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5 Plant-Based Foods That Help Promote Weight Loss

by The Nutrition Twins
on

A growing body of research confirms the benefits of eating more plant-based meals. While many people assume that “plant-based” refers to eating no animal products whatsoever, it actually means focusing heavily on eating food from plants, such as vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits, while limiting (or eliminating) animal products. Plant-based meals are nearly always less expensive than animal-based meals, they’re better for the environment, and are typically better for your health and your waistline as well.

Here are five superstar plant-based foods that rock when it comes to weight loss—and that you should include in your diet regardless of whether or not your diet is plant-based:

beans

Beans

Packed with fiber and protein, beans are known to be good for your heart, but they’re also ultra-satisfying, so they help to curb your intake (and calories) at mealtime. They can even help prevent overeating at the next meal and at snack time. In fact, a study published in Food and Nutrition Research found that people who ate a meal in which beans were the source of protein consumed 12% fewer calories at their next meal, thanks to the satiety created by the bean. Similarly, an Australian study showed that eating 3.5 ounces of chickpeas daily resulted in consuming less of all foods, including grains and processed snacks.

A few recipes to try:

cabbage

Cabbage

Nearly all vegetables are a dieter’s dream come true, especially non-starchy, fiber-packed vegetables, which are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, water and fiber. Cabbage is 92 percent water, so it fills you up with water and fiber and virtually no calories (17 calories per cup). Munch on it if you want a crunchy snack that you can eat without worry about it negatively impacting your waistline.

Here’s a great way to save calories: Replace just one cup of spaghetti and meatballs (or Chinese beef and fried rice or chicken pot pie) on your plate (most people eat 2–3 cups at a sitting) by mixing in cabbage. Do this daily and you’ll get a delicious flavor and wonderful texture, and you may also lose an extra pound or two.

Try these ways to enjoy cabbage:

  • Sliced and use on a salad instead of (or in combination with) lettuce
  • Mixed into a stir-fry
  • Steamed and used as the outside of a dumpling
  • Used as a wrap instead of traditional bread

bell-peppers

Bell Peppers

Our weight-loss clients often tell us they crave a sweet, crunchy snack that won’t pack on the pounds. We recommend bell peppers to satisfy this craving. Fiber-packed bell peppers fill your stomach with fiber rather than calories, as one medium bell pepper has only 24 calories and can help limit your intake of high-calorie foods and prevent you from overeating. And crunch away—if you get enough fiber (women need 25 grams daily; men need 38 grams), research shows you actually will absorb as much as 90 fewer calories a day. Plus, 1 cup of sliced peppers provides a whopping 190% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C, a nutrient that counteracts the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers fat storage around the midsection.

Here are some tasty ways to consume more bell peppers:

  • Tossed into your morning omelet
  • Chopped and added to sandwiches, salads, tacos, burritos and wraps
  • Combined in a Tex-Mex bean dip or salsa
  • Dipped into hummus or guacamole

sweet-potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Most people who are trying to lose weight swear off all potatoes, including sweet potatoes. But sweet potatoes actually work beautifully when it comes to weight loss because they feel decadent and are an original comfort food. They also help fuel your brain and body with wholesome carbohydrates, and will cut your cravings for other calorie-dense carbohydrates like pasta and sugar. And, thanks to their fiber and dense, creamy texture, they’ll keep you feeling satisfied even though a 5-ounce sweet potato with skin is only 100 calories.

As if that weren’t enough, sweet potatoes also are rich in vitamin C and two very potent antioxidants—carotenoids and sporamins, which fight everything from aging to numerous diseases.

lemons

Lemons

A squirt of lemon contains just a few calories, yet it works miracles when it comes to flavoring food. Simply spritz lemon and drastically cut back on the salt and fat in most dishes and your taste buds won’t miss a thing and your waistline will be spared. Squeeze a little lemon juice on fish or steamed veggies instead of a caloric marinade or butter. You can also use it on salad instead of dressing, on rice instead of creamy sauces, or on any other dish you’d like, and save hundreds of calories over the course of the day. Add lemon to water and watch your water consumption soar. When you’re even mildly dehydrated, all body functions suffer and you feel tired, making exercise a struggle. But if you can drink adequate water thanks to the lemon infusion, you may have a much easier time burning calories and losing weight from exercise.

Lemon health bonus: Lemon is rich in vitamin C; spritz it over spinach, chicken or another iron-rich food and you’ll enhance your absorption of the iron.

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.

Breaking Down Fitness Myths

ACE Healthy Living

  by Dr. Erin Nitschke on January 18, 2018

There’s no shortage of information sources in the world today. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we literally have countless resources at our fingertips. On the flip side, the available information isn’t always credible or reliable. This is particularly true when it comes to health, nutrition and fitness “advice.”

It takes little effort to discover a “source” whose author took creative liberties with the science of exercise and offered an interpretation that ultimately sends the well-intended reader down a path of bewilderment. Fitness myths typically start with a grain of misunderstanding and spiral into “how to” guidance with wildly questionable rationales and unfounded claims. Here are a few of the most popular myths those of us in the health and fitness industry battle to bust:

crunches-six-pack

The Fitness Myth: Abdominal crunches will give you a six-pack.

