May
21
2010
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I hope you had a great weekend and enjoyed my newsletter.

One of my clients had a great question that I’d like to answer here. She expressed concern that the carbohydrates (carbs) in the last recipe, on the newsletter, seemed a bit “high”.

 

The first thing I would ask you to remember is that one meal, slightly “high” in carbs, is not an issue.  What’s of bigger importance is the total caloric intake of protein, carbs and fat over a 24hr period.

 

We’ve all watched the media bounce back and forth between low carb, high protein, fat-free, and an assortment of other inaccurate and short sited responses to losing weight and keeping it off.

 

I personally don’t believe in the “one size fits all” type of philosophy when it comes to nutrition. I genuinely believe that each person is unique in their metabolism, fitness level, time they have to spend exercising, as well as how many calories they burn just doing their daily activities. That is why I take a body composition analysis on each of my clients, as well as find out what a “typical” week of exercise looks like for them, before I create a customized nutrition program.  That way I am sure that the nutrition program meets their individual needs and lifestyle.  And to be quite honest, if the “one size fits all” philosophy worked, we’d be seeing a better improvement in the overall health of our population.

 

With all of that said I can give you a general rule of thumb when it comes to creating your meals.  My reading is leading me to believe that perhaps portion control is really the key to losing weight and keeping it off (for those that do not want to measure their food).  What I mean by that is: picture your plate, now divide it down the middle so that you now have two halves. Half of your plate should be full of fresh vegetables (preferably leafy green). Divide the second half into to two equal parts.  In one of those halves you would have a lean protein source (eggs, fish, lean meat, poultry), and the remaining space would be filled with carbs (starchy – brown rice, whole-grain breads, etc.).  Does that make sense?

 

The second general rule of thumb is: if you tend to start your day “high” in carbs, be sure to taper your intake of starchy carbs throughout the day.  The thinking behind this is that you give your body the rest of the day to burn off the starches you’ve taken in during the early hours of the day.

 

Remember, one size fits all does not work.  Find out how your body works by getting a body composition analysis and that information along with your “typical” week of activity, should help put you right on target and ready for summer swimsuit season!

 

As always, please let me know if this information was helpful.

Dec
02
2009
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Do you know what the term glycemic index means?  Though not as popular presently as a few years ago, this term is extremely important to anyone interested in quickly and effectively losing weight and keeping it off.


Glycemic index refers to the speed at which a certain carbohydrate enters the blood stream as sugar.  While all carbohydrates must be broken down into simple carbohydrates to be absorbed, it is the speed at which this happens that is known as the glycemic index.


There are 3 factors that determine the how fast this process will happen: (1) The structure of the simple sugar (i.e. processed foods like rice cakes are the highest), (2) the soluble fiber content (hence vegetables typically have a low glycemic index), and finally (3) the fat content.


Yes, I know, now you are asking yourself, “So why is this important to me in achieving my weight loss goals.”


Well, for over 20 years I have been assisting people achieve their weight loss goals and keep the weight off.  I have helped people understand what foods work for their busy daily schedule so that they continue to make progress when convenience is key.  I understand the rigors of having a busy schedule, late meetings, and frequent travel and I assist my clients in keeping to their nutrition schedule, while living a fast paced lifestyle.  Drawing on my experiences from High School wrestling to National Level Powerlifting, to presently practicing Mixed Martial Arts, I understand the importance of not only eating for improved performance, but also for quality of life. 


First off, let us understand that the body is an efficient machine.  It is constantly monitoring the levels of all the hormones, and nutrients in the body.  Hence, when an imbalance is perceived it responds by trying to bring the body back into balance. We out-survived the dinosaurs for a reason.  We are efficient machines, cable of withstanding harsh elements, and adapting to our environment.


The reason the glycemic index of a carbohydrate is important in achieving weight loss goals is that the higher the glycemic index of a food the more likely it will raise blood sugar levels, and in fact encourage your body to store fat.  When blood sugar levels are increased quickly and significantly by high glycemic carbohydrates, the body (the pancreas) responds by releasing insulin (a storage hormone).  The excessive blood sugar, that which cannot be used or stored in the muscles and the liver, is then stored in fat cells as energy for future use. Thus the body secretes insulin, which acts like Pac-man by removing the glucose in your blood stream to bring it down to acceptable levels.  Unfortunately the body is sometimes overly efficient in its quest to maintain balance and in fact the excessive insulin secreted in many cases facilitates a drop in blood sugar – resulting in you craving carbs (typically high glycemic) a few hours later.  As mentioned earlier, insulin is largely a storage hormone, from evolution created to save excessive carbohydrate calories for energy in the form of fat for future use.  Remember, we are survival machines.  We survived Ice Ages, droughts, and predators.


Think for a moment does this sound familiar: Up early grab a quick snack, usually a high processed cereal, a donut or some other high glycemic carb, off to work.  Around 10:00am you feel like you can barely keep your eyes open.  Reach for a cup of coffee and/or a muffin or donut or some other high glycemic carb. Around 12:00pm you feel the same sluggish feeling, etc.  This yo-yo effect that you are experiencing is the result of consuming meals with high glycemic index carbohydrates.  The high you experience after consuming the carbohydrate with a high glycemic index is probably the effects of an increase in blood sugar.  The low you feel a few hours later is the probably the result of the excessive insulin released to combat the high blood sugar. 


Many of my clients come to me not understanding the above example.  They figure out why they were experiencing this yo-yo effect.  As we look over their 5 day food journal it becomes evident that the food choices they are making are not only stopping them from losing weight, they are affecting their moods, ability to concentrate, and their energy levels. Their food choices were affecting their quality of life!  I help them develop a food plan that works with their lifestyle and food preferences.  I teach you how to be successful towards your fitness goals.


At this point I hope it is clear that the best carbohydrate choices are those that are low on the glycemic index.  Low refers to those foods which show a glycemic index of 60 or lower.  As a rule of thumb most vegetables are great choices except for corn and carrots which have a high glycemic index.  Most fruits are also acceptable, except for bananas and raisins, again, high glycemic index.  Selected grains like oatmeal and barley are acceptable because they have soluble fiber which assists them in being low on the glycemic index.


If you have any additional questions or questions regarding a certain food?  There is a rather extensive glycemic index on the website.  Just click glycemic index.


If you need help creating a nutrition strategy that works for you please contact me at kurt@energyfxfitness.com.  Or call me now at (310) 397-0089 and I can help you plan a strategy that works.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when the article, “Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain” came across my desk, I was curious.  Immediately I wanted to run to my computer and let all of you know what the article said.  But I thought, one article doesn’t mean that much, let’s look a bit deeper.  And let me tell you, what I found in my research on this subject scared the heck out of me!


Let’s start from the beginning.  I could bore you with the research and endless amounts of studies citing each of the artificial sweeteners I researched, instead let me first give you a list of the most common.


  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  2. Saccharin
  3. Splenda
  4. Aspartame
  5. Sucralose
  6. Stevia

I guess the best way to start this all off is to give you a quick and dirty understanding of how the body responds to sugar, how the body responds to artificial sweeteners, and then give you the down and dirty FACTS on what the dangers are of each artificial sweetener listed above.

Let me first say I am not some organic, grow your own food extremist.  Equally, I am concerned about the short and long term effects of the food and drink I put in my body.  I haven’t spent all these years working out to keep myself healthy, only to destroy myself from the inside out.


Sugar Evolution


During prehistoric times sugar came solely from complex natural sources that had other nutritional qualities, such as fruit, honey, bark, and leaves.  And as we all know naturally sweet food is seasonal, ripening with the help of the sun only during certain times of year.

As time and technology progressed, shipping and trade routes also grew. As did new refining technology, along with advanced food-processing techniques; thus we found ourselves with readily available sugar.  We have now created an environment where sugar is everywhere and in everything.  Unfortunately sugar is an empty calorie, devoid of protein, fat or fiber, often taking the place of real nutrients.


Sugar and the Body


Remember we are still very primitive, from a cellular level, such that we are all biologically predisposed to desire sugar. Sugar has not only a biochemical effect on the body, but also a psychological one.  I dare say most of us desire to have a sweet treat at least once in a while.  In fact, with the help of the media and some home/childhood experiences, most of us unconsciously associate sugar with love, pleasure, and reward.

From a biological perspective we seek out sugar to fuel our muscles and brains. After all, sugar (sucrose) is a carbohydrate that metabolizes directly into glucose (blood sugar), stimulating the release of the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin.  In fact scientists report that eating chocolate initiates a brain response similar to falling in love.

When you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels shoot up causing the release of insulin from the pancreas, which facilitates the absorption of sugar and other nutrients into the cells of your body.  If there are no other nutrients to help you sustain your blood sugar – you crash – your blood sugar level drops as quickly as it rose and you’re looking for another “rush”.  This is why it is so important to have a protein, carbohydrate, and fat source at each meal; it helps moderate your blood sugar levels and allows for sustained energy.  Eating in this fashion also allows the body to feel genuinely satisfied and release the satiety hormone leptin (which tells the body to stop eating).  Be clear, craving sugar is just the body calling for energy and a serotonin surge.  It’s the food choices we make that make the difference.


