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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.

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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

Contributor

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

Are You Using the Right Cooking Oils?

Did you know that fats are essential nutrients that are fundamental to how the body functions? In fact, fats are integral to cell structure and also are included in hormones that control muscle contraction, immune function, blood clotting and blood pressure. Additionally, when it comes to healthy eating, there are some vitamins (A, D, E and K) that require fat to be fully absorbed and usable in the body.

The fat in nearly all foods is a mixture of fatty acids—saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. You want to choose fats that are unsaturated more often. Unsaturated fats are oils—they are plant-based and liquid at room temperatures. These types of fats are considered a better nutrition choice because of the positive effects they have on cardiovascular health.

It can be a challenge to know which oils to use when cooking. You want to make healthy choices, but you also want your food to turn out delicious. Here is a brief primer on how to choose the right oils, along with detailed descriptions of the most common oils you’re likely to use.

 The Smoke Point of Cooking Oils

When it comes to choosing an oil, it’s important to know an oil’s smoke point, which is the temperature at which heated the oil begins to produce smoke and burn. When this happens, it causes the healthy components of the oil to degrade into damaging free radicals. Because each type of oil has a different smoke point, certain oils are better for different types of cooking techniques. The higher the cooking temperature (frying, for example), the higher you want the oil’s smoke point to be to prevent it from burning.

Refined Versus Unrefined Cooking Oils

Cooking oils are extracted from plants, nuts and seeds. This extraction can be from the use of pressure (also known as cold-pressing) or processing using mechanical, thermal and/or chemical processes. The refinement of an oil can change both the flavor and the smoke point. The more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point. The less processed the oil is, the more flavorful the oil will be.

 Types of Oils

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): An unrefined and unaltered oil extracted from olives

  • Nutrition: A very high monounsaturated fat composition. Additionally, EVOO contains hydroxytyrosol, which is a phytonutrient that protects vascular health.
  • Flavor: Intense olive taste, fruitier flavor and low acid
  • Smoke Point: Low (around 325 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Use for lower-heat cooking or in baking to substitute for butter. Best in salad dressings or dips where the flavor can take center stage.

Olive Oil: Blend of EVOO (usually around 10%) combined with refined olive oil

  • Nutrition: A high monounsaturated fat composition
  • Flavor: Mild, lighter and less olive-like flavor
  • Smoke Point: Medium (ranging from 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Use it for low- to medium-temperature cooking, such as sautéing and stir-frying.

 Canola Oil: A refined oil extracted from the seed of a yellow flowering plant called a rapeseed

  • Nutrition: A high composition of both mono- and polyunsaturated fats
  • Flavor: Very light; allows the flavors of the food to shine
  • Smoke Point: Medium smoke point (around 425 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Works well for medium-temperature cooking such as sautéing and stir-frying.

Nut/Seed Oil (such as walnut or pumpkin): Unrefined oil extracted from nuts/seeds

  • Nutrition: A high composition of polyunsaturated fats. Additionally, both walnut and pumpkin oils have a high linolenic acid content, which converts to omega-3s to support heart health.
  • Flavor: A rich nutty flavor
  • Smoke Point: Very low (around 320 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Best when not cooked at all or only at very low cooking temperatures. Instead, use it to add a tasty flavor to salad dressings and marinades.

Peanut Oil: A refined oil made from peanuts

  • Nutrition: A high composition of both mono- and polyunsaturated fats
  • Flavor: A strong peanut flavor and aroma
  • Smoke Point: High (around 450 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Ideal for frying foods or making popcorn. Also, great to use when you want to give a slight peanut flavor to food.

Avocado Oil: A refined oil made from the fruit of an avocado

  • Nutrition: A very high composition of monounsaturated fats
  • Flavor: A delicate, buttery and slightly nutty flavor profile
  • Smoke Point: Very high when refined (around 520 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Versatile; can be used in both high-heat cooking or as a finishing oil on salads

Coconut Oil: A refined oil made from the meat of a coconut

  • Nutrition: A high saturated-fat ratio
  • Flavor: A slightly sweet coconut flavor
  • Smoke Point: Low to medium (around 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Cooking: Most commonly used in baked goods, but can lend a delicious coconut flavor to sautéing or stir-frying.

