Jim Stoppani

The Lord Never Panics

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” --Isaiah 55:9

Read: Isaiah 55

Things on the ground look pretty small from 35,000 feet. I know, because that’s where this entry was written. Halfway through a five-hour trip cross country, the flight attendant announced, “If there is a physician on board, please come to the back of the aircraft.” She repeated it three times.

Immediately two young men, including a man sitting in my row, jumped from their seats and rushed to help. The rest of us simply sat and watched as a huddle formed in the back of the plane. After maybe a minute, a gray-haired man from the front of the plane walked passed us, almost casually, to join the effort. It wasn't long before the man from my row returned to his seat and explained that a young lady had suffered a panic attack.

Curious, I asked him if he was a physician. “No," he said. “There was only one doctor among us back there. Two of us were firemen, but only one doctor -- an older man. When he showed up, we all stepped back to let him work.”

(Get me a laptop, stat.)

In life, panic attacks, and the world responds with all sorts of solutions. But like today, I know I can’t run to the rescue. Only God can. Isn't it assuring to know that He is never rattled or stressed? He's always in control and is never late. He is never surprised and has never slept. He's sovereign over your house, my house and The White House. And the problems that find us, even at 35,000 feet, are well under His.

Now I think I’ll sit back and relax. We still have a ways to go.

--Jimmy Peña

INTERVALS: METABOLISM BOOSTER

Looking for a more efficient way to burn fat? We'll say it again: high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best method of cardio for maximizing fat and weight loss. Interspersing max- or near-max efforts with less intense bouts of recovery simply challenges your body in a way that traditional, steady-state training does not.

A study published in the American Journal of Physiology sheds some light on another way that HIIT burns more body fat.

"Researchers reported that six weeks of HIIT increased the amount of special proteins in muscle that are responsible for carrying fat into the mitochondria (where fat is burned away for fuel) by up to 50 percent," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days." "Having more of these proteins in muscle means that more fat can be burned up for fuel during workouts and when resting."

Try these PrayFit-crafted HIIT workouts to start building a stronger, more efficient body. And remember -- intensity is relative. Just give your best effort during the intervals. Everyone has a best -- this type of workout has you seek it repeatedly. And while most think "running" when it comes to cardio, you can perform your favorite aerobic activity in its place. Speedwalking, heavy bag work, jump rope or cycling are all perfectly acceptable substitutes for any HIIT running program you encounter. Simply apply the same training protocols to get greater benefits.

WORKOUT: TREADMILL HIIT

WORKOUT: HIIT PARADE

He Gets Us

"For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." --Psalm 103:14

Read: Psalm 103

If focusing on creation and how we were wonderfully made has taught me anything over the years, it's that God gets us. He gets why we worry. Why else would He constantly encourage us to have faith? He gets why we suffer. Why else would He urge us not to lean on our own understanding? And yes, He also gets the body.

As He formed us, He set limits. As He encased our soul with flesh, He numbered our days on purpose. See, most sculptors never hope to reunite with their design, but God does. We're all He thinks about! Artists may pour heart and soul into their work, but our heart and soul is His work, and He wants us back. His biggest desire for our lives is that we meet the source of our lives. And if Jesus is in our hearts, He gets us.

--Jimmy Peña

REST NOT, WANT NOT How to use rest to your advantage when training with weights

If you train with weights, you likely do so with an eye toward being stronger and leaner. And while a great many exercisers will set their programs with precision — dutifully planning exercises sets and reps for each workout — very few are as diligent when it comes to rest periods. Instead, some people will choose to rest until it “feels right” to get into the next set.

But if you’re trying to burn more fat, you may want to start watching the clock.

“Studies find that those who rested 30 seconds between sets during weight training workouts burned 50% more calories than those who rested three minutes,” says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days.”

>> For more training and fitness tips, visit our fitness page.

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Off You Go

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." I have always loved that saying. Story of my life. But what does it mean? Well, for me it means that God often calls us to do something that we may not feel equipped to do. Sometimes I think, "Who me? But Lord, that isn't what I am best at." Or so I think. I'm reminded of a few biblical examples of those who understood what it meant to be outside their comfort zones. (Moses, Peter, Mary Magdalene...) But when we're obedient, I believe those are the times we grow and are really used by Him.

Reminds me of my recent trip to Allaso Ranch, my amazing church's kids camp where I was a counselor. So many adventures and fun things to do, one of which was the zip line. As I stood in line with my 9-year-old daughter to fly high above the camp and across the lake, she was all smiles. I was smiling too but beneath my smile and sunglasses, I was scared. How is it that my 9-year-old daughter has no fear but me, a grown woman, is apprehensive?

So the guy tells us, "Just sit on the edge, let your legs dangle, lean over and off you go." I literally asked him, "Can you just push me?" (It seemed easier if the choice wasn't mine, but his) "No, you have to do it," he replied. "Ugh," I growled under my breath. I looked over at my daughter beaming at me from the other zip line, she was seated, feet dangling, just waiting for me. I flashed her a big grin, took a deep breath and off we went.

You know what? Experience of a lifetime. In my comfort zone? No. Worth the risk? Yes.

