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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Condition Your Body to Burn Fat

Conditioning your body to burn fat involves more than just training properly. Fat metabolism relies on a low stress lifestyle as well as a diet that promotes fat-for-fuel. I won’t go into proper training here – that’s been done over at the Sock Doc Training Principles and other areas on this site. I could also talk in great lengths about how to lower stress so you’re not pumping out a lot of stress hormones (primarily cortisol) throughout the day and burning more glucose than what you should be, but I won’t – because it’s so individualized and in a way it’s common sense, though admittedly easier said than done.
If you are dealing with a lot of stress whether it’s your work, family, finances, or other, you’ve got to do what you can do to deal with these stresses before they wreck your health, if they haven’t already. As I say to my patients, “Fix what you can fix.” This means that if you can’t fix a lifestyle situation right now for whatever reason, then do your best to modify it as best as you can. But you can always change your exercise habits and you can always change your diet. There’s really no excuse unless you’re in prison; well maybe some of you have other scenarios too, but you get my point. Let’s learn how to eat properly to burn more fat rather than sugar. Note: This is sort of “Part II” of many parts in the Sock Doc discussion of “Carbohydrates: Evil or Essential?”. Check out Part I here.

Eat Fat to Burn Fat

clotted cream snack
I put oranges on my clotted cream.
Diet is a huge factor when it comes to your body becoming aerobically efficient and burning fat for fuel. Even if you could care less about endurance training or racing you should still be concerned with aerobic metabolism – it makes you a mentally and physically efficient human being. So with all the information out there – what do you eat, when do you eat, and how much do you eat?
First, I’ll start by saying you ultimately have to see what works for you, but there are definite things you should be doing, and plenty of things you should not be doing. But next I’ll say that if you think your diet is working for you, don’t assume that it can’t be improved. You have to experiment and get out of your comfort zone some to see if you can feel better and perform better by tweaking your diet even more. In a way, your diet is always a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean you chase down what you think is the latest-and-greatest diet in the news this month.
A diet lower in carbs and higher in fats fuels a healthy aerobic metabolism and keeps your glycogen in your muscles for when you want to train hard, train long duration, lift heavy, or do all three. This type of diet also keeps your brain functioning well as the brain runs off of glucose, (ketones too which will be discussed later), and you should have plenty stored in your liver and circulating in your blood to provide adequate sugar. So how much fat should you be eating in your diet – 50%, 60% – 70% – or more (or less)? The answer depends on your body but I’ll say that you should shoot for the higher end and you should eventually, over time, be able to function on much more fat in your diet than carbohydrates.
I’ll use me as an example. I used to eat a diet consisting roughly 50% of fat, 20% protein, and 30% carbohydrates. When I would train over two hours, I had to eat something such as some gel packs, (like GU), or an  energy drink. During a race over 90 minutes I’d always consume some carbs – I had to. Eventually I increased my fats to 60-70% of my diet, and now I can easily run three hours, (aerobically of course,) with no food and no fluid (including water unless it’s really hot out). In a race I won’t consume any carbs unless it’s over two hours. I don’t need them like I used to and not only am I a stronger athlete, but I’m healthier too. 

Stop Snacking!

devils food
It really is the food of the Devil.
Another major change I made in my diet just over the past couple years is I have, for the most part, stopped snacking between meals unless I’m training hard. Like most physicians, I was taught one way and eventually learned that the way I was taught was wrong. Unfortunately this occurs all too often in the professional education system. Believe it or not, I’m humble enough to know when the advice I was giving to patients wasn’t the best advice, as now I think otherwise. So now I recommend that my patients do not snack, unless they are exercising to the point where it is advised, (that’s long duration or high intensity), and they only eat three or four meals a day. Snacking creates habitually high blood sugar levels; it never corrects the problem. This is why people with “low blood sugar” always have blood sugar issues – they will never resolve the problem. If you go around all day snacking on carrot sticks, fruit, crackers, and other carbohydrate foods, you’re giving yourself sugar all day long. So eat three to four meals a day with a lot of fat, and adequate protein.
If you focus on eating fat, (that’s grass fed meats, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, cream, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut milk & oil, chocolate, avocado), and take note of the protein then you’re left with carbohydrate foods. How much protein should an athlete consume? A good rule is to take in around 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. So if you’re 150 pounds (roughly 70 kg) then you need around 100-105 grams of protein a day. That’s only 400 calories, so for an active person who might need a minimum of 2,000 calories a day, it’s only 25% of the total caloric intake.
Starting making some of these changes in your diet now. If your diet is roughly 50% fat, don’t just jump to 70% tomorrow. Gradually increase it and see how you feel. Switch your whole milk in your coffee to heavy cream. Dump olive oil on your salad. Use butter on everything and coconut milk more often. Eat more grass-fed beef rather than chicken. Enjoy!