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about healthy eating with Nutrition for Sports, Exercise and Weight Management.

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Rebecca Lewis

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Rebecca Lewis is Registered Dietitian on a mission to change the world by empowering people to take control of their health. Her passions lie in getting people back into the kitchen, reconnecting them with fresh foods, and rebuilding their confidence to have FUN with cooking. She is a champion of nutrients and a world traveler who loves peanut butter. As a fitness enthusiast, she enjoys Crossfit, the aerial arts, running, dancing, and yoga.

21 EASY FOOD SWAPS

When it comes to weight management, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and decreasing inflammation, making small, incremental dietary changes is the way to go. Trying to make too many changes all at once can be a recipe for disaster—this can cause you to feel overwhelmed and make you want to give up. Instead, try modifying each snack and meal by swapping out one or more ingredients.

BREAKFAST

Breakfast

  1. Instead of a bacon, sausage, and cheese omelet, try a spinach, mushroom, and onion (or your choice of veggies) omelet. You’ll lose the unhealthy saturated fat and sodium and replace it with inflammation-fighting antioxidants and belly-filling fiber.
  2. Instead of a bagel and cream cheese, try a whole grain English muffin with nut butter. Lose the refined carbohydrates and empty calories and fill up on fiber, protein and healthy fats.
  3. Instead of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, try plain Greek yogurt and add fresh berries and nuts or seeds. The “fruit” on the bottom is more sugar than fruit. Reduce the sugar content by adding fresh, seasonal fruit and then top with crunchy nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc.) or seeds (chia, ground flax or hemp) for added fiber and healthy fats.
  4. Instead of toasted white bread with butter and jam, try whole grain toast with cottage cheese, cinnamon and banana slices. Replace the empty calories, fat and sugar with fiber, protein and good carbohydrates.

LUNCH

Lunch

  1. Instead of ham and cheese with mayo on white bread, try turkey, avocado and tomato on whole grain bread. Ham, cheese and mayo are full of sodium and unhealthy fats and white bread is just refined, processed carbohydrates. Go for lower sodium turkey for protein, avocado for healthy fats, and tomato and whole grain bread for fiber.
  2. Instead of a hamburger and fries, try a lettuce-wrapped grilled chicken breast sandwich with baked sweet potato. Ditch the high sodium and bad fats for lean protein and a sweet spud.
  3. Instead of egg salad made with mayo, try egg salad made with mustard and mashed avocado. Eggs are a great source of protein, but artery-clogging mayo is no way to go. Mustard adds a lot of tang and avocado is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
  4. Instead of a Cobb salad (lettuce, turkey, bacon, blue cheese, avocado and egg with creamy dressing), try a grilled vegetable salad topped with grilled wild salmon and a Dijon-balsamic vinaigrette. A Cobb salad is a saturated fat bomb! Lighten up your salad and supercharge your veggies by grilling them and add the all-important protein to keep you fuller for longer. Replace the creamy, high-calorie dressing with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil (healthy fat), which can help with digestion and absorption of vitamins.

DINNER

Dinner

  1. Instead of a steak and mashed potatoes, try wild Alaskan salmon and roasted garlic mashed cauliflower. The fat and sodium in steak and mashed potatoes makes your arteries shake with fear. Wild Alaskan salmon is filled with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fats and mashed garlic cauliflower is a delicious (and sneaky) way to consume those cancer-fighting veggies.
  2. Instead of spaghetti with meatballs, try spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs and marinara sauce. Spaghetti squash, which tricks you into thinking you’re eating pasta, is all the rage for people trying to cut carbohydrates or go Paleo, and it’s delicious. Top it with turkey for protein and lycopene-rich marinara sauce for long-lasting energy.
  3. Instead of a loaded burrito (chicken, beans, rice, cheese, sour cream and guacamole), try a burrito bowl, which is a bowl layered with brown rice, black beans, grilled chicken, pico de gallo and avocado. Lose the oversized, 200-calorie, refined, processed tortilla and eliminate the high-fat cheese, but keep the flavor with the pico de gallo (chunky salsa) and add creaminess with avocado.
  4. Instead of steak fajitas in flour tortillas, try shrimp fajitas in corn tortillas. Shrimp is a healthier protein choice than steak and corn tortillas have more nutritional value than empty-calorie flour tortillas. Just stick to two tortillas and fill up on the filling.

