By now the reality of your New Year’s Resolution has started to sink in, and your weight loss goal seems to be slipping away. What many people fail to remember sometimes – it’s not what you eat, but why. Seasonal eating patterns such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), hormonal fluctuations, and stress can cause increases in appetite and eating patterns.
This time of year, it seems like there is plenty of time to spend in the kitchen and one of the most intriguing reasons for your increased interest in eating has to do with the amount of sunlight your receive every day. For those who live above the 30th parallel of latitude, the incidence of SAD increases the closer you get to the Arctic Circle and the symptoms become more severe as daily exposure to sunlight decreases. As an example, residents of Alaska have an 8.9% incidence of SAD and a 24.9% incidence of subsyndromal SAD whereas, the rest of the US experience about 6.1% of SAD and 14.3% of subsyndromal SAD. What’s remarkable about SAD is one of the primary symptoms of the diagnosis is an increase in appetite, particularly the intake of carbohydrates. Two of the primary treatments depression and increase in appetite associated with SAD are vitamin D supplementation and the use of melatonin. It seems the decrease in the amount of Ultraviolet-B on our skin contributes to the disruption of our body’s circadian rhythms, so to combat that deficiency, the use of supplemental melatonin in the afternoon and daily vitamin D seems to diminish the symptoms. Another option is the use of supplemental light therapy, which requires 30-60 minutes of direct light therapy everyday – not the easiest means to control your appetite, but it works.
Women know better than men how powerful hormones can be when it comes to eating. The increase appetite, particularly for carbohydrates, in the days leading up to a woman’s menstruation is typical for many women. Often sugary/starchy foods are desired more as a result of fluctuating blood sugar levels due to hormone imbalance causing cortisol levels to rise. The rise in the levels of the “stress” hormone cortisol also causes emotional issues which can in some women lead to binge or comfort eating. Carbohydrates are known to have a slightly sedative effect initially and the rise in blood sugar will instantly cause a euphoric feeling. However the ensuing guilt that can be felt, on top of the fact that shortly after blood sugar levels drop dramatically, the result can be feelings of unhappiness and stress. Foods high in antioxidants such as berry fruits and citrus fruits can stop the vicious cycle of eating carbohydrates and fats.
The stress hormone cortisol is another powerful reason for uncharacteristic eating. Cortisol is actually the “fight or flight” hormone and healthy in small amounts, but in our fast paced lifestyle today, cortisol is present in larger amounts which results in symptoms such as blood sugar fluctuations, thyroid suppression and increased abdominal fat deposits. While yoga and meditation have been suggested, the most effective way to decrease cortisol levels is through regular exercise. By elevating your metabolism though exercise, cortisol levels decrease even by simply taking a 30 minute aggressive walk daily.
It doesn’t matter the mechanism of initiating your appetite, you need to have a solution to combating poor eating habits and make it a part of your program and lifestyle.
By now the reality of your New Year’s Resolution has started to sink in, and your weight loss goal seems to be slipping away. What many people fail to remember sometimes – it’s not what you eat, but why. Seasonal eating patterns such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), hormonal fluctuations, and stress can cause increases in appetite and eating patterns.
The Dangers of
By Dr. Frank Russo, PhD.
High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children. It seems that any food that must be processed by either cooking or fermenting to be safely edible must have something, or many things as shown below, wrong with it. It is also noteworthy that other foods, in particular grains such as wheat, also contain anit-nutritional phytates that impair mineral absorption, e.g. calcium and magnesium. In children these minerals are necessary for growth and development of the skeletal and neuromuscular systems. In adults magnesium deficiency is a very serious and common problem that can lead to cardiovascular and nervous system disorders. Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth. Again you don’t want to consume anything that will interfere with protein digestion and absorption. In regards to pancreatic function and disorders there is also evidence that reduced effectiveness of pancreatic enzymes may contribute to pancreatic cancer, a disease on the rise in the US.
Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women. October was breast cancer awareness month, however did you hear anything about actually doing anything to avoid/prevent breast cancer? Probably not, you only hear about better ways to detect and possibly treat it.
