November 26, 2009

Dig in with Georgie Fear, RD, PhD student, geek & Cook book Author

It's been a pleasure in the past to present geeks - phd students, researchers - who also find a path towards fitness. Georgie Fear of is a rather exceptional example of the blend.

Georgie is an RD, a registered dietician (think food doctor, more on this below), a fitness coach, a published researcher, PhD student, and now, Cook Book Author of the new COOK BOOK Dig In

Georgie has just released this awesome cookbook (in both ebook and paper) that is perfect for geeks who both want to eat healthily and tastily, but who don't have time to put together gourmet feasts. In Dig In, while many recipes are from scratch in the traditional sense of whole fresh ingredients, one of the things i enjoy about her recipes is that Georgie is unafraid of using intriguing foods that come in time saving tins, glass jars and plastic containers that still scream "tasty & healthy."

Both are possible.

We'll talk more about Dig In in a moment, but first, allow me to present an interview i've done with Georgie about her geek academic choices, and where health and fitness comes into that picture.

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July 14, 2009

mc's Change-One-Thing-Only Sure Fire Diet

Pretty much all of us know that to lose FAT (not just weight) we have to eat less.
Being able to eat less though - well that's habits.
And a lot about good habits is making it safe for us to change our current behaviours. Change to our nervous system, especially around something as primal and survival based as food is pretty challenging.

Food is crtical to our survival; we're pretty wired to prepare for scarcity.
A lot of the best diet practices today focus therefore on habits rather than calories first, and making it safe for us to change from survival habits to aware habits.

Here's a guarantee that if you don't change anything else but make one change in the following categories, you will lose weight, consistently. The biggie will then be your persistence with this single change.

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November 18, 2008

Knowledge Work leads to Excess Eating? The Geek Nightmare

Ok, now there's another reason for geeks to need to move it move it. A new study has just shown that after reading, folks tend to reach more for the munchies, even when there's no increase in appetite or anything else.

Here it is:

Glycemic instability and spontaneous energy intake: association with knowledge-based work.

Chaput JP, Drapeau V, Poirier P, Teasdale N, Tremblay A.
Division of Kinesiology (PEPS), Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, G1K 7P4.

OBJECTIVE: To further document the impact of knowledge-based work (KBW) on spontaneous energy intake and glucose homeostasis. METHODS: We used a within-subjects experimental design, in which each participant was engaged in each of the three 45-minute conditions followed by an ad libitum buffet, 1) resting in a sitting position; 2) reading a document and writing a summary; or 3) performing a battery of computerized tests. Fourteen female students (mean age: 22.8 +/- 2.3 years, mean body mass index: 22.4 +/- 2.5 kg/m(2)) were recruited to participate. Plasma glucose, insulin, and cortisol levels at seven time-points, and appetite sensation markers were measured at each experimental condition. RESULTS: The mean ad libitum energy intake after the reading-writing and the automated test-battery conditions exceeded that measured after rest by 848 kJ and 1057 kJ, respectively (p < .05). No specific dietary preference was detected, as reflected by the comparable percent of energy from each macronutrient in the three conditions. No significant difference in appetite sensation markers was observed among the three conditions. Mean cortisol level over 45 minutes in the two KBW conditions was significantly higher (p < .05) compared with the control condition. Finally, a significant increase in variations in plasma glucose and insulin levels was observed as compared with the control condition (p < .01). CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that KBW acutely induces an increase in spontaneous energy intake, and promotes an increased fluctuation in plasma glucose and insulin levels. This study contributes to the documentation of a new risk factor for a positive energy balance, with the potential to lead to overweight in the long-term.

So remember to push that snack beyond arm's reach when at the computer and do take the stairs at least DOWN to up your NEPAs, since we're working at a disadvantage already. Every little helps, eh?

August 1, 2008

Pity the Poor Carbohydrate: it's the New Fat

It seems that carbohydrates are about to replace fat as the New Bad nutrient.

