9 Hard Truths About Weight Loss

Hard Truths about weight lossYou don’t need us to tell you that losing weight — and keeping it off — is hard. About 80 percent of people who lose weight gain it all back, and sometimes more, within a year, experts say. But understanding why weight loss is so difficult can help you stop beating yourself up over every little setback, and increase your chances of success. Forget the gimmicks, and come to terms with these difficult weight-loss lessons.

Hard Truth No. 1: Your Body Works Against You

It’s not your imagination. When you try to lose weight, you’re not only fighting your cravings, but also your own body. When you lose body fat, you decrease the hormone leptin, which signals your brain that you’re full, and you increase the hormone gherlin, which stimulates hunger, Australian researchers found. The bad news is that this hormone imbalance continues long after dieters succeed at weight loss, making it even harder for them to keep the pounds off. But if you try to cut too many calories for weight loss, your body will go into hibernation mode so that you don’t starve, and your metabolism will slow, Sarah Dolven, MD, an endocrinologist in Charleston, S.C. explains.

It’s also important to realize that once you reach your weight-loss goal and start eating a little more again, the pounds can come back pretty quickly, so it’s smart to increase your calories gradually.

Hard Truth No. 2: There Are No Quick Fixes

Wishing you were 30 pounds lighter in time for your high school reunion next month will not make it so, and there are no magic pills or miracle cures that can make it happen. “When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s hard to be patient,” says Mark Pettus, MD, chief of medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, N.Y., who also developed and teaches the Healthy Living program at the Western Massachusetts Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge. But you have to be patient because quick starvation diets can wreak havoc on your metabolism, damaging your weight-loss efforts for the long term. As you start your diet, remember that slow and steady weight loss is the easiest to maintain, Pettus says, and aim for one to two pounds of fat loss each week.

Hard Truth No. 3: Exercise Can’t Conquer All

Yes, exercise helps you lose weight and keep it off — the National Weight Control Registry reports that people who maintain their weight loss exercise for at least 60 minutes most days — but it’s nearly impossible to lose weight from exercise alone, Pettus says. Just do the math: A 135-pound person biking 60 minutes at 12 miles an hour will burn 369 calories. You can put all that back on with just a post-workout protein bar. To lose a pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories more than you consume, so you can see how hard it is to exercise your way through a poor diet. Instead, you have to watch what you eat and exercise, Pettus says. If there’s any “magic” to dieting, it’s in that combination.

Hard Truth No. 4: Diet Supplements Don’t Work

Those little pills that claim to supercharge your metabolism are tempting, but there’s little evidence that they work. After a review of thousands of dieters, researchers at Beth Israwl Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that liquid diets, fad diets, and over-the-counter supplement were not linked to weight loss. So what worked? Portion control, regular exercise, and group support. As Dolven says, “nothing replaces a low-calorie diet and exercise for weight loss.”

Hard Truth No. 5: Fad Diets Don’t Work

Grapefruit. Maple syrup. Cabbage. Apple-cider vinegar. Juice. All these “miracle” diets are supposed to help you melt pounds and trigger fat burning. The hard fact: Not only is it hard to lose weight on fad diets, but also they can be so restrictive that they’re almost impossible to follow, and they can damage your metabolism. When it comes to weight loss, Dolven warns that if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Not to belabor the point, she says, “but the key to weight loss is to be diligent about eating quality calories and staying physically active.”

Hard Truth No. 6: One Diet Doesn’t Fit All

Every body is unique, so the diet that works for your friend, your co-worker, your mother, or your sister might not work for you. When looking at how best to lose weight, consider your health and family history, your metabolism, your activity level, your age, your gender, and your likes and dislikes. When you’re dieting, it’s important to allow yourself some foods that you enjoy, Dolven says, or else you’ll feel deprived and be less likely to stick with an overall healthy eating plan. For weight-loss success, tailor your diet to your body and accept that one diet won’t work for everyone.

Hard Truth No. 7: Building Muscle Is Hard Work

Because a pound of muscle burns more calories at rest than a pound of fat, an increased muscle mass is the key to a revved metabolism — plus it helps you look more sleek and svelte. Unfortunately, many dieters skip strength training when in reality, it’s one of the most important components if your weight-loss plan. Schedule it into your routine two to three times a week, along with at least three 30-minute cardio sessions.