Soy phytoestrogens are potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidis and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease. Many women in particular claim (that their doctors tell them) they are “hypothyroid” and that this is what causes their low energy levels and weight gain. Many infants and young children, because of their relative small body size, when fed “normal” portions of soy products actually consume much greater amounts than adults. This could very well be setting them up for problems later in childhood and into adulthood. The prevalence of childhood obesity is astounding and this could be a likely contributing factor.
Soy foods may interfere with the body’s ability to use vitamin D and low vitamin D levels interfere not only with growth in children but even more importantly with optimal immune system function in children and adults. In fact many serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease, the two biggest killers in the US, are associated with sub-optimal vitamin D.
Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein. In fact MSG derived from soy protein is a potent neurotoxin. It is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods. Furthermore, processing of soy protein results in the formation of other toxic byproducts, in particular lysinoalanine which may be toxic to the kidney and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
the New Unhealthy Generation
By Tony De Cesare
I was talking to a personal training colleague last month regarding the merits of body composition testing in the public school system. You see, my friend Rich is not only a personal trainer and a strength & conditioning coach – he is also a physical education teacher! I assumed he would wholeheartedly agree with me since childhood and teenage obesity has become such an epidemic in our country. I was shocked when he said, “What’s the point? Most teens are overweight and the vast majority of the students won’t make the effort to change. You have to pick and choose your battles these days.” I immediately defended my position and said lowering your expectations wasn’t a way to judge success and getting back to the basics was a good first step. He defended his position and suggested that I look at the statistics before I started suggesting solutions to such a pervasive problem. So, I decided to take a look for myself and see what he faces each day.
What I found was overwhelming; teenage obesity has become an epidemic in our society in the last 30 years. What’s worse is this generation of obese children will be adults sooner than later and will ultimately impact the cost of health care in our country, which isn’t in the best shape either. The latest statistics by the US Department of Health and Human Services stated that between 1999-2002 childhood obesity (ages 6-19 years old) tripled from the early 1970′s. Currently, 16% of US children are obese and another 15% are overweight and in danger of becoming obese. That means almost 1/3 of our country’s children fall into the overweight/obese category. This is a sad commentary to the success of the American diet, physical education system and parenting as a whole. In a nutshell, we are turning a blind eye to one of the worst epidemics facing our country today. I wondered if society would take such a laissez-fair approach to this epidemic if it were a diagnosis such as HIV or cancer…probably not. We have no one else to blame but ourselves and as a society we need to take a long hard look in the mirror and stop worrying about political correctness and face the facts; obesity is becoming the norm.
Rich’s primary point was the world had changed while we had NOT! Our thinking was still the same, but our efforts were being far outweighed by commercial fast food and the electronic gaming industry. It was like a slap in the face…a wake up call…an epiphany!!! The problems that teens face today are much more complicated than simply giving up fast food. He explained to me that younger kids in elementary and middle school are not influenced as much by the social stimuli that face the teen population today. The accessibility to fast foods, video gaming, and the internet are a large part of the problem teenage culture. Younger children are monitored by their parents to a greater degree, so when they request a quick stop at the local McDonalds, it can be thwarted by mom or dad. The teen population is a much different story; they are afforded more freedom, particularly when they begin driving and are responsible for their own transportation. In many cases, the social destinations for many teens are fast food restaurants. Due to the larger concentration of restaurants today, restaurant patrons account for 46.1 percent of all food consumed in the US in 1999, compared with only 25 percent in 1955. That means more than four out of 10 adults were restaurant patrons on a typical day in 1999 and it’s rising. (National Restaurant Association).
I shared these statistics with other teachers, pediatricians, and even the medical director of one of the local pediatric hospitals. None of them were surprised or even shocked at the data presented above, and many were surprised the numbers were so low. Teen obesity has become such a problem, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have released guidelines for teen exercise and activity (CLICK HERE). As one pediatrician told me, “This is the first generation to incur higher medical cost than their parents.”
There are no easy answers for this problem, but getting back to basics is a great start. First, let teens know that fast food should be seen in the same light as alcohol and tobacco; it’s simply unhealthy!!! Secondly, exercise is not optional; sitting in school sedentary all day should not be the standard…you have to move. Lastly, there needs to be personal responsibility by teens not to engage in unhealthy behavior thus preventing the possibility of obesity.
