Eat & Train > Eat Less & Move More

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The conventional advice given to those who are tying to obtain a goal of weight-loss is to “eat less and move more.” This operates under the calories in, calories out model whereby you need to exercise off more calories than you have coming in. Sounds great in theory, but I am here to tell you that a calorie is not a calorie and exercise doesn’t really burn that many to begin with.

Eat less…

During a simple calorie restricted diet the weight lost is usually comprised of 2/3 fat and 1/3 muscle. So, if you lose 15 pounds, approximately 10 pounds would come from fat and the other 5 pounds from muscle. The loss of muscle is unfortunate and in a perfect world (e.g., prioritizing adequate amounts protein in the diet) would not be as significant, however if you are following the “eat less and move more” mantra this is pretty much to be expected. 

Take a look at this example: a 200 pound woman with 30% body fat (200 x 30% = 60 pounds of fat mass), after losing 15 pounds would weigh 185 pound with 50 pounds of fat mass. She lost 10 pounds of fat and her total body fat was reduce from 30% to 27%. 

While a total loss of 15 pounds is worth bragging about, as per the above example, the loss in muscle mass will cause a reduced metabolic rate, slowing down continued weight loss. In other words, because she burned off 5 pounds of muscle it will be harder to continue losing weight as easily as it would be if she hadn’t lost 5 pounds of muscle. Why? Muscle is an expensive tissue to maintain, it consumes nearly 40% of your body’s resting metabolism. To combat the negative effects of reduced muscle mass, while seeking a goal of body recomposition, it is important to increase total protein intake as to not hinder future progress,

Dietary protein requirements are largely affected by the amount of muscle mass you carry around  as well as your total calorie intake. There is an inverse relationship between calories and protein, whereby increasing calorie intake reduces dietary protein requirements, while reducing calorie intake increases dietary protein intake. Applying this to the above situation, our 200 pound woman would make better long-term progress from an increased total protein intake of say 150-180 grams: 180 grams of protein x 4kcal/g = 720 kilocalories from protein; 720 calories is 36% on a 2000 kilocalorie diet and is 48% on a 1500 kilocalorie diet (this is purely for illustrative purposes as I am not a proponent of counting calories). Thus, the absolute and relative amounts of protein in the diet are increased. By doing this, muscle mass is much more likely to be retained, improving long-term weight loss and body recomposition goals. This is clearly supported by clinical trails; high protein diets consistently result in more successful long-term diets…

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4213385/

Move more…

Exercise is definitely beneficial for optimal health and longevity as it increases overall fitness, improves cardiovascular health, promotes a positive well-being and if done properly can increase muscle mass which can pave the way for a long life full of vitality. However, one thing exercise does not do is cause weight-loss. When someone starts an exercise regimen without a specific dietary intervention, long-term weight loss fails to occur in the majority of people because the calorie deficit produced from exercising is offset by the increased hunger and subsequent food intake. In other words, energy intake will rise to meet the level of energy expenditure. Another way “eat less and move more” falls short of optimal advice.

This is not to say that exercise is worthless when it comes to weight-loss because exercise has the ability to do one thing that dietary intervention cannot: it builds muscle. Learning from the above mentioned example, it is our ability to maintain muscle that creates a beneficial atmosphere around weight-loss because muscle is metabolically active — the more we have, the greater amount of energy we must expend to keep it, even at rest.

For conventional purposes, exercise can be broken down into two categories; aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic training revolves around extended periods of heavy breathing which makes the heart work and improves cardiovascular fitness, generally at the expense of precious muscle. Examples are running and cycling. Anaerobic training is performed at a much higher intensity than aerobic exercise, albeit much shorter bouts with plenty of rest in between which promotes muscle growth and increase strength. Examples are sprinting and weight lifting/strength training.

