Category Archives: Wellness

Preventing Muscle Loss as We Age

Use it or lose it – this is a phrase I’m sure you’re familiar with. It holds a lot of truth when it comes to muscle. Unlike bone, which of course can also decrease in mass as we age, muscle starts to diminish quickly, particularly if it’s not used or stimulated. Known as sarcopenia, it is a decline in skeletal muscle mass that typically affects older people, but can affect the much younger population as well. It can begin as early as age 40, and without intervention can get increasingly worse, with as much as half of muscle mass lost by age 70. Over time the muscle gets replaced by fat and fibrous tissue, making muscles resemble a well-marbled steak.

Is Sarcopenia Bad?

“Sarcopenia can be considered for muscle what osteoporosis is to bone,” Dr. John E. Morley, geriatrician at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, wrote in the journal Family Practice. He pointed out that up to 13 percent of people in their 60s and as many as half of those in their 80s have sarcopenia. As Dr. Jeremy D. Walston, geriatrician at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, put it, “Sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults.” Yet few practicing physicians alert their older patients to this condition and tell them how to slow or reverse what is otherwise an inevitable decline. It can seriously impair their physical and emotional well-being and ability to carry out the tasks of daily life. Sarcopenia is also associated with a number of chronic diseases, increasing insulin resistance, fatigue, falls, and alas, death. A decline in physical activity, common among older people, is only one reason sarcopenia happens. Other contributing factors include hormonal changes, chronic illness, body-wide inflammation and poor nutrition. So in essence, yes, sarcopenia is bad but highly preventable.

What Can I Do?

No matter how old or out of shape you are, you can restore much of the strength you might have lost. Dr. Moffat noted that research documenting the ability to reverse the losses of sarcopenia — even among nursing home residents in their 90s — has been in medical literature for nearly 30 years, and the time is long overdue to act on it. In 1988, Walter R. Frontera and colleagues at the Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University demonstrated that 12 previously sedentary men aged 60 to 72 significantly increased their leg strength and muscle mass with a 12-week strength-training program three times a week. Two years later in JAMA, Dr. Maria A. Fiatarone and colleagues at the Tufts research center reported that eight weeks of “high-intensity resistance training” significantly enhanced the physical abilities of nine frail nursing home residents aged 90 and older. Strength gains averaged 174 percent, mid-thigh muscle mass increased 9 percent, and walking speed improved 48 percent. So, what are you waiting for? If you’re currently sedentary or have a serious chronic illness, check first with your doctor. But as soon as you get the go-ahead, start a strength-training program using free weights, resistance bands or machines, preferably after taking a few lessons from a certified trainer. Proper technique is critical to getting the desired results without incurring an injury. It’s very important to start at the appropriate level of resistance.

Nutritional Needs

Dr. Morley, among others, points out that adding and maintaining muscle mass also requires adequate nutrients, especially protein, the main constituent of healthy muscle tissue. Protein needs are based on a person’s ideal body weight, so if you’re overweight or underweight, subtract or add pounds to determine how much protein you should eat each day. To enhance muscle mass, Dr. Morley said that older people, who absorb protein less effectively, require at least 0.54 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight, an amount well above what older people typically consume. Thus, if you are a sedentary aging adult who should weigh 150 pounds, you may need to eat as much as 81 grams (0.54 x 150) of protein daily. To give you an idea of how this translates into food, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein; 1 cup of nonfat milk, 8.8 grams; 2 medium eggs, 11.4 grams; one chicken drumstick, 12.2 grams; a half-cup of cottage cheese, 15 grams; and 3 ounces of flounder, 25.5 grams. Or if you prefer turkey to fish, 3 ounces has 26.8 grams of protein. “Protein acts synergistically with exercise to increase muscle mass,” Dr. Morley wrote, adding that protein foods naturally rich in the amino acid leucine — milk, cheese, beef, tuna, chicken, peanuts, soybeans and eggs — are most effective.

The point to take home is that sarcopenia is not necessarily an age related condition. A sedentary lifestyle or a regular exercise program that does not utilize some form of resistance training are at risk. Start now and be strong for the rest of your life.

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

COMING NEXT MONTH!!!

Stay tuned for my 13th year of my 12 Days of Fitness, 12 articles written by me throughout the year to keep your health and fitness in focus through the busy holiday season.

Calories Do Count

Calories count and if you think they don’t let me explain something. You simply don’t comprehend one of the basic physical laws of life, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics. It states that energy can neither be created or destroyed but merely transferred or changed from one form to another. In regards to calories, they represent the energy or heat contained in a food item. When we ingest the calories (energy) it becomes a part of us in some form. We have lots to discuss.

