The Right (& Wrong) Ways to Lose Weight

Written by: on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
woman strength training

Remember: cardio and strength training are both important parts of your exercise regimen.

Exercise is medicine. This is a key message that’s worth reminding everyone of. Given that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and that healthcare costs (to say nothing of quality-of-life costs) are staggering, we need to figure out how to turn this ship around. Here are eight truths about diet and exercise that anyone trying to lose weight (or even maintain weight) and stay fit should know:

1) Miracle slim-down diets (aka “crash diets”) do not work. Is it true the less you eat, the more weight you will lose? No. A big slashing of calories poorly predicts how much weight you will lose because your body adapts to perceived “famine” conditions by conserving energy.

close up of broccoli

The secret to weight loss: a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables (like broccoli), whole grains, legumes, healthy fats (like olive oil), and lean meat and dairy (if you eat dairy).

In a three-month study, young, healthy women were given a diet to lose weight. One diet had a moderate (-400) calorie deficit; this group lost six pounds in 3 months. The other diet had a severe (-850) calorie deficit; that group lost only 8 pounds. This was far less than predicted and related to a drop in resting metabolic rate. The body’s ability to conserve energy is quite powerful! If you want to lose weight, plan to chip off just a few hundred calories at the end of the day, rather than starve yourself by under eating all day.

In fact, men who want to lose weight should not crash diet, either. They will lose not only muscle but also testosterone (a muscle-building hormone). In a three-week study, soldiers ate a high-protein diet (3 x the RDA; 2.4 g pro/kg/day) but under ate calories by 40% below the amount needed to maintain weight. While the very high-protein intake helped counter loss of muscle, it did not maintain testosterone levels. Remember: chipping off a few hundred calories is preferable to a chopping off a thousand. Two fewer cans of soda or beer a day can make a difference in weight!

2) It doesn’t matter how often you eat; what matters is calories. Are dieters better off eating three small meals plus three small snacks—or eating the same amount of calories but in just two meals? For two weeks, obese middle-age women ate calorie-controlled packets of food either two or six times a day. Either way, the subjects reported being hungry. Eating six smaller meals did not appear to improve appetite response. So take your choice how often you want to eat, being sure to keep the total calories within your daily calorie budget.

Cup of coffee

Coffee has many health benefits—thanks to its antioxidants—but weight loss is not one of them.

3) No, coffee can’t curb your appetite (sorry!). Many dieters drink coffee for breakfast, swearing it curbs their morning hunger pangs. Yet, a study with 12 subjects reported no differences in appetite (and subsequent food intake) when their breakfast and mid-morning beverages were 1) water, 2) water+caffeine, 3) decaffeinated coffee or 4) decaf+caffeine. At lunch (4.5 hours after breakfast), the subjects reported similar amounts of hunger and ate similar amount of calories, regardless of their caffeine intake. The coffee did not effectively curb their appetites.

4) Listen to your body. What happens to food intake when healthy college men who exercise regularly are told to sit for 10 additional hours a week for 8 weeks?  They naturally eat less! At baseline, the subjects ate about 2,600 calories a day (47% carb, 18% protein, 32% fat). When they were told to be more sedentary, they intuitively ate less than baseline. They chose the same foods, just smaller portions. Only 1 of the 8 subjects ate more than at baseline. The moral of the study: If you get injured and cannot exercise, your body can naturally desire fewer calories. The trick is to listen to your body’s cues.

5) Regular exercise does more than just keep you fit. Exercise can impact not only weight but also the kinds of microbes that grow in the gut. In mice, the kinds of microbes differ by 40% between sedentary lean and obese mice. Even mice made obese by a high-fat diet—but allowed to use an exercise wheel—had a lean phenotype compared to the sedentary obese mice with no access to the exercise wheel. The exercised mice had distinctly different gut microbes. We need more research to understand how exercise impacts gut microbes in humans and how those microbes impact metabolism and weight.

Dumbbells

Lifting weights boosts bone density and your resting metabolism (which is key to how many calories you burn a day).

6) You’ve got to lift weights. Female athletes commonly have low bone mineral density. Is this related to their being light in weight? Having low body fat? Less muscle? A study of 44 female D-1 athletes (from cross-country, tennis, basketball, and soccer teams) suggests that bone mineral density significantly relates to muscle mass. The more muscle, the better the bone density. Keep lifting those weights!

7) Any exercise is better than no exercise. Does very slow walking (1 mile/hour) on a treadmill desk offer any health benefits? Yes. In a study, 32 college students consumed 300 calories of glucose and then either 1) remained sedentary for two hours or 2) for two hours, alternated walking on a treadmill workstation for 30 minutes then sitting for 30 minutes. The results suggest even very slow walking helped with blood glucose control. Bottom line: being sedentary is deleterious to health.

8) Getting older? Make it a point to move more. Regular leisure-time exercise patterns drop from childhood to adolescence and become unacceptably low in adulthood. One reason may be that we spend many hours at our desks working—with little time for leisure or even vacation. This is why it’s even more important to make an effort to fit in exercise as often as possible. And try to get up from your desk at regular intervals….and walk (even around the office) if you can. Remember, every little bit helps!

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Super Foods: Do They Need to be Exotic?

Written by: on Sunday, September 7th, 2014
turrmeric

Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammtory long used in Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. The yellow or orange pigment in turmeric is curcumin.

Do you ever get tired of reading yet-another headline about The 10 Best Super Foods, only be instructed to buy exotic fruits, ancient grains, and other unusual items? Do we really need chia, spelt, and quinoa? Is anything wrong with old-fashioned peanut butter, broccoli, and brown rice? Doubtful! Powerful nutrients are found in standard foods that are readily available at a reasonable cost. You know, oranges, bananas, berries, oatmeal, almonds, hummus, lowfat yogurt, brown rice, tuna … basic, wholesome foods. Are those foods exotic? No. But do they still do a great job of offering super nutrition? Yes!

To add to the confusion about exotic foods, the sports food industry touts their list of engineered super sports supplements. Ads lead you to believe you really need to buy these products to support your athletic performance. The question arises: Are there really special nutrients or components of food that can help athletes to go faster, higher or stronger? If so, can they be consumed in the form of whole foods or do we actually need special commercial supplements?

At a 2014 meeting of Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise and Sport (PINESNutrition.org), exercise researchers from around the globe discussed that topic and provided answers to these questions:

Cup of coffee

Coffee is also rich in health-promoting antioxidants.

Is there any difference between consuming pre-exercise caffeine in the form of pills, gels or coffee?

