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Author Archives: CollegeFitness

What Do My Blood Test Results Mean?

So you’ve gotten your blood drawn for your yearly physical or for insurance purposes and the results are back. The blood draw results look like hieroglyphs and you’re not about to call the nurse or wait to get back in with the doctor so he can interpret them for you. This post is meant to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the results of a CBC.

Lipids

Your lipid results include your Triglycerides, your Cholesterol, and your TC/HDL Ratio.

Triglycerides are blood lipids that allow for the transference of adipose tissue and blood glucose from the liver. A desirable range for a fasted individual is <150 mg/dL.

Cholesterol is a sterol (modified steroid) required to build and maintain membranes & allows for proper nerve functioning. Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not the enemy; it is produced by your body to ensure the healthy functioning of many systems. Dietary cholesterol, while occasionally a cause for concern, is not necessarily the main driver in undesirable levels.  LDL (the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol) is driven up by the consumption of refined carbohydrates and trans fats. HDL (the ‘good’ kind of cholesterol)  is driven up by the consumption of mono- & poly-unsaturated fats. Total cholesterol should be no more than 200 mg/dL.

LDL cholesterol should be no more than 70 mg/dL while HDL cholesterol is most desirable when it is above 60 mg/dL.

Your Total Cholesterol to HDL Cholesterol Ratio is a useful number when it comes to predicting a patients risk for heart disease. The amount of HDL Cholesterol to Total Cholesterol is important because it illustrates the amount of protective HDL particles that are present compared to the total number of particles.  A number below 4:1 is desirable. blood-draw

Thyroid Hormones

When testing for the health of your thyroid, most doctors will concentrate primarily on Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to determine whether there is an issue with your thyroid gland. To learn more about your thyroid (and how to treat it right) read my 2 part article titled ‘Your Best Thyroid‘. Your TSH levels should be between.4-4.2 mU/L. Anything out of this range will be considered cause for considering hypo- (under active) or hyper- (overactive) thyroid.

Vitamin D

The prevalence of testing for Vitamin D has increased by leaps and bounds over the last few years. Vitamin D has gotten a lot of attention due to the fact that deficiency in this fat-soluble vitamin can be responsible for many issues, including weight gain, depression, osteoporosis, and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Check out this table for adequate Vitamin D levels according to several different organizations:

Vitamin D 25(OH)D range guidelines from various organizations:
Vitamin D Council Endocrine Society Food and Nutrition Board Testing Laboratories
Deficient 0-39 ng/ml 0-20 ng/ml 0-11 ng/ml 0-31 ng/ml
Insufficient 21-29 ng/ml 12-20 ng/ml
Sufficient 40-80 ng/ml 30-100 ng/ml >20 ng/ml 32-100 ng/ml
Toxic >150 ng/ml

Most agree, however, that levels around 50 ng/mL is appropriate for most adults. See my previous article on how to take Vitamin D supplements if you feel concerned that you’re not getting enough of this Vitamin either in your diet or by synthesizing it from the sun.

                                                                                        Fasted Blood Glucose

roller coasterThis test is most useful for securing a diagnosis of prediabetes or full-blown diabetes mellitus (type II). This test is always performed after the subject has fasted for 8-12 hours. Proper levels of blood glucose in a fasted patient are between 65-100 mg/dL. Anything higher and you could be looking down the barrel of a devastating metabolic disease.

Homocysteine

Homocysteine levels are a reliable indicator of heart attack risk. Homocysteine is produced as a byproduct of methionine metabolism. Homocysteine levels should stay under 7.2 µmol/L.

Getting a proper blood panel every year at your physical is an important part of staying on top of your health. Many things can be revealed in your CBC that will not be readily apparent in your everyday life. Use your CBC results to guide what (if any) supplements you take and to make adjustments to your lifestyle and diet.

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APP REVIEW: My Fitness Pal

myfitnesspal

 

This App, available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry users, is the #1 calorie-counting app available. This app has an exhaustive food and exercise database, including restaurants and prepared meals, and is very easy to use. Let’s run through a few of the more important features available.