The Diet-Heart Myth

Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy

It’s hard to overstate the impact that cardiovascular disease (CVD) has in the U.S.. Consider the following:
  • Cardiovascular disease affects 65 million Americans.
  • Close to one million Americans have a heart attack each year.
  • In the U.S., one person dies every 39 seconds of cardiovascular disease.
  • 1 of 3 deaths that occurs in the U.S. is caused by cardiovascular disease.
  • 1 in 3 Americans have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of major cardiovascular risk factors related to overweight/obesity and insulin resistance.
  • The total cost of cardiovascular disease in 2008 was estimated at $300 billion.
To put that last statistic in perspective, the World Health Organization has estimated that ending world hunger would cost approximately $195 billion. One might argue that the $300 billion we spend on treating cardiovascular disease in the U.S. is a necessary expenditure; however, a recent study which looked at the relationship between heart disease and lifestyle suggested that 90% of CVD is caused by modifiable diet and lifestyle factors. (1)
Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease is one of the most misdiagnosed and mistreated conditions in medicine. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about what causes heart disease over the past decade, but the medical establishment is still operating on outdated science from 40-50 years ago.
In this 4-part series, I’m going to debunk 3 common myths about heart disease:
  1. Eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood.
  2. High cholesterol in the blood is the cause of heart disease.
  3. Statins save lives in healthy people without heart disease.
In the fourth and final article in the series, I’ll discuss strategies for naturally protecting yourself against heart disease.

Myth #1: Eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood.

Most of us grew up being told that foods like red meat, eggs and bacon raise our cholesterol levels. This idea is so deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche that few people even question it. But is it really true?
The diet-heart hypothesis—which holds that eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol in our blood—originated with studies in both animals and humans more than half a century ago. However, more recent (and higher quality) evidence doesn’t support it.
On any given day, we have between 1,100 and 1,700 milligrams of cholesterol in our body. 25% of that comes from our diet, and 75% is produced inside of our bodies by the liver. Much of the cholesterol that’s found in food can’t be absorbed by our bodies, and most of the cholesterol in our gut was first synthesized in body cells and ended up in the gut via the liver and gall bladder. The body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling internal production; when cholesterol intake in the diet goes down, the body makes more. When cholesterol intake in the diet goes up, the body makes less.
This explains why well-designed cholesterol feeding studies (where they feed volunteers 2-4 eggs a day and measure their cholesterol) show that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels in about 75% of the population. The remaining 25% of the population are referred to as “hyper-responders”. In this group, dietary cholesterol does modestly increase both LDL (“bad cholesterol” and HDL (“good cholesterol”), but it does not affect the ratio of LDL to HDL or increase the risk of heart disease. (2)
In other words, eating cholesterol isn’t going to give you a heart attack. You can ditch the egg-white omelettes and start eating yolks again. That’s a good thing, since all of the 13 essential nutrients eggs contain are found in the yolk. Egg yolks are an especially good source of choline, a B-vitamin that plays important roles in everything from neurotransmitter production to detoxification to maintenance of healthy cells. (3) Studies show that up to 90% of Americans don’t get enough choline, which can lead to fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems and nerve-muscle imbalances. (4)
What about saturated fat? It’s true that some studies show that saturated fat intake raises blood cholesterol levels. But these studies are almost always short-term, lasting only a few weeks. (5) Longer-term studies have not shown an association between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels. In fact, of all of the long-term studies examining this issue, only one of them showed a clear association between saturated fat intake and cholesterol levels, and even that association was weak. (6)
Moreover, studies on low-carbohydrate diets (which tend to be high in saturated fat) suggest that they not only don’t raise blood cholesterol, they have several beneficial impacts on cardiovascular disease risk markers. For example, a meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that low-carb diets neither increased nor decreased LDL cholesterol. However, they did find that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases is body weight as well as improvements in several CV risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin and c-reactive protein, as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol. (7)
If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease. (8) A Japanese prospective study that followed 58,000 men for an average of 14 years found no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease, and an inverse association between saturated fat and stroke (i.e. those who ate more saturated fat had a lower risk of stroke). (9)
That said, just as not everyone responds to dietary cholesterol in the same manner, there’s some variation in how individuals respond to dietary saturated fat. If we took ten people, fed them a diet high in saturated fat, and measured their cholesterol levels, we’d see a range of responses that averages out to no net increase or decrease. (If dietary saturated fat does increase your total or LDL cholesterol, the more important question is whether that’s a problem. I’ll address that in the next article in this series.)
Another strike against the diet-heart hypothesis is that many of its original proponents haven’t believed it for at least two decades. In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1991, Ancel Keys, the founder of the diet-heart hypothesis said (10):
Dietary cholesterol has an important effect on the cholesterol level in the blood of chickens and rabbits, but many controlled experiments have shown that dietary cholesterol has a limited effect in humans. Adding cholesterol to a cholesterol-free diet raises the blood level in humans, but when added to an unrestricted diet, it has a minimal effect.
In a 2004 editorial in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, Sylvan Lee Weinberg, former president of the American College of Cardiology and outspoken proponent of the diet-heart hypothesis, said (11):
The low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet… may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndromes. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Lard: The New Health Food?


Startled by news about the dangers of trans fats, writer Pete Wells happily contemplates the return of good old-fashioned lard.