Regardless of the source of caffeine (pill, gel, coffee), it is a popular way to enhance athletic performance. Take note: High doses of caffeine (2.5 to 4 mg/lb body weight; 6 to 9 mg/kg) are no better than the amount athletes typically consume in a cup or two of coffee (1.5 mg/lb; 3 mg/kg). Hence, drinking an extra cup of coffee is unlikely to be advantageous, particularly when consumed later in the day before an afternoon workout, which is when it ends up interfering with evening sleep!

Do tart (Montmorency) cherries offer any benefits to sports performance? If so, what’s the best way to consume them?

Tart cherries (and many other deeply colored fruits and veggies) are rich in health-protective antioxidants and polyphenols. Tart cherries can reduce inflammation, enhance post-exercise recovery, repair muscles, reduce muscle soreness, and improve sleep. Athletes who are training hard, participating in tournaments, or traveling through time zones might be wise to enjoy generous portions. Yet, to get the recommended dose of cherries that researchers use to elicit benefits, you would need to eat 90 to 110 cherries twice a day for seven days pre-event. Most athletes prefer to swig a shot of tart cherry juice concentrate instead! (One study found that drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily helped insomniacs sleep 84 more minutes per night than when given a placebo juice.)

Blueberries

Colorful fruits like blueberries are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols as well as other nutrients; organic is always best.

What about food polyphenols such as quercetin and resveratrol?

Polyphenols are colorful plant compounds that are linked with good health when they are consumed in whole foods. Yet, polyphenol supplements, such as quercetin or resveratrol, don’t offer the same positive antioxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits. An explanation might be that once in the colon, where most polyphenols go, parts leak into the bloodstream during heavy exercise. These smaller compounds create the anti-inflammatory effect. Athletes who routinely eat colorful fruits during endurance training offer their gut the opportunity to distribute good health!

Does curcumin reduce chronic inflammation?

Curcumin (an active constituent of turmeric, the spice that gives the yellow color to curry and mustard) has beneficial properties that have been shown to help prevent cancer, enhance eye health, and reduce inflammation. Subjects with osteoarthritis (an inflammatory condition) who took curcumin supplements for 8 months reported less pain (due to less inflammation) and better quality of life. Unfortunately, curcumin is rapidly metabolized and therefore has low bioavailability when consumed in the diet. To increase absorption, supplements often contain curcumin combined with piperine (black pepper extract).

Green tea is rich in catechins, antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage.

Green tea is rich in catechins, antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage.

Does green tea help improve body composition? What is the best way to take it?

Green tea reportedly enhances fat oxidation and helps with weight loss, particularly when combined with caffeine. But the amount of additional fat burned is minimal, and the 10 to 12 cups of green tea needed to create any effect is a bit overwhelming. (Hence, most studies use a green tea extract.) Because green tea has not been studied in lean athletes, we can only guess that it is unlikely to offer a significant improvement in body composition.

Is watermelon juice a powerful stimulant for sports performance?

Watermelon juice is a source of L-citrulline, an amino acid that contributes to production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax the blood vessels and thus enhances blood flow so more oxygen can get transported to the working muscles. One study with athletes who consumed L-citrulline supplements reports they attained a 7% higher peak power output as compared to when they exercised without L-citrulline.

slices of watermelon

Watermelon contains about 250 millligrams of citrulline per cup.

Yet, when athletes were given watermelon juice (contains L-citrulline) or apple juice (that has no L-citrulline), the peak power was only slightly higher and the L-citrulline gave no significant benefits. The bottom line: Watermelon is a nourishing fruit and a welcome refreshment for thirsty athletes. You would need to eat a lot of watermelon to get the equivalent of L-citrulline found in (expensive) supplements. Your best bet is to enjoy watermelon in standard portions as a tasty addition to your diet.

What can be done with pea, hemp, or other plant protein to make them as effective as whey for building muscle?

In general, plants (such as peas, hemp) contain less leucine than found in animal proteins. Leucine helps drive the muscle’s ability to make new protein. Hence, to increase the muscle-building properties of plant proteins, you need to either eat large portions of, let’s say, hemp or pea protein (to get a bigger dose of leucine), or you can combine those plant-foods with leucine-rich proteins, such as soy, egg, or dairy foods.

The bottom line: Your best bet to optimize performance is to optimize your total diet. No amount of any supplement will compensate for lousy eating, though a few just might enhance a proper diet.

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Seeds: Why You Should Add Them to Your Diet…Today

Written by: on Thursday, July 18th, 2013
Healthy, Edible Seeds

Seeds are an oft-forgotten source of protein and key nutrients.

Times have changed from when we used to joke about people who ate “nuts and berries”. Today’s athletes routinely enjoy nuts and berries and are now looking for ways to notch up their diets with more seeds (such as flax and chia). This trend can enhance the health of both our bodies—and the planet. That is, by choosing more plant foods, we’ll end up eating less meat and animal protein. If each of us were to eat just one less pound of beef per week, greenhouse gas emissions would drop significantly.

While seeds are health-enhancing choices to include in your diet, their nutritional value can sometimes get exaggerated. The following information offers a perspective on some “trendy” foods that are getting mainstreamed.

Nuts and Seeds

Want to add a nice crunch, along with vitamins and minerals, to your diet? Sprinkle some slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pistachios, sunflower and sesame seeds into your yogurt, cereal, salad, and smoothie. Nuts and seeds offer protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and many other nutrients. The fact that a plant grows from a nut or seed indicates it is life sustaining.

Many nuts and seeds offer alpha linoleic acid, also known as ALA, a type of health-protective omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. While ALA from plants is not as potent as the type of omega-3s found in fish, any omega-3 fat is better than none. But dieters beware! When you nonchalantly toss a few spoonfuls of nuts and seeds into your smoothies and salads to pump up their nutritional value, you can also easily toss in 100 to 400 calories. While vegans may need this protein and calorie boost, if you’re weight-conscious, you might want to think twice.

Comparing Seeds and Nuts This chart shows how 1/4 cup of nuts and seeds (two spoonfuls or a large handful) adds a lot of calories but minimal protein towards the daily target of about 60 to 90 grams of protein. Vegans still need additional plant proteins, like beans and tofu, to get enough protein.

Seed¼ cup/30 g Calories Protein    g Fiber g Calcium mg Ironmg
Chia 140 5 10 180 8
Flax, ground 150 5 8 70 1.5
Hemp seeds 180 10 4  — 1
Sunflower 190 6 3 20 1
Pumpkin 170 9 2 50 2
Sesame 200 6 4 350 5
Walnuts 190 4 2 30 1
Daily target:60-90 g Daily target:25-35 g Daily target:1,000 mg Daily target:8 mg men18 mg women

Flax seeds, commonly consumed for their ALA omega-3 fat benefits, need to be ground before being eaten. Otherwise, they pass through your intestines whole and undigested.

