Fitness Resources

Author: Mark Mayes

How Much Protein Should You Eat—and When?

by Christopher Mohr, PhD, RD on Jun 03, 2016

Researchers find we’re eating too much protein at the wrong times—and not enough at the right times.

Protein is always a hot topic. Carbs have been demonized. Fat has been on the chopping block. But protein? It earns a health halo, often connected to everything from weight loss to muscle gains. Maybe this is for good reason. After all, researchers and protein experts around the world are investigating protein’s optimal role in aging and satiety across the lifespan. Yet that doesn’t mean our diets get protein right. Researchers find we’re eating too much protein at the wrong times—and not enough at the right times. Namely, we need more high-quality protein at breakfast and less protein at dinner, the research suggests (Mamerow et al. 2014).

Protein: How Much Is Enough?

Nutrition experts recommend that protein accounts for 10%–35% of all the calories we eat daily (IOM 2002). How are we doing with that recommendation? A paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, on average, men and women up to age 70 get about 15% of total calories from protein. While that is within the 10%–35% recommendation, the author of the paper suggests boosting the minimum to 25%, “given the positive benefits of higher protein intake on satiety and other physiologic functions” (Fulgoni 2008).

Examining diet in more depth exposes us to a raft of acronyms representing how much of specific nutrients the experts say we should consume. For instance, the Institute of Medicine has several DRIs (dietary reference intakes) for protein:

• RDA (recommended dietary 
allowance)

• EAR (estimated average 
requirement)

• AI (adequate intake)

All these DRIs are based on nitrogen balance studies, under conditions of energy balance (DGAC 2010; Rodriguez 2015).

The most familiar of these acronyms is the RDA—which for protein is 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight for adults 19 and older. Protein experts like Stewart Phillips, PhD, FACSM, FACN, professor at McMaster University, suggest this level can be misleading.

“That level of protein—0.8 g/kg/d or the RDA—is the minimal level of protein to offset negative nitrogen balance in 98% of individuals. The RDA is really, in my opinion, the MDI—minimal dietary intake. Thus, nothing about that level should be recommended, and you’re allowed to eat much more. In fact, for older persons and athletes, there are benefits to consuming protein at levels above the RDA.”

Protein Intake and Timing

Recently, protein research has moved beyond investigating the optimal amount of protein to eat and has examined the optimal times to eat it. > > Nutrition researchers have found that most Western diets skew protein consumption toward the evening meal—breakfast is typically carbohydrate-rich and protein-poor, while the evening meal is often much higher in protein and calories (Mamerow et al. 2014).

In keeping with this, some of the National Institutes of Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on protein consumption in the U.S. demonstrates that men typically consume about 15 g of protein at breakfast, while women consume about 10 g (Rains et al. 2013). It’s also important to note that only about 40% of Americans actually eat breakfast. Thus, not only are many Americans consuming low-protein breakfasts, but the majority are not consuming any protein at all. And there is increasing evidence of a causal link between breakfast skipping and obesity (Ma et al. 2003).

This unbalanced intake doesn’t quite give the hard-working muscles what they need, nor does it do the job of helping curb appetite throughout the day. “Unlike [with] fat or carbohydrate, the body has limited capacity to store excess dietary protein/amino acids from a single meal and use them to stimulate muscle growth at a later time,” says Douglas Paddon-Jones, PhD, professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch and a leading protein researcher. “In other words, your large salmon dinner tonight is probably not going to influence muscle growth at lunch tomorrow.”

His research and that of other experts suggest it is best to distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day, starting with breakfast. “It makes perfect sense,” says Phillips. “You’ve just gone 10 hours without food [and] your muscles are catabolic. Protein at breakfast gives your muscles their first chance to rebuild after you’ve slept. It’s a good idea to aim for around 20 g of protein if you’re younger or 30–40 g if you’re older, to give your muscle its best chance to rebuild, since these doses of protein are at the top end of what your muscles need.”

This balanced concept suggests that a moderate amount of high-quality protein three times per day may be better than the typical Western diet with too much protein at dinnertime and not enough at breakfast. The balanced protein distribution concept isn’t just about muscle growth and repair, though. It has the potential to affect many health outcomes, such as blood sugar control, moderate calorie intake and satiety (being full) (Leidy et al. 2015).

Let’s explore the benefit of satiety. Of course, being more full may affect how much a person eats. If you eat less because you’re already feeling full, theoretically that could help with weight loss.

Heather Leidy, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, has done a lot of the work on protein and satiety. Her group recently completed a 12-week, long-term randomized controlled trial study comparing the effect of eating a normal-protein vs. a high-protein breakfast in those who had habitually skipped the morning meal (Leidy et al. 2015).

This study illustrated that those who added a high-protein breakfast containing 35 g of protein every day for 12 weeks prevented gains in body fat compared with those who continued to skip breakfast. In contrast, eating a normal-protein breakfast did not prevent fat gains. In addition, only the high-protein breakfast reduced daily hunger and led to voluntary reductions of about 400 calories in daily food intake. “These data suggest that a simple dietary strategy of eating a protein-packed breakfast can improve weight management,” Leidy said.

To read more about how the timing of protein consumption impacts the body’s ability to rebuild muscle, please see “Tapping the Power of Protein” in the online IDEA Library or in the January 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

 

Nutrition Technology Optimization

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Oct 12, 2018

Nutrition Tech

Apps, digital solutions and “smart” devices are flooding the market to cash in on interest in eating for weight management, better performance and health enhancement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can technology improve people’s eating habits? This is the multibillion-dollar question challenging developers. Consumer applications and integrated digital solutions for food tracking, menu planning, grocery shopping, eating out, and nutrition and lifestyle coaching are proliferating. Innovations include scanners that identify nutrients, wearables that gauge real-time calorie intake and breathalyzers that measure metabolism.

“Food tech is the final frontier to be explored by using apps, sensors and wearables,” said Ted Vickey, PhD, founder and CEO of FitWell in San Diego.

Consumer interest has spurred development. As of March 2017, 26% of people aged 18–29 reported regularly using apps to track diet and nutrition, as did 17% of people aged 30–45, and 9% of those 45–60, according to Statista survey (Statista 2018a). The Super­Tracker website for recipe or menu analysis, food intake and physical activity tracking served 27 million users before the federal government terminated it in June (USDA 2018). The more popular food-tracking apps include MyFitnessPal (myfitnesspal.com), with 11 million active users per month (Statista 2018b), and Lose It!, with over 3 million active monthly members, according to its website (loseit.com).

With so much acceptance, fitness pros need to know what technologies are available and how to assess their potential for health and performance improvement.

