With the festive season fast approaching, it’s easy to be seduced by the numerous Christmas parties and celebrations. As we all know, a little extra alcohol consumption is generally part and parcel of such occasions. Before you become immersed in the festive season, it may be worthwhile familiarising yourself with the calories in alcohol…
Archive for the ‘diet & nutrition’ Category
We’ve all been there … you follow the rules – eat well, exercise and you are thrilled with your initial weight loss. And then out of the blue, you keep moving but your fat loss begins to slow, or even slips backwards. At this point it can seem like it’s simply not worth the effort.
It’s important to acknowledge that your body is a mirror-image of your lifestyle. If your goal is to reach a weight of 60kg and you get stuck at 70kg, it’s likely you’re following the lifestyle of a 70kg person. If you start eating and exercising like a 60kg person, you body will have no choice but to follow you there. This doesn’t have to involve starvation, profuse sweating and more time at the gym. It simply means that your present routine needs tweaking.
To gain the edge on a successful, life-long regime, here are some tips to help liberate you from the frustrating set-backs and lead you onto success:
- Don’t use the scales as your only means of monitoring progress. It is possible to maintain the same weight yet make positive changes to your body
composition: more lean, less body fat. The way your clothes fit is a great guide.
- There are SO MANY benefits in regular exercise, all of which go a long way in helping you to burn stored fat more efficiently, such as improved insulin sensitivity and an increase in metabolic rate.
- It is said that you need to practice something 1000 times to form a habit, so be patient with yourself. If you’re overweight, you’ve likely a champion at poor habits! Start practicing new, healthier habits today. You may mess it up here and there, but be patient with yourself – practice makes perfect!
- If what you’re doing is not working for you, the smallest changes can get the ball rolling again. You know what they say – the definition of insanity is the continue doing the same thing and expect something different to happen!
- Don’t try to follow rigid diet plans or you will set yourself up for disappointment. Focus on implementing healthy choices which can be maintained for the long-term
- Remember, it’s all about quality, not quantity. You can increase the intensity and efficiency of your exercise without having to devote more time to it. You can also reduce your calorie intake without reducing your volume of food. Perhaps it’s also time to find a trainer or buddy a couple of times a week to help you reach the next level.
Researchers report that men and women over the age of 60 have to lift weights more often than younger adults to maintain adequate muscle to support strength and metabolism.
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that preventing sarcopenia — muscle loss that occurs as we get older — is “one of the most pressing challenges of biomedicine in our ageing society.” And resistance training, such as lifting weights, is the best means of prevention.
We all know that life often gets in the way of regular exercise. “A major limiting factor of resistance training as a therapeutic approach to sarcopenia is the second key ingredient that defines efficacy — sustainability,” the researchers write. This study aimed to determine the impact that scaling back a weight-lifting regimen would have on muscles and strength.
Seventy adults were recruited for the 48-week study. Just over half of the study participants were aged 60 to 75, with the remainder ranging in age from 20 to 35.
For the first four months, everybody did the same strength exercises three times a week. Each participant steadily increased the amount of resistance over that period. By the end of this first part of the study, everyone — young and old — had gained muscle.
The second phase was designed to reveal how much of that muscle would be lost to inactivity or reduced exercise. To start, the researchers randomly divided the participants into three groups. Then, for the next 32 weeks, one group did no exercise at all, another group did the same exercises as before but only one day per week, while the third group reduced their regimen to one set of exercises once a week.
By the end of the study, the differences between the young and old groups were striking. The younger participants who continued to exercise showed little or no reduction in the muscle gains they had made during the previous phase of the study, despite the less frequent and less intense workouts.
By contrast, members of the older group lost muscle mass when they scaled back their training regimen, indicating that they need to lift weights more often than young people to keep their muscles buff. Their strength, however, remained the same. This loss of muscle mass would also have a significant impact our their metabolic rate, which goes a long way in explaining the “middle-aged spread”.
Maintaining muscle mass is essential to healthy ageing. This study revealed that the positive health benefits of increased muscle mass among older adults extend well beyond muscle performance. Some of those benefits include increased aerobic capacity, better fatty acid metabolism, and improved bone and joint health.
Pros: Lean red meat is a great source of well-absorbed iron, protein and vitamin B12. Women, particularly those of child-bearing age, require optimum iron intake, which is difficult to achieve with the exclusion of red meat. Despite the hype, I am yet to see a single clinical trial which shows that a diet of lean, unprocessed meat eaten in balance with colourful fresh plant foods increases our risk of any disease in humans.
Cons: Studies showing a negative effect on health have been associated with char-grilling (forming carcinogens), processed meats (nitrates) and/or overall poor lifestyle choices. Excessive consumption of red meat (or any food) will likely throw other nutrients out of balance. A variety of protein sources, such as fresh fish, skinless chicken and lean lamb and meat are important for optimum health.
