Category Archives: Nutrition

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 8 – Dieting Made Simple

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I can’t stand diets. In fact, if you tell me you’re on a diet or just trying to “jump start” your metabolism I interpret that as you’re prepared to fail. And why do I feel that way? Plain and simple, DIETS JUST DON’T WORK! Period! You’d think after all of these years of constant failures we would get the message. This time of year, people often look to trend diets for a quick way to lose weight. But, as I’d hope you know and understand, sustainable, healthy eating habits are the key to achieving lasting results. No question. It’s not easy but proven to be much more successful in the long term, which should be the goal. Here are a few simple tips and I emphasize simple.

1. Eat a variety of colorful fruits & vegetables. But you knew that already, right?
2. Consume protein at regular intervals throughout the day. Protein is the only macronutrient our bodies must consume from the outside. Fat and carbohydrate can both be manufactured by the body. And the importance of protein cannot be understated. Everything about you minus bone is made of protein. Digest that one.
3. Focus on consuming healthy fats. Fat is not the enemy. To lump them all together is admittance in not knowing or understanding basic nutrition. And fat does not make you fat. Energy (calorie) excess does.
4. Choose whole grains when available. Carbs are not the enemy either. To lump them all together is also another admittance in not knowing or understanding basic nutrition. Carbohydrates is the preferred energy source of the body.
5. Drink fluids throughout the day and during exercise based on individual needs. Hydration is key and is not to be taken lightly.

That’s it! Simple, right? There’s no sexy way to go about it other than to stop confusing real nutritional science with the ton of nutritional pseudoscience that’s out there. May be the day will come where the consumer is wiser than the manufacturers will give us credit for. Until then, you must fight on.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars

 

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 7 – The Problem With Added Sugars

(This is part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

A 2013 report from Credit Suisse estimated that Americans collectively spend $1 trillion annually to address health issues that are “closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.” Sugar is sugar or so we’re meant to believe. Truth is there is naturally occurring sugar and there is added sugar. Added sugar is perhaps the single biggest danger in the modern American diet, and steps are being taken to better protect us against it.

What is Added Sugar?

First, it’s best to understand what naturally occurring sugars are. Naturally occurring sugars are the sugars found naturally in many foods. Foods like fruit and dairy products are often high in naturally occurring sugars. However, foods like spinach, brown rice and black beans contain them too but in smaller amounts. Added sugars are defined as any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. Unlike naturally occurring sugars, which are a product of mother nature, added sugars are added to foods by humans.

Why Is Added Sugar Worse Than Naturally Occurring Sugar?

A medium-size banana contains 14 grams of sugar. A serving of Oreos (three cookies) also contains 14 grams of sugar. Since they both have the same total amount of sugar, does it really matter if one is naturally occurring while the other is added? You better believe it. One reason naturally occurring sugar is less of a concern is because of what’s bundled along with it. When you consume natural foods like fruit or vegetables, you’re not just consuming sugar; you’re getting a bevy of healthful nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is excellent at slowing down the body’s absorption of sugars. The fiber found in many raw foods is especially effective at this. Fiber slows down digestion, resulting in the sugar being absorbed more slowly. This delayed digestion has numerous benefits. It gives the liver more time to metabolize the sugar, which keeps blood sugar relatively stable. This helps to avoid the rapid rise—and sudden crash—associated with a sugar high. The same cannot be said for added sugar.

“Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food,” the American Heart Association states. “Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic.” Diets high in added sugar have been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and even cancer. Foods high in added sugar are typically low in overall nutrients, making them little more than empty calories. The FDA states that “scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.” 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugar sounds like a lot, but it’s frighteningly easy to surpass that total. One gram of sugar contains 4 calories. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar (virtually all of which are added sugar). That’s 156 calories of added sugar—nearly 8 percent of your total daily calories if you’re on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. In a day and age when the average American consumes a staggering 88 grams of added sugar per day (the AHA recommends a limit of 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men), food producers are using lots of it to ensure they’re appealing to consumers’ tastes. “Sweetness has an almost universal appeal. So adding sugar to processed foods makes them more appetizing,” the Mayo Clinic states.

Added sugar is often used to create intensely rewarding flavors that have highly addictive potential. A 2013 study discovered that Oreos and drugs such as cocaine and morphine have similar effects on the brains of rats. The study’s authors wrote, “Rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos and a specific environment as they did between cocaine or morphine and a specific environment. The researchers also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s ‘pleasure center’ than exposure to drugs of abuse. Added sugars are omnipresent in ultra-processed foods, where Americans now get nearly 60% of their calories. It’s not just soda or Skittles, either—a serving of canned tomato sauce can contain 10 grams of added sugar, for example. It has been discovered that manufacturers add sugar to nearly 75% of all packaged foods sold in supermarkets.