Types of Dietary Apps

Mobile phone-based apps are the most popular technologies—some singly focused, for calorie and nutrient tracking, for instance, and others with integrated digital solutions that include live coaching and detailed biometric data. More complex digital solutions integrate tracking with other wearables and smart devices, like scales and water bottles. Here’s a sampling of what users select for tracking and advice on healthful dietary choices:

  • Calorie tracking. MyFitnessPal and Lose It! combine food and water consumption self-reporting with physical activity tracking and social support. Both products offer extensive validated databases—with millions of grocery and restaurant items—and barcode scanning. Lose It! also has a photo feature. You snap a picture of food for quick nutrition information then manually enter portion size (although the app cannot analyze multiple ingredients in foods like a cheeseburger). Calorie Mama (caloriemama.ai) has a more sophisticated photo tracker that pro­vides detailed nutritional analysis.
  • Meal planning and recipes. MyPlate Calorie Counter (livestrong.com/myplate), has a food tracker with a smaller database than either MyFitnessPal or Lose It!, but it adds personalized meal planning and healthy recipes and includes shopping lists. San Francisco-based Suggestic Precision Eating™ (suggestic.com) takes meal planning one step further by using artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to offer real-time, location-based eating suggestions.Shai Rozen, CMO and co-founder of Suggestic, says, “We believe the biggest obstacle in people changing behavior around food is choice. We remove part of the decision-making effort by providing contextual, highly relevant tips in real time. With most food trackers, users log items after eating. Suggestic takes your goals and recommends what to eat before you eat it. Users can follow preferences like vegan or paleo.” With Suggestic, a user can hold a smartphone camera over a restaurant menu; the app uses AR to highlight and rank menu items, providing real-time suggestions. The app also uses AI to find behavior patterns over time and learn to make “smarter” recommendations.
  • Recipe and nutrient analysis. Nutrients (pomegranateapps.com/nutrients), a detailed database of 200,000 items with nutrition information for individual foods and meals, offers recipe analysis and is particularly valuable for people with specific food intolerances. Registered dietitians like that it takes emphasis away from calories and focuses on foods’ nutritional value. “People should be food-group oriented instead of counting calories,” advises Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RDN, a clinical nutritionist in Red Bank, New Jersey, and author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great (Pegasus 2011).

    Another app, Fooducate (fooducate.com), provides an analysis of calories, macronutrients and percentage of minimally processed foods. To increase awareness of calorie quality, the app provides color-coded food grades. It breaks down calories consumed from solids or liquids and offers suggestions for healthier choices in place of highly processed foods. As Meagan Moyer, MPH, RDN, LD, clinical nutritionist at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta and author of Bits and Bytes: A Guide to Digitally Tracking Your Food, Fitness, and Health (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2017), says, “You need to know not only what you shouldn’t eat, but also what you should.”

  • Grocery shopping. Shopwell™ (shopwell.com), created by registered dietitians, enables grocery shoppers to scan barcodes and nutrition labels for immediate nutrition information, personalized food scores and recommendations. It can analyze affiliated supermarket shopping receipts to show how well purchases align with nutritional goals and dietary restrictions, such as food allergies or diabetes. Fooducate also gives advice on healthier alternatives.
  • Eating out. Several apps help people find healthy options when dining out, but many are regional, so check out which ones cover your neighborhood. Examples include Food Tripping (jacapps.com/case-studies/food-tripping), Clean Plates (cleanplates.com), and HappyCow for vegans (happycow.net). Suggestic’s menu assessment feature includes scoring for over a half-million restaurants nationwide.
  • Nutrition coaching. More sites are integrating opportunities for live or distance fee-based coaching with registered dietitians. Rise (rise.us) allows people to describe their goals to a registered dietitian. Participants submit photos of what they eat to their coach, who checks in daily with suggestions for how to modify dietary choices. Users can sign up on a monthly or quarterly basis. Moyer thinks this trend will grow, as most apps are not personalized, food logs are often inaccurate and people need individualized counseling.
  • Coaching interface. Some apps integrate a coaching interface to enable an authorized personal trainer, health coach or dietitian to log in and see client data. MyNetDiary (mynetdiary.com/food-diary-and-calorie-counter-for-trainers.html) and Healthie (gethealthie.com) provide these platforms. Other web-based solutions are designed only for health professionals, like Diet ID™ (dqpn.io), which enables a coach to use food photographs to identify client eating patterns that need improvement.

Emerging Technologies

New technologies are emerging for more personalized data on specific foods, rather than a generic database. Products that are still being perfected include lasers, wearables and an array of smart devices.

  • Lasers. New handheld laser devices like Tellspec® (tellspec.com/en) and SCiO™ (consumerphysics.com/scio-for-consumers) potentially enable users to scan food to analyze what’s inside it, including pesticides, gluten, or proportions of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Cloud-based technology sends data to a user’s smartphone. This spectrometer technology is being installed into a smartphone that will be available in China in 2019 (phone.consumerphysics.com).
  • Wearables. Wearables are still in development. For example, “Healbe’s GoBe 2 (healbe.com/gobe2) claims to automatically measure calorie intake through a wearer’s skin,” says Bryan O’Rourke, CEO at the Fitness Industry Technology Council in Mandeville, Lousiana. “The product was met with mixed reviews . . . including skepticism about whether it does what it says. If the calorie-counting technology works, it would be groundbreaking.”
  • Smart devices. As tech tools become smaller and more affordable and cloud-based computing becomes more powerful, smart devices that connect with one another, aka the Internet of Things, can potentially monitor every aspect of our lives. For example, Lumen (lumen.me), a device scheduled for 2019 release, looks like a handheld breathalyzer with data that shows what energy pathway—carbohydrates or fats—is currently being used for fuel to optimize training, time nutrient consumption or achieve weight goals. Hidrate Inc. offers Hidrate Spark 2.0 (hidratespark.com), a smart water bottle that recommends daily water intake based not only on biometric data but also on weather from GPS information; it tracks water consumption, glows for drink reminders, and syncs with other fitness programs like Fitbit or Apple Health.

Addressing Behavioral Change

While we may learn what’s inside specific foods and what’s going on inside an individual’s body, the apps’ tracking, goal-setting, meal-planning and even nutrition coaching don’t address emotions and habitual behaviors that drive unhealthy eating habits.

“Integrating behavioral science is the holy grail of disruptive health technologies,” said Vickey. “Trainers need to use [tech] tools to educate clients on the behavioral change aspect of what they’re doing. Sometimes apps and wearables give too much information.” Vickey advises us to “follow the KISS principle.”

  • Mindful-eating programs. Some developers are tackling these issues with mindful-eating apps that provide suggestions and exercises, such as Mindful Eating Tracker (tracknshareapp.com/mindful-eating-tracker) and “In the Moment” Mindful Eating app (lmwellness.com/in-the-moment-mindful-­eating-phone-app).

    Mindfulness and addiction expert Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, director of research at the Center for Mindfulness and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts, created Eat Right Now® (ERN) (goeatrightnow.com), an app-based program with craving-specific tools, expert coaching and a supportive community to help people who struggle with weight loss, binge eating and cravings. ERN has a “flipped classroom” model, so professionals like personal trainers can teach, assign homework and interact digitally with clients in the community. Brewer also developed a program that targets anxiety since that can be part of the issue (see Resources below for more information).

    “We’re offering behavior change facilitator trainings, so coaches can combine their skills with the program,” said Brewer. “The combination of a facilitator with the course is effective. Clinical studies show a 40% reduction in craving-related eating (Mason et al. 2018) and close to 50% reduction in anxiety symptoms in 28 modules with 1–2 months of daily use.”

    “Food-recording apps like MyFitnessPal can be useful behavior management tools to supplement professional advice and teach autonomy to clients,” says Neal Pire, MA, national director of wellness services at Castle Connolly Private Health Partners in New York. “Apps are useful tools to increase clients’ awareness and empower them to change and adopt better eating behaviors [when they’re not with their trainer].”