Outside of my comfort zone, I struggle. I sway back and forth between what is comfortable and what is good. It's a tug of war between my mind and my heart. Thankfully, God knows my heart, and He knows yours. He created us to be anything but mediocre, and He cares about the details of our lives. So today, I am going to move forward outside of my comfort zone, in obedience and in faith that the God of the universe has great things in store for me. He has them for you too. It’s His promise. So go ahead, sit on the edge, let your legs dangle and...off you go.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

TOP DIETS RATED U.S. News evaluates several of the top nutrition plans. Here are the top three

1. Dash Diet This diet plan is heavy on produce and light on saturated fats and salt.

2. TLC Diet Fiber and calcium, two very important parts of any diet, are stressed here.

3. Mediterranean Diet Wine, fish, salads, olive oil. This trendy diet is touted for its balance.

For the full story, click here.

But which one is really best? When selecting a nutritional plan, stories like this can make things even more difficult. Though the U.S. News story rates 20 different diets, each has benefits and drawbacks -- no single plan is the universal choice for body composition or healthful living. And when you consider that each has complicated formulas, painful exclusions and/or odd requirements, their sustainability becomes problematic. For many, simplicity is key to long-term progress which is why PrayFit recommends a diet that lends equal weight to protein, carbs and fat.

Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that the body responded best to a diet that was split equally among the three macronutrients — carbs, protein and fat. Their research pointed out that this type of diet limited inflammation as well as certain type of cancers by acting favorably on key genes.

Ironically, this is the dietary approach advocated by Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days.” Says Stoppani: “This not only makes the diet easy to remember, but it ensures that you are taking in a well-balanced diet that provides adequate amounts of quality protein for repair and regeneration of tissues, healthy sources of carbohydrates for energy, and healthy fats for proper brain function, cardiovascular health and joint function. When these three macronutrients are eaten in equal quantities (and in proper amounts), fat loss is optimized, while important muscle tissue is spared. In addition, research shows that when protein and carbs are eaten in equal amounts, brain function is optimized, allowing you to be more efficient at work and on all cognitive tasks – such as your daily devotionals!”

It is worth noting that those with other considerations such as intense training or preexisting health conditions will likely need to alter their macronutrient intake accordingly but as the research shows, this type of dietary balance has plenty to offer for the general population.

>> For a glimpse at how balanced nutrition plays out, pick up our book by clicking here. You can find plenty of workouts to go with your redesigned diet right here at PrayFit.com everyday, or you can try our starter training program by clicking here.

Nice To Meet You: Part 1

Driving home today, I decided to take a familiar route. This is a picture of the old Muscle & Fitness Magazine Headquarters. With it's palatial interior and athletes carved out of the walls along the rooftop facade, this building holds special memories for us. First of all, it's the reason my wife and I moved to Los Angeles when I took over the magazine's Fitness Director position in 2005; or so we thought it was the reason.

Days into my tenure, I happened to notice there was just something about one of my co-workers, far beyond his unbelievable writing skills and sense of humor. I knew he was smart -- smarter than me for sure. But something more. I remember the conversation. "You're a Christian," I said. And indeed he was. The weeks, months, and years serving readers together was an experience I'll cherish for a lifetime.

One late evening as we were both writing and editing fitness and nutrition content for our readers, I approached him and said, "Hey man, you got a second? I have an idea," And as he left my office, I think the last thing I said to him was, "I think I want to call it 'PrayFit.'" And the blessing of a best-selling book and DVD, a thriving website and an amazing future are byproducts of what we now know is the reason we moved to L.A. -- to meet Eric. And I'm glad you have, too.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. As we continue to serve, I know I speak for Eric when I say how thankful we are for the book's co-authors, Dr. Jim Stoppani and Jimmy Page, as well as our contributing nutritionist Dana White and our online contributing writers (and selfless crusaders) Allison EarnstCatrina Vargas-Cormell, and Emily Ann Miller MPH, RD. And mostly, we want to thank you, the faithful reader. Nice to meet you.

>> ABOUT US: Click here to learn more about the genesis of PrayFit. >> TEAM PRAYFIT: Get to know the faces (and stories) behind the daily entries here.

THE "OTHER" PROTEIN Why you should have casein in your cabinet in addition to whey

So much is made over the post-workout whey protein shake and its impact on muscle recovery. But there are other times of the day when protein consumption can payoff in a big way. New research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that a casein shake consumed 30 minutes before bed immediately elevated (then sustained) circulating amino acid levels, increased whole-body protein synthesis and improved net protein balance. In other words, this “second tier” protein kept up muscle repair all night long. Since it clumps in the stomach, casein is absorbed by the digestive system at a much slower rate than whey, providing a steady trickle of muscle building blocks while you sleep.

About half hour before you snooze, try drinking 20-40 grams of casein mixed in water. Since it is thicker than whey, figure on adding a bit more water to achieve your desired consistency.

Shepherds In Suits: Part I

"And even the very hairs on your head are numbered." --Matthew 10:30

Read: Matthew 10

Back in 2009, I wrote about a small group of soldiers-turned-bodyguards. Once brave on the battlefield for our country, these men now stand in the gap between danger and their client, with no regard for self. On watch and on guard, for the sake of their call.

As it so happens, I was asked to advise their client with training and nutrition as he prepared for a movie, so I had a rare, bird's eye view of their excellence.  And what I witnessed was nothing short of perfection. Selfless, stealthy. Shepherds in suits. I say shepherds because shepherds are fierce protectors; they can handle themselves, no problem. And yet shepherds are as caring for their sheep as nurses with newborns. And because I stayed close to the client, I shared his shield. I was safe, not because of who I was, but because of who he was. One call from the client, and you got the calvary.