The Fit Truth

As a health and fitness professional, I consistently advocate for building a strong core using a variety of techniques beyond the common abdominal crunch. Core work, including abdominal crunches, is a highly effective method for increasing muscular endurance, strength, spine stabilization and posture. However, countless abdominal crunches will not necessarily reveal the “six-pack” look. Obtaining that chiseled midsection takes more than perpetual toe touches. To flatten the stomach, one must work to achieve a favorable change in body composition (reduce fat and build muscle). This is accomplished through a strategic combination of cardiovascular activity, resistance and core training (to increase resting metabolic rate and strength), which are all supported by healthy and balanced eating habits.

women-weightlifting-bulky

The Fitness Myth: If women weightlift, they will get “bulky.”

The Fit Truth

Nothing could be further from the truth. Women can and should lift weights (heavy ones) without the fear of becoming anything more than healthy, toned and strong. Note that these characteristics are not synonymous with “bulky.” One of the fundamental ingredients for muscle growth is testosterone, which is a hormone found in high concentrations in men, but not so much in women (women do have testosterone, but not in the levels present in men). While some females are predisposed to developing significant muscle tone and size, this is not the case for all. Women lack the chemical make-up required to “bulk up” without extreme training volumes, strict dieting habits and possible supplementation. Fortunately, more and more women are getting the message and dropping the light weights.

resistance-training-muscle

The Fitness Myth: If resistance training stops, muscle will turn to fat.  

The Fit Truth

The first thing you need to know is lean tissue (muscle) and non-lean tissue (adipose/fat) are entirely separate materials with different biochemical structures, metabolic rates and functions. If an individual (this is true for men and women) stops lifting weights and adopts a sedentary lifestyle, lean tissue will atrophy (weaken) and reduce in size. Muscle will not and cannot turn to fat. However, the resting metabolic rate will slow as a result of decreased muscle mass, because muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue.

fat-burning-zone-weight

The Fit Myth: Working out in the “fat-burning zone” helps you lose weight.

The Fit Truth

This is one I like to consider a “half-truth.” Yes, a “fat-burning zone” does exist—it’s the point at which lipids are being used as the primary source of fuel. Lipids are generally utilized at rest (including sleep) and during very low-intensity activities. While that part might be true, fewer calories are burned during lower-intensity activities. In fact, the number of calories burned in this “zone” is too low to initiate (or maintain) weight loss. If the goal is weight loss, a higher-intensity activity is desirable. The overall goal should be to increase the heart rate and burn off a significant number of calories.

Remember, successful weight loss strategies are a marriage between physical activity, sound nutrition, hormonal balance and positive changes in lifestyle habits.

stretching-workout

The Fit Myth: Stretching before a workout is beneficial.

The Fit Truth

This is also a “yes and no” type of statement. Health and fitness professionals advocate for warm-up and cool-down periods for good reasons. First, a warm-up prepares the body to meet the demands of a workout. A warm-up does this by increasing muscle temperature and heart rate, releasing specific hormones, getting you mentally “fired up,” and improving range of motion. However, static stretching should be performed at the end of the workout during the cool-down portion. The most effective type of stretching before a workout is a dynamic series of exercises. This type of stretching involves the whole body, large muscles and multiple joints. The goal is to activate the muscles you will use during the workout. Static stretching, on the other hand, is focused on elongation and relaxation (generally). You don’t want to enter a workout in a relaxed and stretched state—chances are you will reduce force output and your workout won’t have the same quality or effectiveness as if you were to save the static hold for the end.

Fitness myths have always and will likely continue to plague the industry and confuse even the most committed fitness fans. As you search for answers to your fitness questions, visit reputable websites and authorities such as ACE. The bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Be sure the author’s credentials and scientific evidence back up the information you find before taking it as truth.

 

Author

Dr. Erin Nitschke

Contributor

Dr. Erin Nitschke, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist & NSCA-CPT, is a Health & Human Performance college educator and fitness blogger. She has over 14 years of experience in personal training, education, and instructional design. To Erin, being fit means finding an equilibrium between all dimensions of wellness. Erin is personally and professionally dedicated to teaching students and clients how to achieve such balance through learning and focused skill development.

 

3 Secrets to Burning Fat Effectively

Tips for Getting Your Workout Balance Correct

By Paul Rogers | Reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD Updated December 31, 2017

Burning fat is key to weight loss, body shaping, and improved health or athletic performance. Whether trimming the waistline, smoothing the love handles or losing the cellulite, we all know we should do it but rarely do it right.

The solution lies largely in our understanding of human physiology and what is needed to achieve that “sweet spot” where we burn more fat than we consume.

Why Dieting Doesn’t Work

It is all about energy in and energy out.

The body is a system of which fat is a part. You need to work within that system to understand the role that fat plays and why it can sometimes accumulate excessively.

The body normally burns fat and a mixture of carbohydrates, in the form of glucose, for fuel. The level by which these fuels are consumed is based largely on your physical activity and the number of fats and carbohydrates you consume. When you are at rest, the body will store these fuels for future use. When you are active, the body will turn to these reserves for fuel.

The problem arises when you take in more energy through food than you consume through exercise. Often within a short period of time, the fat and glucose can accumulate to a point where you not only gain weight but begin to develop glucose intolerance.

When this happens, people will often make the mistake of cutting out all carbohydrates and all fats, assuming that the body will burn off the reserves on its own.