How Can You Avoid Added Sugar?

Since added sugars are frequently found in ultra-processed foods, cutting down on those can be a smart way to scale back your added sugar intake. According to the Mayo Clinic, desserts, sodas, energy and sports drinks are the top sources of added sugars for most Americans. But as previously stated before, added sugar can also lurk in some unlikely places. If you come across a product that doesn’t have the new label (supposed to have happened by July of 2018 which lists added sugar to the label), draw your eyes to the ingredients list. It’s not just sugar or high-fructose corn syrup that qualify as added sugar—fancy ingredients like agave nectar and sorghum syrup are added sugar, too. According to the FDA, there are at least 61 different names for sugar used on labels. Knowing what to look out for can be a big help while we wait for the new nutrition labels to go into wide effect.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You

 

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 4 – Healthy Foods?

(This is part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Wouldn’t it be just a better place if the food we ate had no ramifications? We could eat whatever we wanted in whatever quantities we desired. Since we know that’s a dream world we have developed two categories of food: those that are healthy and those that are not healthy. Healthy foods make sense. In other words they are foods that we may think are innately healthy or that would make us healthier if we ate them. So listed below are some “healthy” foods, or should I say “perceived healthy” foods and a better way of looking at them. Don’t get me wrong, I think that all of the foods mentioned below can be and often should be a part of a nutritious diet. We just need to change our perception about what components these foods actually contain and how to appropriately use them to fit our dietary needs.

Energy Bars

The Good: An energy bar is a quick and convenient source of energy, carbohydrates, protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. The Bad: Energy bars are sometimes seen as a “must-have” in the diet, particularly endurance athletes. The perception is that by eating energy bars or that energy bars have something everyone needs and can’t get from other foods.  Although energy bars can have a place in your diet, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Some bars can be very high in calories and fat — sometimes equaling what is normally consumed in a full meal yet is only being used as a snack.
  • Review the label because some have a nutrition profile more similar to a candy bar than a health food.
  • Some bars are heavily fortified with vitamins and minerals which may run the risk of consuming too high of doses when added to other foods and supplements in your diet
  • Energy bars are quite financially costly when compared to other food sources with equivalent calories and carbohydrates

Bottom line: Most energy bars are nutritious, concentrated sources of energy. However, they should be reserved for your days when you require a significant amount of extra energy and carbohydrates, like for exercise, or you just can’t find the time to sit down to eat. They should not be used to replace meals when you could otherwise be eating a variety of protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Granola

The Good: Granola is a concentrated source of carbohydrates that can add flavor and texture to a variety of foods. The Bad: Overindulging is easy because granola can pack a lot of calories into a small volume. Consider the following:

  • Many granolas are high in fat, sugar and calories and usually those marketed as low-fat compensate with additional sugar
  • Recommended serving sizes for granola are quite small (1/4 to 1/2 cup) yet we usually eat portions closer to 1 cup or more
  • Unlike other breakfast cereals, granola is often unfortified, so you may be missing out on vitamins and minerals if you suddenly replace your breakfast or snack with only granola

Bottom line: Keep portion sizes of granola small; use it as a topping for fruit or yogurt or combine it with other cereals that are lower in fat and calories.

Bagels

The Good: Sticking with the theme, bagels are a convenient, concentrated source of energy and carbohydrates that can fuel a workout or be used for recovery. The Bad: Bagels options vary greatly in portion size and nutritional content. What we’ve accepted as “normal” may be packing a lot more calories than we think.

  • Bagels are very energy dense with a typical size bagel containing ~300 calories and ~60 g of carbohydrate
  • Bagels are typically not eaten plain — we add a lot more calories with peanut butter, jams, or cream cheese on top
  • Many bagels are made with refined, white flour that is lacking in fiber and nutrients that would be obtained from whole grains

Bottom line: Choose smaller portion sizes (either half of a normal bagel, thin or the cute little mini bagels), choose bagels made with whole grains, and add a fruit or protein source to make it a complete meal.

Yogurt

The Good: Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein and is very versatile in its uses. Plus, the composition of yogurt includes beneficial bacteria that aids digestion.

The Bad: You have to look closely at the nutrition label to know what you are really getting.

  • Some yogurt, as with other dairy products, have a high level of fat (particularly yogurts made with whole or 2% milk)
  • Most “fruit” flavored yogurts are high in sugar since the fruit is often just sugary jam packed into the bottom
  • Frozen yogurt is sometimes put in the same category as yogurt even though frozen yogurt doesn’t contain nearly as much calcium or protein and is very high in added sugars

Bottom line: Yogurt is a great addition to your diet. Buy low-fat, plain yogurt and maximize its nutritional profile by adding your own flavorings like honey, vanilla, cinnamon, berries, etc.