 

1. MyFitnessPal generates your daily calorie allowance

The iPhone version's homescreen

The iPhone version’s homescreen

When you sign up with MFP, you will be prompted to give some information about your height, weight, desired pace of weight loss (1/2 lb  per week, 1 lb per week, etc) and daily activity level. This information is important because it generates a daily calorie allowance, which you will follow in order to lose weight at your chosen pace. If you have a desk job where you are seated 8 hours or more  day, you will choose the lowest level and therefore have a lower calorie allowance. Conversely, if you have a very high energy job, like a construction worker or mover, you will have a much higher calorie allowance. This number is calculated using this equation:

 

(Basal Metabolic Rate) + (regular daily activity) – (number of calories need to lose weight at a certain pace)= Daily Allowance

 

Since a pound of fat is about 3500 calories, losing a pound a week would require a daily deficit of about 500 calories. Remember that exercise adds to your calorie allowance, which brings us to our next tool, the exercise feature.

2. You enter your daily exercise activity in My Fitness Pal

So you’ve just left the gym and need to calculate your calorie burn so that you know where you stand for dinner that evening. Log your exercise into MyFitnessPal & it will automatically calculate your calorie burn based on your body weight and the activity & it will add this number to your daily calorie allowance. If you went a little hard at lunch time and don’t feel like having half an apple for dinner, hitting up the gym for some HIIT training will give you some wiggle room and still keep you under your calorie goal. You can use the Strength Training feature to log the weight training movements you have done each week, though it is probably easier to just use an excel spreadsheet instead of logging every single set, rep, and weight you performed in this app.

3. Track your macros

This last feature I am going to highlight is exceptionally useful & the number one reason I have most of my clients use MyFitnessPal (whether they are trying to lose or not). You can set ceilings for daily macronutrient intake that let you personalize your food journal and train yourself to look at food in a different way. For most of my clients, we usually focus on lowering the sugar intake and raising the fat and protein intake. The web version of MFP allows you to see where you stand with calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, and number of other categories you can choose to display:

Personalize your goals

Personalize your goals

While I have not found the feature that sets an alert when you are getting close to topping out one of your goals (carbs, for example) it is a very good way to learn what foods are a green light and which are a red light. You can also get a printable report (5 days of logging, for example) to see trends, patterns, or to just go over with your trainer and find weak points in your diet.

 

Final Score: 4-stars

If you need a reliable, simple calorie tracker with a massive database that is easily customized, choose this app. While MyFitnessPal will not give you any idea of the quality of the foods your eating, like Fooducate does, it is a great way to keep track of your food intake. If it can be measured, it can be managed! Daily logging of your food intake can be very revealing.

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Your Best Thyroid: Part 2

In my last post, Your Best Thyroid: Part 1, I discussed some nutritional factors that could affect the health of your thyroid. Let’s address the role of stress on your thyroid first.

Stressed Adrenal Glands & Your Thyroid

Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys & are about the size of walnuts. They secrete the hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.  If you take a look at my older article on cortisol, you’ll know that the adrenal glands dump these stress hormones when you’re feeling mentally, physically, or emotionally stressed.  Chronic adrenal stress has been shown to disrupt the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, therefore depressing thyroid function. This phenomenon is explained here in a brilliant article by the incredible Chris Kresser:

Studies have shown that the inflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which are released during the stress response, down-regulate the HPA axis and reduce levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Another study study showed that one single injection of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), an inflammatory peptide, reduced serum TSH, T3, free T4, free T3 and hypothalamic TRH for 5 days. TNF-alpha was also found to decrease the conversion of T4 to T3, reduce thyroid hormone uptake, and decrease the sensitivity of the thyroid to TSH.

Kresser goes on to explain in more detail the role of the adrenal glands in thyroid dysfunction. When it comes down to the basics, however, being informed about how stress plays a role in depressing your thyroid function can be useful for a few reasons. Firstly, adrenal fatigue can sometimes mimic the symptoms of hypothyroid, making the treatment of hypothyroid a pointless exercise in this case. Secondly, addressing the major sources of stress in your life and working to ease their impact on your health can have a dramatic impact on your thyroid, potentially removing the need for thyroid stimulating drugs.

Exercise & Your Thyroid

You may have heard that endurance exercise can slow the production of thyroid hormones or even throw you into permanent hypothyroidism. The research is not conclusive. While some studies show a definite decrease in thyroid hormone levels after intense runnerendurance exercise, those same studies show a normalization  in levels after a few weeks. The only study that shows conclusively that long-distance running can cause thyroid levels to drop and stay low was one in which the participants were also in a caloric deficit. The trend shows, however, that steady-state, endurance exercise performed several times a week to the exclusion of other types of exercise can be a cause for concern. Training all 3 of the energy pathways (ATP-CP, glycolytic, & aerobic) in equal measure is going to be the best course of action to keep your thyroid healthy. Lift, run fast, run slow.

