Friday, May 13, 2022

What are good sources of fat to eat?

This is a question I often get from new clients. You want to focus on the mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. These are health promoting and will help stabilize your blood sugar. 

You will find these fats in:

-Vegetable oils: olive oil and canola oil are the best choices here

-Nuts

-Nut butters

-Seeds

-Avocados

-Butter substitutes made with healthy oils like Olivio, Smart Balance or Earth Balance

-Mayonnaise

Be sure to limit any trans fat. If a product has this, it will be listed on the food label under the “Fat” category.

Also limit saturated fats such as butter, full fat dairy like cheese, cream and ice cream, processed meats like bacon and sausage and fatty cuts of red meat like steak and hamburger.

 

  

Health Benefits Of Resistance Training

The Study

In a 16 study review, the health benefits of resistance training were investigated. 

Here are the major results:

- Resistance training was associated with a 17% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

- Resistance training was associated with a 17% reduced risk of diabetes.

- Resistance training was associated with a 12% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

- Resistance training was associated with a 15% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

British Journal of Sports Medicine 2022;0:1-10.

Take Home Message

The health benefits of cardiovascular exercise are widely known. However, many people completely ignore resistance training. This is a shame because retaining muscle mass as we age is crucial to maintaining a high level of functioning. If you are trying to lose weight, it is also a critical part of any weight loss program. As this study shows, these benefits are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health effects of weight lifting.

Hit the weights at least twice per week. You don’t have to spend a ton of time and you don’t have to use super heavy weights. A typical full body workout for my clients takes 20 minutes or so. The key is consistency and variety. You need to switch up your exercises every 7 weeks or so to keep your muscles guessing. If you are intimidated, consider hiring a personal trainer for a session or two to get you started.

 

 

 

 

Cardiovascular Exercise Timing

The Study

In this interesting study, 40 overweight subjects were randomly assigned to a supervised 12 week exercise program that met either in the morning or the evening. The timing of the exercise did not change the body fat response to training. Appetite 2021 doi:10.1026/j.appet.2021.105600

Take Home Message

It does not really matter if you exercise in the morning or evening as long as you do it consistently. I have had successful clients that workout in the morning and successful clients that workout at night. Do whatever works for you.

Book Review: Intelligent Fitness

Next up for review is Intelligent Fitness, by Simon Waterson. The author is a fitness trainer that works with actors to help them get in shape for their movie roles. This sounds like a fun job and he has worked with many A-list actors filming big budget action movies.

Introduction

This book has 4 sections. The first is some general information on training. The second section presents different actor’s workouts for the specific movie they were shooting. The last two sections are on recovery and nutrition. The book is 346 pages. It is very well written and I enjoyed reading it.

5 Things I Really Liked About Intelligent Fitness

1) I like the focus on proper sleep. This is an aspect of health overlooked by many that really can impact your hunger, metabolism and body weight, not to mention your energy and mood.

2) I also like the focus on hydration. Drinking adequate water is critical for health and fitness. I recommend 8 glasses a day to my clients.

3) The exercises presented were very nicely put together with text and pictures describing how to do them.

4) I like the variety found in the workouts. It is really important to keep your muscles guessing a bit when lifting weights. I change my client’s programs every 7 weeks or so.

5) I agree with the authors idea to workout at home, if possible. Investing in a small home gym, which could be as simple as some free weights, a bench and an inexpensive piece of cardio equipment, like the Gazelle Sprintmaster, makes it so easy to workout. It is also much cheaper in the long run than paying for a gym each year.

5 Things I Didn’t Agree With In Intelligent Fitness

1) The author does not recommend weighing yourself at all. I have my clients weigh themselves each week. Weight loss is highly subjective. As time goes on, I focus my client’s program based on what is working. If they lose weight one week, we replicate that behavior. If they gain or don’t lose, we’ll make some changes. How do you know that the program is working if you don’t have a weekly weigh in?

2) The author recommends 6 meals a day. I think this is not necessary. Once the blood sugar stabilizes, 3 meals a day is all you’ll need. If you are hungry all the time, something is wrong with your diet.

3) The author mentions that when it comes to diet you should be able to eat what you want, when you want it. I don’t agree with this because it does not take into account food cravings. Refined carbs like bread, white rice and especially sugar are quite addicting. The more you have, the more you want. If you can eat them whenever you want, soon you’ll be eating them all the time and you won’t lose a pound. With refined carbs, there has to be some level of deprivation. The good news is that once the blood sugar stabilizes, the cravings largely disappear.

4) Similar to #3, the nutrition in this book was a little weak, in general. I found pretty early in my training career that any results you get in the gym are largely dependent on what you are eating. I felt that the author could have given some more specific advice on what to eat.

5) Anyone who works with me or reads my books know that I am all about research and evidence-based advice. The author makes a few claims that seem a bit off to me and presents no research to back these statements up.  For example:

-On page 265 he mentions that jumping in and out of hot and cold plunge pools is great for boosting your immune system.

-On page 296 he states; “Tumeric and ginger are great natural anti-inflammatories and help the body to be less toxic and inflamed”.

Is Intelligent Fitness Worth Reading?