While both forms of exercise will increase energy expenditure, the amount of calories expended when not exercising is much greater than those spent when exercising. Time spent not exercising is roughly 45 times greater than time spent exercising (60 minutes at the gym vs. 23 hours not at the gym). Office work, sitting in traffic, grocery shopping, cooking, watching television, and sleeping are all lower intensity activities than any exercise; having a substantial amount of your body composition comprised of muscle will allow you to utilize your calories for the health of that expensive tissue and not have it stored as fat. Therefore, it is important to prioritize your exercise regimen accordingly.

Anaerobic training, specifically strength training increases skeletal muscle mass. This has a positive affect on our metabolic rate allowing us to use energy more efficiently (e.g., burn fat), in addition to improving overall strength, coordination and quality of life. Having stronger muscles makes all activities easier, and thus of lower intensity. And lower intensity favors fat burning as a primary fuel source. In other words, to optimize the effect of exercise on fat burning, get in the weight room.


A better way to think about getting in shape would be to “Eat and Train.” This seems to be a much more productive piece of advice as I have hopefully illustrated above. The idea of “eat less and move more” is aesthetic whereas the other is functional. The former may not have a clear goal, but the latter always does.

7 Pillars of Health: Improving Health in The modern environment

7 Pillars of Health: Improving Health in The modern environment

The default in nature is health, so why are we fat, sick and broken? It is because our environment has change, our bodies have not. We share 99.7% of the same genetics as our relatively disease free hunter-gatherer ancestors yet eat worse, move less, sleep worse, encounter more stress and toxins, and wonder what the cause is of chronic disease. It's really not that hard! Take control of your health with the 7 Pillars of Health.

lean and strong: Am I Doing it Wrong?

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Who doesn’t want to look lean and have the strength to back it up?

There is plenty of research to show that aerobic exercise, or cardio, produces negligible results when it comes to fat loss whereas anaerobic modes of exercise such as strength training and sprint interval training are exponentially better tools for optimizing body composition because they burn fat and build muscle. Yet it is still a common practice for people to go for a nice jog. Why is that? In order to avoid the continued confusion, the following four points clarify how to use different types of exercise to achieve the best results.

#1: Aerobic training can only help you lose fat if you are just starting to exercise or significantly overweight.

I must say that this isn’t the most effective type of exercise for fat loss but if you are just starting out, this something is better than nothing. However, the window of results for this is relatively short; you can expect to see composition changes for about six weeks, beyond that progress tapers rapidly.  

A recent study from Duke University took sedentary, out of shape, overweight people through a fairly intense (roughly 80% of max heart rate) aerobic exercise for 40 minutes 3 times a week for 8 weeks and they lost a significant amount of weight. The total weight lost should be examined as sustained aerobic training is detrimental to strength and muscle gain (which helps burn fat). So yes, they lost weight, but how much of that weight was wasted muscle?

The key to getting results with aerobic training if you are a novice is to be consistent and monitor food intake to make sure you don’t compensate for the exercise by eating more. Additionally, adding a strength training program to your routine will help you keep off any fat you lose after those first six weeks.

#2: In the long run, aerobic training is useless for fat loss (pun intended).  

In the Duke study the aerobic group only lost an average of 3.5lbs of fat and they weren’t able to build any muscle to keep that fat away, which is where we begin to see the faultiness in this method. By decreasing their body weight and improving their “fitness” the aerobic group actually lowered metabolic rate (ie how fast we burn calories). They were “in shape” and thinner but no less frail and in turn decreased their resting energy expenditure. In order to maintain that fat loss, they would need to eat less, change their ratio of fats/carbs/proteins proportions accordingly or exercise longer and more intensely. No fun!

In a 2006 study of runners, it was found that only the runners who tripled their weekly mileage from 10 miles/week to 30 miles/week did not gain fat over the 9-year study. That’s a huge increase, in not only mileage but time spent training.

#3: Smart anaerobic training burn fat quicker, while building muscle so that you raise your metabolism

In a study of women that compared an anaerobic training program with an aerobic protocol, those that were in the anaerobic training program who lifted moderately heavy weights, lost nearly 10lbs of body fat, gained about 6lbs of muscle and had a dramatic increase in strength. The women who did the high rep, aerobic-style lifting program with the light weights had no change in body composition, and no increases in strength.