So I suppose it's no wonder the bible refers to Jesus as the Great Shepherd. He watches over us night and day, and would go through hell to keep us safe. As a matter of fact, He did.

One call to Him? Calvary.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: How does knowing Jesus watches us so closely help you strive for better health or achieve modesty in how your portray yourself? Does it make a difference?

EGGS & CHOLESTEROL Are eggs bad for you? Hardly. Researchers have found that subjects who ate three whole eggs per day gained twice as much muscle in 12 weeks as those who only had one egg per day and that those who ate eggs at breakfast stayed fuller longer. And despite long-held beliefs, eggs really pose no danger to your heart when part of a balanced diet.

>> To read about how eggs affect cholesterol, click here. EGG FACTS: One whole egg contains 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. But don’t worry — about 80% of that fat is monounsaturated and saturated fat, which actually aids in the muscle-building process.

Are You Reaching?

"She thought, 'If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.'" --Matthew 9:21

Read: Matthew 21

She did what a suffering Job couldn't. Jacob, David -- them, too. Run through the bible and find as many people as possible who hurt physically, and one woman did exactly what each of them would have done in an instant. Having suffered for years with an issue that condemned her as an unwanted and unclean outcast, doctors couldn't heal her and family disowned her. She was out of choices, so she got up. She mustered strength of heart and elbowed her way through the crowd. She said to herself, "If I can just touch the hem of his garment." Now, the bible says many people were pressing against Jesus when He asked, "Who touched me?" (Mark 5:30)

Maybe you can relate. Are you hurting physically? Perhaps you've been dealing with pain unknown to most, but like the woman in our story, something has privately clouded your life. Or maybe you're apparently healthy and able, and yet you've willfully and knowingly neglected your body as a fearfully woven gift. Whoever you are and whatever your needs, make no mistake...Jesus knows your hurt and your heart. There's no pain or scar He won't understand, so bring it all. And remember, while many people actually touched Jesus on the road that day, only one truly reached.

--Jimmy Peña

STUDY: EXERCISE ACUTELY IMPAIRS COGNITIVE FUNCTION You may want to do those TPS reports before your next tough workout

How well do you recall things or process complicated problems immediately after exercise? If you just finished a workout, then maybe you need to read that sentence again. We'll wait...

If you really think about it, and are honest with yourself, you likely have more difficulty focusing on anything more complicated than mixing your protein shake. A new study shows that those who took cognitive function tests immediately after a workout had significantly slower response times than a group that rested.

>> Click here for the study abstract.

"Research shows that exercise can boost brain power over the long haul," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days." "However, the immediate effects of exercise may have detrimental effects on your brain function, as this new study shows. So for the students who train, either train after your tests or give yourself a few hours between your workout and your tests to prevent the fatigue of the workout from impairing your performance on the test."

RATE OF FAILURE

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"— Galatians 2:21

Much is made of the failure rate in baseball.  A successful hitter, it is said, fails to get a hit seven out of every 10 trips to the plate. Despite this otherwise abysmal statistic, those who perform up to such a strict standard are held in high regard. The familiar sound of bat meeting ball is met by a chorus of applause, the hitter greeted by high fives and offered hands of affirmation by teammates upon his return to the dugout. The spoils of a job well done.

In our walks with God, the only measure of success -- the perfection of Christ -- makes failure a certainty. More often than not, despite our best efforts, we will swing and miss at opportunities to glorify God in how we live, work and play. Still, despite no quantifiable measure of achievement and no earthly rewards to be won, we test ourselves, training for a contest in which the outcome has already been determined. Because we know that someday, no matter our rate of failure, we too will be greeted -- not by the roar of the crowd but by choirs of angels. The spoils of a life redeemed by grace.

--Eric Velazquez

LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AGING ATHLETE What does science have to say about your ability to train into your 40s?

Aching backs, ailing knees and rapidly-declining energy levels. Once you hit your 40s, these may be a few of your least favorite things, perhaps even to the point of discouragement. Why train if I can't do it the way I did 20 years ago? Well, science has plenty to say about that. According to Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," some of your best years may be ahead of you yet.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida (Orlando) placed untrained men and women between the ages of 18 and 40 on a 12-week periodized, twice-per-week, strength-training program for their non-dominant arm (the opposite arm served as a control). All three groups gained about 20% more muscle on their arms. The only benefit of being younger was the ability to gain slightly more one-rep max strength on the preacher curl. The older the subjects were, the more strength and muscle size they had when they started the 12-week program. Typically, the more strength you have, the less strength you can gain.

"There really is no difference in the ability to gain muscle size as you age, at least up to 40 years old," Stoppani says. "You may find it tougher to increase one-rep strength but you are likely stronger at the beginning of a program than younger trainers are. It really is never too late to start lifting weights."

>> Why not get a head start on banking some of that strength now? Try this at-home bodyweight program for starters, or visit JimStoppani.com for detailed, member-exclusive workout plans.

TRACKING NUMBERS

November 16, 2011 Read: Isaiah 43

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you." --Isaiah 43:1

Bib No. 18-164 wasn't tracking. Even though race officials, sponsors and loved ones knew bib No. 18-164 started the race, nobody knew where he was on the course. See, bib numbers have bar codes that tell everyone your pace, stage and whereabouts. Without a functioning bib, you might as well be invisible.