Chia seeds also offer ALA omega-3 fats—but you don’t need to grind them. Just sprinkle chia on yogurt and enjoy the crunch. When soaked in water for 10 minutes, chia seeds create a gel that can be used as a thickener for smoothies and as an alternative to eggs and oils in some recipes. The slimy consistency of soaked chia seeds can be tough to enjoy for some. If you fall into the “no thank you” camp, worry not. You have many other options for enjoyably consuming similar nutrients in other seeds and nuts.

Sunflower Seed Butter

My kids love this! (And it's perfect for lunches in schools that don't allow peanuts.)

Sunflower seeds have a mild, pleasing taste when added to salads, trail mix, or cold cereals. For people with peanut allergies, sunflower butter is a popular alternative to peanut butter.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are slower to eat when you buy them in the shell. This can save unwanted calories.

Hemp seeds are touted as containing all the essential amino acids. Hemp adds a protein-boost to vegan diets, but at a high price. Hemp seeds costs about $15 per pound, as compared to soy nuts, that also have all the amino acids, about $3.50/lb.

Healthy Sesame Seeds

Try some sesame seeds today!

Sesame seeds have a gentle flavor and make a nice addition to stir-fried tofu or chicken. Although sesame seeds are touted as being calcium-rich, their calcium is poorly absorbed.

Chopped nuts, such as walnuts or slivered almonds, add a protein boost—but not as much of a protein bonus as many people think. If you ate half a cup of walnuts (two big handfuls), you’d get only 8 grams of protein. For the same calories, you could add 1.5 cups of cottage cheese to your salad and get five times more protein (40 grams).

Copyright Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD

RECIPE: Super Spice Trail Mix

This Super Spice Trail Mix includes a yummy combination of health-enhancing nuts, seeds, grain, and spices. Pack it into into little individual baggies for snacks, sprinkle it into yogurt, or add it to cold or hot cereal. It offers a really nice crunch and flavor boost to shredded wheat and other bland cereals. (I found this recipe at www.McCormick.com. The McCormick Spice website offers lots of really nice and flavorful recipes filled with herbs and spices.)

Ingredients

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

2 teaspoons paprika

3 cups nuts, such as a mix of almonds, shelled pistachios, and pecan halves

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed

1-1/2 cups dried fruit, suh as a mix of dried  cherries, cranberries, and golden raisins

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and paprika in small bowl. Set aside.

2. Place nuts, oats, and pepitas in a large bowl. Add thawed apple juice concentrate; toss until nuts are evenly coated.

3. Sprinkle with spice mixture, tossing to coat well.

4. Spread evenly on two 15x10x1-inch baking pans. 

Bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cook time. Cool completely on wire rack.

5. Stir in cherries and raisins. Store in airtight container.

Yield 24  ¼-cup servings Approximate calories per serving 200

 

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“I’m Exercising…So Why Can’t I Lose Weight!?”

Written by: on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
woman running

You run, therefore you should be losing weight. Not true! There's much more to the weight-loss story than that.

Despite their apparent leanness, too many active people are discontent with their body fat. All too often, I hear seemingly lean athletes express extreme frustration with their inability to lose undesired bumps and bulges:

Am I the only runner who has ever gained weight when training for a marathon???

Why does my husband lose weight when he starts going to the gym and I don’t?

For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin. Why can’t I simply lose a few pounds?

Clearly, weight loss is not simple and often includes debunking a few myths. Perhaps this article will offer some insights that will lead to success with your weight-loss efforts.

woman standing on a scale

Even if you're an athlete, you cannot eat anything you want and expect to still lose weight.

MYTH You must exercise in order to lose body fat. 

TRUTH To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create that deficit by 1) exercising, which improves your overall health and fitness, or 2) eating fewer calories. Even injured athletes can lose fat, despite a lack of exercise. The complaint “I gained weight when I was injured because I couldn’t exercise” could more correctly be stated “I gained weight because I mindlessly overate for comfort and fun.”

Adding on exercise does not equate to losing body fat. In a 16-week study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, untrained women (ages 18 to 34) built up to 40 minutes of hard cardio or weight lifting three days a week. They were told to not change their diet, and—as a result—they saw no changes in body fatness. The bottom line: creating a calorie deficit by eating less food seems to be more effective than simply adding on exercise to try to lose weight.

Athletes who complain they “eat like a bird” but fail to lose body fat may simply be under-reporting their food intake. A survey of female marathoners, in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, indicated the fatter runners under-reported their food intake more than the leaner ones. Were they oblivious to how much they actually consumed? Or were they too sedentary in the non-exercise hours of their day?

woman running in race

Just because you're in training for a race doesn't mean you earned those chocolate chip cookies!

MYTH If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away. 

TRUTH Wishful thinking. If you’re an endurance athlete who complains:“For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin,” take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts? Male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day, found another study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. You need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, no matter how much you train. Again, you should eat according to your whole day’s activity level, not according to how hard you trained that day.

MYTH The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose.

TRUTH Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get, and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.

The effects of exercise on weight loss are complex and unclear—and depend on the 24-hour picture. We know among people (ages 56 to 78) who participated in a vigorous walking program, their daily energy needs remained about the same despite adding an hour of exercise. How could that be? The participants napped more and were 62 percent less active the rest of their day, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology. Be sure to pay attention to your whole day’s activity level. One hour of exercise does not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle

woman doing a lunge stretch

Four workouts a week with cardio, strength (and a bit of stretching) might be better for weight control than six workouts a week.

MYTH You should exercise six days a week to lose weight. 

TRUTH Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. Another study—published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise—with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74) who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized. The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day. Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the info might also relate to you?

man and woman running together outdoors

Woman will always lose weight at a slower pace than guys...it's just the way we're built.

MYTH Couples who exercise together, lose fat together.

TRUTH Not always. In a 16-month study looking at exercise for weight loss—and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine—the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise. In another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds.

What’s going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he’s heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout. But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women’s role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at New York’s Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit. No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men….

The bottom line

If you’re exercising to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should exercise for health, fitness, stress relief, and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!) If you exercise primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You’ll eventually quit exercising—and that’s a bad idea.

Instead of focusing on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off just 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds a year of fat loss. One less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating…?

