This one really drives me crazy. When it comes to considering which foods to eat or not eat, we should consider all foods on the planet in two ways. First – is the food good or bad for your body and secondly – what is the calorie value of the food?

First question – Is the food good for you? The amount of salt, saturated or trans fat, sugar ect. in any food has absolutely nothing to do with adding or reducing body fat. High amounts of these indicate that the food is not good for your system or that it is an unhealthy choice. In other words, consumption of these foods could lead to health problems such as heart disease, hypertension and many other conditions.

Second question –What is the calorie value of any given food?

 This is the only consideration when it comes to adding or reducing body fat.  It is merely a matter of physics, or heat energy. Any human body, no matter what size or age requires a certain amount of calories or energy to be in balance. Let’s call this your ”maintenance calorie level.” If you eat more than this amount, you will store the number of calories over your maintenance calorie level as fat. If you eat less than your calorie maintenance level, your body will use its storage or body fat to get you back up to calorie maintenance level for the day.

 Here’s an example, Say that your ”caloric maintenance” level is 2000 calories/day.  If you eat 2000 cal today, you will not store any extra fat or burn any stored body fat. You will be in balance. If you eat 2100 cal today you will store 100 calories as body fat. When you accumulatte a total of 3500 extra calories you will have added 1 pound of fat. On the other hand, if you eat 1900 cal,today your body will be forced to use 100 calories of existing body fat and when it uses 3500 over time, you will have lost 1 pound of fat.

Weight Loss and Understanding Nutrition Labels

if you’re like most people, this is how you deal with nutrition labels.

Let’s say you’re in a grocery store and you are looking at the label on a can of peaches. Usually after about 15 seconds you just put the can back without getting the information you’re looking for. This is because, to the general public the standard nutrition label is confusing , plus the deluge of misinformation, relating to sugars, carbohydrates, good fats, bad fats, proteins and calories that we see in the media  just adds to the confusion. Hopefully this blog will make things more clear.

The first two lines on a standard label refer to serving size and servings per container. These are relatively easy to understand in most cases. It usually requires just a little bit of math.

The next line refers to calories. If you’re trying to reduce body fat these first three lines are all you need to be concerned with. Let me explain.

 We all know what the worst or most unhealthy foods are. These include anything processed or fried, greasy, made primarily of white processed flour and in general any desserts and any sugary foods or liquids.

If you are on a healthy diet that includes mostly whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, berries, beans and seeds and is low-sodium and contains adequate fiber you do not need to be concerned with everything below the “calories” line on the label.

This is because you are not consuming unhealthy choices and everything below the calories line (the 2 bottom sections) relates to whether the food item is a healthy choice or not.

I’m trying to provide a way that you can look at a label and quickly get the information you need to determine whether or not you should eat it and if so in what amount.

One less thing to worry about because now, if you’re primary concern is reducing body fat, you need not be concerned with anything below these first three lines. Losing or adding body fat is purely a function of calories in and calories out as I discussed in earlier blogs.

I have included a visual to the right that demonstrates the information in this blog. Again, if you’re primary concern is losing or controlling body fat and you are currently consuming a healthy diet, then the bottom two sections are not important as they are X’ed out. This, as I said earlier will make getting the information you need from a nutrition label much quicker and easier.

Herbal Supplements

 Are you familiar with the term snake oil salesman? In case you’re not,  snake oil salesman is a term used for someone who sells a product or elixir touted to cure or resolve anything that’s wrong with you.

In the 17 and 1800’s this was usually a guy who traveled in a wagon from town to town. When he arrived in your town, he would park his wagon and set up shop selling some sort of potion that would cure all your ills, make you healthier, or help you lose weight, live longer, etc. etc.

Fast forward to today. The majority of supplements you see advertised in the media sort of fit the same category. That’s not to say that all supplements are fakes or forgeries because some have real value when it comes to your health. However, when it comes to weight loss I would say that the majority of products you see advertised really don’t do the job.

Back in the 1990’s ephedra was isolated and sold as a weight loss product. It really worked well, but it came with some health concerns, more specifically heart and nervous system problems. When ephedra was eventually banned from the market, supplement companies scrambled to find other ingredients to stimulate metabolism and weight loss.

Today, most all supplements that claim to create weight loss contain some form of caffeine, nitrous oxide and or some other herb that will stimulate metabolism.

