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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

6 Easy Ways to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

by Rachael Rettner

The new food plate unveiled by the Department of Agriculture today (June 2) sends a clear message: eat more fruits and vegetables. Chances are, you've heard this message before. And chances are, you're guilty of not heeding it. But meeting the daily requirement for fruits and vegetables need not be such a struggle.
Here are six easy ways to get more of these important foods into your diet, according to Heather Mangieri, a nutrition consultant and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Start early
To get in the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, start eating them early, with your morning meal, Mangieri said. This could mean adding bananas to your cereal, berries to your yogurt or vegetables to your omelet, she said.

Don't hide the fruit
Make fruits and vegetables visible to encourage everyone in your family, including yourself, to eat them, Mangieri said. Set out a fruit bowl in the kitchen or have carrot sticks available for snacking. Take some time to prepare the fruits or vegetables, if needed, so they are ready to eat.

Frozen is good
Frozen vegetables, such as peas and carrots, are a great way to make sure you always have vegetables in the house, Mangieri said. They are easy to prepare and keep for a long time. Mangieri recommended steaming them and adding them to casserole dishes. And frozen vegetables are usually just as nutritious as fresh ones , according to Keri Gans, who is a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

At mealtime, think of the veggies first, not the protein
The new guidelines recommend half of your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables. Try to approach your meals by basing them on what vegetables you'll have, and then think of the grains and protein to go with it, Mangieri said.

You can drink your fruits and veggies, to a point
Look for labels that say "100 percent" fruit or vegetable juice, because those can be a way to get a serving of fruit, according to the USDA. However, you have to be cautious about portion size and make sure you know how much a serving is. You don't want to end up consuming extra daily calories from juice. In addition, whole fruit also provides fiber, which is part of a healthy diet.

Have fruit with your sweets
"Fruits are nature's natural candy," Mangieri said. She recommended pureeing berries and adding them as a sauce to desserts such as ice cream. While the ice cream is not good for you, a fruit sauce without added sugar is better than something else you might add to your sundae, such as chocolate sauce, she said. Portion control is key with desserts, she said. Desserts are OK now and then if you're meeting your nutritional needs from other foods and exercising to make sure your calories in equal your calories out.
You can also use fruits to make a smoothie. Mangieri recommended using yogurt and no added sugar. "We have this heightened sense of sweetness just from overdoing it on sugars," Mangieri said. We should try to get back to basics and let fruit be sweet enough for our taste buds, she said.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Why Do We Crave Sugar, Salt and Fat?

by Seema Chandra

You pick up that doughnut because you can't wait to bite into its spongy texture, let the sweet notes hit the right spot, and slowly carry you away to bliss land. But did you know that food manufacturers actually have a standard called Bliss Point. Seriously, I am not kidding. For every food there is an optimal concentration at which sensory pleasure is at its maximum. The bliss point pretty much determines what we eat and drink and how much. Food researchers say that people love sugar, especially kids. So until the bliss point is reached, the more the sugar, the happier we are.
There is no doubt that The Big Three, sugar, fat and salt make food compelling. They make it tastier. They leave us wanting more. And there is a science behind this. Countless foods in grocery stores either have these loaded as a core ingredient, like in meats or bread. At other times they are loaded as a layered ingredient. Cheese coated chips for example.
When we put food rich in sugar, salt and fat in our mouths, our taste buds in the tongue send a signal to the lower part of our brain. The brain in turn stimulates neurons. The neurons in our brain are part of the "opioid" circuitry or endorphins. When we eat highly palatable foods, in other words, foods filled with sugar, salt and fat, they enable the body to perceive a highly rewarding experience. 

Rewarding foods tend to be reinforcing.  We want to go back for more. We can't stop at the first chip or chocolate bite. It has been proved scientifically that the combination of sugar and fat is a strong reinforcer.
Apart from sensory pleasure, our eating patterns are also influenced by our history of personal experiences. What we ate during our childhood could strongly influence us. If the circumstances around eating a rewarding food are pleasant, it becomes an emotional experience which gets stored in our memory. When we recall that food, it will stimulate desire.
But desire can also carefully calibrated. Sugar, salt and fat are not enough to make you eat. It has to be the right amount of each.  It has to be the coming together of these tastes that can do the magic. A cream filled cookie is appealing because of the texture and the unique taste of crunchy biscuit combined with the sweetness of the cream filling.