The benefit of building muscle is that your hard work lasts longer if you quit exercising. A study that tested what happens when subjects stopped exercising for a period of 3 months after doing a cardio/endurance or a resistance/strength training protocol found that the resistance training group maintained improvements in strength, muscle and cardiovascular fitness longer than the endurance training group.

The benefits of resistance training are even more pronounced in people who are in shape. In trained male athletes, a 6-week heavy load strength training program with multi-joint lifts (deadlift, squat, military press, chin-up and bench press) allowed them to lose 1% of body fat, while gaining 1.3% muscle mass for a dramatic improvement in body composition.

If we compare that to the Duke study: the aerobic group lost 1% of body fat but gained no muscle, resulting in less than favorable body composition change.

#4:  The bottom line is to lift weights and do anaerobic intervals to improve your physique.

It’s pretty simple really, focus only on an anaerobic style of training and give it all you’ve got. It will not only take you significantly less time to accomplish but the results are exponentially greater.

Resistance training paired with anaerobic intervals, or sprint training, appears to be the most effective way to not only look good naked but to develop your strength optimally. A popular 20-minute sprint cycling workout has been found to lead to between 3-5lbs of fat loss in the overweight, untrained men and women. This is the protocol that was used: 8-second sprints with 12 seconds rest. Its very simple, but grueling. Try it!

More experience trainees will benefit from running sprints on a track. A Canadian study found that trained individuals who did six 30-second all-out sprints with 4 minutes rest lost an impressive 12.4% body fat after spending less than 45 minutes of actual work. Compared to an aerobic group only lost 5.8% body fat but they spent a total of 13.5 hours training:

Suggestions for developing the best resistance program include the following:

  • Multi-joint lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, step-ups, chin-ups and chest presses in every training session.
  • Training with a higher volume – work up to more than 4 sets per exercise. Shoot for between 20 and 30 total reps per training session.
  • Train with a higher intensity – include some training in the 70-85% of your one rep max range.
  • Include short rest periods (30-60seconds) and count tempo for every lift so that you apply a specific amount of tension to the muscles. In general, opt for longer than (4-seconds) eccentric tempos and short or explosive concentric tempos.
  • Shoot for 3 to 4 hours of total training time per week , which includes resistance training and a few short sprint sessions.

Deep Thoughts, Even Deeper Squats

Are deep squats bad for my knees? The prevailing wisdom on this topic would lead you to believe that squatting below parallel will cause injury to your knees by placing an unusual strain on your ligaments leaving the knee unstable and prone to injury. This theory was brought to light in the late 1950’s when Dr. Karl Klein was trying to understand why there happened to be a rise in the number of colligate football players sustaining serious knee injuries. He suspected it was due to the use of full ROM squats in university strength programs so he crafted a special instrument to analyze the knees of several of these football players who frequently performed deep squats.

In 1961, Dr. Klein released his findings, which recommended the squat be limited to a parallel depth. His reasoning stated that the use of deep squatting is detrimental to athletic development and “should be discouraged from the standpoint of its debilitative effect on the ligamental structures of the knee.” The following year, Dr. Klein’s findings were picked up by Sports Illustrated which became the catalyst to spread the fear of deep squatting. Next the American Medical Association weighed in on the topic cautioning against the use of deep squatting. It went so far as the Marine Corps even eliminated the squat-jumper exercise from its physical conditioning programs.

There has been a lot of pushback on this theory ever since its inception almost 60 years ago. Dr. Klein’s findings have failed clinical replication, even with the use of his special instrument. Fortunately, now in the present day we can use the advancement in exercise science and biomechanics research to settle this debate once and for all.