Smoothies

The Good: Smoothies can be convenient, portable sources of fruits, vegetables, dairy and more, helping you meet your daily needs for these food groups. The Bad: Smoothies can hide a lot of calories and added sugars in an otherwise healthy sounding beverage. Keep these things in mind:

  • Beverages or liquid forms of food are less filling that solid foods so the same amount of calories won’t be as satisfying (consider the feeling of fullness after eating an apple vs. drinking a cup of apple juice)
  • Many “smoothies” purchased outside of the home have a lot of added sugars that make the nutritional content similar to soft drinks

Bottom line: Smoothies can be an alternative to a snack with a lot of added sugars. It can help you meet your daily requirements for fruits and dairy or quenches a thirst after a hard workout. It is best to make your own smoothies using whole fruit, low-fat milk or yogurt, and no added sugars.

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 3 – Are You Afraid Of Eating Fruit?

(This is part 3 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Let me cut right to the chase with this one. This is one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard. People who won’t eat fruit because it has too much sugar! Really? Ok. Then show me someone who became obese from eating too much fruit?  Better yet, let me save you the time (basically you won’t find anyone) and really get into this fruity dilemma. This crazy idea that fruit is somehow a bad thing to eat came into full swing with the low carb diet craze a few years ago. The terrible thing is that the myth still persists.

Yes, There Is Sugar In in Fruit

I guess the best way to start is to say that sugar isn’t inherently bad for you. Too much of it is, specifically the wrong kind. There is natural sugar (i.e. the sugar in fruit) and there is added sugar (the culprit of all bad things). The body doesn’t differentiate between the natural and added sugars but the sugar in fruit offers so much more than the natural sugar it contains – including water, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients (those naturally-occurring plant compounds that have wide ranging beneficial effects on the body). The idea that fruit is “loaded with carbs” or is “full of sugar” needs to be clarified too. It’s true that when you eat fruit, the overwhelming majority of the calories you consume are supplied by carbohydrate – mostly in the form of fructose, which is the natural sugar in fruit. That however is the nature not just of fruit, but of all plant foods – they’re predominantly carbohydrate and that means not just natural sugars, but healthy starches as well as structural elements, like cellulose, that provide fiber. When you eat vegetables, the majority of the calories you’re eating come from carbohydrate, too. But you don’t hear people complaining that vegetables are “loaded with carbs”.

But What About the Carbs?

Before you go assigning foods as being loaded with sugar, or too high in carbs, consider not only the amount of sugar or carbs you’re eating, but the form of the carbohydrate, too. There’s a big difference between the nutritional value of the natural carbohydrates found in fruits and other plant foods: sugars, starches and fibers, and what is in, or not in, the empty calories we eat from added sugars that are literally everywhere.

How The Body Processes Sugar (Carbs)

A very important part to understand is that your body favors carbohydrates as a fuel source. When you eat them, enzymes in your digestive system break them down into their simplest possible form: sugar. Complex carbs, sometimes called starches, have complicated molecules that can take some time to break down. Simple carbs, or sugars, are easy to break down, if they need breaking down at all. Either way, the carbs you eat all become sugars called glucose, at which point they enter your bloodstream. At this point, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin, which does a few things with this blood sugar. The key to avoiding blood sugar spikes is tempering your carb intake with other foods that slow absorption. Fat and protein help to some degree, but the best way to slow absorption is with fiber, which are carbs so complex that your body can’t digest them, so they slow the digestion of the carbs around them, causing the sugar to enter your blood at a slow drip. This is one reason why high-fiber foods are considered a healthier option. They help you avoid blood sugar spikes. Fruit, in general, tends to be fiber-rich, making the sugar content irrelevant.

Can I Eat Too Much Fruit?

Of course, it is possible to take in too much of a good thing. Moderation is the key with any food. There are all kinds of incredibly healthful foods that can be overeaten, from seeds and nuts to salmon and avocados. Point is to always question who and where you get your knowledge. It can be all the difference.

See you tomorrow for Day 4 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 12 – To Your Dieting Success

(This is part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

A majority of American adults say they’ve tried dieting to lose weight at some point in their lives, and at any given time, about one-third of the adult population say they’re currently dieting. Yet 60 percent of American adults are clinically overweight or obese and more than 16 percent of deaths nationwide are related to diet and physical activity. “There is clearly a disconnect if we have a majority of the population that has tried to lose weight and a majority of the population that is overweight,” says Marc Kiviniemi, a public health researcher at the University at Buffalo. “People are planning to diet and trying to diet, but that’s not translating into a successful weight loss effort.” Many issues, from biological to environmental, determine effective weight control, but how people manage their own behavior is a big piece of that puzzle.