When I turn to the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, I more or less know what I'll find. Paul Krugman will be preaching to the choir and David Brooks will be gamely hiding the strain of being the conservative that liberals can almost imagine having lunch with. On very special days, the paper may issue some rumblings about the UN's Oil-for-Food affair. The last thing I expect to see is an engraved invitation to eat french fries and fried chicken, yet that is roughly what I got one day last summer.
Extending this astonishing offer was the food writer Corby Kummer. In response to the news that New York City's health commissioner had asked local restaurants to stop using cooking oils containing trans fats, comparing them to such hazards as lead and asbestos, Kummer proposed that we bring back lard, "the great misunderstood fat." Lard, he cheerfully reported, contains just 40 percent saturated fat (compared with nearly 60 percent for butter). Its level of monounsaturated fat (the "good" fat) is "a very respectable 45 percent," he noted, "double butter's paltry 23 or so percent." Kummer hinted that if I wanted to appreciate the virtues of this health food, I needed to fry shoestring potatoes or a chicken drumstick.
What did I know about lard? Bupkes. To my generation, the phrase deep fried in pure lard is shorthand for morbid obesity. Born in the '60s and raised in New England, I had consumed as much lard as a resident of Mecca. Okay, I exaggerate. I had eaten a pie crust made with lard and seen the way it flaked under a fork. But I'd eaten nothing fried in lard. "It is absolutely the best for frying," says Fran McCullough, author of The Good Fat Cookbook, an impassioned defense of butter, fish oil and other natural sources of fat. "Nothing crisps food quite as well as lard. Hands down, there's no better fried chicken."
With lard circulating in polite society again, I would have to introduce myself and get acquainted. First, though, I had to find some. The one-pound brick of lard in my corner bodega was hydrogenated, as was the 40-ounce tub my favorite butcher carries, along with nearly all the commercial lard available in this country. During hydrogenation, fat molecules are pelted by hydrogen until their chemical structures change. Hydrogenation can make liquid fats solid at room temperature (that's how we get Crisco) and gives lard extra stability so it won't go rancid as quickly. Unfortunately, hydrogenation is also the source of unwholesome trans fats, which shoot extra LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) into your arteries while batting away the other, good cholesterol. If I wanted the freshest, purest, most nutritious lard available, I'd have to make it myself.
Good lard starts with good pork fat, and plenty of it. Old recipe books tell you that the fat on a hog's back grows thicker than an inch, but modern pigs are bred to be as slim as greyhounds, and compiling enough of their back fat to fry a batch of chicken would mean stopping at every butcher in Brooklyn. The pigs I needed were premodern. At last, I talked with two young farmers who raise venerable breeds like Tamworths on the rolling pastures of Flying Pigs Farm in upstate New York. These enterprising hog merchants, Jennifer Small and Michael Yezzi, agreed to hook me up.
For five long days, I waited for my fat. On the sixth, a huge cardboard box arrived. I tore it open and stared in awe. Inside were four massive hunks, each the size of a dictionary. They were lumpy, with the barely noticeable pink color of a cooked rabbit loin. Together, they added up to 10 pounds of the finest pig fat, and it all belonged to me.
Rendering is how we extract cooking fat from the chunky solid stuff. (The grease in a pan of bacon is rendered bacon fat.) Heat melts the fat and draws it out of the surrounding tissue; it also evaporates the water in the fat. You can't just crank up the gas, though, or the fat will scorch. To speed up this low-temperature process, I sliced my fat into big chunks and ran them through an electric meat grinder. What came out looked like spaghetti on steroids. Even with the flame set at a quiet flicker, the spaghetti strands quickly melted. Then, for the next two hours, the pot bubbled away as the kitchen filled with the aroma of roast pork. When the bubbling became sluggish, I strained my brand-new lard through cheesecloth and let it cool on the counter. The solid crunchy bits caught in the filter are cracklings. They are famously delicious in corn bread, but I've been too busy eating meals that were deep fried in pure lard to mess with cracklings.
Now I asked my wife which foods she was most keen to drench in our half-gallon of homemade lard. Her shocking answer was "None." I feared for a minute that she was not the same girl I married, until she explained: Since she and lard had no history together, she simply didn't know what to hope for. At that moment, I knew that more was riding on my experiments than my own idle curiosity. I had an obligation to millions of Americans in my age group. Every generation has a defining moment, a time when it turns squarely to meet its fate. For Winston Churchill and his peers, that moment was the second world war. Vietnam molded the baby boomers. I believe my generation's destiny is inextricably bound to animal fat. As children, our fragile bones were nourished by Crisco and margarine. We were all, as Gertrude Stein would have said if she'd stuck around, a lardless generation. Now lard was back. Would we have the strength of character to meet it on its own terms? To find out, I invited two friends over for a fried-food adventure. One had lived in Central America, the other in Poland—yet neither had ever tasted homemade lard.
A half-gallon of lard doesn't go as far as you'd think. About a quart went into my largest cast-iron skillet to meet the cut-up components of two young chickens. Once fried to a beguiling amber, the birds perched on a brown paper bag from Bloomingdale's while I spooned lumps of hush-puppy batter (cornmeal, flour, egg, buttermilk) into the lard, which was poultry-scented now. Sixteen hush puppies later, I had about two cups of lard left. Somewhere I have read that the ideal temperature for deep frying is between 350 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit—so high, in other words, that the food has almost no time to soak up the fat before it's fully cooked. Judging by how much lard was missing, I had fallen short of the ideal by at least a hundred degrees.
Next I cooked beer-battered scrod in a pint or so of virgin lard. (It is whispered that in some Southern towns, far off the main highways, weekend-night fish fries still center on vats of roiling hog grease.) Hardly any fat remained for my french fries. This is how I broke another sacred precept in the Fryer's Code: I overloaded my oil. Authorities concur that french fry perfection is achieved through a double baptism in fat. A first immersion over medium heat cooks the potato, then a second, roaring-hot bath browns and crisps the exterior. Where I went wrong was the roaring-hot part. I split my potatoes into two batches for the first dunking, but then I threw the whole mess in together for the final rinse. The thermometer sank gloomily and so did my spirits. Why did I sabotage the whole recipe in one reckless move? I was hungry, that's why. Hungry for the taste of lard.
Except there was no taste. From my experience with bacon grease and some memorably fatty Flying Pigs Farm loin roasts, I had the idea that anything fried in lard would take on a sweet, rich, porky essence. Yet my friends and I agreed that our food bore no trace of pig. The chicken tasted exactly like chicken and the scrod just like scrod (whatever scrod is; I've never been sure). We might have wondered why I had bothered if we hadn't been completely entranced by something else: the texture.
We'd thought lard would encase and entomb food—maybe because at room temperature it looks like face cream—but it is a fat of rare finesse. Extra-virgin olive oil is more versatile—hog-fat vinaigrette probably won't be coming to a trattoria near you—yet I generally find it too assertive for frying. ("Pure" olive oil has a more neutral flavor and is cheaper, too.) Corn and soybean oils (these days, most bottles marked "vegetable oil" contain soy) perform well at the higher temperatures used for frying, but they also leave an unpleasant tacky residue in the mouth, like wet paint. Not lard. At 350 degrees it forms a crust that shatters with satisfying ease; my disastrous french fries came out like potato sticks, but they were potato sticks that met your teeth with a memorable snap. After hanging out in your mouth for a minute, though, a lard-fried crust becomes soft and creamy, as voluptuous as a Rubens nude but not as heavy. All my kitchen slipups didn't stop me from recognizing that lard is the most elegant fat I've ever met. Even the absence of pork flavor, which at first struck me as a flaw, only made lard seem more delicate and refined.
My euphoria lasted about 10 minutes. Then I wanted to hunt down the villains who'd kept me away from my beautiful lard all these years. When I find them, though, I doubt I'll have the heart for revenge. When McDonald's swore off beef tallow in 1990 and started crisping its fries in vegetable oil, plenty of decent, honest people believed lives would be spared. But the oil they were using was partially hydrogenated. Now there's a crusade against trans fats; the company is under pressure to switch to nonhydrogenated oil. Animal fat has been around a lot longer than the FDA. Why were we so quick to toss lard overboard?
As I sent my friends home bathed in the warm glow of hog grease, I felt sure that our generation would pass the test of lard. We might not cook with it every night—natural lard is expensive and (all right, I'll admit it) deep-fried foods are often loaded with calories, no matter which fat you use. But we won't live in fear of it, either. When we want deep-fried excellence, we'll reach for the best fat for the job: lard.