Can you relate? In the course of your day, have you ever felt as if nobody knows just exactly where you are? Oh sure, you're at your cubicle or at home with your kids. But is anyone really watching what you're going through, let alone loving you through it? Your hurt is real. Your pain is deep. And walking away would be much easier than running this rat race. But we're more than tracked, and our steps are better than traced. Hope isn't lost and neither are you. God finds us and loves us from start-to-finish.

And as far as bib No. 18-164, he officially finished in just over five hours. And while his time didn't warrant interviews or draw a crowd, he did receive his medal. But he wasn't alone in this achievement -- the prize went to anyone who accepted the invitation to finish the race. Friends, God invites us to accept Jesus into our hearts and lives. When we do, we join a race He's already won on our behalf. Our job is to trace His steps and help others do the same. See you at the finish.

--Jimmy Peña

NUTRITION TIP: Apples for Size

"I commonly advise people to eat an apple preworkout," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days." "Apples contain polyphenols that have been shown to increase muscle strength, endurance and fat loss."

A recent study affirms those benefits, showing that one of the polyphenols in apples, ursolic acid, also increases muscle growth and fat loss. For the scientific speak on the topic, click here.

>> PRAYFIT IN YOUR HOME: PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS, comes to your living room this December with the release of the "PrayFit: 33-Day Total Body Challenge" DVD. Learn more and reserve your copy today by clicking here.

 

PRECARIOUS POSITIONS

November 9, 2011Read: Psalm 116

"For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling." --Psalm 116:8

Today, on a short walk around our complex with my girls, my oldest daughter ran ahead a bit. When I finally caught up to her, she was halfway up a small embankment, princess dress, flats and all. This small hill is a familiar one to us -- we use it as a shortcut on our walks to the neighborhood play area -- but we usually hike it together because it's a bit too steep for 2- and 3-year-olds to manage on their own.

"Mya, stop right there," I said calmly as she struggled with the ascent. "Your shoes are very slippery, baby, let me help."

She turned to me and momentarily lost her footing. Once determined to proceed to the small summit on her own, Mya now looked to me in desperation, reaching out to me for help. While the climb to the top would certainly have been no picnic, coming back down had its own set of dangers -- if she were to do it alone. Taking her small hand in mine, we carefully negotiated the slope and continued on our walk together.

When we walk with God, we enjoy balance and security. When we trek ahead without Him, we often find ourselves in daunting, precarious positions. But no matter how steep the climb, no matter how dangerous the descent, when we get stuck He'll always be there to offer His hand to help us down so we can continue on our walk...together.

--Eric Velazquez

REST NOT, WANT NOT How to use rest to your advantage when training with weights

If you train with weights, you likely do so with an eye toward being stronger and leaner. And while a great many exercisers will set their programs with precision — dutifully planning exercises sets and reps for each workout — very few are as diligent when it comes to rest periods. Instead, some people will choose to rest until it “feels right” to get into the next set.

But if you’re trying to burn more fat, you may want to start watching the clock.

“Studies find that those who rested 30 seconds between sets during weight training workouts burned 50% more calories than those who rested three minutes,” says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days.”

For more information like this from the Doc, visit www.jimstoppani.com or join his Facebook fan page.

 

 

NO OTHER WORD FOR GRACE

October 27, 2011Read: Romans 6

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our lord." --Romans 6:23

Before high-tech ventilation systems, coal miners used to send a caged canary down into the mine to help detect dangerous and lethal fumes. As long as the canary kept singing, the coast was clear. Silence however meant danger and the nearest way out.

We don't have canaries leading us each day, but we do have the Holy Spirit. We hear His warning and sense his guidance. It's when we disregard Him that we end up in the dark, in deep trouble or in dire need of an exit.

But thankfully, God never lets go of us. Our fall will never exceed His grasp. Like Mom used to sing, "There's no other word for grace, but amazing."

Lord, we love you. Thank you for your daily, amazing grace. And thank you for your Spirit that leads us and guides us. Where would we be without you? Amen.

--J.P.

P.S Lord, be with my mom right now. Please heal her; protect her. Whisper to her that I love her. Amen. And if you want us and others to pray specifically for your mom, just let us know in the comments below. Just say, "My Mom" and we will.

EGGS FOR MUSCLE How did the incredible egg earn its nickname?

Many of you may think that eggs are just a simple breakfast food — something that’s been on your plate every morning since you can remember. But it is so much more, particularly if you’re looking to gain muscle, says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days”(Regal Books). Researchers found that subjects who ate three whole eggs per day gained twice as much muscle in 12 weeks as those who only had one egg per day.

EGG FACTS: One whole egg contains 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. But don’t worry — about 80% of that fat is monounsaturated and saturated fat, which actually aids in the muscle-building process.

Source: www.jimstoppani.com

 

SWING AWAY

October 5, 2011Read: Philippians 1

"For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain." --Philippians 1:21

Well, seasons come and go. Baseball seasons, that is. If you've followed PrayFit for any length of time, by now you know we're baseball people. And personally, I have a tradition. Each year, since I left high school, I call my little league coach on the first game of the year and whenever it could be the last. And yesterday, with my beloved Yankees facing elimination, I called coach. The same voice that comforted me as a 9-year-old, somehow does the same decades later.

Not sure if you can relate, but some days just feel like the last game of the season. Whether at work, school or in your quest for greater health, we often feel like one more strike and we're done. But friend, don't quit. Like Paul said, "For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain." Whatever we lose in obedience on earth, God has something better in mind, especially if it's our Game 7. So step out of the box, and call on Him. Hear His familiar voice. And if the sun comes up, it's not just another at-bat. It's God's sign for us to swing away.