The food industry employs people whose main job it is to get the desirable mix of attributes. A small group of scientists who create most of the food that is consumed in the USA are called flavorists. I happen to meet one now in India who is advising big fast food chains about their line of products in India. It left me quite horrified to learn the procedures that are followed before giving the green signal to a new product. Do you think manufacturers of sugar products actually tell you how much sugar they add to their products?  Or do they leave you with the amount of sugar that occurs naturally in their products. Well, that's a story for another time.

Fast Food Nation, a bestseller for many years written about the fast food industry in the US says, and I quote, "A flavorist is a person with a trained nose and a poetic sensibility. In order to give processed food the proper taste, the flavorist must always consider the food's "mouthfeel". It's the unique combination of textures and chemical interactions that affect how flavour is perceived. It gauges the most important properties of food - the bounce, creep, breaking point, density, crunchiness, chewiness, gumminess, rubberiness, lumpiness, springiness, slipperiness, smoothness, softness, wetness, juiciness, spreadbility, spring-back and tackiness."
I can almost visually see my packet of chips being analyzed to death by a flavorist in a white lab coat, sitting in a food factory with computer screens, digital read outs and graphs and charts on the wall. I don't know about you, but I have suddenly lost my appetite.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Is Spelt More Nutritious Than Wheat?

By Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Q. "My husband and I make all our bread from whole grain spelt flour and feel fuller longer (and generally better) eating this than store-bought, whole-wheat bread. What do you think about spelt? Is it better for us than wheat?"
A.  Although it is closely related to wheat, spelt has a reputation for being a healthier choice. Some people also prefer the flavor, which they describe as mellower and nuttier than regular wheat. And, unlike rice, oat, and other non-wheat flours, you can substitute spelt flour in recipes that call for whole wheat flour with reasonably good results—because it has a lot of the same properties.

Is Spelt More Nutritious Than Wheat?

With all the wheat-bashing going on these days, it’s not surprising that people are looking for alternatives.  But is spelt actually better for you than wheat?  
As you can see in the chart, spelt has twice as much vitamin K, while wheat has 6 times as much selenium. Other than that, however, the two grains are quite similar in vitamin and mineral content. Spelt is substantially higher in sugar than wheat, which may explain why many people prefer the taste. Whole wheat, on the other hand, is somewhat higher in fiber.

Is Spelt Safe for Celiacs?

Wheat is higher in protein and gluten—and the gluten it contains is stronger and more elastic, which explains why spelt breads don’t rise quite as high or have quite the same texture as whole wheat breads.
Make no mistake, however: spelt does contain a substantial amount of gluten, making it unsafe for anyone with Celiac disease. As for claims that people with wheat allergies may be able to tolerate spelt, this is entirely anecdotal. Because spelt is a sub-species of wheat, anyone with a true wheat allergy would be well advised to avoid it.

Is Spelt Better For You?

Based on the nutritional properties, it’s hard to make a case for spelt being significantly better (or worse) for you than whole wheat. I think this really comes down to individual preferences. If you prefer the taste or you find it more satisfying, I can’t see any reason not to enjoy it. (And who wouldn't prefer home-baked bread to store-bought?!)
Just remember that all grains, even whole grains, are best enjoyed in moderation.
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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Engineer Life: Set Up Habit Changes So It’s Hard to Fail