The problem with this is that, by starving yourself, your body will start breaking down its own tissues to keep the system going. This means that whenever the glucose reserves are used up, the body will start breaking down the proteins in muscles to create new glucose molecules to keep itself going.

In essence, the body will be eating itself up. And, while some fat loss will be achieved, it will mostly at the expense of lost lean muscle mass.

It is only by combining a well-balanced diet with exercise that you can burn those fat reserves while providing your muscles the proteins needed to remain strong.

Finding Your Fat Burning Zone

Once you hit upon the correct diet (consisting of quality proteins and a reasonable amount of fat and carbs), you will need to structure an exercise program with right intensity and time to achieve the ideal fat burning zone.

The fat burning zone can differ from person to person. Generally speaking, it implies a slower pace over a longer period of time (90 minutes or more). But this is not always the case.

Even at a faster pace, you will burn some fat, albeit less than you would glucose. This may be appropriate if you are a seasoned athlete who needs to shed a few pounds. If, on the other hand, you are less fit and have considerably more weight to lose, your ideal fat burning zone would involve a slow and steady approach.

To illustrate the difference:

  • Walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes burns 180 overall of which 108 constitute fat (40 percent glucose and 60 percent fat).
  • Running on a treadmill for 30 minutes burns 400 calories of which 120 constitute fat (60 percent glucose and 40 percent fat).

Why Weight Training Is Needed to Burn Fat

There is another maxim to remember when trying to trim those extra inches: more muscle burns more fat. What this means is that, if you are able to achieve the right intake of protein and exert the right amount of effort to build muscle, all that is really left to burn is glucose and fat.

This would require you to incorporate exercises that build muscle rather than just sweat. While step and spin classes are great ways to burn fat, they cannot do it as effectively on their own, particularly around the waist, trunk, and upper body.

For this, you would need to combine a cardio workout with a structured weight training program.

Why? Because lifting weights moves you quickly into a high-intensity zone, albeit for shorter bursts. While working on a treadmill, cycle, or row machine can burn a lot of calories, if your goal is to burn fat, you need to address your muscle-fat ratio.

What this means is that you need to build more muscle in relation to your body fat. If you don’t, you may lose weight but fail to achieve the tone needed to refine the waist, hips, buttocks, thighs, legs, and upper body.

Summing Up

The practical approach to burning fat (as opposed to shedding a few pounds) relies on three basic tenets, whether you are new to training or an experienced athlete:

  • Increase muscle with weight training. Extra muscle burns more energy both during activity (the active metabolic rate) and at rest (the resting metabolic rate). Cardio alone usually can’t accomplish this, and dieting definitely won’t.
  • Lift heavier weights. This means finding weights that allow you to complete eight to 12 reps with enough effort to be challenging but not too much as to lose form. If you are able to manage 15 to 20 repetitions, you won’t build muscles and would be better served doing just cardio.
  • Incorporate higher intensity cardio. High-intensity exercise, even if only in short bursts, may help rev up the metabolism quickly, particularly at the start of a workout. But don’t overdo it. Keep the intensity within your recommended maximum heart rate, and remember that fat burning requires the right amount of intensity and time.

8 Things that Slow Down Your Metabolism

Slowing Down Metabolism

How many times have you thought to yourself, “I can’t lose weight because my metabolism is slow.” Over the past two decades as nutritionists, we’ve heard that time and again from our clients. How do you know if your metabolism is actually slow? Can it be fixed? And is the problem really your metabolism?

Simply put, metabolism is the way your body converts the food and drink you consume for energy, and is usually measured in calories. We can determine how many calories your body burns each day by plugging information into a variety of formulas that have been designed to measure this. Click here to access the formulas and see what you get. As there is no single calculation that is considered the best, we recommend that you do all of the formulas, which will give you a range in which your metabolism may fall. A more accurate way is to have your metabolism measured through indirect calorimetry, which uses a machine to measure oxygen consumption. In less than 10 minutes you can know your resting metabolic rate (RMR).

Metabolism is a complex process that’s affected by more than just what you eat and how much you exercise. There are a number of factors that might be sabotaging your metabolism, and you might not even know it.

1. INCONSISTENT MEAL TIMES

Inconsistent meal times

When your meals times come at regularly spaced intervals, your body uses up the calories for fuel and burns more calories in between meals. If your eating pattern is erratic, your body gets confused and isn’t quite sure when the next meal is coming, so it goes into conservation mode. Calorie burn is reduced and more food is put into storage (fat cells and glycogen stores).

2. GETTING TOO LITTLE SLEEP

Numerous studies have shown that sleep is a key factor in gaining and losing weight. When you do not get enough sleep, hormones that control hunger and fullness go haywire. Too much ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and too little leptin (the fullness hormone) get produced, which leaves you feeling hungry all day and you lose the ability to know when you are full. Plus, more cortisol gets produced, which increases cravings for starchy, sugary and fatty foods. Recent studies on chronic sleep deprivation suggest that the calories you eat are burned less efficiently. Aim for 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

3. NOT EATING ENOUGH

Not Eating Enough

If you are “dieting” to lose weight, eating too few calories can actually backfire and keep you from achieving your goal. Yes, creating a calorie deficit will help you lose weight, but there is a point in each individual that cutting calories too low will put the body into starvation mode and slow down metabolism to keep you alive. Make sure you get enough calories and a balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) to keep your metabolism from crashing. Read more about macros here.

