Fats are one of the most confusing areas of nutrition to most people. For years we have been told to avoid and limit the amount of fats that we take in on a daily basis. In recent years, we have learned that some fats are good and even necessary for our health.
A study conducted in the 1960’s revealed that people in Mediterranean countries experience lower rates of heart disease despite consuming high levels of fats in their diets. The type of fats that they consumed was mostly monounsaturated fats from olive oil.
Dietary fats help protect against heart disease, lowers your bad cholesterol, (LDL), and triglyceride levels, provides essential fats that your body cannot produce itself and even reduces risk of death from all causes.
Eating the right kind of fats help to reduce inflammation in the body, helps us to feel full after eating and provide many important vitamins and minerals.
Fats come in many forms but the healthiest fats contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with omega-3 fatty acids. Limit the amount of saturated fats in your diet and fats that contain omega-6 fatty acids.
Evidence shows that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure, raise HDL, (good cholesterol), lower triglycerides and may even help prevent heart disease and strokes.
Omega-6 fatty acids are also important to health and can even help protect against heart disease. Vegetable oils like safflower, soy, sunflower, corn and walnut oil are rich in omega-6 fatty acids
The problem with omega-6 fatty acids is the amount that is consumed in the typical American diet. The ration of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids on our diet should be somewhere between 1-1 and 1-4 as recommended by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S. in his book, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.”
A good way to increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is to include fatty fishes such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines in your diet twice a week. Walnuts, flaxseed and eggs from chickens that are fed grains high in omega-3 fatty acids are also good sources.
Nuts, Olive Oil, Avocado, un-hydrogenated soybean oil and Peanut Butter are good sources on monounsaturated fats.
To reduce the amount of omega-6 fatty acids that you consume, limit the sources of saturated fat such as pizza, burgers, processed foods and snacks, sweets and fatty meats.
Be careful of the total amount of fat from calories in your diet. The 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you ingest less than 10 percent of your total daily calories from saturated fat. All fats are high in calories so be careful how many fat calories you take each day.
Stick with fats from vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature.
Another type of fat to avoid is trans fats. Trans fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils are found in crackers, cookies, baked goods like cakes and pies, French fries and many snack foods. Always read food labels to see if there are any trans fats.
Here is a list of some foods that contain healthy fats:
Flax and Chia Seeds
Grass fed Beef
Heavy Cream and Milk
Macadamia Nut Oil
Red Palm Oil
Eat This, Not That!
Eat Right, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Bottom of Form
The Mayo Clinic Diet The Facts on Fats
The American Heart Association.
The 150 healthiest Foods on Earth; Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.
“But in truth, should I meet with gold or spices in great quantity, I shall remain till I collect as much as possible, and for this purpose I am proceeding solely in quest of them.”
Spices have been in great demand for centuries. The spices of India were so valued that Christopher Columbus set out to find a shorter way to travel to India to obtain their fragrant spices for Europeans. Instead, he found the spices of America. Chili pepper, cayenne and allspice are a few of the spices Columbus tasted for the first time in the New World.
Health Benefits of Spices and Herbs
Spices and herbs come from plants flowers, seeds, bark, leaves, roots and even flowers. Spices and herbs are used to flavor foods. In addition, they contain many health benefits including protection against cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Many are high in antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which provide health benefits. Herbs and spices help preserve foods and have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Using spices and herbs adds flavor to foods and can help to reduce the amount of salt, sugar and fat consumed while increasing flavor in foods.
Using spices can even help with weight loss. Consuming spicy foods like hot peppers can aid in decreasing appetite. Capsaicin, a main ingredient in hot peppers can stimulate brown fat and increase metabolism, which means you will burn more calories. Capsaicin also causes blood vessels to dilate which may help lower blood pressure and may even help prevent blood clots and prevent bad cholesterol from building up.
Another spice turmeric, contains curcumin, a compound that helps reduce and prevent the growth of cancer cells. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help to lower bad cholesterol and reverse damage to blood vessels. Turmeric is often found in Indian foods.
For antioxidant value, you can’t beat Cinnamon. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve capillary function and lower blood sugar and blood triglycerides, alleviate nausea and to increase sensitivity to insulin and aid in fat burning. The antimicrobial properties of Cinnamon can help extend the life of foods. Cinnamon works as a great addition to savory foods and in curry powders.