When I shared these thoughts with my colleague Rich, his only comment was, “Maybe we should go back to body composition testing in schools, then move on to those other goals…after all, we need to be realistic.”
The mainstream media has picked up on the growing trend among Baby Boomers and CBS NEWS recently ran a story on the importance of staying physically active and how it enhances the quality of life as we age. (CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL VIDEO) What’s more important is the current health care environment has motivated people to stay as healthy as possible, because a chronic metabolic disorder can be very expensive to manage over time.
The scientific community is looking very closely into the relationship of exercise & diet in disease prevention and becoming more progressive than in the past. There are activities, such as plyometrics, that were once thought to be out of the question for the aging population, but not any longer, because the benefits of jump training help improve bone density, balance and maintain muscular strength. No one is recommending depth jumps from a 36” box for your grandmother, but the use of a platform as small as 4-6 inches (the height of a normal curb) has shown positive results with respect to balance and strength. These forms of training can even be adapted to the aquatic environment where plyometrics are performed in a buoyant state. Once participants are comfortable in that setting, they transition to dry-land training where the movements are performed at a lower intensity and volume until they can progress to a full training session. This type of fore thinking is what is keeping people healthier longer and combating the incidence of a lifelong metabolic disorder.
With so much positive research focused on prevention these days, it is hard to neglect the impact of healthy eating on overall wellness. In a 2009 article in the New York Times, the domestic sales of vitamins and supplements were stated to be $23 billion annually.
That was a 20% increase in sales in just 6 months!!! A large portion of those sales is derived from the use of anti-aging and disease prevention supplements. Recently, I spoke to a local vitamin and supplement retailer who stated more than 60% of his shelf space was dedicated to anti-aging and disease prevention, while the other 40% was comprised of vitamin and sport supplements. Ten years ago anti-aging products only accounted for 20% of his shelf space and the remainder was sports products and vitamins. So, why the dramatic change?
His opinion was that manufactures have become more creative with their products and target specific conditions that can be improved through natural means. As a good example, he mentioned our Beauty Sleep Strips which are more effective than prescription medication without the drowsy side effects (they are also about 25% the price of prescription meds). “People need sleep and that is a product that caters to the anti-aging population since sleeplessness is closely associated with getting older.” The industry has taken on every ailment known to be a result of aging: decreased energy, sleeplessness, digestive disorders, joint pain…and the list goes on… The point is people are taking a more active role in the aging process. Staying active and focusing on nutrition has become the standard within the medical community for preservation of a healthy mind and body. The Baby Boomer generation has never been one to idle very long and they have set the standard in this country since they arrived. Now they are making their mark on how to stay young physically and mentally.
That brings me back to my classmate. About 3-4 years prior to his passing, he saw me on a local television morning show discussing weight loss and heart health. Amazing, he picked up the phone and called me, asking what he could do to lose some of the weight he had picked up after college. I gave him a meal plan and exercise prescription that would help him return to his healthy “playing weight”. Unfortunately, he didn’t follow through on the program. I can’t bring him back, but I can help provide the answers to the problems that face my generation and hopefully prevent it from happening again. The answer is simple and you don’t need scientist to provide research to come to this conclusion. Over ten years ago one of my great mentors, Jim Heflin was well into his seventies when he said to me, “The bottom line is that you don’t stop moving because you get older…you get older because you stop moving!” Once again proving that with age comes wisdom…now go workout!!!
Tony De Cesare
Most of the US is currently under a “heat advisory” or “extreme heat warning” and the local and national news continues to hammer the point that everyone needs to stay hydrated. In 100+ degree heat, it is imperative to keep water with you at all times and if you haven’t gotten the memo on this one at this point, then you live under a rock. Few people know that you can actually drink too much water and can lead to a condition call hyponatremia (or water intoxication), which is potentially fatal.