--J.P.

THE DAIRY DEBATE

In "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," we advocate a balanced diet that splits calories evenly between protein, carbs and fat. The diverse selection on the weekly menu includes plenty of milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt, which has raised some eyebrows. While some suggest that dairy can contribute to inflammation and other allergies, the connection may be somewhat overblown.

"There is little clinical data showing a relationship between dairy and inflammation," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, senior science editor for Muscle & Fitness, FLEX and M&F Hers magazines and architect of the "PrayFit's" nutrition plan. "There is, however, a lot of research showing that dairy protein is one of the most effective for building lean muscle. That is not only important for aesthetic reasons, but for quality of life as we age. And since muscle mass is a metabolic tissue, it can help to further aid fat loss.

Stoppani concedes that dairy's bad rap isn't without cause. "Yes, there is some "evidence" to suggest that dairy products may be related to some inflammation. Again, there is not strong enough data yet to fully support this.  If it is a major concern for you, however, on any diet that recommends dairy you can simply replace any dairy foods with other protein choices, such as eggs, poultry, fish, or beef."

>> For more from Dr. Stoppani, visit his official website at www.jimstoppani.com. To try the PrayFit diet for yourself, pick up "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days" today at Amazon.

AGREEMENT ISN'T ENOUGH

October 4, 2011Read: Exodus 3

"But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" --Exodus 3:11

I wonder if Moses ever went back to the place of the burning bush. Oh, I know it's doubtful, but for one of the pillars of our faith, that spot was a pivotal point in his life, and for yours and mine. But he didn't just agree there. He didn't concur with a sophisticated nod like he was looking at some priceless work of art. No, his body had to get him where his soul had to go. A simple agreement wasn't enough. And so with ashes still on his sandals, he marched through Pharaoh's front door to prove it.

What about you? Do you remember when you were called to task? For me, my soul was called in the 8th grade, then again in 2007 to blend faith with fitness. For you, maybe it was 10 years ago, or maybe even 10 minutes. But regardless, agreement isn't enough, especially when it comes to our health. Agreement is just the opportunity to prove it. So go back with Moses. Get close to the flame. Rub your hands together and get warm. You have your own Pharaohs to face. And when you do, imagine God as He nods, looking at you like a priceless work of art...because you are.

--J.P.

NUTRITION Q&A Addressing reader questions from the PrayFit inbox

Q: I noticed that on page 225 of the book "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," there is a note to "add artificial sweetener if desired." Isn't that contrary to good health as artificial sweetener's are relatively "poison" and is a contributor to the obesity crisis?  Shouldn't you be recommending honey or stevia?

--Mo, via e-mail

A: Honey provides fructose, which is fine is small amounts but honey is known to cause numerous health problems. Stevia is a pretty good alternative for sweeteners, but it too has research showing some concerns over its safety. The research on artificial sweeteners concludes that they are safe when used in moderation. My personal stance is to avoid these chemicals. However, we realize that some people do need a "sweet treat" every once in a while and we wanted to make the diet tolerable for them. If a diet is too limited in the foods you can eat most people will not stay on the diet. The PrayFit nutrition plan we developed was designed to help people create a lifestyle out of healthy eating, rather than giving a quick fix solution.

--Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days"

>> Got a question for the PrayFit team? Send it to info@prayfit.com, or post it in our forums.

>> WATCH: Click on the player below for a peek at the official trailer for the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge by Lionsgate, due out December 6!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3k7_WPk5LU

WHAT CAN I BRING?

September 21, 2011Read: Mark 6

"They all ate and were satisfied." --Mark 6:42

When the crowds grew hungry, can't you just see the disciples on their tip-toes counting heads? I wonder what number they reached that meant they were outnumbered? But just to be sure, they decided to count inventory of the basket. "Two, three, four...nope, we're sure of it. Five loaves, two fish."

If you're like me, depending on the day, you've been both the worried disciple and the hungry crowd. In either case, the only one we can ever count on is the only one not counting. But somedays, I feel like the young boy don't you? Imagine him for a second. Little did he know that when his mom packed his bag that morning, he would literally hand it to God.

And while we don't hear the disciples say, "Thanks kid!" or "Glad you didn't come empty-handed, son," I like to imagine that after he got squeezed between the disciples and pushed to the back of the crowd, he found a nice spot on the hill with a good view. Grinning, he put his chin in his hands and watched God make a miracle out of his lunch.

We never know what the day has in store, but we do know what we bring to the day, spiritually and physically. (Let's remember to bring it.) And while we may not get applause, make sure to stick around to watch God do what only He can do with your life, and save me a seat.

-J.P.

P.S. Did you notice the verse? "They all ate." You never know, maybe the boy grinned with his mouth full, and maybe Jesus Himself brought him his meal. But what we do know for certain is that our work never goes unnoticed, at least not by the one who doesn't count.

GREAT STARTS These two breakfast plans can help you fuel up right for the day ahead

People always talk about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It puts a halt to muscle-wasting, sets your blood sugar right, crushes food cravings and provides you energy for whatever the day holds in store for you. But what does a perfect breakfast look like? Ideally, as we published in yesterday's PrayFit Daily, your entire diet should be a three-way balance between protein, carbs and fat. Jim Stoppani, PhD, nutritional expert and co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," offers two energy-packed options for your morning repast.