4. SKIPPING OUT ON STRENGTH TRAINING

Most people make the mistake of only doing cardio (aerobic) exercise because it burns a good amount of calories while it’s being done. But after the exercise is over, calorie burn returns to resting levels. Strength training is a key component of metabolism because it is directly linked to muscle mass. The more active muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolic rate. Whether you lift weights, use resistance bands or use your own body weight for resistance, resistance creates microtears in the muscle tissue. As your body repairs these tears, muscle tissue grows and requires more calories to stay alive. One of the best ways to strength train to get the best response from your muscle is to focus on the eccentric (or lowering) portion of any move. Eccentric moves are more muscularly damaging and require more effort to repair than concentric movements (the lifting portion of a move), and thus increase metabolism more. So, slow down when you strength train to increase your metabolism.

5. SITTING TOO MUCH

Sitting Too Much

If you exercise an hour a day, but spend the other 23 hours sitting or lying down, your metabolism will slow down. Sitting for longer than 20 minutes can put your body into a more relaxed, non-energy-burning state. If your job keeps you chained to a desk or behind the wheel, get up once an hour to move around for a few minutes. Periodically moving is shown to help decrease triglycerides, blood sugar, waistlines and cholesterol as well as cause a small spike in metabolism.

6. WHAT YOU DRINK

Consider this tip a two-for-one: Drinking too little water leads to dehydration, which can cause you to burn up to 2% fewer calories. All your body’s cellular functions require water, so sip it often. Drinking ice cold water can increase your metabolism by a few calories as your body heats the water to body temperature. Aim for at least 2 liters of water a day; drink more during hot and humid weather and when you sweat. At the other extreme, too much alcohol can impact your metabolism because excessive alcohol causes your liver to focus on breaking down alcohol molecules instead of burning fat. Plus, the calories from alcohol can add up quickly and impact weight.

7. YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH CALCIUM

The mineral best known for building strong bones plays a key role in fat metabolism, which determines whether you burn calories or store them as fat. Some of the best dietary sources of calcium come from dairy—organic milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese—which also benefit muscles because they contain whey and casein, proteins that help to build muscle and prevent muscle breakdown. Research from McMaster University showed that women who consumed more dairy lost more fat and gained more muscle mass than those who consumed less.

8. STRESS

Stress

We’ve saved the best for last. Stress is probably the number-one factor impacting metabolism. It increases the production of cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite and makes us reach for comfort foods. It can decrease our desire for exercise, even though exercise is a powerful stress-buster. Stress slows digestion, causing a lower need to metabolize calories. Plus, stress can impact both the quality of sleep and number hours we sleep, which, as described earlier, can decrease metabolism and promote weight gain

Post Author

Author

Tiffani Bachus

Contributor

Tiffani Bachus, RDN, is a wellness professional dedicated to helping her clients develop a healthy balanced lifestyle. An accomplished fitness competitor and dancer, Tiffani won Fitness America and Arizona Dancing With The Stars and has graced the covers of numerous fitness health magazines including Oxygen Magazine. She has been featured as a fitness expert on Channels 3 and 15 in Arizona and is a columnist for Oxygen and Clean Eating Magazines. Tiffani co-authored the book, No Excuses! 50 Ways to ROCK Breakfast featuring 50 healthy clean eating breakfast recipes. Tiffani is also a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor.

50 Ways to Cut Calories

by Len Kravitz, PhD on Dec 13, 2017

Review research about why diets and dieters continue to fail, and learn how small changes can lead to big results.

For the first time ever, overeating is a larger problem than starvation among the world’s overall population (Buchanan & Sheffield 2017). Losing weight—and, perhaps more importantly, not regaining it—is a challenge facing millions of people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global obesity rates have nearly tripled since 1975. Further, 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight in 2016. Of these people, more than 650 million were obese (WHO 2017). In 2013, the American Medical Association House of Delegates declared obesity a “disease” requiring treatment because of the multiple medical, functional and psychological complications associated with it.

There are numerous “remedies” for being overweight or obese. People buy the newest weight loss books, cut out sugar, eat low-fat and/or low-carb diets, and try the latest quick-fix weight loss products or programs. Yet none of these “solutions” has resolved the obesity epidemic.

This article presents an energy balance update and contemporary understandings of why diets don’t work and why people are missing the mark. Fitness professionals can use the 50 easy-to-implement calorie-cutting ideas presented, along with information about the evidence-based small-steps approach, to help clients start off the New Year with a personalized, realistic and long-lasting healthy eating plan.

Why Do Diets Fail?

Dieting can be defined as a deliberate attempt to restrict food consumption and achieve (or maintain) a desired body weight (Buchanan & Sheffield 2017). The inherent message in many diet plans is that certain foods or food groups are making us fat, and we must largely or completely avoid them. Although numerous plans claim to be medically sound, the associated long-term, health-related benefits are incomplete, and the restrictive nature of these plans makes them difficult to follow and maintain. However, the diet industry continues to be focused on which foods we should eat. While this appears to be a successful sales and marketing approach, it doesn’t educate people about the negative effects of consuming large quantities of food and sugary drinks, a primary factor in ongoing global weight gain. The fact is, “The development of obesity by necessity requires positive energy imbalance over and above that required for normal growth and development” (Hall et al. 2012). There’s no way of getting around it—a person who eats and drinks too much is going to gain weight, and a person who seeks to lose weight must limit calorie intake.