My first experience with hyponatremia was when I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail years ago in the scorching July heat. On the second day of my journey, I woke up in the mountains to 90 degree heat and decided to get a quick start on the day before it got too hot. I ate some oatmeal, a couple of scoops of protein powder and a handful of raisins & nuts; I hoisted my 40 pack onto my back and off I went for a walk in the woods. I filled 2 one liter bottles full of water before I started the day, figuring that would last me until I reached the next water source about 5 miles away. My calculations were way off… by the time I reached the spring, both bottles were completely dry and it was only 10am!!! I refilled the bottles and filled my Camelback just in case I needed it before reaching the next water source. It was sweltering and I was ready to call it day by noon, but I was still about 8 miles from my destination and questioned whether I was going to make it because I was starting to cramp in my legs and the water wasn’t helping. I decided to error on the side of conservatism and call it a day around 3 o’clock. I threw up my tent in a shady spot near some other through hikers and tried to eat some “real” food since the only thing I had been eating was dried fruit, nuts and couple of energy bars.
I still felt like I was dehydrated, so I kept drinking water to be safe. I realized that I hadn’t stopped all day to relieve my bladder…in fact I had NOT produced any urine since breakfast. That’s right; I had consumed over a gallon of water and hadn’t stopped all day. It didn’t make sense to me that I could take in that much water without producing a drop of urine. A fellow hiker stumbled by my camp site commenting on how hot it was, and I replied it was so hot all my urine evaporated. As I chuckled, his facial expression changed to a look of serious concern. He asked when the last time was that I “relieved” myself.
“Breakfast”, I said.
Next question, “How much water have you had today”?
I quickly shot back, “At least a gallon. Why?”
He looked startled and told me to stay put and he would be right back. Off he went into the brush and I began to worry that I was more dehydrated than I thought. I could hear his heavy boots running through the woods as he approached; out of breath and barely able to speak, he opened a bottle of salt tables and gave me two and instructed me to let them dissolve in my mouth as I sipped little bits of water.
“WHAT!!! I am dehydrated why am I eating salt???” I said.
He told me his name was Phil and he was an EMT who was hiking with some friends and what I had was called hyponatremia. My body was diluting the salt in my system due to consuming large quantities of water and my kidneys were not functioning properly. I was confused, but he assured me that I needed those salt tablets, so he sat there with me as I waited for them to dissolve. I didn’t feel bad, I was weak and tired, but I thought that was due to the heat. WRONG!!! Prolonged and excessive sweating increases the risk of altering the delicate balance of blood-sodium concentration. Because sodium is lost in sweat it is important for those exercising at high intensities for long periods of time to replace any loses. The fatigue and cramping were signs that my body was starting to shut down…and I thought it was just the heat. The next 8 hours were the worst part of the journey.
Phil had me move to his camp site where he and his friends kept tabs on me throughout the night. Finally, after 12 hours of not producing any urine, I was finally able to empty my bladder. As I looked at the stream of fluid exiting my body I was perplexed by the color of the urine. It wasn’t a healthy vitamin B saturated yellow stream and it wasn’t a clear “beer” stream, it was brown!!! Uggghhh… What had I done to my kidneys? Immediately I yelled for Phil because I was completely freaked out at this point. He explained that my kidneys were releasing the toxins that had built up in my system and that would continue for some time. He also instructed me that I wasn’t going to be able to continue my hike the following day because I needed to give my body time to recover. I thought that was a little much from a little water intoxication, so I just let that go in one ear and out the other.
Shortly after getting my kidneys fired back up, I decided I had enough and crawled into my tent for a good night’s sleep. WRONG AGAIN!!! About an hour after I crashed, I felt a pain in my calf like someone stuck a knife into it. I yelled, “AHHHHHHHHH”, practically waking everyone on the mountain. Phil unzipped my tent to find me in fetal ball gripping my calf.
Calmly he said, “Here come the cramps.”
I couldn’t speak; the pain was gripping me by my voice box at that point. I tried stretching and deep breathing, but nothing worked. Finally, after about an hour I got back to sleep only to have the cramping return 30-40 minutes later – it was hell on Earth. This continued all night, between trips to Mother Nature’s restroom to expel the coffee colored waste my kidneys were producing. The sun broke the next day and I crawled from my tent, barely able to walk and completely exhausted. I felt like had been in a fight; my legs wouldn’t work, I hadn’t slept and my kidneys were pooped. Phil was right, I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.
