Category

Nutrition

Can You Be Too Old for Weight Training?

By Health, Muscle, Nutrition

“Sarcopenia” is the gradual loss of muscle mass that begins for most women after age 35. Contrary to popular belief, this decline in muscle mass and strength is not a result of the aging process; rather, it’s due to inactivity.

However, current dogma around resistance training among elderly women has been a barrier. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs as a result of “normal ageing.” It is not entirely due to sickness but is also a normal aspect of the ageing process. This is not to be confused with cachexia, which is the uncontrollable loss of muscle and/or body fat mass. While cachexia is most commonly associated with malnutrition caused by illnesses such as cancer, sarcopenia is defined as a progressive loss of muscle mass caused by changes in nutrition and physical activity. This is significant because sarcopenic people can keep their fat mass, resulting in a “thin fat” body composition. Sarcopenic obesity has more serious health effects, as we will discuss in another chapter.

“Few would argue that some form of resistance training should not be part of a complete exercise program; however, the bulk of literature on the cardio-protective effects of aerobic exercise has continued to make this form of exercise preeminent and the central focus of many physical activity guidelines in Canada, the United States, and many other countries.”

Studies show that resistance training is the best way to prevent and reverse the loss of muscle for older adults. For women, in particular, resistance training is an effective long-term strategy to preserve muscle and positive changes in body composition.

The science is clear: improving your muscle mass is something anyone can (and should) do.

Why Men Are More Prone To Heart Disease?

By BIA, Blog, Health, Nutrition, Press

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading causes of death in Malaysia. Heart disease is responsible for nearly 1 out of every 4 deaths in Malaysia.  Malaysians in their 20’s and 30’s are currently suffering from heart attacks. Ischaemic heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack, was the leading cause of death among males in Malaysia in 2018, accounting for 17.8% of all deaths.

It is important for men to understand what heart disease is, the risk factors and symptoms, and how to prevent heart disease.  

What is heart disease? 

Cardiac disease encompasses a wide range of heart disorders, including coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD), arrhythmia, heart failure, and heart attacks. Coronary heart disease develops when the arteries that deliver blood to the heart and body harden and narrow due to plaque buildup.

This plaque is composed of components found in the body such as cholesterol and other fatty lipids. Atherosclerosis is the term used to describe the hardness and constriction of the arteries. When this plaque accumulates, blood flow is constricted, resulting in a reduction in the amount of oxygen delivered to the heart. This can eventually lead to a heart attack.

High blood pressure and heart disease

Having high and uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to heart disease. Over time, high blood pressure taxes the blood vessels and heart by making them do more work less efficiently. The friction and force that come from high blood pressure will do damage to the delicate tissues lining the arteries. Plaque forms along with these tiny tears and lesions. As more plaque builds up, the narrower the arteries become, raising blood pressure even more. It becomes a vicious cycle.   

Many people have no symptoms of high blood pressure until it is too late. It is important to regularly check your blood pressure to make sure it is within the healthy range.  

Why men are more prone to heart disease

Men have an elevated risk of heart disease. According to National Health & Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019, hypertension affects men 3 times more than women under the age of 30.

Other risk factors for heart disease include being overweight or obese, having a poor diet, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, and having diabetes.  

Symptoms of heart disease  

The symptoms of heart disease can often be “silent,” and go undiagnosed until someone experiences the signs of a heart attack or arrhythmia. Symptoms of these events may include:  

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain in the upper back or neck  
  • Heartburn or indigestion  
  • Nausea or vomiting  
  • Dizziness  
  • Shortness of breath  
  • Extreme fatigue  
  • Palpitations or feelings of fluttering in the chest  
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, neck, or abdomen  

It’s important to note that not all people who have heart disease experience signs or symptoms. Half of the men who died suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms or warnings. 

How can you lower your risk for heart disease?  

  1. Check your BP: regular monitoring of your blood pressure will help you stay informed and in control of your blood pressure. If you suffer from high blood pressure, it may be helpful for you to keep a log of your blood pressure readings and take them to review with your doctor.  
  2. Quit smoking: Smoking is known to increase blood pressure and can greatly increase your risk of heart disease.  
  3. Check cholesterol and triglyceride levels: Work with your doctor to regularly check your cholesterol and triglyceride labs to make sure you stay within a healthy range.  
  4. Eat healthy food: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been tied to a lower risk of heart disease. Limit red meat, fried foods, high sodium foods, and sugary drinks and desserts.   
  5. Stay active: Regular physical activity can help keep your blood pressure in check and keep your arteries relaxed and pliable. Find an exercise that you enjoy doing and aim to get about 30 minutes of exercise per day.  
  6. Limit alcohol: Excess alcohol intake is tied to an increased risk of heart disease. Drink in moderation which means 1-2 drinks per day. An alcoholic drink is defined as a 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, or 1.5 oz liquor or spirits.   
  7. Lower stress: Too much stress can tax the heart and blood pressure even more. Find healthy ways of relaxing like taking a walk, reading a book, listening to calming music, or spending a few moments in quiet meditation or prayer each day.  

Men need to bear in mind their risk for heart disease and the associated risk factors. It’s advisable for men to keep their regular check-ups with their doctors, and complete the recommended labs. Checking your blood pressure regularly may also be beneficial, and those who struggle with high blood pressure or have a family history of hypertension may want to consider an at-home blood pressure monitor. Let’s have a look at our clinically validated kiosk type blood pressure monitor, BPBIO 750 Blood Pressure Monitor.

How to Maintain Muscle Mass While Losing Fat During Lockdown? With General Manager of Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza – Mr. Leonardo Azevedo

By Blog, Fitness, Health, Muscle, Nutrition

You may not be able to crush your body composition’s goals during a public health crisis especially months of gym closure lately in Malaysia, but you can definitely keep from losing your hard gained muscle mass. We are so glad to have Mr. Leonardo Azevedo, General Manager of Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza who has over 22 years of experience in the Sports & Fitness industry, share us about his top 3 tips that can ensure you still maintain muscle mass while aiming for the body fat to fall off (even though your gym is still closed).

“Most of the time when people want to cut away their body fat and cut down to a healthier and more aesthetic physique, they often think the only way is with hours and hours of tireless exercise at the gym. But, if you can’t exercise at the gym due to our current Government restrictions, then all isn’t lost.” – says Mr. Leonardo.

A balanced food & calories intake, proper muscle stimulus and quality sleep can definitely change the way you look despite the challenges we face by being forced to workout at home. Sounds like a perfect recipe for losing your gains, doesn’t it?

Here’s why you shouldn’t worry about losing your gains during the lockdown with these 3 rules to help you out.

#1: Balanced Food and Calories Intake

You don’t need to find a bunch of weird or novel exercises in order to maintain some semblance of fitness. In fact, by controlling your calories intake and balancing the amount of nutrients such as Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats in your daily diet routine, you can definitely maintain your mass while still achieving fat loss. Based on Scientific research, it’s also recommended an average daily intake of 30 (female)/35 (male) calories per Kilogram of Body Weight to maintain the weight in individuals from 20 to 30 years old who exercise moderately (home workout) 3 to 5 times per week.

In order to maintain your Muscle Mass, the most used way to divide this total amount of calories by the nutrients you should intake daily macronutrient of  40:40:20 (Protein:Carbs:Fat). As per science we know that, a gram of carbohydrate and protein contains 4 calories each, and a gram of fat, though, contains 9 calories. Therefore, Mr. Leonardo also give an example of a calculation on daily macronutrients intake with the sample reference as follow :

Female who has total Body Weight 60KG (aged between 20 to 30 years old)

* Calories per day = 60KG x 30 calories = 1800 calories day

* Daily Protein Intake (40%) = 1800 x 0.40 = 720 calories / 4 calories (1 gram of protein) = 180grams of proteins per day.

* Daily Carbohydrate Intake (40%) = 1800 x 0.40 = 720 calories / 4 calories (1 gram of carb) = 180grams of carbohydrates per day.

* Daily Fat Intake (20%) = 1800 x 0.20 = 360 calories / 9 calories (1 gram of fat) = 40 grams of fats per day.

You can figure out the proper food based on its nutrients, speak to your certified personal trainer or look for a professional nutritionist to help you on a more personalized nutrition advice.

#2: Proper Muscle Stimulus 

When it comes to Muscle Mass maintenance, engaging the proper exercise intensity is very important to achieve optimum results. Functional training is, in most cases, the way to exercise from home. I also would recommend the usage of some household items to replace gym equipment. Suspension training, and small equipment such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells are very good and easy to handle at home. Besides that, it can produce a very efficient load as muscle stimulus. Always search for assistance from Fitness Professionals in order to create the best and most efficient way to get the best results working out from home. In order to ensure that you can be consistent in your workouts, there are some Professional Online Home Trainings that you can join as well.

#3: Improve Sleep Quality

You might think this counter productive to losing weight, as sleep doesn’t burn many calories. But as you sleep you recover and two important hormones come into play: Leptin and Ghrelin. These two hormones tell your body when it feels satiety and hunger. If you sleep badly, the levels of these hormones will be unbalanced and science has found that you’re more likely to be over eating and getting overweight.  Besides, poor sleep quality and short sleep duration are associated with an increased risk for muscle mass reduction. Thus, according to research, sleeping for 7-9 hours per night is crucial, especially if you are looking to change body composition, increase muscle mass and/or if you want to improve quality of life. Sleep enhances muscle recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release as well. Like Mr. Leonardo said, he recommends at least 8 hours of good sleep every night.

 

Conclusion

Keep life and the gym workout in perspective. Your habitual mindset should keep up a healthy lifestyle, which it shouldn’t be affected by any of these challenges. When this is over—and it will be over at some point— we don’t want you to end up feeling worse, deconditioned, and incredibly detrained. One thing we should be grateful is: Staying fit is one way we may have to protect ourselves against getting sick over the years. A healthy body usually has a healthy immune system. Although it doesn’t give you any guarantees, well it’s certainly a better option than doing nothing. So do your best to be well.