Choose Tech Wisely

Both fitness and nutrition experts agree that technology is only a tool, and it’s not for everyone. “Clients should be learning more how to eat by themselves and make informed choices,” says Wesley Delbridge, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Phoenix.

Stoler notes that people should not become so dependent on their phones that they can no longer make eating decisions without them or feel stressed that they can’t log every bite. “It’s like training wheels—to give a course of action and knowledge base that they hopefully find useful—but at a certain point, people need to graduate.”

Experts emphasize that solutions need to fit individualized needs. “There are many tools, but they’re not necessarily stand-alone,” says Moyer. “Often people need help to stick with dietary changes. Support groups built within apps are a great source. Pay-to-play apps [where people bet on weight loss] can work for some people, but not all. Every person is different.”

Fitness professionals need to stay within scope of practice when using these apps and must refer to a registered dietitian when appropriate. Ken Baldwin, director of education and training for Perform Better Australia, in Brisbane, says, “Personal trainers need to be able to address issues like sleep, water, recovery, mood changes, hormones, age and gender differences . . . but they should not think about giving advice beyond their scope of practice. They should create a great professional network.”

Apps Support the Human Touch

The tech market for tracking eating patterns is bursting with tools that support the quantified self; the future seems limited only by the imagination. At the same time, eating healthier foods is dependent on a person’s financial resources and personal initiative. No program can control what a person eats. Behavioral change is complex.

Data alone does not improve health or performance. What makes a difference is how data is interpreted and applied. People are not machines; food is not simply a nutrient source. Fitness professionals have an opportunity to help clients understand these tools and to optimize training, but at the end of the day, people need to find joy and satisfaction in what they eat and drink and find happiness with their bodies and their lives. Fitness professionals can be the wise proponents of these truths.

References

Mason, A.E., et al. 2018. Testing a mobile mindful eating intervention targeting craving-related eating: Feasibility and proof of concept. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 41 (2), 160–73.

Statista. 2018a. Percentage of U.S. adults who use an app to track their diet and nutrition as of 2017, by age. Accessed Sep. 7, 2018: statista.com/statistics/698919/us-adults-that-would-use-an-app-to-track-their-diet-by-age/.

Statista. 2018b. Most popular health and fitness apps in the United States as of July 2017, by monthly active users (in millions). Accessed Sep. 7, 2018: statista.com/statistics/650748/health-fitness-app-usage-usa/.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). 2018. SuperTracker discontinued June 30, 2018. Accessed Sep. 7, 2018: choosemyplate.gov/tools-supertracker.

Nutrition Misfires

by Sanna Delmonico, MS, RDN, CHES on Oct 12, 2018

Client Misfires

Get clients back on track with to-the-point messages that counteract common food myths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever made a recommendation to a client, then discovered the client heard something completely different? Or she took part of what you suggested and ignored the rest? Like the time I advised my client about the healthfulness of berries and later found out he had given up all other fruit. That was a nutrition misfire. Maybe it was the client’s all-or-nothing thinking, or maybe I hadn’t been clear enough. After all, there is subtlety in food and nutrition, and getting the message right is a challenge. Stamp out misunderstandings by learning how top nutrition professionals set their clients straight on six all-too-common nutrition misfires.

Misfire #1

Sugar is bad; therefore, all carbs are bad.

“All carbs are not created equal,” advises Kathy McManus, MS, RDN, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “There are some unhealthy sources, like white bread, white rice, white potatoes, and foods containing added sugar (cake, cookies, candy and sugar-sweetened beverages). These foods raise blood sugar and can lead to diabetes and weight gain.” But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. As McManus points out, “The right types of carbohydrate foods, such as intact whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, are the foundation for a healthy diet.” (Intact whole grains include all layers of the original kernel: bran, germ and endosperm.)

Because added sugar is “empty-calorie,” providing calories but no additional nutrients, focus clients on reducing added sugar, not on reducing sugar that occurs naturally, as in fruit or all carbohydrates. Help clients navigate this terrain by thinking about the carbohydrate’s context: If it is added sugar or refined grain, limit intake. If it’s in whole foods, dig in, though be mindful of portion control even with healthy foods.

Misfire #2

Vegetarian diets are healthy, so I should avoid all animal foods.

Vegetarians have lower rates of overweight and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers compared with those on a typical American diet (Appleby & Key 2016). That sounds pretty compelling, but it doesn’t necessarily mean animal foods (meat, poultry, fish, dairy products) have no place in a healthy diet. In addition to protein, meats are sources of well-absorbed minerals, including iron and zinc, while milk and other dairy products are great sources of calcium.

McManus says that avoiding all animal foods “can be overly restrictive and limit options, especially when eating with friends and family and away from home.” It can be difficult to find enough variety to eat well in restaurants and may be socially isolating. She explains that “plant-based eating” means eating mostly foods from plants (legumes, healthy oils like olive oil, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables), but it allows for greater flexibility than a vegetarian diet and can include fish, eggs, dairy and some meats. Plant-based eating “supports many of the same health benefits as vegetarianism, such as lower weight, less heart disease and less diabetes, but for many people is a less severe, more sustainable food pattern to support health.” Some call this pattern a “flexitarian” diet.

Misfire #3

Gluten is bad for some people; therefore, everyone should avoid gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. “The fact that gluten is a protein surprises people, since today’s food conversation is very positive about protein,” says Kim Kirchherr, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant in Chicago who has worked extensively in supermarket nutrition. “Gluten is the reason bread has that wonderful, chewy texture.”

People with celiac disease react to gluten in a way that damages the lining of their small intestine, leading to digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients.

Wheat sensitivities are not always related to gluten. “Some people with irritable bowel syndrome are intolerant to the carbohydrate portions of wheat called oligosaccharides. But the majority of us are totally okay to consume wheat and gluten,” says Denise Barratt, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant and blogger in Asheville, North Carolina, and the author of Farm Fresh Nutrition (vineripenutrition.com). Barratt says gluten-free products may have less iron, fiber and B vitamins, so reconsider switching unless you need to avoid gluten for health reasons.

On the other hand, do we tend to overeat white bread, pizza, cakes, cookies and other less healthy sources of gluten? Yes, we certainly do. Is it the gluten that makes these foods unhealthy? Not for most people! The message shouldn’t be to avoid gluten; it should be to choose more nutrient-dense breads made with whole-grain flours and, especially, more intact whole grains like barley and quinoa, which don’t raise blood sugar as much.

Misfire #4

Juicing is the best way to get your fruit and veggies.

There’s a juice for every day of the week, and your clients have probably tried them all: green juice, detox juice, and juices infused with ginger and turmeric. Recent research has shown that juices are an effective way to increase vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in the diet (Zheng 2017). In the U.S., most people don’t eat enough fruit or vegetables and may miss out on the nutrients they provide: vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, phytonutrients, and more.

But is drinking juice better than eating the fruits and vegetables they were squeezed from? No one is arguing that we should drink juice instead of eating whole produce. Juicers usually remove fiber, but fiber is important for digestive health and cholesterol reduction, and it helps keep blood sugar under control. “You may be tossing out some of the great things we eat fruits and veggies for in the first place,” says Kirchherr.