by Leo Babauta

In his excellent ebook about changing habits, blogging friend Scott Youngdescribed the process of forming habits as walking home through fresh snow. The first person to go through the snow has to forge a path through the snow, and it’s difficult … but others will follow in that path and it gets easier and easier.
Forming a habit is a matter of forging that initial path until it’s harder not to take the path. Who wants to forge a new path through the snow?
But let’s take that concept a little further: what if you engineered it so that even the initial person forging through the snow would rather take that path than another, because it would be harder not to take the path.
Engineer your habit change so that it’s harder not to form the habit.
Why habit changes fail
I think I can safely say that all of us have attempted and failed at creating a new habit or changing an old habit at a few points in our lives. It can be hard to change old ways and create new ones.
The problem is that creating a new habit can be difficult. The reason: negative feedback.
Negative feedback is when we do something, and it is painful, or difficult, or we get criticized, or in some other way get a bad feeling rather than a good one. Difficult exercise, for example, contains inherent negative feedback, as it is more difficult than sitting on the couch. Quitting smoking contains negative feedback, because you suffer withdrawal pains and urges.
Positive feedback, on the other hand, is when you get compliments from friends and family that you look thinner or healthier, or the satisfaction from the number on the scale dropping. It’s the encouraging comments I get on this blog. It’s the great feeling when finishing a good run or a 5K.
But when the negative feedback makes the habit change difficult, especially in the first few weeks, habit changes often fail. That’s because it’s easier to quit the habit change than to keep doing the new habit, because of the negative feedback. It’s easier to take a puff from a cigarette than to suffer withdrawal pains. It’s easier to sit on the couch eating potato chips than to go out for that run.
Habit changes fail because the negative feedback from doing the new habit outweigh the positive feedback, and it becomes easier not to do the habit.
Engineer the habit change
So how do we overcome this problem? Think of it from an engineer’s point of view:
  1. When negative feedback outweighs positive feedback, habit change fails.
  2. To make the habit change successful, positive feedback has to outweigh negative feedback.
  3. The solution: increase positive feedback and/or decrease negative feedback until the ratio favors the habit change.
Think of it this way: if you want to take a certain path in the snow, put obstacles along all other paths so that it’s difficult to go anywhere but the path you want to take … and have the path you want to take shoveled, so that it’s easy to take that path.
You can engineer your habit change so that it’s harder to quit than to do the habit.
How to do it
You have four options in your custom engineering solution. In each, I’ll give some ideas, but you’ll have to come up with ideas of your own to fit whatever habit you’re trying to change.
1. Increase positive feedback for the habit. Some habits have instant positive feedback, but often the positive feedback is delayed. It takes awhile to lose weight. It takes awhile before your blog starts getting encouraging comments. This delay in positive feedback is what causes many people to fail, because in the crucial first few weeks they are getting mostly positive feedback.
Instead, find ways to have instant positive feedback. The more, the better. Add as many of these (and others you can think of) as possible to increase chances of success. Some examples:
  • Creating a log or journal of your habit let’s you feel satisfied that you’re actually doing the habit.
  • Joining an online forum, where you can receive positive feedback from others going through the same thing. Quit smoking forums or running forums are two examples I’ve used. The Zen Habits challenge forum is a great idea.
  • Join a real-world group, such as a book club, a running club, a class, etc., where you can get similar feedback from people.
  • Reward yourself, early and often. Small rewards are appropriate, but celebrate every little success.
  • Email or talk to people about your habit change, giving them daily updates. If people expect the daily updates, you will feel motivated to do your habit so you can tell people about it.
  • Blog about it. If you have a few readers, they will most likely be encouraging.
2. Decrease negative feedback for the habit. First you have to list the negative feedback for your habit. For quitting smoking, there are urges and withdrawal pains. For exercise, it can be an exertion, which takes effort and energy. Analyze the negative feedback for your habit, all of them, and see how to decrease them. Some ideas:
  • For quitting smoking, reduce urges and withdrawal pains with nicotine gum or patches.
  • For exercise, reduce exertion by only doing a little bit in the beginning.
  • For eating healthy, reduce the negative taste feedback by eating healthy treats, such as berries, or adding a little bit of good fat or a little salt to make things tastier.
  • For reducing sweets, reduce urges by eating little treats, such as a bit of dark chocolate, or fruits.
  • For developing the reading habit, reduce boredom (if that’s the problem) by reading exciting and fun books. Thrillers are favorites of mine.
3. Increase negative feedback for not doing the habit. You want to make it hard not to do the habit. As hard as humanly possible. So to do that, you need to put all kinds of negative feedback on yourself for not doing the habit. Some ideas:
  • If you join a forum or a real-world group or give people you know regular updates, or update your blog readers (see ideas in #1 above), you will face the embarrassment of having to tell people you didn’t do the challenge.
  • Get a partner or coach or trainer, or your spouse, to make sure you do the habit, and to nag you if you don’t.
  • If you’re trying to develop the reading habit, remove all other temptations.
  • If you’re trying to exercise, get rid of the TV and Internet and make your house uncomfortable, until you do your exercise. Once you exercise, get your cable TV box or Internet modem back from your neighbor who was holding it for you.
  • If you’re trying to quit smoking, tell your kids not to let you smoke.
  • I’m sure you can think of many others — get creative!
4. Decrease positive feedback for not doing the habit. What tempts you not to do your habit today? Give this some thought, and then decrease those positive things. Some ideas:
  • If you’re trying to exercise (a common example), there is often positive feedback from not exercising, because it’s relaxing to stay home. So if that’s the case, reduce the relaxation at home. Get your spouse or kids to nag you. Get your mom to call you. Remove the cushions from your couch. Be creative!
  • If you’re trying to stop procrastinating, the positive feedback for procrastination is the fun of going on the Internet (for example). Well, disconnect from the Internet or use a utility to block the sites that waste your time.
  • If you’re trying to wake up early, there is of course the positive feedback that comes from sleeping in. Set up multiple alarms all around your room. Have people give you wake-up calls, so you can’t sleep. Have people waiting for you at the track for your morning run, or waiting for your phone call for an early business call.
Final word: In the end, be sure that you’ve engineered it so that it’s harder not to do the habit. If you fail, just add more of any or all of the above four options and try again. Don’t give up!

