Ah the holidays. A happy time filled with family, watching ‘Home Alone’ while sipping hot cocoa on your couch. It’s also a time that can be stressful. Frantically running from store to store, finding last minute ingredients to prepare meals for your family gatherings. Or maybe you’re traveling so you have to deal with getting to and from the airport, avoiding traffic, and figuring out what to pack. And diet and exercise? Forget about it! Those things are your last priorities right? Well time to pump the brakes. Those things should actually be at the top of your priority list! If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else? I know, I’m preaching to the choir. But instead of ignoring these issues or throwing a pity party, let’s be proactive and figure out how to equip you with the tools you need. Use the strategies below to maintain sanity, health, and guilt-free living during the holiday season.
Finding ways to incorporate exercise into your life, is as crucial as anything else especially during the holidays. It will help lower stress levels, and subsequently levels of cortisol (which break down your muscle, and can weaken your immune system), help you burn off some of those calories, but most of all keep you motivated!
You can come up with an excuse like “oh the gym closed early today” or the infamous “I don’t have time.” But that won’t fly here. Something as simple as a few 10-20 minute walks can make the world of a difference, especially if used strategically.
Has been shown to decrease post-prandial blood glucose, meaning that it can help you avoid that debilitating food coma that renders us useless for the day. Try a 10 minute walk before or after a big meal.
also makes us more insulin sensitive which can help shuttle a large bolus of glucose into our muscle cells, instead of fat cells. I enjoy doing a short bout of exercise prior to my Thanksgiving meal, key word being “enjoy.” I don’t encourage using exercise as a punishment or reward per se, but knowing the physiological effects from exercise can serve as a bonus. As for the time or gym thing, you can do a simple 20-30 minute bout from the comfort of your home, using only your bodyweight, or if you have any hand held weights all the better! Give the routine down below a shot.
I’m sure you’ve heard of intermittent fasting (IF) by now. Time-restricted feeding and IF are sometimes used interchangeably, but it’s the concept of reducing your feeding window throughout the day. Instead of just eating at will, you choose a starting point and an end point.
This helps you prevent uncontrolled eating. Start with a 12-hour window. If you consume your first calories of the day at 8am, you have until 8pm to consume your last. Shortening the window seems to reap more benefits, so you can also try 8 and 10-hour windows.
The science surrounding this method of eating is still emerging, but you don’t need to know all the physiology to utilize this simple and effective strategy.
Exercising and practicing time-restricted feeding are great strategies for combating that holiday weight gain, but that doesn’t mean you are free to binge on snickerdoodles, brownies, and pumpkin pie. Focus on consuming high quality foods MOST of your meals, and avoid snacking on these treats throughout the day. Start your meals off with nutrient-dense foods such as the ones below. These will fill you up, which will make you less inclined to overeat those nutrient-poor, calorie-rich foods.
Consume foods high in protein: grass-fed beef, free range chicken, free range eggs, greek yogurt, hemp hearts, pea protein
Consuming cinnamon and/or apple cider vinegar prior to a meal, can help normalize blood glucose levels after a meal and reduce large insulin spikes.
Cinnamon, particularly of the Ceylon variety, has even been shown to:
Increase cognitive function
Decrease cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL levels in blood
Apple cider vinegar
Can help curb your hunger
4. Stress and Sleep
We often think of these as separate entities, but they actually affect each other so much. The more stressed you are, the lower quality of sleep you’ll have. The less you sleep or the lower quality your sleep, the more stressed you’ll be.
I just wrote an article about the gut microbiome, and not only can stress make us eat more, it can actually alter our microbiome which can affect our metabolism, difficulty of weight loss, and squander our efforts to avoid the holiday weight gain.
Again the holidays are a fun time, and one or two days of going to bed late might not make too big of a difference, but try to keep a regular schedule.