Calories are another consideration. “How many whole oranges are you using for that glass of orange juice? Five? Six? Would you ever sit down and eat that many whole oranges?” asks Kirchherr. You are probably consuming a lot more calories from juice than you would if you were eating the whole fruit. Barratt tells her clients, “It is much more economical and nutritious to eat whole fruits and vegetables in smoothies, salads, soups and stir-fries.”

Misfire #5

Nutrition Facts labels on foods tell me all I need to know about the foods.

“Most of us want a super-simple way to manage the information about things we eat and drink,” says Kirchherr. She recommends using 5% (low in a nutrient) and 20% (high in a nutrient) of the Daily Value as a quick guide. (The Daily Value indicates how much of a nutrient a single serving of the food contributes to an average daily diet of 2,000 calories.) Trying to reduce sodium? Look for 5% or less of the Daily Value. Trying to increase fiber? Go for 20% or more.

However, Kirchherr cautions, “The Nutrition Facts label provides context in terms of calories and nutrition, but the ingredient list gives us more detail about the product. Focusing on one or the other doesn’t give the full nutrition picture.” McManus explains that, for example, fiber is often added to white bread, which boosts the number of grams of fiber on the Nutrition Facts label but doesn’t make white bread as nutritious as whole-wheat bread. Whole-wheat bread lists whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient and contains more vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which don’t all appear on the Nutrition Facts label. In addition, says McManus, “Research is limited on the health benefits of some of these added fibers, and they may not be equivalent to naturally occurring fiber in whole grains.”

Also, as McManus reminds clients, “Many of the healthiest foods (fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, poultry, whole grains, nuts and seeds bought in bulk) do not have Nutrition Facts labels.”

Key changes to nutritional labels. By the way, Nutrition Facts labels are changing to be clearer about the number of calories per serving and to reflect current scientific knowledge about nutrients of concern for Americans. There is an overview of the changes at fda.gov/downloads/food/labelingnutrition/ucm511646.pdf.

Misfire #6

Vitamins and minerals are essential for health, so I should take a lot of them.

If you get less than enough iron, you become anemic; too little vitamin C, and you get scurvy. Vitamins and minerals are critical for good health, but the message for clients, says Kirchherr, is “bigger isn’t always better. This is true for things that are good for us, too.” We can’t easily get rid of excess vitamins stored in fat, such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The B vitamins and vitamin C, on the other hand, are water-soluble, and we excrete what we can’t absorb, so taking an excess of those may mean you are essentially flushing the money you paid for them down the toilet.

While a multivitamin and mineral supplement containing around 100% of the Daily Values may be low risk and could make up for nutrients missing in the diet (Ward 2014), we have little research on the long-term effects of large doses of vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements. In the U.S., laws do not require the Food and Drug Administration to verify safety or effectiveness before dietary supplements are marketed to consumers (NIH 2011). And don’t assume that because a supplement is popular, it is also effective. Many people believe that taking large doses of vitamin C will prevent them from getting colds, but the scientific evidence doesn’t support that belief (PubMed Health 2017).

To avoid nutrition misfires, we need to help clients scratch the surface and see there is more to every nutrition topic than just a sound bite. Kirchherr wisely reminds us, “Extremes, like ‘always’ and ‘never,’ don’t work in food and nutrition.” Perhaps that should be our first message to clients.

References

Appleby, P.N., and Key, T.J., 2016. The long-term health of vegetarians and vegans. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75, 287–93.

NIH (National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements). 2011. Dietary supplements: Background information. Accessed July 15, 2018: ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/DietarySupplements-HealthProfessional/.

PubMed Health. 2017. Common colds: Does vitamin C keep you healthy? Accessed July 15, 2018: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072728/.

Ward, E. 2014. Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutrition Journal, 13, 72.

Zheng, J., et al. 2017. Effects and mechanisms of fruit and vegetable juices on cardiovascular diseases. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18, 555. doi:10.3390/ijms18030555.

Eating a Better Breakfast

Dec 11, 2014

Fitness Handout

The alarm rings and you press “snooze” one time too many. By the time you roll out of bed, you think it’s too late for breakfast so you don’t eat. While some people do skip breakfast on a regular basis, it’s not a good idea. The potential perils include a more sluggish metabolism as the body shifts into starvation-response mode. Couple this with a tendency to become ravenous and binge later, and weight gain can happen. Cognitive abilities can also suffer: You may get headaches, feel fatigued and be less able to concentrate.

Learn how a lack of breakfast can impact exercise and what kinds of foods will give you the energy you need for the day from Martica Heaner, PhD, MA, MEd, NASM-certified trainer, award-winning group fitness instructor, and adjunct assistant professor of nutrition at Hunter College in New York City.

Exercise and Skipping Breakfast

Some people believe that by exercising on an empty stomach in the morning, they’ll burn more body fat. However, if the body burns a higher percentage of fat while exercising on no breakfast in the morning (and study results are mixed), that doesn’t mean metabolism—or total calorie burn—is speeding up. “If you’re going to do a long or strenuous workout on an empty stomach, you may not have adequate carbs to power your workout and so you won’t be able to work out as long or as hard,” says Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RD, FACSM, nutrition professor at the University of Wyoming and author of Vegetarian Sports Nutrition (Human Kinetics 2007). “Even if you are burning a slightly higher ratio of fat, with impaired performance you may not be burning as many total calories or total calories of fat as you could if you were well-fueled.”

What Counts as Breakfast?

“Usually we aim for breakfast providing 25%–30% of the calories for the day, so the amount will depend on a person’s daily energy expenditure,” says Larson-Meyer. Ideally, the morning meal should provide carbohydrates and fiber from fruits, vegetables and/or beans, as well as protein from dairy or, better, from plant-based varieties of milk or yogurt, as well as eggs or plant foods like beans and whole grains. While fruit is generally recommended over juice because fruit contains more fiber and fewer calories, a lean exerciser need not fear juice. “Most people should avoid drinking their calories, but if juice is an easy energy source before your workout in the morning, go ahead and drink it,” Larson-Meyer says.

What about doughnuts or pastries? “Something is better than nothing, and if you’re in the woods starving, a doughnut is okay,” says Melinda Manore, PhD, RD, nutrition professor at Oregon State University, Corvallis, and author of several textbooks, including Nutrition for Life (Benjamin Cummings 2006). But keeping a stash of easy breakfast backups, like breakfast bars, nuts or even cold leftovers, can give you more nutritious choices so that you’re not just filling up on empty calories. Don’t be afraid to get creative: Some cultures eat soups for breakfast, others eat beans (on toast or in bean burritos). Aim for a breakfast that provides energy and nutrients and that helps you feel satiated.

Making Healthy Breakfast Choices

How to Ruin a Healthy Breakfast

Updated April 14, 2018

Not all ‘breakfast foods’ are nutritious and choosing the wrong foods can turn your healthy morning meal into a high-calorie, nutrient-poor mess. Here are some common ways that people ruin a healthy breakfast:.

Making Breakfast Too Sugary

Take a look at all those pre-sweetened cereals next time you go to the grocery store. Most of these sugary cereals are just boxes of candy with a few vitamins and minerals added into the mix. But the problem isn’t just pre-sweetened cereal—many people associate breakfast with sweet pastries, loads of syrup, and frosted things you pop into the toaster.

