Snacking for Health and Fitness

The very word “snacking” conjures up images of gorging on fatty, sugary food. In contrast, when we think of “grazing” we imagine healthy eating practices and abstemious diets. Yet the two concepts share much. In fact, snacking may not be such a bad thing. It’s how we go about it. The devil is in the detail. A 2011 Norwegian study has found that there is no link to snack eating and overall calorie consumption. In fact, it may be that eating more regularly means we consume less when we sit down for meals. When we look at our diets as a whole, snacks are small so they are easier to deny. It’s easier for us to bury our comfort eating under the banner of “snacks” and thus dismiss it, misleading even ourselves. Avoid snacking in the morning. A study of females who snack has shown that those who do so after breakfast (mid-morning) were fatter than those who snacked at other times of day. Possibly the post-meridian snacking allayed the consumption of large evening meals, which are the dieter’s nemesis. Eating fruit. The act of chewing fruit actually leads to a feeling of fullness. So much so that scientists have recently shown those who eat a piece of fruit end up eating 187 calories less per day (on average) even when the calories in the fruit are included! Eating on the move. This takes forward planning and the formation of a routine. Here are some suggestions for food that you can eat on the go:     oat cakes     an apple or a banana with a few nuts or handful of seeds     a bag of unsalted raw almonds  or some unsalted raw cashews     a bag of mixed raw pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds     an unsweetened oat...

THE EMPEROR’S NEW WORKOUT: PART 3 – LOW CARB DIETS

The emperor’s new workout- fitness and nutrition mythbusting Part 3: Low carb diets This series is all about demystifying the world of exercise and nutrition by attacking some of the ill-informed myths and assumptions we hear at the gym and on the pages of fitness magazines: (Take a look at Part 2 – the previous article in the series if you haven’t already). The subject of this bulletin is the quackery of low-carb diets. If you find an “expert” who recommends you eliminate or drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake as a means to lose weight then congratulations, you have found a charlatan, a first rate phony. To do so creates nutritional imbalances that lead to inevitable health problems. What’s more- it’s guaranteed to fail over time. In that respect it’s as flawed as the tactic of drastic caloric restriction. Three things will inevitably follow: 1) Malnutrition. 2) A long list of health impairments, many of them psychological. 3) A relapse or breaking of the diet. 4) Rapid weight gain which will take you back to where you started (or worse) with nothing but misery, disappointment, and de-motivation to show for your efforts. Added to this you’re more than likely to permanently damage your health in this way. Carbohydrates in correct proportion to other nutrients are essential to a proper eating plan for health, improved physical and mental performance, fat loss (or maintenance), and lean muscle development and toning. Our concession is that we do aim to virtually eliminate the bad carbs (mostly sugars) that go hand in hand with “empty calories” and play a role in the development of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart...

7 Ways to Eat for a Better Body

In this piece we list some dietary practices we should avoid. Many of these we list stem from an over-reaction or overcompensation. The message is clear: don’t throw the baby out with bathwater. DON’T Skip your pre- and post-workout meals in an effort to burn fat faster. What really matters is your caloric balance for the day. By not eating around exercise you will simply rob your body of desirable nutrients when they’re most needed. Cut calories at another time of the day when they are less needed. Avoid red meat altogether. Red meat gives us plenty of essential muscle-strengthening nutrients including iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Simply choose leaner cuts such as low-fat mince, sirloin steak, or venison and watch your portion size. Eat the same routine menu all the time. Although this helps us to maintain consistency, it also makes for malnutrition and boredom. Each month’s eating plan should include at least five different dishes. Spend your workout slurping sports drinks. The importance of sports drinks to exercise performance is generally over-estimated. If you’re doing a 45-minutes weights workout then there is very little opportunity for you to be dehydrated. Unless you’re training for endurance events then you probably don’t need the calories and electrolytes in these products- a bit of water should do the job! Avoid salt completely. The mineral is actually of immense benefit for a variety of bodily functions- so you should not aim to cut it out entirely. Just ensure you take in plenty of potassium as well so that your sodium-potassium levels are where they need to be- this attenuates many of the harmful effects of salt intake. What you need to be on the lookout for are high-sodium content such as fast food, frozen dinners, and canned foods- these are to be avoided. Rely on multivitamin supplements. You still need vegetables...

Why are we Overweight?