Avoid sleeping in too long, as this can throw off your circadian rhythm
Avoid eating large meals too late at night
Take short naps 20-30 minutes if you didn’t get great sleep the night prior
Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol at night
Exercise (reduces stress AND increases sleep quality)
Mindfulness and Gratitude
Enjoy the moment. Enjoy your food. But most of all enjoy your company. Food is amazing not only because of how they make us feel, but also because they bring people together. Focus on good conversation, and making memories with your loved ones as opposed to how many plates you can put away. Appreciate your food, savor each bite, and give gratitude for being able to share those moments in the comfort of your home with the ones you love.
Enjoy the holiday season
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym. You don’t have to sacrifice eating your Aunt’s famous double fudge brownies, peach cobbler, or whatever other food-coma inducing goodness will be thrown your way. And you don’t necessarily have to maintain a strict diet during the holidays.
However, you have to do SOMETHING. Keep moving, try an intermittent fast, get more sleep, go for a walk or two outside. Instead of letting your health slide for the last two months of the year, then starting back up with a New Year’s resolution, we can stay on top of our game and THRIVE.
I’m also running a Holiday Fitness challenge helping you stay on track with your goals, and avoid the holiday weight gain. Message me if you’re interested, but otherwise thanks for reading and feel free to share this if you think it’ll help someone else.
Our bones, hair, skin, muscle, and all other components of the human body are made up of about 10 trillion cells. The amount of bacteria that live within us? 100 Trillion. TRILLIONS I SAY! We’re technically more bacteria than we are human, which basically means we are all aliens, but I digress.
Seriously though, that’s pretty significant. Have you ever had a “gut feeling”? Well that can actually be explained because our gut hosts the majority of these critters (note we also have bacteria on our skin). Scientists have also now identified a “Gut-Brain axis” which is a communication pathway between the brain and our gut microbiome. Some even refer to our gut as our “second brain” although some may even go as far as saying our brains are our second brains, and our gut is our real brain. The majority of the serotonin we produce in our bodies, is made in the gut. Nutrients like vitamin K, and vitamin B12 are also made in the gut.
Our gut microbiome, or the community of bacteria that live within us, have been found to regulate not only our digestion, but also our immunity, stress, mood, cognition, and a host of other things. That’s right, these microscopic busy bodies are not just along for the ride. Alternatively, dysregulation of our microbiome has been linked to things like irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, diabetes, and even disorders like depression, Alzheimers, dementia, and schizophrenia.
While some of these disorders or conditions are influenced by our genetics, epigenetics also play a large role in their prevention or in delaying them. Factors such as diet, stress, and lifestyle factors are known to affect whether or not certain genes are expressed. Meaning even if you’re predisposed to having high cholesterol or high blood pressure for example, if you manage your diet properly, and exercise, these diseases may never manifest. You know what else these factors affect? You guessed it, your gut microbiome!
This leads me to wonder. Why do we resort to drugs or pharmaceuticals as our first line of defense against disease? In America we spend TRILLIONS of dollars on healthcare. In 2014, the U.S. spent $2.6 trillion, and in 2015 we spent $3.2 trillion . The pharmaceutical industry is also a trillion dollar industry, and the supplement industry, is a billion dollar industry. We spend more money than any other country on health, yet our rates of chronic disease, mental health disorders, infant mortality, and life expectancy are staggering. We give no regard to what we put in our bodies, and what we expose ourselves to, but rather try to mask our symptoms with more drugs. So are we doomed? No. But to start healing, we have to do so from the inside out. With your microbiome.
Factors to Consider for Gut Health
I don’t necessarily believe in “good” or “bad” bacteria. I’m sure you’ve seen things like E. Coli outbreaks on the news or people dying from drinking water contaminated with certain bacterial strains. Those are very real things, and I definitely advise caution when consuming certain foods or liquids. For example, drinking water from streams can be dangerous because of animal fecal matter contaminating the source which can be very deadly. Although I call B.S on raw cookie dough being harmful…But in actuality, some of those dangerous bacteria reside in our guts, and are necessary to maintain our health. However, our health issues are exacerbated when these bacteria overpopulate our gut, when we have a deficiency in beneficial bacteria, or more commonly when we harm our gut. Below are some commonplace influences on our microbiome, that we give little thought to, but should actually rethink.