Absolutely! I like a lot of what the author says regarding weight lifting and cardio in this book. His results speak for themselves. The actors he works with look amazing in the movies they shoot.

Having said that, the book’s handling of the nutrition end of things is a bit lacking. I’d focus on the exercise sections of the book and get your nutrition advice elsewhere.

 

 

 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Protein Consumption And Risk of Diabetes

The Study

In this investigation, 833 subjects who had lost weight were studied for 3 years. Subjects who had increased their protein consumption during this weight maintenance period had a significant decrease in BMI and a significant decrease in HbA1c, which is a long-term measure of blood sugar. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021; 114:1847-48

Take Home Message

Adding a little more protein to your diet is a nice way to aid in the weight loss process. It also appears to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. Just make sure you are picking your protein carefully.

Focus on healthy sources, such as lean meats (like chicken and turkey), low fat dairy, seafood, beans, nuts and lentils.

Limit unhealthy sources of protein, such as red meat, processed meat (like bacon, sausage and pepperoni) and full fat dairy.

Sleep Deprivation And Energy Intake

The Study

In this interesting study, 80 subjects who were overweight and slept an average of 6.5 hours per night were randomized into two groups. One group continued their usual sleep patterns, while the other group received sleep hygiene counseling with the goal of increasing their sleep to 8.5 hours per night.

The intervention lasted for 28 days and the subjects had their energy intake measured by doubly labeled water, which is very accurate. By the end of the follow up period, the sleep counseling group increased their sleep by 1.2 hours. They also consumed 270 fewer calories per day than subjects sleeping 6.5 hours. Jama Internal Medicine doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098

Take Home Message

The authors present several possible reasons why inadequate sleep increases energy consumption:

-Sleep deprivation may increase hunger.

-Sleep deprivation may alter appetite hormones.

-Sleep deprivation may cause changes in brain regions related to reward.

Whatever the reason, getting your sleep up to a minimum of 7 hours per night may really help with hunger and rate of weight loss.

Sugar Sweetened Beverages And Academic Performance

As many of you who work with me or read my books know, I read the nutrition research every month in an effort to stay on top of any important new studies. Occasionally, I come across a study that seems so important that I need to write a Feature Article on it. That happened just recently (Reference 1).

The Study

In this fascinating study, 4,245 Australian school children between the ages of 8 and 15 years had their sugar sweetened beverage consumption measured. The researchers also had access to the student’s academic standardized testing scores.

When comparing the students who consumed less than 1 glass of sugar sweetened beverage per day to those consuming 4-6 glasses:

 -Grammar scores were 6% higher

 -Reading scores were 9% higher

 -Writing scores were 6% higher

 -Math scores were 7% higher

Conclusions And Recommendations

This is a very powerful study that demonstrates some of the hidden dangers of eating high glycemic carbs, such as sugar. Most parents think of sugar as nutritionally empty calories. If their kids are at a healthy weight and are eating well for the most part, adding a whole bunch of sugar each day is not considered a big deal.

It kind of is a big deal. The health risks of sugar have been shown in the research literature over the past few decades. Sugar consumption has been associated with obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. Emerging evidence shows it can even impact how your brain works. 

So, why would consuming a lot of sugar impact your academic performance? There are several possible mechanisms:

-High sugar consumption often causes a reactive hypoglycemia which results in low blood sugar after a few hours. Low blood sugar can negatively impact energy levels, which may make it harder to pay attention in class and perform on exams.

-Swings in blood sugar can also impact mood. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, it is much harder to pay attention and perform well in school.

-In this paper the authors theorize that sugar may actually have a negative impact on cognitive function. They propose that a high sugar consumption may cause cognitive dysfunction through hippocampal and frontal lobe volume loss and dysfunction.

It is a good idea to limit sugar consumption in your children for lots of reasons. We can add academic performance to the list. I also don’t think that this is limited to children. I would argue that work performance in adults is similarly affected. The recommendation is simple: Strictly limit sugar. Better yet, give it up entirely. This is certainly not easy to do at first but it will change your life and your health.

References

1) Burrows T et al, Association between selected dietary behaviors and academic achievement. A study of Australian school aged children. Appetite 2017; 116:372-80.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

What Are Some Tips To Get Back On Track With My Diet After The Holidays?

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day presents some real challenges for those trying to eat healthy and lose weight. The holidays are great and it is a lot of fun to eat and drink a bit more during this time. Just about everyone puts on a few pounds by New Year’s Day. The Covid-19 pandemic, with its high levels of stress and social distancing is adding to the problem these past few years.

However, for many of us, the unhealthy eating continues well into January and even February. This is mostly due to swings in blood sugar that result in increased hunger and cravings for refined carbohydrates, which were likely consumed in large amounts over the last several weeks. The more we eat bread, pasta, white rice and sugar, the more we want these foods.

A couple of extra cheat meals and a few pounds gained during the holiday season are not much of a problem. But if the disordered eating lasts for months, you will put on some serious weight. Even my most successful and dedicated clients will struggle during and after the holidays. Here are a few strategies that help them get back on track:

1) If you have eaten more refined carbohydrates during the holiday season, you will have an increase in cravings for them. You will also be more hungry in general. Step one is to mentally realize this. Tell yourself that you will be hungry for the wrong foods, but will not give into them. Getting your head right and understanding the origin of the cravings is very helpful.