I thought this would be useful for anyone can wanting to install change in their lives - which is just about everyone. It will just show you that internal change is a slow process but it involves repetition that is being reinforced all the the time or sufficiently enough to become permanent.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Protein and Insulin

How Much Protein to Spike Insulin Levels

Insulin is a hormone found in the human body that is vital in the metabolism of carbohydrate, fat and protein. Insulin is considered a storage hormone. ItÕs main effect is to cause cells in liver, muscle and fat tissue to take up blood glucose, to stop the use of fat as an energy source and promote the storage of an energy surplus in the form of body fat.

Most people have heard and accept that glucose (sugar) can increase insulin secretion, what they don"t normally hear about is that eating protein can also increase insulin secretion.

In both young and old people, research has shown that 35 grams of casein (a protein typically found in milk) is enough to spike insulin after an overnight fast. 

35 grams of casein provides about 2.5 grams of Leucine and about 7 grams of branched chain amino acids. So this research is consistent with previous work showing that even small doses of branched chain amino acids can spike insulin.

This insulin spike from protein occurs very quickly after protein intake, typically reaching its peak levels at about 15 minutes after ingestion.

If we consider "fasting" insulin to be between 30 and 60 pmol/L, then 35 grams of casein is able to raise insulin out of the "fasting" range and into what is considered the "fed state" range (anywhere around 180 pmol/L)

However, 50 grams of protein from lean ground beef was found to only modestly increase insulin levels, leading to speculation that the type of protein may influence the insulin response. Interestingly, even though in this study protein caused insulin to increase only moderately, it did stay increased for more than 2 hours.

So although this insulin response was small, it was prolonged, and it was still enough to lower the amount of Free Fatty Acids (FFAs) found in the blood, signifying a move away from fasted state metabolism (using body fat as a fuel source). In fact, Free Fatty acids did not return to baseline levels until more than 3 hours after the protein was consumed.

The effect that protein has on insulin occurs in both the young and the elderly, and protein"s ability to increase insulin has also been found in diabetics.

In fact, while in non-diabetics the insulin response to protein is usually only 20-30% of the response you would get from an equal dose of glucose, in diabetics the insulin response to protein can be as high as 94% of the equivalent glucose response.

There are even some people that are sensitive enough to the branched chain amino acid leucine that dosing with leucine can cause hypoglycemia.

Bottom line - Protein can increase insulin in a dose dependent manner. How high your insulin will go depends on the type of protein and whether or not you are diabetic. In rare circumstances the amino acid Leucine can even cause hypoglycemia in some people.


Dietary protein digestion and absorption rates and the subsequent postprandial muscle protein synthetic response do not differ between young and elderly men. Koopmen R et al. J Nutr 2009.

Effect of protein meals on plasma insulin in mildly diabetic patients. Fajans SS et al. Diabetes 1969.

Insulin response to ingestion protein in diabetes. Berger S et al. Diabetes 1966.

Comparison of Experimentally Induced and Naturally Occurring Sensitivity to Leucine Hypoglycemia. Knopf RF. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1963


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Isometric Exercises & Static Strength Training

Isometric exercises, also known as static strength training, involve muscular actions in which the length of the muscle does not change and there is no visible movement at the joint (1).