No I’m not advising you not to use soap. However, using excessive amounts of anti-microbial or anti-bacterial soaps damages our microbiome, while making potentially harmful strains more resilient. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are in accordance that “there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water” . And what makes the matter worse, is that many of these soaps contain chemicals such as Triclosan, which is labeled as a pesticide by the EPA. According to the FDA, “laboratory studies have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Some data shows this resistance may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments, such as antibiotics. Keep it simple, use normal hand soap, or liquid soap free of any harsh chemicals. I like the brands Mrs. Meyers, Dr. Bronner’s, and Alaffia.
This can be a controversial topic, but simply stating the facts, antibiotics are made to kill bacteria. They essentially wipe out all bacteria in your gut, both “good” and “bad.” In certain instances, antibiotics are absolutely necessary, however I believe they are overused. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “antibiotics save lives, but any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. About 30 percent of antibiotics, or 47 million prescriptions, are prescribed unnecessarily in doctors’ offices and emergency departments in the United States” . If you do end up using antibiotics, it would probably be beneficial to use pre/pro-biotics afterward to help re-establish a healthy gut microbiome.
Optimizing Gut Health through Nutrition
With newfound research bringing gut health to light, I’m sure you’ve also seen the word probiotic around. Probiotics are strains of beneficial bacteria that populate your gut. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt are rich sources of probiotic bacteria that can help increase your gut health. Probiotic supplements introduce certain beneficial strains to your gut, claiming that they will populate your gut.
My qualm with probiotic supplements, is that it’s not guaranteed that these particular strains are beneficial to everyone. Certain strains may be good for one person, but not for someone else. Moreover, how do we know what quantity we need? Do we want to overpopulate with certain strains? Do we even know what strains already exist in our gut microbiome? Many of these supplements also contain strains that aren’t even alive, which defeats the purpose. And if they are alive, these probiotics are susceptible to dying due to heat, enzymes, and stomach acid long before they reach their destination. Instead of reaching for a probiotic supplement right away, I advise obtaining your probiotics through whole foods sources, and varying them often.
These are foods that feed your microbiome. Think of them as fertilizer for beneficial bacteria. They are nutrients that allow these bacteria to grow and thrive. They often come in the form of fiber, from sources such as green (unripe) bananas, apples, etc. Prebiotics are more resilient than probiotics in the sense that they aren’t affect by heat, stomach acid, or enzymes to the same extent. Consuming a combination of prebiotics and probiotics is a good strategy to employ in increasing overall health.
Go with your Gut
Science surrounding these fascinating critters is constantly emerging, and there are even health protocols you can utilize to evaluate your gut. Companies like Viome can even evaluate your gut microbiome are revolutionizing the field. We cannot truly say we fully understand everything there is to know about bacteria and the microbiome, but I truly believe that this will be the future of the health field. We evolved to have a mutualistic relationship between bacteria. They were around long before we were, and they’ll probably be around long after. But while our microbiome is hard at work protecting our bodies, it seems like we are hard at work suppressing their ability to do so optimally. The science surrounding the links between health, chronic illness, and our microbiome is still nebulous, and this blog only scratches the surface on what there is to be said about the microbiome. But there’s one thing that’s certain, a healthy microbiome is essential for a healthy body. Take care of your microbiome and it will take care of you.
 “Health, United States, 2015” (PDF). www.cdc.gov. November 14th, 2018.
Open up your Instagram account, and it’s not uncommon to see someone posting the amazing donuts they just had (*cough cough, me). But it’s okay because it fit my macros. Well what about the person eating grass-fed butter, avocados, nuts, and claims that keto is the best way to go because excess sugar consumption can lead to obesity and diabetes? How about someone eating only what our ancestors did, no processed foods, grains, or dairy. Surely paleo is the best right? There is a constant barrage of information regarding diet. So who is right and how do we choose which diet is best!?
First let’s talk about the human body. The human body is not a machine. It’s a very complex system with complex systems working within complex systems. Catch my drift? Hormone release, cell signaling, cellular respiration, metabolic flexibility, gene expression, your gut microbiome, there are countless of factors and processes going on every millisecond at all times. What works for someone might not work for you, and there most definitely isn’t one best way to diet. Here I’ll break down some of today’s most popular and trending diets, their pros and cons, and help you determine whether or not they’re right for you.