Artificial Sweeteners and the Body


First let me give you the response the body has to artificial sweeteners in general and then give the DIRTY FACTS on how artificial sweeteners affect the body.

Recent research has found that obesity has consistently paralleled the increased use of artificial sweeteners.  The more manufacturers use and we consume, the higher our country’s obesity rates seem to go.

As you just learned, typically when the body receives what it perceives as sugar, there is a release of insulin to assist cells in absorbing the nutrients in the blood stream. When artificial sweeteners are consumed, they have been shown to blunt the affect of the body’s ability to recognize sugar in the blood stream.  What that basically means is that when you consume artificial sweeteners it blunts or lowers your body’s ability to recognize sugar, thus leading to an increase in the amount of calories consumed.  In fact researchers found “that consuming food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar”.  Further they noted that based on the lab’s hypothesis, other artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K, could have similar effects.  In another study, people who used artificial sweeteners ate up to 3 times the amount of calories as the control group.  Plain and simple, artificial sweeteners confuse the body’s natural ability to know when it’s had enough calories (food or drink).


With High Fructose Corn Syrup, the effects are even more pronounced.  It seems that fructose is actually “shunted” (pushed) towards the liver, unlike sucrose (regular sugar) which is broken down in the body, prior to reaching the liver.  And once reaching the liver fructose mimics the effects of insulin in getting the liver to release fatty acids into the blood stream. Thus it appears that fructose causes the liver to release triglycerides. Triglycerides are a common fat in your blood that is often used for energy.  In normal amounts, triglycerides are important to good health.  But high triglyceride levels are part of a group of conditions called Metabolic Syndrome.


Metabolic Syndrome is the combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, too much fat around the waist, low LDL (good) cholesterol, and high triglycerides.  This syndrome will increase your risk of heart disease as well as for diabetes and stroke.


Hence, fructose itself may lead to the increased rates of obesity, not merely through increased calorie intake, but through a variety of complex chemical reactions it stimulates in the human body.


Now here’s the interesting thing.  If the liver is bombarded with insulin too often, and this is based on each person’s tolerance level, it begins to become less responsive to insulin being present in the blood stream.  When the liver is less responsive to insulin in the blood stream you can become insulin resistant – which can be a precursor to you getting diabetes, and you don’t want that!


So there you have it.  Artificial sweeteners, sometimes called body toxins, confuse the body into potentially eating a significant amount of excess calories than it actually needs.  While HFCS through a host of complex chemical reactions actually can create an environment for obesity and possible diabetes.


Now here are the most significant findings on the list I promised from above.


Saccharin


  • Presently studies show limited or sufficient evidence of carcinogencity in humans
  • Possibly blunts the ability to recognize sugar in blood stream
  • Possible allergic reactions headaches, breathing difficulty, skin eruptions, diarrhea
  • Does seem to cause fewer problems than Aspartame

Splenda (Sucralose)


  • Pre-approval research showed sucralose caused shrunken thymus glands (up to 40% shrinkage) and enlarged liver and kidneys.
  • Discovered 1976 while seeking to make new pesticide formulation
  • Possible allergic reactions skin rashes, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, intestinal cramping, headaches, muscle aches.
  • Not a “natural” product (see the Splenda website)
  • Contains chlorine which is considered a carcinogen.

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin)


  • Has received the most complaints of any artificial sweetener
  • Use can result in accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain, which can damage your central nervous system and immune system.
  • Linked to neuropsychiatric disorders, including panic attacks, mood changes, manic episodes, visual hallucinations
  • Mild link to depression and male infertility
  • FDA approved though dangerous side effects found in rodents. Same side effects now being found in humans 15 years later.

Stevia


  • Known as sweet herb
  • Has been used for over 400 years without ill effects
  • Reports from other countries show little or no side effects

I could not close this article without sharing with you the dangers of artificial sweeteners and acknowledging that there still needs to be long term studies on humans to be able to say without a doubt -- artificial sweeteners are a danger to humans.  What I will ask you to consider the Tobacco Industry and its stand on cigarettes – supposedly no link between smoking and cancer, and the new knowledge on the dangers of heating your food in plastic – which we originally thought was safe.


I encourage you to build your meals and snacks from whole foods whenever possible and avoid highly processed foods.  If you have to sweeten food, do so sparingly with natural sugars such as honey, rice syrup, molasses, and maple syrup.


And if you would like my help on how to avoid artificial sweeteners and highly processed foods or to get your nutrition on track please visit my website now at http://www.energyfxfitness.com. I look forward to assisting you in being your healthiest and best.