When we squat, our knee sustains two inversely related forces – shear and compressive – meaning that when the knee flexes during the squat, compressive forces increase while shear forces decrease. These shear forces are measured by how much our bones – femur and tibia – want to slide over one another in opposite directions. These forces challenge the small ligaments of ACL and PCL to hold our knees together and limited excessive forward and backward movement. In contrast, compressive force is determined by the amount of pressure the body is pushing on two parts. There are two areas that sustain this compressive force; 1) the meniscus as it absorbs the opposing stress between the tibia and the femur, and 2) the backside of the patella (kneecap) as pressure increases through the descent of a squat.

Science tells us that the ligaments inside our knees are under very little stress at the bottom of a squat due to the mechanics of this inverse relationship. Harmful shear forces are dramatically decreased due to an increase in compression and it seems that the deeper we squat the safer it is on the ligaments of the knee. The most well-known ligament, the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), is under little stress in the bottom of a squat.  In fact the stress to the ACL during a squat is actually highest during the first four inches of the squat decent (around 15-30° of knee flexion)* and continues to decrease the deeper the descent. The lesser known ligament, the PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) sustains it’s max forces just above a parallel squat (around 90° of knee flexion).

It seems that Dr. Klein’s detrimental claims of the deep squat stretching out our ligaments, ultimately leaving them unstable is but a myth that just wont die. Science has since shown repeatedly that squatting deep may have a protective effect on our knees by increasing stability. In 1986, researchers compared knee stability among powerlifters, basketball players and runners. After a heavy squat workout, the powerlifters actually had more stability in their knees than did the basketball players did.  In 1989, another group of researchers were able to show that competitive weightlifters and powerlifters had knee ligaments that were less lax than those who never squatted. The prevailing research continues to show that the deep squat is a sage exercise to include in a healthy athlete’s training program.

-Adapted from The Squat Bible by Aaron Horschig

Stop Icing Your Injuries

People have been perpetuating a myth over the last 50 years that claims ice is an effective treatment for acute soft tissue injuries (e.g.; sprains and strains) because it assists in recovery. The commonly accepted acronym R.I.C.E. – standing for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – has been applied erroneously by athletic trainers and soccer moms alike! If your goal after a soft tissue injury is to heal as fast as possible, using ice is not going to be your best strategy.

The widespread use of ice with the intent to heal soft tissue injuries has no scientific backing, no peer reviewed research. In fact, it has the exact opposite!

In a 2012 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine called Cooling an Acute Muscle Injury: can basic scientific theory translate into the clinical setting? it was stated: “ice is commonly used after acute muscle strains, but there are not clinical studies of its effectiveness.”

The Journal of Emergency Medicine published a study in February 2008 entitled: Is ice right? Does cryotherapy improve outcome for acute soft tissue injury? The research concluded that “there is insufficient evidence to suggest that cryotherapy [i.e. icing] improves clinical outcome in the management of soft tissue injuries.”

If those two didn’t solidify the argument in your mind, check out this last study entitled Topical Cooling (Icing) Delays Recovery from Eccentric Exercise Induced Muscle Damage from the May 2013 edition from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. It was found that “topical cooling [i.e. icing], a commonly used intervention appears to not improve but rather delay recovery from eccentric exercise induced muscle damage.”

With such surmountable evidence against the case of icing post injury, one will wonder why the application of ice has been so pervasive over the last 50 years. My thought is that since it does numb the nerves around the injury, thereby decreasing the pain, this perpetuates the myth. However, as the research has stated above it dos not help with the recovery process and has been shown to effectively slow down the healing process as the cooling mechanism causes blood vessels to constrict. This constriction keeps the swelling and inflammation – the crux of the body’s healing response, brining more immune activity to a place of injury – from doing its job properly by slowing down the process and dragging out the painful swelling and inflammation.

So if icing is wrong, what can we do to properly treat acute soft tissue injuries? We will need a new acronym or MECHanism to address this situation properly…

Move. Elevate. Compress. Heat. (and never ice symptoms anymore)

Movement of the affected body part prevents the formation of adhesions and increases circulation which transport in nutrients and carries away metabolic waste. Moving allows the body to lay down new tissue along the lines of stress or normal ranges of motion. In contrast, the old suggestion of Rest causes tissue to be laid down in a disorganized pattern resulting in poor function and reducing ranges of motion. Whether your movement is an active or passive range of motion activity or manual manipulation of tissues it will stimulate the nerves that communicate pain inhibition to the brain. Think of the time when you fell and skinned your knee and your mother rubbed the area and it magically felt better, this is the idea behind movement. A TENS unit will also facility movement in an elevated position.

