Eating to Gain Muscle
We all have different goals when it comes to our health and how we want our bodies to look and function. We might strive for an aesthetic goal, or to simply be more confident and capable. Believe it or not these goals have a lot more in common than we may think. In order to look, feel and perform our best, we have to support our bodies with the nutrients it needs to build a strong, resilient body. When we are in a poor state of health, our bodies will not prioritize building muscle. They will do what is needed to keep us alive, and oftentimes that means breaking down existing muscle, using stored nutrients to support our vital organs.
When we support our bodies with the proper nutrients and fuel, along with the correct stimuli, we will be able to start growing muscle. More muscle mass does not mean we will look like a bodybuilder, unless we specifically try to. In fact our genetics and gender play a large role in deciding what that increase of muscle will look like on our unique bodies. The term “abs are built in the kitchen” can be true for some, while others can be lean and muscular, eating enough to support their bodies and have a rock solid core, without prominent abs. When we talk about building muscle, we need to keep our bio-individuality in mind and accept that how our bodies look with lean body mass will always differ.
One of the keys to building muscle is making sure we are eating enough to support our levels of activity. This includes what we do inside and outside of the gym. To start, eating about 0.7-1g of protein per bodyweight will give us a good base of protein to support maintaining and building lean body mass. Protein sources should be mostly complete sources, containing all of the essential amino acids that we need, such as eggs, grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish. Healthy fats like those found in fish oil, flax oil, egg yolks and almonds help transport nutrients to the places they are needed in our bodies, repairing and replenishing nutrient stores. Carbohydrates are a cofactor in tissue building and everything from starchy sweet potatoes to cruciferous vegetables like broccoli support muscle growth in different ways. Getting in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will ensure our bodies get the range of vitamins and minerals needed to boost and maintain those muscle gains.
There are also some dietary choices that can have a negative impact on muscle growth. Hydrogenated oils found in canola, soybean, vegetable and corn oil will slow muscle recovery and growth due to an increase of inflammation. Alcohol consumption can also pose a threat as it depletes nutrients that are necessary for tissue growth. Bleached white products like bread, pasta and other wheat products contain anti-nutrients that impair our digestional health, decreasing our ability to absorb nutrients. Finally, consuming white sugar around workouts increases free radical damage, inflammation, fatigue and can also lead to insulin resistance.
In order to grow muscle beyond our minimum needs for locomotion and survival, we have to create an adaptive need for more muscle. Thinking back to our example of natural bodybuilders, we know that their primary focus is taxing targeted muscle groups to cause hypertrophy, which stimulates muscle growth in order to keep up with demand. Heavier weight training performed weekly will signal to the body a need to build more muscle tissue. Conversely, doing excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise and avoiding weight training could selectively reduce our muscle mass, as muscle is heavier to move around for long periods of time. By no means must we choose one or the other, but we can certainly take this into account based on our specific aesthetic, performance and long term health goals. Being strong and able to run from predators was certainly something our ancestors relied on for survival. So let’s use the accessibility of a kick-ass gym, nutrient dense foods and information to keep us fit, healthy and lean for the rest of our lives.
- Benetti, Elisa, et al. “High Sugar Intake and Development of Skeletal Muscle Insulin Resistance and Inflammation in Mice: a Protective Role for PPAR- δ Agonism.” Mediators of Inflammation, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703883/.
- Axe, Josh. “How to Eat to Gain Muscle.” Dr. Axe, 29 Nov. 2017, draxe.com/eat-gain-muscle/.
There is nothing enjoyable about wanting to go do a workout, or simply enjoy a nice hike or run and experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) distress. This feeling can be presented in a multitude of ways and range from slight discomfort to extreme pain and loss of control. We typically see this on competition or testing days where the pressure is on, and quite literally causes our bodies to constrict and force anything “extra” out. There are many causes for GI distress ranging from dietary, lifestyle and mechanical factors.
We unintentionally raise our core body temperature when we are anxious or start exercising. This increase in temperature causes us to sweat, moving us towards dehydration and depleting minerals that are necessary for digestive function. This heightened state also causes our blood to flow away from our digestive tract and to the parts of the body that need it most, like our muscles. The lack of blood flow in our digestive system can cause what we know of as “leaky gut”, the opening of tight junctions in our small intestine.