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)
Now if you know me personally, you know I have a sweet tooth. It’s not uncommon to find me at the local froyo place on any given night of the week. Heck I’ll even eat a whole pizza on occasion. But the key here, is that these meals are more or less programmed into my diet. Thank you flexible dieting. Just because one food might be very calorie dense, i.e. a pizza, doesn’t mean that if you eat one it’ll necessarily screw up your diet. By calculating the macronutrients of the pizza, and your daily required macronutrient intake (calculate your BMR first, you can do so here https://www.iifym.com/bmr-calculator/ ) you can breakdown what each of your meals will consist of. This is where iifym really shines, with careful planning, it allows the incorporation of any type of foods into your diet, on any given day.
Example: Say you calculated your daily caloric need, and it was 2000 calories. Fats have 9 calories/gram, Protein has 4 calories/gram, and Carbohydrates have 4 calories/gram. Knowing that, you would simply find a combination of macros (that works best for your goals) that equated to 2000 calories. Then you can find a combination of foods that fall within that range. That allows you to not exceed your caloric intake for the day. This is more or less the basis for IIFYM (if it fits your macros).
Sample Macronutrient Breakdown:
100 grams of protein (400 kcals), 300 grams of carbohydrates (1200 kcals), 44 grams of Fat (400 kcals)= 2000 kcals
My biggest qualm with IIFYM, is that most people correlate body weight, to health. This is not always the case. You can be shredded, and have nice abs while having very poor health. Likewise, you can be a little more fluffy, and have optimal health. So just because you can eat donuts and oreos and pizza while still losing weight, doesn’t mean you should! That said, IIFYM may be right for you if you can hold yourself accountable for what foods your body NEEDS, and are disciplined enough to abide by your calculated macronutrient intake. I recommend it for those more experienced with maintaining an adequate nutrition regime.
Intermittent fasting (I.F) has been another popular method of eating or dieting that has been brought to the spotlight. There are many types of fasting. However there are 2 popular forms of Intermittent fasting. There’s eating on a 5:2 schedule in which you eat normally for 5 days, and severely restrict calories for 2 days. For example you could eat 2,000 calories/day, Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday you would eat 500 calories each day. There’s also time restricted eating, which is more common, in which you only eat during a specific window of time (6-8 hours) and fast for the remainder of the day (16-18 hours).
An example of this would be eating your last meal of the day at 8pm, waking up, forgoing breakfast, and eating your first meal at noon. This would be 16 hour fast, but the duration is up to you.
Studies have not shown intermittent fasting to be superior to any other diet,for weight loss, when calories are equated. Usually people find success with I.F because they simply can’t eat as much as they normally would. If you’re someone who finds themselves not eating breakfast because you’re rushed in the morning to go to work, this may fit your lifestyle. On days where I’m not exercising, or maybe I’m doing lighter exercise, I may I.F or do a full fast. This is not an everyday thing though, so build yourself up slowly. I would recommend doing one or two intermittent fasts per week, of varying durations on less active days, to get a feel for what works best for you, and going from there.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
Can aid in weight loss
Increase tolerance to hunger
Facilitates entering ketosis
Increase in BDNF (strengthens neural connections)
More ideal eating schedule for some
Potential Downsides of Intermittent Fasting:
The calorie restriction, particularly in 5:2 can be a bit extreme
People tend to binge during the feeding window, eating more processed and calorie-dense foods than normal
No definitive research saying its better for weight loss than any other diet
The Ketogenic Diet
Going “keto” consists of a diet high in fat, limiting protein and cutting out basically all carbs. When your body is deprived of glucose for long enough, you enter ketosis during which your liver produces ketone bodies (made from fat) which become the primary source of energy. Ketones are also a great fuel source for your brain. In fact, your brain uses either glucose or ketones as energy, and some studies have shown that ketones are preferred by our brain. If you enjoy eating foods like grass-fed butter, bacon, coconut oil, dark chocolate, and nuts, then you’re in luck. The fattier the better! Now it is important to note that you must keep a low protein intake. Eating high amounts of protein while trying to enter ketosis, is counter-intuitive because your body can actually convert protein to sugar through something called gluconeogenesis. But won’t your muscle waste away if you do this? Supposedly no. According to advocates such as Dr. Dom D’Agostino, your body will not break down its own muscle for fuel, since it will be predominantly tapping into your fat stores. Preserve your muscle, and burn fat for fuel? Sounds fantastic!