This may not seem like news for people who over the past decade+ have been chucking out everything of the hamburger but the pattie and the cheese. But of late on training sites and nutrition fora alike, the Cut Down Your Carbs message has been coming out loud but not clear - not clearly rationalized in any case - at all.

The Old Line was we get fat because we eat, well, Fat. Turns our we now know that's not the case. So what's our response? Let's find an equally simple paradigm to replace the old one. The New Line seems to be we get fat cuz we eat carbs. What makes us think that what i'll call the Anti Anti Fat Backlash of vilifying carbs as the New Fat is any more correct? Most over simplications are not. Has the Fat Fiasco taught us nothing? Well, it's taught us a whole bunch of names of different categories of Fat that we rarely celebrated before.

So, just as we're getting more sophisticated about fats - polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated (all about hydrogen, by the by as to whether or not a fat is saturated), and of course the newly dreaded and california and new york banned transfats - we may need to get a wee more sophisticated about carbs, too.

So let me start by asking this simple question (good to know the Enemy, eh?): what is a carb?

If you've just mentioned anything that would be recognized as a whole food like spinach, or a food product like whole wheat bread or a Krispy Kream Donut, or a lima bean, you'd only be partially right, and therein lies the Big Problem with the New Fat.

Let's look at why.

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July 15, 2008

What does "eating less" to lose weight really mean (and why does it take so long)

There's a basic principle in nutrition that to lose weight, the calories going into the system have to be less than what the system requires to function. The goal here is to trigger that fat you want to melt off to start getting used to fill the deficit for energy requirements.

It's actually a tricky balance, as anyone on a diet will tell you. Eat *too* little for your energy needs, and your system thinks it's starving, heads into what's known as starvation mode, and just stalls out, preferring to burn your muscle than your fat. Eat only a little less than "maintenance," and well, weight loss seems to move in dribs. That expected loss of "1 pound a week" just doesn't happen.

So what's the correct place to be, calorically, for kick starting weight loss?

Before i dive into that, a few caveats: healthy weight loss is not *just* about reducing calories. It's about eating the right kind of mix of foods for you at the right times that your system can make optimal use of that fuel. Think about it: those Skinny Bastards out there can eat anything and still stay lean. On the other extreme, some folks seem to just look at a pizza and gain weight. This doesn't mean pizza is evil; it just means that some folks run hotter and faster in their energy systems than others. It's because of these differences in metabolism that i encourage folks to check out precision nutrition for eating habits that take these differences into account.
To that end, precision nutrition does not start with calorie counting; it starts with habits of eating, and getting eating habits cleaned up.

For most people, that's all it takes for the desired effects to kick in. But sometimes it's useful to do a reality check on our practice, to see, especially if we've been dieting, if we're actually eating *too little* or if, in what we're eating, we're getting appropriate vitamins and minerals (micro nutrients).

So with that caveat in mind, let's take a look at some of the ways appropriate caloric deficit can be calculated.

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July 3, 2008

Consider the Context as well as the Source: Caffeine, Carbs and Recovery

A day ago, new research was reported that said "Post-exercise Caffeine Helps Muscles Refuel" - from ScienceDaily (July 2, 2008)

Here's a summary of the findings:

Glucose and insulin levels higher with caffeine ingestion

The researchers found the following:

* one hour after exercise, muscle glycogen levels had replenished to the same extent whether or not the athlete had the drink containing carbohydrate and caffeine or carbohydrate only

* four hours after exercise, the drink containing caffeine resulted in 66% higher glycogen levels compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

* throughout the four-hour recovery period, the caffeinated drink resulted in higher levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin

* several signaling proteins believed to play a role in glucose transport into the muscle were elevated to a greater extent after the athletes ingested the carbohydrate-plus-caffeine drink, compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

Dr. Hawley said it is not yet clear how caffeine aids in facilitating glucose uptake from the blood into the muscles. However, the higher circulating blood glucose and plasma insulin levels were likely to be a factor. In addition, caffeine may increase the activity of several signaling enzymes, including the calcium-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase B (also called Akt), which have roles in muscle glucose uptake during and after exercise.