Good vs. Bad

There’s no such thing as good calories or bad calories. Calories are a unit of measure; a calorie is a calorie. Take for example the distance of a mile. You can walk/run a mile, swim a mile, or bike a mile. One might be easier than another but that doesn’t change the distance. It’s still a mile. A food changes based on its nutrient composition and that can impact how much it will fill you up or how helpful it might be for your long term success for fat loss. A calorie is simply the amount of energy a food item contains. What changes is the nutrient composition.

Important Numbers to Know

Your metabolism (the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life) is a collection of numerous processes, not one single number. Here’s what goes into determining your metabolism.

Resting or Basal Metabolic Rate (RMR/BMR) – RMR/BMR is the number of calories you burn each day at rest, just to breathe, think, and live. This represents roughly 60 percent of your ‘energy out’ and depends on weight, body composition, sex, age, genetic predisposition, and possibly the bacterial population of your gut. In general, men and larger individuals will have higher RMR/BMR rates.

Thermic Effect of Eating (TEE) – TEE is the number of calories you burn by eating, digesting, and processing your food. (Yes, this requires energy.) This represents roughly 5-10 percent of your ‘energy out’. HINT: You’ll burn more calories digesting minimally processed whole foods compared to highly processed foods.

Daily Caloric Expenditure (DCE) – DCE is the calories you burn from purposeful exercise, such as walking, running, going to the gym, gardening, riding a bike, etc.
Obviously, how much energy you expend through DCE will change depending on how much you intentionally move around.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – NEAT is the calories you burn through fidgeting, staying upright, and all other physical activities except purposeful exercise. This, too, varies from person to person and day to day.

Energy In vs. Energy Out

This relationship between ‘energy in’ and ‘energy out’ is known as the Energy Balance Equation, and it’s the most commonly accepted model for calculating a person’s energy balance and how much weight they’ll lose or gain over time. In theory: If you eat less energy than you expend, you should lose weight. If you do the opposite (i.e. eat more energy than you expend), you should gain weight. This equation at times can really frustrate people.The mismatch between expectations versus reality is not because the Energy Balance Equation is wrong, or a myth. Nobody’s body defies the laws of physics. It’s because the equation is more complicated than it sounds. For one, it is influenced by things like sex hormone levels, macronutrient intake (especially protein), exercise style / frequency / intensity, age, medication use, genetic predisposition, and more. “Eat less, move more” is a good start but that advice alone isn’t enough. Here are some of the reasons why

• The number of calories in a meal likely doesn’t match the number of calories on the labels or menu. Food labels can be off by as much as 20-25 percent.
• The amount of energy a food contains in the form of calories is not necessarily the amount of energy we absorb, store, and/or use. The food we eat has to be digested and processed by our unique bodies. The innumerable steps involved in digestion, processing, absorption, storage, and use — as well as our own individual physiological makeup — can all change the energy balance game.
• We may absorb more or less energy depending on the types of bacteria in our gut. Some people have larger populations of a Bacteroidetes (a species of bacteria), which are better at extracting calories from tough plant cell walls than other bacteria species.

Energy out varies a lot from person to person too. Energy out, energy burned through daily metabolism and moving you around, is a dynamic, always-changing variable. Our human metabolisms evolved to keep us alive and functioning when food was scarce. When energy in (degreased caloric intake) goes down, energy out goes down to match it. (I.e. We burn fewer calories in response to eating less). That’s how our bodies avoid unwanted weight loss and starvation. It’s how humans have survived for 2 million years. Therefore, trying “what used to work” for you, or relying on calorie counting, often won’t get you the results you want. As your energy balance evolves, so must your strategies for losing fat or maintaining your weight. Understanding energy balance means setting better expectations about body change.

What About Dieting?

Losing weight doesn’t “damage” your metabolism but because of the adaptations your body undergoes in response to fat loss (to prevent that fat loss, in fact), energy out for those who have lost significant weight will always be lower than for people who were always lean. Losing weight, and keeping it off, is accompanied by adaptive metabolic, neuroendocrine, autonomic, and other changes.These changes mean that we expend less energy — around 5-10 percent less (or up to 15 percent less at extreme levels) than what would be predicted based on just weighing less and can last for up to 7 years! THIS IS WHY DIETING DOES NOT WORK LONGTERM!!! Nothing really has been “damaged” but the body has adapted to the stresses put on it.