**

Leonardo Azevedo

Mr. Leonardo Azevedo from Brazil with over 22 years of experience in the Sports & Fitness industry. Holding Bachelor’s Degree in Sports & Science, FIFA Certified Conditioning Coach, Specialized in Physiology of Exercise, Certification in Biomechanics of Exercise and Sports Nutrition, Extensive Experience in Fitness Business Management.Currently working as General Manager at Peak Fitness Gurney Plaza, Brazilian Eagles Football Academy Head Coach & Owner, Mitts Boxing Fitness MD, SEA Sales Representative at Rezzil Sports.

Cardio V.S Weights

Cardio vs Weights vs Concurrent: What’s better for body composition?

By Body Composition, Fitness, Muscle, Nutrition

Highlights

  • Aerobic Exercise- the ultimate exercise for increasing heart health, vascular health, and metabolic rate.
  • Resistance Training- the best training for gaining muscle strength and function. 
  • Concurrent Training- get the best of both aerobic and resistance training. 

When you think of exercise, what immediately comes to mind?

Going out for a jog? Loading up weights at the squat rack? Or maybe both?

All of those classify as exercise, but they serve different purposes. If you want to increase your squat 1-repetition maximum by 50 pounds, a daily cycling class won’t get you there.

It’s clear that your body adapts differently to different types of exercise, but how does that happen and what does it mean for your health?

This article will break down the benefits of different fitness regimens: aerobic, resistance, and concurrent training. In the process of reading this article, you will soon discover that your fitness goals can be achieved with some basic exercise physiology background!

What is Aerobic Training?

Aerobic exercise stimulates the heart and breathing rate to provide your muscles with oxygenated blood. The energy that powers such exercise is produced in muscle cells primarily via an oxidative pathway, meaning oxygen is required.

That explains all the heavy breathing when you go out for a run, doesn’t it?

That oxygen is delivered via blood being pumped from your heart, through your arteries, and returning to the heart through your veins.

So, it’s apparent that aerobic exercise primarily works two systems: energy production in your muscle cells and blood delivery in your cardiovascular system.

So how does this help you?

Does Aerobic Training Strengthen The Heart?

Aerobic exercise trains the heart to be stronger and more efficient at circulating blood. With aerobic exercise, the chamber of the heart (left ventricle) that pumps blood to the rest of the body literally gets larger and squeezes out more blood per pump, which means its stroke volume is increased. This results in an improved capacity for cardiac output, which is the quantity of blood pumped by the heart per minute.

If you’ve heard of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), it may seem counterintuitive that a large left ventricle muscle is a beneficial adaptation to aerobic exercise. But, important characteristics differentiate an enlarged left ventricle due to healthy aerobic exercise training and one resulting from disease.

strong, efficient heart is exactly what you want in order to live a long and healthy life.

If your heart is bigger and stronger, pumping more blood per beat, it doesn’t have to beat as rapidly. That’s why you often hear of elite endurance athletes with resting heart rates in the 30’s and 40’s. This is more important than it may seem: lower resting heart rate is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

All these cardiac adaptations are aided by an increase in blood volume that occurs with aerobic exercise training. Without getting too technical, the expanded blood volume improves the heart’s contractility and filling capacity, allowing it to pump more blood per beat.

Although the heart is a different type of muscle than what’s in your arms or legs, it’s still subject to a related function. It contracts in order to move blood throughout the body. In addition to making it stronger and more efficient, you can also lighten the heart’s load by decreasing the resistance it faces.

How does aerobic training reduce arterial stiffness?

Each time the heart beats, arteries in the body provide resistance to the blood flowing.

The resistance provided by arteries is variable, though. Aerobic exercise training reduces the heart’s workload by reducing arterial stiffness.

When you perform aerobic exercise, your heart rate increases, pushing more blood through your arteries than at rest. The inner wall of your arteries feel the increased blood flow, and through a series of mechanisms, causes your arteries to widen.

As you train and your arteries experience this regularly, they become more effective at expanding. If you don’t regularly do aerobic exercise, your arteries never experience this stretch and they literally stiffen up (it is harder for your heart to pump blood through a stiff tube). Additionally, arterial stiffness is associated with coronary artery plaque development, the stuff that causes heart attacks.

Aerobic exercise also impacts your vascular system by promoting capillary growth. Capillaries are the microscopic vessels where oxygen diffuses from red blood cells to muscle (and other) cells.

Aerobic exercise requires increased oxygen delivery to the muscle to produce energy, so your body grows more capillaries to be able to better handle the energy demand.

How does aerobic exercise affect your metabolism?

Along with cardiovascular adaptation, aerobic exercise substantially impacts your muscles’ energy production system. Once blood delivers oxygen to the muscle cells, they still have to use it to produce energy that powers all the exercise you’re doing.

Aerobic exercise also relies to a great extent on breaking down fat molecules for energy, which can only happen within mitochondria.

Consequently, aerobic exercise training drastically improves your muscle cells’ ability to burn fat by generating more mitochondria and improving their functionality.

High-intensity aerobic exercise also increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), resulting in increased calorie burn after training sessions in addition to what you burned while exercising.  However, to maintain EPOC as you gain fitness, make sure to gradually progress your training intensity.

How Does Aerobic Training Impact Body Composition?

People who struggle with being overweight or obese have likely been told that aerobic exercise is a cornerstone of any weight loss routine.

The key to aerobic exercise is that it keeps the heart rate elevated for a continuous amount of time. While this will help to burn calories, it has specific impacts on body composition that people should keep in mind.

study published by the American Physiological Society took a look at the effects of regular exercise in adults. This study lasted eight months and placed adults on either aerobic training programs, resistance training programs, or a combined program. The researchers found that those in the aerobic training program lost more weight overall, including more fat mass than those in the resistance training program. On the other hand, those in the resistance training program gained more fat-free mass, including lean muscle.

To recap, aerobic training causes the cardiorespiratory system to adapt. It maintains heart function and health and keeps your energy metabolism system running.

Aerobic exercise is a jackpot for fitness and a key element of maintaining your health. But it may not get you big muscles or make your body much stronger…what will?

What Is Resistance Training?

 

Resistance exercise is training that progressively overloads your muscles. Some examples of resistance training would be traditional weightlifting, bodyweight exercises like pushups and pullups, and resistance band exercises. These types of exercises are meant to make your muscles bigger, stronger, more powerful, and more functional.

Specific adaptations to resistance training begin within the muscle cells. However, you’ll still get systemic benefits ranging from muscle growth to cardiovascular benefit.

To gain a deeper understanding of the whole-body performance and health effects of resistance training, read into how resistance exercise affects muscle at the microscopic level.

How does muscle adaptation work?

The point of resistance training is to make muscles function more effectively. This all starts with the contractile proteins that act to control muscle shortening and lengthening.

When you do resistance exercise, some of those proteins get yanked apart. That, along with the stress your muscle experienced, is the stimulus for your muscle to rebuild – this time bigger, stronger, or more powerful than before.

After resistance exercise, your muscle synthesizes proteins (this is aided by nutritional stimuli i.e. protein consumption). Special cells known as satellite cells also spring into action to help build up the broken down muscle. They normally lie quietly adjacent to muscle cells, but resistance exercise tells them to get to work.

Satellite cells combine with the muscle cells that were strained and damaged during your resistance training session. In doing so, they lend their molecular machinery to support protein synthesis that leads to muscle hypertrophy.

Resistance training with loads over 60% of your 1-repetition maximum results in hypertrophy of primarily type II fibers (‘fast-twitch’). These fibers are capable of rapid contraction with high force but tire more easily.

These micro-level adaptations matter to athletes and the general population alike. When you make measurable gains in muscle mass, strength, or power, you can thank the protein synthesis and fiber-specific adaptations that occurred within your muscle cells.

How does muscle hypertrophy occur? 

All those microscopic adaptations add up to cause changes that are easier to grasp. Resistance training at the proper intensity leads to measurable muscle hypertrophy. Strength improves in part due to changes to the neuromuscular system. Control over your muscles is typically a balance between competing neural signals. Some of those signals tell the muscle to contract, while others prevent contraction.

Regular resistance training can reduce neural inhibition that normally limits the strength and/or endurance of the muscle.

Muscle accounts for roughly 20% of resting energy expenditure, so it impacts on calorie burn and body composition is meaningful. Not only that, but you can’t increase the mass of most of the other organs that account for resting energy expenditure, like the liver, heart, brain, and kidney. Muscle is different because it hypertrophies, growing larger, and expending more calories.

By packing on muscle, not only do you increase strength, power, and function, but you also raise your basal metabolic rate. And by doing so, you’ll see an increase in your metabolism and an improvement in your health.

Does Weight Lifting Count as Cardio? 

If you’ve ever lifted weights or done resistance exercise, you’ve probably felt your heart pounding with the exertion.

Does that mean you’re getting cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations like you would with aerobic training?

Maybe not.

Resistance exercise does raise your energy expenditure. But it does so differently, and to a lesser extent, than aerobic exercise.

Resistance exercise trains your energy production systems but has less impact on the aerobic energy systems.

Is Resistance Training For Everyone?

Even if you’re not an athlete. Resistance training is important for functional fitness.

Functional strength training is defined as: “Training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities.” Unlike more traditional strength training (which focuses on specific muscle groups during each exercise), functional training focuses on whole muscle groups to train the body for daily demands.

A common misconception is that you may be too old for resistance training. But clinical data from a multitude of sources clearly shows the benefits of improving one’s functional fitness level, particularly for older adults.

Functional training such as resistance exercises and bodyweight movements can help you become stronger, more flexible, agiler and better equipped to handle day-to-day feats of strength and athleticism that are often overlooked. Plus, it can help you become less injury-prone.

study recruited seniors who were struggling with their physical abilities and placed them in a resistance-training exercise program. At the end, the researchers observed an increase in their fat-free mass, their muscle mass, their gait speed, and their overall physical capacity. This shows that resistance training not only improved body composition in the elderly but also helped to increase mobility to improve their ability to complete day to day activities.