The term 'static contraction training' is sometimes used to describe isometrics. However, 'contraction' signifies a change in length (shortening) of the muscle belly, which does not occur during static strength training. The term 'static action' is preferred to static contraction.
Isometric exercises can be used for general strength conditioning and for rehabilitation where strengthening the muscles without placing undue stress on the joint is warranted.
Some actions within a wide variety of sports require isometric or static strength. Examples include climbing, mountain biking and motocross (grip and upper body strength), Judo, wrestling, alpine skiing (static strength required to stabilize the upper and lower body), shooting, gymnastics and horseback riding.
Isometric exercises can be completed with submaximal muscle action - such as holding a weight steady, out to the side. The force used to hold the weight still is not maximal as this would lift the weight further causing movement and a change in the muscle length and joint angle. Static strength training can also involve maximal muscle actions and examples here include pushing against an immoveable object such as a wall or heavy weight.
Both submaximal and maximal isometric muscle actions can increase isometric strength (2,3,4) and induce muscular hypertrophy (5,6). In practice, maximal isometric exercises are used for strength and conditioning and submaximal exercises are used for rehabilitation (1).
Although isometric exercises can increase strength they are not the most suitable form of resistance training for dynamic actions such as sprinting and jumping. Most sports and athletic movements are dynamic in nature, performed at maximal speed against little or no external resistance. Isometric exercises do not increase the limb's maximal velocity and only strengthen the muscle at the angle at which it is trained (see below).

Guidelines For Isometric Exercises

Isometric exercises can raise blood pressure significantly for the duration of the exercise. While it will return to a resting level soon after, this can be dangerous for people with hypertension or any form of cardiovascular disease. Even if you don't suffer from high blood pressure it is important to breathcontinuously throughout the exercises. Breath holding will only compound any increases in blood pressure.
As with all forms of exercise you should warm up thoroughly first. Muscles are under tension for a longer period of time and although that tension is more constant compared to a dynamic contraction, tears can still occur. Finally, try to maintain some degree of tension in the abdominal region during all exercises. This will help to maintain a correct posture and will help to develop core stability.
Number & Duration of Muscle Actions
Volume for a classic strength training routine is prescribed based on the number of sets and repetitions. The equivalent in isometric exercises is the length of time each action is held for and the number actions in total. Research has measured both longer duration actions (i.e. 10 seconds or above) and fewer repetitions, and shorter duration actions (i.e. 2-3 seconds) with more repetitions (6,7,8). Both approaches seem to increase static strength.
The general consensus is that in healthy individuals training to improve strength (as opposed to rehabilitation of an injury), the most efficient use of isometric exercises is 15-20 maximal voluntary actions held for 3 to 5 seconds (1). Three sessions per week is required (2) and results can be seen in as little as 2 weeks. However, when submaximal loads are used (such as bodyweight) it may be more suitable to increase the duration and reduce the number of repetitions.
This number and duration of contractions is required for each muscle group. As with traditional dynamic strength training, exercise selection should be based on a needs analysis of the athlete. Multi joint isometric exercises such as static leg presses may be more suitable then isolating the quadriceps, hamstrings and other hip flexors / extensors.
Joint Angles
Isometric exercises strengthen the muscle at or near to the joint angle at which the exercise is performed. For example a static bicep exercise held with the joint at 25o only increases the athlete's strength at that specific angle (9) and there is no gain in strength when the elbow is held at other angles. However, at particular joint angles (and it varies from muscle group to muscle group) there is some cross-transference of strength to other joint angles. An isometric bicep curl performed at 80o for example also increases strength at other angles to a lesser extent (9). The same phenomenon is true for the knee (10) and plantar flexors (5).
Essentially, training at only one joint angle does not increase strength throughout the full range of motion (1). In order to improve dynamic power, isometric exercises would have to be performed at multiple joint angles for the same muscle group. This becomes time consuming and enervating for an athlete who may already be spending considerable time on other training modalities.
If static strength training is used to increase strength throughout the entire range of motion, isometric exercises should be performed at every 10 to 30 degree increments. If this is too time consuming, it is better to perform exercises at an extended joint angle (rather than a flexed joint angle) as this leads to greater cross-transference of strength at other angles (1).

Example Full Body Isometric Exercises

The following isometric exercises use submaximal contractions i.e. bodyweight or a light free weights.
Isometric exercises - plank bridgePlank Bridge
1. Start by lying face down on the ground. Place your elbows and forearms underneath your chest.
2. Prop yourself up to form a bridge using your toes and forearms.
3. Maintain a flat back and do not allow your hips to sag towards the ground.
4. Hold for 10-30 seconds or until you can no longer maintain a flat bridge. Repeat 2-3 times.