Basil has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, can help prevent osteoarthritis and helps with digestive disorders. Use Basil in soups, on grilled vegetables, on meat or directly in salads.
Turmeric is often found in Indian recipes and contains the cancer-fighting compound Curcumin. Turmeric is used to alleviate arthritis and reduce inflammation. Turmeric is also believed to have an anti-tumor effect. Turmeric can be added to many dishes including rice, baked foods, soups, meats and even eggs.
Garlic is commonly found in most kitchens and has many health benefits. Garlic comes in cloves, powder or minced form and provides added flavor to many dishes. Using garlic can help fight the common cold and recent research shows that garlic may help in weight control. Garlic can help reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots. In laboratory studies, garlic has been shown to decrease risk for stomach and colon cancer. Garlic can be added to almost any recipe but is commonly used in chicken, seafood, rice, pasta, stir fry, tomato sauce and pizza.
Dill has the ability to settle an upset stomach. Dill is best used raw because nutrients are lost during cooking.
Cayenne increases metabolism and circulation, reduces risk for heart issues and can improve absorption of other nutrients.
Mint aids in digestion, inhibits bacteria growth and can help with nausea. Rubbing mint on your body can help repel mosquitos. Mint is typically used in teas, desserts and meat dishes.
Oregano has antiviral, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antibiotic properties. Oregano gas forty-two times more antioxidant activity than apples. Oregano is commonly used in Italian and Greek dishes
Cumin is typically used in Mexican or Spanish cuisine and is known for its antimicrobial properties. In many countries cumin is used as a natural remedy to treat allergies in addition to improving digestion and heartburn relief. Cumin is often used as a seasoning for chili or tacos.
Rosemary is high in antioxidants and may be beneficial in digestion. Rosemary may be helpful in reducing inflammation in conditions like asthma and heart disease. Use Rosemary in soups, with vegetables or in meat dishes. Rosemary was thought to protect against evil spirits in ancient Greece and when placed under a pillow believed to reveal a young lady’s future husband in a dream.
Thyme is part of the mint family, can aid id digestion and contains a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Thyme works well in baked dishes, on cooked vegetables in soups, stews, on eggs and in salad dressing.
We are still learning much about the valuable health and medicinal properties of herbs and spices. Our challenge this month involves expanding your use of spices in your diet.
Level 1 – Add one new spice to your daily nutrition
Level 2 – Combine one or more spices in a new recipe every week this month.
Level 3 – Try at least four spices that you are not familiar with this month in your meal planning.
When was the last time your kitchen had a makeover? Now, we are not talking about new kitchen cabinets or a new floor, but making over the items you keep in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry.
Eating healthy can be a challenge. Life interferes with our plans. We are often in a rush to get kids to an event or practice, trying to manage a household, care for an aging relative or catching up on work. We are in “grab and go” mode with little thought about good nutrition or we try to use willpower to avoid unhealthy foods.
“Grab and go” and willpower are not long-term strategies that will get us to our goal of health. Our willpower is limited and when we just grab any available food, our choice is often the least healthy option available. Often by the end of the day, we have used most of our willpower and do not have the energy to resist temptation. Instead of relying on willpower, a better way is not to have to make a decision in the first place.
Do you ever find yourself staring into the abyss of the refrigerator and the only choices are ice cream or a piece of fruit? Chances are you will be mindlessly gulping down gobs of ice cream without a thought. A better way is to not have to make the decision between ice cream and fruit in the first place. If the ice cream was not in the refrigerator in the first place, we would choose the fruit and not have to rely on willpower.
The best way to avoid foods that have little nutritional value is to keep them out of our house. If you are trying to eat healthier or lose weight, then why keep foods that do not support your goal in your house?
Food decisions should be simple. The best way to eat healthy is to make your nutrition decisions fool-proof. Kitchen makeovers are a great way to simplify nutrition and make eating healthy easy. Follow these simple steps to makeover your kitchen.
Step 1 – Eliminate any food that does not support your goal. Get a garbage bag and a box. Place your food items into one of three places. If the food has little nutritional value, throw it directly into the garbage bag. If the food has some nutritional value but does not fit into your nutrition plan, place it into the box to give away to a shelter or your local church. The rest of the food goes back into your refrigerator, pantry or freezer.