Obesogens

Evidence suggests that regular exposure to obesogens can have an impact on your ability to lose weight, regulate hunger, and reap the benefits of an improved diet or regular training program. Obesogens are those chemicals we are exposed to every day that have the ability to enter our bodies & mimic hormones, thereby disrupting your natural hormonal state, and cause the weight to pile on. Obesogens can be found everywhere, from your lotion, your cologne, your shower curtain, your sheets, your frying pan, and in the food you eat. Shunning chemical additives, pesticides, plastics, and packaged foods can help your chances of avoiding these toxins & their negative effect on your metabolism.

 

If you take care to eat and live for the health of your thyroid, you will never have to visit your doctor and be prescribed synthetic hormones to correct an imbalance. An under or overactive thyroid can you make you feel miserable. You don’t want to tango with the depression, fatigue, & weight gain that accompanies hypothyroidism. Start taking care of your body today and reap the benefits of a nicely tuned thyroid!

 

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Your Best Thyroid: Part I

The Thyroid

Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits cozily against your windpipe in the front of your neck.

thyroidThis gland is responsible for generating the thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) & thyroxine (T4), as well as calcitonin, which is responsible for calcium homeostasis. The production of these hormones is controlled by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which is in turn regulated by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). T3 & T4 regulate the body’s metabolism & also control how sensitive the body is to other hormones.

Thyroid Dysfunction

The two most common thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism & hypothyroidism, hypothyroidism being the more common of the two. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid underproduces T3 and T4, setting off a chain reaction in the body that leaves the sufferer feeling tired, irritable, and unable to lose weight despite their best efforts. Brittle hair, dry skin, constipation, depression, and joint pain can also be symptoms of hypothyroidism. While a blood panel and visit to your doctor is the surefire way to tell if your thyroid hormone production is low, you can also measure your body temperature every morning, which will give you an indication of the state of your thyroid. If you repeatedly measure below 97.8, you may have an underactive thyroid.

Eating for a healthier thyroid gland

There are two key nutrients to talk about when discussing the health of your thyroid: tyrosine and iodine. Tyrosine is a non-essential (meaning it cannot be synthesized by the body and must be included in the diet) amino acid, from which T3 and T4 are synthesised. A deficiency in tyrosine can lead to underproduction of these hormones. Tyrosine can be found in cheese, yogurt, milk, avocados, sesame seeds, and bananas.

Iodine is an essential trace mineral that has the potential to be behind an underperforming thyroid; its potential is greater than tyrosine because iodine is scarcely found in any appreciable amount in the Western diet. Iodine, being a main constituent of T3 & T4, has the ability to make or break your thyroid health. Below is a list of foods that contain iodine:

  1. Seafood                                                                                                                                                                 
  2. Kelp
  3. Iodized salt
Kelp

Kelp

That’s about it. Now you may have some idea of why iodine deficiency is so common. When was the last time you ate kelp? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is probably ‘never’. While you may use iodized table salt (created for exactly this purpose) in your salt cellar, it is probably not enough to give you the daily intake of iodine that is recommended (150 micrograms). For this reason, you should invest in a multivitamin that includes your daily recommended intake of iodine so that your thyroid has the nutritional support it needs.

This article has already gotten pretty lengthy so I will cut it into 2 parts. Part II will discuss lifestyle factors that could be affecting the health of your thyroid gland.

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The Turkish Get-Up

Today’s post will break down a movement that I believe should have a place in everyone’s strength program: the Turkish Get-Up. It is a comprehensive, full-body movement & its benefits range from increased flexibility to stronger core musculature to increased shoulder stability.  Don’t let this simple movement fool you–it’s more difficult than it looks. Want to be able to get off the floor when you’re 75? Start practicing now.

 

The Get-Up: Let’s break it down

Firstly, if this is your first time doing a Turkish Get-Up, don’t hold any weight in your hand. You’re better off learning this movement without any load to balance over your face. In the graphic below, omit the steps where the guy is grabbing the kettle-bell and positioning it overhead. Advance to step three.

