Animal Protein Better for Grip Strength and Functional Status

We just got back from a few days camping at the lake. And it was great to not set an alarm, to go boating, kayaking, swimming with the kids and to end each day around the campfire.

And when we’re camping we relax our nutritional choices a little bit to include a cold beer, a smore around the camp fire and other snacks during the day. When you’re camping with a group you tend to do things by committee. One group will look after making the meals. Another may handle cleaning up and doing the dishes.

When it was my turn in the kitchen I prepared meals with a definite omnivore influence. We made sure to include lots of fruits, vegetables and salads at each meal. But this was to accompany bacon and eggs, steaks, chicken tacos and turkey sandwiches.

For a while there the was a real push back against including meat in the diet. We saw a number of people wanting to become ‘game changers’ and drop meat from their diets. Restaurants were dropping meat or at least adding meatless alternatives to their menus. And overall it seemed as though you had to whisper when you talked about having a steak for dinner on the weekend.

Well, with everything in life it seems like when we learn something new we go overboard and over-react in the short term, and maybe under react in the long term.

Eating more fruits and vegetables would be an appropriate reaction. Eliminating all meat in favour of processed meatless alternatives would be an over-reaction.

A new study helps bring the pendulum back into balance.

In this one researchers looked at the difference plant versus animal protein had on grip strength and functional status. Almost 1900 subjects were involved in this study which ran for over 14 years. This was part of the Framingham Offspring Study and included male and female subjects over 50 years of age. This is important as it is at this point in life when we will experience noticeable strength deficits, unless we do something about it. And as we lose strength we will realize a decline in our functional status making it more difficult to complete, or maybe even failing, at certain tasks.

What they noticed is that subjects that ate more protein, whether animal or plant, had higher functional scores. However only those that included animal protein in the diet had a lower risk for functional impairment. As mentioned, maintaining strength allows for higher functional status.

The take home message is to keep your protein intake up as you age. And make sure that you include some animal protein in the diet. An expression we are fond of is ‘the less legs the better’. This means fish and seafood might be a better choice than beef, pork or poultry.

Lastly, while increased protein intake helps us protect against muscle loss and the loss of function as we age, this must be paired with a resistance training program. Eating protein alone won’t do the job. Although this study doesn’t didn’t look at resistance training, we could infer that resistance training and eating animal protein would be superior for strength gains and minimizing the loss of functional status.

Reference

Yuan, M., Pickering, R. T., Bradlee, M. L., Mustafa, J., Singer, M. R., & Moore, L. L. (2020). Animal protein intake reduces risk of functional impairment and strength loss in older adults. Clinical Nutrition.

Good Mood Foods

A few years ago a friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Kleiner, gave me a copy of her book, The Good Mood Diet. Dr. Kleiner is one of the top performance dietitians and wrote this book to explain how we can use food to effect our mood.

Last week a study from the University of Toronto was published showing how the foods we eat is related to our moods. Dr. Kleiner’s book was published in 2007 which means she was talking about this at least 13 years ago. And the now the research is coming out to support what she’s been saying all along.

This study is a part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. CLSA is a long term study of 50,000 Canadian adults and follows them for at least 20 years. A variety of factors are examined with respect to the impact they have on disease and disability as we age.

The U of T study found that individuals who ate fewer than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables daily were 24% more likely to suffer from anxiety. And when the level of obesity increased so did the likelihood of having anxiety. For example, when obesity was over 36% the chance of anxiety increased by over 70%.

The authors speculated that with higher levels of obesity there would be increased levels of inflammation. And other research is indicating there may be a connection to inflammation and anxiety.

Besides how many fruits and vegetables we eat and our level of obesity there are other factors related to anxiety. These factors include the sex of the individual, their income, their immigration status, marital status and other health factors.

About 11%, or 1 in 9, women will suffer from anxiety compared to 7%, or 1 in 15, men. The authors do admit to the limitation of their findings as anxiety was self reported rather than by a physician. If someone hasn’t had a medical professional give them a diagnosis how likely are they to assess themselves as suffering from a condition?