A leaky gut can be exacerbated by things like gluten and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen). How many of us have used pasta to “carb up” before game day? I’m sure most of us can also raise a hand for grabbing some Advil to mask any ache or pain that may impede us on any given day as well. While not everyone has the same experiences and gut microbiota, there are certainly some tactics we can use to help prevent this from happening.
To support the health of our small intestine we can start by avoiding foods that commonly cause gas, bloating, indigestion and other digestive symptoms. This will help reduce our inflammatory response by removing foods we are intolerant to. Foods that tend to cause digestive distress are pasteurized dairy, gluten, refined sugar, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. There are also several supplements that can help reduce leaky gut by strengthening the gut lining, repairing tight junctions.
Getting appropriate amounts of prebiotic foods like asparagus and chicory root (which, in a tea form, tastes similar to coffee!) help support digestive function by feeding healthy bacteria. Glutamine can also help support the integrity of the gut lining and can be found in high concentration in meat and seafood. Omega-3 sources like fish oil help reduce inflammation of an irritated gut, and soothing herbs like slippery elm and ginger help rebuild mucosal lining. Utilizing stress reduction tactics also greatly help relieve GI distress.
Meditation and breathing exercises can be extremely useful in lowering the stress and anxiety that can lead to leaky gut symptoms. When we perceive something as a threat, our bodies respond by shifting into “fight or flight” mode, moving all other bodily processes to the back of the line. This survival tactic can be altered if we understand the role our mind has on activating sympathetic (fight or flight) or parasympathetic (rest and digest) states. If we are entering into an unknown challenge, chances are we may feel our “gut drop”. This adrenaline rush can be controlled if we simply channel our thoughts to something positive. By using our mind to assure our body that we are not in danger, it can continue normal functions, and save us a last minute sprint to the bathroom.
Whether GI distress is something we face often or not, it’s important to understand the underlying mechanism, in order to help lessen the negative effects. A leaky gut is the foundation of health issues like autoimmune disease and other nutrient deficiencies. Supporting our bodies by eating nutrient dense foods and learning how to channel our reactions through breathing and meditation will ensure we limit digestive upset and absorb nutrients optimally. Of the few things we can control in life, we choose what we eat, so on our journey to being fit for life, let’s provide our bodies with foods that nourish and support it’s optimal function.
- Levy, Jillian. “These Symptoms Could Mean You Have IBS.” Dr. Axe, 11 Apr. 2016, draxe.com/ibs-symptoms/.
- “Building an Iron Gut – Part I. Causes of GI Distress |.” Eat Sleep Fit, www.eatsleep.fit/endurance-sports/iron-gut-1/.
When we think about coffee we often think about a slightly bitter, fragrant, warm dark beverage. Most of us enjoy coffee first thing in the morning, as a way to either ease-into or kick-start our day. From there we find coffee at the focal point to meetings, a go-to for mid-day energy slumps and as a common aperitif. There are many controversial opinions about coffee and if it’s health benefits outweigh the risks, so let’s dive into the pros and cons.
There have been many studies focusing on the impact of coffee on our health. Studies have shown that one cup of coffee per day can reduce the risk of diabetes by 13%. The risk of prostate cancer reduces by 18% after six cups of coffee. Four cups a day can reduce the risk for liver cirrhosis by 84%, and one to four cups of coffee per day decreases the risk of Parkinson’s by 47%. The findings also show that adding more cups of coffee increases the success rates further!
The magic behind the benefits of coffee may lie in the fact that they are full of antioxidants. As we dry roast the beans and then heat them to high temperatures, we dilute and denature some of these antioxidants, which may be why more cups tends to lead to higher health benefits. However, there are some negative effects of coffee consumption as well.
Coffee is a potent stimulant that increases the release of stress hormones. While we might think this is due to the caffeine content, the same effect happens with use of decaffeinated coffee. Coffee consumption lessens our production of DHEA, a steroid hormone that impacts our cognitive function, enhances our memory and protects us against stressors. Coffee also causes a release in dopamine, an addictive pleasure hormone. Once our brain connects dopamine to a substance, it causes us to crave that substance more and more. Coffee also impacts our cholesterol, increases inflammation, alters DNA repair, interferes with sleep, lowers bone density and increases the risk of acid reflux.
