Food & Fitness

Book Review and Giveaway: “Core Performance Women” by Mark Verstegen and Pete Williams

Yesterday, on Day 14 of the Raw Food Challenge, I ate:

– Glass of lemon water with a digestive enzyme capsule and a few leaves of romaine lettuce (my stomach felt really awful when I woke up. It was in a very sensitive state so I opted for lettuce and water. They helped a little).

– Glass of lemon water with 1/2 scoop calcium/magnesium powder, plus some pineapple and 1/2 banana

– Fruit salad with 1/2 banana, chopped pineapple, 1/2 apple, and 1/2 pear, plus a mug of ginger tea

Walnut cranberry squash “rice”: I swapped raisins for cranberries, added chopped crimini mushrooms, and omitted the cilantro. I heated this up on the stove just to warm it slightly. I quite liked it! Although I don’t think I’ll include the walnuts next time. Much as I adore nuts, I usually don’t like them in my meal; I prefer them by themselves or in nut butter form.

– Chocolate ice cream: this was much better than my previous failed attempt. Also way cleaner and cheaper! I just took 1 1/2 frozen bananas, a generous shake of cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp of cacao powder and whirred it all together in the food processor. Delicious! I started off with 1 1/2 bananas but it felt so good on my little tummy that I decided to make it again 🙂

– A few more romaine lettuce leaves, a couple slices of pear, and 1/2 banana dipped in cashew butter, along with 1 glass lemon water with 1/2 scoop calcium/magnesium powder

– 1 mug peppermint tea

– Lemon water with magnesium/calcium powder

I know. Serious lack of greens here- although that was a lot of romaine lettuce that I consumed over the course of the day- and a shockingly high amount of bananas. Funny how much it changes from day to day with what our bodies *need*! My stomach felt sensitive the entire day; when I woke up in the morning it took me a good half an hour to actually get out of bed because it was so sore. Towards the end of the day it was starting to feel better. I’m hoping this doesn’t persist! I haven’t heard of any detox symptoms in which the stomach is sore, but perhaps that’s the reason for it?

Book Review of Core Performance Women: Burn Fat and Build Lean Muscle

Penguin Group sent me this book a while back to review. Yes: we have another health book written by men, for women. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m skeptical of female-centered books written in the male voice (because it doesn’t make a lot of sense), but this book is written beautifully considering my skepticism about the style.

One of the things that I really liked about this book is that the authors are upfront about their ideas right at the start: “When [we] were asked to write Core Performance Women, we were a little taken aback. After all, we possess Y chromosomes. Plus, we viewed our previous books as not solely for men.” The entire book is set up in a fashion similar to most other health books of this nature (and the kind that I enjoy): it’s an examination of how we can change our mental attitudes, nutrition, and fitness to improve our health.

Written in the colloquial tone, Core Performance Women injects little anecdotes throughout to support the main premise. It is divided into four major sections: Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery. I like the terminology of the word Movement, as it implies lifestyle activity and not only the exercise we get from going to the gym.

I very much like the analogy in this book that compares finances to how we treat out health. The notion is that we should automatically take a small amount of each paycheque and put it towards savings or investments, before we’ve even paid any of our bills. This way, we learn better how to manage our money, and we also are able to have extra money set aside in case of emergencies or in case we want to purchase a big-ticket item. This in particular is very close to my heart right now, for reasons which I will disclose next week.

The reason why our financial situation is relevant to our health is that if we do not take care of ourselves now by eating well and exercising- or by putting money into investments- our bodies will take the toll (just the same as our financial situation will take a toll). As Verstegen points out, “We need to stop looking at training our bodies as a luxury but as a necessity, like saving for the future.” It doesn’t matter how expensive your rent is, you should always think about how you can save even what seems like a very small percentage of your finances so that your finances are taken care of. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how busy you are every day, you should always eat well and fit in some kind of exercise to prevent illness or injury.

As with most other books of this nature, Core Performance Women identifies a number of different eating styles (for example, the procrastinator, the emotional eater, the portion distortionist and so on). I have read countless health books, so this sort of thing does start to feel redundant after a while, but I appreciate that the reason why there are so many books like this out there is because it is all relevant to consumers everywhere. Something that is rather neat about this book, though, is that they have cute little easy-to-navigate coloured charts (I get such a kick out of books with graphs and pictures :)) illustrating the kinds of foods we should eat, according to our age and weight, at various “fueling times” during the day. For example, a 30-year-old woman at 140 lbs is advised to eat 1 grain, 1 protein or dairy, 1 fruit, and 1 fat for breakfast; 1 fruit and 1 fat (or 1 meal replacement bar/shake) for a snack, 1 of each grain, protein or dairy, fruit, and fat, along with 3 vegetables, for lunch; 1 grain and 1 fat (or 1 meal replacement bar/shake) for a snack; 1 of each grain, protein or dairy, and fat, along with 3 veggies, for dinner; and 1 fruit and 1 veggie (or 1 meal replacement bar/shake) for a snack. Obviously, these are very general guidelines, but it’s nice to see it all laid out so clearly.