Hard Truth No. 8: He Can Eat More Than She Can

It doesn’t seem fair, but men can eat more than women and still lose weight. That’s because men tend to naturally burn more calories than woman, thanks to their larger size, muscle mass, and elevated levels of the hormone testosterone, which promotes muscle growth. Plus, the male body is genetically designed for more muscle and less fat than the female body because men do not have to store the energy required to bear children. Once you come to terms with this fact and start eating less than your male partner or friends, the scale will thank you.

Hard Truth No. 9: It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle Change

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to change your behavior not just until you reach your goal weight, but for the months and years to follow. That’s because as soon as you stop your “diet,” you’re likely to gain back the pounds you worked so hard to shed. To be successful at weight loss, you need to make lifestyle changes, healthy food choices at most every meal, and exercise almost every day for a minimum of 30 minutes a session (60 is even better). Getting to your healthy weight and staying there really has to be a way of life for the long haul, Dolven says.

Is Shakeology safe while pregnant or nursing?

Is Shakeology safe while pregnant or nursing?A lot of people ask if it’s safe to consume Shakeology while they are pregnant or nursing. While I appreciate when moms are careful about what they eat when they’re eating for two.  I can’t help but wonder if they asked the same question about processed foods with preservatives and dyes. Or meat that includes the infamous “pink slime.” Eeeeww! And although I’m not a nutritionist or medical professional, the short answer is: Yes! Shakeology is safe for pregnant and nursing moms and their babies–unless the mom has an allergy or sensitivity to an ingredient. So for those who just wanted the short answer, you don’t have to read any further, but you should.

It’s important to note that only 6% of all physicians in the US receive formal nutrition training (statistic quoted from the film “Food Matters”) and many do not learn about breastfeeding, either. Women have told me that their doctor told them Shakeology is not safe for pregnancy due to the amount of vitamin A in it. This tells me that the doctor is only partially educated on the matter. It is true that high amounts of vitamin A in the form of retinol–which is preformed vitamin A from animal sources–have been correlated to birth defects. However, the vitamin A in Shakeology is in the form of plant-based beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. No studies at all have suggested that beta carotene has any correlation to birth defects. The rate of conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A is drastically reduced when higher amounts are ingested, preventing toxicity and teratogenicity. The Teratology Society concluded that beta carotene is not a teratogen (substance that causes birth defects) according to an excellent article by the Illinois Teratogen Information Service.

Shakeology is made from all natural ingredients, none of which are contraindicated for pregnancy or breastfeeding. Check out this video about where the ingredients come from.

You should always seek advice from a medical care provider, however–based on the fact that most have not had formal nutrition training, it is important to do your own research as well. Ask lots of questions and find out the reasons for any medical advice you receive. It is important to remember that doctors do not always agree on what’s best, and they are advisors, not the ultimate decision maker. You are the only one in charge of your body, your baby and the health of both of you!

Fat, Not Glucose, is the Preferred Fuel for Your Body

Dietary FatWhile we may consider ourselves to be at the pinnacle of human development, our modern food manufacturing processes have utterly failed at improving health and increasing longevity.

During the Paleolithic period, many thousands of years ago, our ancestors ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots and meat—and a wide variety of it. This diet was high in fats and protein, and low in grain- and sugar-derived carbohydrates.

The average person’s diet today, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, and the average person’s health is a testament of what happens when you adhere to a faulty diet. Humans today suffer more chronic and debilitating diseases than ever before.

And there can be little doubt that our food choices play a major role in this development. Quite simply, you were not designed to eat large amounts of refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cereal, bread, potatoes and pasteurized milk products.

As Mark Sisson states in the featured article1:

“If you want to live a better life and eat the best foods nature provided for health and fitness, then it’s time to ditch the old paradigms and climb on to the primal approach to eating better.”

Is Glucose Really Your Body’s Preferred Fuel?

The notion that glucose is the preferred fuel for your body is a pervasive one. Everyone from diabetics to top athletes are advised to make sure they eat “enough” carbs to keep their systems from crashing. This is unfortunate, as this misguided advice is at the very heart of many of our current health failures.

As Mark so succinctly spells out in his article, FAT is actually the preferred fuel of human metabolism, and this can be traced back to our evolutionary roots.

Historically speaking, carbohydrate intake has always been quite low. Likewise, the diseases we now know are associated with insulin resistance—which is primarily caused by excess consumption of refined carbs—have been quite rare.

The evidence is both clear and overwhelming: Carbohydrate intake is the primary factor that determines your body’s fat ratio, and processed grains and sugars (particularly fructose) are the primary culprits behind our skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates.