What Do We Know About Dieters?

After decades of research investigating “the battle of the diets,” a new line of study is examining the psychosocial factors linked to successful and unsuccessful dieters (Buchanan and Sheffield 2017). Recent findings submit that a key factor in dietary success is adherence to the diet. Successful dieters have resilient adherence; how or why they develop this commanding capacity is yet to be determined.

This pioneering research also indicates that people who fail at dieting often adopt an “all-or-nothing” approach, thinking in a dichotomous way (i.e., their thoughts go in two directions) (Buchanan & Sheffield 2017). By contrast, those who are successful tend to think about dieting as a process in a continuum of changes. Personal trainers who work with dichotomous-thinking clients should acknowledge small weight management victories and openly discuss lapses in an effort to teach clients that successful weight management includes ups and downs. The research by Buchanan and Sheffield offers other insightful findings that can be helpful in client interactions (see the sidebar “Research Findings on Why Dieters Fail”).

Revisiting the Three Components of Energy Balance

Consumption of fat, protein and carbohydrate not only provides energy for daily living but also determines a person’s weight. A lean adult stores about 130,000 kilocalories of fat and may have ~35 billion adipocytes (fat cells), while an extremely obese individual can store ~1 million kcal of fat and may have ~140 billion adipocytes (Hall et al. 2012). Fat is stored primarily in the form of triglycerides.

Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen, which is bound to water, in the liver and muscle. Changes in carbohydrate storage often result in sizable shifts in fluid storage. The more carbohydrates are eaten and stored, the more fluid the body retains. Fat, by contrast, does not need any water to bind with it for storage in the body, and protein needs very little water. Therefore, a person who eats a higher percentage of carbohydrate (not necessarily more calories) will retain more water, thus increasing total body weight.

As little as 2%–10% of total food intake becomes waste and is excreted. The rest is absorbed and oxidized for energy, including growth, physical activity, cell maintenance, pregnancy and lactation, and other biological life processes. These physiological processes are fueled by the energy harnessed from fat (9 kcal/gram), carbohydrate (4 kcal/g) and protein (4 kcal/g). Some foods, depending on the type of fiber content they have, are not digestible and are thus not absorbed and used by the body (Hall et al. 2012).

Hall et al. explain that common energy balance components of interest in weight management include resting energy expenditure (REE), thermic effect of food (TEF) and activity energy expenditure (AEE). REE is the energy needed throughout the day to stay alive and does not include energy used for exercise. It represents two-thirds of the body’s energy needs and can vary widely between people, primarily according to body size (the greater the body mass area, the greater the REE needed to stay alive) and body composition (muscle versus fat). Resistance training, when performed regularly, directly affects muscle mass and may influence (i.e., increase) a person’s REE. The heart, brain, liver and kidney, which weigh relatively minor amounts, demand substantial energy for life and contribute pointedly to the body’s total REE. Interestingly, scientists believe that approximately 250 kcal/day of REE are not fully accounted for by differences or variabilities between people.

TEF is linked to food processing and digestion. Owing to its dietary composition, protein elicits the highest TEF, followed by carbohydrate and then fat. TEF varies between individuals. AEE is the fuel used by the body via structured exercise and nonexercise movement (such as moving, shopping and completing daily chores). This is the factor with the greatest observable range, as many people move a lot during their waking day and exercise regularly, while others don’t move much at all (Hall et al. 2012).

The Small-Changes Approach to Combating Obesity

The small-changes approach was originally designed to support small lifestyle changes and prevent gradual weight gain (Hill 2009). It has evolved to be a wide-ranging strategy that incorporates minor changes in diet and physical activity to combat overweight and obesity. The concept is that small changes, such as cutting calories or making food substitutions, are much easier to implement and maintain than many traditional dietary interventions.

Figure 2

Four Reasons Why the Small-Changes Strategy May Work

A 17-member task force from the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists and the International Food Information Council evaluated the efficacy of the small changes obesity intervention. According to Hill, there are four major reasons why this approach may succeed:

  1. Small changes are more realistic to achieve and maintain than large ones. From years of research and observation, the committee concurred that large behavioral and lifestyle changes are the most difficult to sustain. However, small changes—such as simple food substitutions (i.e., replacing a 12-ounce regular soda with a glass of water with lime)—are quite doable and maintainable.
  2. Even small changes influence body weight regulation. Hill contends that most people in the United States gradually gain weight over time. He explains that a slight increase in energy intake (diet) combined with a slight reduction in energy output (exercise and physical activity) can be enough to create an “energy gap” of 100 kcal/day, with a stored body fat efficiency of about 50 kcal/day. Thus, as a mean average, countless people are gaining about 2 pounds (or more) of fat per year (Hill 2009).
  3. Small, successful lifestyle changes improve self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a person’s own sense of being capable of performing in a certain manner (in this case, making small lifestyle changes) to attain certain goals (in this case, losing weight and preventing weight regain) (see Figure 2). The task force suggests that positive changes in self-efficacy may motivate people to greater weight loss progress.
  4. The small-changes approach may be applied to environmental forces. Through triumphant marketing campaigns, business entities such as restaurants, food industries and fast-food establishments have created environmental cues that encourage excessive food intake. It is hoped that the small-changes approach can successfully restrain these environmental forces (see the sidebar “The Balance Calories Initiative” for one example).

