Comprehensive Discussion About Protein in Relation to Health & Fitness

Comprehensive Discussion About Protein in Relation to Health & Fitness

The human body can be described an a living, organic machine with numerous processes operating all at the same time to maintain functionality.  But without two elements our bodies would crumble to nothing: over 60 percent of the human body is comprised of water and over 20 percent is protein.  Without having to read numerous studies, the “average Joe” can assume that humans need to consume water and protein daily to maintain normal body functionality.  Similar to water, protein can be consumed from nutritional sources but there are specific sources that are considered “optimal” for protein absorption.  The higher quality the protein is, the better the body can use to for function.  A list of optimal sources include:


Primary
-Chicken (Breast, Cutlet, Thigh)
-Beef (Lean Cuts of Sirloin, Rump)
-Eggs (One egg equals 6-8 grams of protein, this protein is typically more quickly absorbed than Beef & Chicken)
-Turkey (Breast, Thigh and lean ground)
-Dairy sourced protein (Milk, Whey Protein is a fast absorbed protein; Casein Powder is slower absorbed protein; Yogurt and Cheese are not always great sources of protein due to how they are processed in factories or the ingredient source is “synthetic milk product”)

Secondary
-Pork (Pork Chop is considered a good protein source while most pork products are high in fat content)
-Beans (Kidney Beans and Black Beans are high in quality protein)
-Rice (Rice is a low source of protein and high source of easy to digest carbohydrates; Brown Rice is seen as the best rice option by many nutritionists)
-Fish (Salmon, Flounder, Tuna, for example, are solid protein sources but not very high in number of grams per serving)

The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) by U.S. Food and Nutrition Board is 0.8 grams per pound of body weight for sedentary adults; that number doubles or triples for young children and teenagers because the body is in a growing/development phase.  The “downside” of these RDA numbers is that the body loses some lean muscle mass daily and some protein does not get absorbed by the body depended on the quality of the protein and how backed up the GI Track is.  Note the phrase above: “sedentary adults”.  Being sedentary is not recommended by any health and fitness professional so these estimates are subjective.

The Recommended Amount of Physical Activity (RAA) per day is 60 minutes.  When we estimate the average person gets 7 hours of sleep, then you have 1 hour of activity, allowing for 16 hours in the rest of your day.  But how you eat during the rest of your day makes the biggest difference in your daily life: how well your brain functions, your mood, emotional and hormonal balance, etc.  Also, getting in physical activity every day taxes the body, accelerating the need for Macro-nutrients (Protein along with Good Carbohydrates and healthy Fat) and Micro-nutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber).  Since the food we eat is the fuel for the living machine that is our body, how do we get what we need each day if the amount of protein that is recommended to us is based on a sedentary lifestyle?

What Does Science Tell Us
Well let’s look at the science, starting with the study done at Kent University, where their researchers did a study with six test groups, divided into 3 sets of two categories: sedentary adults and weightlifting adults.  Each set of adults were given different amounts of protein:

1. One was given a low protein diet which was 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
2. Another group was given 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
3. The third ate 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
Groups 2 and 3 showed higher levels of protein synthesis in the body, less protein “wasted” during digestion, and groups that had regular exercise combined with the higher protein diets were healthier at the end of the study compared to the beginning of the study.

Furthermore, numerous research scientists in the field of science physiology and other related fields such as Dr. Peter Lemon, Dr. Susan Kleiner, Dr. Jacob Wilson, and Dr. Jim Stoppani all recommend that no matter what your activity level is, the RDA of 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight is far below what the human body really needs.  Depending on who you ask, the latest science shows us that we need between 1-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight for optimal health results.
Studies by University of Tampa and University of Oklahoma have shown that the quality of protein and eating of protein throughout the day has shown to result in optimal health benefits in numerous test subjects.  The results show that when you have protein with every meal throughout the day your body will absorb and utilize it better.

Finally, a study from University of Texas Medical Branch show that post-exercise the body needs three types of protein: Fast absorbing, Medium Absorbing, and Slow Absorbing.  They found this was the case because when the body has multiple types of protein post-exercise optimal protein synthesis and recovery continues throughout the day.  This leads to less muscle fatigue later in the day and the body will not Catabolize muscle (Catabolism is when your metabolism  breaks down muscle tissue to release energy.  Breaking down muscle is counterproductive to maintaining low levels of body fat and results in less skeletal muscle functionality and stability).