2) Write down your food for 2 weeks. It adds a layer of accountability that gets you back on the right track. A great free app to help you do this is MyFitness Pal.

3) Go to the grocery store and load up on all of the right foods. Make it easy to eat healthy. Similarly, get all of the unhealthy foods out of your house. 

4) Plan your meals ahead of time. Think about what you will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few days or even a week.

5) Try to limit eating out at restaurants for the first week or two. Restaurant meals usually have a lot more calories, fat, salt and sugar.

After a week or two of eating right, you will find that your blood sugar has stabilized and the hunger and cravings for the wrong foods will start to calm down.

 

 

Trends In Childhood Body Mass Index

The Study

Changes in body mass index for Americans between the ages of 8 to 19 were measured between 1999 and 2018. National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data was used in this study. The results were not great:

-In males, BMI increased from 25.6 to 26.3

-In females, BMI increased from 33 to 33.7.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021; 114:1495-1504

Take Home Message

These latest numbers from NHANES show that over 20% of our children are obese. The numbers have stopped climbing and have started to level off, which is good. Now we have to start pushing them down by focusing on healthy eating habits and lots of physical activity.

Recent Trends In Junk Food Consumption

The Study

This study used the most recent NHANES data to examine recent trends in junk food consumption among 29,970 children and 44,501 adults in the US. The results were not great. In children, 1 in 5 calories were from junk food sources. Adults did a little better at 1 in 7 calories. 

The most common sources of junk food were:

-Sweet bakery products

-Savory snacks

-Desserts

-Candy

-Crackers

-Energy bars

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2021 114: 1039-48.

Take Home Message

Obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer are all diseases heavily influenced by poor dietary choices. This study did not included calories from sugar sweetened beverages, which is another 7% of calories. When we add this in, close to 1 in 4 calories in children are from unhealthy sources and adults are at 1 in 5. Sadly, these choices result in a lot of unnecessary sickness and suffering. We need to do better.

Product Review: Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells

Working out at home makes a lot of sense. Most of us are busy, and not having to drive to a gym, park the car and get changed can save us some serious time. During COVID, exercising at home is also a good idea if you are looking to limit your risk of contracting the virus. Exercising at home can also save you a lot of money. You can take one year's worth of gym dues and make a really nice little home gym that will last you decades.

When deciding on the type of weights to include in your home gym, there is a lot to consider, including; the price of the system, the space you have available, and what exercises you want to be able to do. 

Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells are a great choice for any home gym. These are dumbbells that have a dial on the side that allow you to change the resistance from 5 to 50 pounds in 5 pound increments (and even 2½ lbs. increments for the first 20 lbs.). If you want them to be 20 lbs., you simply turn the dials to 20 and you’re ready to go. I’ve had a set of these for years and have been really happy with them. Following are some of the pro’s and con’s of these dumbbells.

Pro’s

1) Very easy to change the resistance. If you have plate loaded weights with collars, it can take you a few minutes between exercises to adjust the weights. This can disrupt your work/rest interval and add significantly to your workout time. With the Bowflex weights, the change is instantaneous.

2) Look and act like regular dumbbells. Other adjustable dumbbell systems have an unusual shape with a handle in the middle of the dumbbell. This makes it hard to do exercises like overhead back or triceps presses. The Bowflex system can be held like a regular dumbbell, so you can do anything with them.

3) A Serious space saver. This adjustable dumbbell set takes the place of an entire wall of individual dumbbells. This is important if you are in an apartment or only have a small amount of space to devote to your home gym.

4) Very well made. These dumbbells are very durable. I’ve had mine for years and they look like they just came out of the box. There are no signs of wear and tear at all.

5) Do not roll when you place them on the floor. This may be a minor issue for some, but to me, there is nothing worse than laying down your dumbbells in between sets and having to chase them around the room. The Bowflex dumbbells lay flat and don’t roll around.  

6) You can increase the weight by 2.5 lbs. increments all they way up to 22.5 lbs. with these dumbbells. Sometimes an increase from 10 lbs. to 12.5 lbs., rather than to 15 lbs. is appropriate and this is a nice option to have.

Con's

1) The only con I can come up with is the price. Right now on Amazon, they are $399 for the set that goes from 5 to 52 lbs. Now, if you bought pairs of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 lbs. dumbbells individually, you’d spend a lot more than $399. However, if you bought plate loaded dumbbells with collars, you’d spend a lot less.

Would I Recommend the Bowflex SelectTech dumbbell system?

Absolutely. They are a bit on the pricey side, but they have really changed the way I can workout at home. I can switch weights in between exercises and even in between sets, with ease. My workouts are now more fluid and overall quicker to get through. I love the space saving aspect as well. I recommend them highly. Several of my clients over the years have purchased these and they have all been just as happy with them.

If you are interested in picking these up, they are available all over, but Amazon.com currently has the best price and free Prime shipping.

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with the company that makes the Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbell system and make no money if you buy it.