Now while going keto has become popular as of late, is it right for you? It depends on your goals. Once again, a ketogenic diet has not been shown to be superior than any other diet in terms of weight loss, when calories are equated. However, it does have other health benefits. The ketogenic diet has been shown to be beneficial in those with insulin resistance and/or Type II diabetes, obesity, as well as epilepsy. Personally, I have tried keto for short spurts of time (1-4 weeks) and have felt an increase in energy, focus, fat loss, and less cravings for sweets.
However, I don’t necessarily believe it to be superior to any other diet, nor do I recommend it long term. Especially if you’re an athlete, you NEED carbohydrates! Your muscles can utilize fat for fuel at low intensities such as walking or maybe a long slow run, but your fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones used for sprinting, jumping, cutting, pushing, etc) run exclusively on glucose, aka carbs. If you want to try out keto, make sure you’re consuming high quality products. Extra virgin coconut oil, organic nut butters, grass fed butter, ghee, wild-caught fatty fish like salmon, etc. Again try a couple days of eating keto before fully diving in. When you’re ready to fully commit, it usually takes a few days to reap the benefits of ketosis, so keep that in mind (you can determine if you’re in ketosis with a blood monitor, or pee strips).
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet:
Can aid in weight loss due to restricting carbohydrates which can include many processed foods
Can help increase hunger tolerance
Can help reduce cravings for sugar
Produces ketones which are a great fuel source for the brain
Aids in insulin sensitivity regulation
Has shown promising results in reducing symptoms in those with Epilepsy and Type II Diabetes
Potential Downsides of the Ketogenic Diet:
Long term adherence to the ketogenic diet has been shown to INCREASE glucose intolerance, and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mice
Adherence can be difficult based on food restrictions
Can induce ketoacidosis which is detrimental for those with Type I Diabetes
Performance can be altered in athletes
The Paleo Diet
If you lived in the Paleolithic era, you would hunt, fish, and forage for food daily. Hailed as the “primal” diet, this is theoretically how you would eat if you were a hunter-gatherer. This means no GMO’s, no artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and no soy milk in your latte. By eating how our ancestors ate, and eliminating “unnatural” foods, we can optimize our health and quality of life. They claim that we can obliterate chronic/cardiovascular disease, by eating a diet full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and high quality meat. In principle this line of thinking seems sound. However, proponents of the diet are a little more stringent.
Paleo followers abstain from eating any kind of food unavailable to the stone age hunter–gatherers. This includes calcium-rich dairy, grains which are full of B-vitamins, and legumes which contain fiber and protein. Their reasoning is that these foods were not consumed by our ancestors, so as humans we didn’t evolve to consume them. This is just wrong. Actually researchers have discovered that some of these foods were not only consumed during the paleolithic era, but even prior to it!
Another reason the paleo diet omits grains and legumes is due to their “anti-nutrient” content. Legumes contain lectins, and some grains contain phytic acid, which in a nutshell can be toxic if eaten in high concentrations (like most things), and/or inhibit the absorption of other nutrients. Well when cooked, these properties are actually reduced and can even become beneficial.
Our society is much different today than that of our pre-historic predecessors. We are sedentary, we exercise by choice not necessity, we can take a trip down to the local Trader Joe’s whenever we’re hungry. The food we eat, the soil our food is grown in, and the cultivation of different foods, are simply much different. And while I don’t believe eating organic, grass-fed, free-range, and non-GMO foods is a bad thing, it’s not always practical to do so. All in all, I think adopting a paleo-like lifestyle, would be an upgrade to that of the typical American’s. Maybe we don’t have to chase around rabbits so we can eat, or run from saber-tooth tigers, but incorporating daily exercise and being more mindful of what we’re consuming, while eating more foods in their natural forms, probably wouldn’t hurt.