Plan to Change

Dieting is a process that involves a plan to change eating behavior and behaving according to that plan. But the factors that guide diet planning differ from those that guide actual diet behavior, according to the results of a study with Carolyn Brown-Kramer of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The crux of the disconnect is the divide between thoughts and feelings. Planning is important, but feelings matter, and focusing on feelings and understanding their role can be a great benefit,” says Kiviniemi, associate professor of community health and health behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions. Plans to change behavior are a function of thoughts, the belief that weight loss is possible by making better food choices. But when it comes to making a food choice and deciding to execute the plan, feelings guide behavior. “If you’re sitting back conceiving a plan you may think rationally about the benefits of eating healthier foods, but when you’re in the moment, making a decision, engaging in a behavior, it’s the feelings associated with that behavior that may lead you to make different decisions from those you planned to make.” The findings highlight the shortcomings of deprivation diets or diets based on food choices that ignore people’s preferences. “First of all, the deprivation experience is miserable. If you didn’t associate negative feelings with it to start, you will after a few days,” says Kiviniemi. “The other thing that’s important is the distinction between things that require effort and things that are automatic. “Planning is an effort that demands mental energy, but feelings happen automatically. Deprivation or anything that demands a high degree of self-control is a cognitive process. If you put yourself in a position to use that energy every time you make a food choice that energy is only going to last so long.”

Plan for More Enjoyment

Kiviniemi says dieters should seriously consider enjoyment when framing and shaping a behavior change. “In the dietary domain, eating more fruits and vegetables is fabulous advice. But if you have negative feelings about those food choices, they might not represent elements of a good plan,” says Kiviniemi. “It’s not just about eating healthy foods. It’s about eating the healthy foods you like the most.” It’s not easy, and a lot of work is required to move intention to action, which is why Kiviniemi says planning should be broadly based on both thoughts and feelings. “Think seriously about how you’re going to implement the plans you make to change your behavior, and that includes not only the feeling component, but how you plan to overcome a negative reaction that might surface during a diet.” It’s not just the knowledge of what we’re eating, but consideration of how we’ll feel having decided to eat those foods, he says.

Happy Holidays to you and your families and blessings for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 –  Minimalist Fitness
Day #8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss
Day #9 – The Food Pyramid: The Demise of the American Diet
Day #10 – 10 Weight Room Mistakes
Day #11 – Organic Foods 101

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 11 – Organic Foods 101

(This is part 11 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

20 years ago most organic food was produced by small farms and was only available at farmers’ markets and health food stores. Since the early 1990s organic food production has increased at the rate of about 20% per year, in both developing and developed nations – making it far more widely available – with giant supermarket chains like Giant and Walmart carrying organic products. Usually organic foods are more expensive; so with economy on everyone’s mind we needed a reminder of what organic foods are all about.

What Does Organic Mean?

Organic foods are produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and the land used to grow organic produce must go through a three year transitional period to ensure the soil is clear of conventional fertilizer and pesticide residue; in order to meet the USDA standards of organic certification. It must also be free from any waste contamination, either human or industrial and livestock must be free from growth hormones, not have been subjected to the use of antibiotics on a regular basis and must be fed a healthy diet. Organic products cannot contain genetically modified organisms in most countries. As far as food safety is concerned there is no difference between organic and conventionally produced foods – so always remember to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water to remove dirt and bacteria and employ safe handling and storage for meat, poultry, dairy and fish. Some scientists even suggest that organic farming practices are not as sanitary as conventional farming practices.

Is It All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

In terms of actual nutrition there has not been any conclusive evidence to suggest that organic foods contain any more nutrients than conventionally produced foods. They do however contain significantly less pesticide residue. And don’t panic – if you are very concerned about pesticide residues for yourself or your children and you’re unable to buy organic foods, you can remove a significant amount of the pesticide residues in your food by simple peeling fruits and vegetables and removing the outer leaves (but do be aware you will be losing fiber and some nutrients), and trimming any fat from meat and poultry as the residues tend to be more concentrated in the fat and avoiding fish from contaminated areas.

But Is It Worth It?

Some people think organic food just tastes better and, if you can afford to, it makes sense to give your body the most delicious and best possible food available, but don’t stress yourself out over it. A varied, nutritionally balanced diet with proper food safety handling, whether organic or not, is the most important thing for overall health and well-being, and if you can buy organic you can be assured that you are helping to sustain the planet.