Elevate the injured area above the heart to increase the circulation of swelling and inflammation away from the injured area. Most likely you will be sitting while elevating the area but should still make an effort to move. An example would be if it is an ankle sprain, think about moving it up and down, side to side, and clockwise and counter-clockwise. If it is a groin or larger muscle strain, think about applying a TENS unit to stimulate movement of the tissues.

Compress with an ACE bandage to facilitate increased circulation. Pair movement with compression.

Heat augments the benefits of movement by causing the blood vessels to open up, or vasodilate, which increases the movement of swelling and inflammation away from damaged tissue and promotes the introduction of white blood cells and other healing mechanisms to the area.

You're Not Fat, You're Pre-Skinny! Tips to Get There

Fat is the common enemy, we all share, in modern society. Beach season is coming! We can’t live without it, as it is a necessary component of our health, yet we shun its existence at every glance. The issue of moderating weight gain, more specifically fat gain, is no longer thought to be as simple as “calories in, calories out.” Fat Chance by Robert Lustig addresses the full spectrum of how fat gain (a.k.a. obesity) is a combination of several factors: physics, biochemistry, endocrinology, neurology, psychology, social circles and environmental surroundings. The complexities around why we gain fat are far more complex than the weight loss industry would have you believe. That said, I want to give you my top take-a-way’s from this book:

Diet coupled with weight training works better for weight loss.

When you go on a diet to lose weight, do you know what you are losing? You lose some fat, but you’re actually losing more muscle unless you lift weights while you’re dieting in order to prevent muscle loss. Maintaining, and even adding muscle, is beneficial for weight loss because it improves your body’s ability to use incoming calories to fuel muscle instead of being stored as fat.

Our body seeks balance in order to maintain our current weight.

Therefore, a reduction in calories in an effort to lose weight will be unsuccessful as energy expenditure is reduced to meet the decreased energy intake. On a caloric deficit you will, at the onset begin to lose subcutaneous fat (the fat underneath the skin), however in a primal effort to save you from starvation, your body’s leptin (fullness hormone) levels will fall. This will create an overpowering sensation to reduce the activity of your metabolism and find something to eat. This is often why starvation diets do not work for very long—the body is looking to restore weight balance.

Evolutionarily, the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates developed separately.

We possess the ability to thrive on diets at opposite ends of the spectrum. The hunters ate fat, whereby the liver would beta-oxidize (the process by which fatty acids are broken down by the mitochondria) what it needed for its use and would then export any excess LDL to be taken up by the adipose tissue. Conversely, the gatherers ate carbohydrates (glucose) and upon absorption, the liver would extract what it needed. Insulin would clear the rest out of the bloodstream and drive it into the muscle for energy or adipose tissue for energy storage. Each system worked for the energy that came in, but when our modern diet combines these it is easy to get a caloric surplus.

Our entire society likes to consume both fats and carbohydrates at the same meal, for no other reason than it tastes good. Who doesn’t like steak and potatoes?! As food became more readily available, we began to overload both sides of our metabolic pathways with the breakdown of fat and the glycolysis of carbohydrates in the same meal. Both of these metabolic processes convert the food we eat into fuel for our mitochondria—the furnace that drives our metabolism—in the form of the compound acetyl-CoA. Our hypercaloric diet is wreaking havoc on the mitochondria as fuel is pouring in from both direction too fast to process efficiently. A single high-fat, high-carb meal is no problem but to keep this up for ten thousand meals in a row is most likely the cause of your creeping weight gain.

Alter your environment for systemic change.