When it comes to deciding how much is enough, and too much, there are some things to keep in mind. If we drink caffeinated beverages, we need to take into consideration how our bodies metabolize caffeine. Since coffee is a stimulant that can alter our hormones, if we want to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm it’s best to consume caffeine before 11am. If our purpose for drinking coffee is to increase energy, but we drink coffee so often that we no longer feel those stimulating effects, then we begin exposing ourselves to greater health risks. Finally, if we are consuming coffee for its health benefits alone, we may consider a green coffee extract as a more potent source of antioxidants.
Enjoying a warm (or cold) cup of coffee is certainly a part of our culture for a reason. If coffee was inherently bad, America wouldn’t “Run on Dunkin”. If we pay attention to our bodies and use coffee in moderation, we will likely reap more benefits than health risks. Being mindful of the power that addictive substances have, and consciously reducing and removing them if they have begun to take control over our mind will keep us able to make the right decisions in saying yes or no to that next cup of coffee.
- Noonan, S C, and G P Savage. “Oxalate Content of Foods and Its Effect on Humans.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 1999, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24393738.
- Douillard, John. “Coffee: The Good, The Bad, and The Ayurvedic Perspective | LifeSpa.” John Douillard’s LifeSpa, 15 Feb. 2018, lifespa.com/coffee-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ayurvedic-perspective/.
We develop allergies when a substance enters our body that is seen as a threat. It then attacks and marks this substance as an (IgE) antibody, which the body will recognize and proceed the same way when this substance is found again. Allergies develop over time, can come and go, and their severity can vary greatly. As the climate has changed, seasonal allergens are becoming more abundant. Add that to the year round allergens such as pet dander, mold, food, and chemicals, and we can see why allergy rates have increased nearly 6% in four years.
One symptoms of chronic allergies is “allergic asthma”. It presents as wheezing, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest and difficulty breathing. Other allergy symptoms include post-nasal drip, itchy eyes, excessive sneezing, and skin reactions. These symptoms can wear us down which impairs our ability to heal as this adds more stress to our immune system. With most of our immune system is located in our gut, our diet can be a particularly useful tool in helping lessen the severity of allergic reactions and allergy symptoms.
There are many foods that can help boost our immunity and aid in warding off allergens. Local raw honey can be used to help clear up infections and desensitize us to some of the pollen in the area. Apple cider vinegar helps break up mucus and supports lymphatic drainage to remove toxins. Pineapple contains an enzyme called Bromelain that can help reduce allergic reactions. Proteins such as wild-caught salmon are high in omega-3’s which help reduce inflammation and boost our immune system. Spirulina, which is derived from algae, and quercetin, a powerful antioxidant, can be supplemented to reduce histamine production and release. Finally, additional probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi can boost intestinal flora and increase the function of the immune system.
In addition to adding in immune-boosting foods, we can also begin to minimize and remove harmful allergens and toxins in our daily life. Removing foods in which we know we react to will be paramount to seeing reduced allergy symptoms. Food reactions can look like gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, as well as allergy symptoms listed above. Removing these foods until the gut can be repaired and then adding them back in slowly should reduce or eliminate sensitivities. Year round allergens can also easily be reduced. By reading the labels of products we are buying and reducing our exposure to chemicals, we will lessen the stress on our immune system in constantly fighting them off. Be weary that fragrances are often some of the highest in chemicals, if you choose to use scented products or perfume, check to see if they are naturally scented with pure essential oils.
When it comes to allergies, supporting our immune system and removing stressors is an effective way to reduce symptoms and reactions to allergens. If our goal is to ward off the nursing home and be fit for life, we have to be cognizant of the effects that allergens have on our bodies. Picking a place to start is key, as allergens can be everywhere. Whether we start with a food elimination diet, get some allergen-specific testing, or start changing over personal care and household products to non-toxic versions, small steps will start to improve our health in no time. Let’s not let allergies be the reason why we can’t enjoy outdoor activities this summer, or the rest of the year!
- McCoy, Kathleen. “Natural Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms.” Dr. Axe, 9 Aug. 2018, draxe.com/seasonal-allergy-symptoms/.
- Platts-Mills, Thomas A E, and Judith A Woodfolk. “Allergens and Their Role in the Allergic Immune Response.” Immunological Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21682738.
Chewing Gum: Friend or Foe?
Chewing gum is a habit that came about as early as 9,000 years ago by northern Europeans. Chewing birch bark tar was thought to have medicinal purposes such as relieving toothaches. In the late 1840’s the first commercial gum was developed from spruce tree resin and cornstarch. As time went on, gum went through various ingredient transformations to get to where it is today. With it’s long lasting flavor and endlessly chewy nature, it’s become a staple in many people’s purses, cars, and desk drawers.