The value of Protein Powders

In the daily diet, packing enough protein in our meals is difficult because unless you are eating 8 meals per day like a bodybuilder or professional athlete who trains twice a day, getting enough protein into your day is difficult.  This is where protein powders come into play.  A good protein powder can inject 24-30 grams of protein into a meal without having to cook anything.  Protein powders can be consumed by mixing with water or blending into a smoothie.  Depending on your flavor of choice, you can get very creative with utilizing protein powder.  I know some people who put protein into pancakes, cookies, or other baked items as a way of getting more protein in their diet while also not consuming empty calories like white sugar or box batter mixes. 

Protein Spiking and allergen concerns

The concern with protein powders is the issue of protein spiking.  Protein Spiking is when a supplement company puts into its protein blend incomplete proteins then claim a product has a certain number of grams of protein.  An example of this is if a company claims one serving of their product has 30 grams of protein, but when you read the ingredients you find part of the protein blend is an Amino Acid like Leucine.  Leucine is important for enhanced protein synthesis and absorption in the body, but it is not a complete protein like Whey, Casein, Soy, or Egg Albumin.  The danger of taking a product that has incomplete proteins in their blend is metabolic imbalance, which can lead to less protein synthesis and more fat storage.  One of the reasons these companies get away with this deceptive labeling is by using testing that measures the level of nitrates in the powder instead of measuring of actual grams of complete proteins.  Also, any company that claims that their protein blend or Whey/Casein is a proprietary blend or special formula, not telling the consumer how much is actually in the ingredients, instead giving percentages.  These companies will not tell you what the percentages are based on within the ingredients, another way of getting away with not putting quality ingredients in their products.

Lets not forget about people with Gluten or Lactose allergies.  These individuals will have allergic reactions or Gastro Intestinal Track issues if they use some of these products.  Some companies are not transparent about how their protein is manufactured or the sources used for the protein powders.  This lack of honesty with the consumer is indicated by the basic warnings on the back of containers that state how the product was made is a factory that also manufactures products that contain nuts, dairy, etc.  This is their fall back to avoid legal issues and to tell the consumer “Hey, we warned you on the label!”.  The solution to dealing with potential protein spiking is to do your homework on a product before ingesting; anyone with food allergens should also never ingest anything without doing some investigating of the product and company first.

So How Does a Certified Nutritionist Get In a High Amount of Protein Each Day?

An example of a day of eating that I have done to ingest a high amount of protein is as follows:

-Breakfast – 1.5 Scoops of MTS Whey Peanut Butter Fluff Protein mixed in 16 oz. of water, 1 Apple (37 grams of protein)
-Post-workout Meal – 1.5 Scoops of MTS Whey Cookies N Cream in fruit smoothie with large banana, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup raspberries; 2 slices of Ezekiel Bread Toast with natural extra crunchy Peanut Butter (50 grams of protein)
-Lunch – Bed of Romaine Lettuce with Grilled Chicken (24 grams of protein)
-Snack Meal – 20 gram Protein Bar, 11 gram Protein Bar, 1 Orange
-Dinner –  10 Turkey sausage Links; Bowl of Organic Brown Rice, Black Eyed Peas, & Broccoli; 2 raw carrots (38 grams of protein)
Total protein for the day – 180 grams of protein; 2,000 Calories

In conclusion, we all need protein in our diets, but getting that protein is easier said than done.  You may not always get enough protein, but the more you try, the closer you will get to your goals.  Do not be fooled by the media headlines that make claims such as “Can Too Much protein Kill You?” because it’s hard enough to get 1 gram of protein per pound of your weight.
As a disclaimer, people with specific chronic illness or who have had surgery to remove a GI Track organ needs to consult a doctor on how much protein they can consume without becoming sick.