Stay away from extra sugar:

  • Choose unsweetened, whole grain cereals. Just add a little sprinkle of sugar on top, but no more than a teaspoon.
  • Instead of pastry, pop a slice of whole grain bread into the toaster and then top it with a 100-percent fruit spread. You still get the sweet flavor, but a lot less sugar.
  • Have a bowl of hot oatmeal with fresh berries and chopped walnuts. Not sweet enough? Add just a dab of real maple syrup or a teaspoon of brown sugar.

  Not Including Enough Protein

Isn’t it interesting how we associate certain foods with breakfast? Sugary cereals, pancakes, and waffles smothered in syrup appeal to many people. They’re high in starch and sugar and low in protein. Protein keeps you feeling full longer so you won’t feel so hungry in the middle of the morning.

Make sure you get some good quality protein:

  • Have a piece of 100-percent whole-grain toast with peanut butter or almond butter and a glass of milk.
  • Try salmon or tuna with light cream cheese or mayo on whole grain bagels or toast.
  • Use protein powder in a breakfast fruit smoothie.

Avoiding Whole Grains

Most of those sugary breakfast cereals and pastries are also low in fiber. Whole grains provide fiber, which can keep your cholesterol levels and keeps your digestive system healthy.

Choose whole grains and high-fiber foods:

  • Eat whole grain, unsweetened hot or cold breakfast cereals.
  • Use whole grain bread instead of white bread for your toast.
  • Make low-fat oat bran muffins.

Not Eating Any Fruit or Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are usually low in calories and rich in nutrients and phytochemicals. Experts recommend that we eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day (no, that bowl of fruit-flavored cereal doesn’t count).

Get more fruits and vegetables:

  • Make an omelet with mushrooms, peppers, and onions.
  • Slice a grapefruit or orange in half and serve with a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter.
  • Add berries, raisins, or bananas to your whole grain cereal.

Skipping Breakfast Altogether

Maybe you skip breakfast because you’re in a hurry, or you think skipping breakfast is a good way to cut calories. But it really isn’t. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, probably because they eat too much later in the day.

You can have a quick but healthy breakfast:

  • Keep ready-to-eat foods handy like hard boiled eggs, nuts and fresh fruit.
  • Make a fruit smoothie for breakfast.
  • Make your own breakfast cereal bars with healthy whole grain cereals.

Lichtenstein AH, Kennedy E, Barrier P, Danford D, Ernst ND, Grundy SM, Leveille GA, Van Horn L, Williams CL. “Dietary fat consumption and health.” Booth SL.Nutr Rev. 1998 May;56(5 Pt 2):S3-19; discussion S19-28.

Stevenson EJ, Williams C, Mash LE, Phillips B, Nute ML. “Influence of high-carbohydrate mixed meals with different glycemic indexes on substrate utilization during subsequent exercise in women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Aug;84(2):354-60.

Vander Wal JS, Marth JM, Khosla P, Jen KL, Dhurandhar NV. “Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects.” J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6):510-5.

Blom WA, Lluch A, Stafleu A, Vinoy S, Holst JJ, Schaafsma G, Hendriks HF. “Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):211-20.

 

Get the facts on current diet trends from a health expert By The Cooper Institute

By Karen Michail
Speakeasy Content Studio

If you browse the “Healthy Eating” section of any bookstore, you’re likely to encounter row upon row of books claiming to contain the magic formula for losing weight, boosting energy or improving certain health conditions. But this proliferation of pop diets and nutritional quick fixes can make it feel impossible to figure out what you should be eating to live healthier. To make matters worse, many of these recommendations and the so-called scientific “findings” that support them change from one day to the next.

If you’re looking to make healthy eating a part of your lifestyle, how can you cut through the misinformation to find out which diets are actually credible? Is there a sustainable method of eating that’s both truly effective for weight loss and helps promote general health and wellness?

We consulted Dr. Steve Farrell, Ph.D., FACSM and Senior Investigator at the Cooper Institute’s Research Division, to get his data-based take on some of the latest trends in the diet industry. Read on to get the real scoop from a leading health expert on trends such as the paleo diet, the ketogenic diet, the Mediterranean diet and even juice cleanses.

Popular diets: Are they supported by research or not?

Thanks to the First Amendment, anyone can write a diet book and make claims about what’s “healthy.” Unfortunately, this protected free speech translates into a great many diet and nutrition programs that aren’t necessarily supported by good science — or by any real science at all.

Two of today’s most popular diets are the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet, both of which advocate eliminating certain foods from your diet. While avoiding the ingredients in some foods can indeed contribute to weight loss (in the short term, at least), Dr. Farrell says most diets that advocate for cutting out entire food groups are not very sustainable or beneficial for overall health and wellness.

“There is no scientific evidence that supports [the paleo and ketogenic diets] from a morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) perspective,” Dr. Farrell says. “If you lose weight on these diets, it’s simply because you are consuming fewer calories than you were previously.”

And what about those uber-trendy juice cleanses? Does juicing really “cleanse” your body of toxins?

Unfortunately, while this popular approach seems appealing, there’s “not a shred of scientific evidence that juices cleanse the body of toxins,” Dr. Farrell says. “The liver and kidneys are quite adept at removing toxins from the body. If weight is lost on a juice cleanse, it’s simply because you are taking in far fewer calories per day than you normally would.”

When it comes to dieting and cleanses, Dr. Farrell is a big fan of an old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

The best diets for health and weight loss

According to Dr. Farrell, very few diets pass muster from a research perspective. One of these is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes consuming plant-based foods, whole grains and fatty fish in addition to olive oil, nuts and red wine (in moderation, of course). “It’s not a weight-loss diet, but rather a healthy lifestyle approach,” Dr. Farrell says.

Many studies conducted around the world, including a Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, have demonstrated a link between the Mediterranean diet and a reduced risk of illness and a relative increase in lifespan. The Cooper Center study also found that consuming more fruits, nuts and whole grains was associated with an approximately 35 percent decrease in the risk of cardiovascular mortality.

But what if you’re trying to lose weight? Dr. Farrell says that, first and foremost, it’s important to understand that the goal with weight loss should be to lose fat weight, not water or muscle weight. “In order to lose fat weight, one must burn more calories per day than one consumes,” he says.

The diet he recommends for weight loss is one that is in alignment with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines include:

  • Reduce your intake of saturated fats, added sugars, alcohol and sodium.
  • Increase your intake of complex carbohydrates (unrefined plant-based foods) such as fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans and peas) and unsalted nuts.
  • Try to consume 3 cups of low-fat dairy per day and two to three servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, per week.
  • Limit red meat to no more than a couple of servings a week.

Dr. Farrell explains that, when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s also important to pair a healthy diet with a focus on exercise. “Increasing your level of physical activity is an absolute must if long-term weight control is a goal,” he says. “Try to accumulate at least 300 minutes each week of moderately intense aerobic activity. Adding at least two days per week of strength training is also highly recommended.”

So, what is the simplest way to start eating a healthier, more balanced diet? Don’t worry about trying to follow the latest eating fad. Keep it simple by focusing on eating more plant-based foods and cutting back on empty calories, such as soda, fast food and potato chips.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — complicated. Don’t waste your time (and money!) trying diet after diet. As Dr. Farrell advises, stick to what works and is supported by solid, scientific research.