Pros: Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines, are high in omega 3 essential fatty acids. The EPA component of omega 3 has natural anti-inflammatory and blood thinning properties, while the DHA component has been associated with promoting brain health. To achieve optimum omega 3, two servings of oily fish a week are recommended in addition to a daily fish oil supplement.
Cons: It is common for oily fish to contain some level of contamination with toxic metals. If consumed in large quantities, these metals (such as mercury) can have a detrimental effect on health, particularly in pregnant women and small children.
Pros: All oils are composed of varying mixtures of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Olive oil is high in a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, as well as health promoting flavonoids and vitamin E. Always purchase cold-pressed oils in opaque glass containers and store in a cool, dark cabinet or in the fridge. Coconut oil is also blend of fatty acids, incorporating an unusual blend of short and medium chain fats, primarily lauric and myristic acids. It is this unusual composition that may offer some health benefits. Coconut oil also has a high smoke point that makes it resistant to oxidation and shelf stable.
Cons: When any oil reaches smoke point (193 degrees C for olive oil) in cooking it will degrade, potentially creating harmful trans fats. However, it is not necessary to heat oil to this point to cook our food. Although heating olive oil to lower temperatures may damage some of the flavonoids, this loss is not substantial. Coconut oils are often partially hydrogenated, a process which produces trans fats. While neither of these oils are considered ‘essential’, they are better choices than some over-processed vegetable oils and trans fats.
Pros: Vegemite is relatively low in kilojoules when compared to most spreads (40kjs per teaspoon) when compared with other breakfast spreads such as jam or honey (approx. 200kjs/teaspoon) and it is a source of some B vitamins, including B1, B2 and folate.
Cons: Vegemite is high in sodium (173mg/5g serving, or 8% of the recommended limit), which can exacerbate hypertension. Salt increases blood volume and hardens arteries, causing a rise in blood pressure. Vegemite is also commonly served with other high-sodium foods, such as dry biscuits, butter and bread.
Pros: A medium whole apple contains around 5 grams of fibre (soluble and insoluble), which is more than many breakfast cereals. The type of fibre found in apples has been shown to offer protection against colorectal cancer and help to lower our cholesterol. Apples are also high in the potent antioxidant, quercetin, which has been associated with brain health. It is thought the combination of phytonutrients and fibre in whole apples are collectively responsible for their cardio-protective properties.
Cons: While whole apples provide natures package of essential nutrients, apple juice, juice concentrates and other processed derivatives are comparatively high in sugars (from multiple pieces of fruit – even without added sugars) and devoid of the beneficial fibre, which helps to slow the release of sugars. Regular consumption of these refined foods can lead to tooth decay, weight gain and increased risk of diabetes.
Pros: Oats are high in fibre (10g/100g). Among all grains, oats have the highest proportion of soluble fibre which has been associated with a reduction in cholesterol. This high fibre grain also helps to stabilise blood sugar and improve digestion. Although oats are hulled, this process does not strip away the bran or germ, allowing them to retain a concentration of nutrients and fibre. A versatile cereal option, oats can form the foundation for muesli (add nuts & seeds) or can be cooked into porridge with water or milk.
Cons: Some of the flavoured or ‘instant’ oats contain added sugars, salt and artificial ingredients. Stick to either rolled oats or quick oats (which are generally cut more finely without additives). There is no need to add lashings of sugar. To flavour your cereal, add fresh or frozen fruit and cinnamon.
Pros: There are in excess of 19,000 studies published on coffee, many associating positive health benefits, from a reduction in LDL cholesterol to fewer dental caries. Coffee is higher in antioxidants than blueberries and is actually the highest source of antioxidants in many Western diets (which is not saying much for our fruit & vegetable consumption!).
Cons: Caffeine is a stimulant, so overconsumption can have detrimental effects, such as insomnia, indigestion, hypertension, reduced bone density, release of adrenaline & cortisol (stress-related hormones) and a consequent effect on blood sugar levels. Milky and sugar-laden (fancy!) coffees are becoming increasingly popular. Many don’t realise that a small skim latte will take 20 minutes of brisk walking to burn off.
For those watching their weight, I’d recommend coffee made with ¾ water, such as a long black with milk or a macchiato, but don’t try to make it your primary source of antioxidants.
Pros: White, black and green tea are all derived from the same plant with varying degrees of processing. These teas all contain a particular variety of phytochemicals called catechins – a potent antioxidant. Some Japanese studies show that up to 10 cups of Green Tea a day can reduce our risk of developing cancer. Most herbal teas are derived from a variety of different plants and may include flowers or roots rather than the leaves. Herbal teas generally do not contain caffeine. A brewed cup of black, green or white tea contains less caffeine than a coffee the same size.