Benefits of the Paleo Diet:
Restricts consumption of processed foods which can have favorable outcomes for health and weight loss
Increases likelihood of meeting general micronutrient intake
Can help increase mindfulness of source of food
Potential Downsides of the Paleo Diet:
Restriction of certain foods that are nutrient-dense (legumes, dairy, etc)
Can create obsessive and/or negative association with certain foods
Can be costly
Unnecessary omission of certain foods
The Carnivore Diet
As of late, there has been a lot of buzz around this diet, in which meat, and other animal products are the predominant foods are eaten. It also advocates not eating ANY fruits or vegetables. Blasphemy right!? It must just be another fad diet, greens are crucial for health! Or so we’ve been told. Now personally I have not tried this diet, but it does intrigue me.
Proponents of this diet (which include some medical doctors such as Dr. Shawn Baker) claim that fruits and vegetables are not necessary because you can obtain all the macro and micronutrients you need from animal products. Does this hold any truth? Well liver, an animal product, is actually one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can have, period. Eggs contain many nutrients, including choline which is important for brain development, liver health, nerve impulse transmission, and many other bodily functions.
Then comes the issue of protein. Those who abstain from eating animal products claim that plant protein can be a great alternative to animal protein. And while you can obtain protein from plants, there are very few plant sources that contain complete proteins.
“But Jules I heard you can get more protein from broccoli than from steak!” This is a misconception. Plants just don’t have the same amino acid profile as meat. A 4 ounce steak contains about 30 grams of protein with all the essential amino acids necessary (essential amino acids need to be obtained from an outside source). To obtain the same amount of amino acids, you’ll need to about 500 grams of broccoli, or 5 cups. Totally doable, if you want an urgent trip to le toilet. The same can be said for certain nutrients. For example, we know that many people who don’t eat meat are often iron deficient. Why would this be the case if iron can be found in some vegetables? It’s because that type of iron is called non-heme iron, which is not easily absorbed by the human body. Iron is not a stand-alone case, there are many nutrients that are not easily absorbed in plant form. Not to mention, there are certain essential nutrients that are ONLY found in meat such as creatine, carnosine, and vitamin B12. And while you can choose the supplement route, many nutrients are not always very bio-available when taken in this form.
Meat has gotten a bad rap, with some claims saying it will increase your cholesterol levels, and some studies even show a correlation between eating meat and getting cancer. The problem with these studies is that for one eating meat is not the only variable influencing the outcome. A typical American that eats a lot of red meat, will probably not be eating high quality sources of meat. They’ll probably eat lot sugar and processed foods along with this meat. And if that’s what their diet is like, well what’s their general lifestyle like? Probably sedentary, and if you throw in smoking or drinking alcohol well yeah getting cancer is not too farfetched. Again, I love fruit and a good salad, so I probably won’t go full carnivore anytime soon, but I think it’s asinine to say meat or red meat at that, is bad for you.
Benefits of the Carnivore Diet:
Easy to prepare
Meat is generally easy to digest
High quality animal products are nutrient dense
Nutrients from animal products are generally more bioavailable than those from plants
Increase in testosterone
Improved cholesterol levels seen in some
Potential Downsides of the Carnivore Diet:
Lack of fiber
Long-term effects on gut microbiome unknown
Long-term effects on health unknown
Lack of antioxidants and phytonutrients
For a quick synopsis on what I think about Veganism, Carnivorism, and all “isms” check out the video below, and feel free to subscribe to my youtube channel
Don’t be so quick to Jump on the Fad Diet Bandwagon
Bottom line is find what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to try new things! People tend to be drawn to fad diets based on what they hear, hoping that they may be the silver bullet to all their problems. “My friend lost 20 lbs going keto!” or “Paleo is the way to go my skin is looking better than ever” are things we’ve all heard, and whether they’re true or not, what works for them might not work for you. Remember that we evolved because our flexibility and adaptability, not because we were stubborn and decided we were only going to eat 5 different food choices for the rest of our lives. Remember, you can also develop an intolerance to foods by eating them too frequently. Get an ancestry test done to see what kind of diet best matches your genetics, get a food sensitivity test, get blood work, test your gut microbiome! Skip the dogma, and put in the work to find the optimal diet, or better yet lifestyle for YOU, but most importantly, keep an open mind.