Gum is used for many purposes, from warding off hunger, covering up bad breath, helping pop our eardrums when changing altitude quickly, and simply for boredom or a sweet treat. So is it inherently good or bad? Science says, it depends, so let’s take a look into both the pros and the cons of chewing gum.
In studies conducted in daily work environments, gum chewing increased alertness in the absence of cognitive performance tasks. Studies have also shown that chewing gum during the workday may also decrease some kinds of stress. Finally, as mentioned previously, gum can be used in small bursts to help correct things like bad breath and attenuating air pressure.
In the same studies listed above, gum also increased anxiety rates which is correlated to an increase in depression. Chewing gum also causes a host of physiological effects. The act of chewing signals to the body that food is coming, priming digestive pathways. Stimulating these pathways without using them can cause them to be less effective when we actually consume foods, and leading to digestive dysfunction due to lack of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. There are also some things we should take into consideration when consuming gum regularly, and those are: the ingredients.
Gum manufacturers use nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, various forms of sugar and other sweeteners that can pose some serious health risks. Titanium dioxide is a metal compound that can cause inflammation, weakend gut barrier, slowed metabolism and block nutrient absorption. Sugar, as we know, is addictive, and those studies that found increased alertness could actually be linked to the sugar content in gum! Finally, sugar-free gums often contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener known to cause everything from birth defects to diabetes, cancer and mood disorders if consumed frequently. If our ultimate goal is to ward off the nursing home, these are some good things to note when you go to reach for that next piece of gum. Moderation is key in many aspects of life, and gum chewing should be one of them!
- Allen, Andrew P, and Andrew P Smith. “Chewing Gum: Cognitive Performance, Mood, Well-Being, and Associated Physiology.” BioMed Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449949/.
- Zerbe, Leah. “Chewing Gum Ingredient Linked to Gut Destruction, Slower Metabolism & Inflammation.” Dr. Axe, 8 Mar. 2017, draxe.com/chewing-gum-bad/.
Exercising on a regular basis is one of the best forms of stress relief and hugely beneficial to our self esteem. It can also be very therapeutic and of course, really freaking challenging at times. The only thing harder than a challenging workout is not being able to workout! We’ve all had those days where we simply don’t feel well. Our bodies ache all over, we can barely squat down to our chairs at work, and the thought of exercising causes us to tense up further. Even worse, when we get injured and our ability to exercise is limited. While there are parts of training that are beneficial to push through in order to gain a certain adaptation, we have to pay close attention to our recovery in order to get there safely.
There are many factors that influence our recovery in positive ways. Nutritionally, we can support our bodies with an abundance of anti-inflammatory foods. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds and grass-fed beef will help keep inflammation at bay. Protein and amino acids are critical for muscle building and recovery. Fruits and vegetables are also a key component. Micronutrient rich foods replenish and restore essential vitamins and minerals that are depleted during exercise while also offering antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect us from illnesses.
Magnesium and calcium are used for muscle contraction and relaxation. Common symptoms of a lack or imbalance of these essential minerals are muscle cramps and twitching. While we can easily get enough calcium from foods, magnesium is not as abundant in our food or water supply. Magnesium is used for over 300 enzymatic reactions in our bodies. It is critical for energy metabolism and to maintain normal muscle function. Magnesium also enhances glucose availability in our brain, muscles and blood, which delays lactate accumulation in muscles. While there are many oral magnesium supplements in several different forms (citrate, glycinate, etc.), magnesium is best absorbed through our skin. Great options for magnesium supplementation include epsom salt baths and topical magnesium spray. If we’re feeling extra run-down, chilling for an hour in a magnesium-rich float spa will certainly help bring us back to life!
Sleep is also fundamental to recovery. Sleep is imperative to allow the body to repair and detoxify. The more stress we have on our bodies in terms of hours exercising, lifestyle factors and exposure to damaging foods, the more sleep we need in order to recover. If we are between the ages of 18 and 64 we need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Adding in strenuous exercise, and that number must increase in order to repair and grow tissues. If we are chronically under sleeping, we can expect up to 68% increase in potential to get injured. We can have the best diet on earth, but without enough sleep we won’t be able to achieve peak cognitive or athletic performance.