Isometric exercises - prone bridge

Side Bridge
1.Start on your side and press up with your right arm.
2.Form a bridge with your arm extended and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Isometric exercises - 100 breaths

Hundred Breaths Exercise
This isometric exercise is taken from Pilates and is excellent for developing static strength in the core region.
1. Lie face up on a mat with arms by your sides. Bend legs to 90 degrees. Lift your head and shoulders off mat and take 5 short, consecutive inhales, followed by 5 short, consecutive exhales.
2. At the same time, lift arms off mat and pulse them in unison with the breath � palms face up on inhale and down on exhale.
3. Repeat 10 times for a total of 100 breaths.

Example Upper & Lower Body Isometric Exercises

Isometric Push Ups
1. Starting in the push up position with arms fully extended, lower yourself to about half way to the floor.
2. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds remembering to breathe. Repeat 2-3 times.
Isometric Shoulder Raises
1. Standing with feet shoulder width apart raise a dumbbell (or light weight) directly out to your side.
2. When your arm is parallel to the ground hold for 10-30 seconds or until your arm begins to drop.
3. Repeat 2-3 times and change arms. Alternatively you can work both arms at once, which can be a little better for posture.
Isometric Squats
1. Place your back against a wall and lower yourself until your upper legs are parallel to the floor
2. Shuffle your feet until your lower legs are parallel to the wall behind you. Your knees should be bent to 90 degrees.
3. Hold your arms out in front of you and hold the position for 10-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
Isometric Calf Raises
1. Standing next to a sturdy chair (or any fixed objective) stand on just your right leg.
2. Rest your left foot on the back of your right calf and stand up on to your toes holding on to the chair for balance.
3. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Now repeat for the left leg.
Isometric Leg Extensions
1. Stand next to a bed (should be about 18 inches high). You should be facing away from the bed with the backs of your legs against the side of the bed.
2. Bend your right leg and rest it on the bed behind you. Your upper leg should be pointing straight down and your knee bent to roughly 90 degrees with your lower leg resting on the bed parallel to the floor.
3. Push your right leg into the bed as forcefully as possible and hold for 10-30 seconds.
4. Repeat 2-3 times and change legs. Remember to breathe!
Isometric Hip Extensions
1. Stand next to a table or sturdy chair for support. You should be facing towards the table.
2. Raise your right leg directly behind you keeping it as straight as possible as you hold onto the table in front of your for balance.
3. You will need to bend forward slightly at the waist and also bend your standing, left leg slightly to take the strain off your left hamstrings.
4. Try to get your leg parallel to the ground. You should feel your right hamstrings, glutes and lower back contracting.
5. Hold for 10-30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times and change legs. Remember to breathe!
Isometric Hip Abductions
1. Stand to the side of a sturdy chair or table for support. Your left leg should be next to the back of the chair.
2. Holding on to the chair with your left arm only, raise your right leg directly out to the side as high as you can.
3. Hold your leg as close to parallel to the floor as your can and keep that position for 10-30 seconds.
4. Repeat 2-3 times and change legs.

Comments: If you have been injured or are not fit then you need to do these exercises first. Just because you are not moving does not mean you are not working. These exercises will condition your body to work again without putting too much strain on your joints.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

We Burn as Many Calories as Hunter-Gatherers, So What Makes Us Fat?