The NEAT Approach: More Moving, Less Dieting

In 2005, James Levine and colleagues introduced the concept of nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), initiating a new line of research that has investigated the role of daily posture changes—standing, walking and moving—in combating weight gain and obesity. Levine and his team explained that NEAT comprises the energy expenditure of all nonplanned physical activities/exercises. They determined that in men and women who don’t exercise but who actively move during the day, NEAT contributes an additional 350 kcal of energy expenditure per day. Since the introduction of NEAT in 2005, scientists have sought to identify an optimal dose to recommend. (See “A Smart Way to Move” in the September 2017 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal to learn more about NEAT.)

Positive Lifestyle Changes

“Obesity is preventable” (WHO 2017). This is a crucial message for fitness professionals to convey to clients, along with the mindset that healthy eating is a habit, not a diet. With diligence and dedication, fitness professionals are leading the way to creating a healthier society. Encourage small changes to pave the way for big winning moments, one client at a time.

References

Alliance for a Healthier Generation. 2016. Alliance for a healthier generation and American beverage association issue first progress report on reducing beverage calories. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017: healthiergeneration.org/news__events/2016/11/22/1646/alliance_for_a_healthier_generation_and_american_beverage_association_ issue_first_progress_report_on_reducing_beverage_calories.

American Medical Association House of Delegates. 2013. Recognition of obesity as a disease. Resolution 420 (A-13), 2013. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017: npr.org/documents/2013/jun/ama-resolution-obesity.pdf.

Buchanan, K., & Sheffield, J. 2017. Why do diets fail? An exploration of dieters’ experiences using thematic analysis. Journal of Health Psychology, 22 (7), 906–15.

Hall, K.D., et al. 2012. Energy balance and its components: Implications for body weight. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95, 989–94.

Hill, J.O. 2009. Can a small-changes approach help address the obesity epidemic? A report of the Joint Task Force on the American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89, 477–84.

Levine, J.A., et al. 2005. Interindividual variation in posture allocation: Possible role in human obesity. Science, 307, 584–86.

WHO (World Health Organization). 2017. Obesity and overweight. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017. who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/.

Young, L R. 2005. The Portion Teller. New York: Morgan Road Books.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 15, Issue 1

How Many Steps Are in a Mile?

Your steps per mile depend on your stride length

What Really Causes Muscle Spasms and Cramps?

Research helps explain the cause and best treatment of muscle spasms and cramps

 

 

 

If you’ve ever had muscle spasms or muscle cramps, you know they can be extremely painful. In some cases, a muscle may spasm so forcefully that it results in a bruise on the skin. Most muscle spasms and cramps are involuntary contractions of a muscle. A serious muscle spasm doesn’t release on its own and requires manual stretching to help relax and lengthen the shortened muscle. Spasms and cramps can be mild or extremely painful.

While they can happen to any skeletal muscle, they are most common in the legs and feet and muscles that cross two joints (the calf muscle, for example). Cramps can involve part of a muscle or all the muscles in a group. The most commonly affected muscle groups are:

  • Back of lower leg/calf (gastrocnemius).
  • Back of thigh (hamstrings).
  • Front of thigh (quadriceps).
  • Feet, hands, arms, abdomen

Muscle cramps range in intensity from a slight twitch or tic to severe pain. A cramped muscle can feel rock-hard and last a few seconds to several minutes or longer. It is not uncommon for cramps to ease up and then return several times before they go away entirely.

What Causes Muscle Cramps

The exact cause of muscle cramps is still unknown, but the theories most commonly cited include:

Other factors that have been associated with muscle cramps include exercising in extreme heat.

Push-ups fitness woman doing pushups outside on beach. Fit female sport model girl training crossfit outdoors. Mixed race Asian Caucasian athlete in her 20s.

The belief is that muscle cramps are more common during exercise in the heat because sweat contains fluids as well as electrolyte (salt, potassium, magnesium and calcium). When these nutrients fall to certain levels, the incidence of muscle spasms increases. Because athletes are more likely to get cramps in the preseason, near the end of (or the night after) intense or prolonged exercise, some feel that a lack of conditioning results in cramps.

Research Supports Altered Neuromuscular Control as the Cause of Cramps

While all these theories are being studied, researchers are finding more evidence that the “altered neuromuscular control” hypothesis is the principal pathophysiological mechanism the leads to exercise-associated muscle cramping (EAMC). Altered neuromuscular control is often related to muscle fatigue and results in a disruption of muscle coordination and control.

According to a review of the literature conducted by Martin Schwellnus from the University of Cape Town, the evidence supporting both the “electrolyte depletion” and “dehydration” hypotheses as the cause of muscle cramps is not convincing. He reviewed the available literature supporting these theories and found mostly anecdotal clinical observations and one small case-control study with only 10 subjects. He also found another four clinical prospective cohort studies that clearly did not support the “electrolyte depletion” and “dehydration” hypotheses as the cause of muscle cramps. In his review, Schwellnus concludes that the “electrolyte depletion” and “dehydration” hypotheses do not offer plausible pathophysiological mechanisms with supporting scientific evidence that could adequately explain the clinical presentation and management of exercise-associated muscle cramping.