Low Calorie Ways to Flavor Foods

by Molly McAdams

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds a lot of flavor but very few calories to food.
Some of the easiest ingredients to use to add flavor to food without adding a significant number of calories include citrus juices, flavored vinegars, herbs, spices and seasoning vegetables, such as onions and garlic. These flavorings are also low in fat and salt. The secret to successfully adding low-calorie flavor is knowing which seasonings to use with which types of food.

Citrus and Vinegar

The acid in citrus juices and vinegars adds sharp flavor to otherwise bland or neutral foods such as fish, chicken and salad greens. These seasonings also complement the flavor of tastier foods, such as more strongly flavored meats and vegetables. In addition to the sharpness of acid, lemons, limes, grapefruit and assorted flavored vinegars each add their own distinctive flavor to foods while adding little in the way of calories. Try balsamic vinegar on salmon or salad greens, sherry vinegar or raspberry vinegar on cooked carrots or shredded carrot salads and Asian rice vinegar on cucumbers and radishes. Citrus juices complement all of these foods and can also be used to perk up the flavor of bean dishes, poultry and most types of seafood.


Using herbs to season meat, vegetable, grain and bean dishes helps reduce the amount of fat and salt you use to add flavor these foods. Chop or cut fresh herbs into very fine pieces to make sure their flavor is well distributed throughout a dish. Crush dried herbs with your fingers before adding them to a dish to release more of their flavor. Add fresh or dried herbs toward the end of cooking time to help preserve their flavor, which might otherwise get lost in slow-simmering dishes, such as casseroles and stews.


Sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and mint help reduce the amount of sugar, and therefore the number of calories, in desserts, breads and other sweet baked goods. Some sweet spices such as cumin, curry powder and ginger can also be used to add flavor to savory dishes, such as soups and stews, without adding extra calories. Most spices have strong, concentrated flavors. When you are experimenting with seasonings, add small amounts of spices at first so you don't overpower the flavor of your food.

Seasoning Vegetables

Onions, garlic and celery add intense flavor to foods without adding many calories. They can be used to season a simple food such as broiled fish, roast chicken or grilled meat. These seasoning vegetables can also be cooked with other roasted, sauteed or steamed vegetables or grains to add flavor to side dishes. Dishes made with legumes such as beans, lentils and split peas are much more flavorful when they are cooked with seasoning vegetables.

About the Author

Molly McAdams is a writer who lives in New York City. She has covered health and lifestyle for various print and online publishers since 1989. She holds a Master of Science degree in nutrition.

How to Thicken Gravy Without Using Cornstarch or Flour

by Rachel Lovejoy

Gravy is typically made by using a thickener such as flour or cornstarch that works with the fats produced when roasting meat or poultry. While it takes a little longer, the same effect can be achieved by using the reduction method, in which the principle of evaporation replaces the action of a thickening agent. As the liquid simmers, it releases moisture in the form of steam, leaving fat solids, bits of meat, and concentrated flavorings behind. The amount of time you allow the reduction to simmer determines how thick the final gravy will be.

Items you will need

  • Roasting pan or deep saucepan
  • Stirring spoon
  • Whisk
  • Butter
  • Seasoning vegetables
  • Water, broth or wine
  • Seasonings of your choice
  • Salt and pepper
Step 1
Use the roasting pan that contains the meat drippings or transfer the drippings into a smaller saucepan. Place either the roasting pan or the saucepan over medium heat. Add a pat or two of butter to increase the fat content, if desired, and stir the fat and the bits of roasted meat until blended.
Step 2
Add finely chopped seasoning vegetables such as garlic or onions, if desired. Cook and stir them in the drippings for about two minutes, or until just tender.
Step 3
Add about 1 1/2 cups water, broth, wine or a combination of the three to the pan drippings, and scrape the bits of roasted meat from the bottom of the pan to incorporate them into the liquid.
Step 4
Bring the pan drippings and the water to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and add any seasonings, including salt and pepper, to your taste. Do not cover the pan, and allow the mixture to simmer gently to allow the moisture to evaporate. Whisk the gravy as often as needed to eliminate any lumps that form during cooking.
Step 5
Remove the pan from the heat when you notice that the residue line on the inside has dropped from the original starting point to about halfway from the bottom, as this indicates that the gravy has been reduced by about half.


  • To thicken a large amount of broth by this method for soup or stew, remove the meat and vegetables and return them to the pot along with any starchy ingredients such as cooked rice or noodles after the gravy has thickened to the desired consistency. This assures that you won't overcook the meat, vegetables, rice or noodles as the sauce thickens.
  • The reduction method gives you control over how rich your gravy will be, and much of this depends on what you do with the pan drippings before adding any liquid. You can add more flavor by cooking them until the bits of meat are crispy and brown, and do the same with any seasoning vegetables you use. This flavor will be transferred to the cooking liquid you add and become even more concentrated as the sauce cooks down.


  • Culinate: The Sauce Thickens
  • The Cook's Thesaurus: Thickeners
  • Food Republic: How To Make A Reduction

About the Author

Rachel Lovejoy has been writing professionally since 1990 and currently writes a weekly column entitled "From the Urban Wilderness" for the Journal Tribune in Biddeford, Maine. Lovejoy graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

The Truth About Protein

By: Adina Steiman
If you are what you eat, what does that make a vegan? A string-bean, milquetoast kind of a guy? Of course not—and renowned strength coach Robert dos Remedios, a vegan, is strong evidence to the contrary. Really strong.

But most men eat animal products. And we really do become what we eat. Our skin, bones, hair, and nails are composed mostly of protein. Plus, animal products fuel the muscle-growing process called protein synthesis. That's why Rocky chugged eggs before his a.m. runs. Since those days, nutrition scientists have done plenty of research. Read up before you chow down.

You Need More

Think big. Most adults would benefit from eating more than the recommended daily intake of 56 grams, says Donald Layman, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois. The benefit goes beyond muscles, he says:Protein dulls hunger and can help prevent obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

How much do you need? Step on a scale and be honest with yourself about your workout regimen. According to Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D., who studies exercise and nutrition at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, highly trained athletes thrive on 0.77 gram of daily protein per pound of body weight. That's 139 grams for a 180-pound man.

Men who work out 5 or more days a week for an hour or longer need 0.55 gram per pound. And men who work out 3 to 5 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour need 0.45 gram per pound. So a 180-pound guy who works out regularly needs about 80 grams of protein a day.