Copyright©Nancy Clark, MS, RD March 2013

 

 

 

 

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Eat beets, drink tart cherry juice & 4 other stay-healthy tips

Written by: on Monday, July 16th, 2012

Want to be healthy—and have enough energy to power you through sports and your daily activities? Follow these tips:

fresh organic beets with greens

Beets are packed with disease-busting antioxidants—and are high in folate and fiber.

1.) Eat beets…as well as rhubarb and arugala. They’re rich sources of dietary nitrates, a compound that gets converted into nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and allows a person to exercise using less oxygen. In one study, cyclists consumed pre-ride beets and then three hours later (when nitric oxide peaks), they rode in a time trial. Every cyclist improved (on average, 2.8%) as compared to the time trial with no beets. Impressive! The amount of nitrates in 7 ounces (200 grams) beets is an effective dose. How about enjoying  beets—or a bowl of borchst—in your next pre-game meal?

bowl of red cherries

Tart cherries contain substances called anthocyanins, which help reduce inflammation and may even reduce tumor growth.

2.) Drink tart cherry juice. Tart cherries (the kind used in baking pies, not the sweet cherries enjoyed as snacks) have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, trained athletes consumed two 10.5-oz. bottles per day of tart cherry juice the week before an excruciating exercise test. They recovered faster and lost only 4% of their pre-test strength, compared with 22% loss in the group without cherry juice.

woman's feet running up stairs

You exercise every day—but you still need to stay active the rest of the time (e.g. always take the stairs instead of the elevator).

Tart cherries can help not only athletes but also individuals who suffer from the pain and inflammation associated with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Consuming tart cherry juice (two 10.5-ounce bottles/day for 10 days) reduced the muscle soreness associated with “fibro-flares” and enhanced recovery rate. Similar findings occurred in people suffering from osteoarthritis; drinking tart cherry juice for three weeks reduced arthritis pain.

Research to date has studied the effects of drinking 21 ounces of tart cherry juice per day for 1 to 3 weeks. (That’s the equivalent of eating 90 tart cherries/day). More research will determine the most effective dose and time-course. Because 21 ounces of tart cherry juice adds 260 calories to one’s energy intake, athletes will need to reduce other fruits or foods to make space for this addition to their daily intake.

3) Sit less, move more. While sleeping used to be our most common “activity,” today it is sitting. The average person sits for 9 hours a day. Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for heart disease and creates health problems, including deep vein thrombosis  (as can happen on planes). Athletes who exercise for one or two hours each day still need do more daily activity and not just sit in front of a screen all day.

athletic woman leaping in air

Get enough sleep and you'll not only feel more powerful—you'll be more powerful in any activity you undertake.

4) Get some sleep. While we may be sitting more than in past years, we’re sleeping less: 80% of teens report getting less than the recommended nine hours of sleep; nearly 30% of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours each day. Not good. Sleep is a biological necessity. It is restorative and helps align our circadian rhythms.

Sleep deprivation (less than five hours/night) erodes well being, has detrimental effects on health, and contributes to fat gain. When we become tired, grehlin—a hormone that makes us feel hungry—becomes more active and we can easily overeat. Sleep deprivation is also linked with Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Sleep deprivation is common among athletes who travel through time zones. This can impact performance by disrupting their circadian rhythms and causing undue fatigue and reduced motivation. In comparison, extending sleep can enhance performance. A study involving basketball players indicates they shot more baskets and completed more free throws when they were well rested versus sleep deprived. For top performance, make sleep a priority!

couple walking together

Doing activities with other people is one factor that may help you live a longer life.

5) Enhance your life. In a few communities in the world, an usually high number of people live to be older than 100 years. What happens in those communities that contributes to the longer life? Some factors include choosing a plant-based diet, rarely overeating, having a life filled with purpose and meaning, connecting with others in the community, moving naturally and/or socially (as in bike commuting and walking with family and friends), enjoying alcohol socially (in moderation), and not smoking. If you want to join the centenarians, take steps to re-create those life-enhancing practices!

Creating that life-extending culture has been done, to a certain extent, in Albert Lea, MN. The “Blue Zone” project included improving sidewalks and building walking paths around a lake. Restaurants supported the program by not bringing a bread basket automatically to customers, and not serving French fries (unless requested) with meals. These and many other environmental changes contributed to a healthier lifestyle that resulted in a 40% drop in the city employee healthcare costs over two years. Impressive, eh?

6) Appreciate your body. Athletes, as well as those who aren’t athletes, commonly struggle with the belief their body is not “good enough.” This struggle gets too little attention from health care providers who focus more on the medical concerns of heart disease, cancer, and hypertension. Yet, whether you are lean or obese, having poor body image often coincides with having low self-esteem. This combination generates poor self-care.

Image with I am beautiful written in mirror

If you have to, write notes to yourself to remind yourself just how amazing you (and your body) are.

In a five-year study of teens, low body satisfaction stimulated extreme and destructive dieting behaviors that led to weight gain, not weight loss. The same pattern is typical among many seemingly “healthy” athletes. If you want help finding peace with your body, please seek help from a sports dietitian. Use the referral network of Sports & Cardiovascular Nutritionists (SCAN)—SCANdpg.org—to help you find someone local. What are you waiting for…?

 

Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD, May 2012

 

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Eat Pizza and STILL Lose Weight: A new philosophy for bathing suit season

Written by: on Friday, March 16th, 2012
Fit woman in string bikini for valerielatona.com

Looking to look fab in a bikini (or bathing suit)? Try a no-diet approach to eating.

It’s almost bathing suit season. Like most people, you’re probably starting to panic because you’ll soon be shedding layers of winter clothing and exposing your body. Eeek!!!

When you have more flab than you want, fretting about excess body fat can easily lead to thoughts of dieting. And there are plenty of diets out there to choose from: Atkins, Paleo, Jenny Craig, the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Banana Diet,… Unfortunately, none of these diets work in the long run. After all, if diets did work, then everyone who has ever been on a diet would be lean. Not the case. We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

Not only do fad diets not work, diets commonly backfire and contribute to weight gain in the long run. A study followed teens from middle school into high school and found that those students who were dieting at the time of the initial survey were worse off five years later. They were fatter, struggled with disordered eating or had an outright eating disorder, and achieved no benefits from their attempts to lose undesired body fat. Futile efforts.

girl on scale holding chocolate cake and an apple for valerielatona.com

Sometimes, choosing the chocolate cake over the healthier food might help you reach your desired weight

Why eating is preferable to dieting

Overweight teens commonly become adults who continue to struggle with food for the rest of their lives. That’s why, starting at an early age, we need to discourage dieting and instead focus on eating healthfully and appropriately. If you don’t go on a diet, you won’t “blow your diet,” gorge on cookies, and gain weight. Eating normally —enjoying appropriate amounts of wholesome foods when your body needs fuel during the day—leads to an appropriate weight.