I stayed put for a day and finally made the 4 mile trip to my destination on cramping weak legs that eventually took a week to recover. It was certainly an eye opener and I have never forgotten that experience and what hyponatremia can do to your body. The signs and symptoms of hyponatremia are often subtle and may be similar to dehydration and include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, and confusion. At this point, many people drink more water because they think they are dehydrated (like I did). Unfortunately, water alone will increase the problem of hyponatremia. In extreme cases, it can cause seizures, coma, or death. At the first sign of symptoms you should drink sodium containing sports drinks or eat salty foods. In addition, pay attention to how much “water” you produce while in the heat; if you aren’t using the restroom frequently enough, you are headed down a dangerous path. Be safe.
Dr. Frank Russo, PhD Vice President Director of R&D Metabolix Nutrition, Inc.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a client who was preparing for a figure competition and she needed some advice about her diet. She was about 4 weeks away from her competition and in the process of “dieting down”, but nothing seemed to be working. Years ago when I worked with Beverly International founder Jim Heflin he once said, “If you want to see some of the worst eating habits, go to a bodybuilding and figure competition.” That was a pretty strong statement, but over the years I have found that to be truer than I ever thought. The process of “dieting down” is a slang term for starvation for the most part, and commercial weight loss programs have jumped on the band wagon to mimic many of those bad habits.
Anyway, I listened to her as she explained to me that she was eating a barn yard of eggs and a river of fish every day. Her strength was waning, she was doing cardio twice daily and her lean body weight was falling off at a record pace. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you don’t supply enough calories to your body for the activity that you perform, you will lose weight. That’s exactly what happened; she did lose weight, BUT not body fat. Her body turned on her and 7 pounds of lean body weight had disappeared. It took almost 6 months to accumulate 11 pounds of lean body weight and now more than half of it was GONE in less than a month! The question is why? The answer is gluconeogenesis.
Gluoneogenesis is the term for converting amino acids (protein) into glucose for energy. That’s right, the high protein diet that she was on failed her! To clarify it was not the relatively large amount of protein she was consuming but that she was likely not obtaining enough total energy and able to utilize this energy for her training. What she was suffering from is often referred to as “rabbit starvation” from the experiences of explorers and early settlers in the US and Canada. Small game including rabbit were, plentiful and much easier to hunt and provided most of the calories. The problem is that the body can only supply roughly 1000 calories per day through a protein-only diet because the liver is only capable of producing 250 grams of glucose from protein, no matter how much protein you eat. One serious consequence is that the liver will struggle to convert the ammonia from amino acid catabolism (necessary for glucose conversion) into urea so the ammonia will reenter your blood stream which is highly toxic! Although most bodybuilders that eat this way likely only have mild symptoms (it may also account for diminished strength because of the effect on the nervous system) if adhered to strictly enough and for a long time can lead to very serious symptoms including nausea and ketoacidosis, (and even death!) not unlike those common in uncontrolled type 1 diabetes.
Thus additional calories for energy must be supplied from carbohydrate and fat, and preferably the latter – fat. (Remember, the body, including muscle, normally burns fats as energy, and the brain burns glucose, so really the only glucose you need is to run the brain!) If these calories are supplied the body can still make most of the glucose it needs from dietary protein and also to a limited extent from fat. In fact many human cultures survive on a purely animal product diet, but only if it is high in fat. The arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who spent many years in the early 1900′s living with the Eskimos and Inuits of Alaska and Northern Canada, observed that they made a food called pemmican by mixing fat with meat in a proportion of one-to-one by volume. And by caloric content, this comes out to 80% of mostly saturated fat calories to 20% protein calories. They would add the fat from the large game they hunted, e.g. seals, reindeer, etc. What are the best sources of fat? Certainly not processed vegetable oils! These include corn oil, soybean oil, and canola which are the most common. The best source by far to supply energy is coconut oil followed by fats from organic, grass-fed or free range meat and wild fish. Fats from tree nuts, e.g. almond, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia are also excellent sources.