Step 3

Lie flat on your back with your right leg bent and your left leg flat. Raise your right arm straight up so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Roll onto your left elbow, then your left hand all while keeping your eyes on your right hand, which is still held over your head. Keep your back strong & your shoulder blades down and back.

Step 4

Push through your right (bent leg) heel and your left hand (which is planted on the floor) and raise your hips as high as you can. If someone were to feel your right butt-cheek, it should feel like they’re grabbing a bowling ball. Activating your right glute is key to raising those hips high enough to tuck your left leg under your body.

Step 5

Tuck your left leg under your body and plant the knee on the ground then remove your left hand from the floor so that you’re in a kneeling position. Keep your core STRONG and your chest proud. Your arm should still be straight up in the air, now right next to your ear.

Step 6

Push through the heel of your right foot and stand up. Ta-Da! You’re halfway there.

Step 7

Reverse it! The second half the Get-Up is reversing the movement. So step your left leg back, plant the knee, put your left hand on the ground, untuck your left leg, sit on your butt, and lay back down. You’ve just done a Get-Up! Do 5 on each side with perfect form, don’t get sloppy! You want to build good Get-Up habits so that when you hold a dumbbell or kettlebell or cat or whatever in your raised hand, it won’t fall on your face and knock your teeth out.

Part One

Part One

Part Two

Part Two

Photo Credit

 

I know you don’t want one of those Life Alert bracelets in your future. DO THE GET-UP and see returns on your time investment.

 

Later this week I will have an article up on optimizing your thyroid through diet and lifestyle.

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Rising Healthcare Costs…Wake up or Shut up

Time magazine article on healthcare costs

Time magazine article on healthcare costs

My idea for this article came from an article from the New York Times titled U.S. Drug Costs Dropped in 2012, but Rises Loom. The article is thought-provoking & along with other pieces like this one from Time magazine, create discussion around the outrageous cost of healthcare in the U.S. It is my opinion, however, that while the discussion surrounding the fact that a cancer diagnosis means absolute bankruptcy (even for the insured) is a necessary one, we are missing a crucial piece of the debate: preventative behavior.  This line from the New York Times article really sums up my frustration with this whole topic:

The potential for higher spending on drugs comes as the nation is struggling over how to contain the cost of health care, which many experts agree is a major threat to the country’s fiscal condition.

-Katie Thomas, New York Times

I highlighted that particular part of the sentence because it is incredible to me how we are missing the boat on this opportunity to really institute the kind of education that could turn our country’s health problems around. We are struggling to pay for our healthcare costs because we, as a nation, are so ill that we cannot function without putting billions of dollars a year into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies who PLAY US LIKE CARDS when it comes to taking charge of our own health. Please note that, when I say we as a nation are ill, I am talking about preventable disease associated with obesity like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and some cancers. These diseases, and the astronomical cost associated with treating them, are PREVENTABLE. They do NOT need to happen and they do NOT need to be paid for by you or your family.

Let’s do some simple math. Here are the numbers just for the cost of treating diabetes in the US in 2012. [1]

  • $245 billion: Total costs of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2012healthcare-money1
  • $176 billion for direct medical costs
  • $69 billion in reduced productivity

How much money per year is spent on gym memberships? About .004% of the amount spent on treating diabetes. Diabetes can be cured by exercise and proper diet, an option that is pennies compared to what is costs to take insulin, or take Metformin, or get your foot amputated because of nerve disease never mind the cost to your quality of life by being obese and sick.

Unless we start taking care of ourselves by taking charge of our health, we are doomed to be poor and sick. This is the age of endless, free information; take this blog as an example. It is free to read, informs you on topics important to your health, and has the potential to empower you to make lasting changes in your life. We have to step up to the plate, put on our big kid panties, and stop being so  lazy. Don’t eat crappy food and exercise every day & you can avoid the debt, heartache, and loss associated with preventative illness. Every time you take the lazy road when it comes to your health and wellness, you put more of YOUR MONEY in the pockets of doctors, hospitals, and big pharma.

Information is free, people! Arm yourself with the knowledge to take care of yourself and your family and you will never need to see yourself or your loved ones suffer because of preventable illness.

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[1] http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/

5 Books Your Trainer Is Reading

Here are 5 books that I have read that answer questions my clients ask me over and over. If you want good books that provide valuable information on health & lifestyle, here are FIVE books that should get a place on your nightstand. Click on the photo of the cover for the Amazon.com page.

