Jake's Easy Eight Part I

As we go strongly into 2014 pursuing our fitness goals, often times we forget that working out is only half the battle.  I cannot stress how paramount good nutrition is, and if you want to see the best results, be it losing weight or putting on muscle, nutrition plays a key role.  Now I’m not here to give you some gimmicky diet because they don’t work, or if they do, the results are only temporary, often disappearing after one stops dieting.  Instead, I’m here to offer what I call my “Easy Eight: 8 Simple Rules” (or “recommendations,” you don’t have to follow them to a T) to help guide you on your journey. 

*Warning: I back up my recommendations with science (I list my sources at the end). The internet is a place where too often opinion is mistaken for fact, and I don’t know about you, but if you can’t provide data or proof of why I should be doing something, I won’t do it. 

To avoid making this feel like an essay, my Easy Eight is going to come in installments. WITHOUT FURTHER ADU, JAKE’S EASY EIGHT PART I:

1.     If you want to lose weight, you have to run a caloric deficit.

The only real “law” of weight loss is this: in order to lose weight, specifically fat, you must run a caloric deficit.  The definition of a calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.  Basically, it is how much energy food yields.  Now there are 3 macronutrients (all of which I’m sure you’ve heard of): protein, carbohydrates and fats or lipids.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, a gram of fat = 9 calories, a gram of protein = 4 calories, and a gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories.  In order to lose 1 pound of adipose tissue (fat), the generally accepted guide is there must be a deficit of 3,500 calories (I say “generally” because this is up for debate and has to do with quality of food, time of food consumption, etc.).  The point to take away from all this?  In order to lose weight, roughly 3,500 calories must be expended, be that through exercise, nutrition of eating less or eating better foods, or the most effective – a combination of both exercise and proper nutrition!  That being said, let’s move on to what we can do (or stop doing) to help us along that path.

2.     Stop eating sugar…seriously, stop eating it. 

Sugar is poison to the body.  I could write an entire blog entry on this topic alone, but I’ll try to keep it brief (FYI, it’s not going to be, hence installments).  First, let’s take a look at sugars.  Sugars are carbohydrates (saccharides) and are divided into monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are referred to as simple sugars and are the most basic unit of carbohydrates.  Disaccharides are two monosaccharides linked together.  The three monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose, which due to their simple nature and size are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. 

For the sake of time, we’ll only talk about glucose, the most stable and widely used monosaccharide in the body.  Glucose is the main source of fuel in the body and is what most carbohydrates yield when they are broken down.  Glucose is a great source of energy and is used in many cellular processes throughout the body.  The problem with sugars? When we eat them, they provide a large burst of available energy to the body, which we often do not need.  After we eat, blood glucose levels rise, and insulin is released to help transport that glucose into the cells. However, due to the easy absorption of these monosaccharides (glucose in particular), blood glucose levels rise very quickly.  High levels of blood glucose are toxic and can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.  In order to avoid this, the body will take this glucose and store it as glycogen, a multi-branched polysaccharide.  Glycogen is stored in the liver and skeletal muscles and can be broken back down into glucose to be used for energy.  The level of glycogen that can be stored depends on the fitness level of a person; someone of higher fitness is able to store more.  Once the liver and skeletal muscles reach glycogen saturation, any excess glucose/glycogen is repackaged as fatty acids and stored in adipose tissue, i.e. fat cells, which has an ability to be infinitely stored. 

As I stated earlier, whenever we eat, blood glucose levels rise, causing a proportional release of insulin to help facilitate the transport of glucose into cells.  Sugar causes a large spike in blood glucose; therefore, a large amount of insulin is released.  However, in states of constant elevated glucose and insulin levels, cells can develop insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes being the most serve) in which the receptors on cells don’t recognize insulin, or more insulin is required to do the same amount of work.  Because the cells cannot uptake the glucose due to this insulin sensitivity, blood glucose levels build in the blood stream faster, causing the body to in turn store the glucose as glycogen or adipose tissue faster.  In addition, insulin a) decreases the rate of lipolysis (the breakdown of fatty acids) in adipose tissue, (b) stimulates fatty acid and triacylglycerol synthesis in tissues (increase in fat mass), (c) increases the uptake of triglycerides from the blood into adipose tissue (taking fatty acids from the bloodstream into fat cells), and (d) decreases the rate of fatty acid oxidation in muscle and liver (breakdown of fats into energy (1).

So let’s go over a quick scenario to put it all together.  It’s Friday and CHRIS BROUGHT A BOX OF DOUGHNUTS (wow, what a gentleman).  Because I was too lazy to make a good breakfast, I scarf down 5 real quick, and then take one of Andrew’s just to let him know whose boss.  The simple sugars in the doughnuts are easily digested and quickly diffuse into my bloodstream, causing a big spike in blood glucose and subsequent release of insulin. Now, because I just sitting at the computer doing nothing, I have very little need for this rush of glucose because A) there is no demand from my muscles for energy, and B) my muscle glycogen levels are already close to saturation, so very little of this glucose will be taken up by my cells because they just don’t need the energy.  Next that glucose will be converted into glycogen, but again, since my glycogen levels in my muscles are already full because I haven’t been using them, and my liver doesn’t need any more glycogen because it hasn’t had to release its glycogen to help cope with the energy demands of exercise, there is no need to replenish any glycogen depletion.  Therefore, that glycogen will be quickly converted from glycogen into fatty acids.  Now, with all the insulin floating around my bloodstream and this big excess of glycogen being converted into fatty acids and released into my bloodstream, the insulin is going to bind to my adipose tissue receptors and facilitate the transportation of those fatty acids into the adipose tissue where they’re going to be stored as fat.  And if I keep eating these high sugar foods, over time my cells are going to develop that resistance, which makes it harder for them to uptake the glucose, leads back to that nasty cycle of fat gain we just covered.

3.     Don't drink your calories. Instead, drink more water.

Wow, that sugar is some awful stuff, and I bet you’re ready to give it up (or at least decrease your consumption, right?).  Well my next rule ties well into my first one and is super simple to follow!  Cut the drinks with calories out of your diet.  These drinks include soda, milk, juices and alcoholic beverages.  These drinks are often loaded with sugar (39 grams in a can of coke, 77 grams in a can of Mountain Dew, 24 grams in an 8 oz glass of minute maid OJ (2)). Referring back to rule #1, this high sugar content is a) ranging between 120-290 calories, and b) wrecking havoc on your metabolism.  So diet sodas are the way to go right?  Not so fast.  The reason that diet sodas have no calories is that they have no soul, and therefore no flavor, leading to that awful taste (kidding, but not really. I hate diet soda and think it should be used in enhanced integration).  Actually, they use artificial sweeteners.  There are five artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.  These artificial sweeteners elicit a much stronger sweetness response – up to 600 times the amount of normal table sugar! – from the brain that may lead to over stimulation of the brain, making foods that are much more nutritionally sound for you, such as fruits and vegetables, seem much less palpable.  In addition to making these foods seem less palpable, the high sweetness content may make you crave other sweeter foods, such as candy, cakes and chocolate. 

In a San Antonio Heart Study, participants who drank over 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese compared to non-diet soda drinkers (3).  Another study found participants who consumed one or more diet drink a day had a 36% greater risk of metabolic syndrome, which includes risk factors, such as hyperglycemia, hypertension, abdominal obesity, and hypertriglyceridemia that significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (4).  Instead, drink more water.  Drinking more water has a host of benefits, and proper hydration plays an important role in metabolism, pH regulation, muscle tone and function, all vital organ function, blood content regulation and digestion (just to name a few).  Basically, everyone needs to be drinking more water.  But don’t wait until you’re thirsty to go drink water.  Often time dehydration sets in before thirst. Have a water bottle (refillable please, think of the planet) next to you when you are at work, are watching T.V., etc.  You will drink it casually by just having it there.  Think of a bag of chips near you while you watch T.V. Next you know they’re gone and you didn’t even notice you were eating them.  By sipping on the water, your bottle will soon be empty, which forces you to get up to refill the water bottle or go to the bathroom, which is a great way to sneak in some extra exercise/ activity during the day (side note: your metabolism shuts down when you’re sitting, among other problems it’s causing, so keep moving.  Again, another blog post for another day).

So ends installment one, with three quick lessons to take away that make you hopefully think about some of the foods you are eating and what they are actually doing physiologically to you. Coming next is Rule #4. Cut back on processed foods, particularly carbs, and Rule #5 Eat more lean protein.

 

Written by Jake Farrow, Personal Trainer

 

Sources:

1. Dimitriadis, G., Mitrou, P., Lambadiari, V., Maratou, E., & Raptis, S. (2011 ). Insulin effects in muscle and adipose tissue. Diabetes Res Clin Pract93(1:S52-9), Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21864752

2. http://www.sugarstacks.com/beverages.htm

3. Fowler, S. P., Williams, K., Resendez, R. G., Hunt, K. J., Hazuda, H. P. and Stern, M. P. (2008), Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain. Obesity, 16: 1894–1900. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.284

4. Nettleton JA, Lutsey PL, Wang Y, Lima JA, Michos ED, Jacobs DR Jr. Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care. 2009;32(4):688–694

Jake's Easy Eight Part II

 

In my 1st installment, I covered the first 3 of my 8 simple rules to making better decisions in one’s weight loss journey.  If you haven’t read it, check it out before reading part 2 (click here forPart I).  For the 2nd installment, I’m going to cover why the consumption of processed food (particularly processed carbs) should be reduced and why the consumption of lean protein should be increased.

Rule # 4: Beware the processed carbohydrate

In the past – I’d say within the last 50-60 years – there has been a shift in the American diet due to a transition in food production from smaller farm-based agriculture to the rise of the industrial food giants that dominate today’s food production.  With the rise of these foods giants, we have seen an explosion of processed foods, which are cheaper and easier to manufacture than non-processed foods.  I don’t want to turn this into a conspiracy theory article about how high fructose corn syrup is making America fat, or that the industrial food giants manipulate the media and general public into various “health trends” to sell food products and diets, BUT it’s hard to deny the rise of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease etc., (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/4/537/F1.expansion.html) as well as the explosion of diet trends, which sell books (as well as food products).   

In fact, looking at food consumption patterns from the US Department of Agriculture, food consumption tables between 1967 and 2000 depicts a 1000% increase in high fructose corn syrup with it now representing about 40% of all added sweeteners in foods (1).  While you can’t say that high fructose corn syrup is the only culprit in this obesity epidemic, it certainly seems that we can draw some conclusion that is has played a significant role in it.  In addition, I have a serious problem with the diet trends that have risen out of the obesity epidemic.  Off the top of my head, I remember the following trends: “Oh all fats are bad for you, low fat diets are how you lose weight.” Then it was Atkin’s with “all carbs are the enemy,” followed by “high-fat diets and good fats,” and now the most current one which I despise: “whole wheat and grain.”  Yet when I open up cereal boxes or pasta boxes that are labeled “whole grain” or “whole wheat,” I don’t see any whole grains at all.  I have yet to find a single non-processed grain of rye, wheat, bean, legume, rice, you name it in those boxes, but you can bet on the front it has a “whole grain!” or “whole grain heart healthy!” label, so people buy it. 

So how are we supposed to know what’s processed and what’s not?  The food label shall set you free!  Behold a real life example: in one hand I have old fashioned Quaker oats, in the other instant apples & cinnamon oats.  Now let me look at the food label of my old fashion oats which include: Rolled oats and 5 grams of culinary justice.  Amazing, exactly what I paid for.  On the other hand, the instant oats have about 15 different ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup (wow, never saw that coming).  In addition, when you break down the macronutrients, the instant oats have 9 additional grams of sugar, as well as added sodium and less fiber and protein than the unprocessed oats.  People often too quickly associate a simple label, such as “whole grain” with “healthy.”  Case and point: I saw a “whole grain doughnut” the other day. Need I say more?

So why are these processed foods so bad?  When they process the food, the molecular structure of the food is fundamentally altered, often times losing much of its nutritional density.  The repeated process of extreme heating and cooling, as well as the stripping, bleaching, etc. strip away much of the vitamins and minerals all while keeping the caloric content intact.  In the case of the oats, they have gone from being a complex carbohydrate, which takes a long time for the body to break down, into sugars, which can be utilized as a simple carbohydrate that is easy to break down.  If you read part 1, you would know that this means it provides the quick rush of glucose that causes the vicious cycle of insulin response, high spikes in blood glucose, and a whole other host of problems that come along with that.  Also, processed foods have many additives that are undesirable – I’m looking at you, high fructose corn syrup – which are added in order to re-flavor the food because it has lost much of its taste during the processing, as well as preservatives to help with shelf life.

Rule #5: Eat more protein

Eat more protein.  For those of you who are vegetarians or don’t like eating meat, I suggest you start, lest you lose your place at the top of the food chain and be eaten by squirrels.  In fact, all 11 squirrel related deaths in 2013 had vegetarians as victims (www.I’m1000%makingthisup.com).  In all seriousness, there should be some animal or fish based proteins in your diet.  But before I go into the why, let’s break down what protein really is so that we can have a better understanding of its function.  Proteins are one of the big 3 macromolecules and are made up of chains of amino acids.  Amino acids are organic compounds composed of an anime group, a carboxyl acid group, along with a side-chain specific group that makes each amino acid unique.  Now besides being what proteins are composed of, amino acids play important role in neuro-transmitting and biosynthesis (2).  There are 20 natural amino acids (I know it is 22; don’t sass me, bio majors. I’m not including selenocysteine and pyrrolysine).  Of these 20 amino acids, the human body can only produce 10 on its own, so it’s important that we acquire the remaining 10 from our diet.  Don’t worry, you’re getting the remaining 10, otherwise you’d be dead.  Failure to obtain all of these amino acids would result in incomplete and useless proteins, and therefore your body would have to break down its own proteins (most likely muscle) in order to obtain these amino acids.  Now, these amino acids are then used by the body to build its own proteins through gene expression. Think Lego’s: you keep adding blocks on the end of each other and eventually it is twisted and folded into a complete protein!  Each organism has its own unique protein structure as dictated by genetics.  The protein structure and shape are how we tell the difference between say, our cells and an invading or foreign bacteria cell.  These proteins aren’t just used in building muscle. They perform a vast array of functions and participate in almost every cellular process in the body, including catalyzing almost all metabolic reactions (starting all chemical reactions as most enzymes are proteins), playing a crucial role in anabolic process (rebuilding of cells/tissue remodeling), replicating DNAresponding to various stimuli (immune response), playing a key role in digestion, transporting molecules from one location to another, helping to maintain and regulate cells, and all truly all bodily process. The list goes on and on (3).  It’s no wonder proteins are called the building blocks of life.

Anyways, let’s get back to why you should try to get your protein from an animal source. Plant proteins are known as incomplete proteins meaning they lack all the amino acids or the sufficient proportions of amino acids to support biological function in human beings.  However, you can still get sufficient amino acids; you just have to have a large variety of plant proteins to meet your basic minimum requirements.  This means that you have to eat more, as well as a larger variety in order to get the same amount, and often times the amount is just the bare minimum in order to function.  So to each their own, but if I had to get 3 ingredients to make a meal, I’d rather not go to 3 different grocery stores.

