Protein, the Building Blocks of Life

proteinProteins are made of amino acids bound together by a chemical bond.  Amino acids are the “building blocks” of life. There is some confusion and  misunderstanding  out there about protein. In my opinion and experience, protein is the “King” of the macronutrients and in this post I will explain why.

Protein sources in our diet are comprised of  eggs, beef, poultry and fish to name a few. The amino acids that make up protein are divided into two categories. There are 12 non-essential amino acids which our body can manufacture on its own. Then there are 8 essential amino acids we must obtain from our food. Proteins are needed by the body to produce enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and antibodies. Protein replaces cells that have died, support metabolism and immune function. They are also critical for the growth and repair of  muscles. Protein is satiating hence aids in the control of our appetite and assists in the breakdown of fat for fuel. Take it from me, protein helps you to lose weight!

So how much should you eat?  The amount needed is based on several factors. Since our body has limited capacity to store protein because of the constant turn over,  a minimum amount is needed daily to prevent  deficiency.  A healthy, sedentary person needs 0.8 grams/kg/body weight per day.  A person who trains regularly needs 1.0 grams/kg and an athlete or those who are training intensely need 1.5-2 grams/kg. Both during and after resistance exercise, for a short time, the body is breaking protein down faster than the rate of building therefore it is important to consume protein before and after  your session.  Due to the fact that our stores of protein fluctuate throughout the day, it is important to eat protein with each meal for replacement.

Does eating too much cause you to get fat?  Eating too much of anything and not utilizing it will cause you to get fat!  Let me say that protein is very hard to overeat- remember what I said about satiating?  Secondly, one must consider the thermic effect of food. Thermic effect is the amount of our food’s energy that is lost to the digestion, absorption and transportation of that food to storage at each meal.  For example, we lose 30% of protein’s energy to the thermic effect whereas 8% for carbohydrates and 3% for fats. Protein will be the last macro headed to the fat pile in a healthy, active individual unless you are consuming a large quantity and being a couch potato.  So now to the argument of too much protein causing renal failure and osteoporosis.  Studies have shown that in a healthy individual with healthy kidneys even consuming a level of 2.8 grams/kg/body weight has no ill effects. The claim that protein causes calcium loss is unsubstantiated in the research.

In summary, protein is a key part of a well balanced diet. Eat a lean source at every meal for optimal health, performance and body composition.

Why you’re having bad workouts….and what you can do about it!

Homer

Sometimes you just don’t feel quite up to par. Your body doesn’t move as well as it was last week and your energy level crashes quick. This can be frustrating, and stressing about it will do nothing but enhance the issues. There are a few things that you can change to help bring your workouts back up when you feel like they’ve been lacking. Here’s a little list (in no particular order). Give each one a try and see what happens:

 

1) Park Bench VS Bus Bench Workouts

 

This is a very simple concept yet important concept………..also one that people have a hard time grasping. If you would like the extended version of this, you can read more HERE. Basically, you have Park Bench workouts (easy workouts) and Bus Bench workouts (hard workouts). When you tend to do too many Bus Bench workouts, especially in times of stress (busy at work, Holidays, In-laws are coming over), your body will wear down quick. Getting in a few Park Bench workouts will get you back on track. And no, this is NOT going to set you back……movement is movement.

 

2) Get Your Sleep!

 

Yet another easy concept but one that is sooo easily overlooked. There are 4 things your body needs to function: food, water, oxygen and SLEEP. The only one that will kill you faster if you go without it is oxygen. A short list of possible side effects of chronic sleep deprivation include:

 

  • Weight Gain
  • Heart Attack
  • Cancer
  • Wacked out hormone levels
  • Oh, and low energy

 

Shoot for 7-9 hours…..once you hit about 25 years old, more than 9 hours can be damaging also.

 

3) Nutrient Timing

 

Our nutritionist, Treves, just wrote an article about carbohydrate timing which you can find HERE. Loading your body with carbs in the morning will almost always lead to blood sugar crashes and low energy later in the day. Save the carbs for late afternoon and evening, AFTER your workout.

 

It’s usually just a small tweak you need to make when your workouts are going sour. Don’t get too fancy and try to overload your body with artificial energy (energy drinks, pre-workout drinks, etc.). Take some simple steps to get awesome results.

 

 

Carbohydrate Type and Timing for Weight Loss

low-carb-diet

Who doesn’t love carbohydrates? When we think of carbs, mashed potatoes, pasta, bread and oatmeal come to mind. What also comes to mind though is how these types of food make the numbers go up on the scale. So for those dieting, the question is “do I avoid these or do I learn which to eat and when?”. I will hopefully shed some light on that subject and give you some general guidelines when looking to improve your overall health and body composition.

