Saturday, January 13, 2018

Late Night Eating And Weight Gain

The Study
Late night eating is considered a risk for weight gain. However, there has been little research published in this area. In this investigation, 110 college-aged men and women recorded all of their food intake with a time stamp so the hour of consumption could be accurately recorded. When compared to normal weight subjects, overweight subjects consumed significantly more of their calories 1 hour closer to melatonin onset, which was around 11 PM.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2017; 106:1213-19.

Take Home Message
This is a very interesting study. I have noticed for years that my clients who eat late at night don’t seem to lose much weight. The authors of this study were not quite sure why late night eating was associated with weight gain. One hypothesis is that the thermic effect of food decreases late at night. This would translate into more calories being available for fat storage in comparison to the same meal eaten earlier in the day.

Although this investigation is a cross-sectional study, which is considered a weaker form of evidence, I think there is something here. I always have my clients finish eating by 8:00 PM if they are trying to lose weight.  

Grip Strength And Mortality

The Study
In this interesting study, 403,199 members of the UK Biobank Study had their grip strength measured and were followed for 7 years. After controlling for all known confounders, including body mass index, men with the highest grip strength had a 32% lower risk of mortality compared to men with the lowest grip strength. Women with the highest grip strength had a 25% lower risk of mortality compared to women with the lowest grip strength. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2017;106:773-82.

Take Home Message
Grip strength is a pretty good indicator of total strength. This study shows us that the stronger you are, the healthier you are. A possible mechanism at play here is improved glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in subjects who regularly lift weights. There is also evidence that weight lifters have improved blood lipid profiles. Resistance training is an often overlooked aspect of health and fitness.  Try to hit the weights at least twice a week and preferably three times a week.  You don’t have to lift heavy weights or spend a lot of time, a simple 20-30 minute full body workout with lighter weights will get the job done nicely.

Book Review: Eat, Drink And Be Healthy

Next up for review is Eat, Drink And Be Healthy, which is an updated 2nd edition of the original work published in 2001. The author, Dr. Walter Willett, is a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He was the director of the nutrition department at Harvard when I was in grad school. It was an honor to learn from him and you will not find a more impressive and respected nutrition researcher anywhere in the world.

This book is basically a nutrition research encyclopedia, summarizing the most important literature of the past few decades. Dr. Willett organizes the book into 7 diet and lifestyle recommendations that have a powerful impact on risk of chronic disease. The book is 378 pages long. It is extremely well written and researched and I truly enjoyed reading it.  This is the best nutrition book I have ever read and the original version is the 2nd best nutrition book I have ever read.

5 Things I Really Liked About Eat, Drink, And Be Healthy
1) The best thing about this book is that all of the recommendations are based on scientific evidence. There is not a person in the world that understands nutrition research as well as Dr. Willett. He is considered the father of Nutritional Epidemiology and this book is a bible of nutrition research. So many popular diet books make recommendations based solely on the opinion of the author. It is so very nice to read a nutrition book making recommendations that are based on peer-reviewed evidence.

2) The chapter on dietary fats is amazing. There has been a lot of confusion lately about which fats are healthy and which are not that has been generated by popular diet books and the media. Dr. Willett sets the record straight.

3) If you have worked with me personally or read any of my books, you already know that carbohydrate quality is of extreme importance to me. Dr. Willet does an amazing job with his chapter on carbohydrates.

4) I really liked the section on how to decipher nutrition research. The media does a horrible job when disseminating new nutrition research. Their goal is clearly to generate buzz and sell newspapers and they often completely misinterpret research findings. Dr. Willett explains the process of the scientific method and how it is normal and fine to get contradictory results from nutrition research from time to time. Recommendations should never be altered based on just one study. You always want to look at a new study in the context of research done in other populations and with different study designs. Willett really does a good job explaining this.

5) The chapter on weight loss diets is outstanding. Willett goes through each of the popular diet strategies out there and expertly lists the pro’s and con’s of each. This is probably the coolest part of the book, in my opinion.

Is Eat, Drink And Be Healthy Worth Reading?
Absolutely! As I mentioned above, if you could read just one book on nutrition, this would be it. Dr. Willett has changed the way we conduct nutrition research and millions have benefitted from his work. I think this book should be required reading for all high school students. There are very few books out there that can actually change the course of your life after reading them, this is one of them.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Is It Ever OK To Cheat On My Diet?

This is a question I get quite often from my weight loss clients. Not only is it OK to splurge now and again, I actually insist on it!

There are lots of reasons why it is perfectly fine to go off your diet a few times each week:

1) You don’t need to be perfect on your diet to attain your weight loss and health improvement goals. If you are good 90% of the time, you will do awesome. If you eat 21 meals a week, being good 90% of the time leaves 2 meals a week to have some fun.

2) There are times in your life where eating junk food is just fun and appropriate. When I am at a Jets or Islanders game, I am not eating a can of black beans with nuts and a piece of fruit. It is just not going to happen.

3) It is not realistic to be perfect on your diet, so why set yourself up for failure? A big part of my weight loss program is strictly limiting refined carbohydrates like bread, white rice, pasta and desserts. If I told a client that they could never, ever eat any of these foods again, even the most motivated of them would last a few weeks or at most a few months. However, knowing you can have these foods a few times a week makes it much easier to stay on the program long term, which is necessary if you want to hit your goals. At the end of the day, being able to go off your diet twice a week significantly improves long-term adherence.