References/Further Reading
* http://www.prweb.com/releases/dupont-nutrition-health/protein-blend-muscle-mass/prweb11788928.htm
* http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/bodywork/performance-plate/The-New-Rules-for-Protein.html
* http://www.jissn.com/content/4/1/8
* http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/the-basic-structure-of-proteins.html
* http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/9/1/5
* http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133534/
* Applied Physiology Research Laboratory, Kent State University, OH 44242.
International journal of sport nutrition 07/1991; 1(2):127-45.
Source: PubMed
* Nutrition in Exercise and Sport, Third Edition
edited by Ira Wolinsk; Nutrition in Exercise and Sport, Third Edition
edited by Ira Wolinsk
* http://www.jimstoppani.com/home/articles/a-high-protein-diet-will-kill-you?preview
* http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10357740


Advertisements

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Arthritis

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic condition that involves inflammation in the joints. Arthritis forms because the cartilage between joints wears down, leaving bones to rub against other bones, causing inflammation and pain. Apple cider vinegar is a traditional folk remedy for arthritis; however, there is no scientific research in support of this. Always consult your physician before trying any alternative remedy.

Arthritis

Arthritis is the most common disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affecting nearly 21 million Americans. There are over 100 different types of arthritis that vary in severity, but osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the most common type. No cure has been found for arthritis but treatment for the painful condition helps relieve symptoms. Pain medication, physical therapy and surgery are some options for people with arthritis.

Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits

Apple cider vinegar has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years. Hippocrates is believed to have used vinegar to treat his patients in 400 B.C. Apple cider vinegar, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, may have antimicrobial properties making it a natural germ killer and potentially useful for treating food poisoning. Apple cider vinegar is also purported to promote weight loss, lower cholesterol and improve skin; however, no research has backed these claims, according to eMedTV.com.

Vinegar and Arthritis

Alternative health practitioners recommend drinking apple cider vinegar to help treat the symptoms of arthritis. Vinegar is believed to relieve pain associated with arthritis and slow the progression of the disease. The University of Florida recommends mixing 2 tsp.of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water. Drink the mixture before each meal to relieve arthritis pain. Although there may be stories of people claiming to feel real benefits of apple cider vinegar in relation to arthritis, no research has validated these claims.

Precautions

Before trying any alternative treatment, it is critical that you discuss this with your medical provider. Apple cider vinegar can interact with certain medications. Its side effects include severe throat pain and low potassium in the blood. The high acidity in vinegar can exacerbate stomach pain, heartburn and nausea. Some people have experienced allergic reactions to vinegar including a rash, hives, itching and swelling. Because apple cider vinegar has not been studied, other side effects are not known.

Last Updated: May 10, 2015 | By Ireland Wolfe

Fresh-Apples

Natural apple cider vinegar can be considered one of natures superb foods. The powerful enzymes and minerals it possess are beneficial in the relief of various skin, joint, and digestive problems. Many arthritis sufferers drink apple cider vinegar on a daily basis to get relief from joint pain and stiffness. The best and most effective apple cider vinegar (ACV) should be organic, undistilled, unpasteurized and contain the floating brownish substance called the “mother.”

Essential nutrients of ACV include:

  • potassium
  • sulphur
  • iron
  • phosphorus
  • copper
  • natural sodium
  • fluorine
  • silicon
  • calcium
  • magnesium and other powerful trace minerals, enzymes and amino acids

Natural acids contained in ACV are:

  1. malic acid
  2. acetic acid
  3. lactic acid

Natural acids assist in balancing the acid levels in your digestive system, which deters disease-producing bacteria growth, improving digestion. Malic acid is the major acid found in ACV and is naturally produced in the body during the metabolic cycle. Fruit and vegetables also contain malic acid and some of the fruits that are suggested for their malic acid content are:

  • lemons
  • apples ( contain a large amount of malic acid)
  • cherries
  • pineapples
  • raspberries
  • apricots
  • watermelon

Distilled vinegar may be more appealing to the eye but valuable nutrients are removed through pasteurization and what you have left is dead vinegar.

Natural apple cider vinegar should be made from organic apples. Apples are rich in potassium. Potassium helps to create youthful ageless tissues, keeping the body flexible and resilient.

*Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar is a great brand and the brand I use and love. I have noticed a tremendous difference in the disappearance of aches and pain especially on the bottom of my feet. Bragg ACV is an overall excellent health tonic. You can purchase Bragg AVC at your local grocery store, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage) or online.