Cons: Black, white and green teas all contain caffeine, which is a nervous system stimulant and diuretic. Some add sugars and honey to tea which may cause blood sugar fluctuations, dental caries and weight gain.
Pros: Resveratrol (RVT) is a potent antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes and therefore, red wine. The primary cardio-protective properties are as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic (anti-clotting) compound and is thought to be the factor behind the French Paradox (low incidence of CVD in the Mediterranean population where moderate red wine consumption is prevalent).
Cons: While multiple studies indicate red wine possesses several protective properties, the alcohol component of any wine (red or white) is a significant source of ‘empty’ kilojoules and is toxic to our liver, particularly when consumed in excess. Therefore, those who are drinking red wine purely for heart health, I’d suggest sourcing the majority of your resveratrol from red berries and grapes instead – sans alcohol.
A bit of explanation on the ‘why’ of Omega-3
Fish oil supplements are derived from the flesh of oily, cold water fish. These fish have an oily flesh to protect their bodies from freezing in deep waters. Krill is a small crustacean, which is also rich in omega-3 fats. Fish and Krill oils are different from fish liver oil (eg: cod liver oil – high in vitamin A&D) as they contains a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are considered ‘essential’ as the human body is not able to create them, therefore we must get them in our diet.
The two active components of omega-3 are EPA and DHA. These fats work on all cells in our body, ensuring nutrients and chemical messages can pass from cell to cell. Omega-3’s act as natural anti-inflammatory and also have properties with specific benefits to our heart, brain and joint health.
It is almost impossible to derive an optimum amount of omega-3 from our diet alone. As much as 37% of school-aged children do not consume fish at all, so it’s not surprising that learning difficulties and allergies are so prominent today. To ensure you’re consuming adequate omega-3, I generally recommend a combination of the following:*
- Eat oily fish (salmon, sardines, etc.) two-three times a week
- Use flaxseed oil wherever you use oil cold (salad dressings, shakes, etc)
- Take an EPA/DHA supplement on a daily basis
There are many benefits to eating fish and taking additional supplements, however both may contain varying levels of heavy metals and pesticides which can accumulate in the body over time. To minimise this risk, it is not recommended to consume oily fish more than 2-3 times a week and ensure your supplements have been purified to eliminate these harmful toxins. If the companies do not tell you about it on the label, you can assume it has not been done.
DHA supports brain and nerve development and mental health and therefore is particularly in demand during pregnancy and lactation. The foetus relies solely on the mothers DHA to provide development of the brain and eyes. During breastfeeding, the baby continues to require adequate DHA via breast milk.
EPA has anti-inflammatory properties so they’ll not only help to calm the inflammation and pain of arthritis and sore joints…inflammation is generally at the initiation of any disease process, including heart disease and cancer. The combination of EPA and DHA helps to thin our blood and increases the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol for healthy heart function.
The difference between fish oil and krill
Both fish oil and krill supplements provide us with the omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, however, there are differences. Krill oil is derived from crustaceans (as opposed to fatty fish) and generally contains a higher percentage of EPA and less DHA than fish oil. Much of the extensive research on omega-3’s has been conducted using fish oils, while comparatively, krill oil studies are still in their infancy. A recent krill oil study (2011, published in the journal Lipids) has shown a small cross-section of individuals had a reduction in arthritic symptoms, PMS and C-reactive protein (CRP – a marker for chronic inflammation and heart disease), however, more research needs to be conducted to show any differences in the health benefits of these two sources of omega-3, particularly related to the lower DHA component of krill. Until then, I recommend either sticking with fish oil or taking a combination of fish oil and krill. For pregnant and lactating women or those suffering with depression or mental health issues, an additional DHA supplement may need to be considered.
*please consult your doctor if you are taking medication as any omega 3 supplement may exacerbate blood thinning.
Statistics from the US National Weight Control Registry (founded in 1994) tracks over 5000 individuals who have lost more than 13kg and kept it off long term, improving their health & quality of life. Below are a few of the common traits of each participant:
98% modified their food intake
78% eat breakfast
75% are weighed/weigh themselves at least once a week
62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day
Did you know…
- It takes 20 minutes of brisk walking to burn off 1 x skinny latte
- Every ‘standard’ glass of wine takes 20 minutes of walking to burn off
- We lose around 5% of muscle each decade after the age of 30 (if we don’t do regular strength training)
- Your metabolism drops by 140kjs for every kilogram of muscle lost
- 95% of people regain their weight after ‘going off’ a diet
- 75% of your calories are burned by your basal metabolism
- Your cannot out-run or out-train a poor diet!