KENILWORTH, NJ – Vinny Russo, a Harding and Brearley graduate has worked in the fitness and wellness industry for many years as a certified nutrition coach and trainer. Russo owns two businesses, the first being Team VR where he is a nutrition coach, and the second is a healthy meal prep business called Tailored Menu. He is also in the process of obtaining his Masters of Applied Clinical Nutrition to further his education and deepen his understanding of nutrition. Russo spoke to TAPinto Kenilworth to give some of his best self-care tips to keep well and fit during COVID.
There are so many of us sitting all day at home working from a computer. What kind of impact does this sedentary lifestyle have on one’s health?
If one chooses to sit down more often than not, and chooses a sedentary lifestyle, this can lead to more problems than meet the eye. Yes, lack of activity will mean more calories are being stored leading to fat gain, but there are more critical risks here that the general population doesn’t recognize. I am not saying the following to scare you, but only to make you aware of how important it is to keep your body moving. Having a sedentary lifestyle increases all risks of mortality, thus leading to a premature death. Chances of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, slower metabolism, obesity, dementia, and heart disease are all increased. The heart is a muscle and it needs to be worked. If it’s not being worked, like any other muscle it becomes weaker which means its potential to function optimally is hindered. So in a nutshell, long hours of sitting per day will lead to worse health outcomes. This is a quick fix by doing things like standing, taking the stairs, parking far from the store, going for walks, pacing while on the phone, etc. Literally, just get out of your chair or off your couch.
How much physical activity should we aim to do each day?
Just like Isaac Newton said, “A body in motion stays in motion.” We should try to move as often as possible, whether that be going for a jog, taking a Zumba class, training for a Triathlon, or going for a 15-minute walk. When working with my clients, especially those who do not engage in resistance training, we create a movement protocol. This consists of some form of cardio, daily power walks, and hitting a step count. This ensures that the clients are constantly moving and expending energy. I would recommend to hit at least 10k steps per day, walk as much as you can and as often as you can, and if you can fit some form of workout into your schedule, the best would be at minimum two times per week. The workouts can be anything that you are interested in. You don’t want to do things you know you don’t like, because you will never do them. If you are not sure if you like it, try it out, you may fall in love.
What would you say to someone who is not physically active but would like to start now?
I would advise this person to EASE themselves into any activity they plan on doing. The last thing we want is an injury to sideline you for a few weeks when you were at your most motivated. It would be wise to invest in a coach who takes your experience level and your likes and dislikes into consideration to develop a good game plan to get started. I would also make it known to appreciate the journey, do not expect results over night, and understand that patience, persistence, and consistency will win, not perfection.
What are your top Super Foods that you would recommend we incorporate in our diet?
Honestly, I don’t believe in Super Foods, nor do I believe in GOOD or BAD foods. I see food as being nutrient dense, calorically dense, or a mixture of both. Meaning does this food provide me with a lot of nutrients, does it provide me with a lot of calories, or does it provide me with both a lot of nutrients and a lot of calories. For example, vegetables are considered nutrient dense, a bowl of Fruit Loops would be considered calorically dense, and nuts like almonds would be a mixture of both. So with that being said, I would opt to maintain a diet that is primarily focused on nutrient dense foods. This does not mean you cannot have a Snickers bar, it means to just be mindful of what you are putting into your body.
There are so many vitamin studies out there and it can get confusing. What vitamins would you advise for women and for men to take daily?
Yes, and today, with the pandemic, we live in a day and age where MEGADOSED vitamins are seen as beneficial which is far from the truth. So now, I am going to go off on a tangent here, I apologize in advance but the use of megadose supplements are potentially hazardous, and here are a few reasons why:
1.) The fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate and cause problems with prolonged excessive consumption. Toxicity of active vitamin A may develop with intakes over 50,000 IU daily for several months and result in headaches, hair loss, skin exfoliation, bone pain, irritability, and even anorexia. Vitamin D toxicity may develop with intakes in excess of 50,000 IU daily for several months which can lead to fatigue, mental status changes, and constipation.
2.) Water-soluble vitamins in excess, although rare, can still lead to significant disturbances. Excessive vitamin C can promote the formation of kidney stones, chronically high vitamin B6 can cause an unusual neuropathy, and Niacin in large doses may cause GI disturbances.