How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Relieve Joint Pain and Stiffness?

Potassium deficiency eventually causes joint stiffness and muscle cramps. The rich source of  potassium in ACV is an agent in removing toxins and acid crystals from the body, maintaining joint pliability. A build up of acid crystals lodge themselves in joint spaces causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Apple cider vinegar helps to put acid crystals into solution so they can be excreted from your body relieving stiffness and pain.

What Are Acid Crystals/Uric Acid Crystals?

You may be wondering what acid crystals are and how your body produces them. In a simplified term, acid crystals are substances that are formed after your body naturally breaks down waste products also known as purines. If there is an over production of uric acid and your kidneys are not filtering or eliminating adequate amounts of the acid crystals it may lead to problems such as hyperuricemia (high level of uric acid in the blood), resulting in gout and other arthritic conditions. Increased levels of uric acid  can also cause a collection of crystal deposits in your kidneys producing kidney stones which are very painful.

The cause of high levels of acid crystals can be associated with dietary intake of foods high in purines (uric acid).  Purines are considered foods which elevate the acid levels in your blood.

Click on this link to view a Purine Table of Foods High, Moderate and Low in Uric Acid

The best way to ingest apple cider vinegar:

Mix 1 tablespoon of ACV and 1 tablespoon of raw unfiltered honey in an 8oz glass of luke warm (not hot) water. Drink 1-3 times per day.

*Raw honey is also a rich source of potassium.

We may need to battle against acid crystals all of our lives and one of the best weapons to achieve this is natural apple cider vinegar.

Wishing you an enjoyable and pain free life!

References

THE TRUTH ABOUT HEALTH & FITNESS: WHAT “EXPERTS” ARE NOT TELLING YOU

The Truth About Health & Fitness: What “Experts” are not telling you

J-SMILING

“Fat Loss” “Tone Up” “Loose Weight” “Be Stronger” “Be more Fit”

These are terms personal trainers hear at the gym daily.  Most people do not join the gym because they are already in shape, they join because they have a desired goal and have not been able to accomplish it on their own.  Furthermore, many of these new folks at the gym lack the working knowledge on what certain equipment is used for, how to reach their goals, how long it will take, and the relationship between nutrition and exercise.

I am not saying this to be demeaning, I am saying this because this is what I work with every day. People come to the gym who do not know what to do, and I am here to help them along the way.  The truth is that what most people think and believe is true about health and fitness is actually based on false advertising.  This is especially true about how fat and muscle relate to each other.  People see a number on a scale and have a built in reaction, without a full understanding of what that really means in terms of their health and fitness.

So many people come to the gym wanting to “tone up” and “lose weight” go to a group cardio exercise class or jump on the cardio equipment for long periods of time followed by exercises with equipment that targets their “trouble areas”.  Then after a couple weeks they step on the scale and find out not much has changed.  Sound familiar?

Here are a few things you or someone you may know is missing out on when it comes to attaining your health and fitness goals:

-The weight scale is a farce

The truth about the scale is that it is basically a measurement of how much gravity is pulling on your frame.  I have seen numerous times two people who weigh the same on the scale with very different physiologies.  What is forgotten is that Muscle weighs more than Fat on the human frame; skeletal muscle is denser than fat stores.  Muscle is the reason for that “toned” and “shredded” look so many people strive for in today’s world, so in order to look like that one has to forget about the scale and focus more on their Body Fat Percentage number.  This measure estimates the amount of your body that is just fat, while the rest of the body is comprised of muscles, organs, skeletal bones, and water retained.

Using the scale as a measuring stick of your fitness progress is misguided and has led to many people quitting while they are making progress, so stay away from the scale as much as possible.

-Cardio is not the key to fat loss

Cardio is a short for Cardiovascular Exercise.  Cardio exercise initializes a caloric burn in the body when done for a long enough period of time or a high enough intensity to spike heart rate.  The dark secret about cardio is that sustained cardio will also burn off muscle from the body; this happens because those muscles are not being maintained through exercise or physical activity so as a result, the body harvests energy and nutrients from wherever it has been programmed to think is not in need of nutrients or use.  That phrase “you lose it if you don’t use it” is very true for your health.