He goes on to write:

“Scientific evidence for the “altered neuromuscular control” hypothesis is based on evidence from research studies in human models of muscle cramping, epidemiological studies in cramping athletes, and animal experimental data. Whilst it is clear that further evidence to support the “altered neuromuscular control” hypothesis is also required, research data are accumulating that support this as the principal pathophysiological mechanism for the aetiology of exercise-associated muscle cramping (EAMC).”

Treating Muscle Cramps

Cramps usually go away on their own without treatment, but these tips appear to help speed the healing process:

Preventing Muscle Cramps

Until we learn the exact cause of muscle cramps, it will be difficult to say with any confidence how to prevent them. However, these tips are most recommended by experts and athletes alike:

Most muscle cramps are not serious. If your muscle cramps are severe, frequent, constant or of concern, see your doctor.

Sources:

Cause of Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC) – altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion? M. P. Schwellnus. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2009; 43:401-408.

Muscle Cramp. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00200.

  • Stop the activity that caused the cramp.
  • Gently stretch and massage the cramping muscle.
  • Hold the joint in a stretched position until the cramp stops.
  • Improve fitness and avoid muscle fatigue
  • Stretch regularly after exercise
  • Warm up before exercise
  • Stretch the calf muscle: In a standing lunge with both feet pointed forward, straighten the rear leg.
  • Stretch the hamstring muscle: Sit with one leg folded in and the other straight out, foot upright and toes and ankle relaxed. Lean forward slightly, touch foot of straightened leg. (Repeat with opposite leg.)
  • Stretch the quadriceps muscle: While standing, hold top of foot with opposite hand and gently pull heel toward buttocks. (Repeat with opposite leg.)

Should I Count Calories or Carbs to Lose Weight?

 

What matters most when weight loss is your goal.

What is the best way to lose weight? Dieters often get confused about whether they should count calories or carbs to slim down. Much of confusion is the result of the calories vs. sugar debate. Does calorie count matter more or should you reduce sugary carbs for weight loss? And what about fat? To get the answer, it’s important to sort through the nutrition facts.

Counting Calories or Carbs to Lose Weight

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit.That means you need to burn more calories than you consume. In very simple terms, it means that most of us need to eat less and move more. We can burn more calories through exercise or increased daily activity (for example, by boosting your step count) You can also create a deficit if you consume fewer calories each day.  So calories do count.

But your intake of fat, sugar, and carbohydrates can affect the total number of calories you consume each day. That means you should pay attention to those numbers as well.

How Each Affects Your Diet

Here is a brief explanation of how consuming calories in the form of  fat, sugar, and carbohydrates can affect your total caloric intake:

  • Fat.  A single gram of fat provides nine calories of energy. A single gram of carbohydrate or protein only provides four calories. If you eat foods high in fat, your total caloric intake can increase quickly because the calorie cost is so high. But eating a reasonable amount of healthy fat can be smart for your diet.
    Fat helps you to feel full and satiated. If you eat a small amount of fatty food, you may feel satisfied sooner and eat less overall. For that reason, foods that contain healthy fats like certain types of fish, nuts or avocado can be a smart addition to your weight loss diet.
  • Sugar.  Sugar itself isn’t necessarily bad for you. But many of us consume way too much sugar without even knowing it. Sugar is added to many of the processed foods we eat.  Foods like ketchup, salsa or canned soups may contain added sugar even though they aren’t sweet.  And many of the drinks we consume are loaded with sugar. Increased sugar consumption has been linked to serious health consequences such as an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
    Aside from the health consequences of consuming too much added sugar, there are diet drawbacks as well. Many experts feel that the more sugar we eat, the more sugar we crave.  So if you can reduce your sugar intake, you may be able to reduce your total caloric intake and lose weight.

The Bottom Line 

To create a calorie deficit and lose weight, most people find it easiest to count calories. The calorie count is easy to find for most foods and easy to tally with a weight loss app or tracker. Also, your calorie count is what matters in the end if you want to lose weight.

However, as you count calories, it is helpful to look at your balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. If you keep your carb intake within recommended guidelines (50-65% of your total calorie intake) that leaves enough room to eat a healthy amount of protein and fat. By consuming a healthy, balanced diet, you are more likely to provide your body with the fuel it needs to stay active.

7 Worst Foods for Your Heart

In the United States, heart disease kills more people than any other cause. But here’s some good news: There’s a lot that you can do to lower your risk of heart disease. In fact, seven of 10 risk factors for heart disease are things you can control. While you can’t control your age, genetics and gender (men are at higher risk), you can significantly lessen your probability of heart disease by not smoking, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar (the last four risk factors are closely tied to what you put in your mouth). By rarely consuming seven of the most damaging foods for your heart, you’ll significantly lower your risk.

Keep in mind, however, that just because certain foods are bad for your heart, it doesn’t mean that you can never eat them. If you eat an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy diet with health-promoting foods (like fruits, vegetables, pulses, lean poultry, fish and whole grains), occasionally eating a food that isn’t good for your heart won’t increase your risk of heart disease. As with all foods, the dose makes the poison. Would you gain weight from eating one small piece of chocolate every day? Not likely. What if you ate a whole bag of candy every day? Probably. The same is true for the worst foods for your heart—the role they play in your overall health depends on the overall quality of your diet.

fried-foods

1. Deep-fried Foods

Deep frying creates trans-fats, a type of fat known to raise the bad (LDL) type of cholesterol in the body, while simultaneously lowering the good kind. This means that all-time American favorites like French fries and fried chicken are a double-whammy for your ticker. Not surprisingly, fried foods have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in a number of studies. Deep-fried foods often contain saturated fats and are high in salt, as well, which can also increase one’s risk of heart disease.