Now, if you're trying to lose weight, protein is still crucial. The fewer calories you consume, the more calories should come from protein, says Layman. You need to boost your protein intake to between 0.45 and 0.68 gram per pound to preserve calorie-burning muscle mass.

And no, that extra protein won't wreck your kidneys: "Taking in more than the recommended dose won't confer more benefit. It won't hurt you, but you'll just burn it off as extra energy," Dr. Tarnopolsky says.

It's Not All the Same

Many foods, including nuts and beans, can provide a good dose of protein. But the best sources are dairy products, eggs, meat, and fish, Layman says. Animal protein is complete—it contains the right proportions of the essential amino acids your body can't synthesize on its own.

It's possible to build complete protein from plant-based foods by combining legumes, nuts, and grains at one meal or over the course of a day. But you'll need to consume 20 to 25 percent more plant-based protein to reap the benefits that animal-derived sources provide, says Dr. Tarnopolsky. And beans and legumes have carbs that make it harder to lose weight.

So if protein can help keep weight off, is a chicken wing dipped in blue-cheese dressing a diet secret? Not quite: Total calories still count. Scale down your fat and carbohydrate intake to make room for lean protein: eggs, low-fat milk, yogurt, lean meat, and fish.

But remember, if you're struggling with your weight, fat itself is not the culprit; carbs are the likely problem. Fat will help keep you full, while carbs can put you on a blood-sugar roller coaster that leaves you hungry later.

Timing is Everything

"At any given moment, even at rest, your body is breaking down and building protein," says Jeffrey Volek, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition and exercise researcher at the University of Connecticut. Every time you eat at least 30 grams of protein, Layman says, you trigger a burst of protein synthesis that lasts about 3 hours.

But think about it: When do you eat most of your protein? At dinner, right? That means you could be fueling muscle growth for only a few hours a day, and breaking down muscle the rest of the time, Layman says. Instead, you should spread out your protein intake.

Your body can process only so much protein in a single sitting. A recent study from the University of Texas found that consuming 90 grams of protein at one meal provides the same benefit as eating 30 grams. It's like a gas tank, says study author Douglas Paddon-Jones, Ph.D.: "There's only so much you can put in to maximize performance; the rest is spillover."

Eating protein at all three meals—plus snacking two or three times a day on proteins such as cheese, jerky, and milk—will help you eat less overall. People who start the day with a protein-rich breakfast consume 200 fewer calories a day than those who chow down on a carb-heavy breakfast, like a jam-smeared bagel. Ending the day with a steak dinner doesn't have the same appetite-quenching effect, Layman says.

Workouts Require Fuel

Every guy in the gym knows he should consume some protein after a workout. But how much, and when? "When you work out, your muscles are primed to respond to protein," Volek says, "and you have a window of opportunity to promote muscle growth."

Volek recommends splitting your dose of protein, eating half 30 minutes before the workout and the other half 30 minutes after. A total of 10 to 20 grams of protein is ideal, he says. And wrap a piece of bread around that turkey, because carbs can raise insulin; this slows protein breakdown, which speeds muscle growth after your workout. Moreover, you won't use your stored protein for energy; you'll rely instead on the carbs to replenish you.

One study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, pinpointed 20 grams as the best amount of postworkout protein to maximize muscle growth.

You're doing this because resistance exercise breaks down muscle. This requires a fresh infusion of amino acids to repair and build it. "If you're lifting weights and you don't consume protein, it's almost counterproductive," says Volek. Protein also helps build enzymes that allow your body to adapt to endurance sports like running and biking.

Powders are for Everyone

Everyone—not just muscleheads—can benefit from the quick hit of amino acids provided by a protein supplement, bar, or shake. Your best bet is a fast-absorbing, high-quality kind like whey protein powder (derived from milk): "It appears in your bloodstream 15 minutes after you consume it," Volek says.

Whey protein is also the best source of leucine, an amino acid that behaves more like a hormone in your body: "It's more than a building block of protein—it actually activates protein synthesis," Volek says. Whey contains 10 percent leucine while other animal-based proteins have as little as 5 percent.

Casein, another milk protein sold in supplement form, provides a slower-absorbing but more sustained source of amino acids, making it a great choice for a snack before you hit the sack. "Casein should help you maintain a positive protein balance during the night," says Volek. Building muscle while you sleep? Thanks to protein, anything's possible.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Fat Burning Simplifed