See you tomorrow for Day 12 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 – Minimalist Fitness
Day #8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss
Day #9 – The Food Pyramid: The Demise of the American Diet
Day #10 – 10 Weight Room Mistakes

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 9 – The Food Pyramid: The Demise of the American Diet

(This is part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

We have all seen it hundreds of times. We are familiar with its confusing, rigid rules and strict serving size recommendations. It was plastered everywhere: on cereal boxes, billboards, television, textbooks and newspapers. Everywhere you looked, it lurked. USDA’s Food Pyramid. Have you ever looked at the food pyramid and wondered when and why it was created? How has it changed since the first dietary recommendations were publicized? How has the food industry changed the food pyramid? I never really gave it much thought, other than thinking that having a food pyramid, one recommended way of eating for everyone, is unreasonable, considering no two of the billions of people on this planet are alike.

A Confusing History

Early food recommendations encouraged the general public to eat more, whereas today’s food pyramids and recommendations exist to ensure we eat less. But if we are being told to eat less, then why are 65% of Americans obese and more than 75% are overweight? In the early 1900’s, when the first food intake recommendations were publicized, scientists were unaware of “bad” fats and people were dying because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, tuberculosis, and influenza at the average age of 47. Scientists did not yet know how to make vitamins and minerals in pill form, so people were encouraged to eat an abundance of different foods: milk, vegetables, fruits, grains and meat, to ensure they were getting the nutrients they needed. 40% of people were farmers compared to today’s 2%, so this made everyone happy: doctors, the economy, and especially the farmers. Processed foods did not inundate market shelves. There wasn’t a need for a rigid food pyramid.

Is Eating Less Really Working?

Today and we are being told to eat less. Some form of the food pyramid has been in existence since 1992, and rigid recommendations began in 1979, but people are fatter, poorer, and sicker than they have ever been. The main causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and diseases of the liver. In a time when we have so much more knowledge about vitamins, minerals, fat, protein, carbohydrates, food and health in general, we are being told to restrict our food intake. We now have to be cautious of trans-fats, the endless choices of added sweeteners and preservatives, and the high quantities of sodium added to our foods. Nearly 30,000 genetically modified products line our market shelves. It is because of this that we are being told to eat less, and people are no longer happy, with the exception of the government and the big corporate food giants, like Philip Morris, Nestle and Kellogg. Today, the American diet is making doctors work harder and people sicker and poorer. I know it’s slightly confusing. Why would being told to eat less not affect the corporate food giants? Today, nutrients can be injected into every food we consume. Want a pizza enriched with whole grains (i.e. processed whole wheat)? You got it. Want a sugary juice enriched with extra vitamin-C? Coming right up! People are now more confused than ever, but still buying the whole-grain pizza, because, you know, grains are on the food pyramid. Now eating less doesn’t affect the food giants, it makes them powerful because they have the “good” pizza. So being told to eat less really means eating more of the pseudo “good-for-you food” the sneaky food giants are selling.

Is There a Solution?

Most recently, the food pyramid has been replaced with “My Plate,” which carries its own issues, such as fruits not being clearly defined. Should we drink fruit juice or eat whole fruits (whole fruits is the answer!)? I see grains on the plate, but what kind of grains? Whole grains? Processed grains? In the dairy section, there is an emphasis on low-fat and fat-free varieties, but recent research is revealing full fat dairy does not pose a heart-health risk and can actually be beneficial. So what is the solution? I think less rigid rules and more nutrition education is the answer in this confusing world of fake food and sugar-coma inducing beverages. But that is for another discussion.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 –  Minimalist Fitness
Day #8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

As it is with many subjects, fat loss is awash with mythology. What’s unfortunate is that most people blindly follow the latest and greatest “fad” or are clinging to outdated information that in the end really hurts their efforts to get leaner. Then there all of the ridiculous programs promising to “cleanse” the body and “reset” the metabolism as if there were some magic ctrl-alt-delete feature for the body. Furthermore, weight loss and fat loss are not synonymous with each other as there can be weight loss without fat loss and vice versa. Following are what I consider to be a few of the many myths about fat loss in the hopes of offering you some clarity.

  1. Eating For Fat Loss Isn’t Always The Same As Eating For Good Health

Despite what various diet marketers will tell you, losing weight is pretty much all about calorie control. Sure, the proportion of fats, proteins, and carbs do play a role (more about that later in this article), but ultimately, if you consume less energy than you expend, you’ll lose weight, even if those calories come from “unhealthy” foods or food ingredients. Now there’s an interesting corollary to this: if you’re fat — let’s say even obese — you’ll improve your health by getting leaner, regardless of what you ate to lose the weight. I’m not necessarily suggesting you eat “bad” foods to lose weight; I’m just trying to achieve some clarity on this subject. And as much as many people will cringe when I say this, but you can and will lose weight eating cookies and chips and ice cream and any other forbidden foods you can imagine, as long as you eat too little of these foods. Again, I’m not advocating these foods; I’m just making a point.