We can also use movement to help increase blood flow and boost recovery. Stretching helps us increase our range of motion and loosens up tight areas that could be subject to injury. Deep tissue work like massage, active release and foam rolling aid in preventing delayed-onset muscle soreness. Dynamic compression like the Normatec system or doing some light jumping causes an increase in lymphatic movement. Our lymphatic system is the highway for toxins and waste products, and the faster we move them out of our bodies, the faster we will recover. Cycling through different forms of these physical recovery methods is a great approach to cover all the bases and prevent injuries.
While the list of recovery methods may seem daunting, they can easily be sprinkled throughout our day. Choosing to nourish our bodies with nutrient dense foods, prioritize sleep for its vast benefits, and spend a few minutes treating our hard-working bodies to some physical relief, will be well-received on our journey to being fit for life.
- Axe, Josh. “Do’s and Don’ts of Muscle Recovery.” Dr. Axe, 17 July 2015, draxe.com/muscle-recovery/.
- Zhang, Yijia, et al. “Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance?” Nutrients, MDPI, 28 Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622706/.
- Pearcey, Gregory E P, et al. “Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures.” Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association, Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299735/.
- Vyazovskiy, Vladyslav V. “Sleep, Recovery, and Metaregulation: Explaining the Benefits of Sleep.” Nature and Science of Sleep, Dove Medical Press, 17 Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4689288/.
Effects of Alcohol
Enjoying an alcoholic beverage is a luxury we have likely all experienced at some point in our lives. In our culture, we consume alcohol for many reasons. Celebrations, social events, pain relief and calming nerves are a few common occurrences. For some of us, alcohol is a part of our daily routine, while for others, exposure can be far and few between. However we choose to incorporate this libation, being aware of the potential health and performance risks will help us think deeper about its role in our lives.
Alcohol affects our brain through the blood brain barrier. It stimulates a region in the brain that releases dopamine, giving us a feeling of pleasure. When this reward pathway is stimulated often, it becomes reinforced and ingrained, making this pattern particularly hard to break. Alcohol interferes with the part of our brain associated with decision making, impulse control, motivation and problem solving. This part of the brain receives less neural stimulation and can even shrink with regular consumption of alcohol. Additionally, alcohol can cause a decrease in new brain cells, leading to a deficit in areas of the brain associated with learning and memory. These (among other) effects on the brain lead to massive consequences on our body, including physical performance.
A decrease in neuronal density and blood flow to the brain causes a decrease in glucose metabolism. When we ingest a toxin, we must then breakdown and move those toxins through our liver and out of our bodies. This process utilizes a multitude of nutrients and energy and backs up our “metabolism organ”, our liver. One of the nutrients depleted in this process is thiamine, or vitamin B1. A chronic deficiency in thiamine can result in early onset dementia. Along with plummeting nutrient stores and energy, our muscles also take a hit. Alcohol will impair muscle growth, diminishing protein synthesis, cause an increase in dehydration and prevent muscle recovery by disrupting our sleep cycle. It doesn’t end there either. Working out with a hangover can decrease our aerobic capacity by as much as 11%. Therefore, to protect our bodies and begin to replenish them from the damage done by alcohol consumption, it may be best to take a day off from the gym after a night of indulgence.
Now you may be wondering, how can we possibly enjoy a healthy balance in life, ward off the nursing home and still see performance gains? Moderation and a few well thought out tactics can certainly help! Saving alcohol consumption for special events instead of making it a daily occurrence will ensure that an alcohol-dependency doesn’t develop. This will also support our bodies in absorbing and utilizing nutrients efficiently, sleeping deeply, and hitting our workouts will full intensity. While at social events that include alcohol, having a water between every libation will lessen dehydration and slow down the rate of alcohol consumption. Drinking on days where we plan to fully rest and recover is also helpful, as well as drinking earlier in the day to lessen the cortisol spikes at night that alter our sleep. Finally, making sure we eat nutrient dense foods often will boost our bodies ability to detoxify and recover as efficiently as possible.
In a culture that loves to entertain, being indulgent once in a while is certainly a part of maintaining a healthy, balanced life. When it comes to alcohol, our best protection is knowledge. When we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into, we can throughtfully decide when, where and how much to consume to compliment our lifestyle and support our goals. As summer approaches, we are often torn between achieving that beach body we’ve always dreamed of, and enjoying bottomless margaritas on a rooftop deck. While there is no right or wrong, supporting our bodies with nutrient dense foods, water, daily exercise and restorative sleep will set us up for a faster recovery time and lessened repercussions when we do decide that rooftop margaritas are the perfect way to spend the 4th of July.