Normal eating includes enjoying a good balance of wholesome foods, but not limiting yourself to only “healthy foods.” That is, you don’t have to have a perfect diet to have a good diet. A healthy food plan can include 85% to 90% “quality calories” and 10% to 15% “whatever.” Some days “whatever” is an apple; other days “whatever” is a cookie (or two or three).

Striving to eat a perfect diet commonly results in deprivation of foods you truly like to eat. You’ll inevitably end up bingeing on those foods, sooner or later. Think about it this way: If you put a little boy in a roomful of toys and tell him he can play with all the toys except for the green truck, what is the first toy he’ll reach for? Yup, the green truck. Hence, if you like chocolate cake, but tell yourself you shouldn’t eat it, what will you relentlessly hanker for? Yup, chocolate cake.

stack of chocolate chip cookies for valerielatona.com

Love chocolate chip cookies? Eat them...and you'll actually binge less.

How to take power away from food

The way to take power away from a “binge food” is to eat it more often, not stay away from it. For example, if you like chocolate cake, you should eat it every day until you get sick of it. Don’t believe me? Do this experiment: For one week, eat your binge food every day instead of your normal breakfast, lunch, snack, and/or dinner. (Don’t worry: you won’t die of malnutrition in a week.) Observe what happens. Chances are, after three days of chocolate cake, you’ll hanker for shredded wheat again. And even if you want to continue to eat cake, a recent study indicates you can still lose weight on the Chocolate Cake Diet. In this study, the subjects who enjoyed chocolate cake for breakfast had better dietary compliance and ended up losing more weight than the people who were instructed to eat  “diet foods.”

Ideally, you want to learn to enjoy a daily food plan that includes a variety of mostly wholesome foods that are satiating, health promoting, and tasty. You want to eat heartily at breakfast and lunch, to prevent energy lags and cravings for sweets. You want to plan an enjoyable afternoon “second lunch” that helps energize the end of your workday and curbs your appetite for dinner. Then, at night, you want to eat a little bit less—and lose undesired body fat when you are sleeping. The goal: To wake up ready for breakfast, and perpetuate the cycle of fueling by day, dieting by night.

While these suggestions to eat “normally” are seemingly simple, many dieters find the advice is hard to implement. They are afraid that once they start eating, they won’t stop. This over-compensation is “diet backlash,” strengthened by years of “last chance to eat cake so I’d better eat it all now before the diet starts again tomorrow.”

Believe me, there is definitely a more peaceful way to manage weight.

eat pizza and still lose weight for valerielatona.com

Start eating more of what you love and less diet foods...

What is “normal eating”?

The following information offers tips for how to eat appropriately. Please trust that appropriate eating will lead you to an appropriate weight. Eating specialist Ellyn Satter RD (www.EllynSatter.com), author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family offers a great “definition” of normal eating.

NORMAL EATING is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.

NORMAL EATING is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

NORMAL EATING is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored—or just because it feels good. Normal eating is three meals a day…or four or five—or it can be choosing to munch along the way.

NORMAL EATING is leaving some cookies on the plate now because you know you can have some again tomorrow—or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

NORMAL EATIG is overeating at times; feeling stuffed and uncomfortable—or it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.

NORMAL EATING takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one [not more than that] important area of your life.

NORMAL EATING is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

Isn’t it time we all start learning how to eat normally? Put this new philosophy into effect—and you’ll find that your weight stabilizes on its own … and that you’re much happier around food … and that you are much happier overall about your body.

Copyright Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD March 2012

 

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Water: The Amazing Performance Enhancer

Written by: on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

 

female biker drinking water

Drink water before, during, and after exercise to make sure you're getting enough.

Water is truly a performance enhancer. When a star U Conn basketball player took the advice of his sports nutritionist Nancy Rodriguez, RD, and started drinking enough to consistently void light-colored urine [what everyone should be aiming for], he was amazed at how much better he felt all day. Unfortunately, too many athletes overlook the power of this essential nutrient. Perhaps it’s your turn to give water a try? This article offers tips to enhance your water IQ, optimize your water balance, and help you feel and perform better.

•  You don’t have to drink plain water to get adequate water into your body. All fluids count, as do foods that have a high water content:

FOOD/DRINK     % WATER CONTENT
Coffee 99.5
Lettuce 96
Tomato 95
Lowfat milk 90
Broccoli 89
Oatmeal 84
Lowfat vanilla yogurt 79
Ice cream 60

 

• Water is a major component of the cells in muscles and organs; about 60 percent of a young male’s body weight is water, as is about 50 percent of a young woman’s body weight.

Water is essential for proper functioning of our metabolism, the biochemical reaction by which our bodies get energy. Your body simply cannot function without sufficient water, as noted by the fact that athletes die from dehydration. Your body also needs water to moisten food (saliva), digest food (gastric secretions), transport nutrients to and from cells (blood), discard waste (urine), and dissipate heat (sweat).

Different body parts have different water content. For example, blood is approximately 93 percent water, muscle is about 73 percent water, and body fat is about 10 percent water. Water constantly moves between the inside and the outside of cells. In fact, about 4 to 10 percent of your body water gets replaced every day with “fresh” water.

Note: Bioelectrical impedance (BIA) methods of measuring body fat actually measure body water. From that, a formula estimates the ratio of water to muscle and fat. Hence, if you use a Tanita Scale or Omron device, be sure to maintain adequate hydration. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll end up with an inaccurate (higher) estimate of body fat.

woman running in a race

Did you know? When muscles burn glycogen (long-term fuel), they release water to prevent dehydration—important during races.

Your body produces about 8 to 16 oz. (250-500 ml) water per day during normal metabolic processes. During a marathon, a runner’s muscles can produce that much water over 2 to 3 hours. When muscles burn glycogen, they simultaneously release about 2.5 units water for each one unit of muscle glycogen; this helps protect against dehydration.

Coffee is a popular source of water. Although once thought to have a diuretic effect, current research indicates coffee (in amounts normally consumed) hydrates as well as water over a 24-hour period. That is, after drinking coffee, you may urinate sooner, but you won’t urinate more than you consume. Army research on caffeine and dehydration confirms coffee (iced or hot) is an acceptable source of fluid for athletes, even during exercise in the heat. Hence, coffee and other caffeinated beverages such as tea or cola do count towards daily water intake.