In terms of marital status, single people suffer from anxiety at a rate of 13.9% compared to 7.8% for those with partners. The study didn’t specify if a partner meant a married spouse or something else.

Income has a strong effect on anxiety. 1 in 5, or 20%, of those making less than $20,000 per year have anxiety. This rate is double that of those higher incomes. I remember Seinfeld saying the number one fear for a lot people was public speaking and number two was death. But as it relates to anxiety finances plays a big role as we can be concerned about bills, interest payments and taxes.

According to the study, income matters when it comes to anxiety. According to Seinfeld so does public speaking. This comedian has nothing to worry about in that case.

The number of health conditions a person lives with has an impact on their level of anxiety. Specifically when individuals have 3 or more health conditions they are 5x more likely to have anxiety. Put another way if someone has low back pain, hypertension and diabetes, or any 3 health conditions, they would have a 16.4% chance of anxiety versus a 3% chance for those with less than 2 health conditions.

As for where you were born, immigrants have a lower chance of suffering from anxiety. To me this makes sense. Canada repeatedly makes lists for being one of the best countries in the world to live in. When immigrants move to Canada they must truly believe they have won the lottery. Although immigrants have to overcome learning a new language, culture and customs there is also the added stress of leaving family behind when starting out in Canada. I guess we should take this as a sign of how good we’ve got it here in the west.

So to minimize your chances of suffering from anxiety make sure to:

  • Eat at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And don’t just state the goal in this way. Instead think of what you need to do in order to eat 3 servings per day. This might mean including the foods in your shopping list. Or looking at a menu before going out to know what options you have. It might mean packing a lunch with either a fruit or vegetable or both. Think of all the steps that would go into allowing you to eat 3 servings per day rather than simply wishing for it to happen.
  • Live as lean as possible. As increasing obesity relates to anxiety look to decrease bodyfat. First set up the right mindset for success. Next, get your sleep in order. Eat a low-sugar diet and drink water. Journal your nutrition. And pick exercise that you enjoy and can do consistently.
  • Find a partner. I’m not much of a match maker so I can’t really provide much value for the bachelors/bachelorettes out there. The only advice I can give is to be the best version of yourself and you’ll most likely be happier and more attractive to another.
  • Produce something of value. Producers get paid and there is always a market for those that deliver a solution to those in need. Higher levels of education help. But to really get ahead focus more on saving than on earning.
  • Stay healthy. The more health conditions someone faces the greater their chances of suffering from anxiety. We know previous injury is a top predictor of subsequent injury. And once someone is compromised in one area of their they are more susceptible to more health problems.

Reference

Davison, K.M.; Lin, S.L.; Tong, H.; Kobayashi, K.M.; Mora-Almanza, J.G.; Fuller-Thomson, E. 2020. Nutritional Factors, Physical Health and Immigrant Status Are Associated with Anxiety Disorders among Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Findings from Baseline Data of The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 17(5): 1493.

Eat a Big Breakfast for Greater Diet-Induced Thermogenesis

Weight loss is an interesting topic these days. For some, bringing up the topics of keto, intermittent fasting, plant-based or some other popular nutritional topic of the day leads to heated discussions.

Unfortunately, some conversations are prefaced with ‘I believe…’ and then whatever nutritional opinion follows. Emotions can become so strong with nutrition that facts and evidence get thrown out the window. And positions can be maintained as though defending a religious perspective.

When discussing weight loss there are two predominant positions popping up on social media. One supposes that creating a caloric deficit is all that matters. You can eat fast food every day as long as you are eating fewer calories than you burn in a day. This ignores what the other position claims is vital, which is the quality of the nutrition.

Maybe you’ve heard the expression ‘as long as it fits your macros’ to justify eating certain foods. By macros we’re referring to the macronutrients i.e. proteins, carbs and fats.

The truth is that both sides are correct. It matters how much you eat. A caloric deficit is needed to achieve weight loss. And the quality of the matters as well. You cannot achieve healthy weight loss with low quality nutrition..

But there’s one more piece to the puzzle that typically tends to get ignored. And that’s the timing of our nutrition.