- Keck, Rachel. “How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain? (It’s Not Pretty).” Dr. Axe, 3 Mar. 2018, draxe.com/how-does-alcohol-affect-the-brain/.
- Vella, Luke D, and David Cameron-Smith. “Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery.” Nutrients, MDPI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257708/.
When: Monday, June 3rd – Friday, June 28th
Sign-up at the front desk!
InBody Scale Dates
Weigh-ins: Tuesday May 28th + Wednesday May 29th – SunLife
Thursday May 30th + Friday May 31 – Sudbury
Saturday June 1 to Monday June 3 – Waltham
Weigh-outs: Tuesday June 25th + Wednesday, June 26th – SunLife
Thursday June 27th + Friday June 28th – Sudbury
Saturday June 29 to Monday July 1 – Waltham
Baseline Workout: Monday, June 3rd during all classes
The Winners: Top Male + Female From Each Gym
– Body fat percentage / weight loss
– Benchmark workout
*There will be NO point system for this challenge
No Alcohol/No Sugar
This challenge will serve as a sugar and alcohol detox. In order to kick-start our metabolism and shred that extra body fat, we need to support our metabolism organ- our liver! Post challenge we will celebrate and enjoy some tasty adult beverages, but during the challenge let’s focus on giving our liver another job- create energy to burn fat!
As so many more fruits and vegetables are coming into season let’s take advantage of the local harvest! These nutrient-packed foods will help keep us full and support our bodies ability to create lean muscle mass and burn that fat! While you can choose which fruits and vegetables to have, we recommend sticking with ⅔ vegetables and ⅓ fruits over the course of the day if fat loss is your ultimate goal.
Weight Loss Emphasis – Recommend ⅔ Vegetables and ⅓ Fruit Ratio
Massing/ Muscle Gain Emphasis – Recommend ½ Fruit and ½ Vegetable Ratio
Recommended 3 plates per day for most moderately active individuals.
Option to add a 4th plate per day for extremely active* or larger individuals.
*extremely active = Strenuous exercise over 2 hours per day, or an individual who works a physically intensive job, on feet and lifting heavy objects for 6+ hours per day.
Here are 10 of the most common “healthy” foods that actually have lots of sugar hiding in them:
Cereals, including hot cereals like flavored oatmeal
Packaged breads, including “whole grain” kinds
Snack or granola bars
“Lower calorie” drinks, including coffee drinks, energy drinks, blended juices and teas
Protein bars and meal replacements
Sweetened yogurts and other dairy products (like flavored kefir, frozen yogurt, etc.)
Frozen waffles or pancakes
Bottled sauces, dressings, condiments and marinades (like tomato sauce, ketchup, relish or teriyaki, for example)
Dried fruit and other fruit snacks
Restaurant foods, where sugar is used in sauces, various desserts and dressings for extra flavor
Note on the InBody Machine: Please be sure to weigh in during your scheduled gym date. If you cannot make it to the gym on those dates, you may visit one of the other locations during their weigh in dates. If you are not partaking in the challenge but would still like to use the InBody, it is a $25 usage fee.
Sugar is a topic we love to hate. It’s delicious and comes in just about every processed food we can buy, which makes up for about 60% of all options at our grocery stores. We might think “if sugar is in so many things, then it must not be bad, right?”. That’s where the hard truths come into play. Refined sugar was introduced in the 1600’s and started off as a luxury item. As production of sugar became cheaper, it became more accessible to the rest of the population. Flash forward to now, where the average US citizen consumes about 57 pounds of sugar per year! Processed sugar isn’t “bad” because it doesn’t contain any nutrients, but its harmful effects to health, especially in large quantities, are why we should tread with caution.
As we’ve talked about previously, ingesting processed sugar greatly affects our blood sugar regulation. As our blood sugar continues to spike and fall above normal ranges, we start to become insulin resistant, making us prime candidates for type 2 diabetes. Research on sugar also shows that it wreaks havoc on our brain. In particular, causing mental health issues and cognitive decline to the extent of dementia. When our brain chemistry is altered, we see serious health consequences along with an increase in anxiety and depression. In the 1600’s, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease was thought to be linked to fat and cholesterol consumption, but the latest research confirms that sugar as the main culprit. To top it off with, once we consume refined sugar regularly we will start to crave it much more.