Option 1: 1 cup cooked oatmeal 1/2 cup fresh berries 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts 2 slices cooked turkey bacon

Calories: 296 |  Protein: 20 grams | Carbs: 37 grams | Fat: 8 grams

Option 2: 1 egg + 3 egg whites, scrambled 3 slices tomato 1 Ezekiel 4:9 tortilla 6 oz. grapefruit juice

Calories: 358 | Protein: 25 grams | Carbs: 45 grams | Fat: 9 grams

>> For a full lineup of meal plans and snack options that offer balanced nutrition for your healthy lifestyle, pick up a copy of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days" from Barnes & Noble or Amazon today!

DIAGNOSIS: MIRACLE

September 20, 2011Read:  Luke 7

"But say the word, and my servant will be healed." --Luke 7:7

Last night as I sat to write today's entry, I had an unexpected guest. But wait, let me back up. Two weeks ago, while sitting in the same spot, I heard a faint knock at my door. The kind of knock where you're really not sure, so you pause and wait to see? Well, sure enough, another knock. Opening my front door, I bore witness to my dear friend, Alan.

A neighbor and colleague -- pale, sweating, and collapsing in my arms. Minutes later, sitting in the ambulance with him, he was sure it was a kidney stone. Later that night, the doctors were sure it was cancer. A sizable tumor had taken his kidney captive, and he was bleeding internally. His surgery to remove both his kidney and tumor was yesterday. Or so we thought.

Last night as I sat in my spot to continue our look at health and devotion, walking across the parking lot was my unexpected guest...Alan. With his arms up, his first words were, "What tumor?" Three doctors from the most prestigious medical institution in Los Angeles couldn't find today what all three of them saw the day before. Alan recalls, "I was being wheeled to the operating room, and I heard a doctor say, 'We can't find the tumor'."

What some might call a misdiagnosis, Alan is calling a miracle. In fact, his primary physician says that in over 35 years of performing surgery, he's never seen anything like it. And oh, I should also report that minutes before he was taken to the operating room, Alan got on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes.

God, thank you for being the unexpected guest in our storms of life. You walk on water and into hospital rooms. Help anyone reading these words say 'yes' when you knock. Amen.

--J.P.

EQUAL PROPORTIONS, BETTER HEALTH How simple balance can help you live longer

With all the fad diets out there that promise to help you lose weight for good, the best one may have been under your nose this whole time. Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that the body responded best to a diet that was split equally among the three macronutrients -- carbs, protein and fat. Their research pointed out that this type of diet limited inflammation as well as certain type of cancers by acting favorably on key genes.

Ironically, this is the dietary approach advocated by Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days." Says Stoppani: "This not only makes the diet easy to remember, but it ensures that you are taking in a well-balanced diet that provides adequate amounts of quality protein for repair and regeneration of tissues, healthy sources of carbohydrates for energy, and healthy fats for proper brain function, cardiovascular health and joint function. When these three macronutrients are eaten in equal quantities (and in proper amounts), fat loss is optimized, while important muscle tissue is spared. In addition, research shows that when protein and carbs are eaten in equal amounts, brain function is optimized, allowing you to be more efficient at work and on all cognitive tasks – such as your daily devotionals!"

>> For the full PrayFit diet, pick up a copy of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days" from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

>> For the details on the Norwegian study, click here.

THE LORD NEVER PANICS

August 17, 2011Read: Isaiah 55

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” --Isaiah 55:9

Things on the ground look pretty small from 35,000 feet. I know, because that’s where this entry was written. Halfway through a five-hour trip cross country, the flight attendant announced, “If there is a physician on board, please come to the back of the aircraft.” She repeated it three times.

Immediately two young men, including a man sitting in my row, jumped from their seats and rushed to help. The rest of us simply sat and watched as a huddle formed in the back of the plane. After maybe a minute, a grey-haired man from the front of the plane walked passed us, almost casually, to join the effort. It wasn't long before the man from my row returned to his seat and explained that a young lady had suffered a panic attack.

Curious, I asked him if he was a physician. “No," he said. “There was only one doctor among us back there. Two of us were firemen, but only one doctor -- an older man. When he showed up, we all stepped back to let him work.”

(Get me a laptop, stat.)

In life, we tend to panic, and the world responds will all sorts of solutions. But like today, I know I can’t run to the rescue. Only God can. Isn't it assuring to know that He is never rattled or stressed? He's always in control and is never late. And the problems that find us, even at 35,000 feet, are well under His.

Now I think I’ll sit back and relax. We still have a ways to go.

--J.P.

>> PRAYFIT  IN THE NEWS: Earlier this week, PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena was the subject of an interview on bodybuilding.com, the world's most heavily-trafficked fitness website. Learn about health as a means of praise from this Texas kid turned fitness expert in "Body & Soul."

>> DID YOU KNOW? Vitamin D isn't just a vitamin -- it's a powerful tool in achieving better overall health. Numerous studies show that Vitamin D can lower blood pressure, help prevent certain kinds of cancer and fortify you against diabetes. Vitamin D can also help you feel fuller longer, store less bodyfat, burn more abdominal fat and improve strength levels. According to Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Stronger Faith and Healthy Body in 28 Days," vitamin D enhances muscle contraction and protein synthesis, meaning better workouts and improved recovery afterward. The Endocrine Society recommends that healthy individuals get in 1,000-2,000 international units (IU) per day from all sources (food and supplemental). Those who are overweight could benefit from slightly higher doses, up to 4,000 IU.