Eliminate the following junk foods: Foods that look good but are not inherently healthy – processed foods, - check the label for added ingredients like sugar and chemicals. Also beware of condiments, salad dressings, bread crumbs and processed meats.
Step 2 – Organize for success. Make a food list that supports your goals and use this list for your weekly grocery shopping. Make sure to include “go to” foods. “Go to” foods are any food that is available and ready to go when you do not have time to prepare a healthy meal. Fresh or frozen fruit, packaged tuna and foods that you have prepared in advance can be your “Go to” food when you need something to eat right away but do not have time to prepare a healthy meal.
Restock your kitchen. Stick with non-processed whole foods as much as possible. Whole grains, beans, lean meats and fish, fruits and vegetables, skim milk and yogurt should be staples on your healthy food list.
John Berardi of Precision Nutrition recommends:
Pick your 3 favorite:
Be careful of food package labels that say healthy, low fat, no added sugar. Look for items that are as close to their natural state as possible. Shop for fresh unprocessed food.
Once you have restocked your kitchen, prepare your foods as soon as possible so they are readily available to eat. Wash and cut vegetables, cook your grains and lean meats so you can make a healthy meal quickly when you need it.
Step 3 – Prepare the Physical environment. Make sure you have the right tools to prepare foods. A non-stick pan, microwave, food processor, cutting board and a good set of knives are a great start. Clear off counter space so you have room to prepare your healthy meals. Purchase glass or plastic containers and plastic bags to store and freeze foods for easy access.
Step 4 – Make it easy to choose healthy foods. Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time. When preparing meals, make enough to have multiple meals. Freeze and store leftovers. Fill a bowl full of fresh fruit on the counter. If you have foods that trigger overeating or mindless snacking, make sure they are stored in hard to reach places.
Follow these four steps to your kitchen makeover and you will not have to rely on willpower or “grab and go” to eat healthy.
Level one – Remove all sweet snacks and junk food from your kitchen
Level two – Make a standard weekly list of fresh, whole unprocessed foods to buy when you go grocery shopping.
Level three – Plan and prepare healthy meals ahead of time. Freeze or store extra portiins so they are readily available.
Carbs, or carbohydates, have gotten a pretty bad rep recently. Low carb and no carb diets have become the new go-to for anyone looking to lose weight. But have we gone too far in our quest to eliminate carbs from our diet?
Carbohydrates provide energy that fuels Your body. Carbohydrates are just glucose, (sugar), molecules that are strung together. These molecules break down in the body to provide energy.
Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates have fewer molecules of sugar and break down quickly in the body. Think of simple carbohydrates as a match that burns bright and quick. When we consume simple carbs, our energy levels spike quickly and then drop fast.
Complex carbohydrates break down more slowly and provide a more even energy. Like the light of a candle, complex carbs provide energy at a steady rate for a longer period-of-time than simple carbohydrates.
Should simple carbohydrates be totally eliminated from our daily nutrition?
The problem with vilifying any type of food whether it is simple carbohydrates, fats or protein is that there is no perfect nutrition plan that provides all the nutrients we need to thrive and a one size fits all plan does not take into account individual variations based on size, gender, age, culture, activity type and level or geography.
A good general recommendation is to consume more complex carbohydrates than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates make us feel full, aid in digestion, regulate our blood sugars, can help us maintain a healthy weight, as well as provide protection against developing Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
However, some simple carbs are good for us. Examples of foods that contain simple sugars and provide us with nutrients that we need are milk and fruits. Milk contains lactose, a simple sugar. Milk also contains calcium which helps in the development and maintenance of strong bones. Fruit contains fructose, a simple sugar, but also provides the body with fiber and vitamins. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar in the body and helps keep our digestive system healthy.
Why we need Carbs
How Can I tell a simple carb from a complex carb?
Peas, beans whole grains, legumes, nuts, fibrous fruits and vegetables are the primary sources of complex carbs. Simple carbs often hide in foods. The best way to tell if you are getting simple carbs you do not need are to read food labels. The ingredients in foods are lists by amount from the highest to the lowest. The higher sugar appears on the ingredients list, the more sugar there is in that food.