An increased concentration of particles in your blood triggers the sensation of thirst. If you’re a 150-pound athlete, you’ll start to feel thirsty once you’ve lost about 1.5 to 3 pounds of sweat (1 to 2 percent of your body weight).  You are seriously dehydrated when you have lost 5 percent of your body weight.

Body water absorbs heat from the working muscles and sweat dissipates the heat, keeping you from overheating during exercise and in hot environments. The evaporation of a liter (about 36 ounces) of sweat from the skin represents a loss of about 580 calories.

To determine how much water you lose when you sweat, weigh yourself (with little or no clothing) before and after an hour of hard exercise with no fluid intake. The change in body weight reflects sweat loss. A one-pound drop in weight equates to a loss of 16 ounces of sweat. A two-pound drop equates to 32 ounces—that’s one quart. Drink accordingly during your workouts to prevent that loss!

sweaty woman working out

Body water absorbs heat from the muscles when you work out—and sweat dissipates that heat.

When you sweat, you lose water from both inside and outside the cells. The water outside the cells is rich in sodium, an electrolyte that works in balance with potassium, an electrolyte inside the cells. Sweat contains about 7 times more sodium than potassium, hence sodium is the more important electrolyte to replace during extended exercise.

Most athletes who lose more than 2 percent of their body weight  (3 lbs for a 150-pound athlete) lose both their mental edge and their ability to perform optimally in hot weather. Yet, during cold weather, you are less likely to experience reduced performance, even at 3 percent dehydration. Three to 5 percent dehydration does not seem to affect muscle strength or performance during short intense bouts of anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting. But distance runners slow their pace by about 2 percent for each percent body weight lost by dehydration. Sweat loss of more than 10 percent body weight is life threatening.

Adequate fluid intake can reduce problems with constipation and urinary tract infections. But, there is no research to back up theories that excessive (meaning more than the normal amount) water intake will improve weight loss, remove toxins, or improve skin tone.

Best advice: drink in response to thirst. No scientific evidence supports the rule that you should drink eight glasses of water a day [although that’s often a good rule of thumb to aim for], so you can simply drink in response to thirst. You can also monitor the volume of your urine. If your urine is scanty, dark, and smelly, you should drink more! If you have not urinated during your work or school day (8:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.), you are severely underhydrated.

water pouring out of a plastic bottle

While bottled water is more convenient, it may not be any better for you than plain old tap.

Is bottled water better for you than tap water? Doubtful. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, nearly half of  bottled waters come from municipal water supplies—not from the mountain streams pictured on the labels. This suggests standard municipal tap water is high quality. Rather than spend money on bottled water, turn on your tap! This will help stop the flood of 95 million plastic water bottles that get discarded each day, of which only 20 percent get recycled. Drink plenty of water—but think “green.”

Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD Feb 2012 

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What to Eat After Exercise…So You Don’t Gain Weight

Written by: on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012
woman lifting a barbell

It's easy to negate the effects of a good workout by eating the wrong foods afterward!

What’s best to eat for recovery after a hard workout? That’s what marathoners, body builders, and exercisers ask. They read ads for “recovery foods” with the “perfect” ratio of carbs to protein and a “proprietary” formula— and emphasize immediate consumption the minute you stop exercising. But the truth is that engineered recovery foods, which often cost more, are actually no more effective than standard foods.

Q: Who should eat a recovery diet?

A: Too many athletes are obsessed with rapidly refueling the minute they stop exercising.  They’re afraid they’ll miss the one-hour “window of

best recovery food for exercisers

Skip the pricey "recovery" foods; a glass of low-fat chocolate milk may be all you need.

opportunity” when replacement of glycogen [stored glucose] is fastest. But refueling still occurs for several hours after exercise, just at a slowing rate. So there’s no rush! Given a steady influx of adequate carb-based meals and snacks, muscles can refuel within 24 hours. If you have a full day to recover before your next training session, or if you have done an easy (non-depleting) workout, you don’t need to obsess about refueling immediately afterward. Over the course of the next 24 hours, you should repeatedly consume carbohydrates with each meal/snack, along with some protein to build and repair the muscles (e.g. chocolate milk or a fruit smoothie).

Refueling as soon as tolerable is most important for serious athletes doing a second bout of intense, depleting exercise within six hours of the first workout, including:

√ triathletes doing double workouts

√ soccer players in tournaments

√ people who ski hard in the morning and again in the afternoon.

The sooner these athletes consume carbs to replace depleted muscle glycogen and protein to repair damaged muscle, the sooner they’ll be able to exercise hard again.

Q: How many carbs do I need?

A: According to the International Olympic Committee’s Nutrition Recommendations, adequate carbs means:

Amount of exercise Gram carb/lb Gram carb/kg
Moderate exercise (about 1 hour/day) 2.5 to 3 5 to 7
Endurance exercise (about 1-3 h/day) 2.5 to 4.5 6 to 10
Extreme exercise  (more than 4-5 h/day) 3.5 to 5.5 8 to 12

 

For example, a 150-lb triathlete doing extreme exercise should target about 500 to 800 grams of carb/day (2,000 to 3,200 carb-calories). That’s about 500 to 800 grams of carbs every 4 hours during the daytime.

Q: What are some good carb-protein recovery foods?

recovery food for exercisers

Simple recovery food: cereal (carb) and low-fat milk (protein). Nothing elaborate and pricey necessary!

A: Your recovery meals and snacks should include a foundation of carbohydrate-rich breads, cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables plus a smaller amount of protein (at least 10 to 20 grams per recovery snack or meal). Best bets:

√ fruit smoothie (Greek yogurt + banana + berries)

√ cereal + milk

√ bagel + (decaf) latté

√ pretzels + hummus

√ baked potato + cottage cheese

√ turkey sub

√ pasta + meatballs

Do NOT consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles, but it does not refuel your muscles. Your muscles want three or four times more calories from carbs than from protein. If you like the convenience of protein shakes, at least add carbs to them. That is, blend in some banana, frozen berries, and/or graham crackers.

Keep in mind that recovery calories “count.” I hear many frustrated dieters complain they are not losing weight despite hard workouts. Perhaps that’s because they gobble 300 or so “recovery calories” and then go home and enjoy a hefty dinner. By organizing your training to end at mealtime, you can avoid over-indulging in recovery-calories.

Q: What about recovery electrolytes? Do I need them?

woman exercising hard outdoors and sweating

Simple foods still work best after a particularly tough workout, particularly if you sweat a lot.