Presented by The Cooper Institute. Founded by Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., the “Father of Aerobics,” in 1970, the Cooper Institute has established itself as one of the world’s leaders in advancing preventive health practices for both children and adults.

Common Foods That Are Sabotaging Your Efforts

Common Foods That Are Sabotaging Your Efforts

Eat fiber and protein-filled meals. Check.

Drink plenty of water. Check.

Get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Check.

Incorporate interval training into workouts. Check.

Strength train. Check.

Make an effort to move more (take stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the water cooler, etc.) throughout the day. Check.

These lifestyle habits help keep the body’s metabolism at top speed, but it is also important to ensure that the foods you’re consuming aren’t weighing you down with too many calories and not enough nutrients. Poor dietary choices may negatively impact your energy balance and cause fat gain.

To keep your caloric intake reasonable, swap the following densely caloric doozies for these more reasonable choices:

High-calorie Don’t: Refined Carbs

refined-carbs-white-bread

If cookies, cakes, white breads, sugary cereals and jams are literally your jam, your waistline may be taking a hit. These foods are stripped of their nutrients and fiber, and they lack protein; both protein and fiber are important players in helping you feel full longer. Without protein and fiber, foods are digested quickly and the body doesn’t have to spend much energy to metabolize them. This metabolizing of the food you eat is known as the thermic effect of food and accounts for 10% of your total energy expenditure, which for a 2,000 calorie per day diet, could equal approximately 200 calories.

In one study, participants’ energy expenditure after eating multi-grain bread and cheddar cheese sandwiches (whole food) was compared to their energy expenditure after eating white bread and a processed cheese product (processed food). While the sandwiches contained an equal amount of calories, protein, carbs and fat, the processed meal resulted in 50% less after-meal energy expenditure, which was a savings of about 64 calories.

 

Switch-it-up Do: Swap refined and processed carbs like white breads, white flour, cookies and cake for unprocessed, wholesome, quality carbohydrates like fruits and beans, and whole grains like oats, quinoa, barley and millet. Other good choices include starchy veggies like potatoes, peas, and corn (non-starchy veggies are great, too, but they don’t have as many calories to provide long-term fuel for the body).

Wholesome, quality carbs keep your hunger at bay by providing long-lasting energy, thanks in part to their fiber, which slows digestion, and causes the body to have to burn extra calories to break it down. Beans, quinoa, barley and millet contain protein, which helps to keep energy levels stable while increasing the thermic effect.

High-calorie Don’t: Sugary Drinks

sugary-drinks-soda

Most people don’t realize that you can slurp down loads of calories from soda (or any caloric beverage) without your brain getting a signal that you’ve consumed calories and don’t need to eat more. Not only is that bad for your waistline, but getting consuming sugary drinks also displaces other nutrients that could be gained by eating whole foods. For example, drinking orange juice leads to consuming way more calories and sugar versus eating an orange, which contains other important phytochemicals and fiber.

Switch-it-up Do: Drink water. You’ve heard this 100 times, because it’s true—every chemical reaction in your body relies on water. Drink adequate amounts of water and your body functions as a well-oiled machine. If you need help consuming more water, try adding fresh lemon or lime slices as flavorful non-calorie boosts, or mix it up by drinking calorie-free sparkling water.

High-calorie Don’t : Saturated Fats

saturated-fats-butter

Foods high in saturated fat (such as butter, full-fat dairy products, fatty beef, pork, poultry with skin, lamb and baked goods made with palm oils) often lack two important components that increase the thermic effect: protein and fiber.

Switch-it-up Do: While all fats are the same calorically (9 calories per gram), consider swapping saturated fats for omega-3s, which are found in fatty fish including salmon, herring, sardines, whitefish, tuna, walnuts and flaxseeds. Omega-3s are thought to be heart protective, whereas saturated fat has been linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Aim to consume at least 3 ounces of omega-3-rich fish twice a week.

Post Author

Author

The Nutrition Twins

Contributor

Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they’ll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.

15 Breakfasts Under 300 Calories

Find a diet-friendly breakfast to help with weight loss

  

 

You’re pressed for time in the mornings, but that doesn’t mean you should have to make it until lunch on an empty stomach. It’s time to stop skipping breakfast! These 300-calorie breakfast ideas are healthy, quick and easy to prepare.

15 Breakfast Ideas For Under 300 Calories

The best way to eat a healthy, diet-friendly breakfast every morning is to prepare the meal in advance.

You can prepare a week’s worth of healthy breakfasts in an hour or so on Sunday. Then simply pack them into the refrigerator and they are ready to go when you’re ready to eat. You can also use any of these ideas in the morning.

Breakfast Burrito

If you love a savory meal in the morning, this diet-friendly breakfast will curb your hunger cravings.

  • Egg whites, 2, scrambled
  • Low-fat cheese, 1 oz.
  • Salsa, 2 Tbsp.
  • Whole-wheat tortilla, 1
  • 187 calories

Sweet and Nutty Oatmeal
This breakfast is full of fiber so it will help you to curb cravings that often hit around 10 or 11 in the morning.

  • Instant plain oatmeal, 1 packet
  • Pear, 1 medium
  • Honey, 2 tsp.
  • Almonds, chopped, 1 Tbsp.
  • 300 calories

Waffles and Banana
Got a sweet tooth? This breakfast satisfies your sweet tooth but also provides whole grains to keep your energy level stable.

  • Low-fat whole-grain waffles, 2
  • Pecans, chopped, 2 Tbsp.
  • Banana, half
  • 300 calories

Microwave Meal
Need a satisfying boost of protein in the morning?

This sandwich provides 17 grams of protein for only 250 calories. And the milk adds even more!

  • Jimmy Dean Delights  Applewood Smoke Chicken Sausage, Egg Whites & Cheese Muffin Sandwich
  • 1% milk, 4 oz.
  • 300 calories

Denny’s Breakfast On-The-Go
If you’re on the road and need to stop for a quick bite, you’re not doomed to overeat.

Denny’s has this healthier option to keep your diet on track.

  • Fit Fare Loaded Veggie Omelet (half)
  • English muffin (no butter)
  • 300 calories

Jamba Juice
If you’re on the run and need a quick drink to fill you up, you’ll find a few options at Jamba Juice to satisfy your morning hunger. But your best option is a yogurt or oatmeal bowl.

  • Strawberry Greek Yogurt Bowl
  • Water with lemon
  • 300 calories

Cereal and Berries
Many dieters love cereal, but the kind of cereal you choose makes a big difference. Be sure to pick a whole grain box to get the fiber that will help you lose weight.

Savory Breakfast Wrap
I like to make this breakfast at home when I have a little bit of time for food preparation. It takes about five minutes and always satisfies my hunger. To make it, I just layer the cheese and bacon in the tortilla and heat until the cheese melts. Then I slice the apple and put the breakfast on a plate to serve.

  • Canadian bacon, 2 slices
  • Shredded cheddar, ¼ cup.
  • Soft corn tortilla, 1
  • Apple, 1 small
  • 300 calories

Waffle Sandwich
No bread in the house? No problem! Simply make this diet-friendly breakfast sandwich with waffles.