You may wonder about carbohydrates in the diet. High intensity exercise such as weight training, interval training and so on does indeed require carbohydrate from muscle glycogen to convert to glucose for fuel. Since a diet without carbohydrate can only replenish a fraction of total glycogen reserves (100-200 in the liver at most) you can see how this can result in a gradual drain of muscle glycogen reserves that can adverse affect exercise training. Thus ingesting carbohydrate is beneficial but for the best results, both in terms of performance and overall health should be done in moderation with emphasis on meal timing and source. For example the best time to ingest complex carbohydrates mostly from fresh produce (avoid all processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup!) is immediately following training because insulin sensitivity is greater which results in a lower insulin response to the feeding. One aspect of overall health is to try to insulin secretions and circulating insulin levels low with the exception of the normal short, transient spike following a meal. Probably the best all around food source is surprisingly “chia seed”. Two tablespoons of raw seeds supply about 80 calories that include 5 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fat, and 3 grams of protein, an almost perfect ratio!
Which brings us back to our friend who was ingesting eggs and fish at record levels to cut her body fat in preparation for her competition; what did she do so wrong to lose so much lean body weight in such a short period of time? The answer is “rabbit starvation”. All that was needed was to add a carbohydrate to her recovery meal and that would have stopped the catabolic process after training. The bottom line is this, we consult with hundreds of people every year on their training and nutrition programs, and it’s all about consistency. There is always someone out there touting extreme results in a relatively short period of time. The truth is, “slow and steady wins the race” and when you try to improve on Mother Nature’s metabolic processes – you are only robbing Peter to pay Paul. Next time you hear about the next greatest weight loss product/service/program, remember our old friend gluconeogenesis – it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying what you’re doing – is just wrong!!!
When Dr. Russo, PhD and I starting looking at manufacturing protein over 8 years ago, the biggest question that needed to be answered was, “What is the best combination of ingredients for promoting recovery?” You see it doesn’t matter if you are an elite tri-athlete that trains 20 hours a week, or mom who exercises for recreational purposes – everyone needs the same nutritional requirements to enhance recovery. In the last 20+ years of educating clients on nutrition and training the HARDEST discipline to master is proper macro nutrient intake after exercise.
Clients often tell me how healthy they feel after they exercise, but what they don’t understand is – their brain feels better, but training is damaging to the tissues of your body, particularly skeletal muscle tissue. So, while you have been hammering your legs in that spinning class or lifting weights like a pro athlete – your muscles are being destroyed!!! That’s right, while your brain is telling you how good you feel (which is hormonal) your legs are screaming for help…but in most cases it never comes.
This is where the importance of the recovery meal comes into play. Research has proven that ingesting high concentrations of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) help repair skeletal muscle tissue and expedite recovery. So where do you get BCAA’s and how much do you need?
The suggested amount of BCCA’s ingested following exercise varies, but most experts recommend 2-5 grams before, during or after exercise. Red meat is highest in BCAA’s and closely followed by eggs, poultry and dairy. The only problem with eating a quality piece of red meat following your workout – it takes forever to digest. Eggs (as well as egg whites) are always a good choice, but you have to cook them before they can be eaten. Research has shown that enzyme activity is at its peak up to 30 minutes following strenuous exercise, so it’s imperative to get the nutrients into your system as quickly as possible. That’s what makes using eggs a second option following your workout. Dairy is the natural choice when it comes to quality BCAA’s. It doesn’t need to be cooked and it’s easily digested, which means your body can utilize the BCAA almost immediately following digestion!!!
As an example, 1 cup of low fat cottage cheese contains over 6 grams of BCAA’s which is perfect for a recovery meal. Whey protein (such as Metabolix MAXIMUM PROTEIN) on the other hand has approximately 7 grams of BCAA’s and has fewer “negative” calories, so you don’t get all the fat, sodium and cholesterol. When it comes to a recovery meal, these are two of your better options when it comes to proteins full of BCAA’s. Now on to carbohydrates…
Following exercise, there is a huge demand for additional energy in the form of carbohydrates. This is where most people fail. Once blood glucose levels decrease, there is period where appetite is stimulated causing most people to over indulge in carbohydrates. This becomes a vicious cycle and it’s difficult to get off the blood glucose roller coaster. When carbohydrates are combined with quality BCAA foods, the increase in blood glucose stimulates the release of insulin which is important in shuttling the BCAA’s into the tissue to begin the recovery process.