 

 

A: After a hard workout, many athletes reach for a sports drink, thinking products like Gatorade or PowerAde are “loaded” with sodium (an electrically charged particle). Think again! Milk and other “real foods” are actually better sources of electrolytes than most commercial sports products. These electrolytes (also known as sodium and potassium) help enhance fluid retention and the restoration of normal fluid balance. Here’s how some common recovery fluids compare:

Beverage (8 oz) Sodium (mg) Potassium (mg) Protein (g) Carbs (g)
Water
PowerAde 55 45 19
Gatorade 110 30 14
Low-fat milk 100 400 8 12
Chocolate milk 150 425 8 26
Orange juice 450 2 26

 

As you can see, after a hard workout, recovery fluids that such as chocolate milk, orange juice, or a latte offer far more “good stuff” than you’d get in a sports drink. Sports drinks are dilute and designed for drinking during extended exercise.

bagel with peanut butter

A bagel with peanut butter provides carbs, protein, and sodium—important for replenishing after a tough workout.

To assess how much sodium you lose in sweat, weigh yourself naked pre and post an hour of exercise, accounting as best you can for any fluid consumed. Loss of one pound equates to loss of about 700 to 1,000 mg of sodium. If you sweat heavily and lose a significant amount of sodium, you can easily replace those losses with pretzels (300 mg sodium/10 twists), a bagel (500 mg) with peanut butter (200 mg/2 tbsp), Wheaties and milk (300 mg), or a spaghetti dinner with tomato sauce (1000 mg/cup Ragu sauce). The truth is: most athletes actually consume plenty of sodium, from everyday food!

Q: What should I eat before I exercise?

A: According to research presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, consuming protein before lifting weights enhanced recovery better than consuming a protein drink afterwards. That’s because your body digests pre-exercise protein into amino acids during exercise and puts those amino acids right into action repairing damaged muscles.

Q: I never really feel like I recover well. Is something wrong?

woman running on beach in sweats

Sure, you love your morning runs, but make sure you take at least a day off every week to rest; your body needs it!

A: If you have to drag yourself through workouts, there could be an underlying issue. The most common:

√  You’re overtraining. Rest is an essential part of a training program; muscles need time to refuel and repair. Take at least one, if not two, days off from exercise per week.

√  You’re anemic. Anemia is common, so have your doctor monitor your serum ferritin (stored iron). If your iron stores are depleted, you’ll feel needlessly tired during exercise. An estimated half of female athletes are iron-deficient, as indicated by low serum ferritin stores. (About 14% of all women are iron deficient.) A survey with collegiate male runners suggested about 20% had low serum ferritin. Iron supplements help resolve the problem, along with a good recovery diet.

So the moral of the story is: Eat wisely, and you’ll recover well—and feel great without gaining extra weight!

Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD January 2012

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How to Fuel Up For Cold Weather Exercise: 10 Must-Know Facts

Written by: on Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
woman skiing downhill

Exercise is an excellent way to warm up in the winter! Aerobic workout can increase your metabolism by 7 to 10 times above the resting level. This warmth helps you survive in a cold environment.

If you’re a winter athlete, you want to pay careful attention to your diet. Lack of fluids and the right food can take the fun out of your outdoor activities. Here, tips to stay at the top of your game.

Staying Hydrated in Winter

Some need-to-know facts about getting enough fluids during the cold-weather months:

1.) Cold blunts the thirst mechanism; you’ll feel less thirsty despite significant sweating and may not “think to drink.” Winter athletes (especially those skiing at high altitude) need to consciously consume fluids to replace the water vapor that gets exhaled via breathing. When you breathe in cold dry air, your body warms and humidifies that air. As you exhale, you lose significant amounts of water. You can see this vapor (“steam”) when you breathe.

2.) Dehydration hurts performance. Failing to drink enough fluids is a major mistake made by winter athletes. A study comparing hydration of athletes who skied or played football or soccer, reported the skiers had the highest rate of chronic dehydration. Before a competition, 11 of the 12 alpine skiers showed up dehydrated. (Some winter athletes purposefully skimp on fluids to minimize the need to stop for a bathroom break, but this affects how well they do.)

female skier drinking water outdoors

Exercising women need at least 8 – 12 glasses of water a day during the winter months.

3.) Room temperature water is best. Don’t drink icy water (i.e., from a water bottle kept on your bike or outside pocket of your backpack), unless you’re hot. Cold water can cool you off and give you the chills. A better bet: an insulated water bottle or a bottle filled with a hot sports drink then covered with a wool sock to help retain the heat.

4. Layering up helps you sweat less. Sweaty clothing drains body heat. As the weather becomes “tropical” inside your exercise outfit, strip down layer by layer. You’ll stay drier and warmer. Simply taking off a hat is cooling; 30 to 40 percent of body heat gets lost through the head.

What to Eat to Stay Warm

You need adequate pre-exercise fuel to generate body heat—why you want to eat the proper foods before you ski, run outdoors, or embark on any outside activity in extreme cold.

5.) Eating not only provides fuel but also increases heat production (warmth). Your body wants fuel to “stoke the furnace” so it can generate heat. (It takes about 30 to 60 minutes after you eat for your body to generate about 10 percent more heat than when you have an empty stomach.)

energy bar

Always carry a snack (or two)—like an energy bar—with you when you're outdoors exercising.

That’s why it’s important to always carry emergency food (such as an energy bar) with you in case you slip on the ice or experience some incident that leaves you static in a frigid environment. Winter campers, for example, commonly keep a supply of dried fruit, chocolate, or cookies within reach, in case they wake up cold at 3:00 a.m.

6.) A drop in body temperature actually stimulates the appetite and you experience hunger. That’s why if you become chilled during winter exercise (or even when swimming, for that matter), you’ll likely find yourself searching for food.

Also note that changes in brain chemicals (particularly in those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) increase carbohydrate cravings and the desire to eat more. To limit winter weight gain, stay active! Exercise helps manage health, weight, and the winter blues.

bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts

One of the best foods for winter athletes? Oatmeal with nuts and a little dried fruit.

7.) The best winter recovery foods are those that chase away chills, replenish depleted glycogen stores, and rehydrate your body. Best bets: warm carbohydrates with a little protein, such as hot cocoa made with milk, oatmeal with nuts, lentil soup, chili, and pasta with meatballs. The warm food, added to the thermogenic effect of eating, contributes to rapid recovery. Eating cold foods and frozen fluids, on the other hand, can chill your body.

8.) Your body uses a considerable amount of energy to warm and humidify the air you breathe when you exercise in the cold. For example, if you were to burn 600 calories while cross-country skiing for an hour in 0° F weather, you might use about 150 of those calories to warm the air.  (In summer, you would have dissipated that heat via sweat.)

woman running in the snow

Always layer up when running or doing any outdoor exercise in the winter.