A FALL IN THE DARK

May 4, 2011Read: Genesis 3

"When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." --Genesis 3:6

It's not unusual to hear various levels of mischief in my daughter's room after lights out. Possessing the requisite toddler appetite for adventure -- and an apparent immunity to my sweet lullabies -- we sometimes hear her shuffling about in the dark of her room. Normally this isn't cause for alarm but a few months ago, on one of my routine parental patrols, I opened her door.

My eyes still adjusting from the brightness of the hallway, I caught a glimpse of Mya's silhouette across the room. Standing precariously on the three-inch wide, five-foot high edge of her toddler bed, she reached for the highest of the new glow-in-the-dark stars that I had just placed on her wall. Time froze. My chest tight with anxiety, my first instinct was to shout at her to stay still. Fearing that this would cause the very fall that I was afraid of, I quietly strode toward her with outstretched arms. Noticing me in the room, she turned.

"Hi, daddy," she said, caught.

Taking hold of her, I placed her back in bed and calmly explained the danger of playing nighttime gymnast on her bed rail. She knew that the stars were off limits, for her own good -- daddy's orders. She didn't understand it but by reaching for them from such a precipitous position, she was setting herself up for a fall in the dark. Sometimes, the most alluring things in this world are the ones that place us in the most peril.

This incident holds parallel for us all, doesn't it? As our childlike curiosity urges us to reach higher and farther, it's important to remember that our Father always knows best, that He will always be there to help us down from dangerous heights and, when we fall, He'll be at our side an instant to help us up.

--E.V.

SHAKE WEIGHT Which type of protein is best after a tough workout?

You just finished a tough leg workout. (One based on the almighty lunge, perhaps?) Time to replenish damaged muscles with the building blocks they need to come back stronger next time. The strategy is to consume some fast-digesting protein within 30-60 minutes of your last rep, which is why protein powder is ideal. For a long time, it was thought that whey protein -- which digests rapidly in your body -- was the bar-none choice for your post-workout shake but newer research is making the case for casein.

Casein is a very slow-digesting form of protein because it "clumps" in your digestive tract, therefore breaking down at a significantly slower rate. This is good because it provides your body with a sustained trickle of muscle building amino acids, the building blocks of muscle.

"Research has also found that when casein is taken after training, it boosts protein synthesis (muscle making) well as whey does," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days."  "In addition, Baylor University (Waco, Texas) researchers reported that when trained lifters added casein protein to their postworkout whey shakes for 10 weeks, they gained significantly more muscle mass than study subjects who didn’t get casein after training."

So don't throw out your whey but it may be time to invest in some casein powder. In your post-workout shake, mix the two in a roughly 2:1 ratio. Hard training individuals should be getting 30-40 grams of protein after a hard workout, with men being on the higher end of that recommendation.  That equates to around 20-30 grams of whey and around 10-20 grams of casein.

Source: Jim Stoppani, PhD

>> NEW TO PRAYFIT?: If you're a new visitor and are wondering where to get started, click here. Or, if you're just in search of some structure for your journey to greater health, pick up PrayFit in print today!

 

 

 

WE WEAR HIS NAME

March 4, 2011Read: Philippians 1

"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." --Philippians 1:21

Yesterday, we at PrayFit confirmed plans to promote, endorse and sponsor one of our favorite athletes. A champion in and out of the ring, Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero and PrayFit agreed to terms for his HBO Pay-Per-View televised fight on April 9. We are absolutely ecstatic. A man of God, a loving husband, and a three-time world champion, Robert Guerrero's trunks will carry a new logo: PRAYFIT.COM

In the middle of the ring and in the heat of battle, he'll be wearing our name.

You know as believers in the fight of our lives, we wear His name. With His blood, He stamped his promotion and endorsement on our hearts. He says, "He's mine! She's with me! I'm in their corner!" And any scars we show, we bear for Him. May the marks we bear point others to the cross. So whether it be at work, home, school or with your health, consider this moment the bell, and let's make it a good fight.

--J.P.

“Being a big believer in Jesus Christ, PrayFit gets me on track to start my day off in the right direction.  In boxing there is no room for error. You have to be not only be physically prepared but spiritually strong as well.”

Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, 3-Time Boxing World Champion

PRAYFIT WEEK IN REVIEW

>> WORKOUT: Test your mettle and build your endurance with this run-based workout

>> REPORT: Pecans boost heart health

>> RECIPE: Healthy BBQ chicken pizza. Do we have your attention now?

>> NUTRITION: PrayFit rates five dairy-free alternatives to cow's milk

WATCH!!!: Catch the highlights of Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero in his last fight, a decisive, HBO-televised win over 2004 Olympian Vicente Escobedo.

SHARE: Looking for quick-hit exercise and nutrition information, ideas and programming? Visit our new Fitness and Nutrition pages and be sure to use the new social networking features -- recommend, share, tweet, e-mail -- up top to help spread the word.

READ: "PrayFit: Your Guide to A Healthy Body and A Stronger Faith in 28 Days," now available in stores, is a fantastic, fundamental guide for anyone looking for a renewal of faith and fitness. The book includes 56 days of daily devotionals, complete exercise programs for both beginners and intermediates, as well as full meal plans to speed your results. To pick up a copy for yourself or a friend, visit Barnes & Noble or Amazon today!