So how much carbohydrate do you need? Research suggests that everyone is different due to the glucose tolerance levels. Generally, 40-60 grams of carbs are enough to initiate the release of insulin and a simple sugar combined with a complex carb seems to work best for sustaining insulin levels. The goal is to increase insulin levels enough to start the rebuilding process without increasing caloric intake to store any additional fuel as fat.
Use of foods that compliment the recovery process can help as well, such as pineapple which contains bromelain, a protein digesting enzyme. This assists in the breakdown of digested protein and aids the body in delivering the necessary amino acids. Click here for Kara’s Kitchen Pineapple Protein Shake video.
Recently, while on vacation, I was trying to explain to my older son that sugar is addictive, meaning that once you start eating it, you cannot stop. This conversation was of particular importance because he had just inhaled an entire box of Milk Duds while watching a movie!!! I know many of you are saying, “I can’t believe you give your children candy!” Well, Kara and I believe that everything in moderation teaches personal responsibility, even at an early age. He then informed me that he ate the Milk Duds, an ice cream bar, two bags of popcorn and washed it down with a Coke. I asked him, “So, do you think sugar is addictive.” He quickly replied – “NO doubt, I could have eaten another box of Milk Duds!” To punctuate my point I asked him when was the last time he ate scrambled eggs or a steak and said to himself, “Boy I could eat another dozen eggs or another 8 oz. steak.” Never, because proteins elicit a different response when you eat them, BUT sugar is the “White Devil” that wants you to keep coming back for more!!!
This was a valuable lesson for him to learn, because the growing trend in childhood obesity in the United States is directly attributed to excessive intake of sugar (usually in the form of beverages). Now it’s taking on an even bigger role in the increasing statistics of childhood diabetes, but it doesn’t stop there. Adults suffer from the same issues as the younger population (diabetes, obesity, etc…), but their case they know the consequences but fail to curb their intake. The question is why?
Scientists have known for years that sugar is an addictive substance and manufacturers use this to their advantage to “sweeten the pot”. In a joint study done by the Princeton Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute they have concluded that sugar elicits a response in the brain similar to the addictive properties of substances such as cocaine, morphine and nicotine. They describe this phenomenon as “Sugar-Bingeing”. In one experiment, they denied lab animals sugar for a prolonged period of time. Once sugar was reintroduced, they consumed more sugar than they ever had before, suggesting cravings and relapse behavior. Cravings and relapses are critical components of addiction and sugar seems to produce the same neurochemical response as many stronger addictive substances – so don’t discount the power of the “White Devil”. What’s worse is sugar is responsible for a number of other physiological reactions that few people acknowledge such as joint inflammation, tooth decay and as we know – obesity. If you couple those conditions with the addictive properties of sugar, it’s no wonder our country is facing a health care crisis.
I had a client a few years ago who quit smoking over 15 years prior to our meeting and found the only way she could visualize her accomplishment was to keep a calendar in her office and mark off each day that she didn’t smoke with a big red “X”. Days lead to weeks and the weeks lead to months and before she knew it, a year had passed. It was tough, but she beat the habit. When she walked into my office, she had been off sugar for 6 days and you would have thought she was ready for a 12 step program – seriously. The withdraw symptoms from sugar can be vicious: sleeplessness, headaches, irritability and even depression. The “White Devil” can keep a grip on its victims for months in some cases, and in the event of a relapse – bingeing is the result. In the Princeton study, the laboratory animals exhibited symptoms such as chattering teeth, anxiety, and reclusive behavior, and by the looks of my client, she was suffering from the same issues. It took over 3 months to beat her sugar habit and over the course of the next year she lost an amazing 40 pounds. She maintained her abstinence for almost 4 years and in a weak moment at a wedding reception she invited the White Devil back into her life. It only took one bite of wedding cake to initiate her addictive response and 6 months later she was back on sugar and gained back 30 pounds of the 40 she lost years earlier. Ultimately, after 2 years of unabated sugar intake, she returned to me, 60 pounds heavier (and 8 years older – making it a bigger challenge). She tried for over 3 months to break the cycle, but couldn’t seem to find the success she had years earlier and finally opted for psychological intervention.