SNACK

Snack

  1. Instead of hummus and pita, try hummus and sliced veggies. Ditch the processed carbs from the pita and swap them out with fiber- and antioxidant-filled red peppers, carrots, and cucumbers; and pair the veggies with protein and healthy fats, found in hummus.
  2. Instead of cheese and crackers, try string cheese with an apple. String cheese is made from part-skim mozzarella cheese, which is lower in saturated fat than cheddar cheese. Pair it with a high-fiber apple (or fruit of your choice) to get long-lasting energy.
  3. Instead of a granola bar, try a homemade trail mix with raw nuts (almonds, walnuts and pistachios) and dried fruit (apricots and tart cherries). Granola bars (and most energy bars) are often candy bars in disguise, and filled with unwanted sugar. What you need is protein, healthy carbs, and good-for-you fats, which is what you get in nuts as well as high-energy dried fruit. Use about ¼ cup of each for a perfectly portioned snack.

DESSERTS/SWEETS

  1. Instead of traditional ice cream, try making ice cream in your food processor with frozen bananas and top with a few dark chocolate chips. Freeze ripe (peeled) sliced bananas and then pop them into a food processor for a creamy ice cream swap. Add some heart-healthy dark chocolate for a delicious and nutritious dessert.
  2. Instead of a slice of blueberry pie, try cooking fresh or frozen blueberries with cinnamon and topping them with plain Greek yogurt. Get the sweetness from the fruit and cinnamon (no need to add any sugar) and protein from the yogurt and enjoy a creamy, sweet and satisfying treat.
  3. Instead of chocolate pudding, make chocolate chia pudding by mixing ½ cup almond milk with 2 Tbsp. chia seeds and 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder. Stir and let sit in refrigerator for a few hours until thick. The antioxidants found in cocoa powder are good for your heart and the chia seeds give you protein, fiber, and healthy fat, which will keep you full for hours.

DRINKS

Drinks

  1. Instead of a latte, try a café Americano. There’s no need to drink your calories. Just add a splash of milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon and you should be good to go.
  2. Instead of sweetened iced tea, try iced green tea. Green tea contains the thermogenic antioxidant EGCG, but in order to reap its benefits, don’t load it down with inflammation-promoting sugar.
  3. Instead of soda, try mixing plain seltzer water with some tart cherry juice. If you like the crispness of soda but don’t want the sugar or artificial sweeteners found in diet soda, mix club soda with any dark juice (blueberry, pomegranate, tart cherry or cranberry) for a shot of flavor and a dose of antioxidants.

 

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U Rock Girl!

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Tiffani Bachus, R.D.N., and Erin Macdonald, R.D.N., are the co-founders of U Rock Girl!, a website designed to nourish the mind, body and spirit of women of all ages and stages of life. They have just authored the rockin’ breakfast cookbook, No Excuses! 50 Healthy Ways to ROCK Breakfast! available at www.URockGirl.com

5 Seasonal Foods Not to Miss This Spring

When it comes to healthy eating, seasonal foods have so many benefits to offer. Not only are these five foods available at the peak of their ripeness, giving them maximum flavor and nutrition density, but they are also at their least expensive price.

Peas

Biting into these vibrant green beauties is sure to release a juicy and sweet pop of flavor. You can incorporate peas into a quick pasta or even as part of slow-cooked risotto. And, if the spring weather is still a bit chilly, whipping up a creamy pureed pea soup is both quick and easy.