“It follows logically that if you can limit carb intake to a range of which is absolutely necessary (and even up to 50 grams a day over) and make the difference up with tasty fats and protein, you can literally reprogram your genes back to the evolutionary-based factory setting you had at birth – the setting that offered you the opportunity to start life as a truly efficient fat-burning organism and to continue to do so for the rest of your life as long as you send the right signals to your genes,” Mark writes.

Why the Low-Carb/High-Fat Diet Works for Weight Loss

Switching from a carb-based diet to a fat- and protein-based diet will help rebalance your body’s chemistry, and a natural side effect of this is weight loss, and/or improved weight management once you’re at an ideal weight. One explanation for this is that you don’t really get fat from eating too much and exercising too little. Nor do you get fat from eating fat. One researcher that has clearly established this is Dr. Richard Johnson, whose latest book, The Fat Switch, dispels many of the most pervasive myths relating to diet and obesity.

Dr. Johnson discovered the method that animals use to gain fat prior to times of food scarcity, which turned out to be a powerful adaptive benefit. His research showed that fructose activates a key enzyme, fructokinase, which in turn activates another enzyme that causes cells to accumulate fat. When this enzyme is blocked, fat cannot be stored in the cell. Interestingly, this is the exact same “switch” animals use to fatten up in the fall and to burn fat during the winter. Fructose is the dietary ingredient that turns on this “switch,” causing cells to accumulate fat, both in animals and in humans.

In essence, overeating and excess weight could be viewed as a symptom of an improper diet. It’s not necessarily the result of eating too many calories, per se, but rather getting your calories from the wrong sources. In simple terms, when you consume too many sugars and carbs, you set off a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that makes you hungry and craving for sweets:

  1. First, fructose is metabolized differently from glucose, with the majority being turned directly into fat because fructose stimulates a powerful “fat switch.”
  2. This rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.
  3. Dietary carbohydrates, especially fructose, are also the primary source of a substance called glycerol-3-phosphate (g-3-p), which causes fat to become fixed in fat tissue.
  4. At the same time, high carb intake raises your insulin levels, which prevents fat from being released.
  5. Fructose further tricks your body into gaining weight by turning off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in feeling hungry all the time, even though you’ve eaten. As a result, you overeat and develop insulin resistance, which is not only an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a long list of other chronic diseases.

The resulting equation is simple: fructose and dietary carbohydrates (grains, which break down into sugar) lead to excess body fat, obesity and related health issues. Furthermore, no amount of exercise can compensate for this damage because if you eat excessive fructose and grains—the primary ingredients NOT found in our ancestral diet—it will activate programming to cause your body to become, and remain, fat.

How Much Glucose or Carbs Do You Really Need?

The debate about whether or not you really need glucose, and if so, how much, is by no means settled. Earlier this year, I ran a series of articles featuring the back-and-forth discussion between two well-researched experts on this topic, Dr. Jaminet and Dr. Rosedale.

Dr. Jaminet is a proponent of so-called “safe starches,” and is of the conviction that depleting your glycogen store can stress other systems to provide the glucose your body requires to perform. Dr. Rosedale, on the other hand, points out that because glucose consumption will undoubtedly spike blood glucose levels and increase insulin and leptin, promoting resistance, glucose consumption is always associated with some incremental degree of damage and/or increased risk of mortality. His diet is subsequently extremely carb-restrictive.

Yet another diet similar to Drs. Jaminet and Rosedale’s is the GAPS diet, created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, which is specifically designed to help “heal and seal” your gut. As such, it primarily consists of easily digestible, lightly cooked foods that are high in protein, fats, and fermented foods, and low in fiber and carbs.

Mark Sisson also adds valuable insight to this discussion2:

“At any one time, the total amount of glucose dissolved in the bloodstream of a healthy non-diabetic is equivalent to only a teaspoon (maybe 5 grams). Much more than that is toxic; much less than that and you pass out. That’s not much range for a so-called “preferred” fuel, is it?

Several studies have shown that under normal low MET conditions (at rest or low-to mid- levels of activity such as walking and easy work) the body only needs about 5 grams of glucose an hour. And that’s for people who aren’t yet fat-adapted or keto-adapted. The brain is the major consumer of glucose, needing maybe 120 grams a day in people who aren’t yet on a low carb eating program.