How Does Resistance Training Impact Body Composition?

study found that regardless of the frequency of the resistance training program, participants increased overall muscle strength. The participants increased lean body composition.

Resistance training is a great way to increase lean muscle mass, and it improves the physical capacity of the elderly, leading to significant improvements in their quality of life. This evidence supports the positive capabilities resistance training has in both building lean body mass as well as maintaining lean mass in aging populations who are at risk of muscle loss.

These adaptations to resistance exercise impact your health and physical performance. Your muscles carry you through the day and increase performance if you’re an athlete.

Breaking down and building up muscle through resistance training is essential to maintaining function as you age. Loss of muscle mass even threatens some people’s capacity to live independently.

In terms of body composition, muscle mass is not only an important component to maintain, but it also contributes to your resting metabolism, helping you maintain a healthy energy balance.

Resistance training benefits the cardiovascular system, but its role is mainly for muscle gain and function.

But, how can you reap the benefits of both aerobic and resistance training? Do you just combine the two however you want?

What is Concurrent Training?

Concurrent training is the combination of both aerobic and resistance exercises within the same training session. Aerobic and resistance exercise impacts your body differently, so it follows that they each cause adaptations via different mechanisms.

How should I order my aerobic and resistance workouts?

In practice, aerobic/interval and resistance training don’t seem to interfere with each others’ adaptations all that much. But, understanding a few specifics about concurrent training will allow you to make good decisions about your exercise program.

The type of aerobic training determines how it interacts with resistance exercise adaptations. While strength and hypertrophy gains could be diminished by adding run training to a resistance program, cycling does not have the same effect.

Why? Researchers aren’t exactly sure. But it may have to do with two factors:

  • Cycling ergonomics are more similar to traditional lower-body resistance exercises
  • Eccentric muscle contractions in running result in muscle damage, while the concentric contractions in cycling do not (to the same extent).

The modality of aerobic exercise (running versus cycling) is important to understanding the effect of concurrent training, but so are frequency and duration. In some cases the more aerobic training you add to your program, the more you may impact muscular adaptation. So pair your training programs correctly; a running program in conjunction with an upper-body lifting exercise may benefit overall, but a running/leg press workout every day could interfere with one another.

And if you’re doing both aerobic and resistance exercise in the same session at the gym, or even on the same day, you’ll want to consider the order in which you do the exercises. It’s basically a matter of prioritization.

If your priority is on building aerobic fitness and performing well in a running race, do your aerobic exercise first in a session, followed by resistance exercise.

On the other hand, if your priority is building strength and muscle, you’ll want to do resistance exercise followed by aerobic.

However, the order probably doesn’t matter if you’re untrained.

The takeaway: if you’re untrained and haven’t set distinct fitness goals yet, don’t worry yet about the order of aerobic or resistance training. Do both and start exercising your way to health!

How do you develop a Concurrent Training program that’s right for you? 

If you’re just going to the gym to stay healthy, the benefit of gaining both aerobic and muscular fitness is well worth it.

To get the most benefit from your hard work at the gym, make sure to use these tips:

  • If your priority is muscle strength and growth, choose aerobic exercise like cycling rather than running to complement your lifting routine.
  • Consume enough protein and carbohydrates to stimulate muscle growth and recovery after workouts
  • If you alternate aerobic and resistance sessions, maximize recovery time between sessions (separate them by at least 6 hours)

Chances are that concurrent training is right for you, so go get started!

A Well-Rounded Exercise Program

As people continue to struggle with obesity and functional fitness as they age, exercise is more important than ever. It is vital to combine diet and exercise to not only lose weight but have a favorable impact on body composition and your lifespan.

Furthermore, it is important to have a well-rounded exercise routine that touches on all types of fitness. Aerobic exercise is effective at maintaining an elevated heart rate and losing fat-free mass. On the other hand, resistance training helps to build lean muscle mass. You can combine the two, with concurrent training, or jump into an explosive HIIT workout when you don’t have much time or need a motivation boost.

With this insight, you will be better equipped to understand why exercise is important for your health (a great motivator), how different types of exercise interact, and which ones are best suited for your needs.

Does A Cheat Day Undo A Week at the Gym?

By Diet, Nutrition
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on January 11, 2021, for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on February 17, 2016 from InBody USA.
  • Fat gain or loss is determined by how many calories you take in and how many calories you use in a day
  • Water weight can come from increased glycogen, an energy source that is produced primarily from carbohydrates
  • A cheat day every once in a while will not erase weeks and months of hard work

Your hard work is paying off with your diet and workouts, and you keep making progress. The weight loss goal is in reach, and you decide to treat yourself. It might be a snack, a cheat meal, a cheat day, or even a weekend. When Monday comes, you weigh yourself for your weekly weigh-in, and you can’t believe it: you’ve gained 5 pounds.

First, the bad news: no the scale isn’t lying to you, you’ve gained 5 five pounds. Here the good news: it is not 5 pounds of fat.

If it is not fat, what is it? Are cheat days a good idea for your diet and fitness plan?

What are cheat days?

First, a quick overview. What exactly is a cheat day?  “Cheat days”, despite the negative connotation, are planned breaks from your diet plan. Rewarding yourself with scheduled breaks from your diet plan, may help you stick to your diet plan, build better habits, and achieve long-term success.

What you plan to indulge in on your cheat day depends on the individual’s tastes and appetite, but the key idea is to let loose and enjoy yourself with something that isn’t on your diet plan.

Not every diet will allow for “cheat days”. The Paleo diet, for example, eliminates entire food groups and doesn’t allow for any breaks from the diet plan. But no matter what diet plan you are on, incorporate meals that you can look forward to helping make the diet plan sustainable.

What are the benefits of a cheat day?

Cheat days can be a great tool to help motivate you to stick to your diet plan. Use cheat days to build a positive relationship with food. View your favorite dessert or comfort food as a reward rather than a coping mechanism.

Something that you should keep in mind is that a cheat day isn’t a license to binge eat. Binge eating on your cheat day may lead to eating-related issues and hurt your ability to self-regulate.

Contrary to popular belief, binge eating does not boost your metabolism. It may have the opposite effect. Just like your diet, it is best to approach it with a plan and the focus on the long-term.

How often should you have cheat days?

There is no hard and fast rule on how many cheat days you should have. Or even if you decide between a cheat meal or day. Ultimately, it depends on how well you self-regulate and what your goals are.

It’s so easy for your cheat day to become a cheat weekend, and then a cheat week. Before you know it, you are back to your old eating habits. It is important to understand what will help you stay motivated.

The goal is to develop a sustainable, long-term plan. What you should consider are your body composition goal, and how fast you want to reach them. Think about how the extra calories (if any) from your cheat meals will impact your goal.

Why does a cheat day cause you to gain weight?

A cheat day causes some large weight increases, but weight because of water, not fat. Depending on what kind of diet you were on, loading up on carbs on a cheat day can increase your weight noticeably.

If you were trying to lose fat, you likely were trying to cut carbohydrates out of your diet. It’s a very popular technique, and diets structured around low carbohydrate and low caloric intake are about as basic a diet as they come. The Mayo Clinic notes that a diet targeting low carbohydrate intake makes up about 60-130 grams of carbs a day. Some popular diets—such as the Atkins Diet—target extremely low levels of carbohydrates, as low as 18 grams a day. This will help you lose weight and some of it.

But once you increase your consumption of carbs, you may see a subsequent increase in water weight.

How much water weight can you gain from cheat day?

If you’re consuming 60 grams of carbs a day, you’re holding onto approximately 210 grams of water. That’s about half a pound of water.

But if on a cheat day, you decide to eat and drink whatever you want and load up to 300 grams of carbohydrates (the average number of carbs eaten by men, according to the US Department of Agriculture), you would retain around 1kg of water or 2.2 pounds. If you were on a 60 carbs/day diet, you could be a pound and a half heavier already. If you went up to 400 grams of carbs, you could add on 2 ½ pounds of water.

Why do carbs cause you to retain water weight?

The reason your body retains water after you consume carbs involves your body’s favorite energy source: a molecule called glycogen. Glycogen is an energy source that is produced primarily from carbohydrates. Your body loves glycogen because it’s an easily accessible energy source that provides a lot of energy. Glycogen also has an interesting attribute: it bonds well with water. In fact, for every gram of carbohydrate in your body, there are about 3 to 4 molecules of water bonded to it.

But glycogen is far from the only substance or factor that can cause your body to retain extra water. Excess sodium can also cause your body to hold on to the water on top of the water held onto by your glycogen. Once you factor in the effects of food, your hormones, and your unique body composition, it is easy to see why your weight fluctuates so much.

But once you return to eating a low carb, low-sodium diet, your body should naturally shed the extra water weight you gained.

Can you gain pounds of fat overnight?

You can’t gain a pound of fat in a day, or even 5 pounds in one weekend. Biologically, it would amaze us if you did. You are very much aware of how difficult it is to lose fat quickly, but don’t laugh when I tell you, in theory, it is as “difficult” to gain fat.

Fat gain or loss has a lot to do with your energy/caloric balance–how many calories you take in vs. how many calories you use during the day. If you are using more energy than you take in, your body gets some energy it needs from your fat stores. If you’re taking in more energy–eating beyond your body’s needs–then the opposite happens: you build fat stores.

A common theory in the health and fitness world is that there are around 3,500 calories stored in a pound of fat. The theory goes that if you reduce your daily caloric intake by 500 every day of the week, in 7 days you’ll lose a pound of fat. Conversely, if you overeat by 500 calories a day, you can gain a pound of fat in a week.

500 Calories x 7 Days = 3,500 calories/week or 1 lb/ week

The point is, it TAKES TIME to gain or lose fat. (Of course, it is much easier than you think to overeat 500 calories a day. A large blended coffee-flavored drink once a day will do it.)

To gain a pound of fat, you would need to add about 500 calories a day on top of your normal diet, every day, for about 7 days. This makes gaining any significant amount of fat from even the craziest, all-out cheat days unlikely. To gain 5 pounds of fat in a day, you’d have to eat about 17,500 calories on top of your daily caloric limit. Not even Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson can consume that many calories!