  1. The Dangers Of “Chemicals” And Food Processing Are Largely Overblown

Why you ask? Well for starters, everything you eat or drink is a chemical, and everything you eat or drink has been processed to some degree. With that being said, some chemicals are less healthy than others, and of course, some types of food processing are worse than others. As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the dose:” even pure spring water will kill you if you drink too much of it. And even arsenic is safe if you consume a small enough amount of it. This isn’t to say that you should be completely indiscriminate in your food consumption. Some types of processing, such as trans fats, have been shown to adversely affect human health. Other types of food additives and processing methods are still the subject of vigorous debate in scientific circles. With that said, is there really a downside to eating an extremely “natural,” totally organic, and/or “unprocessed” diet? Aside from the potential expense, probably not. It’s just that such an overly cautious approach probably isn’t necessary. So why make things more difficult than they need to be?

  1. No Single Food Is “Fattening”

I mean that literally. Ice cream isn’t fattening. Big Macs aren’t fattening. Pizza isn’t fattening. What is fattening then? Eating too much food relative to your energy needs. Once again, pizza and ice cream certainly aren’t “helpful” foods if you’re attempting to lose weight, and they’re also not particularly great for your long-term health. But they certainly can be eaten as a part of a fat loss strategy, as long as your overall food intake is appropriate.

  1. Low/No Carb Diets Can (And Often Do) Work, But Not For The Reason You Might Think

People love weight loss diets that give you hard and fast rules, and I understand why: it removes the uncertainty from the process. So I’m not against rules necessarily, nor am I necessarily “against” low carb diets, but it’s important to understand that they don’t work for the reasons that their proponents state. For example, the common rationale usually put forth about low carb diets is that when you eat carbs, your body produces insulin, which is a fat-storage hormone, so the result is, you get fat. There are a few problems about this scenario however: First, insulin does act as a fat storage hormone, but it also has very beneficial properties also — that’s why it exists in the first place after all. Secondly, carbs aren’t the only types of food that produce insulin — proteins for example, also stimulate insulin production. Third, your body can store fat without insulin. So even if you find a way to totally prevent insulin secretion, it doesn’t mean you can’t still gain weight. So how do low carb diets work? Any time you remove large categories of food from your diet (such as carbohydrate-containing foods, or animal-based foods, just to cite two common examples), you tend to eat less, and therefore, you lose weight. Simple right? Actually, it’s so simple most people never consider it.

  1. Most People Have No Idea How Much They Eat

If losing weight isn’t about what types of foods you eat, but rather, how much you eat, then it’d certainly be important to know how much we’re eating, right? Unfortunately, research has shown over and over that most of us tend to significantly under-estimate how much we eat, and most people also tend to over-estimate how much physical activity they do over the course of a day. The solution? Self-monitoring. By the way, the most common characteristic among people who lose weight and keep it off for long term is self-monitoring.

  1. It Doesn’t Really Matter How Many Times A Day You Eat

 One of the oft-repeated myths about nutrition and fat loss is the idea that “you need to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism from slowing down.” Like most folklore, there is a kernel of truth in this idea: going long periods with no food does indeed decrease your metabolic rate, and eating anything does in fact speed up your metabolism. But when you look at the science, what we find is that, on a practical level, it doesn’t make much difference if you eat twice a day or 6 times a day. What does  matter is how much you eat in 24 hours.

So if you’re one of those people who don’t get hungry until noon or so, don’t worry about eating breakfast. Or, if you find that your energy levels and overall mood is better when you eat more frequently, go with that. In other words, use whatever meal timing and frequency that will make your overall nutrition program more effective and easier to comply with. Just make sure that in the space of 24 hours, your caloric intake and nutritional needs are being met.

  1. Fiber And Protein Make Any Diet More Successful

As a final suggestion, I’d like to leave you with a quick and easy tip that will make any nutritional program more effective, both in terms of weight loss and long term health: Most people would be better off with more fiber and more protein. There are a number of benefits to both, but for this discussion, I’m mostly talking about the satiety (feeling of fullness) that these two nutrients provide. The irony is however, that calorie per calorie, foods with a relatively high protein and/or fiber content are much more satisfying on a calorie per calorie basis. Feeling full is a GOOD thing because it makes you less likely to binge on less-productive types of foods.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 –  Minimalist Fitness

 

 

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels

(This is part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

About half of shoppers report reading nutrition labels “most of the time” or “always”. However, reading labels and understanding them are two different things. Even professional such as myself with extensive knowledge of nutrition can have trouble interpreting food labels. How much more confusing must it be for the average consumer? In addition, food-labeling regulations are complex and can contain excessive jargon. Still, with some basic guidance, I hope I can change that.