The reality that is unknown to many people who are at the gym is that anyone can garner the same caloric burn from lifting weights as does cardio if done at the proper intensity.  This way a person can reprogram their body to not burn off muscle while instead using fat storage for the burn off.  Performing functional strength exercises will do two things biologically that improve your health better than cardio exercise:

  1. Prolonging the protein synthesis process, which causes the body to better utilize nutrients and slow down the process of fat storage;
  2. With strength training, the building and maintenance of muscle will burn more calories at rest, which increases the metabolic rate and works to reduce fat retention.

-Nutrition is more important than exercise

It does not matter how many hours you spend at the gym each day or how sweaty you are when you leave; if you do not put the right types of foods in your body each day than you are just fighting an uphill battle.  The human body is a complex machine of numerous biological processes that depends on the intake of Macro (Fats, carbohydrates, Protein) and Micro (Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids) Nutrients in order to function properly.  When we go hard at the gym and then do not put the proper nutrients in the body, these biological processes do not operate optimally and problems occur such as injuries, cramping, headaches and sometimes more severe side effects.

What you put in your body is almost more important to your health and fitness than what you do with your body on a daily basis.  Without the proper balance of Protein, Carbs and Fats then all those hours at the gym is just another activity in your day.  Your body needs a certain amount of fats for hormonal and organ function, a certain amount of carbohydrates for glycogen production that is used for energy in the body, and a certain amount of protein for the maintenance of skeletal muscle as well as organ function.

-You need to speak with a Health and Fitness professional

This may be the most controversial point I make on this list. Every day in the gym I see people using bad form with exercises, ask me questions that have origins in misinformation, and too many people doing the same exercises every day with no variety.  No one has it all figured out, we all have things to learn in life. If your health and fitness are important to you then the same applies for those areas also.  Most certified personal trainers and certified nutritionists are people who want to help others and will not be condescending or judgmental towards those who come looking for help.  Even if you work with a trainer or nutritionist for a few months, it is still time well spent learning how to correctly do different exercises, learn how to eat according to your body’s needs, and build good fitness habits so you can live a better life.

Also, do not be fooled by so proclaimed “Fitness Experts”, check the credentials of everyone giving you advice and find out from them the source of their knowledge and information they attempt to give you.  Too many of these self-proclaimed Experts do not have the time spent in the classroom, gym, and kitchen to support many of the claims they make; instead these people propagate information based on subjective knowledge or based on marketing a specific program or product they insist that you buy because their way is the “only way” to get “results.

Do not let any excuses, whether ego or fiscal, stand in your way of getting the help you need to better your life.  Health and Fitness is something all of us should invest our time in, improving our physical, mental and emotional well-being.   Today is the day to take the step away from the fads and misinformation of yesterday, take the steps forward to change your lifestyle and create new habits that will sustain you for the rest of your life.

Posted by Joshua Hennig

BLUEBERRIES MAY HELP REDUCE BLOOD PRESSURE AND ARTERIAL STIFFNESS

Date:
January 8, 2015
Source:
Florida State University
Summary:
Just one cup of blueberries per day could be the key to reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease.
Sarah Johnson, assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging, has a new study on the health benefits of blueberries.
Credit: Bill Lax/Florida State University

Thinking about topping your morning cereal with a cup of blueberries? Do it.

Just one cup of blueberries per day could be the key to reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease.

“Our findings suggest that regular consumption of blueberries could potentially delay the progression of prehypertension to hypertension, therefore reducing cardiovascular disease risk,” said Sarah A. Johnson, assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University.

Johnson and a team of FSU nutrition and exercise scientists are the authors of a new paper, “Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension.” Their work is found in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Johnson said she is interested in looking at how functional foods — foods that have a positive impact on health beyond basic nutrition — can prevent and reverse negative health outcomes, particularly for postmenopausal women.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States,” she said. “Once women go through menopause, this puts them at an even greater risk for it. Our findings suggest that the addition of a single food, blueberries, to the diet may mitigate the negative cardiovascular effects that often occur as a result of menopause.”

Over an eight-week period, 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension were randomly assigned to receive either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder — the equivalent to one cup of fresh blueberries — or 22 grams of a placebo powder. Participants, meanwhile, continued their normal diet and exercise routines.