If you are curious to see the effects of your cheat day, take a body composition test before and after your cheat day to see the changes to your body water levels.

Do cheat days ruin your progress?

A cheat day every once in a while will not erase weeks and months of consistent workouts and healthy eating.

Cheat days can help keep you stay motivated long-term if you practice mindful eating. But remember, this doesn’t mean you can get carried away on cheat days. It is important to always stay within reason and it will go a long way to help you develop healthy eating habits that you can sustain.

Do not stress about any sudden weight gain after a cheat day; it’s not fat but just water weight. Just make sure after you’ve had your fun, you get back on your fitness journey and keep working towards your goals. Changing your body composition and losing weight is a long-term process, but if you do it right, you’ll have long-term results!

Bottom line: it’s OK to indulge once in a while!

What You Can Do About Malnutrition?

By Nutrition

When it comes to malnutrition, most the focus—and rightly so—is on severe malnutrition in developing countries where lack of access to food has tragic consequences.

This condition can have debilitating effects on body composition, quality of life, and independent living. But malnutrition among older adults in developed countries is more widespread than most people realize.  How can malnutrition coexist in countries that have an obesity epidemic?

Technically, malnutrition is an umbrella term including overnutrition (i.e. obesity) and undernutrition. Just as important as fighting increasing obesity, it’s important to understand how various aspects of aging can make it difficult to consume all the essential nutrients the body needs.

The good news is that malnutrition is easily diagnosed, managed and even reversed. As we continue we will be discussing treatment and prevention, but first let’s raise awareness about the issue itself.

The What, Who, and Why of Malnutrition and Aging

With so many different people experiencing different effects and severities of malnutrition, it can be complicated to break down. Since there are several primary types of malnutrition, we’ll focus on how malnutrition impacts body composition and why this is so important for your long-term health.

WHAT IS MALNUTRITION?

The World Health Organization defines malnutrition as “deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients”. Protein-energy deficiency is one of the most common forms of malnutrition and this health condition has an immediate and negative impact on body composition. This deficiency wreaks havoc on skeletal muscle mass in particular, as the body eventually goes into starvation mode and breaks down its own protein (stored in muscle) for fuel.

Micronutrient deficiency is a lack of nutrients, like minerals and vitamins, that support important bodily processes like cells regeneration, your immune system, and even eyesight. Some common examples are iron or calcium deficiencies. Micronutrient deficiency has the greatest impact on normal physiological functions/processes and can actually occur in conjunction with protein-energy deficiency since most micronutrients are obtained from food.

Although nutritional deficiencies of certain micronutrients can impact processes such as building and repairing muscle, protein-energy deficiency has a more pronounced effect on body composition due to the fact that lowered protein intake can lead to more drastic losses in muscle mass. The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) defines several features of malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies in adults:

  • Insufficient energy intake
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Diminished physical function (including hand grip strength, and physical performance testing)
  • Serious medical conditions (such as edema resulting from fluid accumulation)

WHO IS AFFECTED, AND WHY?

You would assume that adults spending time in rehabilitation centers or hospitals should be well nourished since they have a range of staff taking care of them, right?

In theory, yes. But in reality, things are more complicated.

According to a study of over 4,000 individuals, approximately 40-50% of patients in rehabilitation centers and hospitals are malnourished, compared to 14% in nursing homes and just 6% in independently dwelling adults. These are staggering differences, but the numbers should be put in context.

There are two overarching reasons malnutrition strikes older adults.

  • Insufficient food intake. This often results from factors inherent to aging, including loss of taste or smell, dentition (poor muscle function or loss of teeth), or cognitive decline.
  • Disease-related malnutrition. Decreased food intake or absorption due to a wide range of diseases from cancer to inflammatory bowel disease or from cases such as hospitalization including surgery or emergency medical interventions (stroke, trauma, etc.)

Since individuals suffering from disease-related malnutrition are more likely to require hospitalization (to treat their disease), this could contribute to the high rates of malnutrition in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. But a host of other factors in hospitals make it no wonder that longer hospital stays are related to rates of malnutrition.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE, EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT DIRECTLY AFFECTED

Malnutrition really is an important issue in that it takes a high toll on people afflicted; on top of that is the associated economic cost that extends the burden beyond the malnourished individual. Massive medical bills strain individuals and their families and consume significant amounts of healthcare resources.

In a study of almost 2000 older adults, health care costs for malnourished adults were more than double those for non-malnourished adults. More visits to general practitioners and hospitals equals higher cost.

However it is worth noting that although treatment for malnutrition can add up in cost, the sooner the treatment, the better. Intervening with treatment called oral nutritional supplementation (ONS) does add to healthcare costs, but according to an economic model analysis, the cost of ONS treatment is more than offset by the long-term reduction in hospital admissions as a result of treatment.

In other words, treating this condition sooner not only makes sense for health reasons, it makes sense economically.

How Body Composition Changes During Malnutrition

Now that we have covered the “What”, “Who”, and “Why”, let’s discuss the “How” malnutrition affects body composition.

Most adults experience a natural shift in body composition as they age, partly thanks to a decrease in physical activity. What might accelerate and worsen that shift?

That’s right: malnutrition.

While Fat Free Mass starts to decline in the middle of adulthood, it drops at a concerning rate by the time adults reach their 80’s. Coupled with a decrease in functional health, it’s clear that unfavorable changes are happening.

Adding protein-energy deficiency into that mix makes the situation even more concerning. Researchers comparing elderly and middle-aged malnourished adults found that the elderly group was more prone to losing Fat Free Mass than fat mass and this may come down to not taking in enough nutrients to support and maintain muscles and their function.

In other words, undernutrition exacerbates the issue of muscle loss and those that are malnourished are more likely to tap into their muscle protein for fuel rather than those pesky fat stores (which are designed to be our energy-stores).

That matters because malnourished older adults are already at an increased risk of mortality. On top of that, losing muscle makes it difficult to perform those normal activities of daily living. As you burn through muscle protein, functional capacity declines, and loss of independence and malnutrition ensues

Recognize and Take Action

In light of the fact that malnutrition is more prevalent than most would think,what are the warning signs you should you look out for? It’s a tough problem to assess, and catching it before significant changes in body composition or muscle mass occur is best. However, watching out for these risk factors can be helpful in determining your likelihood of malnutrition or the severity of muscle loss.

ADDRESSING THE RISKS

Just because malnutrition can be difficult to spot early on, doesn’t mean all is lost. There are a variety of risk factors and health problems to be aware of and recognize. Here is a list of a few.

The first step to addressing the undernutrition problem is to make people aware of the problem. Research shows that among cancer patients (a nutritionally at-risk group) at home, nearly 25% do not receive nutritional support or counseling despite receiving other health care.

If you don’t recognize a problem, you can’t do anything about it.

Before getting into actual treatment, here are a couple strategies to address malnutrition risk factors head on.

  • Spice up your food. A few dashes of flavored powders like beef bouillon or lemon butter help increased body weight and prevent a decline in energy intake by making foods more appealing.
  • Take care of your teeth. Missing a substantial number of teeth is associated with lower energy and protein intake. Wearing dentures can lower your risk of malnutrition by about 20%, but only if you wear them consistently.
  • Make meals something to look forward to. Rather than eat each meal alone, have meals with other people in your community or schedule regular dinners with family and friends.
  • Get your body composition tested. Regularly get your body composition tested either bi-monthly or monthly to make sure that your muscle and fat levels are where you want them to be.

FOOD-FORWARD SOLUTIONS

If you do find yourself, or a patient, facing malnutrition, oral nutritional supplementation (ONS) is one of the most promising treatments you can use.

Most nutritional supplements you are familiar with probably come in pill form, like Vitamin A or Vitamin D, but ONS is in liquid form. Boost and Ensure (though not necessarily brands we are recommending- please do your research on fitting the ingredients to your specific needs) are some common brand names, and there are dozens of more options out there in a variety of flavors and formulas.

The science behind ONS is substantial. It counteracts malnutrition and related comorbidities in adults ranging from hospitalized hip fracture patients to frail community-dwelling elderly adults.

An analysis of 36 studies on high-protein ONS found that it increases calorie intake by more than 300 calories per day and protein by over 20g per day, slightly increases body weight, and improves muscle size and strength. That’s all from drinking just a daily 8 oz. shake.

Of course, getting your nutritional needs in by consuming real food is better than relying on supplements. However, when it comes to malnutrition it’s critical to get enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories, making supplements often necessary to round out the diet.

Getting enough real food is tough if it’s difficult to swallow or your sense of taste and smell start to go (or down). That’s why researchers experiment with ‘densification’ of real foods.

 

Densification involves adding calorie and protein content without changing the types and quantities of food. The idea is to get patients to consume more nutrients without feeling overburdened by large meals, and it works.

Elderly adults who prefer smaller meals consume more calories across breakfast and lunch when foods are ‘densified’. This strategy can even be implemented at home. To add calories and protein to the foods, researchers simply replace water in recipes with extra fats and dairy.

Whether ONS, food densification, or just adding more food to the diet, increasing calories and the range of vitamins and minerals will certainly offset malnutrition and its associated effects.

WHERE DOES EXERCISE FIT INTO ALL THIS?

In some ways, ONS to a malnourished older adult is like protein powder to a bodybuilder. It’s not the only way to build muscle and work towards body composition goals, but it sure does help.

Malnourished older adults and bodybuilders also have this in common: their bodies require a nutritional and exercise jumpstart in order to build muscle.

Researchers recently gave older adults with sarcopenia, or a significant loss of muscle mass, a whey protein shake along with a progressive strength training program. By the end of the study, almost 70% of the participants reversed many of their symptoms.

Part of their success was probably thanks to a dedicated team of researchers keeping them on track with the study. Social support is important for frail older adults who want to use nutrition and exercise therapy to regain a healthy body composition. It can be as simple as asking a family member or friend to come by a couple times per week to help keep you on track..

So while bodybuilders may be more intrinsically motivated to increase their diet and exercise to improve the muscle mass and physique, older adults may need some social support to improve their diet and exercise in order to offset or prevent these symptoms from occurring in the first place.