Now, as we've talked about before, workouts - heavy resistance, intense intervals, loooong (90min+ ) runs, deplete that fuel, the muscle glycogen, from the muscles. So getting that fuel back into the muscles effectively is a good an important thing. Insulin is a hormone that plays an important role in this work. So caffeine sounds like it could be a Good Thing.

Well, there are issues: the study used a big dose of caffeine and researchers say their next step is to check out smaller increments:

However, because caffeine can have potentially negative effects, such as disturbing sleep or causing jitteriness, the next step is to determine whether smaller doses could accomplish the same goal.
Hawley pointed out that the responses to caffeine ingestion vary widely between individuals. Indeed, while several of the athletes in the study said they had a difficult time sleeping the night after the trial in which they ingested caffeine (8 mg per kilogram of body weight, the equivalent of drinking 5-6 cups of strong coffee), several others fell asleep during the recovery period and reported no adverse effects.

The nutrition/recovery guru Dr. John Berardi posted this article on the Precision Nutrition Forum yesterday, so i asked him, given the above research, what should one be recommending to their athletes? and this is where context comes in. Here's JMB's reply:

Carbs + protein increase glycogen recovery by about 40% over 6 hours (vs carbs alone). So I'd say that the high dose caffeine isn't necessary. Just do carbs+protein.

Hence context: while one thing sounds like it's really great (despite the side effects), there may well be other strategies that are near as effective, based on good nutrition, without the side effects. A similar kind of issue has come up with different types of creatine: take this type rather than that because it digests faster (and costs more). Sounds good, right? but actually one takes creatine AFTER a workout for the NEXT workout, so rapid digestion really doesn't matter. As the ING commercials in Canada used to say "so save your money."

And if you want good recovery after an intense workout, take a protein/carb mix. For workouts in the gym that's usually 2:1(carbs/protein) (ref); for long endurance work that's usually 4:1 (ref).

February 15, 2008

EU cows are killing the rainforest?

Let me say upfront that i am a lapsed vegetarian: i am a meat opportunist. If the choice is between me and starvation - or me and no protein source at all - i'll eat that asphyxiated, air-bolted, or otherwise slaughtered creature. I will try to excuse myself by limiting my intake to grass fed cattle, free range, cage free birds and line caught fish.

Just wanted to get that on the table before offering the following for your meat-eating consideration: as if meat production wasn't costly enough, EU cows are contributing to the destruction of the rain forest. Once again when it comes to deforestation at a distanceand the forcible removal of people from their homes, fast food outlets in the EU are at the head of the cue. THis time, it's not because they're selling Amazonian Beef, but because the food the cattle eat is based on soybeans grown where people and old growth forests used to be:

(quote)Fast-food outlets throughout Europe, including McDonald’s, rely heavily on Brazilian soybeans, which are increasingly harvested from fields that used to be Amazon rainforest. The European Union bought 10 million tons of soy from Brazil in 2006 — about 40 percent of Brazil’s soy export crop — soy that is used as animal feed to fatten the cows and chickens that become Big Macs and McNuggets. (Nearly 80 percent of the global soybean harvest is milled into animal feed, according to the Worldwatch Institute.)(end of quote)

If you care about why getting rid of old growth sources of our planet's ecosystems, and CO2 cleansing planetary lungs, is an issue; if you care about the environmental impact of Big Meat; if the costs of production socially, economically and globally of Meat are of interest, then you now have one more question to ask at the grocery store if you purchase EU-based meat products: what did those poor suckers eat before they ended up on the chop?

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January 2, 2008

vitamin d: essential sun in a capsule

I've been charting my food intake for the past couple weeks, and just looked at the RDA (recommended daily allowance) charts for the vitamin content. Everything is pretty well at or way above 100% - except vitamin D.