by Marlene Watson-Tara

When you eat a big meal—which is loaded with simple carbohydrates, i.e. pasta, white rice, bread, potatoes—it sends your blood sugar soaring. The body immediately releases a hormone (insulin) whose job it is to move the sugar out of the bloodstream where—if it were to stay elevated it would do serious damage.
Insulin escorts sugar into the cells. When the muscle cells don’t need it, it goes into the fat cells. No wonder insulin is also known as the “fat-storing hormone.”
Insulin does its work with the help of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which is the “fat-storing enzyme.” LPL takes triglycerides from the bloodstream, divides them into smaller parts (called fatty acids), and then promptly helps store these fatty acids in your fat cells.
If insulin remains in the bloodstream, it effectively locks the doors to the fat cells. They won’t open up and you won’t burn fat) until insulin levels come back down. Of course, the more you continue to eat that same high refined-carb diet, the less your insulin levels go down.
How do you burn fat?
Insulin has a sister hormone, and its name is glucagon and it’s a critical component of your fat-burning biochemistry.
When you need more energy and food isn’t available, glucagon is secreted. Its purpose is the exact opposite of insulin’s. Glucagon goes into the cells and causes fat to be released. And it does so with the help of a fat-burning enzyme called hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL).
Much like glucagon is the “opposite” of insulin, HSL is the “opposite” of LPL, the fat-storing enzyme we spoke of earlier. HSL breaks down triglycerides (the form of fat stored in your cells) into fatty acids and glycerol, so as they travel around the bloodstream they can be burned for energy or excreted. This glucagon-HSL axis is what I call the “fat-burning switch.”
Working backwards, we can see the obvious: Fat burning (and weight loss) won’t take place unless the fat-burning switch (glucagon/ HSL) is turned on. The fat-burning switch is in the “off” position as long as insulin levels are high. Insulin levels are high whenever blood sugar is high, and blood sugar is typically high in response to high-refined carbohydrate meals.
Hence the solution to the problem of how to burn fat is pretty simple. Keep blood sugar in a nice, moderate range where it won’t trigger excess insulin. By keeping blood sugar (and insulin) down, you allow glucagon/HSL—the fat-burning switch—to do its magic.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Fat Cells-how they work

Posted by Michelle LeSueur

Fat Cells-how they work

Fat Cells; how they work

Did you ever wonder why some people have more fat cells than others?  Did you ever wonder how they work? As much as we wish we didn’t have them, they are essential to our lives. Fat cells are designed to expand and shrink depending on diet and exercise. By reducing the amount of fat your body stores is what causes our fat cells to shrink and this is what we call “losing weight”.  Unfortunately, they never go away!
A while ago I lectured on fat cells and how they work.  Many people loved the information, so I thought I would share here. Statistics show that an incredible 65.2 percent of the U.S. population is considered to be “overweight” or “obese.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Here is an interesting statistic from the CDC.

Trends by State 1985–2010

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.
Did you ever wonder how we create fat cells?  Not only can you fill your fat cells to maximum capacity, but also you can actually make more!!!  Believe it or not, there are certain times in our lives and under certain circumstances, when we can create a higher number of fat cells. Here is the bad news, once you create a fat cell by excessive eating, it is yours for good and never goes away. As you can see from the picture above the difference between someone that has never been obese and those that have reduced their fat cells.  It is still an accomplishment when a person that has been overweight or obese loses a ton of weight and they should feel proud and share the information of why they changed their lives!!!
When we are born we are born with a certain number of fat cells.  A typical infant has 5-6 billion fat cells.  If the mothers diet is bad, she can increase the number of fat cells her baby will have in her third trimester.  This is so important when you are pregnant to make sure you are eating healthy and watching how much weight you gain during your pregnancy.  During pregnancy is another time you can increase your fat cells.  Once you have them, they are yours to keep!!!  You want to make sure you are exercising and eating healthy at this time for a lot of reasons.
During late childhood and early puberty is another time when you can actually increase your fat cells.  It is important to teach your children to eat healthy as children and develop healthy eating habits as they approach this time in their lives.  If they go into this part of their lives with unhealthy habits you are setting them on a course for obesity and a life of the health issues associated with it.
A healthy adult who has healthy body fat has 25-30 billion, and an over weight adult has 75 billion, with severe obesity; this number can be as high as 250 to 300 billion!  That is 10 times what a healthy person has. An overweight person’s fat cells can be up to 3 times larger than a person with ideal body composition.
Dr. Samuel Klein of the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis stated, “The more metabolically harmful fat cells in obese people have 50 to 75 per cent more mass than fat cells in lean people”, said lead author of the study.
If you do not get your weight under control, you can make it difficult for you to loose weight in the future. Many people will go have liposuction to remove unwanted fat, but what they don’t understand is if they don’t change their life style their body will just make more fat cells to deal with the amount of excess food they are consuming.  There are no short cuts!!!  You have to burn 3,500 calories to burn just 1 pound of fat!!
Here are some interesting facts.  A child who has normal weight parents has a 7% chance of being over weight or obese. A child who has 1 over weight parent has a 40% chance of being over weight or obese. A child who has 2 overweight parents has a 70% chance of being over weight or obese.  That is scary when you look at how many children today have 2 over weight or obese parents.  As parents we set the example.  Our children need to see us eating healthy and exercising.  What we do speak so much louder than what we say.
It has been interesting as I work with people that have been overweight.  As they strive to get lean, sometimes it can be difficult because they can shrink their fat cells but never truly get rid of them.
The more muscle you have and can build your body can burn anywhere from 50-100 more calories even when they are resting.  Fat takes up 5 times mores space so as you burn fat off and increase muscle you will see major inch loss.  I always explain to people it isn’t what you weigh that is important; it is what your body fat percentage is that defines how healthy you are.