Wrap-Up: Your Next Steps

By the time someone becomes clinically malnourished or frail, their eating and exercise habits have likely been insufficient for a long time. With some exceptions in disease-related malnutrition, this is not something that happens overnight.

So what can we do to increase awareness, maintain our well-being, and prevent these conditions associated with malnutrition? Keeping a healthy, well-rounded, and calorically full diet with regular exercise is the best method of prevention.

Ignoring nutrition will gradually work against your body composition, just as your smell and taste can eventually decline and various other factors we’ve discussed set in to increase the risk for malnutrition. But forming a few key dietary habits before the effects of aging truly appear can help you prevent poor outcomes later in life.

  • Establish a strength training routine. Although some muscle mass loss can be stopped later in life with exercise, it’s better to start out with muscle mass than try to play catch-up.
  • Eat sufficient protein throughout the day. It is often best to space out your protein across meals rather than consuming it all at once to ensure you’re getting a good amount on a daily basis.
  • Monitor your body composition regularly. You should make sure you minimize muscle mass loss and fat mass gain as you age.

By avoiding or treating malnutrition and maintaining your body composition, you can continue on to age gracefully… who wouldn’t want that?

**

Max Gaitán,MEd is an exercise physiologist and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. When he’s not coaching, studying, or writing, Max spends most of his time outdoors training for triathlons.

How to Stop Overeating Once and For All

By Body Composition, Diet, Nutrition

At dinner last night, one slice of chocolate cake somehow turned into half a cake…

Today, you stuffed yourself with five buttery rolls at the office potluck. That wouldn’t have been so bad if you didn’t eat three plates of food.

We’ve all been there, and we all know how those post-binge episodes go — from guilt to frustration to promising yourself that it’s going to be the last time you stuff yourself with unhealthy food! (Not to mention the dreaded food coma…)

You thought you’ve overcome overeating for good, yet it turns out that you’re back to square one when it comes to getting your cravings under control.

Why is it so hard to break out of this cycle?

Is there a way to kick this ceaseless habit for good?

Does it have to do with self-control and having an endless supply of willpower?

Or is there some otherworldly, mystical force that you need to tap on in order to break free from binge-eating episodes?

To help us figure out if it’s sorcery or science, this article is divided into two parts.

First, you’ll learn about the possible reasons why it’s so tempting to finish a large box of pizza all by yourself. Second, you’ll discover how to put an end to compulsive overeating and finally take your body composition goals seriously.

With obesity affecting more than one-third of the U.S. adult population, getting out of the binge-diet cycle remains a puzzle to many.

To have a greater understanding as to how overeating happens, it makes sense to initially get a grasp of how our appetite, or the desire to eat, works.

Understanding Overeating

How Appetite Works

It’s worth noting that appetite is a tad different from hunger. Think of hunger as a need to eat while appetite is more like a desire to snack mindlessly even after you had lunch.

At a fundamental level, hunger and appetite are both influenced by a network of pathways involving the neuroendocrine system. Appetite regulation, satiety, and energy balance involve the following:

The smart folks over at ASAPscience simplified the science of hunger and cravings in a two-minute video below. It talks about the body’s hunger-regulation system and why we’re tempted to go for second helpings.

In essence, high-calorie foods rich in fat and sugar were extremely desirable to our hunter-gatherer ancestors for survival because they were scarce. However, this instinct for fatty and sugary meals still remain even though these types of food are now available 24/7.

Eventually, the continual intake of high-calorie fat and sugar-laden food overrides the human body’s natural hunger regulation system, leading to habitual overeating.

In a nutshell, the more you gorge on food laced with too much fat and sugar, the more likely that you’re going to get addicted to it.

On Homeostatic and Hedonic Hunger

portion control

Another way of understanding appetite is to look at it from the perspective of eating for two main reasons— as a response to hunger (homeostatic) and for pleasure (hedonic).

In a review of studies differentiating the two, the researchers described that homeostatic hunger is the result of the prolonged absence of energy intake or the food itself, while hedonic hunger is strongly influenced by the availability and palatability of food in your environment. Furthermore, a 2016 study found out that intense feelings of pleasure derived from palatable foods (hedonic hunger) predicts the likelihood of losing control when eating among female college freshmen.

 

Why You Really Overeat and Binge

indulgence in ice cream

At first thought, it seems like putting an end to overeating is simply a matter of telling your brain to stop consuming food. Yet we all know that it’s not that easy, right?

Your brain may be the main driving force behind your cravings, but it’s not acting alone.

The frequency and the amount of food you finish is also influenced by a complex interaction of the following factors:

1. Genetic Influences

Your gut, hormones, and brain may be working together to control appetite, but your genetic makeup also has a say as if you’re the type to overindulge.

For instance, a London study on children revealed that genetic influences on weight and abdominal fat accumulation are high in children who are born since the onset of the childhood obesity epidemic. Furthermore, there is evidence indicating that specific genes can possibly impact your likelihood of frequent LOC (loss of control) eating episodes.

2. Environmental Influences

Environmental factors also contribute to the rise of food cravings. These factors include the atmosphere of the room and the presence/absence of distractions during meals. This also applies to social and cultural cues. Remember a time when you overindulged because everyone seems to be in the mood for feasting?

Finally, child feeding practices by parents during the first years of childhood tend to impact one’s eating behavior later in life. A review of studies on the parental influence on eating behavior revealed the following interesting findings:

  • Restrictive feeding practices by caregivers are associated with overeating and poorer self-regulation of food intake among preschool-age children.
  • Restricting access to palatable snacks and desserts like cookies in children may be counterproductive because it will eventually promote their intake.
  • Higher levels of parental control and pressure to eat healthily were associated with lower fruit and vegetable intakes and higher intake of dietary fat among young girls.

3. Psychological Influences

Did you know that not sleeping enough or getting stressed over finals week could lead to you reaching out for the cookie jar 5x a day when we’re not actually hungry?

It turns out that your appetite and hunger regulation is also influenced by these behavioral factors.

In fact, evidence from longitudinal studies suggests that chronic life stress may be linked to weight gain, with a greater effect seen in men.  Furthermore, your work schedule can also impact how much you eat. A study revealed that shift workers may be particularly vulnerable to the tendency to eat the largest meals in the evening as they remain awake longer during the times when you naturally feel hungry for high calorie sweet, salty, and starchy foods.

 

Your Action Plan to Curb Overeating (Without Depriving Yourself)

Whether it’s stress or social pressure that’s driving you to overeat, we all know how frustrating it is to realize that you gave in to your cravings (again!). The good news is you can do something the next time you’re about to open your third bag of chips.

For a start, consider the following easy yet sustainable solutions to put an end to overeating, minus the horrible feeling of self-deprivation.

1. Learn to recognize the difference between homeostatic and hedonistic hunger.

As mentioned earlier, you can eat because you’re hungry but you can also eat for pleasure.

It can be a struggle to figure out the difference between the two because it requires you to be more mindful and listen to your body. As a result, misinterpreting these signals can lead to overeating.

While these cues will differ from one person to another (as well as depend on the time of day), you can learn to recognize your motivation for eating and adjust your eating habits by asking the following question:

Am I eating as a response to a physical cue (e.g. growling stomach, headache) or am I eating because I am feeling stressed, anxious, or overjoyed?

Whether you’re stressed about deadlines or bummed about your annual employee performance review, talking to a friend or journaling may be more helpful than emotional eating.

2. Be mindful of your “food environment”.

food environment

Your “food environment” may be divided into two parts:

  1. Your social interaction and the overall atmosphere of your environment
  2. How your food is served

To help promote a positive food environment, consider the following best practices:

  • Keep an eye on your portions.

Before eating two bagels in one sitting, savor one piece instead. Furthermore, you might also want to use smaller plates and bowls to avoid taking in too much when you’re in a buffet. Research reveals that larger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller, and smaller plates can lead people to misjudge the same serving size of food as being significantly larger.

  • Press pause (whether on your TV or phone) until you’re done with lunch or dinner.

When you’re distracted, you tend to eat mindlessly. As a result, you’ll be less sensitive to satiety cues because your brain is paying more attention to other things.

  • Be like the Okinawans in Japan by only eating until your 80 percent full.

Known for having one of the longest life expectancies in the world,  Okinawans call this practice as “Hara Hachi Bu”, and this can be a useful guideline to help stop overeating.

  • Eat slowly.

A Greek study found that eating at a slower pace tended to increased fullness and reduce hungry feelings in overweight and obese participants.

Surround yourself with people who are taking steps to eat more mindfully.

Whether it’s your co-worker who’s into calorie counting or your brother who’s a geek when it comes to meal planning, being around others who eat mindfully will help reinforce your own good habits and perhaps teach you some new tips and tricks as well.

3. Make tiny adjustments to your daily habits that may impact your eating behavior.

Curbing overeating is not about making massive changes in your life but rather making tiny adjustments to your daily habits.

Going on a “healthy” detox diet or juice cleanse right after binging may help your weight loss temporarily, but it’s not sustainable in the long run. Instead, you’ll likely end up going through the same cycle of overeating, feeling guilty, restricting yourself, and giving in again to cravings. That’s why making smaller healthy changes is more effective for changing your lifestyle permanently.

These are three examples of tiny adjustments you can make to your daily habits.

  • Stop skimping on sleep, pronto.

As mentioned earlier, lack of sleep can lead to eating more and sabotage your weight loss efforts. Are you struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Establishing a consistent bedtime routine may be a good start. An irregular bedtime schedule is linked to poor sleep quality.

  • Eat breakfast when you can.

There may be some exceptions (like when you’re doing intermittent fasting), but skipping your morning meal usually leads to overeating because you end up feeling famished throughout the day. On the other hand, a healthy high protein breakfast has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels, increased satiety, and reduced hunger cues.

  • Do whole food swaps instead of cutting out certain foods entirely or adopting crazy diets.

Remember how high-calorie food that’s loaded with salt and sugar tends to encourage overeating? That why food choices are important. By opting for whole food alternatives, you will eventually reduce your cravings for unhealthy sweets and salty treats.