  • Whole-grain blueberry waffles spread with:
  • Honey, 1 Tbsp.
  • Part-skim ricotta cheese, 2 Tbsp.
  • 284 calories

Coffee Shop Quick Breakfast
Some coffee shops serve oatmeal that you can order if you’re on the go. But you can also throw a packet in your purse and order a cup of hot water with your coffee. If you don’t like cappuccino, check this other list of coffee drinks that are diet-friendly.

  • Kashi apple cinnamon oatmeal, 1 packet
  • Small skim cappuccino
  • 280 calories

Berries and Cereal
This breakfast combines fiber and antioxidant-rich berries for a healthy start to your day.

  • High-fiber cereal, 1 c.
  • Mixed berries, 1 c.
  • Fat-free milk, 1 c.
  • Coffee, with a splash of fat-free milk
  • 260 calories

English Muffin and Yogurt
Go super low-calorie with this quick meal. Swap the english muffin for a waffle if you prefer.

  • Whole-grain English muffin
  • 100-calorie fruit-flavored Greek yogurt,
  • 220 calories

Toast and Bacon
Sometimes you just crave the taste of bacon. Fit it into a low calorie breakfast with this combination.

  • Reduced-calorie bread, 2 slices
  • Almond butter, 1 Tbsp.
  • Turkey bacon, 2 slices
  • 240 calories

Simple Smoothie
If you need to run out the door in a hurry, throw these items into a blender and take your healthy breakfast on-the-go.

  • Skim milk, 4 oz.
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt, 4 oz.
  • Berries, 4 oz.
  • 236 calories

Cereal with a Side of Melon
Sweet melon helps a blah breakfast seem more sophisticated.

  • Raisin Bran, 1 c.
  • 1% milk, 1 c.
  • Melon cubes, 1 c.
  • 225 calories

More Breakfast Ideas for Under 350 Calories

If you have a little more room for calories in your morning meal, try any of these ideas. These 350-calorie breakfast ideas will keep you satisfied until lunch time.

Apple & PB Bagel

  • Thomas’ Whole-grain Bagel, 1, topped with:
  • Skippy Reduced-Fat Natural Peanut Butter, 1 Tbsp.
  • Granny Smith apple, small, 1, sliced
  • 335 calories

Yummy Yogurt

  • Chobani Low-fat Greek Yogurt, ½ c., topped with:
  • Low-fat granola (without raisins), ¼ c.
  • Almonds, slivered, 1 tsp.
  • Honey, 1 Tbsp.
  • Blueberries, ½ c.
  • 300 calories

Breakfast Sandwich

  • Pepperidge Farm Whole-wheat English Muffin, 1, split in half and filled with:
  • Egg whites, 3, scrambled
  • Spinach, ½ c.
  • Alpine Lace Eeduced-fat Cheddar Cheese, 1 slice
  • Tomato, 1 slice
  • 270 calories

Doctored Up Oatmeal

  • Instant oatmeal (plain), 1 package, topped with:
  • Fat-free milk, ½ c.
  • Fuji apple, small, chopped
  • Cinnamon and brown sugar, 1 tsp.
  • Walnuts, chopped, 1 Tbsp.
  • 255 calories

Berry Good Waffles

  • Nutri-Grain Eggo Low-fat Whole-grain Waffles, 2
  • Stonyfield Farm Lowfat Plain yogurt, ¼ c.
  • Strawberries, ½ c.
  • Maple syrup, 2 tsp.
  • 246 calories

South of the Border Breakfast

  • Egg whites, 3, scrambled, topped with:
  • Black beans, rinsed and drained, ¼ c.
  • Sargento Reduced-fat Mild Cheddar, shredded, 1 oz.
  • Salsa, 2 Tbsp.
  • 191 calories

Hungry for more? Browse the full selection of breakfast foods, recipes, and ideas.

*Edited by Malia Frey, Weight Loss Expert

10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Low-Carb Diet

This diet isn’t as simple as cutting out bread and buying low-carb ice cream

A low-carb diet can be extremely effective for dropping excess fat, and studies show it may also help reduce the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Since it eliminates foods that we have a tendency to overeat (can you say bread basket?), you end up saving yourself tons of calories. And since carbs spike blood sugar, you’ll have more stabilized levels, too.

However, as with most diets, there are some common stumbling blocks you may run into when you embark upon this specialized diet that restricts certain foods. From expecting results too soon to overindulging in other macronutrients to failing to plan, some of these missteps can wreck your best intentions on a low-carb diet.

But they don’t have to! Here are 10 of the most common mistakes in low-carb eating and how to avoid them.

Eating Too Few Carbs

Low-carb dieting, while it may seem self-explanatory at first, has nuances and details that are important to keep in mind for your success. To maintain a healthy diet while going low-carb, it is crucial to ensure you’re getting a healthy amount of all the macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs).

Remember, low-carb doesn’t mean no-carb. Vegetables, both starchy and non-starchy, contain carbohydrates, as do fruits and other healthy foods that you should be eating

If you eat too few carbs at first, you may suffer a carb crash and decide low-carb isn’t for you. This is a shame when a simple adjustment or two can usually get you through the start comfortably to the great rewards at the end of it.

Over-Eating “Allowed” Foods

Because you’re keeping your carbs low (anywhere between 50 to 100 grams, depending on your exercise level), you may find yourself reaching for more of the macronutrients you don’t have to restrict, like protein and fat.

That often means overdoing it on the meat and cheese, which can not only have health risks, but can also cause weight gain as these foods contain a lot of calories.

So going low-carb isn’t a license to eat as much of these foods as you want. Rather, follow the low-carb food pyramid to find the optimal amount of macronutrients for you and let your appetite be your guide—eat when you are hungry and stop when you are comfortable.​

Skimping on Vegetables

Time and time again, people say they don’t feel good eating a diet lower in carbohydrates. And, it turns out they are eating almost no vegetables or fruit. This will not work in the long run.

The low-carb pyramid has vegetables at the base. In other words, you should be eating more of them than any other food!

Fruit, too, especially fruit low in sugar, has an important role in a complete low-carb diet. And these extremely healthy foods contain the micronutrients your body needs to function well and stay healthy—so they won’t just help your waistline. They’ll also go a long way toward preventing chronic disease.

As a rule, half your plate or more should be filled with vegetables. Follow these preparation tips to incorporate more veggies into your day.

Being Afraid of Fat

Shying away from fat is as detrimental as over-consuming it as healthy fats are a crucial component of a healthy diet. Despite the fact that the “low-fat” fad has been widely discredited and healthy fats have been shown to improve everything from high cholesterol to brain health, hardly a day goes by that you don’t see or hear a negative message about fats in the diet. This, and a desire to drop weight fast, may cause you to attempt a low-fat version of a low-carb diet.

At the beginning, you might see results if you are using up a lot of your own fat (as opposed to eating it).

However, fat loss inevitably slows down and you may then become more hungry if you don’t add some fat to your diet.

Nothing will sabotage a diet faster than hunger. So don’t let this happen to you. Have half an avocado with your eggs and dress your salads with olive oil-based dressings.