A Harvard study gives us a surprising answer… A surprising number of us in the UK are overweight, up to half of all men and a third of women. But when you consider that those percentages rise to nearly 80% for those over 55 then there is a cause for real concern. It’s true that over the last forty years obesity rates have increased threefold, we have also seen a large increase in the numbers of those suffering from diabetes and heart disease. The logical question is “why?” Is it our diets, sedentary lifestyles, maybe our alcohol intake? A 2012 Harvard study can provide us with some tentative answers. Surprisingly, the amount of calories we burn on a day-to-day basis has hardly decreased over the last forty years. The problem lies with our calorie intake and the Harvard researchers led by Dr David Cutler feel the reason for this is our fear of the kitchen. What they found was that there is a correlation between the amount of food we eat that has been prepared outside the home and our burgeoning waistlines. Not having to take the time and trouble to prepare food means that we eat far more readily. This is especially the case in America which is the ultimate fast food culture and now the world capital for obesity and coronary disease. Worryingly, what America does now we tend to do a decade or so down the line. We tend to take a benevolent view of fast food outlets and store-prepared food such as ready meals- they taste good so surely they’re on our side? Right? Wrong, by and large they want our money so they include anything that tickles our taste buds be it salt, saturated fats, or sugar! If we could actually see the amount of these nutrients that goes into the food we would...

Fish oils, weight loss, and health

Fish oils are often touted as panaceas for a variety of health conditions, and supplementation is often described as having a positive impact on our metabolic health. In this MotivatingMax article we explore the power of these good fats and consider the evidence base out there. Fish do not produce omega-3 fatty acids themselves, rather they accumulate them in their tissues by eating either microalgae or prey fish (that have, in turn accumulated omega-3 fatty acids). Microalgae are also known to provide a high payload of antioxidants such as iodide and selenium. The combination of anti-oxidants and fish oils is apt as the former protects the fragile polyunsaturated lipids from oxidative damage. What kinds of fish are highest in Omega-3 fatty acids, the fish oils that are generally held to be the most beneficial for our metabolism? The answer is the fatter, predatory fish such as swordfish, tilefish, sharks, and albacore tuna. The drawback to consuming the meat of these fish is that, owing to their privileged position atop the food chain, these species can also accumulate toxic substances through a process known as biomagnification. This has led several health bodies, including America’s Food and Drug Administration to propose limiting the consumption of such species due to potentially damaging levels of substances such as mercury, dioxin, PCBs and chlordane. What beneficial effects follow from consuming the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil? Over the last decade research has pointed to the ability of these fats to curb or aid in the prevention of various conditions that entail some form of inflammation; examples being hypertriglyceridemia and possibly heart disease. There are several mechanisms at play here but the most likely pathway is blood thinning that prevents clotting. At present there is mixed evidence for the utility of fish oils in the treatment of psychological conditions such as clinical depression and...

Let the sunshine in! Vitamin D and health

Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin” as it can be synthesised from cholesterol if adequate sun exposure if forthcoming, is actually a group of fat soluble steroids that functions as hormones. The reference to hormones simply means that they are used as chemical signallers in a complex chain of instructions that we will refer back to shortly.  From a scientific standpoint, Vitamin D does not truly own the name “vitamin” because it does not have to be obtained from the diet. The study of Vitamin D rose to prominence when it was discovered that an abject lack of the substance led to a bone deficiency affecting children- known as Rickets. This brings to mind that fact that Vitamin Ds play a vital role in mineralisation and bone health. Vitamin D in the blood reflects both sunlight exposure and dietary intake. An important point to grasp is, whereas the sunlight –driven synthesis of Vitamin D operates in a feedback loop to prevent toxicity (e.g., it is self regulating), this does not apply to supplemental intake. In fact, little is understood about the potential for toxicity following over supplementation.  Of course, a debate still rages about the cancer risk that may or may not be caused by sunlight exposure, which renders it difficult for health bodies to make recommendations on the amount of time that should be spent in the sun to maximise Vitamin D synthesis. Calcitriol, the biologically active form of vitamin D produced in the kidneys circulates as a hormone in the blood, and thus regulates the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream and promotes bone growth and deposition. Other functions include controlling inflammation and the natural cycle of cell repair. In terms of the proposed health benefits of supplementation, the evidence is contradictory. The most reliable finding is that taking Vit-D supplements may contribute to...
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