Food manufacturers can also hide the amount of sugar in a product. A good way to detect sugar on a food label is to look at all the words that end in “ose”. Sucrose, fructose, high-corn syrup fructose, dextrose and maltose are other names for sugar. Also look for the words syrup, (Cane syrup, tapioca syrup), nectars, juices and other sugars, (brown sugar, molasses). The total amount of all these forms of sugar are the total amount of sugar in a product.
Another way to look at the “good” versus “bad” carbohydrates is to define your carbs as refined versus non-refined. Non-refined carbohydrates contain natural sugars and fiber. Refined carbohydrates have been processed until little or no nutritional value remains.
Moving up the Food Chain
Listed below are some simple carbohydrates and healthier alternatives. Improve your nutrition and health by substituting healthier alternatives in your daily nutrition.
Use Less of These
Add More of These
Water flavored with lemon or orange
Baked treats – cakes, cookies, low-fat snacks
Fruit Juice Concentrate
100% Fruit Juice
Refined Grains – enriched flour or products made with whole grains
100% Whole grain products
Foods in their natural state
Bread made with Whole grains – Barley, rye, oats, whole wheat
Beans, peas and lentils
Level 1 – Decrease the amount of sugary drinks you consume each day. Switch soda for water or carbonated water.
Level 2 – Add some complex carbs in the form of vegetables to your dinner each day.
Level 3 – Remove all added simple sugars from your daily nutrition.
By Lauren Rothfeld
In today’s society, it is inevitable that each person will deal with their fair amount of stress. How each person deals with their stress is different. Most turn to fairly unhealthy habits like eating junk food, playing video games and watching Netflix. What I am here to tell you today is that there is a healthier and more beneficial way to relieve the stress in your life.
Whether your stress is from your job, your family or even financial problems there is a simple solution. EXERCISE! It is simple. Exercise has countless benefits to help relieve some of your stress. One of the main benefits is that while you exercise your heart rate increases and you start to release more endorphins, your feel-good neurotransmitters. The more endorphins your body produces, the happier you become and the less stress you have!
Another way exercise helps reduce your stress is straightforward. Exercise simply takes your mind off all the other stressors in your life. There are so many things that you need to have your attention on while you exercise. You have to make sure your form is right as well as counting your repetitions and sets. There is no way that you would be able to do all of that and remember that your boss needs all this work on his desk by tomorrow, it’s just not possible.
By exercising you are ultimately improving your health. As your muscles get bigger your confidence grows as well. You also make great connections and friends through working out that will also help relieve some stress and take your mind off other issues.
So, after a long day being cooped up at work lift some weights, do a conditioning or boot camp class, go for a run, do some yoga, or even go to a spinning class. Get your heart rate up, release some endorphins and feel good about yourself. What I like to say is before entering the gym check your baggage at the door, meaning leave everything that is bothering you outside the gym walls and just relax!
Most nights, it’s the same pattern. I come home from Strength for Life, check the mail, make something for dinner and sit down for the evening. I might do a little work and watch some television and then it happens. Just like clockwork, without even thinking of it, I am back in the kitchen grabbing a snack. Before I know it, I am sitting in front of the TV munching mindlessly.
I know that I am not really hungry and the snack, (or two, or three), is not needed but I continue to eat anyway. Late night eating for me is just a habit that does not support my fitness or nutrition and needs to go.
Many of us eat when we are bored, stressed, sad, lonely, have relationship conflicts, or as a way to deal with unpleasant emotions or just out of habit.
That is bad enough, but what is even worse is that the food we eat does not make us feel better. As a matter of fact, we often feel guilty for overeating. We feel bad, we eat. We feel guilty, we eat again. We may have filled our stomachs, but we have not filled the emotional need that caused us to reach for food in the first place.
Emotional hunger is different from physical hunger. Emotional hunger is often impulsive. There is an urgency to eat something, often less healthy, comfort foods. Emotional hunger is not satisfying and is often done thoughtlessly as though we were on automatic pilot. We often feel regret or guilt after a bout of emotional eating.
Stress, boredom, loneliness, trying to bury our emotions, conflicts with relationships, fatigue, being unhappy with the way we look, health or financial issues, social situations, going out with friends can trigger emotional eating. Emotional eating can soon become an unwanted habit.
There is good news. We can change our relationship with eating and change the emotional habits that derail our health, weight and fitness.