 

1. Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D.

Wheat BellyThis book is number one because I think it should be required reading for anyone even remotely interested in improving their health. Dr. Davis’s book provides VITAL information about the role of industrialized wheat in destroying our health and making us SICK. He explains the biology behind the long and short-term health problems that arise from consuming wheat. It will change the way you look at that supposedly ‘harmless’ slice of whole-wheat bread.

 

 

2. Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

good cals bad cals

I see the phrase ‘calories in, calories out’ all the time. It makes me cringe because it is just NOT true. Anyone who tells you 100  calories of candy is the same as 100 calories of spinach is a fool. The quality of the food & the hormone response it elicits is paramount when it comes to differentiating between a ‘good’ calorie and a ‘bad’ calorie. If you want to learn more about what calories are help you get lean and stay lean, read this book!

 

 

3. The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove

new rules

If you’re looking for an easy to understand, fun to read manual for lifting weights, you’ve found it in The New Rules of Lifting. Whether you are new to lifting or have hit a wall after  months of training, this book is your answer. It breaks the sometimes overwhelming world of weight-lifting down into 6 basic movements and provides you with detailed lifting programs as well as nutrition advice. There are more versions of this book, like The New Rules of Lifting for WomenThe New Rules of Lifting for Abs, but this is your most basic version.

 

 

4. Becoming A Supple Leopard: Movement, Mobility, and Maintenance of the Human Animal by Kelly Starrett

supple leopard

“All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves”. So goes the quotation by Kelly Starrett, author of what promises to be the ULTIMATE guide in keeping one’s body healthy for training. Although Starrett tends to be a bit of controversial figure outside of the Crossfit community, there is no denying that he is mind-blowingly brilliant when it comes to deciphering the mobility needs of today’s athlete. He’s got the magic touch, folks. This book won’t be released until April 23rd but you’re straight up crazy if you’re not ordering right now. If you have any pain during training, can’t reach full range-of-motion, or are even just missing a few degrees  in a single movement, buy this book. It needs to be on everyone’s shelf.

 

5. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

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This book may seem daunting but it is a pleasure to read. Not only that, it will most likely change your life. Read this book and you will NEVER look at food the same way again. It is about the food chain, its costs and benefits, its affects on human health and environment, and how you can make responsible food choices. It is not necessarily a health and fitness book, but it is for you if you’ve ever wondered about the origins of your food & if you wish to be a more responsible  ethical, informed consumer (which, deep down, you d0).

 

 

If you’ve ever wondered what your trainer is reading, now you know. Knowledge is power, get informed.

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The 3 Worst Foods In Your Kitchen

You don’t need me to tell you that food companies are experts at marketing. They will use every trick in the book to con you into tossing their product into your cart. Food companies love to market their product according to the hot trend of the moment, whether it’s fat-free, sugar-free, low-sodium, all-natural etc. The extent to which food companies are allowed to stretch the truth on their labels is pretty shocking; they can exploit the loopholes in the FDA’s regulations to the point where reality and fiction become blurred. In today’s article, I want to target 3 of the worst offenders.

Number 1: Yogurt

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: But I thought yogurt was healthy!  The truth is, it CAN be healthy, but the types that most folks buy are not. Your regular old flavored yogurt packs a whopping load of sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup. LOOK AT THE LABEL! Some of these yogurts have as much sugar as a can of coke.If it has more than 8-10 grams of sugar (the amount that would naturally be in the yogurt), you’re holding the wrong container. You can also safely assume that if it has a ‘flavor’, like fruit or honey, it has a ton of added sugar. If the sugar content seems suspiciously low for a flavored yogurt, check the ingredient list—it most likely contains chemical sweeteners.

End of story: Your best bet is to just buy the PLAIN yogurt. No added sugar, dyes, or flavorings-just plain, full-fat, organic yogurt. If you really can’t stomach plain yogurt, add fresh fruit or honey & you’ll still be many many times better off than with the disgusting alternative that passes for flavored yogurt.  The picture below shows some of the worst yogurts when it comes to added sugars.