Stimulating metabolism is what this is all about. Let me explain. The average 165 pound male has a resting metabolism of about 1000 calories/day. This means that if he lies on his back, awake for 24 hours with no movement, he would burn about 1000 calories (imagine a car motor at idle speed). Now let’s add the extra calories he burns in his typical day. Every movement he makes creates heat and requires energy (revving up the engine and burning more gas/calories). The average additional calories from movement for a person his size is about 800 to 1000 more for a total of about 2000 calories/day.

The truth Is, if he adds a good herbal weight-loss supplement as directed, his 2000 cal /day total would be increased by about 400 calories to about 2400 (resting metabolism-1000 plus the added “movement “calories-1000 plus herbal addition-400). The increase of 400 cal is caused by two things. The herbal stimulants and caffeine raise the resting metabolism, plus, our subject becomes more energized thereby moving more during the day burning more “movement” calories. So now is total caloric need is 2400 calories/day rather than 2000.

You should know from my earlier blogs that consuming your maintenance calories per day creates neither weight gain nor weight loss. In this case, if his is caloric need is 2400/day per day he can eat 2400 calories/day rather than 2000 without adding body fat. On the other hand, if he continues to eat 2000 calories/day he will lose body fat at the rate of 400 calories/day, or about 1 pound of fat every eight days.

If you really want to increase fat loss you have several tools at your disposal. you can Increase your activity which will raise your caloric need, if you like add a fat burning supplement and thirdly, increasing muscle mass over the long term raises your resting metabolism. If our subject has and uses all three of these tools he could potentially have a daily caloric need of over 3000 calories/day. Then he would really have control of his body composition.

body fat

In this blog I’d like to explain how the body stores or burns body fat, I will use the truth and absolute science of calories to explain this.

The best way to do this is to use a typical person, as an example. Our example is a female that is 25 years old and weighs 140 pounds.

Based on the formula: pounds of body weight divided by 2.2 x .9 x 24, our subject would have a 10% above sedentary caloric maintenance need of about 1400 cal per day. For our purposes, let’s assume this is absolutely correct, not accounting for any extra daily activity level, cost of digestion, etc..

We as humans are designed to be able to store fat in the event of a season without food, a long cold winter, a famine, or the like. Based on my research, I think this is between 10 and 20 pounds of fat. It’s pretty obvious that most of us have much more than this.

Now, back to our subject. If she eats 1500 cal today (100 above her maintenance need) she will store 100 cal worth of fat. Conversely, if she 1300 cal today her body will take 100 cal from storage (her body’s fat stores). We know that it takes 3500 cal to constitute 1 pound of fat. Now just do the math. If our subject eats 1500 cal per day for 35 days, that’s 35×100 or 3500 excess calories over 35 days. She will gain 1 pound of fat in this time frame. If she eats 1300 per day for 35 days her body will use 1 pound of what is stored in her system. It really is that simple.

You may say, why doesn’t she just eat nothing for a few days and she will lose it much faster? This is true. However, if you eat greater than 1000 cal less than your caloric need each day you will begin to burn muscle for energy. This is because the body has a limited capacity to convert stored body fat to energy. It can only convert about 1000 cal per day to usable energy running at maximum efficiency. Also, the less you eat in volume, the less likely you are to get enough nutrition (vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients) in total and variety.

The only situations where this is not valid are when medications are involved that affect the amount of water your body contains (excess fluid or dehydration) or the subject has a diagnosed thyroid or metabolism problem. I will address these issues in another blog.

Can Cortisol Cause me to Store Extra Belly Fat?

"Stubborn" bellyfat

One of the latest products you see advertised on TV relates to Cortisol and belly fat. The commercial tells you that the hormone Cortisol, when released causes you to store fat around your belly.

The supposedly mechanism for this is as follows; when we get stressed our bodies release hormones to cause the sugar in our bloodstream to enter our cells rapidly so that we are able to move quickly as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism, that is we can fight with or run away from whatever is stressing us with a burst of energy. In today’s society we don’t generally respond to mental or physical stress by running away or fighting so we don’t use up this rush of blood sugar into our cells, therefore it is stored as body fat. Is this true? Absolutely not!

While it’s true that the hormone Cortisol is released during stress and is designed to cause the sugar in your blood stream to enter your cells quickly, this doesn’t increase your body fat.