HOPE FOR HEALTH

March 1, 2011Read: 3 John 1

"I hope all is well with you, and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit." --3 John 1:2

If you missed it like I did, read the verse again. Yep, that's it. In one verse, God has woven permission for a healthy concern of the body. Never at the expense of what's most important, but when was the last time you and I hoped the same for someone? Oh, we often ask how the kids are, how the job is going, and the progress of one's golf game -- but what about their health? Not the casual, "So how you been" or "How you doin'?," but rather a real longing to see your friends and family as healthy on the outside as they are on the inside.

Truth is, we may be as timid to ask as we are to be asked. But either way, it's okay. Because we have both permission and an obligation to hope for health.

--J.P.

PASS THE PECANS Research shows that almonds may not sit alone in the nut hall of fame

Over the last several years, the almond has become the rock star of the nut family and rightly so -- it's a wonder food that promotes heart health and aids in fat loss in addition to a host of other health benefits. But new research is showing that the pecan, which is also rich in healthy fat, may deserve at least co-billing as top nut.

Researchers at Loma Linda University demonstrated that the naturally occurring antioxidants in pecans, specifically Vitamin E, may help contribute to heart health and disease prevention. The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed that a pecan-enriched diet lowered levels of LDL cholesterol by 16.5 percent -- more than twice the American Heart Association's Step I diet, which was used as the control diet in that study. Similarly, the pecan-enriched diet lowered total cholesterol levels by 11.3 percent (also twice as much as the Step I diet).

"This does not give you permission to pound down pecan pie," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days" (Regal Books). "But having three ounces of raw, unsalted pecans daily, as in the study, could help you ward off heart disease and some cancers."

Source: Science Daily

STATE OF OUR UNION

January 25, 2011Read: Daniel 2

Praise be the name of God for ever and ever... He sets up kings and deposes them.” –Daniel 2:20-21

Regardless of whether you agree with the president's  policies or not, the idea of the State of the Union speech is pretty awesome. It’s a time for the president to share with the country the progress that has been made in the last year, as well as an opportunity to lay out strategies on how things will improve. More than anything, this speech allows the  president a chance to acknowledge that he hears the cries of the people while asking them to embrace his plan.

You know, with each new day, we’re able to address our own state of the union; of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If we think listening to our president is cool, how amazing is it that we can hear from the founding Father Himself? And you can bet your soul He hears the cries of the people, and He asks the world to embrace his plan.

And so Lord, we do pray for our President. Help him realize that a better state of the union will always begin with one nation under God.

--J.P.

EGGS & CHOLESTEROL: THE SIMPLE TRUTH

Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," (Regals Books) is a big fan of the good ol' egg, and not just because he makes a mean omelette.

"I firmly believe in eating at least three whole eggs per day as research shows that whole eggs boost muscle size and strength and that those eating eggs for breakfast lose more body fat than those not eating eggs," Stoppani says. "But many people worry about the cholesterol in eggs. As I always tell you, the cholesterol in eggs won't necessarily raise your bad cholesterol levels."

Stoppani's take has been met with skepticism by some but new research is showing that he is dead on in his assessment. Studies cited by researchers at UC Berkeley point out that there has been no conclusive link between egg consumption and heart disease, except in people with diabetes. The researchers also point out that dietary cholesterol only raises blood cholesterol in about one third of people and that a resulting rise in "good" cholesterol, or HDL, offsets any potential damage from a rise in LDL.

For more on this study, visit the source article at UC Berkeley here.

For more tips on healthy eating and training for size, strength and athleticism, visit www.jimstoppani.com.

>> GET PRAYFIT!: "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," is out on bookshelves now. In it, readers will find two, progressive 28-day bodyweight-only exercise programs, accompanying daily devotionals and the meal plans to tie it all together. To pick up a copy for yourself or a friend, visit Barnes & Noble or Amazon today!

GOODBYE, "BAND" LEADER

January 12, 2011Read: 1 Timothy 5

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers." 1 Timothy 5:1

You might not know who Dick Winters is, but he died this week, and you and I owe him a moment of pause. Winters was the leader of Easy Company — arguably one of the most elite groups of American soldiers in World War II. Their story was made popular by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in the acclaimed series Band of Brothers.

Prior to D-Day and long before the beaches of Omaha, the Winters-led group who would come to be known as the Angels from the Sky had to first prove their readiness. After months of testing and training, only those left standing were given their wings. Interestingly, while their worries were few, the one common fear they all had was whether their chutes would open correctly since they were responsible for packing their own parachute the day before each jump.

Please forgive the comparison, but if you and I were responsible for providing a safe landing from our many falls, we’d live in fear too. But since God’s love reaches lower than our worst mistakes and higher than our greatest accomplishments, we have a green light to take a daily leap of faith. Or as Major Winters would have put it, "to stand up, hook up, and jump."

--J.P.

REST NOT, WANT NOT How to use rest to your advantage when training with weights

If you train with weights, you likely do so with an eye toward being stronger and leaner. And while a great many exercisers will set their programs with precision -- dutifully planning exercises sets and reps for each workout -- very few are as diligent when it comes to rest periods. Instead, some people will choose to rest until it "feels right" to get into the next set.

But if you're trying to burn more fat, you may want to start watching the clock.

"Studies find that those who rested 30 seconds between sets during weight training workouts burned 50% more calories than those who rested three minutes," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days."

For more information like this from the Doc, visit www.jimstoppani.com or join his Facebook fan page.

>> FEATURED JOURNAL: Eric Gonzalez | Back at it in 2011