The workouts included in this book are accompanied with images of how to perform the workout, with several pictures depicting each part of the exercise and even how you should look from different angles during the movement. There are also some interesting variations that I’d never seen before on classic exercises such as the plank position. Although some of the exercises require equipment such as a foam roller or a mini band, there are plenty of other exercises which only call for body weight, and the ones that do require extra equipment could probably be adapted if so desired.

One issue that I do have with this book is the emphasis on EAS Myoplex and Myoplex Lite. It got to the point where I was looking in the inside flap of the book to see if the authors were affiliated with the company that makes Myoplex. It’s not as though the authors pressure the reader into going out and filling up on Myoplex meal replacement shakes/bars, but they do mention Myoplex multiple times throughout the book. I’m not an advocate of these kinds of shakes and bars, especially when they have ingredient lists as long as Myoplex does (artificial flavours and at least three different kinds of sugar, in addition to unpronounceable ingredients that I’ve never heard of? No thank you!).

Overall I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it without any hesitation to anyone who is looking for a way to get started on their nutrition and fitness program. It acknowledges that everyone is at different stages in their lives and it addresses how the book can help women of all ages, no matter what your daily schedule is like or what kind of life you lead.

Want to win a copy of this book or of The Body Fat Solution (which I reviewed here) for yourself? Just leave a comment on this blog post telling me what kind of nutrition or fitness program you follow, why you think one of these books would be especially beneficial to you, or your favourite health tip. As always, originality or a little humour can increase your chance of winning either of these books! Giveaway is open for a week; the two winners will be announced one week from today, on Friday, January 22nd.


  1. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman

    “We need to stop looking at training our bodies as a luxury but as a necessity, like saving for the future.” I love that! I don’t follow any specific nutrition or fitness program, unless you count physical therapy as a program. I generally try to eat a lot of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean meats and limit my amount of refined junk. Though I don’t always win when it comes to dessert. I think a great health tip is everything in moderation.

  2. Kristi

    I really would love to win a copy of either of these books, although the Body Fat Solution sounds great. I find that I love to work out (run 4x a week, weight train 2x/week), especially if I have a race to train for, but it’s so hard for me to consistently eat healthy foods! I think that book sounds perfect for me to help get a handle on how to eat better.

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  4. Mimi (Damn the Freshman 15)


    I guess at the moment for fitness I follow the workouts in New Rules of Lifting for Women. Great book. As far as nutrition…I eat a ton of lean protein, and it satisfies me nicely. But I’ve gotten more open to eating a more plant-based diet (though I currently eat tons of veggies). Variety is the spice of life!

    Oh, Tom Venuto is -awesome-. His Bodyfat Solution apparently deals with the psychological side of weightloss, but more importantly, of maintenance. He believes that it doesn’t really matter what nutrition program you follow, as long as it’s healthy, but that the real trouble starts with people who revert to old habits or pick up poor new ones and wind up just as heavy as when they first tried to lose weight. I’d love it so that I could share it with my mom.

  5. Sagan Morrow

    Tracey- Sometimes I hear people talking about how they avoid things like beef at all costs, yet they consistently eat processed junk every day. The way I see it, if it’s REAL food, we’re doing good. Cut out the processed stuff first and reduce things like red meat afterward. But that’s just my opinion 😀

    Kristi- That’s great that you have the exercise part nailed! I think that we can make the transition to eat healthier more easily when we already engage in a lot of activity (and vice versa).

    Mimi- The New Rules of Lifting for Women IS a good book! I enjoyed it. And agreed that Tom Venuto really knows his stuff. I was impressed with his Body Fat Solution. Non-gimicky, just the way I like it.

    Cammy- Thanks dear! It has improved vastly. Am very glad you enjoy the book reviews 🙂

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  7. Mary

    I am “a work in process”. I was always thin but having children and eating a not-too-great diet have packed on the pounds. I am trying several things now, including trying to train for a half marathon (walk/walk faster intervals) for now, and watching my diet. So any help at all would be appreciated.

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  9. Geosomin

    I’ve been moving over the past few months to all unprocessed, made from scratch foods. It’s tricky, but doable. I think it’s the next step in eating healthy-to remove as much preservatives from my diet as I practically can. We buy meat and try to get our produce from local organic farmers as well. It’s tricky and we can’t always do it, but it’s becoming more and more important to me.

    I would be very interested int eh Core Performance Women book. 🙂

  10. Jenn

    I’ve been doing Weight Watchers for over a year and still have another 30 lbs to lose. WW has helped direct me towards whole foods with high fiber. My fridge is consistently stocked with fruits and veggies. I’m always in need of help though and these books sure wouldn’t hurt my cause!

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