The environment is what drives biochemistry—the hormones of insulin, ghrelin, PYY and cortisol—therefore, if you want to affect your weight you have to change the environment.

a. Get your insulin down to reduce your body fat and improve leptin resistance. You can do this by lifting weights to increase muscle mass, as well as by consuming whole foods that contain fiber.

b. Get your ghrelin down to reduce hunger. Start the day with a high protein (e.g., grass-fed meats) and fat (e.g., nuts or avocados) meal. This will reduce ghrelin and stabilize your blood sugar more than a meal consisting of high carbohydrates, so you will feel satiated longer and burn more calories just sitting. The protein has a higher thermic effect, than carbohydrates, which means that the body uses more energy to metabolize the protein we consume.

c. Get the PYY up to hasten your satiety. Putting food in our stomach lowers your ghrelin but doesn’t stop you from eating more. The signal for satiety, or the switch to turn off the meal is Peptide YY. Between the stomach and the PYY cells are a lengthy twenty-two feet of intestine. It takes time for the food to get there, so instead of shoveling the food down, practice patience. If you are still hungry at the end of the meal try waiting 20 minutes before going for seconds.

d. Get the stress down, to reduce your cortisol. Cortisol is your short-term friend by your long-term enemy. A stressful environment liberates stored glycogen, which in turn raises blood sugar that begins the cascade of insulin and eventual insulin resistance. Any bit of exercise will have a beneficial affect on your cortisol levels.

The more of this story is that, there is way more to process of gaining and losing weight than those weight loss commercials would have you believe. If it were that easy, we would all be famous instagram models, however it is not. So don't beat yourself up if you haven't found the right process to get you where you want to be. It is out there and I'd be happy to help.

 
 

Nutrition Primer: How to Start Eating Better

It hard to know where to start when it comes to bettering your health, but step one is always going to be about improving your nutritional habits. Take a look at the following questions to get an idea of where you should start.

Question #1: Where do I start when trying to improve my nutrition?

The first thing people often do is choose a diet they have be researching or one that their friend recommends, but jumping into any diet is not always the best choice. Food provides the body with energy, as well as information, and if you completely change what you are consuming chances are you are going to have a hard time adapting. Headaches, digestive issues and wild cravings are generally the mainstay of radical changes in diet. So instead of jumping on the Paleo, Ornish, low-fat, Mediterranean or vegetarian bandwagon, first address the issue of eliminating nutritional deficiencies.

Most people will be surprised to find out that they, in fact, have any deficiencies at all, but the research shows that more than 80% of the population has at least one. And who knows, the very reason you have sought out to read this article – weight gain, sleep disturbance, digestive issues, etc. -- could be rectified with a simple adjustment of your diet, without rushing into a full overhaul.

To eliminated any underlying deficiencies it is best to start with the following:

  • Adding more quality proteins by using less lunch meat and favoring more free-range, wild caught or grass-fed meats
  • Increasing vitamins and minerals by choosing a colorful variety of vegetables and fruits
  • Allowing room for sufficient healthy fats by using coconut oil to cook, olive oil in salads, full-fat dairy or avocado as a snack
  • Drinking more water. Try adding a cucumber or lime slice for some flavor.

Establishing optimal eating habits are done one step at a time. By making small changes over time you are positively altering your environment, ultimately creating a lifestyle change that is much better than any crash diet you can subscribe to.

Question #2: What’s the Best Diet to Follow?

There really is no “best diet.” What works best for one person, is probably not going to work for another. Those who have found success with a low-fat/high-carb diet (Jenny Craig) would probably find success with the equally restrictive high-fat/low-carb diet (Atkins). Macronutrient (carbohydrate/fat/protein) restrictive diets work well for weight-loss because they limit one of the body’s main sources of fuel — fat or carbohydrate. However, due to their intensive restrictions, when the majority of start to slip with temptation they tend to slip all the way off the diet and regain the weight.

A better way to ask the question would be; “What is the right nutritional approach that will create a positive long-term, systemic change in my life?” It is definitely a much harder question to answer correctly, which is why it is often not asked. As stated in question one, making small nutritional changes can have that positive affect and allow for insight as to what makes your body work more efficiently. The caveat to that is we all have limitations, whether they be financial or health related that will need to factor in to your nutritional choices. In the end, the best diet is one that is going to allow the individual to thrive in every endeavor.

