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Jolen LaPerna’S Mediterranean Diet Month Interview

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month! To celebrate, Luna Grill is sitting down with health and wellness professionals to talk about their recommendations for heart health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Although we say the word “diet”, the Mediterranean Diet is not all about food. A large part of the Mediterranean lifestyle focuses on getting active and incorporating movement into your day-to-day life. This month we sat down with Jolen LaPerna, Orangetheory Fitness instructor and owner of Body Fat Test San Diego. Jolen comes from a nutrition background and has been teaching fitness classes for over 5 years in San Diego. We loved sitting down with Jolen to talk about the right foods to incorporate into your body, including proteins and healthy fats! Check it our interview below and reach out to us on Instagram to share your thoughts!


Tell us about yourself. What do you do? 

Hi there! I’m Jolen LaPerna. I’m the owner of Body Fat Test San Diego and a coach at Orangetheory Fitness in San Diego. I’ve been working with Orangetheory for 5 years and I’ve owned my company, Body Fat Test San Diego, for just over 4 years.

Tell us about your company, Body Fat Test San Diego.

I have a hi-tech mobile clinic here in San Diego that provides body composition analysis through hydrostatic weighing. In short, it’s an underwater body fat test. It provides really consistent and accurate measurements for your body fat composition. Through that test and my nutrition background, I help people by putting together plans for them focused on their goals of losing fat or gaining muscle. I track them along the way and teach them about nutrition and what will help them achieve their goals.

What’s Orangetheory? Tell us all about it!

Orangetheory is a 5-heart rate zone based training program. They combine 30 minutes of strength training with 30 minutes of conditional training all using a heart rate monitoring system. So, you get that fitness and technology mix together which is a healthy way to train your body.

Why do you love what you do?

I love what I do because I get to work with people everyday to help them change and transform to become the best version of themselves through fitness and nutrition.

Do you have a motto you live by?

My personal motto is “no bad days.” It was a sticker on my window as a little boy so, I got to look at it every morning when I woke up. Since then it’s been a mantra my entire life. The idea is that everyday is a new day and a fresh start to be happy.

How do you stay active?

I stay active by breaking a sweat every single day. I take classes at Orangetheory Fitness, I go to the gym for resistance training, I play basketball and racquetball for sport, and I do yoga once I week. No matter what, I try to break a sweat every single day.

Why is staying active so important to you? Why should it be important to everyone?

I believe that as a society in the last 20-30 years we’ve started to become technology dependent to the point where we are not as active anymore. We’re not getting up and moving around like we used to so it’s important to try to move more everyday. They say sitting is the new smoking that kills you slowly. The idea is to move more and become active. Make small steps like hitting your step goal everyday so you can slow down the aging process and feel better everyday.

What do you recommend for a new client that is just starting their heart healthy journey? What steps can someone take right now to start?

For someone just starting off it is important to take small steps, little lifestyle adjustments. It’s not about trying the most advanced thing right away; it’s about making small steps towards getting healthy. Maybe it’s working towards tracking more steps everyday through your Fitbit or tracker, maybe it’s a challenge for yourself where everyday you do a certain number of pushups or squats or starting an exercise program a couple of times per week and eventually building up to more. The idea is to avoid taking on too much at once. Work bit by bit and as time progresses you’ll build up to more.

What food and nutrition choices do you recommend to someone just starting out?

I encourage my clients to download MyFitnessPal and start tracking their current nutrition habits to learn what they are doing currently. As they progress, I am a fan of a whole foods, the Mediterranean diet if you will. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid the aisles… whole foods are always the best.

What if someone doesn’t have the time? What do you recommend?

For the people that struggle to find the extra time in their day with busy schedules, it’s great to find places that are just an easy like Orangetheory which is a quick 60-minute class. When it comes to finding food, do your research – there are tons of restaurants out there that offer fresh and healthy food that is available to go.

What are the best foods to fuel an active lifestyle and why?

Whole foods are always the best. The idea is to try to buy things that only have one ingredient inside of them – meats, grains, fruits, vegetables. If it comes in a package it is likely processed and we start losing some of the nutritional value. You will always get the most nutrients with whole, real foods.

How much protein and what type do you recommend for your clients – why is this so important?

It is important to get protein in your body. It’s how we source our amino acids and get your muscles strong and healthy. A good rule of thumb is 20% of your total body weight in protein everyday. For my clients I recommend .8-1.2g of their lean mass in protein. Through the body fat test we can determine what their lean pounds are and, from there, I can determine how much protein they need per day.

I recommend multiple different sources of protein everyday. There are 9 sources of amino acids we get from our foods and if you only eat one type of protein then you are only getting a handful of those amino acids. I recommend 3-4 different types of proteins everyday.

What are your thoughts on whole grains and veggies as an important source of vitamins?

A lot of people are dependent on supplements and vitamins to get nutrients but really vegetables and whole foods are able to provide them as efficiently, if not better, then most supplements you can get your hands on today. If you deficient in a certain vitamin or nutrient, find out what whole food has that in it and add that to your diet.

Why are the right kinds of fats that are good for your body? What are some good sources of this (Olive Oli)?

There are a couple of different fats out there – saturated and unsaturated fats. We want to get those good unsaturated fats in our body. You can get some of the fats from the proteins you consume but most are sourced from things like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.

Loved our Q&A with Jolen? Follow him on Instagram here!