The trick is to recognize and understand our triggers, deal with the emotions that cause us to eat and find alternate ways to deal with our triggers. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Knowing what to do and finding ways to stop emotional eating can be a difficult process.
Here are six practical tips to curb your emotional eating habits.
What are you feeling at this moment? Is it related to your craving? Ask yourself: What do I really want? Do I really need food, or something else?
Wait for a few minutes before giving in to the craving. Often delaying action is enough to get your brain out of the craving mode. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you are having.
If you are craving food because you are trying to bury or suppress your feelings, allow yourself to feel angry, sad, lonely, bored, or stressed. Giving yourself permission to feel may not be easy but can lead to a greater self-awareness about what you really need and want. It is better to deal with your feelings than to bury them down with food.
Follow these steps to cut down on your stress eating.
For the next 30 days:
Level 1: When you feel a craving to eat, write down the event or emotion that triggers your craving.
Take a timeout of a few minutes every time you feel a craving to eat. Hit the pause button.
Level 2: When you have a craving, instead of heading to the refrigerator, get up and do an activity like walking up and down the stairs, doing laundry or a crossword puzzle.
Level 3: Take time to write down a plan to deal with your triggers. Track each time you have a craving and the alternate activity you used to avoid or derail the craving.
Write down the emotion you are feeling when you have a craving and allow yourself to feel that emotion. Write down how you can deal with that emotion in the future.
Last Saturday, I turned 62 years old and decided to see what new perks came with turning another year older. When I looked online, I found that I can receive 75% of my social security benefits, and get discounts to restaurants. I can stay at a Holiday Inn or Candlewood Suites for 15% off. Hyatt will give me 20-30% off for staying at their hotels. Kohl’s offers 15% off of clothing and goods.
I can get a lifetime senior pass to our National Parks for only $10. Senior living housing is also available. Most of these things I can pass on for now, although the National Parks pass looks very good.
The benefits to aging that would interest me would be to continue to be fit and healthy, have even more time with my family and friends, continue to help others on their fitness journey and pursue my personal hobbies, photography, gardening an guitar.
There are some negatives to aging as well. My eyesight and hearing keep getting worse. I wake up often in the night and there is always some slight ache or pain, I call them “dings” in my body. I do consider myself fortunate that I am healthy, have a wonderful family, have a career that I love, and can be part of my two grandchildren lives, Roz and Dalton.
Jack LaLanne, one of the best-known fitness trainers of all time would perform great feats of strength and endurance every year on his birthday. On his 70th birthday he towed 70 boats filled with 70 people for a mile while handcuffed and shackled.
Closer to home, we ask our clients to “Challenge Yourself to Excel.” Earlier this month, one of our clients, Kate Williams, challenged herself and completed six – 6K runs on her 36th Birthday.
Several other clients completed their first Spartan race. These clients motivate us on a daily basis. So, this year I decided to “Challenge Myself to Excel” and do my own birthday challenge.
My personal challenge was to complete six different exercises for 62 repetitions in 62 minutes. The exercise includes Squats with 225 pounds, Bench Press with 185 pounds, Deadlift with 225 pounds, Bent Row with 95 pounds, Pushups and Bodyweight dips.
My Grandchildren, Roz and Dalton
This Monday, July 24, 2017, after a good warmup, I started the challenge. My strategy was to knock out sets of Squats, Bench Press and Bent Rows first. The repetition range would be from 6-10 reps for each set. Knowing I would need to complete multiple sets with little rest, I pushed myself but never went to failure on any one set.
I felt good through the first 45 minutes of the workout, breathing hard between sets, but had plenty of energy to keep going. At that point the cumulative effect of the weight, sets and repetitions started to be felt. Finishing the deadlifts took some effort, but were done within the 62 minute limit. Even though I felt pretty fatigued, I decided to keep going and finish the dips and pullups. Eight minutes later, I was able to squeeze out the last pushup.
I completed all the lifts, but did not meet my time criteria. The entire workout took a little under 70 minutes instead of the predicted 62.
Although I fell short of my goal, I feel pretty good about the Challenge. Over the course of the workout I lifted more than 45,000 pounds or 22.5 tons. That equals 646 pounds per minute not counting warmups or the bodyweight exercises, (pushups and dips).
Here is a condensed video of my Birthday Challenge Workout.