9.) If you wear heavy clothes, you’ll burn a few more calories carrying the extra weight of skis, boots, heavy parka, snow shoes, etc. (The Army actually allows 10 percent more calories for heavily clad troops who exercise in the cold.) If you’re a runner, however, think twice before chowing down: the weight of your extra clothing is minimal.

10.) Shivering is an involuntary muscle tensing that generates heat.

When you first become slightly chilled (such as when watching a football game), you’ll find yourself doing an isometric type of muscle tensing that can increase your metabolic rate two to four times.

As you get further chilled, you’ll find yourself hopping from foot to foot and jumping around. This is Nature’s way to get you to generate heat and warm your body.

• If you become so cold that you start to shiver, these vigorous muscular contractions generate lots of heat—up to 400 calories per hour. Such intense shivering quickly depletes your muscle glycogen stores and drains your energy. This is when you’ll be glad you have emergency food with you!

Copyright:  Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, December 2011

Nancy Clark, MS RD offers nutrition consultations to casual exercisers and competitive athletes at her private practice located at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-795-1875). Her popular Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for runners, cyclists, and soccer players are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com.

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How to Lose Weight—So it Stays Off for Good

Written by: on Saturday, August 6th, 2011
Woman weighing herself on scale

Go easy on yourself! Your frustrating lack of weight loss may have nothing to do with lack of willpower!

How to lose weight is the number one reason people choose to make a nutrition appointment with me. They express frustration they “cannot do something as simple as lose a few pounds.” While few of my clients are obese, their frustrations match those of dieters in the general population.

At a conference presented by Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center (July 13-14, 2011), researchers addressed some of the issues that contribute to difficulty losing weight. Perhaps the following highlights might offer insights if you are among the many [people] who struggle with shedding some unwanted body fat.

Why gaining weight is so easy
• To the detriment of our health, we are living in a food carnival. No wonder today’s kids enter adulthood 20 pounds heavier than in 1960! By the time kids are 4 to 5 years old, 60 percent of them have lost the ability to self-regulate food intake.

• Most people believe that obesity is a matter of will power, but it’s not that simple. For example, in obese people, the brain’s response to food odors and flavors is often blunted. Compared to lean people, they need more of a food to experience a positive brain response.

French fries

Some people may be more predisposed to eating junk food than others.

 

• When stressed, obese people (more so than their lean counterparts) seek high fat foods. Chips, ice cream, fries…

• Impulsivity, a genetic trait, is a risk factor for obesity. That is, obese people (more than their lean counterparts) tend to impulsively eat, let’s say, the whole plate of cookies.

• Food advertisements are designed to encourage impulsive consumption. Food advertisers know that marketing “works”—and kids who watch TV are a prime target. The average child sees an average of 13 food ads a day on TV; most of these foods are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

In fact, research with children who watched TV with four ads for food ate 45 percent more Goldfish Crackers (100 calories more) when exposed to the ads for food as compared to when they watched four ads for games. The kids who liked the taste of Goldfish ate even more calories!

Plus, foods marketed with a character (such as Scooby-Doo) sell better. Fifty-two percent of pre-schoolers said the character-food tasted better (as opposed to 38 percent who said it tasted the same, and 10 percent who said food without the character tasted better).

• When the calories are listed near a food, as is happening in many fast food restaurants, some people choose the foods with higher calories, believing it will be yummier. That response certainly negates the intention of the calorie campaign!

• People make an average of 200 food choices in a day; all these decisions can deplete our limited mental “resources” that govern self-regulation. That’s one reason why, at the end of a hectic day, you can more easily overeat. You lack the mental resources to say “no” to that tempting cookie…

bags of chips at the supermarket

So many choices...so little nutrition!

 

• The standard supermarket diet is rich in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. It causes obesity in rats. That is, rats fed standard rat chow maintained a normal weight. But rats fed a standard supermarket diet ended up overweight—until researchers took away that food. The rats then lost weight when they returned to eating rat chow. There’s little doubt that fats, sugar, and salt stimulate us to eat more than we need!

The food industry’s bottom line is always profits. When Pepsi started marketing more of its healthy products, sales of the unhealthy products dropped. The stockholders complained—and that puts the food industry in a bind.

How to lose weight—so it stays off for good

Drugs are not the answer. For the past 20 years, no successful weight-loss drugs have been developed and none are in sight in the near future. Drugs that regulate appetite also impact many other regulatory centers and create undesired side effects. Hence, we need to learn how to manage the obesity problem at its roots—and that means prevent excessive fat gain in the first place, starting in childhood. Here are a few tips on how to do that.

• Reduce your food intake by using your imagination. That is, if you imagine eating a food, let’s say, ice cream, you can eat less of it.

• Technology offers a glimmer of hope in the battle of the bulge. A free application for iPhones called Lose It! has created a thriving weight loss community, as measured by 7.5 million free app downloads since October 2010. The web version, www.LoseIt.com, is just as popular. LoseIt! members can conveniently and easily track their food and calorie intake.

Lose It! includes a social network. Dieters seem to prefer online support from people they do not know, as opposed to involving their family and friends with their dieting progress (or lack there of). LoseIt!’s social groups are created according to goals. Dieters can easily (and anonymously) connect with and get support from others with similar goals. In fact, the best predictor of weight loss success with LoseIt! is having three or more Lose It! buddies.

baby carrots

If an ad campaign can increase sales of baby carrots, imagine what one could do for other fruits and veggies!

 

• Food advertisements are designed to trigger certain pleasure centers. (For example, McDonald’s is associated with happiness.) We now need to learn how to advertise healthy foods. The baby carrot campaign to “eat ‘em like junk food” has boosted sales 10 percent—including a new demand for baby carrots in school vending machines.

• We can change our brain circuits by substituting food with another stimuli, such as exercise. Exercise does more than burn calories to control weight; exercise changes the reward systems in the brain.

Exercise also supports self-control. That is, people who exercise have greater control over what they eat. They also have more control over sticking with their exercise program. Successful exercisers are able to make exercise a habit, and not a choice. Having one less decision to make bolsters their mental resources so they can cope better overall.

A final thought: Somehow we need to change the perception that eating supermarket foods loaded with sugar, salt, and saturated fats gives us satisfaction. A few years ago, we changed the perception that smoking is satisfying. Parents stopped smoking when kids came home and said “Mom, Dad, please don’t smoke.” Today, we need kids to start saying “Mom, Dad, please don’t take me to McDonald’s.” Will that day ever come…?

__________________________________________________________
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD August 2011

 

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