Question #3: Is Counting Calories Important for Weight Loss?

No, counting calories is not something you should spend your time on when it comes to weight loss. Eating should be enjoyable, not reduced down to a math problem. When we choose to count calories with the intention of losing weight, the general approach is to take in less calories than we’re used to. Calories-in, calories-out right? Well, it’s not that simple as energy expenditure would be reduced to meet the decreased energy intake. So a calorie is not really a calorie because your caloric output is controlled by your body and is dependent on the quantity and quality of the calories ingested.

Besides, by counting calories you are essentially outsourcing appetite awareness to the food-label gods. Instead, think about regaining control of your portions with the hand-measuring system. Here is how it works:

  • Your palm determines your protein portion
  • Your fist determines your veggie portion
  • Your cupped hand determines your carb portions
  • Your thumb determines your fat portions.

Question #4: Should I Avoid Carbs?

Avoiding carbs is not necessary for weight management, nor achieving optimal health. However, if the majority of your dietary carbs come from a box – pastas, cereals, donuts, pizza – it would be best to reevaluate your choices in order to reach your goal. The quality of your carbohydrates is important in terms of nutritional content and the toll it play on our body.

When we eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system will break them down into sugar allowing it to enter the blood. This causes our blood sugar to rise and in response the pancreas secretes insulin – a hormone that shuttles sugar out of the blood and into the cells to be stored at energy. When this happens we blunt our ability to burn fat and instead use the easily accessible energy within our blood.

Sugar is the biggest offender especially if it enters the blood stream as glucose, which doesn’t need to be broken down by enzymes, so it’s absorbed immediately. Starch can be in the same boat when it comes to raising blood sugar, sometimes worse if it's in the form of gluten-containing, nutrient-depleted grains (e.g., pastas, cereals, donuts, pizza). So where does that leave us?

Do not avoid carbs. Instead make better choices. The following is a list of possible replacements for when you are meal planning:

  • Low Starch Vegetables such as baby corn, jicama, kohlrabi, rutabaga, water chestnuts, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, turnips, green beans, cucumber, bean sprouts, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, artichokes, okra, zucchini, green peppers all have a high ratio of fiber and nutrients compared to the content of carbs present.
  • Moderate Starch Veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, or carrots are still reasonable but it is wise to watch the serving sizes.
  • Low-Sugar/Low-Fructose Fruits such as Kiwifruit, Blueberries and raspberries, Grapefruit/lemons/limes, melons, pears with skin, and coconuts are decent choices that have their place in a season context, however avoiding fructose altogether is likely a safe bet for most people especially those who are obese.
  • Gluten-free grains are acceptable for people who have the genetic ability to process carbs, but grains often irritate the digestive system as well as blood sugar control mechanisms for a significant amount of people.

If you found these helpful and would like answers to more questions feel free to contact using the links below:

Weapons of Mass Construction: Amino Acids

Adapted from Eric Braverman's The Healing Nutrients Within

What do carnivores, vegetarians and omnivores all have in common? They all require protein in order to sustain and optimize life. Protein is the second most abundant substance in our bodies after water. It constitutes ¾ of the dry weight of most body cells. It is involved in the biochemical structure of genes, blood, tissue, muscle, collagen, skin, hair, and nails, and is a major constituent of all the many hormones, enzymes, nutrient carriers, infection-fighting antibodies, neurotransmitters and other chemical messengers in the body. This continuous process of building and regeneration is necessary for life and requires a non-stop supply of protein.

All protein is made up of different combinations of amino acids – essential or nonessential – that are consumed as part of our diet. The body breaks down these dietary proteins into individual amino acids and then reassembles them to build the specific structures needed within the body. Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is composed of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, Yet, protein also contains nitrogen, which provides it with the ability of bodily repair and construction.