So what are the answers to beating the addiction and how do you curb those bingeing moments? Here are some quick suggestions to stave off those pangs when the urge hits you:
- Use citrus fruits as a substitute for refined sugar. A navel orange will provide the same satisfaction as refined sugar and it contains fiber.
- Lemon water is a good substitute for sugary beverage. If you need to add sweetener, use Stevia or sucralose to sweeten the taste.
- Cut up apples and place them in a zip lock bag with cinnamon. It’s a great healthy snack and it takes the edge off the 3:00 pm glucose crash
- Sugar Free Jell-O (pudding)…sometimes you just need a little dessert, just sayin’
- Carry carrots in a zip lock and snack on them to beat the White Devil. As we know fruit and vegetables contain natural sugars, but what’s healthier a pound of carrots or a box of Juji Fruits?
Sugar addiction is no joke. There are some people who can eat one piece of candy or dessert and never think twice about going back for more. But, just like the alcoholic who knows one drink is too many and twelve isn’t enough, people with sugar addiction need boundaries. Unlike other addictions, the problem with sugar addiction is you have to eat food every day and you must fight that battle with every meal. If you feel as though the symptoms outlined above are too familiar to you, feel free to contact me about a maintenance meal plan to combat those cravings. I guess the old saying is true…you can’t have your cake and eat it too…
Recently, I was speaking at a corporate wellness presentation about nutrition, weight loss and dietary requirements. At the end of the presentation I was asked by a member of the audience why should she use supplements, because she didn’t see the need for them. Before I answered her question, I agreed with her and still think whole food is your best source of macro nutrients. I think she was surprised by my response, but she still prodded me regarding supplementation.
First you have to understand the rationale behind supplementation. They fill a void or enhance the macronutrients you eat on a daily basis. The problem with dietary supplementation is that most people immediately think about weight loss supplements that usually do not work. Americans have been influenced by the multitude of advertisements that promise to shed those unwanted pounds and flash lean and trim models in their promotions. Trying to break that image is difficult, but there is an easy way to change your perspective on supplementation.
After her question, I asked the room of about 60 people, “Who uses salt on their food?” Slowly, about 75% of the room raised their hands. I then asked the group what the dietary requirements were for sodium chloride. All I saw were blank stares looking at me. My point was that adding salt to your diet is nothing more than supplementation. We get small amounts of sodium in our food throughout the day, so adding salt to your food is supplementation. The thought process behind supplementation is to improve the nutrients that you are not receiving enough of throughout the day. Most of us do it every day by taking a multi-vitamin, which improves our vitamin and mineral balance. If you think of supplementation as anything but improving your macronutrients, then you have bought into the marketing.
Years ago, we saw the FDA ban a number of supplements due to the dangerous nature of their ingredients. We saw professional athletes achieve amazing results from the “supposed” use of supplements. Congress tried to get the real story behind that, but they were being lied to just like the rest of the American public. Today, we know the real truth behind those astonishing physical feats and it had nothing to do with supplementation. A little over 10 years ago, the growth of the ephedra market exploded and millions of Americans were on the band wagon, grinding their teeth, losing sleep and getting thin. Those thermogenics are no longer available to the American public, but they left their mark on the “supplement” industry. Those two examples are what most people think of when they hear the word supplementation, so when I speak of dietary supplementation during presentations I immediately have to break that thought process.
When it comes to macronutrient supplementation the one common denominator I see all the time is a deficiency in quality dietary protein. More than half the women I evaluate have a protein deficiency (if not a total caloric deficiency), which results in the need for supplementation. Use of “whole food” is the preferred way of improving that situation, but some folks find it tough to eat tuna fish and eggs throughout the day, so the end result is supplementation. Don’t get me wrong, it you don’t mind fish breath and flatulence go for it, but there are better ways to handle that deficiency.
Maybe the next time you see an ad with a fit and trim model pushing the next greatest weight loss supplement, ask yourself, “Did she take that product or did someone structure her diet and balance her macronutrients?” If you want the real answer to that question, email Kara and she can testify to how they achieved those results…what’s even better are the clams for growth and strength, but we can leave that discussion to another day.