  • Did You Know? Peas are a wonderful plant-based source of protein. A 100-calorie serving has more protein than a hard-boiled egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter.
  • Nutrition Facts: Peas are a good source of both vitamin C and vitamin K.
  • Pair With: Mint, chives, tarragon and mushrooms

Asparagus

This springtime ingredient is extremely versatile and can be roasted, grilled, boiled or even sautéed. Moreover, asparagus works perfectly cooked in a breakfast quiche, used in a lunchtime Nicoise salad, or served alongside a grilled piece of salmon or steak, making it that much easier to get in the extra servings of veggies we all need.

  • Did You Know? You can enhance the glowing green color of asparagus by blanching it. To do so, bring a pot of water to a boil and add in the asparagus for 1-2 minutes (depending on thickness). Next, remove the asparagus from the boiling water and immediately place inside an ice-cold bowl of water. The result is a gorgeous green seasonal food that is as pleasing to look at as it is to eat.
  • Nutrition Facts: Asparagus is a good source of vitamin K and folate.
  • Pair with: Lemon, almonds, parmesan and garlic

Leafy Greens

One of the first indications of spring is the tender unfurling of leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, swiss chard, arugula, romaine and other lettuces.  Regardless of form, all greens are considered healthy additions to a balanced diet.

  • Did You Know? Most leafy greens taste the sweetest after a frost. Additionally, you can reduce the bitter flavor of greens by adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Nutrition Facts: Leafy greens have some of the highest concentrations of vitamins—especially A, C, and K—as well as minerals like calcium, folic acid and iron.
  • Pair With: Citrus, vinegar, nuts, and seeds

Radishes

The satisfying crispy crunch of radishes is complemented by the lovely mild pepper flavor they provide. While most people consume raw radishes, you can give them a quick pickle to turn up the flavor in tacos, or even roast them to bring out a caramelized sweetness.

  • Did You Know? Radishes grow quickly and are ready to eat just 25-30 days after planting. If you want to test your green thumb, this is an ideal food to plant.
  • Nutrition Facts: Radishes are loaded with both fiber and vitamin C.
  • Pair With: Thyme, leeks, butter, and fish

Rhubarb

The delightful mix of sweet and sour make rhubarb a great seasonal food with which to experiment. While the most common way to use rhurbarb is to bake it into a sweet dessert, you can also pickle it for use in fresh salads.

  • Did You Know? Rhubarb gets its pretty reddish pink color from a phytochemical called anthocyanin. In fact, the color of rhubarb can tell you whether the plant was grown outside or inside. Rhubarb grown outside will be a vibrant red, which also indicates more sweetness. Conversely, rhubarb grown indoors in a hothouse will have a color that tends to be pale red and a taste that is more tart.
  • Nutrition Facts: Rhubarb is a good source of vitamins K and C, as well as the mineral calcium.
  • Pair With: Strawberries, basil, honey and balsamic vinegar
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Rebecca Lewis

Contributor

Rebecca Lewis is Registered Dietitian on a mission to change the world by empowering people to take control of their health. Her passions lie in getting people back into the kitchen, reconnecting them with fresh foods, and rebuilding their confidence to have FUN with cooking. She is a champion of nutrients and a world traveler who loves peanut butter. As a fitness enthusiast, she enjoys Crossfit, the aerial arts, running, dancing, and yoga

5 Nutrient Deficiencies You Need to Know About

With a well-balanced diet, it is certainly possible for a healthy person to obtain all of the vitamins and minerals he or she needs from foods alone. Dietary supplements are not a replacement for eating healthful foods; rather, they are intended to do just what their name implies—to supplement a diet.

There are circumstances, however, in which the foods we eat may not provide all of the important nutrients that our body needs, resulting in a nutrient deficiency. Here’s a quick rundown of five nutrient deficiencies that are more common than you might think.

Vitamin D: Calcium’s Best Buddy

When it comes to nutrient deficiencies, vitamin D is arguably the most common. A large majority (some reports estimate up to 95% of the U.S. population age 19 and older) does not meet recommended vitamin D intake levels. That is probably due to the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of naturally occurring food sources of vitamin D. Furthermore, the largest source of vitamin D—fortified dairy products like milk—tend to be foods that we eat less of as we grow older.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in helping bones absorb calcium. It is found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as certain types of mushrooms. Your body forms vitamin D naturally when skin is exposed to sunlight, but most of us don’t spend much time outside, so fortified dairy products such as milk and yogurt are going to be your best food sources of vitamin D. Adults aged 19-70 should aim to get 15 micrograms of vitamin D per day. If foods don’t provide that amount, your healthcare provider may suggest a supplement.