In the UK, unlike the US, dairy products and even soy products are not fortified with vitamin D. Now the usual super source of this vitamin is the Sun. In the winter, what with (a) going out less and (b) having more skin covered when we do go out and (c) having really crap grey days, our key source of Vitamin D goes, well, out the window.

This loss of Le Sol means it's a good idea to supplement our supply.


Vitamin D is a HUGE important vitamin. It's major known role is enabling utilization of calcium. Calcium is not only critical for bone building, but also in muscle building. Without calcium, something called the myosin/actin bridge which enables muscle contraction can't work. But the main role of vitamin D is to let calcium work for bone building. It's also being shown as important for boosting the immune system and having a big impact on SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

So how get that extra boost of D and how much do we need?

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December 29, 2007

And just in case you need dessert for New Years parties

I've just found a free ref for some great desert/treat ideas that may just be the icing on the cake, as it were, for a new year's soiree - especially if you want to take "something" to the affair.

The recipes include

  • peach mango cobbler
  • chocolate ricotta
  • poached pear with raspberries
  • mixed berry pudding
  • tuscan strawberry meringue
  • lemon cheesecake
  • mixed nut cookies
  • lemon blueberry bites
  • chocolate hazelnut bites
  • raspberry peach granola
  • peanut butter cookies
  • cheese blintzes
  • apricot yogurt parfait
  • apple cinnamon tortilla cups
  • chocolate cheesecake

And if afterwards, you're thinking about your resolutions and goals for your diet in the new year - like packing your own healthy lunch three times a week - these "free ref for some great desert/treat ideas" can help you gird your loins for the task ahead.

November 25, 2007

Fish Oil, Green Tea, CLA - good fat for weight loss

Working out, but not seeing the fat loss desired? A big deal according to many human performance researchers is, of course, diet: it doesn't matter how much time is spent on a treadmill, if we consume more calories than we spend. Unused calories get stored, mainly as fat.

Nutrition is critical in no small part because we're electro-chemical systems, and different nutrients, with their different chemical profiles cause different reactions. There are three supplements that are getting a lot of research attention (a) to help rev up metabolism and thus get fat burning boosted and (b) to help utilize fat stores more efficiently. In the month run up to the holidays, you might want to check these out.

In the metabolism revving category, it's green tea. Yes, that simple beverage has huge benefits. In the fat utilization category, it's (purified) fish oil, no. 1, with CLA, a type of naturally occurring fat, coming in a good second. You may be asking yourself "fat to help burn fat? Green tea to impact metabolism?" Yes and Yes.

Over the next four weeks, along with my regular diet and workouts, i'm going to be adding in the recommended doses that research has shown to have fat utilization effects, and see what happens. The following goes through some of the details on why i'm giving this a shot.

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November 18, 2007

Goals and Measures

If you say to yourself "I want to lose weight" or "i want to get strong arms" or "i want to bulk up" - that's great to have a desire. If that expression is not followed by a plan - a real, stick to it plan - that desire will not materialize. It's that simple.

Part of the process of getting fit/healthy is understanding clearly where we are now and where we want to go so we can build a path to get there. Two parts of this process are pretty simple: one is to have a clear goal, the other is to have clear ways to measure progress.

Sounds obvious, right? Well very few people i've spoken with about health/fitness actually have either a clear achievable health goal or a set of measures to know if they're making real progress. This post talks about a few ways to approach these basic parts of a health path.

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More Fat Burning More of the Time

Here's a quick idea for getting more fat burning:

if you usually spend an hour doing cardio, think about finding a way to split your workout in half so you do 30 mins at one time of day and 30 mins at the other.

Why? Double recovery!

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Breakfast: It really IS the most important meal of the day

Catching up: Eating in the AM

As promised in the last post, i said i'd fill in why eating before a workout first thing in the morning is so important.

THere are a number of reasons, but one of the biggies that gets little attention is the liver:

overnight, while you're body is effectively fasting, the liver is producing the sugar/energy your body needs to thrive. So by the morning, the liver stores of sugar are largely depleted.

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