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that make up our daily diet. Sugars, starches and fiber are all carbohydrates due to their similar structure. They differ, though, in how rapidly they are digested and absorbed by the body. All carbs are eventually broken down into glucose which is essential to life. Glucose is a readily available fuel source that our bodies  use  first for energy. The liver and muscle cells have limited capacity to store glucose so any that is leftover  will to be stored as fat. This is how the body protects itself in case of famine.

Let me get this out of the way first when talking about losing weight. The average person, especially women, tend to restrict their daily caloric intake too far.  Make sure you are eating plenty of nutritious, whole, unprocessed, real food. If your grandma didn’t have it then neither should you. Next, all of us are different genetically when it comes to metabolism. Some tolerate carbs well like those  who eat whatever they want and never gain a pound. Then we have people who tolerate them poorly and gain weight just by looking at  them.  Finally we have those who fall somewhere in the middle. Know your type. Now onto the good stuff.

I will attempt to simplify things since I don’t want to put you to sleep with all the science mumbo-jumbo. We basically have two types of carbohydrates. Fibrous (non-starchy) carbs are those lower in sugar consisting of broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale etc. I can’t possibly list them all here. These carbs are lower on the glycemic index scale, are filling and control blood sugar thus insulin release in your bloodstream. Starchy/Fruit carbs sit higher on the glycemic index scale. These are the tasty ones such as potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and most fruit just to name a few. These contain more sugar, are digested faster resulting in spikes in your blood sugar and greater insulin response. A diet high in these types of carbs constantly  will lead to weight gain, elevated triglycerides and insulin resistance over the long term. Insulin resistance will  eventually lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Now when do you eat what?  If your goal is weight loss then the bulk of your daily diet needs to be fibrous carbs. You must earn your starchy carbs by exercising. No, not by walking around the block. You need to spend approximately 60 minutes working up a sweat and raising your heart rate. Exercise like resistance training or sprinting. After an exercise session of this type your body will better utilize starchy carbs for repair and recovery. Intense exercise will make your muscle cells more sensitive to glucose and insulin where your fat cells will be less sensitive. DO NOT over eat this type of carbohydrate.  It is easily done so watch your portion size. Begin with a 1 cup serving size.

To wrap things up, consume enough calories from whole unprocessed, real food. Eat more fibrous carbs to stay full and control your blood sugar. Earn your starchy carbs with a sweaty exercise session and control your portion size. Remember you are what you eat!

Cold Therapy: Fact or Fiction?

icebath

Doesn’t it feel great to take a nice, warm shower after a long day at work? Get in, warm up and relax. Turns out that the time you spend in the shower could possibly be time spent shedding fat. Well, that is a pretty simple way of putting it. Cold Thermogenesis, as it’s called, is a way to manipulate your body’s temperature to potentially increase fat loss as well as improve athletic performance. Basically all you have to do is expose your body to cold water frequently. Seems too simple doesn’t it? Maybe…..let’s look at how Cold Thermogenesis effects your body and a couple of ways to expose yourself to the coldness.

 

Activate the BAT

 

BAT, or Brown Adipose Tissue, is a unique kind of fat that can generate heat by burning white fat (regular adipose tissue) typically found on your stomach, butt, hips and legs. BAT is found primarily around the collar bone, neck and upper back. Turns out that exposing your body to frequent bouts of cold water can increase the amount of brown adipose tissue you have to help generate heat to keep you warm, which in-turn increases the amount of white fat you can burn.

 

Higher Metabolism, Enhanced Immune System and Lower Blood Sugar

 

Cold Thermogenesis can increase your metabolism and lower your blood sugar by burning blood glucose rapidly as fuel to help in heating your body (so next time you feel like having a piece of cake, find a cold pool). At the same time, your body will be producing more immune system cells that will help fight disease. Cold Thermogenesis can increase the circulating levels of interleukin-6, a cell released by the body to help fight infection.

 

Pretty cool, huh? I thought so. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the cold water will be the cure all to your problems. This is something I’ve seen brought up by professionals a few times now so I thought I’d share it with you.

 

Let’s look at a couple of ways we can make ourselves shiver the fat away, shall we? Feel free to try any of these, as they will all make you equally as cold.

 

  • Take a five minute cold shower every morning (I said COLD, not kinda cold), or alternate twenty seconds of cold with ten seconds of
  • Get an ice bath or five to twenty minutes once or twice a week
  • Swim in cold water

 

These are all things that are fairly simple and can be done on a regular basis. Now, the key here is REGULAR BASIS, which is the key to success in anything. If you try this for three days and don’t see anything, don’t be surprised. Give it three or four weeks MINIMUM!

 

Remember, Cold Thermogenesis is not something that you should use as a cure all. Give it a try and see if it helps your fat loss or performance in any way. At the very least it’ll help you prepare for the cold winter!