Vitamin E: Get Yours From Foods Instead of Pills

Next up on the list of nutrients you may not be eating enough of is vitamin E. Like vitamin D, vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin, but it is found in fatty foods such nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

About 94% of adults over age 19 eat less than the estimated average requirement for vitamin E. Due to potential health risks associated with large doses of vitamin E pills, however, widespread supplementation is not routinely recommended. Instead, shift your food intake to make sure you are eating a variety of healthful fats that will help you bump up your vitamin E levels from food-based sources to meet your needs.

Make Magnesium Matter More in Your Diet

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in more than 300 enzymatic pathways in your body. It helps make proteins, controls blood sugar and blood pressure, bone health and is needed for making DNA, RNA and the antioxidant glutathione.

Despite its position of supreme importance in the body, more than 60% of adults older than 19 don’t meet the estimated average requirement for magnesium. One way you can increase your intake is to bump up your intake of dark green leafy vegetable and whole grains. Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals are also a good source of this important mineral.

Iron: This One’s for the Ladies

About 14-18% of Americans currently take a supplement containing iron; and iron supplement takers tend to be overwhelmingly female. That’s because women are at higher risk for iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia due to biological factors such as menstruation and lower intakes of high heme-iron foods, such as meat, fish and poultry.

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) states that those at high risk for insufficient iron intake include infants, young children, teenaged girls, pregnant women and premenopausal women. Animal foods such as meat, fish and poultry are good sources of the easily absorbed form of iron called heme iron.

Although plant foods contain iron, it is in the less readily absorbed non-heme iron form. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vegetarians is 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat. If you’re concerned about iron status, check with your primary care provider who can test for deficiency and anemia before recommending you start a supplement.

Vitamin A is Important for More Than Just Your Eyes

Although vitamin A deficiency is not widespread in the North American population, slightly more than 50% percent of people still do not meet the estimated average requirement for this fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin A is well known for the role it plays in vision, but it also impacts immune function, reproduction and your body’s cellular communication as well.

You can make sure you’re getting enough by consuming both preformed vitamin A (from animal foods, such as milk and eggs) and provitamin A, found in leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes and fruits. Increasing the variety of both the plant and animal foods you eat ensures you get adequate amounts of the all-important vitamin A.

Learn more about how to eat for better health with Nutrition for Sports, Exercise and Weight Management. 

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Katie Ferraro

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Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN, CDE is a consultant dietitian and diabetes educator specializing in nutrition communications and family feeding. As a mom to 5 small children and creator of the popular blog The Fortified Family, Katie believes that good food fuels strong families. You can read more of her work at www.fortifiedfam.com

10 Things to Know About Fat and Exercise

Fat is not a four-letter word, although many still consider it a dirty word when it comes to nutrition, fitness and exercise. Those who lived through the ‘90s undoubtedly remember when the food industry marketed everything as “low-fat” in the guise that it was a healthier option. While it’s true that having high levels of body fat can be a risk factor for many types of chronic diseases, dietary fat—specifically, the right kinds of fat—is an essential component of a healthy diet.

Here are 10 things to know about fat as it relates to helping create the energy your body needs for your favorite physical activities.