Real Strategies for Real Success

The physiology of weight loss is complicated, but the best strategies for losing fat and keeping it off don’t have to be.

1. Eat plenty of protein. Protein is essential when trying to losing weight / fat. Protein helps you keep that all-important lean body mass (which includes connective tissues, organs, and bone as well as muscle). Protein significantly increases satiety, which means you feel fuller despite eating less. Just by eating more protein you burn more calories, because of the increased thermic effect of eating.
2. Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, quality carbs, and healthy fats. Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, water, and fiber to help you fill up during meals, stay full between meals, keep you healthy, and recover from your workouts.The carbs will fuel training, boost leptin (a super important hormone), keep up sex hormones, and prevent feelings of deprivation. And the fats also keep up sex hormones, boost the immune system, suppress excess inflammation, and make food taste really good.
3. Adjust your intake as you plateau, or to prevent plateaus. As your weight loss progresses, you will need to lower your calorie intake further to continue to progress, as your smaller body will burn fewer calories, and your body is adapting to your diet. Be ready, willing, and able to adjust portion amounts.
4. Understand that this is complex. So many things influence what, why, and when we choose to eat. Too often, eating and body size / fatness are blamed on lack of knowledge, lack of willpower/discipline, or laziness. In reality, food intake and body composition are governed by a mix of physiological, biological, psychological, social, economical, and lifestyle influences, along with individual knowledge or beliefs. One of the simplest ways to make your decision processes easier is to create an environment that encourages good food choices and discourages poor ones.
5. Do a mixture of resistance, cardiovascular, and recovery activity. Resistance training helps you maintain vital muscle mass, burn calories, and improve glucose tolerance. Cardiovascular exercise improves the health of your cardiovascular system, helps you expend energy, and can improve recovery. Recovery work (e.g. foam rolling, walking, yoga) helps  you maintain consistency and intensity with resistance and cardio training, making them more effective.
6. Find ways to increase NEAT. Even small increases in activity can account for hundreds of daily calories, and therefore make a big difference in fat loss efforts.
Some ideas: Get a stand-up desk or a treadmill desk; fidget; pace while on the phone; take the stairs; park your car farther away from where you’re going, etc.
7. Develop a solid nightly sleep routine and manage your stress. Sleep is just as important to your success as nutrition and activity levels. Don’t pretend that you can get by with less. It simply isn’t true.
8. Have some self-compassion. There are going to be meals or days where you don’t eat as you “should”. It’s OK. It happens to everyone. Recognize it, accept it, forgive yourself, and then get back on track.

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

Food and Guilt

Here’s a scenario. You’ve done well eating all day and when you finally get a moment to sit down all you can think about are the cookies you have sitting on the counter. The justification begins. “Well, I’ve been doing well all day so eating just two cookies wouldn’t be a bad thing. I think I’ve earned them.” So you eat them and with that comes the tremendous shame and guilt you put on yourself. “Why did I do that? I’m such a fool! I just ruined my entire day!” You suffer from what is better known as emotional eating. That pang of guilt after eating something unhealthy was something that many battle with and say that it’s their “root” of all evil.

Where/When Did This All Start?

Think back to when you were really young and you were praised for eating. Eating to get big and strong was a good thing. But at the same time, if you ate a cookie before dinner, we were told no and made to feel guilty. Then, as you got older there came a lot of pressure. You shouldn’t eat too much, otherwise you would put on weight. That was the message that was coming from friends, family and many other negative influences. The mindset shifted from being “good” because you had finished all the food that had been given to you, to being “bad” because you had eaten everything. Being “good” now meant restricting what we were eating and not enjoying food as much as we once did. That has lead to a lot of confusion well into adulthood and a lot of guilt has come with it. We know so much more about our nutrition now which is definitely a good thing, but along with that does come more guilt if we let it. Eating is no longer just a pleasurable act; it is loaded with guilt, fear and shame. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Good vs. Bad

Understanding that putting labels on food as either “good” or “bad” is where it all begins. There are no such things and is indicative of having an unhealthy relationship with food. By labeling foods as such gives food the power when in reality you possess the power. If you eat the cookies and feel guilty about it, guess what? Nothing is going to take it back and worrying obsessively about it is not going to change that you ate it. It is just going to escalate the problem. The guilt felt usually makes you feel so much worse than if you just say to yourself, “Been there, done it, move on.” It’s an all or nothing mentality and that attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere. By eating the cookies does not mean you have ruined everything and it doesn’t automatically erase how well you have been eating before. Weight gain comes from consistently eating more than you are burning – not doing it once a while. So skip the guilt! There are no “good” or “bad” foods, there are just consistent habits.

