You can cut calories without eating less nutritious food. The key is to eat foods that will fill you up without eating a large amount of calories.
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There are perhaps a few things we just can’t get enough of: money, fresh air, new episodes of Downton Abbey… But what about exercise? How much of that do you need, how much is too much, and what’s the optimal amount?

One recent study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and highlighted by Gretchen Reynolds in her New York Times article, “Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six,” suggests that less may perhaps be more, at least when it comes to maximizing physical benefits and caloric expenditure outside of workouts.

For the study, 72 women aged 60 to 74 were divided into one of three groups: those who exercised twice a week, four times a week, or six times a week. At the end of the 16 week study, they all had similar gains in aerobic ability and strength, but the women who exercised four times a week were now expending about an extra 200 calories per day aside from their workouts.

Runner by Tom Trevino
Photo by Tom Trevino.

Researchers theorized that subjects in the two and four workout a week groups felt more physically able to engage in additional daily activity, as opposed to the six-times-a-week enthusiasts who, aside from their workouts, were now expending less total energy per day than they were prior to beginning of the experiment.

So what about you? Does your current routine or program leave you feeling energized or drained? Does your intense daily regimen mean you also look for the closest parking spot, or take the elevator, or drive when you could walk or bike? Or are you always game for anything, anytime, anywhere?

As much as we like to pride ourselves on our own ironclad programs, there may be a point where they cut into simple daily activity. Finding just the right balance between challenging workouts that enhance our lives and engaging in daily movement may just be the sweet spot we’re all looking for.

Slimmin’ Down Update:

Juan Ramirez

Speaking of balance, there’s at least one guy out there working hard to get it right, and that’s Juan Ramirez. He’s one of the locals taking part in the HEB Slim Down Showdown Challenge. After going though an intensive week-long FitCamp, Ramirez and 24 contestants have been on their own for about the last six weeks, putting into practice all they learned at the comprehensive training camp. And so far it seems, things are going quite well.

“Since we started the program, I’m down more than 20 pounds, and hope to hit the 25 pound mark by this weekend,” Ramirez said, who once tipped the scales at 370 and dropped more than 50 pounds on his own prior to the challenge. “Before the program, I had plateaued for a while, so it’s taken a long time to get to the 300 mark, and it’s been a really long time since I’ve been in the 200 range.”

Aside from a workout routine that now includes strength training, intervals, and even Zumba, one of the biggest changes that’s led to success for Ramirez has been cooking and preparing meals at home.

You can cut calories without eating less nutritious food. The key is to eat foods that will fill you up without eating a large amount of calories.
According to the CDC, “You can cut calories without eating less nutritious food. The key is to eat foods that will fill you up without eating a large amount of calories.”

“Prior to this, a lot of our meals were fast food, especially on weekends and after work,” he said. “But then we learned a little more about how to shop; how to pick out lean meats and other quality food … So now, we cook and prepare almost everything at home. We get better nutrients for our bodies, and even save some money.”

While his initial goal was to drop 65 pounds during the 12 week program, he’s now focused on short-term increments of two to three pounds a week, and is looking ahead to other things in his new life.

“Aside from taking part in more rigorous workouts, one of my long-term goals is to participate in a marathon or half marathon with my wife,” Ramirez said. “She’s an active runner, and so are a lot of our friends, so I’m looking forward to that at some point.”

With strong support from friends and family, Ramirez sees the challenge as a catalyst for continued progress. “We learned so much at FitCamp, it’s just a matter of putting it into practice. And now that I’ve had some success, I try not to focus just on the numbers, I try to focus on if I’m eating right and doing the things I need to do to be successful,” he said.

And what advice does Ramirez have for anyone looking to make the same transition?

“You have to accept what you have to do.”

What all of the contestants have done is achievable, and it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.

“It may be hard to take that first step,” says Ramirez, “and it took a lot of guts for me to do just that, and to share everything about it on my blog … But you need to do what you need to do. You might get tired or uncomfortable from time to time, but in the end, you have to do it. And if you stick to your plan, everything will follow.”

To learn more about Juan and to follow him on his journey, visit his blog.

Healthy Meals in Alamo Heights – To Go!

Speaking of eating well, the process just got a whole lot easier with the addition of a new Zedric’s location right in the middle of Alamo Heights.

Zedric’s offers freshly prepared, healthy, gourmet meals to go. But there’s more to the story than that. This is a local, family run business. Executive Chef Zach Lutton trained at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park before returning to San Antonio, where he joined up with brother Vince and their mother Elaine to launch the enterprise which is now just over two years old.

Vince Luton, co-owner and operations manager at Zedric's new Alamo Heights location.
Vince Luton, co-owner and operations manager at Zedric’s new Alamo Heights location.

“Starting the business was definitely a risk,” said Vince Luton, co-owner and operations manager. “But the potential reward was worth it. And one thing we [mom and brother] all have in common is that we’re not afraid to work hard and go for it.”

The new venue is located at 5231 Broadway and features all the same fresh entrees available at their main kitchen in the Colonnade.

“Everything is made from scratch, including our ketchup,” Lutton said. “We cook every day, and we use as many local and organic ingredients as possible.”

In addition, all the meals are appropriately portioned and sized and have full and complete nutrition information on the label so you know exactly what you’re getting. Whether you’re gluten-free or low-carb, they have plenty of options available, and a rotating menu of weekly chef specials, which currently includes everything from New York strip steak with grilled vegetables, to grilled salmon with white truffle parmesan quiona, and yes, even Texas brisket. Yee-haw!

But here’s the kicker; aside from being co-owner of the business, Vince is also a testament to the product, having recently lost more than 40 pounds.

“I still have a cheat night about once a week, but 80 to 90 percent of my daily calories come from the products we sell in the store,” Lutton said. “Having these healthy meals ready to go just makes it incredibly easy to eat well and not give up your social life.”

Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, “The Feed,” addresses health and fitness issues and dispense practical advice for San Antonians attempting to wade through the often-confusing diet and fitness world. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.

Related Stories on the Rivard Report:

The Feed: B-Cycle Expansion, Chocolate Murder and Running with Sculley February 2013

The Feed: Secrets of Success February 2013

HEB Slim Down Showdown: Let the Weight Games Begin January 2013

The Feed: Food, Fascism, and Super Bowl Eats January 2013

The Feed: Fat, Calories, and the Best Diet Ever January 2013

The Feed: Five Minutes With The Mayor’s Fitness Council January 2013


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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at