Low carb eating reduces the brain’s glucose requirements considerably, and those who are very low carb (VLC) and keto-adapted may only require about 30 grams of glucose per day to fuel the brain… Twenty of those grams can come from glycerol (a byproduct of fat metabolism) and the balance from gluconeogenesis in the liver (which can actually make up to a whopping 150 grams a day if you haven’t metabolically damaged it with NAFLD through fructose overdosing).

Bottom line, unless you are a physical laborer or are training (exercising) hard on a daily basis, once you become fat-adapted, you probably don’t ever need to consume more than 150 grams of dietary carbs – and you can probably thrive on far less. Many Pbers [Mark’s diet, Primal Blueprint] do very well (including working out) on 30-70 grams a day.” [Emphasis mine]

Key Point: Replace Carbs with Healthful Fats

As I see it, this is really a non-issue for most people as few people anywhere near Dr. Jaminet’s recommendation of cutting carbs from the standard 50 percent down to 20-30 percent of total calories. However, if you’ve already begun to seriously address your carb intake then you may want to experiment with various amounts of “safe carbs” like rice and potatoes. As Mark describes, the actual amount of carbs could vary anywhere from 30 to 150 grams a day, depending on whether your body has adapted to burning ketones and your level of exercise.

Keep in mind that when we’re talking about harmful carbs, we’re only referring to grains and sugars, NOT vegetable carbs.

When you cut grain/sugar carbs you actually need to radically increase the amount of vegetables you eat since, by volume, the grains you need to trade out are denser than vegetables. You also need to dramatically increase healthful fats such as avocados, coconut oil, egg yolks, raw grass fed organic butter, olives and nuts.

You would not want to use highly processed and genetically engineered omega-6 oils like corn, canola and soy as they will upset your omega 6/3 ratio. Of course you want to avoid all trans fats, but contrary to popular advice, saturated fats are a key component of a healthy diet that will promote weight loss.

A reasonable goal will be to have as much as 50-70 percent of your diet as healthy fat, which will radically reduce your carbohydrate intake. It can be helpful to remember that fat is far more satiating than carbs, so if you have cut down on carbs and feel ravenous, this is a sign that you have not replaced them with sufficient amounts of healthy fat. Sources of healthy fats that you’ll want to add to your diet include:

  • Olives and Olive oil (for cold dishes)
  • Coconuts, and coconut oil (for all types of cooking and baking)
  • Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
  • Raw Nuts, such as, almonds or pecans
  • Organic pastured egg yolks
  • Avocados
  • Pasture finished meats
  • Palm oil
  • Unheated organic nut oils

Most people will likely notice massive improvement in their health by following this approach as they are presently consuming FAR more grain and bean carbohydrates in their diet, and any reduction will be a step in the right direction. To help you get started on the right track, review my Nutritional Plan, which guides you through these dietary changes one step at a time.

Recent Research Confirms Benefits of Low-Carb/High-Fat Diet

Conventional advice has focused on low-fat diets for weight loss and heart disease prevention, but again and again, studies demonstrate that this advice is diametrically opposed to reality… In one such study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Heart and Vascular Institute compared the effects of two diets on vascular health; one low in fat, the other low in carbs. The study in question was presented at this year’s meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver, on June 33.

The study included a total of 46 men and women weighing on average 218 pounds. The six-month long weight loss program consisted of moderate aerobic exercise and strength training, and one of two diets, either:

 

  • Low-carb, high-fat: Less than 30 percent of calories from carbs (pastas, breads and sugary fruits), and up to 40 percent from fats (meat, dairy products, and nuts)
  • Low-fat, high-carb diet: Less than 30 percent of calories from fat, and 55 percent from carbs

The low-carb group on average shed 10 pounds in 45 days, while the low-fat group took 70 days to lose the same amount of weight. In terms of vascular health, the low-carb, high-fat dieters showed no harmful vascular changes, which is the primary reason for why so many are afraid of high-fat diets.

According to the lead investigator, professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology, Kerry Stewart, Ed.D:

“Our study should help allay the concerns that many people who need to lose weight have about choosing a low-carb diet instead of a low-fat one, and provide re-assurance that both types of diet are effective at weight loss and that a low-carb approach does not seem to pose any immediate risk to vascular health. More people should be considering a low-carb diet as a good option.”

Stewart also believes that the emphasis on low-fat diets has likely contributed to the obesity epidemic in the US by promoting overconsumption of sugars and grains. I couldn’t agree more. The simple reason for this is that grains and sugars raise your insulin levels, which causes insulin resistance and, ultimately, weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.