3.) Supplementation with minerals and trace elements can result in a significant imbalance of nutrients. Excessive quantities of one substance can antagonize another. Some examples include zinc, when taken excessively can produce copper deficiency, and a high manganese intake impairs the absorption of iron.
The key here is moderation! So back to your question, I would advise everyone to invest in the following
- A LOW DOSED Multivitamin
- A high-quality Probiotic
- Vitamin D3 (in low to moderate doses)
- Omega-3 Fish Oil supplement?
What foods would you say that we should be cautious and try to limit our weekly intake?
I feel this question was worded perfectly. Foods that we need to limit and be cautious of, not get rid of forever! These foods include non-nutrient dense but calorically dense foods. Food items that are considered processed (including processed sugar) like deli meats, baked goods, chips, candy bars, etc. The foods you would normally label as “non-diet foods” will most likely fall into this category. Anything with TRANS fats in it, you will want to stay away from. Trans fats were created by scientists to increase the shelf life of particular foods. These fats raise the “bad” LDL and lower “good” HDL, create inflammation, and contribute to insulin resistance. So any food label that mentions trans fats, hydrogenated oil, or partially hydrogenated oil, you will want to stay away from.
Saturated fats, in excess, can lead to cardiovascular issues. So the best thing to do would be to limit your intake by being mindful and reading food labels. Now, if a food item contains saturated fat (butter for example), this is ok, you can still have it, just don’t overdo it. We still need saturated fats in our diets, we just don’t want to make them the primary fat in our diet. Finally, everyone’s favorite, alcohol. I am not trying to take away from your quality of life here, but alcohol needs to be limited. Alcohol is a poison that the body makes priority to metabolize first. What this means, is that any food that needs to be metabolized will be put on halt in order to rid the body of the poison. This increases the chances of food to be stored as fat. Alcohol also contains calories which are considered empty calories. Let’s not forget that alcohol also suppresses psychological inhibitions which can not only throw us off our plan, but can also lead to mindless decisions.
Is there any other tips or advice you would like to give on this subject?
Yes, actually my mind is racing to give as much information as possible without making this a book. I will touch briefly on 3 more topics.
1. During your fitness journey, you need to notice the difference between a “want” and a “need”. When follow a plan, you will experience times where you will want to veer off that plan. Food items or beverages that aren’t included in your plan seem even more inviting and your will power may be tested. The key here is not to let your will power decide, you must convince yourself why you should stay on plan. This is where you decide if it is a “want” or a “need.” Ask yourself, do you want it, or do you need it? If you don’t need it then you should be able to convince yourself to stay away.
2. Even if you do happen to veer off plan, know that it is OK! Look, we are all human and NO ONE IS PERFECT. If you mess up on your plan, don’t see this as an all or nothing ordeal, instead promise yourself you will get back on track NOW. Think about it, if you throw your diet out the window because you messed up with one meal that would be like getting a flat tire driving to work, and deciding to pop all the other tires because one went flat. It doesn’t make sense! Instead fix the one tire (aka make the promise to get back on track) and get back the road (aka get back to your game plan). Do not try to be perfect, instead strive to be consistent.
3. Know that the end result that you achieve is not what defines you, it’s the journey that defines you. How did you bounce back after you fell off? How committed were you day in and day out? What adjustments did you have to make in your life to succeed? What sacrifices did you make? See you need to be PROCESS oriented and not OUTCOME oriented. That journey will tell you more about the person you are and the build of your character than you lifting up your shirt to show abs at the end of it.
Bonus Tip: Make sure to plan for after the plan. Meaning once you get the results you are happy with, you need a plan to maintain sustainable results. Don’t be one of those statistics that show people who get fit, and then go back to their original habits which put them in the need to start a fitness journey. This is a lifestyle, it is not a fad. The habits you developed to get you to where you wanted to be, is what you will need to maintain for the rest of your life. This does not mean you need be in a “diet” for the rest of your life, it means that you carry the mindfulness, awareness, and knowledge you develop about your own body into every decision you make. When you go out to eat, when you want to hit the snooze, when your friends or family mock you for choosing a healthy meal at a family gathering (that will happen, trust me, they are just jealous you are taking care of you). Knowledge is potential power, its only power if you put it to use.
To learn more about Vinny Russo and his nutrition and fitness training go to his website or email him at CoachVinnyRusso@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Instagram at VINNYRUSSO_WBFFPRO or Facebook www.Facebook.com/Vinny.Russo.1025.