At the beginning of the study, the team took participants’ blood pressure and measured their arterial stiffness and select blood biomarkers.

At the end of the eight weeks, participants receiving the blueberry powder on average had a 7 mmHg (5.1 percent) decrease in systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in the blood pressure reading that measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. They also saw a 5 mmHg (6.3 percent) reduction in diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number measuring the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

Additionally, participants in the blueberry-treated group had an average reduction of 97 cm/second (6.5 percent) in arterial stiffness.

They also found that nitric oxide, a blood biomarker known to be involved in the widening of blood vessels, increased by 68.5 percent. That is important, Johnson said, because arterial stiffness and the narrowing of blood vessels are both a part of hypertension. This rise in nitric oxide helps explain the reductions in blood pressure.

Previous studies on blueberries have shown positive effects on cardiovascular risk factors including blood pressure, but they all included large amounts of blueberry powder consumption, anywhere from 50 grams to 250 grams. In the case of 250 grams, that would translate to more than 11 cups of fresh blueberries, which may not be realistic for people to consume on a regular basis.

Johnson said that future studies will consider other dosages of blueberries, longer intervention periods and other sample populations.

Johnson is joined on the paper by Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences professors Bahram H. Arjmandi and Arturo Figueroa; Campus Recreation Wellness Coordinator Lauren T. Ormsbee; Oklahoma State University Department of Statistics Department Head and Professor Mark E. Payton; and San Diego State University School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences Professor Shirin Hooshmand. Florida State University graduate students Negin Navaei, Alexei Wong, Roy Kalfon, Rafaela G. Feresin and Marcus L. Elam also contributed.

The research was funded by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC).


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Florida State University.

Journal Reference:

  1. Sarah A. Johnson, Arturo Figueroa, Negin Navaei, Alexei Wong, Roy Kalfon, Lauren T. Ormsbee, Rafaela G. Feresin, Marcus L. Elam, Shirin Hooshmand, Mark E. Payton, Bahram H. Arjmandi. Daily Blueberry Consumption Improves Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness in Postmenopausal Women with Pre- and Stage 1-Hypertension: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.11.001

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108113525.htm

WHY BIG CALORIC DEFICITS & LOTS OF ACTIVITY CAN HURT FAT LOSS

Why Big Caloric Deficits and Lots of Activity Can Hurt Fat Loss

Copyright © 2008 Lyle McDonald

This week, several people have brought a recent case-study to my attention and asked me for comment.  In it, a 51 year old female began marathon training along with a (self-reported) low calorie diet and either appears to have gained weight or not lost weight (she also showed a very depressed metabolic rate, nearly 30% below predicted).

By raising her calories gradually, her body fat (as measured by BIA) came down and her metabolic rate increased.  Now, without more details, it’s hard to really comment on this and the link to the case study is the total amount of information available.

But we’ve got an older (either post-menopausal or peri-menopausal) woman, undisclosed anti-depressant medication, self-reported food intake and a method of body fat measurement that is, at best, problematic (read Methods of Body Composition Measurement Part 2 for more details).  Odd things happen metabolically around menopause, some medications can cause issues, food reporting is notoriously inaccurate and BIA isn’t ideal to track changes.  Then again, the measured metabolic rate change is pretty interesting; something was going on.

That said, I’ve mentioned in previous articles that one oddity that I’ve seen (and personally experienced) over the years is one where the combination of very large caloric deficits and very large amounts of activity (especially higher-intensity activity) can cause problems for people either stalling or slowing fat loss.

Like my previous article on The LTDFLE, or Long-term Delayed Fat Loss Effect, this is one of those oddities that seems to crop up more often than you’d expect.  It’s also one where there’s not a ton of research but I will happily provide a good bit of speculation on what I think may be going on.

I’d also note that the combination of big caloric deficits and large amounts of activity clearly isn’t detrimental to everyone.  Some folks can get away with it but, for many, it tends to backfire more than anything else.