Translating the “Alphabet Soup” of Nutrient-Intake and Food-Labeling Standards

To make sense of food labels, you have to be able to distinguish among multiple individual nutrient-intake standards—which can apply to people of different ages, genders and life stages (i.e. pregnancy) and the nutrient intake standards used in food labeling. A two- or three-letter acronym represents each of these standards; here’s a look at the principles behind them:

  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were first published by the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1943 and were revised every 5-10 years as new scientific information became available. Still updated periodically, RDAs are now a subcategory of the Dietary Reference Intakes.
  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) were introduced in 1997 when the IOM (Institute of Medicine) broadened its scope by including not only RDAs but also new nutrient-intake standards that apply to several life-stage and gender groups.
  • Daily Values (DV) are defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; they’ve been required on food labels since 1994.
  • Daily Reference Values (DRV) can vary depending on caloric requirements. Information on the labels is intended to apply to people aged 4 years and older. DRVs typically apply to daily diets of 2,000 and 2,500 calories, although there are also DRVs for 3,200 calories.
  • Reference Daily Intakes (RDI)are similar to the U.S. RDAs found on food labels before 1994. RDIs apply mainly to essential vitamins and minerals, with four sets that apply to infants, toddlers, people aged 4 years and older, and pregnant or lactating women. One problem with DVs on food labels is that many foods, like breakfast cereals, are consumed by people with dramatically different individual nutrient requirements. Owing to space limitations, labels on most food packages will list DRVs for two calorie levels and one set of RDI numbers (typically the 4-and-older category). Thus, DVs provide only a general guideline for comparison, and they won’t necessarily match the specific nutrient needs of the consumer of that product.
  • Trans Fats, Sugars, % of DV You may have noticed that food labels have no DVs for trans fats or sugars. That’s because the IOM simply advises consumers to keep their trans fat intake as low as possible; it does not offer a specific recommendation. As for sugars, the IOM advises that no more than 25% of our overall energy intake should come from added sugars. Unfortunately, sugar values reported on the Nutrition Facts panel do not distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. You also might have noticed that some products list a “% Daily Value” for protein, while others do not. If a product makes a claim like “high protein,” its protein content must be listed in grams and % DV). Otherwise, listing the protein content only in grams is acceptable.

Understanding Serving Size, Calories, and Calories From Fat

  • Serving size.The FDA has established serving sizes, or Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed, for 139 food product categories. For example, a typical RACC for a beverage is 8 fluid ounces. Be careful to note the serving size and number of servings per container on food labels. For example, the label on a 20-ounce bottle of soda may list 120 calories per 8-ounce serving, but if you drink the whole bottle, all the label values (and % DV) must be multiplied by 2.5. Failing to take the number of servings into account is one of the most common slip-ups consumers make when reading food labels.
  • Calories. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats have 4, 4 and 9 calories per gram, respectively, so the calorie value on a food label should be represented by this mathematical formula: (fat grams x 9) + (carbohydrate grams x 4) + (protein grams x 4). However, the calorie value on the label will not always exactly match this calculation. Dietary fiber is included in the carbohydrate gram count, and dietary fibers typically have 0-2 calories per gram. In addition, some rounding is allowed.
  • Calories from Fat.This percentage is calculated by dividing the calories from fat by the total calories in the food and then multiplying that result by 100.

Interpreting the Ingredient Listing

Ingredients in a food are listed in decreasing order by their weight in the product. Thus, ingredients at the top of the list are more plentiful than ingredients at the end

Allergen Claims

FDA rules come from the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. The FDA has identified eight major food allergens that account for more than 90% of all food allergies: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (for example, walnuts, almonds and pecans), peanuts, wheat and soy. The law requires that the label list the food source name of all major allergens used to make the food. Good manufacturing practices dictate that food companies appropriately clean food-manufacturing equipment between processing batches of allergen-containing and non-allergen-containing foods to avoid cross-contamination. However, some manufacturers may say on the label that the product is made on equipment that is also used to process a food containing a particular allergen. It is important to note that FDA guidance for the food industry states that food allergen advisory statements such as “may contain [allergen]” or “produced in a facility that also uses [allergen]” should not be used as a substitute for adhering to current good manufacturing practices and must be truthful and not misleading.

Understanding Definitions for Nutrient Content Claims

The FDA has definitions for a large number of terms related to nutrient content claims. For example, if a product claims to be a “good” source of vitamin A, it must have at least 10% of the DV; if it claims to be an “excellent” source of vitamin A or be “high in” vitamin A, it must have at least 20% DV.

