diet

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:

High Protein Diet Has No Harmful Effects

Many people are under the impression that high protein diets are evil and cause all types of diseases, however a recent study says that notion is nonsense.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that in resistance-trained men that consumed a high protein diet (~2.51–3.32 g/kg/d) for one year, there were no harmful effects on measures of blood lipids as well as liver and kidney function. In addition, despite the total increase in energy intake during the high protein phase, subjects did not experience an increase in fat mass.

A High Protein Diet Has No Harmful Effects: A One-Year Crossover Study in Resistance-Trained Males

 

Procrastination

THE MISCONCEPTION: You procrastinate because you are lazy and can’t manage your time well.

THE TRUTH: Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking.

Want never goes away. Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted. You are really bad at predicting your future mental states. In addition, you are terrible at choosing between now and later. Later is a murky place where anything could go wrong...

If you fail to believe you will procrastinate or become idealistic about how awesome you are at working hard and managing your time, you never develop a strategy for outmaneuvering your own weakness.

Procrastination is an impulse; it’s buying candy at the checkout. Procrastination is also hyperbolic discounting, taking the sure thing in the present over the caliginous prospect someday far away. You must be adept at thinking about thinking to defeat yourself at procrastination. You must realize there is the you who sits there now reading this, and there is the you some time in the future who will be influenced by a different set of ideas and desires; a you for whom an alternate palette of brain functions will be available for painting reality.

The now-you may see the costs and rewards at stake when it comes time to choose studying for the test instead of going to the club, eating the salad instead of the cupcake, writing the article instead of playing the video game. The trick is to accept that the now-you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future-you—a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties. This is why food plans like Nutrisystem work for many people. Now-you commits to spending a lot of money on a giant box of food that future-you will have to deal with.

Alcohol & Weight Loss

Alcohol & Weight Loss | After Your First Two Drinks

After your first drink, your body starts to get rid of the alcohol quickly using the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) pathway.1 In this pathway, ADH converts the alcohol into acetaldehyde, which gets further broken down to acetate. These by-products (acetaldehyde and acetate) are considered to be highly reactive and can increase oxidation throughout the body, but especially in the liver.

Because your body sees these by-products as dangerous, it wants to use them as fuel.This means your body will significantly blunt fat-burning close to 75% after just one and a half drinks.2 And it will stop using carbs for energy. Therefore, although very little alcohol will be stored as fat (less than 5%), the fat and carbs you are eating have an increased risk of being stored as fat.

Your liver can process these toxins through the increased use of certain vitamins, such as the water soluble vitamins B1, B3, B6, folate and C, while also possibly depleting some of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, E and K1. Over-time these decreases in vitamins can play a secondary role in loss of motivation, energy, and well-being.

After your first couple of drinks, your brain also starts to increase its usage of GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and is a large reason why alcohol is known as a “depressant.” Over time, the GABA receptors get used to the effects of alcohol, which is a reason why people may need more and more alcohol to feel the effects from alcohol consumption.3 GABA is also the neurotransmitter, principally responsible for allowing you to stay asleep. Therefore when your brain uses more of it before you go to sleep, you have less while you’re actually sleeping, causing a disruption in restful sleep.

Alcohol also affects the higher processing areas of the brain, the cerebral cortex, while leaving the lower areas of the brain somewhat unaffected. This leaves you more emotional than you would normally be. If you’ve ever experienced “drunk logic” while doing or saying things you would never think to do sober, then you’ve experienced the inhibitory effects of having your cerebral cortex taken out of the equation.

While your body has started to use the alcohol as energy, your body releases anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) to help your body rid itself of the alcohol. This basically means that your urine volume increases significantly (about 100 ml per 10 grams of alcohol).4 If you’ve ever “broken the seal,” you know that the more you continue to drink, the more frequently you use the restroom.

Since your kidneys are working over-time, your body releases an increase in certain minerals and electrolytes especially calcium, magnesium, copper, selenium and manganese. All of these play important roles not only in blood volume, but in bone health, blood pressure and the anti-oxidant pathways.

In addition to everything above, a small increase in cortisol typically occurs with moderate drinking while testosterone levels will drop about 6.8% in men (not so much in women).5 Aromatase will also increase. Aromatase is an enzyme that helps to convert testosterone to estrogen and is obviously not something that is welcomed by many guys.

Alcohol & Weight Loss | After Six to Eight Plus Drinks

If you’re drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, those things listed above are the main effects, at least short-term. If you drink heavily and drink often, another system called the Microsomal Ethanol-Oxidizing System (MEOS) system kicks in at the point when the ADH pathway becomes overwhelmed.

This system is interesting because it causes your body to generally burn off more energy as useless heat and probably saves your life from too high of a blood alcohol level. It is primarily controlled by a special enzyme that plays an important role in utilizing certain medications and the metabolism of fatty acids. This increased rate of medication breakdown can decrease their effectiveness, while the incomplete breakdown of fatty acids can cause an increase in oxidation. This increase in oxidation becomes exacerbated as the body’s main anti-oxidant (glutathione) is also impaired, decreasing your ability to fight the oxidation.

As your drinking levels continue to increase, testosterone levels drop from 6.8% with 4 drinks to 23% with 8 drinks.6 This drop, combined with a slowdown in protein synthesis, can cause havoc when trying to recover from a workout.

In addition to that, fluid loss will generally become more significant, causing dehydration that might affect you for days afterwards. Finally, with heavy drinking, the breakdown of alcohol can occur for up to 48 hours after your last drink. This means less glucose is reaching your brain and working muscles, making you both more tired and quicker to fatigue if you do exercise.

If You’re Going to Drink Alcohol, Drink in Moderation and Not Too Often

You would think after listing all that happens in your body after consuming alcohol, the no-brainer suggestion would be to not drink. What is missing though are some of the benefits from consuming moderate amounts of alcohol.

Alcohol is shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which basically means that your body needs less insulin to do its job. In addition to that, research has shown that women who drink a moderate amount will have the same or slightly lower BMI, as those who don’t drink.7 The same effect is not seen in men. Those who moderately drink are also at less risk of dying from heart disease and cancer while decreasing one’s risk of Alzheimer’s8and even slightly improving your immune system.9

In other words, complete abstinence may not be needed while trying to lose fat as long as it’s done in moderation and not very often (think one time per week). If you don’t drink, obviously don’t start, but if you want to have a couple of drinks on the weekend, there is nothing necessarily wrong with having one or two. In future articles, I will list some of the best and worst drinks to have when going out and 5 strategies you can implement to decrease the deleterious effects of having a night of heavy drinking.

Alcohol & Weight Loss | Wrapping It Up

In any fat loss plan, there are three main components that should be priority: Diet, Exercise, and Sleep.

As stated throughout the article, a moderate amount of alcohol can increase total calories, decrease your motivation for exercise, and negatively affect your sleep. Despite this, many people can enjoy a drink or two, without throwing those three components completely out of whack.

On the other hand, drinking heavily can significantly derail energy levels, has a larger influence on dehydration, negatively impacts hormonal levels, and can significantly disrupt your sleep. Therefore, limit your overall levels of alcohol and put yourself in the best position to reap some of the benefits of alcohol consumption, while not derailing your overall progress.