Don’t just adopt the latest trending diet and toss all the junk food residing in your fridge right away. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 80 percent of your daily meals from whole food sources and devote the rest to the not-so-healthy food items. And when the craving hits reach for a healthy snack like fruit or nuts. By doing so, you won’t feel deprived, which in turn can lead to another binging episode.

Special Note on Food Addiction

A lot of people can relate to overeating (because it happens to the best of us too!) but food addiction is a different story. If you feel that your binging episodes has turned into more than just a bad habit that you can change, seek professional help.

The Takeaway: Mindful Eating Can Go a Long Way for Your Body Composition

mindfulness with food

If you’ve noticed, the majority of the points discussed in the action plan has something to do with mindfulness.

Recognizing if you’re truly hungry or simply eating as a response to stress or other environmental factors requires constant practice and a heightened sense of self-awareness.

The idea of mindfulness may sound like a meditation fad or just another self-help woo-woo. However, mindfulness-based interventions in addressing compulsive overeating and other obesity-related eating behaviors have gained popularity recently. In fact, a systematic review of related studies on the topic supports its efficacy.

Overall, beating overeating and taking your body composition seriously begins with this single step—uncover the reason behind your binging habit. Keep in mind that you need to know the “why” first before diving into the “how” of putting an end to your tendency to overeat. Once you figure out your “why” the benefits are tremendous: a healthier relationship with food, weight loss, and a better sense of control. Good luck and here’s to a happier more mindful life.

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Are Abs Really Made in the Kitchen?

By Body Composition, Nutrition

There’s an oft-used saying that “abs are made in the kitchen.

The underlying theory, for those who haven’t heard this before, is that what you eat is more important than how much you exercise if you want to see defined abdominal muscles.

How much truth is there to this mantra? Are Instagram perfect abs really made simply by watching what you eat? Or can you just do a thousand crunches a day and reveal your six-pack that way?

In this article, we’ll 1) break down the science of nutrition vs. exercise and how each impacts body composition, 2) look at a few different types of diet plans and their effects on the body, 3) decide whether the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” is fact or fiction.

Let’s jump right in.

Background

The notion of “abs are made in the kitchen” is based on the fact that it is so much easier to gain calories than it is to burn it off through exercise.

 

This makes sense when you attach some numbers to it.

For example, let’s say your preferred exercise routine is swimming a few days a week. On average, you can expect to burn 400-700 calories in an hour.

But if you go home and scarf down a couple pieces of pizza, you can quickly take in the same amount of calories in a matter of minutes.

So from a time/practicality standpoint, it’s much easier to reduce your caloric intake by 400 – 600 calories a day and create the same calorie deficit as swimming/running for an hour.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that creating a calorie deficit through diet has the same effects on body composition as exercise.

First, we’ll look at some studies that weigh in (pun intended) on exercise.

How Exercise Impacts Body Composition

In a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, 320 post-menopausal women ranging in weight from normal to obese were split into two groups. The first were asked to do 45 minutes worth of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise, 5 times a week for a full year (they actually ended up averaging about 3.6 days per week). The second group did not exercise. And neither group was asked to improve nutrition or try portion control.

After one year, the exercise group lost an average of 5.3 pounds of body fat.

That’s a lot of work to lose 5 pounds of fat.

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, may be a more efficient approach to improving your body composition, especially in the abdominal region. One study compared two groups who exercised at different intensities: one that did three days a week of high-intensity exercise and another that did five days a week of low-intensity exercise. After 16 weeks, the high-intensity exercise group lost both more abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat than the steady-state exercise one.

So it appears exercise, specifically high-intensity exercise, can produce faster results if you want to see those abs.

Next, let’s see what type of impact diet has.

How Diet Affects Body Composition

There are many different diet plans for those hoping to lose fat and/or increase lean body mass. We’ll look at some of the most popular and review which are effective for changing body composition and which need to be studied more.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet (or “Paleo” for short), consists of eating foods that are assumed to have been available to humans prior to the establishment of modern agriculture. If the caveman didn’t eat it, it’s out. This includes eating things like lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and nuts. It excludes foods like grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and processed oils.

Paleo is relatively new (in terms of nutrition research) and therefore doesn’t have a whole lot of credible evidence on its impact on body composition specifically. One meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the Paleo to 4 control diets based on U.S. nutrition guidelines.

The researchers found that the Paleo led to greater short-term improvements in waist circumference, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.

It’ll interesting to see if Paleo proves to be more effective than other diet plans on improving body composition as more studies become available.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet (or “Keto” ) consists of eating high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb foods. It’s similar to Paleo but carbs are restricted to 25-50 grams per day.

A 2013 meta-analysis that compared Keto to a low-fat nutritional plan suggests that keto is more effective for weight loss as well as improvement of cardiometabolic health.

Another study that compared the ketogenic diet to a low-fat diet found that Keto was effective in short-term body weight and fat loss. On top of that, it appears that Keto may support preferential fat loss in the trunk area, although this requires further validation.

Finally, a study in which men performed resistance training three times a week and compared body composition effects of keto vs. the traditional Western diet found that the ketogenic group experienced significant fat mass loss, as well as lean body mass gains, compared to the Western diet group.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking (native to Italy, Greece, Spain, etc.).

This includes large quantities of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, fish and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets and for good reason: It has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Let’s see what type of impact, if any, it has on body composition though.

One study on 248 healthy women published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the Mediterranean diet could help reduce body fat levels.

Another study in subjects with coronary artery disease showed that adherence to the Mediterranean diet significantly reduced body fat mass and percent body fat.

A meta-analysis published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders concluded that the Mediterranean diet “may be a useful tool to reduce body weight, especially when the Mediterranean diet is energy-restricted, associated with physical activity, and more than 6 months in length.”

Finally, when researchers looked at the Mediterranean diet’s effects on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor levels in overweight or obese individuals trying to lose weight and compared them to low-fat diets, they found that the Mediterranean diet produced greater weight loss.

Diets: The Bottom Line

Science shows there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dieting. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed 59 studies with various nutritional recommendations (low-fat, low-carb, etc).

Researchers found that weight loss differences between individual diets were small. Participants were able to change their body composition (lose weight) with both low carb and low-fat diets.

However, getting the right amount of protein seems to be one of the most important things you can do to improve your body composition.

In another meta-analysis of 87 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets favorably affect body mass and composition.

So it seems the consensus is that eating more protein can also help you preserve lean body mass when dieting.

Now, let’s look at the most effective approach for getting a six pack: combining a high protein/low carb diet with different types of exercise like cardio and strength training. This is where things get interesting.

How Exercise Combined with Diet Impacts Body Composition

According to another study published in the journal Obesity that compared the effect of dieting and exercising (alone or combined) on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese post-menopausal women, the diet-only group achieved more weight loss than the exercise-only group. However, the greatest effects were seen in the combined diet/exercise group, “where 60% of participants achieved ≥10% weight loss at 1 year.”

Other studies show similar results: a combination of dieting and exercising works best if you want to lose fat (which is how you will see your abdominal muscles).

The question is, are certain types of exercise (resistance training, long duration cardio, etc) more effective than others for improving your body composition?

In a 2015 review published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, researchers analyzed 66 clinical studies and came to the following conclusions:

  1. Exercise in combination with diet led to the most significant changes in body composition.
  2. The combination of resistance training and diet was more effective than endurance training or a combination of endurance and resistance training at altering body composition measures (reduction of body mass and fat mass).

Conclusion

Making adjustments to how you eat can lead to more fat loss in less time compared to exercise alone.

So, the verdict? Abs are made in the kitchen and the gym.

Like anything worth achieving in life, getting a six-pack takes both work and knowledge. Doing 1000 crunches and 1 hour of cardio a day won’t help you see your abdominal muscles any faster if you don’t make the right changes to your diet.

“Spot reduction” is also another myth. You can target your abs and core with resistance training that help with the muscles in that area, but you also need to lose overall body fat to see the definition in those abdominal muscles– and that requires a combination of diet and exercise.

So where do you go from here?

First, determine your body composition goals. If your goal is to lose fat and gain more definition, then you’re going to have to eat at a calorie deficit. If your goal is to increase lean body mass and lose fat, then your diet and exercise regimen may look different.

At the end of the day, the best exercise/nutritional plan is the one you can stick with. Once you find the right approach for you, you can make it a lifelong habit. That’s what will give you your six-pack.

***

Scott Christ is a health and wellness entrepreneur, writer, and website strategy consultant. He’s also the creator of the world’s healthiest plant-based protein powder.

What to Eat In Order to Gain Muscle

By Muscle, Nutrition

So you started working out and lowered your overall body fat.

First off, congratulations should be in order!

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight  despite life’s occasional curveballs is something that you should be proud of. The positive changes in your body composition is proof that your efforts have finally paid off!

So where do you go from here?

Your next goal may be one of the following:

I want a huge, action star physique.

I want to achieve a leaner, more athletic look.

I want to increase my functional strength and achieve new PR’s in my lifts

Whether your goal is gaining strength or sculpting your body to your desired physique, the approach boils down to same thing — gaining muscle.

Eating for Well-Defined Muscles

As previously discussed in an article published about how much muscle you can gain in a month, the three main pillars of muscle growth are: nutrition, exercise, and hormones.

In this article, we’ll put the spotlight on nutrition and address your most frequently asked questions about what to eat in order to build muscle.

Let’s get started!

People use lean body mass and muscle mass interchangeably. Are they similar or different from each other?

Yes, lean body mass and muscle mass are two different things.

Essentially, all muscle is “lean” meaning it is primarily composed of proteins, which are lean. However, things start to get more confusing when some folks use lean body mass and skeletal muscle mass interchangeably.

Lean body mass (LBM), also known as lean mass, refers to your total weight minus all the weight comprised of fat mass. This includes your organs, your skin, your bones, your body water, and your muscles.

On the other hand, skeletal muscle mass (SMM) is a part of your LBM, but it is the part that is referring to the specific muscles used that are controlled voluntarily to produce movement and maintain posture. When you’re thinking about gaining muscle, you are actually referring more specifically to your SMM. This is what we want to track and here’s why:

Apart from changes in your SMM, a gain in your LBM numbers can also be a result of water gain. Water gain can occur from bloating or eating salty foods but also from swelling from injury or disease. That’s why you cannot attribute a increase to LBM numbers completely to muscle gains.

You can learn more about the distinction between the two in Lean Body Mass and Muscle Mass: What’s the Difference?

Now that we cleared that up, let’s dig into the facts and findings about muscle gains through diet and nutrition.

Is the hype about protein justified when it comes to bigger muscle gains?

Yes, to an extent. It’s an established fact that eating high quality protein within close temporal proximity (immediately before and within 24 hours after) of resistance exercise is recommended to increase muscle gains.

The strain of repetition when you perform resistance exercise tears the muscle fibers, and the protein intake (although macronutrients like carbs and fat play a role, too) provides the resources to rebuild the newly torn muscles into something bigger and stronger.

It’s also worth noting that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and as you most likely already know, your muscle is made up of these macronutrients. As we’ve emphasized in Why Everyone Needs Protein — Think of your muscles as the house itself while the amino acids that make up protein are the bricks.

The good news is that your body can manufacture a huge chunk of these amino acids. The not-so-good news is that some of them, also known as essential amino acids (EAA), can’t be made by the body. You have to get your EAAs from food sources.

In short, you need to follow a high protein meal plan that contains mixed amounts of these EAAs to help ensure increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS)

How do I know if I have enough protein intake to promote MPS?

As of June 2017, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) for building and maintaining muscle mass. Remember, your specific dietary needs depend on the amount of muscle mass you have as well as the type and intensity of your physical activity

With these figures in mind, let’s say you weigh 125 pounds (57 kilos), and you’re working to increase your LBM.  You would need 57 x 1.4- 2.0, or 79.8 – 114 grams of protein a day.

This may sound like a lot but it’s not. A cup (140 grams) of chicken contains 43 grams of protein.   Meanwhile, a can of tuna can contain as much as 49 grams.  Eating a cup of chicken and a can of tuna, you’d almost entirely meet your protein needs.  If you add in a glass of 2% milk (another 9-10 grams of protein), you’ve already hit your goal.

Below is a rough dietary guideline based on activity level:

  • 0.8-1.2 g/kg for regular activity
  • 1.2-1.5 g/kg for endurance athletes
  • 1.5-1.8 g/kg for strength/power athletes

If counting grams of protein for the day is not your thing, researchers have recommend an intake of about 20-40 grams of whey protein following a heavy bout of whole body resistance exercise to promote greater muscle recovery. The results stressed that the traditional 20 grams of whey supplement after working out did not promote as much MPS as the 40 grams of protein.

Can I build more muscle from eating too much protein?

Not really.

Researchers found that eating five times the recommended daily allowance of protein has no effect on body composition in resistance-trained individuals who otherwise maintain the same training regimen. That means that doubling or tripling your protein intake doesn’t translate to greater muscle gain after exercise.

It’s also worth noting that this is one of the first interventional study to demonstrate that eating a high protein meals does not result in an increase in fat mass.

Will too much protein hurt my kidneys?

While protein restriction may be appropriate for treatment of existing kidney disease,  some research has shown high protein intake in healthy individuals to not be harmful to kidney function.  Unlike extra stores of fat that the body is so keen about in holding on, the amino acids in protein are more likely to be excreted via the urine when not in use.

With that in mind, there are certainly risks associated with consuming too much protein so it’s wise to keep your intake in check.

So what our conclusion here? Eating more protein makes you feel fuller longer, can help curb overeating, and is essential for recovery and growth but don’t forget equally important nutrients like carbohydrates and fats for proteins when hitting your daily caloric goals (we’ll address this issue later).

Meat is often considered an excellent source of protein. So should I eat more meat to gain muscle? What if I’m on a plant-based diet?

Good question!

Sure, meat provides complete sources of proteins that are rich in essential amino acids so it truly is an excellent source of protein.

In a small study comparing  the effects of resistance training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle among two groups — older men with an omnivorous (meat-containing) diet and those with lacto-ovo vegetarian (meat-free) diet, the researchers found that the omnivorous diet resulted to greater gains in fat-free mass and skeletal muscle mass when combined with resistance training than the vegetarian-diet group.

Another study of 74 men and women who had type 2 diabetes — one half on a vegetarian diet and the other half on a conventional diabetic diet — were assessed at three and six months to measure how much weight they had lost. The study concluded that the vegetarian diet was almost twice as effective at reducing weight compared with the conventional diet.

But here’s the caveat — The greater weight loss seen in people on the vegetarian diet was also accompanied by greater muscle loss, particularly when maintaining their normal exercise routine. This might be an unwanted outcome and a disadvantage when compared with the omnivorous diet.

Finally, another research study examining the relationship between the type of protein intake and the level of muscle mass in healthy omnivorous and vegetarian Caucasian women found:

“A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower muscle mass index than is an omnivorous diet at the same protein intake. A good indicator of muscle mass index in women seems to be animal protein intake.”

Take note, however, that these findings do not automatically mean that animal protein is necessary to develop muscle mass.

As we mentioned in this in-depth article on whether or not you need to eat meat to gain muscle, the findings indicate that vegetarians might have a harder time getting adequate protein intake. As a result, they may not be receiving the same quality of amino acid variety to support muscle maintenance/growth as meat-eaters. This issue can be addressed by adding more variety in your diet or through supplementation.

So what about my intake of carbs and fat?

If you want to build muscle, increasing your dietary protein intake makes sense. However, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard carbs and fats.

For one, carbohydrates help replace glycogen and aids in enhancing the role of insulin when it comes to transporting nutrients into the cells, including your muscles. Combining protein and carbs also has the added advantage of limiting post- exercise breakdown and promoting growth.

In a nutshell, a diet balanced in protein, carbs, fats, and fiber is the most effective way to build muscle.

How about the ketogenic diet? Can it help me gain more muscle mass?

Most likely.  The main premise of a ketogenic diet is to opt for high fat, moderate protein, and a very low carb diet.

In an 11-week study of men who performed resistance training three times a week, the researchers found that lean body mass increased significantly in subjects who consumed a very low carb, ketogenic diet (VLCKD). Significant fat loss was also observed amongst the VLCKD subjects.

Does “when I eat” if I want to build muscle?

For decades, the idea of nutrient timing (eating certain macronutrients at specific times like before, during, or after exercise) and meal scheduling has sparked a lot of interest, excitement, and confusion.

A good example of nutrient timing is the idea of the anabolic window, also known as a period of time after exercise, where our body is supposedly primed for nutrients to help recovery and growth.

However, a review of related literature revealed that while protein intake after workout helps muscle growth, it may persist long after training.

If you’re going to ask the ISSN,  meeting the total daily intake of protein, preferably with evenly spaced protein feedings (approximately every 3 h during the day), should be given more emphasis for exercising individuals.

They also state that ingesting a 20–40 g protein dose (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) of a high-quality source every 3 to 4 hours appears to favorably affect MPS rates over other dietary patterns, which allows for improved body composition and performance outcomes.

In short, it’s more important to focus on the total amount of protein and carbohydrate you eat over the course of the day than worry about nutrient timing strategies.

The Takeaway

In summary, here’s what you need to remember when it comes to eating in order to gain muscle:

  • Muscle gains are hard to come by if you don’t complement your exercise training with the right nutrition. Besides acting as fuel for physical activity, eating right helps in muscle recovery and development of new muscle tissue.
  • Pay special attention to your protein intake in order to build muscle. Helpful figures to remember are 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) depending on your body composition, activity type, and activity intensity.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about a specific amino acids and anabolic (muscle-building) superpowers. However, it’s still important to consume different sources of protein when you can and not just focus on a single protein source. Plus, remember that your body needs carbs and fat too.
  • Do not worry about when is the best time to eat your steak. Eating a portion of lean protein with some fiber-rich carbs and fat every meal is a good way to help your body repair and rebuild muscle after resistance exercise. As much as possible, increase make sure to complement your exercise with the appropriate nutrients to promote muscle recovery and growth.
  • If you’re on a plant-based diet, make sure you’re incorporating a wide variety of protein-rich plants to ensure that you’re getting the full range of amino acids. You may have to consider plant-based protein powder supplementation.

Remember, people have different goals when it comes to working out and gaining muscle  — from aesthetics to improved sports performance to feeling better about yourself. That means there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Whatever your goal, it all begins with one small step at a time. What changes are you going to make today?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/what-to-eat-in-order-to-gain-muscle/

All About Fiber and Its Dirty Little Secrets

By Body Composition, Nutrition

Ask anyone knowledgeable in nutrition about the benefits of fiber and the positives will trump over the negatives. People claim this type of carbohydrate will help you reduce your risk of certain cancers, lower your type 2 diabetes risk, and help with weight loss as it supposedly reduces appetite and increase satiety. In other words, fiber is magic and should be given the same amount of adoration that we shower antioxidants and the rest of the nutritional superstars with.

Yet when was the last time you fact-checked fiber’s benefits? What if we dig deeper into recent nutrition research to learn more?

In this article,  we’ll put fiber in the limelight and sort myths from facts. While mainstream beliefs will tell you that adding lots of fiber to your daily diet is key to good health, let’s figure out if this advice is scientifically sound, especially when it comes to sustainable weight loss and improving your body composition.

Know Thy Fiber

Before we dive into separating myths from established facts and findings, let’s cover the basics.

Dietary fiber, sometimes referred to as roughage, refers to a broad, diverse group of carbohydrates that we, as humans, cannot digest because we are lacking in digestive enzymes to break them down. For this reason, roughage ends up in your colon unchanged.

So why would something that humans can’t digest turn out to be beneficial part of your diet?

Fibers are inherently unique from each other due to their chemical properties. That’s right, the fiber you find brown rice is different than the kind you find in oats. Scientists categorize dietary fibers based on a specific set of characteristics.

To have a better understanding as to how fiber can possibly impact your body composition and overall health, let’s take a closer look at this indigestible carbohydrate through the lens of its popular methods of classification: solubility, viscosity, and fermentability, and a special note on resistant starch.

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

irst of all, all plant-based foods are generally a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Think of the soluble fiber as the dawdling sibling while the insoluble type is the speedster in the family. How come?

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and morphs into a gel-like substance when it passes through the gut. Foods high in soluble fiber include apples, beans, blueberries, lentils, nuts, and oat products.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and the term roughage generally refers to this specific type. Unlike its slow solubility sister, roughage does the exact opposite. It speeds up transit time in the digestive system and adds bulk to your stool. This is the basis of the most common health recommendation for eating more roughage: to prevent constipation by helping food move through your system.

Foods high in insoluble fiber include brown rice, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, wheat, whole wheat bread, and whole grain couscous.

Contrary to popular belief, solubility does not reliably predict whether or not a certain type of fiber is beneficial to your health. However, the terms soluble and insoluble are still used by many nutrition and healthcare professionals including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in nutritional labels.

Viscous and Nonviscous Fiber

Another way of classifying fiber is through its viscosity. Certain types of soluble fiber are more viscous, or more likely to form firmer, stickier gels when mixed with water than other types. When you digest food with high-viscous fiber in it, it increases the viscosity of the gel-like substance that passes through your gut. As a result, it reduces your appetite because you feel fuller longer.

Viscous fibers include the following:

  • pectins (abundant in berries and fruits)
  • β-Glucans (Beta-glucans: abundant in barley and oats)
  • guar gum (commonly derived from the Indian cluster bean)
  • psyllium (isolated from psyllium seed husks)

The most frequently cited benefits of fiber (e.g., reduce cholesterol levels, improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes, improve stool form in both constipation and diarrhea) is directly correlated to its viscosity. Nonviscous food sources tend not to have these beneficial properties. This is incredibly important because the general public tend to lump all types of fiber as one and associate its health benefits to all types too. Until more is known about the beneficial effects of low-viscosity fibers, a good strategy is to learn toward foods higher in viscosity.

Fermentable and Nonfermentable Fiber

If you’re not aware yet, your entire body is host to trillions (yes, trillions!) of beneficial bacteria.  The majority live in your intestines and are referred to as your gut microbiome. Also known as the forgotten organ, these little creatures have a say in your body composition and overall health.

The beneficial bacteria in your gut thrive on fermentable fiber. Not to mention that this wonderful alchemy of fermentation in your gut produces short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate that suppress gut inflammation and can possibly reduce your risk of various digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Majority of fermentable fibers are soluble, but some insoluble fibers are cool with fermentation too. Foods that are rich in fermentable fibers include oats and barley, as well as fruit and vegetables. Cereal fibers that are rich in cellulose (like wheat bran) are nonfermentable.

Special Note on Resistant Starch

Lately, many experts have been encouraging people to add resistant starch to your diet because of its powerful health benefits.

Resistant starch is not exactly a fiber, but another form of carbohydrate (long form of glucose molecules really) that functions like soluble and fermentable fiber. Like fiber, Resistant starch is not fully broken down and absorbed in your small intestine and gut bacteria thrive on it. When fermented, resistant starch produces short-chain fatty acids as well as gases (which in turn can lead to bloating and abdominal discomfort when eaten/taken in excess).

Great food sources of resistant starch to add to your diet include beans, various legumes, green bananas, cashews, raw oats, and cooked (and then cooled) rice/potatoes. The cooling process turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches through a process called retrogradation.

So why differentiate all the different types of fibers? Because each types will have different effects in the digestive process and having an array of natural food sources (whole wheat, oats, brown rice, starch) in your diet can have a positive overall impact on your health by improving digestion and also feeding bacteria that work so hard to keep you healthy.

Fiber’s Claims to Fame: Legit or Not?

When we talk about fiber and its impact on one’s health, we are often told about the following benefits:

  • Lowers down blood sugar levels
  • Reduces cholesterol levels
  • Prevents chronic constipation
  • Reduces the risk of specific cancers such as colon cancer and breast cancer
  • Help with weight loss and improve weight control

The American Dietetic Association recommends 14g of dietary fiber per 1,000 kcal of food intake or roughly 25g for adult women and 38g for adult men. Food variety in your diet is encouraged to meet one’s daily fiber requirement. Mix it up with whole wheat, nuts, starchy carbs, and vegetables.

Like so much of nutrition, what’s true today may not be true anymore in the next three, five, or ten years. Research findings and conclusions that once seemed valid and well-founded may be revised— or even totally flipped— as new research is completed. The idea that fat doesn’t actually make you fat is a good example.

With that said, let’s figure out the recent science-backed truths of the aforementioned benefits.

Does fiber help in reducing blood sugar and cholesterol levels?

In terms of fiber’s ability to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, a review of studies on the subject published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics last February revealed the following:

“…high viscosity fibers (eg, gel-forming fibers such as b-glucan, psyllium, and raw guar gum) exhibit a significant effect on cholesterol lowering and improved glycemic control, whereas non-viscous soluble fibers (eg, inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and wheat dextrin) and insoluble fibers (eg, wheat bran) do not provide these viscosity-dependent health benefits…”

With this information, we can see that not all fibers are created equal. If lowering your serum LDL cholesterol and normalizing blood glucose and insulin levels is your goal, adding soluble, viscous fibers to your diet (mainly from whole food sources) would be beneficial.

Meanwhile, resistant starch can potentially lower down blood sugar levels after meals and improve insulin sensitivity.  This means that your body is less likely to store excess glucose as fat. This is good news if you’re currently working to lose fat mass as a priority in improving your body composition.

The takeaway: Not all types of fiber can help control blood sugar and reduce cholesterol levels. To gain fiber’s benefits in terms of regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol, opt for high viscous fibers and resistant starches.

Does fiber help with chronic constipation?

How many times have you been told to add more fiber to your diet if you’re having chronic problems in maintaining regularity in your bowel movement?

It turns out that this common advice is not as true as we thought.

In fact, a 2012 study concluded that idiopathic constipation (or constipation of unknown cause) and its associated symptoms can be effectively reduced by stopping or even lowering the intake of dietary fiber.

Furthermore, the same review of studies which examined fiber’s impact on blood sugar and cholesterol recommended that not all types of fiber can help with chronic constipation. The researchers concluded that large/coarse insoluble fibers are more effective as a laxative. Soluble fermentable fibers (e.g. inulin, fructooligosaccharide, and wheat dextrin) do not provide a laxative effect, and some fibers can even be constipating (e.g. wheat dextrin and fine/smooth insoluble wheat bran particles).

The takeaway: Not all types of fiber can help with chronic constipation. Specifically, fruits and vegetables can increase stool bulk and shorten transit time. Meanwhile, fiber supplements that are effective in treating constipation include cellulose and psyllium.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of cellulose because this type of fiber is mainly found in plant cell walls. On the other hand, psyllium is isolated from the seeds of Plantago ovata, an herb mainly grown in India. Also known as ispaghula husk, it often comes in supplement form such as granules, powder, and capsules. Psyllium is the active ingredient in Metamucil, a popular supplement to reduce constipation.

Some baked goods and fortified cereals contain this type of fiber.

An important note on this is that sufficient fluid intake is also required to maximize the stool-softening effect of increased fiber intake.

Does fiber help reduce my risk of colorectal cancer (as what most people believe)?

The surprising fact is that much of the research does not support this. Recent findings from large prospective cohort studies and clinical intervention trials do not see an association between fiber intake and the risk of colorectal cancer. In fact,  a 4-year intervention trial found out that supplementation with 7.5 g/day of wheat bran had no effect on colorectal adenoma recurrence.

As for general disease prevention, it’s worth noting that observational studies that identify associations between high-fiber intakes and reductions in chronic disease risk tend to assess only fiber-rich foods rather than fiber itself. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether observed benefits are actually related to fiber or perhaps, other nutrients or antioxidants found in fiber-rich foods. Another point for eating foods that are naturally high in fiber instead of relying on fiber supplements.

Can I rely on fiber supplements to get the same benefits as fiber from whole sources?

To get the full-benefits of fiber, research reveals that fiber-rich foods trump (as always when it comes to nutrition) supplement sources. A systematic review of studies found out that most supplements do not help at all in reducing body weight.

Okay, Enough With the Science! I Just Want to Lost Weight. Can Fiber Help?

Yes. But you have to understand that fiber for weight loss doesn’t apply to all types of fiber.

As mentioned earlier in this article, some fibers are readily fermented by your gut microbiome, most of which are soluble fibers.  Soluble fibers, alongside resistant starch, help promote a thriving and diverse community of gut bacteria. Collectively, they are often referred to as prebiotics (not to be confused with probiotics which are live bacteria). If Popeye thrives on spinach, your gut bacteria thrives on prebiotics!

So what do prebiotics have to do with weight loss and your body composition?

Currently, there is reasonable evidence that increased dietary prebiotic intake decreases inflammation and helps improve insulin sensitivity. It’s worth noting that both inflammation and reduced insulin sensitivity are strong drivers of weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

By feeding your gut’s friendly and health-promoting bacteria with the right type of fiber, you also reduce your risk of obesity or unwanted weight gain. As for fiber’s role in promoting satiety reducing appetite (thus the popular belief that fiber can help with weight loss), research on the subject continues to yield conflicting results.

Conclusion

In summary, fiber’s benefits are wide ranging, but they don’t all come from one food source. In the end, variety is king. Recent findings show viscous fiber types and resistant starch may be the best sources, not just in transforming body composition but also helping you improve in key biometrics like cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Ultimately, getting more fiber in your diet from whole food sources is always better than relying on supplements. After all, nutrition is not about eating more protein, carbs, or any specific nutrient, but it’s the synergy of these nutrients that truly matters. Besides, berries and apples are more flavorful (and more appetizing!) than chewable tablets, right?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/all-about-fiber-and-its-dirty-little-secrets/

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