4) Having the ability to go off your diet gives you options when you are not in control of your food choices. For example, being invited to a wedding or a dinner party can be a big problem if you are trying to be tight with your diet. You don’t really know what you are going to be served. Using one of your splurge meals at the event will allow you to eat whatever is there and not worry about going off your plan.

5) It may even help you to lose weight to overeat a bit twice a week. While I have seen no hard research data on this at all, I feel that overeating a few times a week may relax your body’s natural defense mechanism to a chronic decrease in calories.

I do have just a couple of rules for my clients when it comes to splurging:

1) These are splurge meals, not splurge days. In other words, these are not 10 hour affairs, just 1 meal.

2) No back to back splurges. Keeping a stable blood sugar is the key to long-term calorie reduction. Splurging two days in a row can really throw off your blood sugar and kick start hunger and cravings. I have my clients have a splurge meal midweek on Wednesday and another on Saturday.

3) I have my clients avoid sugar even on splurge meals. It is just too addictive for most people who are trying to lose weight. However, sugar free desserts are permitted on splurge meals for those who have a sweet tooth.

Protein Supplements And Weight Maintenance

The Study
Increasing dietary protein has been shown to improve satiety and decrease subsequent energy intake. Some studies have shown that increasing protein as a percent of calories results in more weight loss when compared to lower protein diets. However, the role of protein supplementation in weight maintenance is not known. After an eight-week weight loss period, 220 subjects consumed a supplement of 45 grams per day of whey protein, whey protein plus calcium, soy protein or maltodextrin (which served as the control group). Subjects were followed for weight regain for a period of 24 weeks. By the end of follow-up, there were no significant differences in weight regain among the 4 groups. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2017; 106:684-97.

Take Home Message
Protein serves a lot of really important functions and it is important to include a lean source of it at every meal.  However, it looks like aiding in weight maintenance is not one of these functions. There is no need to supplement with protein shakes. Just get your protein from whole food sources, as nature intended.

Glycemic Index, Satiety And Subsequent Energy Intake

The Study
Thirty-seven children between the ages of 9 and 12 were given a variety of different breakfasts for 3 consecutive days on separate occasions. One of these was a low glycemic index breakfast and another was a high glycemic index breakfast. After each meal, satiety was measured and the students had access to an all you can eat lunch buffet. The results were fascinating. Compared to the low glycemic index breakfast, subjects consumed 145 more calories at lunch when they ate the high glycemic index breakfast. Hunger was significantly greater after the high glycemic breakfast on 2 of the 3 days measured. Pediatrics 2003; 112:e414-19.

Take Home Message
This is an older study that I came across while researching my 4th book and it is a powerful one. What is really interesting to me is that both the high and low glycemic index breakfasts that they served these kids had the same number of calories. The fact that the students ate that much more after the high GI meal is a powerful example of how important carbohydrate quality is to subsequent energy intake.

In my opinion, a low GI approach to weight loss is by far the most effective strategy. I have been using it successfully with clients for almost 2 decades. A one meal difference of 145 calories is absolutely huge. If this happened 3 times a day for a month, you’ve got an excess of over 13,000 calories, which theoretically would result in a 3.7 pound weight gain, each and every month. 

Keeping your blood sugar stable with a low glycemic load diet is essential if weight loss is your goal. To do this, focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains for your carbohydrates while limiting bread, pasta, white rice and sugar. Also make sure to add in healthy sources of protein and fat at every meal. You’ll be amazed at how much less hungry you are in between meals.

Product Review: Stamina 1690 Power Tower

Most of us are too busy to get to the gym every day, so working out at home is the key to working out consistently. You don’t need a lot of equipment or space to set up a serviceable home gym. When I was in grad school in Boston, I had a foldable bench, a Bowflex adjustable dumbbell system and a Gazelle Edge elliptical trainer. All of this equipment could be stored in the closet of my studio apartment.

However, if you have a basement or a garage as a dedicated workout space, you have the luxury of adding a few pieces of equipment that can really add variety to your at-home workout. Now that I live in a house in the suburbs, I have a nice sized basement with plenty of room for fitness equipment.

Today I’d like to review a great piece of equipment for those that have a little more space to dedicate to their home gym. It is called the Stamina 1690 Power Tower. This is a simply designed multi-station home gym that allows you to perform a variety of body weight exercises.

1) Inexpensive. The Power Tower is currently available on Amazon for $89.99. This is an amazing value.

2) Easy to put together. I put this together myself in a short amount of time and without any help. 

3) Versatile. You can perform a lot of different exercises with this system, including; pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, neutral grip push-ups, and a number of ab exercises.

4) Very sturdy.

5) Looks sharp

1) The only con I can come up with is that it takes up a fair amount of space. You have to make sure your ceiling is high enough to accommodate the 81 inches from ceiling to floor. I could do this comfortably in my basement, but I had to measure first.

Do I Recommend The Stamina 1690 Power Tower?
Absolutely. If you have the space, the Stamina 1690 Power Tower will make your home gym feel a lot more like an actual gym. Muscle confusion is key to a proper resistance training program. The more exercises that you have to choose from, the better your results are going to be.
If you want to pick up the Power Tower, it is available on, here is the link

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with the company that makes the Stamina 1690 Power Tower and make no money if you buy it.