3 yogurts to steer clear of

3 yogurts to steer clear of

NUMBER 2: Almond Milk and Soy Milk

If almond milk is in your refrigerator, you need to take a closer look at the label. Almond milk is essentially sugar water. There is very little protein or fat & the consistency isn’t anything to write home about either. Here is the label for half gallons of Original, Vanilla, and Chocolate Almond Milk:

Even the original almond milk flavor has 7 grams of sugar

Even the original almond milk flavor has 7 grams of sugar

Soy milk is a better, but still problematic choice. Not only do some of the soy milk products on the market have huge amounts of sugar, but eating soy on a regular basis is going to be problematic for most folks who are already estrogen-dominant. Read my article on estrogen-dominance here to find out more about how soy products affect your hormones and your ability to shed fat. When it comes to an alternative to dairy, coconut milk is your best option. Coconut milk comes packed with medium-chain fatty acids that contribute to feelings of satiety, contribute to fat loss, and improve your lipid profile.[1] While coconut milk may be low in protein, it is high in good fats that make the insulin response to this beverage less severe than almond or soy milk.

Coconut milk is the way to go!

Coconut milk is the way to go!

NUMBER 3:  All ‘Low-fat’ or ‘Fat-free’ products

People choosing the low-fat or fat-free options of certain foods is a big pet-peeve of mine as a trainer. Fat-phobia is leftover from the 90s and we know so much more about dietary fat’s role in a healthy body composition that avoiding fat is just plain stupid. Fat is the key to fat loss, folks. Consuming fat allows your body to operate properly, like a well-oiled machine! When dietary fat is low (or high in the ‘bad’ kinds of fat), the body’s hormone production is thrown way off & starts to STORE fat. Hormones affect EVERY bodily function you can think of but particularly those associated with people’s weight loss goals- feelings of fatigue, hunger, sadness, etc are all controlled by hormone imbalances. When you consume dietary fat of the ‘good’ variety (I’ll list some below) & keep carbohydrate consumption in check, you can begin to see some positive results for fat-loss.

‘Good’ High Fat Foods

1. Avocadoes

2. Eggs

3. Fatty Fish

5. Raw nuts and seeds

6. Raw nut butter

7. Virgin coconut oil and coconut milk

Choosing the low or fat-free alternatives to some foods (think cheese, peanut butter, liquid egg substitute, dairy products) only results in consuming more sugar or fillers. When they take the fat out, they have to add something back in, don’t they? It’s usually a filler, a preservative, or more sugar. Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch folks.

Toss these THREE foods out of your kitchen today! No excuses.

 

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1. Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity.

How Alcohol Affects Your Metabolism

If you like to drink but want to be an educated drinker when it comes to the effect of alcohol on your body’s ability to burn fat, this article is for you. Let’s delve into the physiology behind alcohol consumption and talk about ways to reduce its negative impact on your health.

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol?

Your body responds to the ingestion of alcohol the way it would respond to your ingesting a poison. Since alcohol itself has no nutritional value & cannot be digested or used for any kind of function, its elimination takes precedence over dozens of other bodily functions, like the maintenance of blood sugar levels, the production and secretion of certain hormones, and the mobilization of fat for fuel.

The alcohol travels into your bloodstream quickly, setting off a series of reactions in the brain that give you that nice relaxed, walking on air feeling. Via the bloodstream, alcohol makes its way to the liver for metabolization. Since your liver can only metabolize so much alcohol at a time, if the rate of consumption outpaces the liver’s ability to metabolize, your blood alcohol level rises & you become increasingly intoxicated. The key issue here is that alcohol metabolism decreases your basal metabolic rate for many hours after alcohol consumption & can also provide the loopy state of mind needed to indulge in ‘drunk food’- unhealthy, high-calorie foods that you would usually avoid when sober.

What types of drinks are best?

Drinking alcohol regularly is going to earn you a belly regardless of what type you drink. For one, alcohol is very estrogenic; it mimics the hormone estrogen & therefore manipulates normal hormone levels in both men & women, providing both sexes with the extra appetite, mood swings, and body fat associated with high levels of this sex hormone. Read my article on estrogen-dominance for more information.

I have snagged a pretty good infographic that illustrates the sugar and alcohol content of some popular drinks:

Get Drunk Not Fat

What grade does your beverage earn?

Drinks that have high sugar content 1)get you drunk more quickly 2)pack a huge calorie punch. The worst culprits would be fruity mixed drinks & beer. The majority of their calorie content comes from sugar; drinking these types of beverages even a few times a week really adds up.