Moderation is King

We put so much pressure on ourselves to have a “perfect” diet, comparing ourselves to how “good” people are eating and how “bad” we have been ourselves. All that this pressure and guilt actually does is take the pleasure out of eating, because it certainly doesn’t change what you have eaten. There is no such thing as a “perfect” diet so stop right there. The only diet you ever need to be concerned with is the one that works for YOU, not your neighbor or next celebrity endorsement. Once you can begin to grasp that concept there is nothing to ever feel guilty about. EVER! It goes without saying, moderation of all things will forever be the best advice you could ever receive. You can learn from your eating habits and learn to make better ones without beating yourself up about it constantly.

Steps for Success

  • Identify Triggers. Triggers can sneak up on you without you knowing. Whether it be a certain food item or a certain someone that pressures you to indulge. Do you eat when you are stressed? Do you eat when you are depressed? Do you sneak food to eat alone in secret? Identifying what causes the trigger is the first step to solving the problem. Remind yourself so you can be on the lookout when it happens. Go easy on yourself, and remember overcoming emotional eating is all about progress, not perfection.
  • Make Time for Yourself. Find a place to channel your feelings and learn how to cope, whether it be a workou or a hobby.When you feel an urge coming on, channel the energy into your outlet. Instead of focusing on the food, remove yourself from the situation. Take a walk. Call a friend.
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind. The easiest one of all. Don’t bring it into your house! If the food item isn’t present, there’s a really good chance there’s nothing to feel guilty about. But if you find yourself getting into your car to go out and grab something or leave your desk to hit the cafeteria remind yourself if the time was worth the value. Time can never be replaced but value in yourself can only improve.

Putting an end to emotional eating will take time and patience, so go easy on yourself. Apply these tips when you feel like you need a boost to overcome any urges to much, simply because of emotional circumstances.

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

The Most Important Muscle

February is heart health month and why not. After all, February contains Valentine’s Day. In reality though, every month should be heart health month. Your heart is the most important muscle you have. Forget about the pecs and biceps. Without the heart working properly, you’re not doing anything. Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults either. It is happening to younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life. Half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking).

You Could Be at Risk

High Blood Pressure. Millions of Americans of all ages have high blood pressure, including millions of people in their 40s and 50s. About half of people with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.

High Blood Cholesterol. High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels. While there’s some serious debate on this particular subject, it is still listed as one of the top precursors to heart disease.

Smoking. More than 37 million U.S. adults are current smokers, and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.

Other conditions and behaviors that affect your risk for heart disease include:

Obesity. Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart. More than 1 in 3 Americans—and nearly 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 19—has obesity.

Diabetes. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. Nearly 1 in 10 people in the United States has diabetes.

Physical Inactivity. Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Only 1 in 5 adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity.

Unhealthy Eating Patterns. Most Americans, including children, eat too much sodium (salt), which increases blood pressure. Replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. But only 1 in 10 adults is getting enough fruits and vegetables each day. Diet high in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increases the risk factor for heart disease.

4 Ways to Take Control of Your Heart Health

Thing is, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your heart. It’s one of the top ailments that can be treated, cured, even reversed by making small, simple changes to your lifestyle.

Don’t Smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.

Manage Conditions. Work with your health care team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. For some, this includes taking any medicines you have been prescribed. The really good news is that dependency on medications can be decreased or eliminated through adherence to a physical program.

Make Heart-Healthy Eating Changes. Eat food low in trans-fat, added sugar and sodium. Try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and aim for low sodium options.Forget all this jargon about carbs and popularized diets.

Stay Active. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. There’s simply no excuse for finding and making the time to be active.And that means physical activity above and beyond what you do on a normal basis.

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

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 11 – What Does It Mean to be Healthy?

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

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘healthy’? Some may visualize a lean person perhaps with ripped abs or shapely muscles. Others conjure up images of perceived healthy foods, like broccoli, chicken, Greek yogurt, nuts, and kale. Now, let me ask another question. What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘unhealthy’? Do you visualize someone unkept and overweight? I think most of you would come up with a list of food that contains some or all of the following: fast food, carbs, trans fats, processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, soda, etc. Regardless of what you pictured when you thought about each word, you are right… and wrong.

Understanding Context

I’m really not a fan of the terms healthy/unhealthy. More often than not they are used without proper context. Most times they are used as click-bait by editors in headlines to get you to read what they have to say. Instead I find it very important to understand not only what they mean, but also what they mean in the context in which they are used. The problem with words like ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy,’ is that they are thrown around with little thought given to context or understanding. They are used to scare or force you into making decisions without fully thinking it through.

Healthy Does Not Equal Fat Loss

One of the most common diet approaches when it comes to fat loss is just ‘eating healthy’. And while this approach is undertaken with the best of intentions, it often sets the dieter up for failure, for a number of reasons. The biggest one being that most people can’t agree on what eating healthy really is! The problem with labeling foods as healthy vs. unhealthy is that it forces people to see them as either good or bad. And that can create a dangerous relationship with food. When you limit what you can eat while dieting, you greatly increase the chances that the diet will fail. The more severely we restrict our food choices the greater stress we place on ourselves, and the harder the fat loss process will be. Yes we should limit our consumption of certain foods but notice I said limit, not eliminate. There is room in everyone’s diet for a reasonable amount of ‘unhealthy’ foods, even when fat loss is the goal. The important thing is not classifying foods as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy,’ ‘good’ or ‘bad’; but rather being able to identify which foods you should limit, which ones you should eat more often, and which foods will move you closer to your goals.

The Huge Scam

Another problem is the big ‘health food’ push by food companies. They know that people are becoming more conscious about what they are putting in their bodies, and are producing new products as a response. But trust me, they do not have your best interests at heart. Large food companies know that a vast majority of the population fall into the trap of ‘Eat healthy, lose weight’. And they take advantage of this. For almost every food item available, there is at least one (if not more) ‘healthy’ alternative. And most, not all, aren’t that much different than the ‘unhealthy’ version. They usually will contain about the same amount of calories, less fat or carbs, more sodium, more sugar or artificial sweeteners, and of course, cost more. These companies bank on the fact that a majority of people don’t read food labels or serving sizes, and that they will see the fancy packaging with the words ‘Healthy,’ ‘Low-fat,’ ‘Low-carb,’ ‘All-Natural,’ or some other meaningless marketing nonsense and purchase it because its quote ‘better’ for them. More often than not, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these foods. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from purchasing them if that’s what they want. But what I don’t want are people purchasing them because they think it will help with fat loss. Because then you are just wasting your money.

Context (and Calories) Are King

When classifying foods, context is king. What better context to classify things other than calories?  ‘Healthy’ food, just like ‘unhealthy’ food, has calories. Regardless of what type of food you are eating, if you eat more calories than you burn, you will not lose fat. 3,000 calories from chicken, brown rice, nuts and yogurt is the same to the body from an energy-in standpoint as 3,000 calories from pizza, beer, and ice cream. It’s still 3,000 calories. No one would probably consider those first food options unhealthy but if your goal is fat loss and you are eating so much of these foods that you are gaining weight, would that really be ‘healthy’? A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, at least from an energy-in/energy-out point of view. You cannot lose fat if you are not in a caloric deficit, no matter how ‘healthy’ you are eating. If you are only burning 2,000 calories a day, but are consuming 3,000 from one of the options above, you will not lose fat; no matter which foods you are eating.

Quantity AND Quality

The quality of your food does play a role in reaching your fat loss goals and eating the right quantity of food will allow you to lose fat. But in order to have a well rounded diet; one that is rich in vitamins and minerals, that will help your body function properly, help you recover from workouts, and leaves you satiated and satisfied, it will have to mostly be made up of ‘healthy’, high quality foods. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for ‘unhealthy’ foods either. If you are flexible with your diet, work these things into your day, or a free meal, you can enjoy the occasional treat or indulgence if that’s what you want. And if you don’t enjoy these foods, or they don’t agree with you, then stick with the higher quality foods. There’s nothing wrong with either approach as long as at the end of the day, you are moving closer towards your goals. It’s about finding the right combination of moderation and balance. In the wrong amount any food, regardless of how you classify it, can be detrimental to your fat loss efforts. So know that if you are looking to lose fat, or struggling with your current efforts, just ‘eating healthy’ probably isn’t enough.

See you tomorrow for Day 12 and the conclusion 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
Day #8Dieting Made Simple
Day #9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing
Day #10 – Insulin and Insulin Resistance

12 Days of Fitness: Day 10 – Insulin and Insulin Resistance

(This is part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Question. Can you name a hormone other than thyroid that warrants a lot of attention. Give up? How about insulin? You’ve heard of it before but do you really understand it’s role, how it works, and it’s significance? If you do you’re probably one of the few but the number is growing of Americans who are impacted by insulin everyday. And if you haven’t best pay attention as you will want to know.

