ingredients lurking within the label. Instead search for a “sprouted” whole grain bread like Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 or Angelic Bakehouse bread (both found many places now including Costco!).

Peanut Butter: Peanuts. Mashed. That is what makes peanut butter. Maybe salt if you like. Unfortunately though, most peanut butters have added sugar and palm oil or some other oil added. Instead of always choosing foods based on the pretty front label drawn up by their marketing team, start choosing based on the backside of the label mandated by the FDA. It is also important to note that peanut butter is predominantly fat which makes it a satisfying snack that gives you energy, but it doesn’t really fall under the category of a “high protein” food.

Sports Drinks: One 32 oz classic Gatorade contains about 52g of sugar! Keep in mind that Gatorade was designed for elite athletes competing at a very high level for sometimes several hours in the heat (originally from Florida). This drink is not designed to quench the average thirst of the average person. Many forms of Gatorade have unsavory additives and artificial flavors or colors, and even G2 which boasts about half the sugar achieves this by adding an artificial sweetener. We’ve suggested avoiding artificial sweeteners in the past, but if you’re going to choose a product that contains them, at least make sure it doesn’t ALSO contain 20g of sugar for goodness sake!

Try this electrolyte recipe instead: