Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shortened Days Require more Vitamin D in your Diet

If you're looking for a simple, easy way to reduce your risk of catching the flu, you may need to look no further than your grocery store!

While it's still true that regular, moderate intensity exercise is helpful in fighting off infections, your next best bet could be as simple as getting enough Vitamin D. Especially in northern climates where exposure to the sun, our primary source of vitamin D, is limited during the Fall and Winter, increasing attention is now being given to vitamin D requirements. And vitamin D deficiencies.

In fact, some physicians contend that a major portion of winter ailments can be attributed to Vitamin D deficiencies, including heart disease, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, hypertension, arthritis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, PMS, Crohns Disease, cancer, MS and other autoimmune diseases. Wow!

A Highland Park client of ours has seen Vitamin D deficiencies in action 1st hand. Working through lower back pain for several months, she'd gone through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and had several MRIs and X Rays performed to help diagnose the source of her ailment. Nothing worked. Eventually, her physician suggested a diet loaded with Vitamin D, and her back pain went away!

The problem is, it's really, really hard to compensate for the lack of sun. Your body manufactures about 20,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D with just 20 minutes of sun. To get that much vitamin D in your diet would require something like 40 glasses of milk per day! (3300 calories, even if it's skim milk). The good news is that Vitamin D is fat soluble, so your body is capable of storing some D in your body fat. You won't need to consume the entire amount that you would otherwise manufacture, but with close to NO sun exposure these days, some dietary intake becomes critical.

Your best bet is actually an occasional trip to a tanning bed! This, of course, carries the added risk of developing skin cancer, so many of us avoid those.

As a Result, Natural Foods, become your next best source of vitamin D, and here are some high quality choices:

Salmon, canned (3 ounces) 530 IU
Salmon, cooked (3.5 ounces) 240–360 IU
Tuna, canned (3 ounces) 200 IU
Soy milk, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Orange juice, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Milk, low-fat, fortified (8 ounces) 98 IU
Cereal, fortified (1 cup) 40–50 IU
Eggs (1 large) 20–26 IU
Swiss cheese (1 ounce) 12 IU

The problem is, even a diet with only these foods you could still be deficient in D! So we're not done yet. How much, exactly, you need daily is still under debate, but a daily intake of up to 2,000 IU is currently considered a safe upper limit. The medical community agrees that up to this much won't create other problems, even if they can't agree on what the required minimum should be.

So, even with a naturally rich vitamin D diet, some supplementation is recommended. The best way to take vitamin D supplements is with Calcium. The two nutrients work together to build strong bones and teeth.

Furthermore, it's been shown that taking vitamin D with Calcium can actually reduce your fatty food cravings and help you lose weight!

So, with the Sun getting further and further away for the next 60 days, please take note of your Vitamin D! If in doubt, have your doctor administer a 25-hydroxyvitamin test to determine if you have optimal levels of Vitamin D in your blood. The Vitamin D Council considers optimum levels to be approximately 50 nM/L.

Looking for even more useful nutrition tips? Ask me about our new Nutrition Together program!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eating Too Little Contributes to Weight Gain

That's right, eating too little at the wrong times can actually have a negative effect on your weight loss efforts. Don't get me wrong, at the end of the day weight loss is still a very basic calorie calculation: weight lost = calories out - calories in. Consume more than you burn and you gain weight. Burn more than you consume and you loose weight. Simple math.

However, eating too little at critical times of the day, like breakfast or prior to exercise can actually have a negative effect on your ability to loose fat.

Skipping breakfast, for instance can create a hormone imbalance that triggers the body to go into "starvation mode," and consequently triggers the body to store more fat than it otherwise would by reducing your metabolism. Not good.

Further, as the day progresses, this hormonal imbalance unnaturally increases appetite to the point where you're far more likely to overeat for your next couple of meals. That's even worse.

Eating too little prior to exercise is another frequently made mistake.

Whether you're heading to the club to loose body fat, add muscle tone, or just feel good about yourself, it is critical that you have a small pre-workout meal.

And here's why.

Energy for exercise always comes from a blend of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. But fat sources only work at very low intensity levels, and carbohydrates are quickly utilized and must be constantly replenished.

So, while you might hope that your body will always use fat as an energy source during exercise, stored fat is metabolized ONLY when you are either sedentary or exercising at a very, very low level of intensity. You will, indeed, burn more calories when you exercise at more rigorous levels, but you'll burn no more fat. Check out my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report for LOTS more detail on this.

Most exercise is aerobic in nature. The energy source that will help you work harder to burn more calories, and work more efficiently to recruit additional muscle fibers is carbohydrates. Unlike fat, which is stored as fat, carbohydrates are stored in the blood stream, muscle tissues, and organs as glycogen and glucose (and, technically ATP at the cellular level, but we'll ignore that for now).

These immediately available "sugars" are your primary energy source for exercise ... at least until they're gone, which can be in as little as 20 minutes, depending on your metabolism and the nature of your exercise. Once the supply is spent (metabolized to exercise), your body needs to replace those spent sources with new sources .. .your pre-workout meal.

So, when you're consuming your pre workout meal, you're really filling your gas tank for the second half of your workout.

If you get it right, you're in good shape for high energy levels and higher levels of intensity during the second half of your workout. If you get it wrong, you'll "hit a wall", struggle with even moderate intensities, and ask your body to metabolize less efficient sources for energy, like proteins. That's right, even if you've got 30 pounds of body fat to loose, if your body needs energy sources beyond the immediately available carbohydrate sources, it doesn't convert your stored fat, it converts proteins!

And it gets worse yet, for if those proteins aren't in your bloodstream (from a consumed meal), your body converts stored proteins ...your muscle tissue ... through a process called catabolism.

And if you are catabolising you will almost certainly gain fat because maintaining lean body mass is a key factor in loosing body fat!

So, (ahem), here's the skinny on your pre-workout meal. You don't need to have much, but be sure that you have a few hundred (200 to 400, depending on your body weight) balanced calories between 30 and 60 minutes prior to exercise. This window will vary from person to person (and your hydration levels and prior daily food intake), but 30 to 60 minutes ahead of your workout is a good place to start. A well balanced snack should consist of approximately 25% protein, 65% carbohydrate and 10% fat. One half of a peanut butter sandwich and half a banana handle this perfectly. Or a yogurt and a few crackers.

This pre-workout requirement is also well recognized, and aggressively marketed by the nutritional supplements industry (Cliff, Powerbar, Gatoraide, etc.). Products from these suppliers also nicely handles the requirement. However, just be sure that you consume the product far enough ahead of exercise for benefit: it takes most digestive systems 30 to 40 minutes to move food to the bloodstream. Consuming these products during exercise is almost always too late for any benefit for exercise shorter than 90 minutes.

Looking for more healthy tips on eating right and proper nutrition?

Ask me about our New Nutrition Together program!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Silver Bullet for the Flu Season!

Looking for an easy way to worry less about H1N1 and the Flu season?

Look no further. It's called regular, moderate intensity exercise!

While no one is completely immune, with the H1N1 virus circulating, it's a good time to point out that regular moderate exercise improves your body's ability to fight off disease and infection!

Even better, you don't need to train intensely for those benefits. Because while you do need to work a bit harder to improve strength, and you do need to work a bit longer to improve your endurance, and you do need to work a bit faster to improve your cardiovascular fitness levels, regular moderate exercise is all that's needed to improve your immune systems.

Why is that?

