A Calorie is a Calorie – Or Is It?

The NY Times published a recent article about, “what really makes us fat.”  Aside from the author’s agenda (Gary Taubes is a HUGE proponent of low-carb diets), let’s look at the question objectively.  The article contends a controversial topic in the nutrition field: is a calorie a calorie.  Why this is important for the discussion: when it comes to fat loss do calories matter more or is it the diet’s composition?  Short-term: Calories are king.  Long-term: diet quality is more important for sustainable, healthy weight loss.  Excess refined carbohydrates contribute to obesity more than say, a handful of calorically dense nuts.  The insulin response is what distinguishes fat calories from carbohydrate calories, but it is an important distinction (with regards to satiety and fat deposition).  What to take away from this – focus on the types of foods you are consuming and their respective portions.  When it comes to weight loss, it’s about improving the nutrient density (quality) of the diet.  Read on for further discussion.

Do extra calories make us gain weight?

Yes.  No matter what the composition of the diet (healthy or unhealthy), eating more calories than your body needs will cause weight gain.

But the goal of weight loss is to keep it off.  A very low calorie diet to get there is not sustainable and has myriad negative side effects, such as a slowed metabolism and increased protection of fat cells. This is because when you drastically reduce calories, the body is in a starved mode.  Constant hunger is usually the result, which is why those on low calorie diets for weight loss can’t sustain it and thus tend to gain back any accrued weight loss (and sometimes subjects have even gained more weight than from baseline).

Can I eat a low calorie diet of Twinkies and Coke for weight loss?

As mentioned above, refined carbohydrates (added sugars versus those found naturally in foods) does increase fat deposition on the body when eaten in excess (and by, “in excess,” this is much is less than what people would think).  “In excess” is more than 150 calories of discretionary spend (for men) and 100 calories (for women).  This means, for men, if a food has around 9 teaspoons of sugar (1 teaspoon weighs around 4 grams and so 9 teaspoons weighs 36 grams) they’ve had their limit for the day.  To put this into perspective, one 12 fl oz can of regular Coke has 40 grams of sugar J   More on sugars and carbohydrates at the American Heart Association website.

Best way to eat for weight loss?

Those who eat more lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbs and whole foods and less refined carbohydrates and processed foods lose weight quicker and don’t have a hard time keeping it off.  This is because there are many factors when it comes to weight reduction.  The reduced caloric plan is not sustainable and metabolism slows down to protect the fat it has on the body so as not to starve to death, etc).  With regards to what really helps us lose weight, fussing over caloric quantity is less effective than focusing on quality foods.

Advertisements

3 Ways to Enjoy More Veggies

If you haven’t noticed, I focused this week around eating vegetables, from “5 reasons to eat more veggies” to interpreting the meaning of “5-9 servings per day.”  You sort of get what to do… A side of steamed spinach here, some carrots with hummus there.  But what if you wanted to jazz it up – that is, incorporate veggies in less boring ways?  Lucky for you, I’m a (serious) foodie, and have tried all of these ideas either out at restaurants or in my own home.  #1: Frittatas or omelets.  Sautéing veggies in a skillet (chopped broccoli, peppers, tomatoes or onions), and tossing sharp cheddar on top is a dream come true.  #2: Veggie pancakes.  Sound icky?  You’re so wrong (think: grated zucchini, carrots and potatoes with eggs, a touch of nutmeg, flour and milk). Goes well with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on the side. #3: Carrot Chips.  Yes – they exist!  Instead of baby carrots (which don’t have the mouth feel of a chip) try “Cal-Organic Carrot Chips.”  These are carrots that have been washed, peeled and sliced into a ripple-cut.  Eat raw with a dip, bake with olive oil for a crunchy flavor, or stir-fry. Bon appétit 🙂

“What Does 5-9 Servings of Fruits & Veggies Really Mean?”

Okay, so you’re convinced you need to eat more vegetables after reading yesterday’s post, “ 5 reasons to eat more veggies.”  How on Earth should you include 5-9 servings into your diet?  It does not mean to eat, “5-9 servings of fruits and zero vegetables,” nor does it mean, “5-9 servings of fruits and another 5-9 servings of veggies.”  The USDA defines 5-9 servings per day as: a minimum of 3-5 servings of vegetables (a serving = 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked) and a minimum of 2-4 servings of fruit (a serving = 1 cup raw or one whole piece).  Many experts and researchers have increased the total recommendation to 9-13 servings per day.  How you can meet 9 servings today: enjoy 2 servings of fruit with breakfast, 3 servings of veggies with lunch, 1 whole fruit as a snack, 1 cup raw veggies as a snack, and 2 servings of veggies with dinner.  That is what 9 servings of fruits and veggies looks like.  To see how this looks in a “meals format,” I’ve provided a sample plan below.