First, Some Background

Back in my early 20’s, I remember a very specific client I had.  She was a little bit, well, to be honest nuts.  She was older, I think she had gone through menopause but I wouldn’t swear to that.  In any case, she started working with me, determined to lose weight and immediately jumped into something like 2 hours of cardio per day and cut calories massively.  She claimed 600 calories per day and I won’t even try to describe her diet; it was insane (breakfast was supposedly one-half an egg and to this day I’m not entirely sure how you eat half an egg).

Now, I didn’t know much at that point but I had this general idea that too much activity and too few calories was a bad thing.  For weeks on end I entreated her to either cut her activity or raise her calories.  She adamantly refused; how could that possibly work?  I tried to point out that what she was doing wasn’t working either and she could hardly do worse by trying something different but that line of logic went nowhere.

In any event, at one point she went on a cruise or a vacation or something.  And what do you think she did?  Exercised less and ate more like everybody does on vacation.  And she came back something like 5 pounds lighter (some of which may very well have been The LTDFLE mind you).  “See, see.” I told her, “You ate more and exercised less and good things happened.”

And she immediately went back to a massive caloric deficit and over-exercising.  But that’s how it goes sometimes.

Later in my 20’s, mind you, I’d do the same thing during the now infamous Bodyopus experience (probably the singular experience that taught me what NOT to do during a fat loss diet).  Frustrated by stalled fat loss (I had dieted far too long at that point in the first place), I worked even harder, cutting calories further and adding more activity.  That coupled with some genuinely awful ‘carb-loads’ took fat loss to a standstill.

In addition to those case studies, this is a phenomenon that I’ve seen elsewhere including the support forum, I imagine readers run into it constantly: people (frequently but not always women) who try to combine excessive caloric deficits with massive amounts of activity (often with a lot of that activity being high-intensity activity) and nothing is happening.  And if you can get them to reduce activity (or just cut back the intensity to reasonable level) or increase calories, things invariably start to work better.

What’s Going On: Let’s Talk About Cortisol

Cortisol is one of those hormones that I imagine everyone reading this has heard about and about which a lot of misinformation exists.  Simply cortisol is a stress hormone, released by the body in response to nearly all kinds of stress.  In the fitness/bodybuilding world, cortisol has gotten an almost exclusively negative reputation (cortisol is ‘bad’ in the way that testosterone and thyroid are ‘good’) although this is simplistically incorrect.

Rather, whether cortisol does good things or bad things in the body depends on how it’s released.  Simply (and I’d simply, ha ha, refer folks to Robert Sapolsky’s amazing book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers for a detailed look at this; I also talk about cortisol in The Stubborn Fat Solution), acute pulses of cortisol tend to do good things and be adaptive and chronic elevations in cortisol tend to be bad and be maladaptive.

For example, the morning cortisol pulse helps to promote fat mobilization.  In contrast, a chronic elevation of cortisol (especially in the face of high insulin levels) tend to promote visceral fat accumulation.  As a non-fitness related topic, acute pulses of cortisol tend to be good for memory (why we often remember stressful situations in such detail) while chronic elevations (as often seen in depression) make memory go down the toilet.  And there are endless other examples of where acute cortisol pulses are good and chronic elevations are bad; again see Sapolsky’s book for details.

In any case, dieting in general is a stress.  And of course training is a stress.  And the more extreme you do of each, the more of a stress occurs.  And I suspect that a lot of what is going on when folks try to combine excessive caloric deficits with massive amounts of activity is that cortisol just goes through the roof (there’s another issue I’ll come back to at the end that relates to this).  Simply, you get these massive chronic elevations in cortisol levels.

Tangentially, this is also one reason I suspect that various types of cyclical dieting help with some of this issue.  For at least brief periods, when calories are raised to maintenance or above, you break the diet/training induced elevations in cortisol.  This of course assumes that the person isn’t mentally stressed to the nines by raising calories like that but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So Why is This Bad?

As noted above, chronic elevations in cortisol can cause a lot of bad things to happen. One of them is simply water retention and I’ve mentioned in previous articles that water retention can mask fat loss, sometimes for extremely extended periods.  I talked about this in some detail in The LTDFLE and suspect that some of the ‘fat loss’ is actually just water loss when calories are raised and cortisol mediated water retention dissipates.  Reducing total training (volume, frequency, intensity or some combination) does the same thing.