Now that we understand why we need proteins in our diet, let’s eat more of them!  The most satisfying meal is the one you earn yourself, so go grab a spear (or weapon of choice), find yourself a large animal (or hipster), and let instinct take care of the rest.  If this isn’t a viable option, you can always go to the local super market and just buy food.  Now the best proteins in my opinion are lean, non-red meat proteins.  These include chicken, turkey, fish and eggs (whites preferable).  These meats are lower in saturated fat and have a higher protein to fat ratio, but this is not to say that red meats are bad for you.  I won’t go into the details in this article, but red meat is not bad for you in correct proportions.  It has really just gotten a bad rap, which is quite the shame.  Now the reason I’m so big on proteins (meats) besides all the reasons I have already discussed pertains to body fat.  Eating a lot protein often does not result in the same addition of body fat that say, carbohydrates or fats would.  In a recent study, researchers examined whether the level of dietary protein affected body composition, weight gain, and/or energy expenditure in subjects randomized to one of three hypercaloric diets: low protein (5%), normal protein (15%), or high protein (25%) (5). The subjects were fed an excess of 1,000 kcals a day for 8 weeks, and at the end of the study the results were astounding.  While all subjects increased body mass (hard not to on 1000kcal excess a day), the subjects of the high protein diet gained significant amount more of lean-body mass (muscle).  To quote the authors, "Calories alone contributed to the increase in body fat. In contrast, protein contributed to changes in lean body mass, but not to the increase in body fat."  Am I saying that proteins and amino acids cannot be stored as body fat? Absolutely not.  Obviously the metabolic pathway exists for that to happen.  However, one very plausible explanation is the fact that the process of storing proteins as fat requires a ton of effort and time.  As your body digests proteins, it uses a significant amount of energy to break down the proteins (side note: look up themogenic effect.  This article is already too long to explain this. Just know it takes roughly 33% of the calories taken in to digest and break down the protein). The process of gluconeogenesis,which is the process of turning those amino acids into glucose in the liver, takes about another 25% of those calories (6).  Therefore, roughly only about 35-40% of those calories left is glucose which the body then has to turn into glycogen, and then can turn into adipose tissue (7).  If you think it’s a lot of work to lose fat, make your body work that much harder to put on fat.

And so concludes part two of the three part series.  An important thing to remember when reading these is that you should never deal in absolutes.  After reading this, should you go dragon kick your pantry door open like Bruce Lee and proceed to purge your house of all non-sanctioned foods?  No, absolutely not (but if you do, film it and send it to me).  These rules are merely mean to bring you some education about nutrition and to help you make better and more informed decisions.  Real permanent weight loss isn’t about diets. I hate that word and it’s got to go.  It’s about life style changes that produce real lasting results over a long period of time.  If you love soda, don’t go cold turkey on it.  It won’t last. After about three weeks, you’re going to be the most irritable person and inevitably have an awful food binge relapse.  Instead, maybe reduce your soda intake by half or switch to diet soda (a lesser evil).  Over time continue to make positive changes that won’t feel like a diet or torture but rather a new, smarter, healthy way of life.  Do I adhere to all my rules?  I do my best, but if I’m at a wedding, I’m not going to pass up on having a piece of cake. One of the most important things about dieting is if you have a relapse moment or a cheat meal, don’t let the wheels fall off the wagon.  If you had a tire pop on you, you would pull over, change the tire and proceed with life.  You wouldn’t pull over and say “Whelp, there goes one, BUT WHY STOP THERE, LET’S DO ‘EM ALL” and slash the rest of your tires.  Approach your nutrition changes with the same attitude; it’s OK to have a “cheat meal” every now and then.

For part 3, I’m going to cover my remaining rules, which are:

  • Rule#6: why fats aren’t the enemy,
  • Rule#7: the importance of cooking and packing your own meals, and
  • Rule #8: how to start about your nutritional changes. 

Stay tuned!

 

References

1. Bray G, Nielson S, Popkin BConsumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity Am J Clin Nutr April 2004 vol. 79 no. 4 537-543, American Society for Clinical Nutrition 2004

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/4/537.full

2. McGuire M, Beerman, KA.: Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food. 2nd edn. Belmont, CA.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2011.

3. Gropper S, Smith, JL., Groff, JL.: Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 5th edn. Belmont, CA.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2009.

4. Ten Have GA, Engelen MP, Luiking YC, Deutz NE: Absorption kinetics of amino acids, peptides, and intact proteins. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab2007, 17 Suppl:S23-36.

5. Bray GA, Smith SR, de Jonge L, Xie H, Rood J, Martin CK, Most M, Brock C, Mancuso S, Redman LM: Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2012, 307:47-55.

6.  Hue L. Regulation of gluconeogenesis in liver: In Handbook of Physiology – Section 7: The Endocrine System – Volume II: The Endocrine Pancreas and Regulation of Metabolism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 649-657, 2001.

7.  Jéquier E, Acheson K, Schutz Y. Assessment of energy expenditure and fuel utilization in man. Annu Rev Nutr. 1987;7:187-208. Review. PubMed PMID: 3300732.