Sample day with 9 servings of fruits and vegetables:

Breakfast

Snack

Lunch

Snack

Dinner

Snack

Fruits & Veggies

1 Cup berries

1 apple

2 Cups Spinach ; 1 cup raw mixed veggies

1 cup raw broccoli

1 cup cooked spinach (this equals 2 servings)

1 cup strawberries

Protein

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 Babybel cheese

1 serving grilled chicken or beans

1 serving salmon

Fat

1 tbsp flaxseed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (cheese and avocado serve as a fat)

Ranch dip

1 serving dill sauce on top of salmon

Carbs

Sprinkle of granola

1 whole wheat roll

½ cup wild rice

Dipped in chocolate

5 Reasons to Eat More Veggies

Why eat vegetables?  #1: Nutritionally, they offer a range of vitamins and minerals per bite that are tough to find elsewhere (e.g., vitamin K in dark leafy greens, vitamin A in deep orange sweet potatoes, and folate in spinach).  #2: For health benefits, vegetables contain compounds that protect against certain types of cancers, reduce heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.  For example, onions have an antioxidant called “quercetin” that may reduce colon cancer by 50 percent (British Journal of Nutrition).  #3: Veggies have a hefty amount of dietary fiber, providing a feeling of fullness for a smaller caloric and fat spend (e.g., there are 31 calories and 2.4 grams of fiber in one cup of uncooked broccoli).  #4: Pleasure your senses.  There is an enormous variety of vegetables from which to choose (e.g., have you ever tried Swiss Chard? Celeriac? Fennel?). #5: Prepare the same veggie in a different way (e.g., eggplant is a part of various ethnic cuisines).  Grill an eggplant with olive oil for an Italian flavor.  Boil an eggplant and mash it up with tahini and lemon juice to enjoy the Mediterranean dip, Babaganoush.  For an Asian flavor, try a Chinese eggplant in a ginger sauce.

Road Race Day-of Nutrition Guide (3.5 Miles)

Tomorrow, Team Next Jump NYC runs the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge 3.5 mile road race.  Whether walking, running or planning to do both, proper race day nutrition is essential.  Why?  Adrenaline surges during a race.  You walk or run harder as a result, which uses more energy from your tank of gas.  On top of that, climate plays a role in sweat rate, making it crucial to pay attention to thirst and fluid intake.  When I began writing this post, tomorrow’s weather seemed ideal for a road-race (i.e., not too hot, a little wind, and some clouds). But it now looks like 60% chance of rain (might be good to break the heat!).  Either way, road racing comes with great responsibility: fuel well or dehydration will rear its ugly head.  My post goes into more detail about the best sports nutrition practices for your race.  But if you decide not to read on: eat breakfast, lunch, a snack and drink at least 1 liter of water before 3 pm.  After 3pm, start hydrating again to get in another liter before the 7 pm race start.  Start hydrating today!    

Race-day fluids:

1.       BEFORE THE RACE: NYC has a 7:00 pm start-time; drink normally throughout the day.  AT LEAST ONE hour before the run, drink anywhere from 16-24oz of fluids (2-3 cups).  Plan to void (use the restroom!) prior to the race time.  Drink about 4 oz before starting (this usually equals two big gulps of water).

2.       DURING THE RACE: the Corporate Challenge sets up race stations with water in 4oz shooters.  If you are racing for a time < 30 min, you need 0-1 shooters for the race.  If you plan to run > 30 min, plan to stop by the stations at least 2 times.  There will be no Gatorade at this race—meaning, if you think you will be out there for 45-60 min, it is wise to bring a G2 from the office.

3.       AFTER THE RACE: Rehydration is essential to avoid cramping and recover from sweat losses.  Plan to rehydrate with water or a sports drink – at least 20-24 oz.  If your urine is dark yellow, you will need to keep drinking to obtain the lemonade color.  Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that your body will lose fluids when consuming this drink.  Not the best fluid to have post-exercise; however, if you plan to consume alcohol post-race, make sure to hold a glass of water in the other hand.  For every one beer, drink two cups of water to stay hydrated.

Race-day nutrition:

Do what you NORMALLY do – no drastic changes on race-day!  If you are completely in the dark about how to eat, here is a guide to “eating clean” the day of the race.

1.       BREAKFAST: yogurt with granola and berries

2.       MID-MORNING SNACK: apple with string cheese

3.       LUNCH: Turkey or hummus and cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat bread; side small salad

4.       MID-AFTERNOON SNACK: Trail mix with pretzels or granola bar

5.       PRE-RACE: ½ – whole banana and/or ½ – whole kashi or nature’s valley bar

6.       POST-RACE DINNER: Make sure to get 1 portion of carb (bread, pasta, corn, potato, rice), 1 portion of protein (meat, cheese, tofu, seafood), and 1 portion of veggies.