In other words, would you expect eating the same foods in the same amounts at different times to have an impact on our weight loss efforts?

For example, if you ate a 2070 calorie breakfast, a 600 calorie lunch and a 330 calorie dinner…

Would this have any difference on our fat loss efforts than if we ate the following:

330 calorie breakfast, 600 calorie lunch, 2070 calorie dinner.

The answer is that it does make a difference.

A recent study looked at whether there was a difference in thermogenesis based on whether a larger breakfast or large dinner was eaten.

16 normal weight men ate either a large breakfast equivalent to 69% of daily calories or a small dinner of 11% of daily calories. In the example above I used 3000 calories to represent total daily intake, 11% equaled 330 calories and 69% equaled 2070 calories. The participants of the study ate the big breakfast or big dinner for three days. They then followed the opposite protocol of what they did for the first three days i.e. if they ate a big breakfast in the first part they ate a big dinner in the second part.

So what did they find?

Diet-induced thermogenesis was 2.5 higher following the big breakfast compared to the big dinner.

Does this really matter?

It can definitely make a difference. When we are seeking a weight loss goal we want to know how many calories we expend in a day. The total is a combination of our basal metabolic rate (70%), our non-exercise activity thermogenesis (15%), our exercise (5%) and the foods we eat (10%). The percentages listed are averages and will vary based on age, sex, level of obesity, which foods we eat and more.

Total daily energy expenditure – Basal metabolic rate (BMR), thermic effect of feeding (TEF), non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and exercise.

The foods we eat can be responsible for 10% of the total energy we burn in a day. If someone is burning 2500 calories per day than the food we eat, digest and metabolize could be responsible for 250 of these calories. This study found that those that ate a bigger breakfast had 2.5 times the diet-induced thermogenesis. In other words, if breakfast normally accounted for 100 calorie burned this could be pushed up to 250 calories. For someone looking to create a 300-400 calorie deficit per day this is huge.

It get better.

When subjects ate a bigger breakfast compared to a small, hypo-caloric meal they were less hungry during the day and had less cravings for sweets. This is very important when seeking a weight loss goal as there will be less temptation to grab a treat or eat more than is needed for health.

One way we’ve thought about this in the past was to eat like a king, then a prince then a pauper in terms of calories. So early in the day eat the bulk of your calories and gradually reduce these as the day progresses. And for the best results make sure to eat the best quality foods you can at each meal.

Reference

Richter J. et al. 2020. Twice as High Diet-Induced Thermogenesis After Breakfast vs Dinner on High-Calorie as Well as Low-Calories Meals. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 105(3).

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Vitamin D supplementation – Is it worth it?

Do you take supplements? If so, which ones do you take? And why?

A popular one these days is vitamin D. We’ve seen a rise in the number of people taking vitamin D during the winter months when there is either less sunshine or it’s too cold to get out there and get some rays.

So why the need to supplement with vitamin D?

Well this vitamin is required for calcium absorption which plays a role in our bone health. This relationship is seen whenever you drink milk.


On almost every milk container you’ll see a mention of vitamin D.

According to the Institute of Medicine we should get 600-800 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day. Higher levels of 1-2000 IU per day are still deemed safe. As our bodies cannot produced this vitamin it is important that we supplement.

Compounding the challenge of our bodies not being able to make it is the fact that we spend more of our days indoor. And with technology and global markets we don’t operate precisely on a circadian rhythm. Graveyard workers might be asleep during the part of the day when there is an option to get sun.

Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher levels of a number of diseases and health concerns including cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, decline in cognitive function and auto-immune disorders. Naturally we have seen an increase in the number of people being prescribed and taking supplemental vitamin D.

So how is this working?

Unfortunately supplemental vitamin D is showing to not be effective. A recent study with over 25,000 subjects lasting 5 years showed no impact on cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Unfortunately it gets worse.

There seems to have been an over-correction with our concern for exposure to the sun. We have known that being further from the sun is associated with higher levels of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and mortality. And this is worse during the darker months of winter. This is then made worse as we’ve scared everyone into never getting any exposure to the sun.