  1. The terms “fat” and “lipids” are used interchangeably when discussing how the body metabolizes energy. Lipids include triglycerides, which are formed by combining a glycerol with three fatty acids, fatty acids and cholesterol. The majority of lipids in food and the body are in the form of triglycerides.
  1. In the human body, fat can be stored in skeletal muscle, the liver and adipose tissue, and is used for many functions. This includes providing structure for cell membranes, insulating and protecting vital organs, regulating endocrine system function (how hormones are produced), helping transport vitamins and minerals around the body, and as a source of energy for many cellular functions. Fat provides approximately 70% of the energy for bodily functions when at rest and during low-intensity physical activity.
  1. Fat contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Because fatty-acid chains have more carbon and hydrogen relative to oxygen, they yield more energy per gram. Fats provide 9 calories of energy per gram while proteins and carbohydrates each produce 4 calories per gram.
  1. There are different types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Saturated fatty acids contain hydrogen on the carbon bonds. Because the body can produce these fats on its own, there are no dietary requirements for the consumption of saturated fats. Unsaturated fats contain double carbon bonds with fewer hydrogen molecules. Fatty acids with one double carbon bond are called monounsaturated, while fatty acids with two or more carbon bonds are polyunsaturated.
  1. Saturated fats tend to be solid when at room temperature and can be found in animal, dairy and packaged food products in addition to coconut and palm kernel oils. A diet high in saturated fats could be a risk factor for heart disease.
  1. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats include the essential (meaning they must be consumed in the diet) omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of cold water fish and omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in soybean, corn and safflower oils (and foods made with those oils). Monounsaturated fats are found in olive, peanut and canola oils. Other foods that contain poly- and monounsaturated fats include avocados, flax and chia seeds, and almonds.
  1. Lipolysis is the breakdown of triglycerides into a glycerol and three fatty acids for the purpose of producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the chemical that fuels muscle activity. When the body needs energy for physical activity, the sympathetic hormone norepinephrine acts with receptor cells in adipose tissue to release the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which breaks up triglycerides into the free fatty acids used by the mitochondria during a process called beta oxidation. The result is that the three fatty acids and one glycerol of a single triglyceride can produce 457 molecules of ATP. By comparison, glycolysis (the conversion of glycogen to ATP) yields 36 ATP molecules per one unit of glucose. Lipolysis is a slower process, which explains why it is the dominant source of energy during periods of rest or low-intensity physical activities. Glycolysis creates ATP more quickly, which makes it the “go-to” choice for ATP during moderate- to high-intensity physical activities. High-intensity interval training can burn more calories, while low- to moderate-intensity steady-state exercise can help improve aerobic capacity.
  1. The myth of the fat-burning zone is not really a myth—lipolysis requires oxygen, which is readily available during lower-intensity physical activities. Muscles use primarily fat as the source of ATP during low-intensity activity; however, as the intensity of exercise increases, the demand for energy is greater and the working muscles will need ATP more quickly than lipolysis can provide. While muscles relying on lipolysis for energy are using fat, the overall energy consumption is relatively low. In other words, working at an intensity at which lipolysis is the primary source of ATP will not burn that many total calories.
  1. Stress can increase body fat. During periods of stress, or in reaction to certain drinks that elevate the sympathetic hormones of cortisol and norepinephrine, the body releases more triglycerides into the blood stream to be used for energy for the working muscles. However, if there is no significant physical activity to use that energy, those triglycerides will be returned to the adipose tissue for storage until they are needed.
  1. Trans fat is made when an unsaturated fat, which is normally liquid at room temperature, is hydrogenated (adding hydrogens) so that it turns into a solid. This manufacturing process increases the shelf life of a food product, which is why many packaged foods can be high in trans fats. However, because it changes the chemical structure of fat, trans fats have been linked to heart disease and elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

The food consumed in the daily diet should provide adequate levels of protein, which is used to repair damaged muscle fibers and produce new tissues, and carbohydrate and fat, which fuel cellular functions. One of the most important functions of fat in the diet is to provide a source of energy for a number of bodily functions, including muscle contractions for physical activity. Don’t think of fat as something bad that should be avoided; rather, think of it as an important source of energy for the body.

A healthy diet should contain adequate amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, with only limited amounts of saturated and trans fats. Let’s all agree to leave the “low-fat” nonsense in the past where it belongs, and appreciate the role of fat that it plays in supporting our favorite types of exercise.

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Pete McCall

Health and Fitness Expert

Pete McCall, MS, CSCS, is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and long-time player in the fitness industry. He has been featured as an expert in the Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Runner’s World and Self. He holds a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, and several advanced certifications and specializations with NSCA and NASM.