Instead: If you want to make a heart-healthy version of French fries, spritz them with a healthy oil, like olive or avocado oil, and then bake them. Here are some recipes to check out: Skinny Avocado Fries, Roasted Tarragon Sweet Potato Fries and Carrot Fries. And instead of frying your chicken, beef or tofu, dip them in egg whites, use a shake-and-bake bag and toss them in the oven to bake. For stir-fries, use a small amount of avocado oil, olive oil or canola oil and keep the heat on low.

 

fast-food

2. Fast Food

It’s no secret that fast food is rarely healthy food and, in fact, can have a negative impact on the heart. That’s because the majority of fast food items are fried, high in salt (which can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for a heart attack) and high in sugar and calories (which can lead to obesity and diabetes and increase the risk of a heart attack), all of which put a strain on the heart.

Instead: At the beginning of each week, plan your meals in advance, focusing on lean proteins, pulses, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, eggs and low-fat dairy products. If you’ve planned and know what you’re going to eat in advance, it’s much easier to avoid making quick, last-minute fast-food pit stops when hunger strikes. When you do go to fast-food restaurants, choose healthier options whenever possible, such as grilled chicken breast sandwiches, salads, and bean and salsa wraps.

 

margarine

3. Margarine

Once believed to be better for your heart than butter because it’s made from plant oils, margarine has since proven to be the true villain when it comes to heart disease. That’s because trans fat is created when the plant oil is processed and made into a solid. Trans fats are associated with a 34% increase in death, a 28% risk in death from coronary heart disease and a 21% increase in risk of cardiovascular disease.

Instead: To avoid trans fat, choose a soft spread that doesn’t contain the word “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredient list.

 

processed-meats

4. Processed Meats

Processed meats include foods such as bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, cold cuts and cured meats. Harvard researchers found that those who eat processed meats daily (50 grams—that’s less than 2 ounces!) have a 42% higher risk of heart attacks. Researchers speculate that it may have to do with the extremely high levels of sodium and preservatives found in processed meats.

Instead: Limit processed meats to once a week, as researchers speculate this would pose only a small risk. Choose beans, eggs, fresh fish, poultry and lean red meat as an alternative.

salt

5. Salt

Found in most packaged foods, chips, canned products and condiments, and added at the table and during cooking, salt intake has climbed in most people’s diets to a whopping 4,000 mg a day. This is significantly more than the recommended 2,300mg maximum, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which combined data from more than 100 studies. The researchers concluded that there would be 1.65 million fewer deaths each year if average sodium intake was closer to 2,000 mg per day, and reducing sodium intake to 2,300mg daily would prevent 10% of deaths related to cardiovascular disease.

Instead: Use flavor-enhancing techniques to replace salt when you can—sprinkle spices, squeeze lemon and use flavorful vinegars. Limit packaged foods to once or twice a week, and read labels to determine the sodium content of foods so you can either limit them or choose no-salt-added or low-salt alternatives.

 

sugar-sweetened-drinks

6. Sugar-sweetened Drinks

Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute more added sugar to the typical American diet than any other source. Sugary drinks are particularly harmful because they have a high glycemic load, contribute to inflammation, and raise blood glucose levels, blood triglycerides and small, dense LDL particles (which are much more dangerous than light, fluffy LDL particles), all of which increase the risk of heart disease. A large, two-decade-long study involving 40,000 men found that those who had one sugary drink per day increased their risk of having a heart attack or dying of a heart attack by 20% compared to men who rarely drank sugary beverages.

Instead: Choose water, seltzer or unsweetened beverages. If you have a hard time drinking unflavored water, get creative and spritz lemon, orange or lime into your water, or try these water infusions: Watermelon Cucumber ACV Detox Water Infusion, Vitamin C Infused Water and Pineapple, Lemon Ginger Detox Drink.

 

baked-goods

7. Baked Goods

Pies, cakes, cookies, donuts and other baked goods can be especially bad for the heart because they contain both saturated fat (found in butter and other full-fat dairy products) and trans fat (found in partially hydrogenated oils used in vegetable shortening, margarine, packaged snacks, coffee creamers and fried foods). They can also raise LDL cholesterol levels, while also lowering HDL (the good) cholesterol levels. These treats also are high in sugar, which intensifies the damage they can do to the heart.

Instead: Choose healthier dessert options that don’t contain trans fat (make sure ingredient lists don’t contain the words “hydrogenated” and “partially hydrogenated” and are very low in saturated fat. Here are some tasty treats to try at home: Chocolate Drizzled Granola Balls, Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Guac-Chocolate Mousse and  Skinny Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

The Nutrition Twins

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.

DE-STRESS EATING WITH GOOD MOOD FOODS

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Dr. Erin Nitschke

Contributor

Dr. Erin Nitschke, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist & NSCA-CPT, is a Health & Human Performance college educator and fitness blogger. She has over 14 years of experience in personal training, education, and instructional design. To Erin, being fit means finding an equilibrium between all dimensions of wellness. Erin is personally and professionally dedicated to teaching students and clients how to achieve such balance through learning and focused skill development.