People do not realize how busy the human body is and to make it worse the need for quality protein intake often goes unrecognized in our hypercaloric environment. To illustrate, every second bone marrow makes 2.5 million red cells; every four days the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is renewed; and every 24 days a person has the equivalent of new skin. All this continuous repair work requires the building blocks of protein; amino acids.

The liver has the ability to produce about 60% of the amino acids we need, while the remaining 40% must be obtained from our diet. At present, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is between 44 to 56 grams per day. Yet, in America most people eat two to three times that amount and even vegetarians consume upwards of 80 to 100 grams a day!

So one would think that as long as we are eating adequate amounts of protein, containing the essential amino acids, we should be covered, right? The answer to that question is dependent on the individual person. The body’s requirement for essential amino acids is determined by our age group, degrees of stress, energy requirements, digestive capabilities, infection, trauma, environmental pollution, processed foods and one’s personal habits such as smoking and drinking. All these factors influence the need and availability of protein and its amino acid constituents. Additionally, one has to factor in nutrient deficiencies as there are multiple vitamins, namely pyridoxine (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3), that act as cofactors (a substance important for the activity of the enzyme) which are instrumental in the metabolism of amino acids.

It is for these reasons that while we adequately meet our recommended daily amount of protein, it may by no means be broken down and used efficiently. This is extremely important to recognize when we understand that each amino acid is designed for a specific purpose and cannot be interchanged. If our diet fails to provide, or our lifestyle uses up, any given essential amino acid problems can arise. The following list is taken from Eric Braverman’s The healing Nutrients Within to illustrate how different amino acids play a large role in our overall health and wellness:

  • Arginine has been shown to act similar to and in some cases replace viagra for restoring erectile function and a sagging libido. It has also been found to increase sperm count
  • New research measuring the breakdown products of bone in hydroxyproline may prove more advantageous for assessing bone loss than the standard bone density test
  • Scientific evidence shows that boosting energy levels in the brain with phenylalanine and tyrosine is key to weight loss
  • Melatonin and tryptophan have established themselves as multipurpose nutrients to improve sleep, defuse anxiety and slow down the aging process. Recent studies show promise for the use of tryptophan in the treatment of autism
  • Homocysteine has gained recognition as a major independent risk indicator for cardiovascular disease. New research suggests it may also pretend neural tube defects, sickle cell disease, rectal polyps, and liver failure, and may contribute to depression, dementia and loss of brain function in the elderly
  • Tyrosine can help cocaine and alcohol abusers kick their habits and combat the effects of stress, narcolepsy, chronic fatigue, and ADD
  • Amino acid blood levels are increasingly serving as important indicators of physical and mental illnesses. They provide major nutritional and biochemical clues for more effective treatment
  • Carnitine has been shown to offer significant protection against the common side effects of Depakote (a popular drug used for seizures and psychotic disorders). Its derivative N-acetyl-carnitine may surpass the metabolic potency of carnation in the brain, where it has been found to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Scientific evidence continues to mount showing N-acetyl cysteine… to be perhaps the most powerful detoxifier in the body. It is now found in every emergency room as an antidote to overdose cases and as well can render harmless everyday environmental toxins.
  • New, modified GABA compounds such as gabapentin (Neurotin) and tigabine (Gabitril) are producing improved uptake in the brain and appear to be important products in the control of seizures and anxiety disorders. Early studies indicate GABA may also be correlated to a decrease in benign prostatic hypertrophy.
  • Research with serine compounds show that blocking serine metabolism may serve to prevent autoimmune activity present in psychoses
  • Glutamic and Aspartic acids create additional neurotoxic damage in the brain following stroke. New drugs that block the action of the excretory amino acid transporters (EAATs) have recently been approved.
  • BCAAs promote optimal muscle growth and improve performance… additionally they also offer promise for staving off muscle loss as we age.

As the research in the area of amino acid therapy continues to grow we can firmly apply the idea of Pfeiffers Law: if a drug can be found to do the job of medical healing, a nutrient can be found to do the same job.