My takeaways from the Birthday Challenge:
Personal Trainer Spotlight: Jim Gallagher, Co-owner of Strength for Life
Area Servicing: Servicing the surrounding areas of Springfield, PA
Experience: Over 30 years in the business, Master’s degrees in Exercise Physiology and Special Education, cardiac rehab specialist, exercise specialist, personal trainer, fitness director, wellness coordinator, director and COO in both the medical fitness and commercial fitness industries.
At Gym Source, we value the expertise of personal trainers. That’s why we regularly spotlight local trainers who have a passion for fitness. This month we are featuring Jim Gallagher, Co-owner of Strength for Life, who feels it is important to take a comprehensive approach to create the most successful exercise programs.
The studio’s name says it all: “Strength for Life”
Jim, and his business partner Ed Winfield, focus their fitness programs on both physical and mental health to help their clients live their highest quality life possible.
“We feel it is important to develop strength in all aspects of your life,” Jim says. “We want our clients to develop physical, emotional, and intellectual strength to really improve their lives.”
His passion for empowering people to believe in themselves began while working in special education with developmentally disabled adults. “This experience taught me that early intervention was very beneficial to people. It guided my perspective. It taught me we need to work towards total wellness.”
So, how do they do it?
“First, we start with a consultation to understand any challenges or obstacles (physical, emotional, or intellectual) that have previously held you back in the past,” Jim says. “Only then do we move on to assessing your current fitness levels.”
Next, is a robust assessment to match clients with the right wellness program for their goals. “Our three part process covers posture, gait, movement patterns, muscle strength, and muscle endurance. We also feel it is important to cover dynamic warm-ups and proper form.”
“Before we add even the first weight, we design individual programs to empower each client to individually build a belief in themself. We feel it is the only way to make a lasting change in behavior,” he says.
Now comes the time to break a sweat. “Our exercise programs are crafted to create strong bodies that enable our clients to do anything they want in life, from getting off the floor pain free to beating personal records.”
Because the team focuses their workout programs on strength, functional conditioning, and movement patterns (such as squats and twists) they incorporate a variety of fitness tools into their training. “Kettlebells, dumbbells, and the TRX Training System to name a few. We want to teach our clients to use everything. Luckily, Gym Source acts as our partner here. We can find a wide variety of equipment, and accessories, in-store.”
Gym Source equipment expert, Brian Lange, who works with the Strength for Life team is always up to the task. “Jim and his team consistently look for new ways to challenge their clients, and I enjoy discovering new fitness equipment solutions to accomplish this.”
“We also place a high value on providing the tools needed to overcome previous obstacles. To do this, we offer a combination program comprised of exercise training and time with mental-health coaches. The program’s goal is to help clients work through negative past experiences or behaviors that sabotage progress. We want to empower people to learn through fitness training how to focus on the positive, to accomplish their goals.”
Yes, the foundation of Strength for Life’s fitness programs may be different than your average fitness facility, but their best tip to reach your goals is very conventional: consistency.
“You can modify and customize any workout program, however, unless you stay consistent with the work – you won’t see results,” he says.
Want to learn more? In the Springfield, PA area and Interested in sports conditioning, online fitness training, corporate wellness opportunities, personal training, or group training classes? Visit the Strength for Life website at www.strengthforlife.us or request a free consultation here.
Need help finding the right home fitness equipment solutions to reach your goals? Connect with one of our equipment experts at your local Gym Source fitness equipment store. Test, touch, and try a wide variety of fitness equipment in store to find what fits you.
How often have you heard someone say, “I don’t understand why I can’t lose weight. I only eat healthy foods.” Eating high quality, nutrient-dense food is only part of the answer. Controlling the amount of calories through portion control is another factor in losing weight.
Controlling food quantity is a herculean task in these days of super-size servings. Everywhere we go, we are tempted by extra large servings. Eating too many calories of even healthy nutrient-dense foods can cause us to gain unwanted weight. Keeping our portions in control can help us maintain a proper weight, gain muscle and lose fat.
Although there is no magic or secret portion to portion control, here are a few tried and true tips to help you choose the right portion size every time you eat.
by Mike Steck
In my previous nutrition post, I talked about the importance of maintaining consistent, adequate water intake. However, I did not address how sweating affects our hydration needs. As it turns out, when we sweat, we lose more than just water. We lose critical nutrients called electrolytes. One of these electrolytes is vastly more important than the others, critical to numerous metabolic processes. It also happens to be a nutrient that most people know little more about other than if they consume too much of it, it is bad for them. But even that widely accepted notion needs more explanation. The nutrient of which I speak is the positively charged ion known as sodium.