Let’s go back to my blog about maintenance calorie levels. Say you’re an average male that weighs about 170 pounds. Your caloric maintenance level is approximately 2000 cal per day. This means that if you eat more than 2000 cal, you will add body fat, and if you eat less than 2000 cal you will lose body fat. Now let’s say that today you eat 2000 cal and that’s your total for the day. You haven’t gone over 2000 or under 2000 cal today. If you did not eat excess calories today, how could you possibly get fatter.

Even if you had a stressful moment and your hormones created these changes in your bloodstream you still couldn’t get fatter because you didn’t eat excess calories today.

This example represents a tactic that is typical in advertising. It sounds reasonable that if the sugar in your blood entered your cells and you did not use the energy in the fight or flight mechanism, then you would store this sugar as fat but it’s simply not true and not possible.

depressed, fat and old

There are several reasons for the fact that we have to watch our diet more as we age. First of all, as we age we tend to move less. Every movement we make burns calories, therefore if you move less you burn less calories. Secondly, as we get older our systems become more inefficient. Thirdly, we lose muscle tissue as the years go by.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. So if you’ve got less muscle tissue, you’re burning less calories.

We don’t naturally eat less as we get older because the reasons we eat are still present. We still go out on the weekends and eat generally large meals. We still have birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays and we still enjoy the taste of food as much as we did when we were younger. All these societal temptations are still there too. We tend to exercise less because we don’t have time, or at least that’s what we say.

As we age into the workforce we also tend to have jobs that require less physical activity, and finally, to make matters worse, we tend to not be as active at night because either we’re married and settled down or just don’t feel like going out (You could easily burn 600 cal dancing on any given evening).

We probably also consume more calories at night because that’s the time of day that were relaxed, watching TV or just sitting around eating the types of foods that are calorie dense (sweets, chips, cookies, soft drinks, etc.).

Why am I Hungry all the Time?

 

 Let’s start with a definition of two terms, hunger and appetite. Hunger is physiological meaning your body senses that you’re not eating enough,and tells you this by signaling your brain to cause you to eat. Appetite, on the other hand is a learned lifestyle or habit. There is a huge difference.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re sitting around the house with nothing to do so you make a decision to eat something. This is an example of appetite. You don’t need to eat, you decide to eat. Another example of appetite relates to set meal times. We generally develop the habit of eating at a certain regular times whether we really need to or not e.g. “It’s lunchtime, it’s time to eat”.  

 The trick is to learn to tell the difference between appetite and real hunger and then act on your new knowledge. In most cases when you say you like to eat all the time it’s psychological (appetite) rather than physical (hunger).

Here’s another example of appetie, not hunger. Ever wonder why desserts are always especially sweet or fatty and contain lots of calories? By the end of a typical large meal your body recognizes that you are full and turns off the hunger switch and activates the fullness feeling. Basically, there are four ways it can do this. Your stomach wall has stretch receptors that detect when it is full  or distended and these signal your brain which in turn turns tells you you’re full. The time you spend eating a meal is a factor also. Usually about 20 minutes into a meal your body signals your brain that you’re full. Your body monitors blood sugar level as well and when it reach a level of saturation, it sends a signal your brain to tell you to stop eating. Lastly your brain monitors nutrient levels and unless something is missing in your diet your brain will not direct you to consume more food.

Let’s go back to our examples. Now that your body has turned off the hunger switch, because of one of the four previous reasons tyou will eat more on;ly because you think something will taste good. We know from one of my earlier blog that small amounts of sweet fatty desserts are very dense in calories and therefore taste really good plus they contain lots of calories in small portions.

Try this sometime. Eat a full meal and then decide to eat vegetables or fruit for dessert. It’s not the same.

I have a couple of suggestions that will help you work your way through this. The Number one suggestion is to stay busy. This could be a hobby a job or something you particularly like doing. This will keep your mind off eating, plus activity will burn more calories. Staying busy also will give you a sense of accomplishment and therefore a better sense of self worth. If you have a good self-image you will also have a greater resolve to watch and limit what you eat making it easier to reach your goal.

The Number two suggestion is to start exercising. This not only burns extra calories but puts you in a mindset that strengthens your resolve to control your eating  As a side benefit exercise also creates a sense of well-being beyond anything else you can do physically.

Our bodies are equipped to tell us when were hungry and tell us when were full. When the system works we don’t add extra weight. So listen to your body. Eat slowly, and be aware of your body’s signals. You’ll find that this way you’ll be happier and healthier.

Ideally your diet should consist of a mix of all three. Most nutritionists agree on about 65% carbohydrates, about 23% proteins and approximately 12% fat.