8 Great Benefits of Onions

by Shubhra Krishan

Never mind the tears they bring on—onions are an ace ally in your fight against disease. A prized member of the lily family, they lavish you with health benefits while adding oodles of taste to your food.
A quick glimpse at their incredible health benefits:
  • The phytochemicals in onions improve the working of Vitamin C in the body, thus gifting you with improved immunity.

  • Onions contain chromium, which assists in regulating blood sugar.

  • For centuries, onions have been used to reduce inflammation and heal infections.

  • Do you enjoy sliced onions with your food? If yes, rejoice! Raw onion encourages the production of good cholesterol (HDL), thus keeping your heart healthy.

  • A powerful compound called quercetin in onions is known to play a significant role in preventing cancer.

  • Got bitten by a honeybee? Apply onion juice on the area for immediate relief from the pain and burning sensation.

  • Onions scavenge free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of developing gastric ulcers.

  • Those bright green tops of green onions are rich in Vitamin A, so do use them often.

My favorite way to enjoy onions is to slice them really thin, squeeze some lemon juice on top and add a little salt. Sprinkling a few freshly washed cilantro leaves adds fragrance and flavor to this simple, quick salad, without which no dinner of mine is complete.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Always hungry? 5 Tips on how to control hunger hormones and stop overeating

by Allie Mendoza

Hunger hormones, including insulin, leptin and ghrelin, trigger overeating. When these powerful hunger hormones are surging, individuals have no choice but to feed the overwhelming desire to eat. A regular snack or meal is usually not enough to satisfy the hunger driven by these hunger hormones. Out-of-control eating is associated with out-of-control hunger hormones. What's even worse is that the brain is primed for eating junk food when these hormones are surging.
Dieters who are always hungry due to high levels of hunger hormones have very little chance of sticking to their diets. Even strong willpower is usually not enough to control the overwhelming desire to overeat junk food. Overeating triggered by these hunger hormones drives the whole process forward even more. Large amounts of food consumed can be comforting short-term, but will lead to increased levels of hunger hormones that will trigger overeating again.
What's the solution?
Controlling hunger hormones is the key to lasting weight control. Most people who are trying to lose weight are trying to eat a healthier diet. By controlling hunger hormones, out-of-control eating can be avoided. When you're not always hungry, you're more likely to stick to your healthier diet.
What are the main hunger hormones?
  • Leptin is an endocrine signal released by fat cells. It affects satiety and appetite. High levels or sensitivity of leptin inhibit hunger and food intake. Low levels or sensitivity of leptin stimulate hunger and food intake.
  • Ghrelin is an endocrine signal primarily secreted by the stomach. High levels of ghrelin stimulates hunger. This hormone appears to act independently of leptin.
  • Insulin is released by the pancreas due to a rise in blood sugar after eating carbohydrates. Insulin response can vary from person to person. In general, eating refined foods leads to a stronger and more rapid insulin reaction. Studies have shown that increased levels of insulin produce increased hunger and increased food intake.
5 Tips on how to control hunger hormones and stop overeating
__ Leptin, the hunger-reducing hormone, has been shown to be sensitive to sleep duration in a dose-response manner. Studies have shown that mean leptin levels were 19% lower when subjects had four-hour sleep period compared to subjects that had twelve-hour sleep period.
__ Sleep deprivation was associated with increased levels of ghrelin and increased appetite. Sleep-deprived subjects particularly had strong appetite for high-carbohydrate foods.
__ Sleep deprivation was associated with a nearly 40% decrease in glucose tolerance. This reduction of glucose tolerance was associated with decreased insulin sensitivity. The combination of these two metabolic defects indicates an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Reduction in insulin sensitivity is also associated with increased risk of weight gain and obesity.
2. Eat complex carbohydrates. Avoid refined or processed foods, including sugary drinks, candy, cookies and cake. By eating high-fiber, non-starchy vegetables and fruits, you can avoid rapid insulin response which can lead to increased hunger and increased food intake. If you find yourself hungry a couple of hours after a meal, you probably consumed too many refined carbohydrates that last meal.
4. Aerobic exercise can suppress appetite by decreasing ghrelin levels. In addition, moderate aerobic exercise can activate insulin sensitivity which can prevent increased hunger and overeating.
Obese and overweight individuals are resistant to insulin and have decreased insulin sensitivity. So, they have to increase their production of insulin in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Increased insulin production can make weight loss difficult to achieve because of the resulting increased hunger and increased food intake as well as increased fat storage.
5. Stress reduction can help decrease levels of hunger-promoting ghrelinChronic stress increases ghrelin levels. By reducing stress and ghrelin, increased hunger and overeating can be avoided.
People who are always hungry due to high levels of hunger hormones have very little chance of sticking to their healthy diets. The overwhelming desire to overeat due to high levels of hunger hormones is too powerful to resist. By controlling hunger hormones, you can avoid out-of-control eating and snacking. By avoiding overeating, you can finally start losing weight effectively and achieve lasting weight control.