Sodium resides primarily in the body’s extracellular fluid, which is the fluid that surrounds all of our cells. One of its primary functions is to help potassium regulate the body’s fluid balance. Without it, our blood pressure would plummet, sending us into shock, eventually resulting in death. If we take in more than the body needs, our blood pressure can rise. Chronic hypertension, as you may have heard, is considered a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, two of our nation’s leading killers. But sodium doesn’t just affect our blood pressure, it is also involved in nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and the lactate buffer, among many other things. But the three I mention are all especially important during exercise.
One thing pretty much everyone has come to believe about sodium is that if we consume too much of it, we are setting ourselves up for a high blood pressure problem. But it’s not quite as simple as limiting sodium intake. As I will explain, other factors come into play. An inactive body needs a minimal half a gram of sodium to function normally, but most of the generally sedentary population in the U.S. regularly consumes 4-6 grams of sodium daily. Highly active individuals require more sodium. So how much should you take in? Allow me to share with you five salty facts that may help you answer that question.
Most of us get the majority of our sodium from processed foods. This is not conducive to good health. Processed foods like commercial breads, snacks, deli meats and yes – sports and protein bars – are loaded with substances our bodies simply are not wired to assimilate. This includes processed sodium, which I will address below. Sodium from processed food sources is harmful to our health. We’ve been told for decades that things like salt and fat are the culprits behind our nation’s slew of health problems, but it is much more likely that these issues are due to our diet of processed foods that have been so far removed from nature that our bodies simply can’t handle the onslaught of synthetic agents.
2. Not all salt is created equal.
In recent years, we have seen a rise in popularity of sea salt as a healthy alternative to “table salt.” But is it actually healthier? And if so, what makes it healthier? As it turns out, like many food choices, picking healthy salt is a matter of, once again, processed versus unprocessed. That salt shaker on your kitchen table, full of finely granulated crystals, would be an example of processed salt. It is composed almost entirely of sodium chloride, and what’s left are man-made chemicals that do your body no good. Sea salt, on the other hand, is an example of unprocessed salt. It is considerably lower in sodium chloride, free of harmful chemicals and actually contains minerals that are beneficial to health. But some big companies sell processed salt that they market as real sea salt. So shop wisely. I personally use pink Himalayan sea salt.
3. Most whole foods naturally contain sodium.
Palatability aside, from a purely health perspective, there really is no need to be dousing everything we eat in salt. Almost every natural food that exists has naturally occurring sodium. Seafood, meat, poultry, and vegetables all contain sodium, but in relatively small amounts. This sodium is produced by nature, not processed by man, and thus is better for our health. So we can meet our sodium requirements simply by sticking to a diet of whole foods – the kind that enter our bodies in the same form that they were created in by nature.
4. Upping your potassium intake may be more important than cutting sodium.
Sodium and potassium work together to maintain the fluid balance between the inside and outside of our cells, so it would make sense that if we consumed more of one without also increasing our consumption of the other, then problems might arise. And that happens to be the case. It turns out that hypertension may not be caused by high sodium intake alone, but rather because we aren’t consuming enough potassium. Potassium can offset the negative effects of high sodium intake, so eating more foods that are rich in potassium may be just what nature ordered to keep hypertension at bay. And it just so happens that pink Himalayan sea salt naturally contains potassium, another reason to swap that for the typical salt shaker.
5. The more you sweat, the more sodium you need.
If you are a highly active individual, you will need more sodium due to the simple fact that you sweat a lot. More sodium is lost in sweat than any other electrolyte, so during these hot summer months, paying attention to your sodium intake might be a good idea. Low sodium levels can result in muscle cramps, nausea, and dizziness during exercise. In an ideal world, one would remedy this problem the old-fashioned way – by dissolving salt in water and drinking it. But I get it. Nobody finds that appealing. So this is where drinking something other than pure water can be beneficial. Enter sports drinks. If you tend to cramp up or get light-headed during intense workouts, bringing along a bottle of Gatorade to your next sweat session may be good idea.
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