Interpreting food labels can be confusing. I hope that this article will help you clear up some of your uncertainties about food labels. Being a skilled label reader can be of great help for making better nutritional choices.

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?

 

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 2 – The Dangers of Dieting

(This is part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

You know what? I don’t like diets. They are highly ineffective for long-term weight loss, yet one in four people start a new diet every year. Of these people, only 20% of them will succeed at losing weight and keeping it off. But what about the other 80 percent? Do they just stay at the same weight? Nope. The majority of them actually lose a little bit of weight at the beginning. Then, they not only regain their weight, they end up gaining even more weight than when they started. So why do the majority of people gain weight when they diet? The answer is quite simple – muscle loss.

The Wrong Path

When we talk about diets, we’re talking about any temporary change to your eating patterns. The idea of “going on a diet” infers that you’ll be returning to your old eating habits once you’re done. What does the anatomy of a diet look like:

  • low calories
  • reduced energy and intensity in the gym
  • fewer nutrients due to fewer calories
  • quick (but short-lived) weight loss
  • slowed metabolism
  • increased cravings

All of these things create the perfect storm for muscle loss. They also create a spring-loaded rebound effect once you start eating “normal” again. Even losing just 5 pounds of lean body mass can slow your metabolism enough that your old calorie intake is now too much. Combine that with a slowed metabolism from hormone down-regulation and add in some binge eating behavior, and you have a perfect recipe for weight gain.
Each time you diet again you dig yourself deeper into a hole. This is the main reason why people diet their entire lives yet continue to gain weight. If you want to stop the cycle you have to put the diet mentality behind you. Focus your efforts on creating healthy eating habits.

Time Works Against You

Diets all have end dates. They last for 4, 8, or maybe 12 weeks and then they’re over. What then? Do you have any idea how to eat once your diet is over? Most likely, you will be returning to old eating habits and then starting all over again months down the road once your weight creeps back up. We want time on our side. When we stick an artificial end date in the future, time crawls to a still. Compare that to a lifestyle change where there is no end date. You might think that the short time period of a diet makes things easier, but this is a common illusion. We want to lift the burden of time. We don’t want to think about it at all. We want to move beyond the day to day intricacies of eating, and instead make our eating habits second nature. Once we do that, we’re just eating. Weight loss goes on autopilot and becomes an involuntary side effect. When you’re not always thinking about your next meal or your next cheat meal break, you can distract yourself from the weight loss process. You put more trust into healthy eating and believe that your healthy habits will take you to where you want to go. Your thinking goes from “if I can just make it the next 2 months eating this way” to “I’m just eating, and 2 months is going to pass one way or another”.

They Don’t Hold You Accountable

Diets give us something to blame when we don’t get results. It’s easy to say a particular diet didn’t work for you. Rationalizing your failure by passing the blame to an inanimate object is the natural thing to do. But was it really the diet that was to blame? Because we never learned along the way about our own relationship with food, and about what works for our individual metabolism, we end up placing all of our faith in our diet. When that diet doesn’t work, it’s on to trying the next one. We must hold ourselves accountable for our actions if we want to succeed. You can’t reach your weight loss goals until you accept complete responsibility for your current lifestyle habits. You are in complete control of your life. That doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult circumstances, but how we choose to react to those situations will determine our ultimate outcome. Weight loss is not a straight and narrow line from beginning to end. There will be a lot of detours. You will need to learn how to react in those moments, and diets won’t show you how. One of the biggest dieting fallacies is that there’s a blueprint you can follow for success. There isn’t.

They Teach You Very Little About Yourself

While diets will teach you what to do, they teach you very little about why you’re doing it. Learning the why’s behind your actions are what create sustainable long-term weight loss. Blindly following a diet or meal plan might seem easier, but no diet goes 100% as planned. If you don’t take the time to understand the purpose behind what you’re doing, you will be easily discouraged when times get tough. When losing weight you spend a lot of time in uncharted territory. You have to make tough decisions on whether you should increase or decrease calories, how many meals you should eat, whether cheat meals are OK, how to recover from a slip up, protein and carbohydrate adjustments, and 100 more unique circumstances. Diets won’t teach you how to navigate off the beaten path, and that’s where success is ultimately determined. If you want long-term sustainable weight loss, you must start educating yourself on the details of a healthy lifestyle.

Say goodbye to your dieting mentality. Stop searching for the next diet to try. Chances are it hasn’t worked out for you so far, and it’s highly unlikely anything will change that outcome in the future. Instead, work daily at creating new healthy habits that will build the foundation for long-term weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise