Saturday, 2 August 2014
Thursday, 3 July 2014
Monday, 23 June 2014
10 Proven Health Benefits of Low-Carb
Low-carb diets have been controversial for decades.
They were originally demonized by fat-phobic health professionals and the media.
People believed that these diets would raise cholesterol and cause heart disease because of the high fat content.
However… times are changing.
Since the year 2002, over 20 human studies have been conducted on low-carb diets.
In almost every one of those studies, low-carb diets come out ahead of the diets they are compared to.
Not only does low-carb cause more weight loss, it also leads to major improvements in most risk factors… including cholesterol.
Here are the 10 proven health benefits of low-carb and ketogenic diets.
1. Low-Carb Diets Kill Your Appetite (in a Good Way)
Hunger is the single worst side effect of dieting.
It is one of the main reasons why many people feel miserable and eventually give up on their diets.
One of the best things about eating low-carb is that it leads to an automatic reduction in appetite.
The studies consistently show that when people cut carbs and eat more protein and fat, they end up eating much fewer calories.
In fact… when researchers are comparing low-carb and low-fat diets in studies, they need to actively restrict calories in the low-fat groups to make the results comparable.
Bottom Line: When people cut carbs, their appetite tends to go down and they often end up eating much fewer calories without trying.
2. Low-Carb Diets Lead to More Weight Loss
Cutting carbs is one of the simplest and most effective ways to lose weight.
Studies show that people on low-carb diets lose more weight, faster, than people on low-fat diets… even when the low-fat dieters are actively restricting calories.
One of the reasons for this is that low-carb diets tend to get rid of excess water from the body. Because they lower insulin levels, the kidneys start shedding excess sodium, leading to rapid weight loss in the first week or two.
In studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, the low-carbers sometimes lose 2-3 times as much weight, without being hungry.
Low-carb diets appear to be particularly effective for up to 6 months, but after that the weight starts creeping back up because people give up on the diet and start eating the same old stuff.
It is much more appropriate to think of low-carb as a lifestyle, NOT a diet. The only way to succeed in the long-term is to stick to it.
However, some people may be able to add in healthier carbs after they have reached their goal weight.
Bottom Line: Almost without exception, low-carb diets lead to more weight loss than the diets they are compared to, especially in the first 6 months.
3. A Greater Proportion of The Fat Lost Comes From The Abdominal Cavity
Not all fat in the body is the same.
It’s where that fat is stored that determines how it will affect our health and risk of disease.
Most importantly, we have subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and then we have visceral fat (in the abdominal cavity).
Visceral fat is fat that tends to lodge around the organs.
Having a lot of fat in that area can drive inflammation, insulin resistance and is believed to be a leading driver of the metabolic dysfunction that is so common in Western countries today.
Low-carb diets are very effective at reducing the harmful abdominal fat.
Not only do they cause more fat loss than low-fat diets, an even greater proportion of that fat is coming from the abdominal cavity.
Over time, this should lead to a drastically reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Bottom Line: A large percentage of the fat lost on low-carb diets tends to come from the harmful fat in the abdominal cavity that is known to cause serious metabolic problems.
4. Triglycerides Tend to go Way Down
Triglycerides are fat molecules.
It is well known that fasting triglycerides, how much we have of them in the blood after an overnight fast, are a strong heart disease risk factor.
Perhaps counter intuitively, the main driver of elevated triglycerides is carbohydrate consumption, especially the simple sugar fructose.
When people cut carbs, they tend to have a very dramatic reduction in blood triglycerides.
Compare this to low-fat diets, which can cause triglycerides to go up in many cases.
Bottom Line: Low-carb diets are very effective at lowering blood triglycerides, which are fat molecules in the blood and a well known risk factor for heart disease.
5. Increased Levels of HDL (the “good”) Cholesterol
High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is often called the “good” cholesterol.
It’s actually wrong to call it “cholesterol”… all cholesterol molecules are the same.
HDL and LDL refer to the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around in the blood.
Whereas LDL carries cholesterol from the liver and to the rest of the body, HDL carries cholesterol away from the body and to the liver, where it can be reused or excreted.
It is well known that the higher your levels of HDL, the lower your risk of heart disease will be.
One of the best ways to increase HDL levels is to eat fat… and low-carb diets include a lot of fat.
Therefore, it is not surprising to see that HDL levels increase dramatically on low-carb diets, while they tend to increase only moderately or even go down on low-fat diets.
The Triglycerides:HDL ratio is another very strong predictor of heart disease risk. The higher it is, the greater your risk of heart disease is.
By lowering triglycerides and raising HDL levels, low-carb diets lead to a major improvement in this ratio.
Bottom Line: Low-carb diets tend to be high in fat, which leads to an impressive increase in blood levels of HDL, often referred to as the “good” cholesterol.
6. Reduced Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels, With a Major Improvement in Type 2 Diabetes
When we eat carbs, they are broken down into simple sugars (mostly glucose) in the digestive tract.
From there, they enter the bloodstream and elevate blood sugar levels.
Because high blood sugars are toxic, the body responds with a hormone called insulin, which tells the cells to bring the glucose into the cells and to start burning or storing it.
For people who are healthy, the quick insulin response tends to minimize the blood sugar “spike” in order to prevent it from harming us.
However… many, many people have major problems with this system. They have what is called insulin resistance, which means that the cells don’t “see” the insulin and therefore it is harder for the body to bring the blood sugar into the cells.
This can lead to a disease called type 2 diabetes, when the body fails to secrete enough insulin to lower the blood sugar after meals. This disease is very common today, afflicting about 300 million people worldwide.
There is actually a very simple solution to this problem… by cutting carbohydrates, you remove the need for all of that insulin. Both blood sugars and insulin go way down.
According to Dr. Eric Westman, who has treated many diabetics using a low-carb approach, he needs to reduce their insulin dosage by 50% on the first day.
In one study in type 2 diabetics, 95.2% had managed to reduce or eliminate their glucose-lowering medication within 6 months.
If you are currently on blood sugar lowering medication, then talk to your doctorbefore making changes to your carbohydrate intake, because your dosage may need to be adjusted in order to prevent hypoglycemia.
Bottom Line: The best way to lower blood sugar and insulin levels is to reduce carbohydrate consumption. This is also a very effective way to treat and possibly even reverse type II diabetes.
7. Blood Pressure Tends to go Down
Having elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is an important risk factor for many diseases.
This includes heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and many others.
Low-carb diets are an effective way to reduce blood pressure, which should lead to a reduced risk of these diseases and help you live longer.
Bottom Line: Studies show that reducing carbs leads to a significant reduction in blood pressure, which should lead to a reduced risk of many common diseases.
8. Low-Carb Diets Are The Most Effective Treatment Known Against Metabolic Syndrome
The metabolic syndrome is a medical condition that is highly associated with the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
It is actually a collection of symptoms:
- Abdominal obesity
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated fasting blood sugar levels
- High triglycerides
- Low HDL levels
The good news is… all five symptoms improve dramatically on a low-carb diet.
Unfortunately, the government and major health organization still recommend a low-fat diet for this purpose, which is pretty much useless because it does nothing to address the underlying metabolic problem.
Bottom Line: Low-carb diets effectively reverse all 5 key symptoms of the metabolic syndrome, a serious condition known to predispose people to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
9. Low-Carb Diets Improve The Pattern of LDL Cholesterol
Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as the “bad” colesterol (again, it is actually a protein).
It is known that people who have high LDL are much more likely to have heart attacks.
However… what scientists have now learned is that the type of LDL matters. Not all of them are equal.
In this regard, the size of the particles is important. People who have mostly small particles have a high risk of heart disease, while people who have mostly large particles have a low risk.
It turns out that low-carb diets actually turn the LDL particles from small to large, while reducing the number of LDL particles floating around in the bloodstream.
Bottom Line: When you eat a low-carb diet, your LDL particles change from small (bad) LDL to large LDL – which is benign. Cutting carbs may also reduce the number of LDL particles floating around in the bloodstream.
10. Low-Carb Diets Are Therapeutic For Several Brain Disorders
It is often claimed that glucose is necessary for the brain… and it’s true.
Some part of the brain can only burn glucose. That’s why the liver produces glucose out of protein if we don’t eat any carbs.
But a large part of the brain can also burn ketones, which are formed during starvation or when carbohydrate intake is very low.
This is the mechanism behind the ketogenic diet, which has been used for decades to treat epilepsy in children who don’t respond to drug treatment.
In many cases, this diet can cure children of epilepsy. In one study, over half of children on a ketogenic diet had a greater than 50% reduction in seizures. 16% of the children became seizure free.
Very low-carb/ketogenic diets are now being studied for other brain disorders as well, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
11. Anything Else?
Have you ever tried a low-carb diet? What did you experience, either positive or negative?
Make sure to leave a comment below!
Sunday, 8 June 2014
Proper hydration is an important factor for sustaining a high level of athletic performance. Improper hydration can lead to disappointing results for even the most elite athletes. Though there are a number of factors (including weather, metabolic rate, and type of sport) that can impact the hydration of athletes and negatively affect performance, this article discusses effective strategies and recommendations for maintaining optimal fluid balance.
- Understand the basics of hydration and the role of electrolytes in the body.
- Comprehend the mechanics of fluid replacement protocols.
- Proficiently identify the suggested intake requirements before and during sport to ensure proper hydration.