Other Factors to Watch Out For

Since alcohol consumption negatively affects muscle repair, if you are committed to training & to living a healthier lifestyle, alcohol just isn’t in the picture. There’s no way around it. It is extra, useless calories you don‘t need, it raises the level of a hormone that makes lowering your body fat next to impossible(1) & decreases the hormone you need to build muscle(2).

That being said, if you want to drink & want to minimize the affect on your body composition, your best bet is to go with hard liquor on ice or mixed with a diet soda. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will only make the aftermath worse!

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1. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Volume 17, Issue 4, pages 786–790, August 1993

2. Gordon GG, Altman K, Southren AL, Rubin E, Lieber CS The New England Journal of Medicine [1976, 295(15):793-797]

5 Ordinary Foods With Awesome Properties

Today’s post spotlights FIVE common foods that are actually nutritional superstars. These foods are probably sitting in your kitchen right now, just waiting for you to use them to your benefit!

1. Ginger

Ginger is a hard, pale brown root that can be found in any produce section. It is very cheap & packs a potent flavor. In addition to being proven as a godsend when it comes to morning sickness[1], ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown that eating ginger before and after an intense workout can ease muscle soreness by up to 25%.[2] But wait, it only gets better. Ginger has been found to increase the thermic effect of food- in other words, ginger has the ability to increase your natural metabolism, which means you will burn calories at a higher rate & the food you consume will be on a much shorter trip through your body. Some ways to eat ginger are ginger tea, ginger chews, or dicing it & using it in cooking.

2. Garlic

I mentioned garlic in my previous post about testosterone & will mention it again here because it is has such incredible properties. Garlic is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants in nature.[3] In addition, it has been found to lower LDL cholesterol, control weight gain[4], and have anti-diabetic effects[5].  The best way to get plenty of garlic in your diet is to just buy the bulbs at the store & use the cloves in cooking. Here is a really handy video on how to prepare garlic.

3. Grapefruit

Grapefruit is probably well-known by most people as part of the ‘grapefruit diet’ in which you eat a half a grapefruit at every meal & miraculously lose weight. Recent studies show that compounds in grapefruits not only have anti-cancer properties[6], but can indeed help you lose weight. [7] The participants in this study ate half of a grapefruit with every meal & lost an average of 3.5 pounds per month. This study involved both raw grapefruit & grapefruit juice. Be careful to not select the grapefruit juice with added sugar.

4. Eggs

Eggs may be a breakfast staple for most folks just out of habit. The content of the yolk, however, is incredibly rich in important nutrients.

Yolks are nutritionally superior to whites on nearly all measures. They’re especially important as a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids; they also contain cholesterol and saturated fat, which are in fact critical nutrients despite being demonized by mainstream “experts”: cholesterol helps build new muscle and protects against heart attack, not to mention cancer, while saturated fats enhance the immune system, and protects the liver from alcohol and other toxins, among many other important functions.

 

Eat your eggs, people! Don’t be scared of the yolk &, if you can, buy organic free-range eggs from hens that are not being tortured in factory farms. Costco sells eggs that are certified humane and organic and tasty.

 

5. Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and lutein. In addition, broccoli is a great source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair and blocks the growth of cancer cells [8]. Stir-fry, steam, or even microwave your broccoli but don’t boil it; boiling the broccoli has been show to damage and inactivate the cancer-fighting compounds.

 

Add ginger, garlic, grapefruit, eggs, and broccoli to your shopping list this week. Using food as medicine is the best way to maintain overall health and a healthy weight!

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[1]  Borrelli F, Capasso R, Aviello G, Pittler M H, Izzo A A.  Effectiveness and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. Obstetrics and Gynecology 2005; 105(4): 849-856.

[2] Christopher D. Black, Matthew P. Herring, David J. Hurley, Patrick J. O’Connor. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise. The Journal of Pain, 2010

[3] Antioxidant Action and Therapeutic Efficacy of Allium sativum L. Molecules. 2013 Jan 4;18(1):690-700.

[4] Anti-obesity effects of hot water extract and high hydrostatic pressure extract of garlic in rats fed a high-fat diet. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jan 7. pii: S0278-6915(13)00002-1.

[5] Garlic as an Anti-diabetic agent: Recent Progress and Patent Reviews. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2012 Dec 24.

[7] he effects of grapefruit on weight and insulin resistance: relationship to the metabolic syndrome. J Med Food. 2006 Spring;9(1):49-54.

[8] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4688854.stm

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