What this has resulted in is an increased risk of mortality for sun avoiders compared to sun worshipers. And by increase I’m talking about twice the rate of mortality of the diseases mentioned above.

Should we concerned about skin cancer?

We don’t want to disregard the potential harm that can come from too much sun exposure. And we can be a little smarter about how we think about being in the sun. Be more cautious with younger children especially when it comes to burns at a young age. Pay attention to the UV Index and plan your time in the sun when levels are 3 or lower. And if you’re in the habit of taking vitamin D you don’t need to stop. It will still offer health benefits, it still helps with bone health and most of us are deficient. It’s just that it may not confer the all the additional health benefits we were hoping for.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/26992108/?fbclid=IwAR2CgQWHMoSqgUE_DVa2xZcT83S5QOGSlj5DYHiTcZznvcxD9ABxND09Rj4

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31959477-vitamin-d-a-magic-bullet-or-a-myth/?from_single_result=vitamin+d+review+myth

https://www.outsideonline.com/2380751/sunscreen-sun-exposure-skin-cancer-science?fbclid=IwAR3Yv2zPD59_jNLDhadrMlY2JAPmxAhH49NMdHYrlwHVc78mBLelujYAxFw#close

Use Portion Control to Get Leaner

It’s no surprise North Americans are getting more overweight and obese. Some will point to sugar as the culprit. Others cite inactivity as the problem. While both of these could play roles in our expanding waist lines there’s no denying we’re eating larger portions than in previous years.

So why does this happen? Why are we eating larger portions? A review of the research identifies two reasons (1).

The first is that we seek value for food. We look get more in return for our financial investment. Think of many times people opt to super-size a combo meal at a fast food restaurant. It’s not that the portion of fries and drink that normally accompanies a meal is insufficient. It’s more of a case that for a nominal increase in price you get substantially more food. You’d be stupid not to, right?

There’s no denying portion sizes have increased over the years.

The other reason that we are eating larger portions is due to portion distortion. We have been exposed to such large portions of food that we have been conditioned to recognize these as normal. In the marketplace we are offered portions that are 3-4 times what a standard portion should be. But the public perception is that is these amplified portions are the standard. No one bats an eye when we are over served. If we were to go the other way and were served a standard portion, one at 1/3 to 1/4 normal market offerings, we’d cry foul and the restaurateur would hear about it.

Another study looked at how the size and freshness affected how much popcorn we eat (2).

What they found when given a small versus a large tub of stale popcorn, subjects ate 34% more when they had a large tub. Even though the popcorn was stale at 14 weeks old, people ate about a third more just because they were given a larger bucket.

I find this interesting and disappointing at the same time. If you asked most people I believe they’d say they are able to resist treats that don’t taste good. I mean 14 day old popcorn has to taste pretty awful. But when subjects are given bigger tubs of stale popcorn their discerning palates go out the window and they eat 34% more.

Given enough of it we’ll eat 34% more food whether it be stale popcorn or gross candy.

So you might be thinking, that’s fine, I never ear stale popcorn anyways. Well guess what wiseguy? When offered fresh popcorn in small or large buckets subjects at 45% more when more was available.

The take home message is that no one counts calories. And we are over-served when we eat out. ‘Normal’ portions can 3-4 times what a standard portion should be. And even if a treat isn’t tasty be careful as we still overeat when more of it is served.

Going forward use smaller plates when eating meals. Limit treats to special occasions. And use bigger plates to encourage eating more of the foods we may not get enough of i.e. fruits and vegetables. When you head out to eat consider ordering an appetizer with a salad or maybe an entree to share.

References

  1. Steenhuis, I.H., Vermeer, W.M. Portion size: review and framework for interventions. 2009. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 6( 58) https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-6-58.
  2. Wansink B and Kim J. Bad popcorn in big buckets: portion size can influence intake as much as taste. 2005. J Nutr Educ Behav, 37(5) 242-5.

Exercising But No Weight Loss

A common goal of everyone that trains is to be lean. And I don’t mean to be skinny. By lean I mean to carry the most amount of muscle mass and the least amount of body fat possible. And this should still allow us to do our regular tasks and activities without lacking fitness or mobility.