Well, a few theories exist.
  • First, the more rapid breathing associated with moderate exercise helps flush the lungs of airborne illnesses.
  • Second, increased sweat and urine production helps rid the body of carcinogens.
  • Third, an elevated heart rate more quickly circulates antibodies and white blood cells to fight off infections.
  • Fourth, increased body temperatures have been found to help prevent the growth of bacteria.
  • Lastly, and as we've mentioned for a few weeks in a row now (insulin and calories; insulin and sugar; insulin and sleep), hormones are related in no small way. But this time, it isn't insulin we're blaming, it's cortisol.
For while cortisol is required to handle stress and other stressful events, prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels are quite detrimental to your health, and your immune system.

Moderate, regular exercise, however, helps inhibit the production of cortisol, thereby enabling the immune system to operate efficiently.

So, what's moderate? It all boils down your a Long Slow Cardio Event as was described back in February. I'll need to update that posting for today's frost less landscape, but that should get you started!

And what is regular? Well, that's most days of the week (4 or more with the new math). Sorry, there are no short cuts on frequency.

Need a bonus tip for fighting off the pig flu? Don't forget to get enough rest! For while adequate sleep will help with your job performance, it also improves your immune system!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Your Two Most Important Meals of the Day

As it turns out, your mother was right all along: breakfast is in fact the most important meal of the day! However, not just any breakfast will do. The choices you make for breakfast can influence your job performance, your energy levels, and more!


One of my favorite websites, had a nice article recently on not just making breakfast an integral part of your day, but food choices that make it the right breakfast. Indeed,the food choices you make for breakfast can go a long way in how sharp you think throughout the day, how well your immune system fights off infection, and how the right choices can trigger your body to burn more fat.

As it turns out, there isn't much magic in it at all: whole grains; wholesome fruits; and low fat dairy are the key ingredients; but do check out their helpful article for specific menus to improve the value of your most important meal of the day!

Close behind, the second most important meal of the day is Your Post Exercise Nutrition, otherwise known as a recovery meal.

After exercise, your body is, at a minimum, in a state of depletion.

You might even be fatigued if your workout was an intense workout. Energy stores have been reduced, lactic acid has accumulated in muscle tissues, and you have an empty stomach. Blood pressure, heart rate, and metabolism, while somewhat reduced though a proper cool down, remain elevated for an hour or more.
In short, your body is starving for nutrients, and
how you respond effects how well you recover for your next workout!

As it turns out, there is a critical 30 - 60 minute window of opportunity following exercise within which the adsorption of nutrients is more efficient than at any other time. Your body is literally a sponge, so feed it well and help your body recover!

Exactly what you eat actually depends on the type of exercise you've just completed. You'll recover differently from a long, slow cardio event than you would from a resistance training event. And different recoveries beg for different recovery meals.

A meal high in carbohydrate content is appropriate for extended or high intensity cardio activities where larger amounts of carbohydrates are spent. A well well recognized formula for cardiovascular recovery is a meal rich in carbohydrates, but with some protein. Many experts recommend 200 to 400 calories, depending on your body weight, in a ratio of 4 parts carbohydrate to 1 part protein (4:1). A good, wholesome food that fits this almost perfectly is chocolate milk, and fruit based yogurts.
For most resistance training, however, including a typical Fitness Together session, a balanced meal a bit higher in protein is best. Muscle tissues have been broken down with resistance training, and the pace of our sessions makes them somewhat aerobic. If your training session is prior to 3:00PM, we would recommend a 400-500 calorie meal of 35% protein, 60% carbs, and 5%. If you're on the run and won't have a chance to eat a proper meal for an hour or more, a quality protein supplement may suffice. Otherwise, a small chicken breast sandwich with a small salad and yogurt is one way.

If you train later in the day, say after 6:00 pm, you'll want to reduce your starchy carbohydrate intake, replacing them with simple carbohydrates (primarily fruits & vegetables). A large vinaigrette & olive oil salad with nuts, a piece (or 2) of fish/chicken breast, and some fruit is perfect : 45% protein, 45% (non starchy) carbohydrates, and 10% fat.

And if this all sounds too confusing,
ask me about our new Nutrition Together program!