By Laura Blue

Contrary to conventional wisdom, detailed energy measurements show that while hunter-gatherers may be more physically active than the rest of us, they don't burn more calories thanks to their lower metabolisms.
We all know why Americans are so fat, right? We too much junk and we sit on our duffs all day.
Perhaps not, a team of international researchers now says. Their new study, examining energy expenditure among one of the world’s last remaining hunter-gatherer populations, seems to debunk our conventional wisdom — at least in part.
While we’ve always assumed that humans’ ancient ancestors must have been more active than today’s modern Westerners — with our office jobs, our cars and our TV sets to keep us sedentary — new measurements of actual energy expenditure are surprising. They show that people in traditional foraging societies do indeed participate in more physical activity, but that their total energy output is almost identical to that of today’s pudgy Westerners. This counterintuitive finding is explained by the foragers’ lower basal metabolic rate: they expend less energy while at rest, even when we compare people of the same size and age.
To gather the startling new measurements, researchers recruited 30 adults from the Hadza hunter-gatherer society, a small population living in the East African country of Tanzania. No society today is truly like the those of our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago, the researchers say, but the Hadza do share some important similarities with our Pleistocene-era forbears.
In particular, the Hadza maintain a traditional foraging lifestyle, hunting on foot using bows, small axes and digging sticks, and without modern tools like vehicles or guns. Their diet includes virtually no processed foods whatsoever. They live off of game that they hunt, and tubers, fruit and honey that they collect.
To measure energy use, participating Hadza adults wore GPS units to track how far they traveled each day. They also wore breath monitors while at rest and while walking to measure their metabolism in each state. And a measure of total energy expenditure was calculated from urine tests, which showed how quickly the study participants could eliminate a chemically altered water given to them to drink by the researchers. Then those measurements were compared to similar energy-expenditure measurements from 68 men and women who live in the U.S. or Europe, and also to data from farming communities in Bolivia, Nigeria and Gambia.
Contrary to even the researchers’ expectations, the scientists write, energy-expenditure measurements from the Hadza looked pretty similar to measurements elsewhere.
In fact, even though total energy expenditure did vary considerably by age, gender and by body size, as anticipated, when the researchers looked at men of the same age who each weighed, say, 130 lbs., there was no discernible difference by lifestyle group in total daily energy expenditure. On average, the Hadza were much smaller than the Westerners, both in height and in weight (130 lbs. was at the high end for Hadza males). But statistical analysis suggests that the basic relationship between energy spent and lean body mass — not including the Westerners’ extra fat pounds — was essentially the same across societies, and across people big and small.
Those results are all the more surprising because the Hadza did appear to expend much more energy in physical activity, as they hunted and foraged. But activity differences did not translate into differences in total energy use. What’s more, even among members of the same society, Hadza people who walked a long way each day did not have measurably higher total expenditure than individuals who did not walk so much. It seems that people’s metabolisms may compensate somewhat for activity level.
The new findings seem to contradict popular beliefs that weight management is simply a matter of balancing what we eat with enough purposeful physical activity.
“The similarity in [total energy expenditure (TEE)] among Hadza hunter-gatherers and Westerners suggests that even dramatic differences in lifestyle may have a negligible effect on TEE,” the authors conclude in their study, which is published this week in the journal PLoS One.
While the authors don’t look at diet in much detail, they add that their findings suggest that high energy intake — eating too much — is responsible for the West’s obesity epidemic, rather than too little energy expenditure. They do note, however, that physical activity is well-known to have many beneficial health effects in addition to any role in weight management.
Ultimately, what the study authors may have uncovered is that people are more similar than we previously realized. Across dramatically different societies and landscapes, human bodies function similarly.
“We hypothesize,” they write, “that [total energy expenditure] may be a relatively stable, constrained physiological trait for the human species, more a product of our common genetic inheritance than our diverse lifestyles.”

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

How Fish Oil Supplements Can Help You Lose Weight


Do you want to lose weight? If so, doing something as simple as taking a fish oil supplement can help you lose a few extra pounds each month. Unlike most weight loss supplements that usually contain caffeine and other stimulants, it doesn’t make you feel jittery and nervous. Your energy levels will never come crashing down a couple hours after taking it either.
Unlike weight loss supplements your overall health will benefit from fish oil. In addition to helping you lose weight, taking fish oil every day can help your brain, heart, and joints health. No weight loss supplement on the market can make these claims.
In this article I list and explain 4 different ways fish oil supplements can help you lose weight. After reading them you will see how this inexpensive and popular product can give your weight loss program — and overall health — a boost.
  1. Fish Oil Enables You Lose Fat and Build Muscle. Simply popping a couple of fish oil capsules daily can help you lose fat and build muscle. All you need to do is take enough every day. The study I review below reveals just how much. In this study, subjects took about 2 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) every day for 6 weeks. At the end of the study they lost more than 2 lbs. of body fat. The subjects also gained about 1 pound. What’s really cool about this is that they didn’t exercise, change their diet, or do anything else to lose weight. All it took was taking a couple of high dose fish oil capsules every day.
  2. Fish Oil Supplements Decrease Your Appetite. If you want to stay full longer between meals, popping a couple of fish oil capsules after you eat may help. In one study, women who did this stayed full longer after their meal and ate less overall. Over time, this will help you lose weight without feeling hungry and suffering with the hunger pangs that occur when we diet. The most likely reason fish oil helps you stay full is that it is able to regulate the release of a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate your appetite and mood. This effect is also what gives fish oil its antidepressant benefits. I also believe that this benefit may also enable fish oil to stop sugar cravings.
  3. Fish Oil Makes Your Diet and Weight Loss Workout Program More Effective. Taking a fish oil supplement can make your diet and exercise program more effective too. In one study, subjects taking fish oil lost more weight than those taking a placebo supplement. Both groups followed a diet that had them eating less and also had them working out several times a week.
  4. Fish Oil Helps Minimizes Fat Storage. One study shows that fish oil supplements can minimize the risk that the food you eat is stored as fat. This is because it increases something called insulin sensitivity. Keeping the cells of your body sensitive to insulin is key to losing weight and staying healthy. The reason it’s so important is that the more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the less likely it is that the food you eat will be stored as fat.