One of the biggest challenges athletes face, especially in warmer weather, is maintaining proper hydration. Unfortunately, determining appropriate intake can be overwhelming and confusing for athletes to follow. As personal trainer, it’s critical to keep hydration at the top of your clients’ minds with concise steps and easy guidelines. You can help your clients realize the importance of staying hydrated with some simple tips and tricks for before, during and after sport.
Hydration Regulation within the Body
The main component of blood is water, which delivers a number of substances including oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to the cells and removes waste from the cells. It is also a vital component to your body’s temperature regulating mechanism (Benardot, 2012). Water, along with electrolyte components, controls the osmotic pressure in our body, essentially dictating the amount of intercellular and extracellular fluid.
Fluid levels are regulated by several hormones in our body. These hormones, known as ADH (antidiuretic hormone) and aldosterone, monitor the osmolality of the blood and volume of extracellular water. It’s ADH and aldosterone which stimulate kidney function, adjusting the volume of water and electrolytes either excreted or retained by your body (Rolfes, Pinna & Whitney, 2009).
The Power of Electrolytes for Athletes
Electrolytes are minerals contained in foods and beverages, which dissolve in the fluids in our body and break into electrically charged ions. There are five chief electrolytes—sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride—which play a role in many body functions including fluid balance, blood pH, heart, nerve and muscle function.
These minerals are electrically charged, which means that they have the ability to conduct electrical impulses. These electrical impulses are essential for physical activity as they are what makes muscles contract. In order to keep muscular, cardiac, nervous, and digestive systems all firing correctly, an adequate supply of all these minerals is required (Rolfes, Pinna & Whitney, 2009).
Sweat rate, through exercise, can induce high levels of water and electrolyte loss. Exact levels depend on both the individual and the environment. Genetically, some people have a predisposition to be heavier and saltier sweaters. Sweat contains electrolytes, with the make-up primarily being sodium in addition to lower levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium (Sawka, 2007). Even endurance athletes who are not heavy sweaters will require more than the upper limit (UL) for sodium (2300mg). Potassium is a mineral important for both electrolyte and fluid balance, and while during sport plasma potassium levels decline at a rate lower than sodium it is recommended that endurance athletes hydrate with a drink that includes both (American Dietetic Association, 2009).
Dehydration and the Athlete
Dehydration is classified as water deficit in excess of 2% to 3% body mass (Benardot, 2012). Low levels of hydration lead to low blood volume. With low blood volume, your body compromises circulation and has poor nutrient exchange, hormone balance and waste removal. When your body’s hydration level drops below 2%, exercise performance is decreased (Sawka, 2007). Therefore, adequate fluid intake both before and during sport is essential for optimal performance and health.
When dehydrated, sodium levels in the blood decrease, resulting in hyponatremia (low sodium). The first signs of hyponatremia include fatigue, headache, weakness and nausea. Additional manifestations include cramping, disorientation and confusion, swelling of extremities, and in extreme cases, swelling of the brain. Cramping can be common in athletes and is a good key indicator that the body has depleted its electrolytes (American Dietetic Association, 2009).
Fluid Replacement for Maintaining Fluid Balance
The goal of hydration before and during sport is to prevent excessive dehydration and changes in electrolyte balance, to ensure that athletic performance is not compromised.
Before an Event
To ensure your athletes go into an event hydrated, they should drink plenty of fluids the day before and morning of an event. It is recommended that 400 to 700 ml (≈2 to 3 cups) of electrolyte or carbohydrate –containing fluid should be ingested 60 to 90 minutes prior to sport. In an event lasting longer than one hour an additional 300 to 600 ml (≈1 to2cups) may be beneficial to the athlete (International Olympic Committee, 2010).
During an event
During exercise, appropriate fluid balance helps sustain athletic performance and replenish losses. The consumption of beverages including electrolytes and carbohydrates can provide benefits beyond pure water alone by helping to sustain electrolyte balance and endurance performance by replenishing glycogen stores.
Planning a hydration schedule helps people remember to continue to drink. A tip for athletes is to hydrate before dehydration levels occur, with recommended drinking rate of two to four ounces every fifteen minutes. Endurance athletes participating a training session or event lasting one hour or more are advised to use a combination of electrolytes and carbohydrates. Beverages containing 4 to 8% (4 to 8g / 100mL or approximately 16 grams per cup of fluid) of carbohydrate are advised in order to provide rapid delivery of fluid and fuel and minimize gastric intolerance (International Olympic Committee, 2010).
The type of carbohydrate recommended is a rapidly digested form of sugar, primarily glucose and fructose, avoiding maltodextrin, which can cause gastric distress to the athlete. The use of a commercial sports drink with electrolytes as well as sucrose or syrups containing no more than 50% glucose or fructose is recommended (American Dietetic Association, 2009).
Replenishing Losses Post-event
After sport it is recommended to measure losses and replenish appropriately. This is an essential part of the recovery process and both water and electrolytes should be replenished. Losses will vary from person to person and a simple at-home assessment of fluid loss can be done to determine exact levels of rehydration that should be met.
A sweat test is an easy way to assess how much fluid should be replaced, and can be done by athletes at their gym or home. To perform a sweat test:
- Measure body weight before and after a workout.
- Sweat loss (ounces) is equal to body weight (pounds) before exercise minus body weight after exercise. 16 ounces (2 cups) of water should be consumed for every pound that has been lost.
- Additionally electrolytes should be replenished. The athlete should consume a minimum of 500mg of sodium per liter of sweat lost.
- To convert to a sweat rate per hour, the athlete can divide sweat loss by the exercise time in minutes and multiply by 60 (International Olympic Committee, 2010).
Hydration is fundamental to athletic performance and the correct electrolyte balance is needed for maximizing results. However, it is important to remember that because the rate of fluid loss is influence so many variables, rehydration is not one-size-fits-all formula, and therefore careful analysis of the individual’s losses is an integral first step in creating a hydration plan. As personal trainers, reminding your client of the importance of hydration will also help build best-practice hydration habits.
Benardot, D. (2012). Advanced Sports Nutrition. Human Kinetics. 2nd ed.
Rolfes, S., Pinna, K., Whitney, E. (2009). Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. Cengage Learning. 8th ed.
Sawka, M. H. (2007). Exercise and Fluid Replacement Position Stand. American College of Sports Medicine. 39 (2). 377-390. Accessed on 3/10/14 from: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2007/02000/Exercise_and_Fluid_Replacement.22.aspx
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada and American College of Sports Medicine (2009). Joint Position Statement: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.41(3):709-31Accessed 5/20/13 from http://www.dietitians.ca/downloadable-content/public/noap-position-paper.aspx
International Olympic Committee (2010). Nutrition for Athletes. Accessed on 3/12/14 fromhttp://www.olympic.org/documents/reports/en/en_report_833.pdf
Monday, 2 June 2014
It is never too late to change your eating habits in order to benefit your health in years to come, but beginning as early as late teens can have a substantial impact.
“More than anything else you do, the way you eat tells your body how healthy you want to be”
Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, author of “Food as Medicine”
Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, author of “Food as Medicine”
Unfortunately, the accumulation of damage doesn’t begin to show until we hit our thirties and forties and by then it can be harder to reverse (but not necessarily impossible). Aging is a result of accumulating loss of functional cells. Supplying your body with all the nutrients it needs may help to slow down this process and improve your overall health.
15-20% of aging is genetically predetermined so that means 80-85% is within our control!
70% of cancers are diet and lifestyle related
50% of heart disease is diet related
70% of cancers are diet and lifestyle related
50% of heart disease is diet related
One of the most common causes of cell damages, aging and potential illness are “free radicals”. These can be found in air pollution, cigarette smoke, fried/burnt foods and pesticides. They attack/damage our cell’s genetic code which results in fewer functioning cells and the body loses resistance to colds, infections and disease.
Our bodies are exposed to free radicals throughout our life, but damage seems to increase as we age.Antioxidants, which fight free radicals, are found in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals. People who maintain the highest blood levels of antioxidant nutrients are also likely to live longer and healthier.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Since 1970s many studies have shown that diets rich in antioxidants:
- Prevent disease and premature aging
- Stimulate the immune system to protect body from disease and infection
- Decrease age-related memory loss and loss of mental function
Reducing Premature Aging:
- Eat foods that are a source of antioxidants
- Minimize exposure to anything in the environment that generates free radicals
This will reduce premature aging and age-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, cataracts etc.
Eating plenty of “power foods” has been seen to raise blood antioxidant levels by 10-15%! Eat a lot of prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, kale, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, Brussels sprouts, plums, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, oranges, red grapes, red bell pepper, cherries, kiwi, pink grapefruit and onion.
However, the benefits depend on how the food’s antioxidants are absorbed and utilized in the body:
- Fruits and vegetables are the richest sources so double your current intake of these! (Consume 2 servings at each meal and at least 1 at each snack)
- Drink green/white tea, and have red wine, but in moderation
- Eat nuts
- Choose whole grain options (bread, pasta, rice)
- Add red and black beans to soups and salads
- Add frozen fruit to smoothies
- Add pureed fruit as a topping to pancakes and yogurt
- Add fruit to muffins or bread
- Use fruit as a topping on cereals
- Have a stir-fry to increase vegetables intake
Weight loss of just 10% (if you are classified as overweight), can have significant health implications, and reduce your risk of future health complications.
Start changing your eating habits, by following the tips above and enjoy a longer and healthier life.