So it’s the new year, and one of your resolutions is to get in the gym, lose some weight, and get that body you’ve always wanted. Or maybe the holidays haven’t been so forgiving, and your pants are a little more snug than you remember? Hey we’ve all been there, yes even me. So what’s next? Surely one of those diets everyone is doing will be the answer you’ve been looking for right? Low carb high fat, high protein low carb, fasting, no processed foods? Well which is best? In a future post I’ll delve deeper into those, but before then I think it’s important to lay a foundation for proper nutrition that can address some of the issues you may be having. I’ll be outlining some common mistakes people make, and what you can do to correct them. These are easy things you can implement TODAY, that can help you get on track to a healthier body, and one that you are happy with.
Below I posted my newest Vlog, which is also on the topic of diet and fat loss in case you’d rather watch, than read.
The amount of different diets, that have surfaced over the years can be dizzying. Keto, paleo, veganism, carnivorism, which is best!? Theoretically, none are superior in terms of weight loss if you equate the calories consumed in each. This is because in order to lose body fat, you must be in a caloric deficit. Your BMR or basal metabolic rate, is the amount of energy or calories your body needs daily to maintain normal function. For weight loss to occur, you must consume less calories than that amount. Personally I believe there are many other factors involved in weight loss, than just calories in vs. calories out, but that’s a good starting point. Start with a SMALL deficit at first, and you can increase that deficit over time. Using an app like myfitnesspal is a great way to track how much you’re eating, and what those meals consist of in terms of your macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates).
More veggies and protein
Firstly, BMR or metabolism is directly correlated to lean body mass, i.e how much muscle you have. Protein is often lacking in people’s diets, you should aim for 0.5 grams-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This is usually around 20-30 grams per meal, depending on your frequency of eating.
Even if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important that protein consumption still remains relatively high. In order for your body to maintain it’s muscle tissue, a lot of energy is needed. And thus, lean muscle is usually the first to go when we subtract calories. However, some studies have shown that while in a calorie deficit, consuming higher amounts of protein than normal can help spare your precious muscle tissue.
Eating more vegetables should be self-explanatory. They are full of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that our body needs. They also have fiber which is beneficial for digestion, and colon health. AND they also make you feel fuller! When’s the last time you overate on broccoli or asparagus? Probably never. These foods are also very low calorie, and nutrient dense, it’s a win win! Now you don’t have to eat a specific vegetable if you don’t like it. I hate tomatoes and avocados (I know technically they’re fruits and I know you probably think I’m crazy for not liking them) so I don’t eat them. Simple.
Why do we snack? Often times it’s because we’re bored. We’re sitting in an office, just waiting until it’s lunch time. And the more you think about it, the more hungry you become so you say “oh some nuts won’t hurt” or “I’ll have some fruit or chips that’ll keep me satisfied until then.” But the fact is, you shouldn’t really be so hungry that you need to eat in between meals. If you are, that means something is probably lacking within those meals. Are you lacking greens? Protein? Fat?
In addition, by restraining yourself to eating only during certain periods of time you gain the benefit of a quasi-intermittent fasting effect. The spike in protein synthesis is much greater after 3-5 hours of not having eaten, as opposed to eating food every hour or two. Also, continuously spiking your insulin by eating food constantly probably isn’t the best thing. I’m not by any means saying don’t eat fruit or nuts, I’m just saying eat them as part of your meal to receive a better benefit. Besides, the more you eat in between meals means that you’re just taking in more calories.
Slow down and chew your food!