Forgetting Fiber

Eating enough vegetables and fruit goes a long way toward ensuring you are getting enough fiber in your diet, which can prevent gastrointestinal disturbances, such as constipation and bloating that people often experience when cutting out high-carbohydrate, high-fiber foods (think grains and potatoes).

Familiarize yourself with high-fiber, low-carb foods (most of them can be found in the produce aisle, so make sure you head there!), and the different types of fiber you need to be getting each day. Also, you may want to keep high-fiber flax and chia seed, as well as a low-carb bran cereal, such as All Bran, on hand in case you get backed up.

Lack of Planning

When you first start a new way of eating, you’ll undoubtedly run into old habits that need to be changed to new healthier ones. No longer can you mindlessly hit the vending machine or drive-thru. This is a good thing. Pausing to reconsider our habits is a constructive step toward making improvements in our lives.

But, in the case of eating, it’s important to plan ahead for awhile until your new habits come naturally. Nothing will sabotage your goals more quickly than realizing that you’re hungry but you don’t know what to eat, you have nothing in the fridge, or you have no time to cook.

Meal-planning before you grocery shop, as well as batch-cooking—which is picking one day of the week to make a bunch of meals that you can eat throughout the week—can be excellent tools to ensure you always have food at the ready. Also, keeping low-carb snacks on hand is a great idea.

Getting Into a Rut

There are people who eat the same things day after day and like it that way. But frankly, most of us like variety and will get bored very quickly if that is not built into the way we eat.

There are many ways to avoid low-carb boredom. There is no reason not to eat a wide variety of foods and, in fact, a varied diet is likely to be better for us nutritionally.

Every cuisine on the planet has low-carb options. You just need to skip the starch and sugar. Also, most dishes can be “de-carbed.”

Falling Prey to “Low-Carb” Packaged Foods

Be wary of low-carb ice cream, meal replacement bars, and other “treats” labeled low-carb or sugar-free. They often contain ingredients such as maltitol, which is just as bad as sugar in a lot of ways.

Maltitol is a carbohydrate that affects blood sugar. In general, products that talk about their “net carbs” or “impact carbs” deserve close scrutiny of the ingredients and careful experimentation.

Letting Carbs Lurk

You’re eating low-carb. You’re feeling great, and the weight dropping off as if by magic. You’re not hungry between meals. You have energy. You can concentrate better. Yes!

So, you think you’ll have a piece of toast. It doesn’t matter, you still feel great. You think you’ll have some low-carb ice cream—you’re still losing weight. Even a little sugar in your coffee can’t hurt, can it? Maybe not, but…

Something has sent you over your own personal carb limit. Suddenly, you’re having cravings, you’re hungrier, you’re gaining weight, and you’re in a vicious cycle that’s hard to break of eating carbs, being hungrier, and eating more carbs.​

Sometimes it happens more subtly, but it’s common to let more and more carbs creep in, sometimes unaware. If that happens, it’s time to take stock and probably start over, at least for a few days, to break that cycle.

Skipping Exercise

There is a temptation to leave exercise out when talking about low-carb diets because often people can be successful at first while staying sedentary. However, there are several reasons for talking about exercise in any diet discussion (Atkins called it “non-negotiable”):

  • Exercise lowers insulin resistance. This is probably partly why exercise alone will tend to help many people lose a few pounds.
  • Exercise is good for our bodies in so many ways.
  • While we can lose weight by diet alone, at least to some extent, we are very unlikely to be able to maintain a significant weight loss without exercise.

Does Sleep Help You Lose Weight?

Sleep has the potential to help people lose weight, but not just any sleep will do. It’s important to get an adequate amount of deep sleep every night, as it is the most restorative, providing both mental and physical recovery benefits, which supports the weight-loss journey.

Most research indicates that less than 7 hours of sleep correlates with being heavier, gaining weight, risk of disease, cancer and struggling to lose weight. Other research suggests than 6.5 hours is a sweet spot and anything more increases inflammation, depression and mortality rates (Walker, 2017). Many experts believe that a range of six to eight hours or seven to nine hours is ideal for most people.

The right amount of sleep depends on each individual’s unique physiology. Urge your clients to devote time and attention toward finding what works for them, because it could make or break their weight-loss efforts. “Take away the bedrock of sleep, or weaken it just a little, and careful eating or physical exercise become less than effective,” writes Matthew Walker, Ph.D., author of Why We Sleep.

Here are some important tips for enhancing sleep that you can pass along to your clients.

How Sleep Influences Weight Loss

Sleep is the foundation needed to support exercise and healthy eating habits. When people don’t get enough sleep, it can become more challenging to control behavior and inhibitions. They might be more likely to seek pleasure in foods and replace exercise-related activities with those that offer a “quick fix” reward, such as surfing the Internet or watching television.

Lack of sleep strengthens the desire for rewards, which usually leads to unhealthy eating. More specifically, leptin (which decreases hunger), ghrelin (which increases hunger) and endocannabinoids (which are linked to snack cravings) are hormones that regulate appetite. When sleep volume is low, these hormones stimulate a craving for carbohydrate-rich foods.

Without enough sleep, the body is essentially in a state of duress, which can lead to eating more calories to deal with the “threat” it perceives. Also, the more time spent awake, the more time there is to consume snacks.

Another hormone, cortisol, ideally spikes in the morning, providing energy for the day, and reduces at night, encouraging sleep. When sleep habits are poor and stress is high, cortisol levels remain elevated, which may inhibit weight loss and disrupt sleep. A cycle of stress and sleep disruption results. Stress affects sleep and sleep affects stress, which once again makes it challenging to implement even the most well-designed program for weight loss.

Getting enough sleep and rising at a consistent time every day supports hormones to regulate appetite and food choices. Encourage your clients to take small steps toward better sleep and be gentle with themselves. In other words, don’t let stressing about not getting enough sleep add more stress. They don’t need to (and probably cannot) fix their sleep habits overnight. Progress slowly.

Finding Your Sleep Sweet Spot

Your clients can use sleep to help them lose weight by rising within 30 minutes of the same time every day and getting into bed with the lights out at the same time each night. Urge them to experiment with eight hours of sleep per night, plus or minus 15 minutes, until they find how much sleep they truly need.

Remind your clients to be honest about how much sleep is ideal for them. Many people believe they can get by with little sleep, when they really cannot. When people get an adequate amount of quality sleep per night, they are more likely to have the energy to exercise and the motivation to make choices that align with their goals.

If your clients are having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, encourage them to try the following tactics:

  • Prioritize relaxing, stress-free evening activities that help wind you down to rest.
  • Avoid stimulating evening activities until you get into a sleep rhythm.
  • Avoid electronics and blue spectrum light exposure one hour before bed.
  • Reduce or, ideally, eliminate alcohol and caffeine.
  • Aim to finish dinner two to three hours before you get into bed.

We often take sleep for granted because it seems to “just happen” and we seem to get by without getting enough. However, research suggests that productivity increases, car accidents decrease, mental health improves and risk for disease reduces when we get the ideal amount of sleep. Urge your clients to make a commitment to increase sleep consistency, and they will not only sleep better, they will be more likely to achieve their weight-loss goals with greater ease.

Learn more about sleep and its effect on sports performance. 

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Beverly Hosford

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Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a unique method that involves a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, the NFPT blog editor, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn more about how to align your body and your business at www.BeverlyHosford.com