Sometimes when someone initiates a fitness program the results can be slow in coming. We know we feel better. We have fewer aches and pains. We sleep better at night. And our performance in sports is trending up as well. Yet the scale doesn’t budge. If this happens to you we recommend you to buy CBD oil for its many benefits in weight loss and pain reduction.

Below are a number of nutritional reasons this may be the case.

Meals Eaten Alone

When we eat with others there are natural pauses for conversation. We want to hear how the other person’s day went. We comment on the flavour and textures of the prepared meal. We put the fork down every now and again to listen and answer.

Eating alone leads to eating more quickly. Nutritional quality tends to be lower. Maybe this is because we like to have a treat when no one is watching and won’t be judged. Or it could be that when we cook for others, i.e. for children, we feel a responsibility to provide the best nutrition possible.

Eating alone also means we could be doing something else while we’re eating. Maybe we watch a TV show. Sadly, we used to do this. Maybe we’re on our phones. Maybe we read a book. Maybe we try to get some work done at the computer. Regardless of what we do while we’re eating it serves as a distraction and leads to mindless rather than mindful eating.

Simply by eating in the company others we will eat more slowly, eat less and eat better quality foods. And if you do eat alone make sure that’s all you’re doing.

Sleep Plays a Role

When we are sleep deprived the hormone leptin is suppressed. Leptin’s job is to tell us we’re full. Compound being a little tired with eating alone and the potential for overeating becomes a real problem.

I remember one of my sisters sharing a story when she was studying while in university. I don’t want to dox her here but let’s just say she was studying for medical school and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter while studying. At one point she rotated the container of PB and saw she was getting 200 calories for every 2 tablespoons. When she saw a near empty container she realized how easily it can be to mindlessly add extra calories to the day. Pulling all-nighters for all her exams probably didn’t help.

Planning & Consistency

Nutrition is one of those things that needs to be planned ahead of time. You don’t need to go to the extreme of having a dozen Tupperware containers loaded every Sunday for the week to come. If you’re already in the habit of doing that’s great. Keep it up.

What you should do is have foods on hand for all your meals. Know what you’re going to have for breakfast before you go to bed. Make an extra serving at dinner so you can bring leftovers for lunch. Carry a water bottle so you don’t become dehydrated. And throw some fruit, nuts or bars in your car for times when you’re on the go and won’t have time to stop and eat.

What derails most is not having a plan. And not applying the plan consistently. If I skip breakfast some days what are the chances I drink more coffee to get going? Will I eat a bigger lunch? Do I wait until the end of the day and then overeat at dinner?

When you see the fuel light come on in your vehicle you plan to fuel up. You don’t ignore this signal and think it doesn’t matter. We’re similar in that we’ll get a signal of when to fuel up. We can ignore this signal and then body will then compensate accordingly.

Not One Factor

Getting lean isn’t just about a change on the scale. And it’s even possible to see no change on the scale. What we are seeking is a change in body composition. We want to add lean mass and decrease body fat.

Just as health can’t be summarized by one factor we can’t simplify our results based on the scale. We should also be measuring our strength and fitness. We should track our waist circumference and our overall health status. When most factors are moving in the right direction it’s likely a positive body composition is taking place as well.

It’s All About the Habits

I will always be lean. I don’t mean to be boastful. And sure some of the credit is due to picking the right parents. But most important are the habits I live day in and day out.

Some of my habits that I live daily to stay lean include:

  • Getting 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Moving every day
  • Eating the right amounts of healthy foods at the right times
  • Having practices to reduce stress
  • Drinking enough water
  • Minimizing low nutrition calories and alcohol

There are more healthy habits someone could use to get lean but those are mine.

We have compiled a list of the best evidenced-based habits that lead to weight loss as per the trips from Healthcare Business Today. And we’ve developed a system to help our clients lose and keep the weight off.

If you would like to know more about these habits send an email to athletetraining@shaw.ca with ‘Healthy Habits’ in the subject line. We’ll be in touch to help get you set up with some better habits and a leaner you in the future.

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