But that’s probably not all of what’s going on.  Another effect of chronically elevated cortisol levels is leptin resistance in the brain.  I’m not going to talk about leptin endlessly here again, you can read the Bodyweight Regulation Series for more information.  When the normal leptin signal to the brain is blocked, a lot of things can go wrong metabolically and I suspect that this is part of the problem.

In this vein, although not necessarily related to cortisol per se, at least one study found that the addition of 6 hours per week of aerobic activity to a very low calorie diet (in this case a protein sparing modified fast) caused a larger decrement in metabolic rate than the diet alone.  The body appears to monitor caloric availability (simplistically caloric intake minus output) and if it gets too low, bad things can happen.

This is why I so strongly suggested AGAINST the inclusion of much cardio in The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook; it causes more harm than good.  Invariably, the biggest source of failure on that plan is when people ignore my advice and try to do a bunch of cardio.  And fat loss stops.

In any case, there are several different plausible mechanisms by which the combination of excessive caloric deficits an large amounts of activity can cause problems.  Whether it’s simply cortisol related water retention, a drop in metabolic rate due to leptin resistance or something else, something is going on.  From a more practical standpoint, for a lot of people, the combination simply doesn’t work.  Mind you, some seem to get away with it but not all.

An Additional Variable

There is another variable that I have noticed over the years in looking at this issue.  As odd as it sounds, it has to do with personality.  In discussing this, for example, I’ve often noted that the people who seem to have the biggest issues with the whole lots of cardio/big caloric deficit tend to be a little bit ‘tightly wound’ (to put it politely).  A bit less politely they are stress cases.

You can almost ‘hear’ the stress in their typing.  Every post has lots of exclamation points and there is this undercurrent of “I MUST LOSE FAT NOW!!!!!!”  in their posts. When fat loss stalls for a day, they freak out and want to cut calories or go add another hour of cardio.  You can almost ‘see’ the tension in them as they sit hammering at the keyboard looking for solutions.

And this is an issue because these types of folks already over-secrete cortisol.  As a true oddity, there is the issue of amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle).  Typically it’s been thought to be related to body fat levels or caloric intake and this is a general cause.  But there is often a type of amenorrhea seen in women without any of the normal predisposing factors.  In this case, it’s all due to mental stress.

Basically, there is a subset of folks who are already high-level stress cases. They tend to be drawn to harder is better in the first place, tend to be resistant to change (like my client from my early 20’s) and their already high level of cortisol production is simply amplified by the combination of too much activity and too few calories.  And suggestions to raise calories and/or reduce activity are invariably met by resistance (again, like my client from ages ago).  What they really need is to just chill the hell out.

But invariably the approach that they are intuitively drawn to is the wrong one for them: moderate deficits and moderate activity always work better in those folks.  It’s getting them to do it that’s the hard part.

Tangentially, I suspect that the classic hardgainer is of a typical type but that’s another topic for another day.

Summing Up

So that’s that, a look at one of the oddities of fat loss, the situation where the combination of excessive caloric deficits and excessive amounts of activity seem to hurt rather than help fat loss, along with some gross speculation (and just enough research to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about) on what may be going on.

In a practical sense, of course, most of the background isn’t that relevant.  The simple facts for the majority of folks is this: you can either cut calories hard OR do large amounts of activity.  But you can’t do both.  Well you can do both, you just probably shouldn’t under most circumstances.

You Have Two Brains!

PornProof Kids™

It’s true. You have TWO brains! And if you want to help inoculate your children against pornography, it’s very helpful to understand how they work together.

GPBP_07SmlThe Feeling Brain

The feeling brain (or instinctive brain), called the limbic system, resides near the center of your brain. It’s where emotions like fear, anger, excitement, sadness and pleasure come from. The feeling brain is also responsible for your basic drives such as hunger, thirst and sexual desire which help to ensure your survival and the survival of the entire human family.

The feeling brain has three main objectives:

  • To survive physically
  • To avoid pain
  • To pursue pleasure

The feeling brain is sometimes called the primitive brain because we share the structures of this part of our brain with all mammals. It’s automatic and responds to stimuli extremely fast. Just imagine that you’re hiking through the woods and come upon a large bear. Before you can even think…

View original post 374 more words