The Importance of Insulin

Insulin is an important hormone that controls many processes in the body. It is a hormone secreted by an organ called the pancreas. Its main role is to regulate the amount of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream. Although insulin is mostly implicated in blood sugar management, it also affects fat and protein metabolism. When we eat a meal that contains carbohydrates the amount of blood sugar in the bloodstream increases. This is sensed by the cells in the pancreas, which then release insulin into the blood. Then insulin travels around the bloodstream, telling the body’s cells that they should pick up sugar from the blood. This leads to reduced amounts of sugar in the blood, and puts it where it is intended to go, into the cells for use or storage. This is important, because high amounts of sugar in the blood can have toxic effects, causing severe harm and potentially leading to death if untreated. Problems with this hormone are at the heart of many modern health conditions.

The Issue With Insulin Resistance

Sometimes our cells stop responding to insulin like they are supposed to. This condition is termed insulin resistance, and is incredibly and unfortunately common. When this happens, the pancreas starts producing even more insulin to bring the blood sugar levels down. This leads to high insulin levels in the blood, called hyperinsulinemia. This may continue to develop for a long time. The cells become increasingly more insulin resistant, and both insulin and blood sugar levels go up. Eventually, the pancreas may not be able to keep up anymore and the cells in the pancreas may become damaged. This leads to decreased insulin production, so now there are low amounts of insulin and cells that don’t respond to the little insulin that is available. This can lead to skyrocketing blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels exceed a certain threshold, a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes is made. The good news is that insulin resistance can be dramatically improved with simple lifestyle measures.

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

There are many potential causes and contributors to insulin resistance. Some of those found in the research include:

  • Increased amount of fats in the blood (circulating trigylcerides).
  • Having increased visceral fat, the dangerous belly fat that builds up around the organs
  • A high intake of fructose (from added sugar, not fruit)
  • Increased oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Physical inactivity
  • Bacterial environment in the gut can cause inflammation that exacerbates insulin resistance
  • Overeating and increased body fat, especially in the belly area.

The Good News

The good thing about insulin resistance is that it is very easy to influence it. In fact, you can often completely reverse insulin resistance by changing your lifestyle. Here are several evidence-based ways to reduce insulin resistance:

  • Exercise
  • Lose belly fat
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce your intake of added sugars, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eating a healthy diet based mostly on whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Improving quality of sleep
  • Manage your stress levels

Insulin resistance may be one of the key drivers of many (if not most) of today’s chronic diseases, which are collectively killing millions of people every year. The good news is that it can be significantly improved with simple lifestyle measures, such as losing fat, eating healthy food and exercising. Preventing insulin resistance may be among the single most powerful things you can do to live a longer, healthier and happier life.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 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
Day #8Dieting Made Simple
Day #9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing

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 5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating

(This is part 5 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Emotional eating is a term for eating as a way to deal with stress by consuming excess food, alcohol, drugs, or other addictive agents.  It may be an unhealthy way of dealing with depression, negative emotions, or something that is toxic in your life. If you suffer from emotional eating, awareness of the issue is where it starts.  Just as a habit takes 21 days to conquer, you too can overcome if you suffer from emotional eating.

Some ways to deal with emotional eating include:

1 Exercise or find a new form of exercise.
2 Start new hobby that you enjoy
3 Learn how to sing a song using ASL Sign Language or another language
4 Get out of your comfort zone and try something new.
5 Have a pet.
6 Clean your house or organize your closet
7 Reserve time for a massage
8 Volunteer for a cause that you are passionate about.
9 Go with a friend, or alone in a crowd, to your local coffee establishment.
10 Take a walk outside.
11 Start a garden.
12 Write fiction or nonfiction that you are passionate about.
13 Spend time with a new friend.
14 Call an out-of-town friend after a hard day at work.
15 Make new contacts at your usual hangouts, work, or the gym.
16 Write a list of your gratefulness.
17 Take a class at your local library or park district on some new subject, and make a decision to find new friends.
18 Say no to unproductive activities.
19 Listen to music that is motivating or brings joy to you.
20 Stretch in the morning and the evening.
21 Don’t beat yourself up. The sooner you realize your mistake, the faster you can make a change.

Habits take time to form and to change.  Trying something new or different is not always successful but another opportunity to work toward your obstacle. When you keep on trying, you will succeed.

See you tomorrow for Day 6 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?

 

 

 

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?