What to Look for When Buying Fish Oil

When you’re shopping for a fish oil supplement, make sure you buy one that’s guaranteed to be free of impurities and potentially harmful substances like heavy metals and pesticides. The supplement you choose should also state on its label that it is concentrated. This means you’ll get the most possible Omega 3 fatty acids per serving. A good product will contain at least 750 mg of the EPA and DHA, the Omega 3s that give fish oil its benefits per capsule.

What to Expect When You Take Fish Oil

Research shows that taking 2-3 grams of fish oil daily can help you lose about 2 pounds a month. While this isn’t a lot, it adds up over time. It also doesn’t require any extra effort and costs very little. Following a diet that eliminates processed foods and simple sugars and performing a proven and effective weight loss workout 3-5 days a week will enable you to lose weight even faster.

Determining Your Daily Fish Oil Dose

Figuring out how much fish oil is in every capsule you take is easy. All you need to do is look at the Supplement Facts label on the product’s bottle. In this panel look for the amounts of DHA and EPA in every serving.
I like to think of taking fish oil for weight loss as a bonus. You lose a few extra pounds you wouldn’t have otherwise, and get lots of other health related benefits too. Given that there are no side effects and minimal risk for a healthy person to take fish oil, it’s definitely a winning proposition.
(Photo credit: Rainbow Trout with Fish Oil Capsules via Shutterstock)
  1. Hill AM, Buckley JD, Murphy KJ, Howe PR. Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1267-74.
  2. Noreen E, Sass M, Crowe M, Pabon V, Brandauer J. Averill L. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:31.
  3. Parra D, Ramel A, Bandarra N, Kiely M, Martínez JA, Thorsdottir I. A diet rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids modulates satiety in overweight and obese volunteers during weight loss. Appetite. 2008 Nov;51(3):676-80.
  4. Ramel A, Martinéz A, Kiely M, Morais G, Bandarra NM, Thorsdottir I. Beneficial effects of long-chain n-3 fatty acids included in an energy-restricted diet on insulin resistance in overweight and obese European young adults. Diabetologia. 2008 Jul;51(7):1261-8.
  5. Thorsdottir I, Tomasson H, Gunnarsdottir I, Gisladottir E, Kiely M, Parra MD, Bandarra NM, Schaafsma G, Martinéz JA. Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content. Int J Obes (Lond). 2007 Oct;31(10):1560-6.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Vanilla patch 'cures sweet tooth'

Scientists have come up with a way to beat chocolate addiction - a vanilla-scented patch.
The patch, which is stuck on the back of the hand may help curb the craving for chocolate and other sweet food and thus help the wearer to lose weight, according to a study.

Researchers from St George's Hospital, London, found that the patch was as effective as some of the new slimming drugs, but without the side effects.

Chief dietitian Catherine Collins said: "The aroma patch significantly reduced sweet food intake and there was greater weight loss amongst those using the vanilla patch, compared to a lemon-scented dummy or no patch.

"The most interesting thing we found was that the chocolate score was halved for people wearing the vanilla patch."

Those wearing the vanilla patches shed an average of 4lb compared to just 1.5lb for those not wearing any patch.

However, the patches did not affect people's appetite for boiled sweets, savoury snacks or alcohol.

The experts do not know how the vanilla patches work but they believe the smell affects the brain's chemistry.

Dr Collins said it could alter levels of the chemical messenger serotonin in the brain.
Chocolate contains chemicals which are converted into serotonin -a substance believed to affect the appetite.

Dr Collins suggested that the patches would be most effective in helping people who are slightly overweight, and have difficulty in controlling their intake of sweet foods
The findings will be presented on Wednesday at the International Congress of Dietetics in Edinburgh.

The vanilla patches are due to be launched as slimming aids later this year.