Now I’m not aware of any specific studies or research correlating how many times you chew your food, to bodyweight. BUT, how about you run an experiment on yourself? The next time you’re eating a big meal, count how many times you chew a spoonful of your food. If it takes you 10-20 chews for one bite, chances are you finish your meal pretty quickly. And I’m willing to wager that you probably aren’t full by the time you finish. So try this, aim for 40 or more chews PER BITE, your food should be the texture of mashed potatoes by the time you’re swallowing. Personally I take foreverrrr and a half to eat large meals. This could be a reason why it’s so hard for me to gain weight, again no data just an observation.
If you’re still on the fence about this, consider the benefits. For one you’ll savor your meals more. Eating shouldn’t be a race, take time to appreciate what you’re eating and the nutrients you’re consuming. Eating will take longer, and thus you’re less likely to overeat.
Another thing to consider is the types of foods you’re eating, foods high in protein, fiber, and other nutrients usually take longer to chew and breakdown. Try eating a steak and compare it to how long it takes you to eat a plate of pasta. Just something to consider.
Increase fat intake.
Now, our beloved fats. Fats are crucial for, well living. Healthy fats like nuts, avocados, coconut oil, ghee and even grass fed butter do wonders for the body.
They are extremely important for hormone function and production, energy metabolism, nutrient absorption, and nervous system function, Most the cell membranes in our body contain fat, and our brains, are the most fat dense organ in our body! How is it then that it has become so vilified? Without going too far down a rabbit hole, lets just say, back in the 70’s the sugar industry “influenced” (with their checkbooks) what certain research had to say about the link between sugar, fat, and heart disease. No I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and no I didn’t make that up. Here’s a link to an article highlighting the issue, but just google “sugar industry, harvard scientists” to find dozens of articles bringing this corruption to light.
But I digress..Bottom line, fats slow digestion, are necessary for our body, and they keep you full longer. Carbs tend to make us feel unsatisfied so we consume more of them. Eat more carbs around when you workout, and less so at other times of the day. Before and after your workout is the ideal time. This doesn’t mean throw common sense out the window and overindulge in fats, but again they have a place in most diets, and more often than not it’s appropriate to eat them.
Catch your Z’s
I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about how important sleep is. But the fact of the matter is that it is probably even more important than we know. I could write a book about how important sleep is, oh wait there are tons of books researching the importance of sleep!
Getting restful sleep is crucial for the body, and has MAJOR effects on weight loss, and metabolism. So I’ll just leave this here.
“Current data suggest the relationship between sleep restriction, weight gain and diabetes risk may involve at least three pathways: 1. alterations in glucose metabolism; 2. upregulation of appetite; 3. decreased energy expenditure” (Sleep Medicine Reviews Journal).
This means your body will alter the way it uses sugar, potentially through insulin desensitization. Isn’t diabetes when your body is desensitized to insulin? Hmm.. Also appetite will also increase, which can potentially lead to overeating. And what’s worse, a decreased energy expenditure means even if you have an intense workout, you’ll burn less calories than you would have while getting enough sleep.
The Almighty: Exercise
Let me be clear, exercise is not an option. It’s not a matter of wanting to lose weight or not, that’s just an added benefit. However if you want to live a healthy life now, and in the future, exercise should be a priority. Exercise daily for a minimum of 20 minutes. And a few days a week I would ideally increase the exercise to 45 minutes or an hour. Resistance exercise like lifting weights and high intensity intervals is ideal for fat burning and will also reap a plethora of benefits. Some of these benefits include: neurogenesis, better learning, better body composition, better mood, better sleep, increased longevity, increased libido, need I go on?
Try this: Tabata sets are performed by doing an exercise for 20 seconds all out, resting for 20 seconds, then repeating 6-8 times. It could be a simple exercise like a squat, or a burpee, pick your poison.
Checkout my youtube page if you haven’t already, for free workouts I’ll be posting!
Key takeaways: Think of your diet as fuel for your body. No matter your profession, you’re all athletes, and you need to eat to perform. Whether it’s on a stage, on a court, or in an office, wherever your domain is, give yourself a leg up and give your body what it needs. Does this mean that you can’t eat anything that doesn’t fall within the parameters of nutrient dense, low calorie, vegan, keto, paleo, or “clean” foods? Hell no! Live your life, remember eat what you want, but first what you need.