Listen to Your Body

The evidence is quite clear that chronically raising your blood glucose through consumption of grains and sugars will increase your insulin resistance, which in turn will increase insulin and leptin resistance. And avoiding insulin and leptin resistance is perhaps the single most important factors if you seek optimal health and longevity.

That said, the degree to which you choose to reduce carbs however is, ultimately, up to you. And certain individual biochemical differences can make one diet more beneficial for you than others. The key point is to be aware that consuming sugar, grains and starches will promote insulin resistance to some degree or other, depending on the amount you consume.

As always, remember to listen to your body as it will give you feedback if what you are doing is right for your unique biochemistry and genetics. So listen to that feedback and adjust your program accordingly.

6 Sleep Tips For Weightlifters

6 Sleep Tips For WeightliftersSleep is essential for muscle repair and mass gain. Try these 6 sleep tips for bodybuilders to get a better night’s rest.

Nearly half of the adults polled in a 2011 National Sleep Foundation survey admitted to rarely, if ever, getting a good night’s rest. That could explain why handfuls of people you run into at the gym are so cranky, as well as why those sleep-deprived zombies might have trouble powering through and recovering from hellish training sessions.

“You give your body the chance to repair, recharge, and regrow during sleep,” says wellness expert Dr. Felecia Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, RACSM. “It’s the ideal time to replenish nutrients, and, since your body isn’t moving, it allows the muscles to repair themselves.”

Along with inhibiting the production of growth hormone (GH), which increases during deep stages of sleep, sleep deficiency can curb energy levels, diminish alertness, weaken the immune system, and cause you to be more … uh … forgetful.

So how much sack time should you be getting? There’s no hard-and-fast rule; aim for seven to eight hours per night. And despite certain sleep issues like sleep apnea requiring a polysomnogram to detect—polysomnogram is the fancy word for sleep study—others can be corrected with simple tweaks like these

1. Don’t Exercise Too Close to Bedtime
Yes, exercise can help you fall asleep and achieve better sleep quality. But hitting the weights too close to bedtime can elevate your body temperature and leave your mind too wired to drift off. We know you’re busy and have to squeeze in workouts whenever you have time, but look to end your exercise sessions about three to four hours before you turn in for the night if insomnia has become a problem. That should give your body temperature adequate time to cool down.

2. Cut Out the PM Booze
Your overall beer and booze intake is (hopefully) already limited because you know alcohol hinders muscle growth and lowers testosterone. Thing is, a nightcap can also disrupt sleep cycles. “Alcohol can mess with your circadian rhythm [our preprogrammed sleep/wake cycle] and dehydrate you,” Stoler says. And as your body metabolizes the alcohol, it might wake you more during the night and cause you to feel less rested in the morning.

3. Turn Electronic Devices Off
An Ohio State University study using hamsters found that four weeks of exposure to artificial light—the kind that stems from smartphones, laptops, tablets, and television screens—left the furballs more lethargic and depressed than hamsters* that slept in total darkness. One reason could be that the light exposure suppresses the natural release of melatonin, a hormone that helps the body maintain its circadian rhythm. Shut down light-emitting devices about 30 minutes before bed. Our recommendation: Read. We know an excellent fitness magazine you can sift through.

(*No need to worry about the depressed hamsters; they went back to their giddy selves shortly after the artificial lights were removed.)

4. Regulate Caffeine Intake
Caffeine does numerous beneficial things for you, including giving your metabolic rate a boost and improving alertness and energy. But if you’re consuming it too late in evening and you feel jittery when it’s time for bed, cut out the caffeine about mid-afternoon.

5. Choose The Right Sleep Meds
Ambien, Lunesta, and other doctor-prescribed remedies are highly effective sleep inducers, but they can also be habit-forming. Unisom and other OTC meds containing the sedating antihistamine doxylamine can help in the short-term, but can also cause you to feel groggy when you wake up. Taking 0.3-1 mg of melatonin 60 to 90 minutes before bed can help induce sleep if the conditions are optimal — meaning, the room is dark and quiet; don’t expect to take it and have it knock you like something that’s prescription strength. Another option: Suntheanine. “[Suntheanine] is an amino acid that’ll help you sleep but won’t cause you to feel drowsy,” Stoler advises. “You’ll feel alert, but relaxed.”

6. Get Out of Bed
If you’re tossing and turning, get out of bed for a bit. It sounds counterintuitive, but all the pressure and concentration you’re exerting trying to drift off may actually be keeping you awake.