There are situations or life stages where these numbers can vary. Pregnancy, periods of metabolic growth and athletes who are weight training should obviously increase the protein percent.

Let’s look at the way all three of these macronutrients are digested and absorbed. Carbohydrates are used exclusively for energy. Fats are used mostly for energy but are also important for some other processes in the body. Protein is the really important nutrient. Not only is it used for muscle support, maintenance and growth but also for a myriad of other purposes such as hormonal structure, transport of other nutrients, hair and fingernail formation etc.

I have come up with a great way to explain this in layman form. Look at your mouth as if it were a hole in your body in which you put food , kinda like stuffing peanuts into a bag. Once any food (protein, fat or carbohydrates) gets inside your body through this hole it can only do one of three things: Become part of your body like skin, bones, muscle, cells, teeth, hair etc., be available for energy and actually used or stored, or pass out the other end. Now, to be more precise, protein is the nutrient that generally becomes some body part, fat and carbohydrates either are burned as energy or are stored for later use as body fat. There are however a couple of other structural uses for fat. It’s as simple as that.

It is true that carbohydrates are structured in such a way as to provide a quicker energy source whereas fat functions as a longer term energy source.

So the question still remains, in a weight loss program what should I cut out of my diet? This gets a little bit tougher. As we discussed in an earlier blog calorie intake is what matters. The proper way to reduce your caloric intake is to reduce your consumption of fats and carbohydrates, more specifically bad fat and processed carbohydrates. My next blog will address the issue of bad versus good fat and carbohydrates. See you then.

Just what is a Calorie anyway?

We are always hearing about calories. We say cut your calories and you lose weight or if you want to gain weight add calories to your diet. Well, I bet you’d like to know just what a calorie is.

A calorie is not an object that you can touch. It’s actually a unit of heat or measure of heat. Let me explain it this way. All foods are composed of some combination of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, fiber, water or some amount of micronutrients. When you put food into your body and I do mean through the hole that is your mouth it becomes one of four things: part of your body such as muscles ,skin, bones, guts etc., Body fat, waste products, or heat.

Now, your specific body mass or body weight, whatever it is, requires a certain number of calories to maintain that mass or weight. Let’s say for example it’s 2000 cal per day. If you take the total calories consumed in a day and it is more than 2000 cal you will store the extra calories in the form of body fat.
Conversely, if you consume less than 2000 cal in a day (let’s say 1800) your body will take 200 from its storage (body fat) and you will lose weight.

Here’s the tricky part. We are talking about the total calories in a day, including all fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Fats and carbohydrates are used almost exclusively for energy. Protein on the other hand is used for multiple purposes including maintaining structures and transport of nutrients and even though it’s primary purpose is not energy it can be used as energy and certain situations, therefore it is included in the calorie total for the day.

What your body actually does is convert the carbohydrates or fat you have eaten either into body fat or actual heat that radiates from your body into the atmosphere and is recycled.

Healthy Foods that are High In Calories

Indeed some foods are what we call fattening or high calorie and yet they are healthy choices. On the other hand some foods are low calorie and are unhealthy choices.

Let’s look at an example. Peanuts are extremely high in calories and yet they are a healthy alternative to an unhealthy snack choice like a cupcake or some high-energy sugar filled bar. A cup peanuts is about 850 cal. You can eat 3 KING SIZE Snickers bars and get about the same amount of calories.

So, what’s the difference. That’s what this blog is all about. In earlier blogs I’ve explained that calories are what matters when it comes to gaining or losing body fat. If the calories per cup of peanuts and to 2 KING SIZE Snickers bars are the same why choose one over the other.

Let’s look at the ingredients in both. The peanuts or high in oils. However these oils are a healthy form of polyunsaturated oils that are actually good for you. The Snickers bar on the other hand is highly processed, has lots of sugar and unhealthy fats. Plus the Snickers bar is missing other nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients included in the peanuts.

Let’s look at another example, raisins. A cup of raisins is also about 250 cal. Yes raisins are high in sugar but it’s a natural fruit sugar from grapes, not processed or refined in any way. If you compare a cup of raisins as a snack to jellybeans or some other candy you get the same kind of comparison. The sugar in a candy is highly refined and processed and totally devoid of any other nutrition like vitamins, minerals and
phytonutrients. The raisins on the other hand have several nutrients embedded that are good for us.

So, when you’re trying to make the proper dietary choices be sure and consider not only the caloric value but also the nutrient density of your food choice.

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