Questions – contact me!

All about Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure (BP) measures the pressure of blood against your arteries.  HYPERtension means blood is exerting a high pressure against the arteries.  HYPOtension means the opposite.  There are two numbers in the measurement (it looks like a fraction: 110/70 mm Hg).  “Systolic” is the top part of the fraction – this number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts.  “Diastolic” is the bottom part of the fraction – this number measures the pressure in the arteries in between heartbeats.  That number is generally the lower number since it measures the pressure when the heart is between beats and refilling with blood.   The American Heart Association recommends a systolic less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic less than 80 mm Hg.  Everyday, everyone’s blood pressure rises and falls (it falls during sleep, rises during exercise, and stays elevated during stressful times).  Read on for a full list of ways to lower high BP and keep it low during stressful situations.

Sleep

According to the Mayo Clinic, sleeping less than six hours a night is associated with increased blood pressure.  And sleeping five hours or less per night puts people at an even higher risk.  The thought is, since sleep regulates the stress hormones, having less sleep would increase stress – leading to high BP.

How to fix    

  • Aim for at least six and upwards of eight hours per night
  • Stop with the video games (Diablo III), TV and other mentally stimulating apps
  • Read boring books (long-winded biographies of dull people will do the trick)
  • Play lullaby or classical music (try the soothing song “A fuoco” from Una Mattina by Ludovico Einaudi)

Stress

During a short period of time (like running for a taxi cab) stress can raise BP.  Elevated BP increases heart rate to ensure extra blood delivery for the working muscles.  But long-term stress is different – the body produces hormones when in stressful situations, which when increased over time, will keep the heart rate good and high.  Tigers and bears just keep following your every move, aren’t they 🙂

How to fix

  • Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.
  • See above.  Sleeping much?
  • Exercise reduces stress.  See below.

Exercise

Any kind of exercise increases blood pressure during the activity – this is good – we want blood to pump throughout our body in order to deliver oxygen and nutrients (like electrolytes and glucose) to our muscles.  To pump sufficient oxygenated blood to the working muscle, the heart has to pump faster to meet the body’s requirements.  Although exercise raises BP while partaking in the activity, your resting BP will decrease as a result of becoming more fit.  Why?  When you are in shape, your heart has to pump less rapidly to deliver the same amount of nutrients as someone who is out of shape.  Exercise literally conditions the heart to be a better functioning organ – requiring our vessels to be better adept at delivering needs to the muscles.

According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, November 2009, just 20 minutes of running on a treadmill or lifting weights lowers blood pressure for ~7 hours of normal physical activity.

How to fix

  • 20 minutes.  2x per week to start.
  • Increase to 30 minutes of cardiovascular work a few times per week and add a strength day.

Nutrition

Foods high in sodium, fat, sugar, and low in fiber will do some serious damage to your arteries and make your heart pump harder than it has to (pumping harder = high BP).  Here are some tips to change your diet today.

How to fix

  • Drink water – leave the bottle at your desk as a reminder.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: any type you want, just eat them, and often (try fruit with your breakfast and veggies with lunch and with dinner).
  • Men need 38g of fiber per day; women need 24-28g per day.  This comes from fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes.  In other words, 1 apple has only 4 grams of fiber… Start eating up.
  • Have a heavy salt shaking hand?  Start using other spices like cinnamon for your oatmeal or paprika for your chicken.
  • Cut down on alcohol.  A glass of wine or a beer a few times spread over the course of a week is actually beneficial.  But pounding them all in one night will raise your heart rate and increase BP.

Contact me if you would like a personalized approach to reduce your BP: mbeck@nextjump.com

Your Brain’s Energy Needs

Did you know your brain needs 2x more energy than any other cell in the body?  For it to work efficiently throughout the day, the brain needs a supply of calories at specific intervals, such as meal and snack time.  For the brain’s energy level to remain constant, it has a preferred energy source: glucose.  Glucose is sugar – BUT – oddly enough, sugar ingested straight-up slows down the brain’s performance!  This is because glucose is a simple sugar, which is like an injection of sugar into the blood stream (great for exercising, since it will provide instant energy to the muscles, but terrible for focus and concentration).  Thus for your brain’s preferred energy needs, focus on calories coming from slow-released sugars:  complex carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates come from fruits, vegetables, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grains.  In addition to complex carbs, including protein and fat will also slow down the absorption of sugar, letting your brain grab waves of energy from the dietary choices you make.