Sugar “addiction” has been researched extensively. Our brains have reward centers that are stimulated and reinforced with the presence of sugar, much like other addictive substances. The dopamine reward circuit, when activated, produces feelings of euphoria and pleasure similar to those we experience through other rewarding behaviors. Activating this circuit often conditions the body to seek out sugary foods. What classifies sugar as addictive isn’t only the cravings tit causes, but the challenge we face when trying to remove it.
Detoxing from sugar causes a plethora of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mood swings, migraines, cold and flu symptoms, to reduced energy and heightened sugar cravings. It takes about 21-60 days to create a new habit, or rewire those pathways that keep us wanting more sugar, but luckily the adverse symptoms of detoxing from sugar only last about 3-5 days if done correctly. Fueling our bodies with non-sweet nutrient dense foods is the best support to round the corner of sugar withdrawal symptoms and come out feeling great. Once we’ve de-activated those sugar-craving pathways, we can start to introduce naturally sweet items back into our diet.
Naturally sweet foods like fruits, vegetables, honey and maple syrup certainly contain sugar. The difference is the way in which our bodies process them. Our bodies are made to use sugar (glucose) as a quick source of fuel. When we ingest them as real foods in their natural form, we are also ingesting all of the beneficial nutrients that they come with. Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber, water, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. When ingested together, these elements slow the absorption of sugars into our bloodstream, keeping our blood sugar within normal ranges. Other natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup contain beneficial nutrients, probiotic and antibacterial properties that support our health. As they aren’t found in abundance in nature, they are made to be consumed in small amounts.
The food industry has done an incredible job in disguising sugar and adding it into everything they possibly can. If we think about it, what better way to keep the masses buying products if we are addicted to them! Sugar can be disguised as: maltodextrin, fructose, lactose, galactose, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, and much more. To make it even trickier, products that are labeled “sugar-free” can still contain some forms of these hidden sugars. If we choose to venture down the aisles in the center of the grocery store, be weary of these forms of sugar in the ingredient list. Let’s focus on stocking up on nutrient-dense, sweet and health promoting foods like fruits and vegetables. Our long and short term health, performance and waistline will thank us!
- Chris Kresser. “Here’s the Research on Sugar and Health.” Chris Kresser, Chriskresser.com, 7 Feb. 2019, chriskresser.com/heres-the-research-on-sugar-and-health/.
- Barnes, Jill N, and Michael J Joyner. “Sugar Highs and Lows: the Impact of Diet on Cognitive Function.” The Journal of Physiology, Blackwell Science Inc, 15 June 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448146/.
- “This Is Your Brain on Sugar (Trust Us, It’s Not Pretty).” Bulletproof, 30 Aug. 2018, blog.bulletproof.com/too-much-sugar-bad-for-brain/.
Eat The Rainbow
When we talk about nutrition there are two main areas we emphasize, quantity and quality. While quantity is important when it comes to make sure we get enough food and aren’t overeating, it’s also just as important to focus on eating a variety of foods. What happens when we make our foods as “constantly varied” as our workouts, is we get an abundance of different nutrients, all contributing to our overall health and wellness. Different colored foods, in particular, have a different chemical makeup, providing us with a number of essential nutrients. If we focus on eating all of the colors of the rainbow, we will be ingesting multiple vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that can boost our overall health and protect against illnesses.
Phytonutrients are components in plants that are not essential for us to consume in order to survive, but they can certainly help prevent disease and support optimal functioning inside our bodies. Antioxidants are a type of phytonutrient that help slow and prevent damage to our cells from toxins and free radicals. Different colored plants provide different types of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, opting to explore outside our “20-or-so” go-to foods, can provide huge health gains.
Red plants like tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon are high in the antioxidant lycopene that helps protect the body against oxidative stress. Orange and yellow plants like carrots, mango, cantelope, pumpkin, pineapple, papaya, and nectarines contain carotenoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptothanxin which can be converted into vitamin A. These carotenoids support healthy immune function and vision. Yellow plants also contain bioflavonoids that work synergistically with vitamin C to support our skin and circulatory health. Green plants contain chlorophyll which is known for its detoxifying and healing properties as well as warding off cancer and carcinogens. Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, spinach and turnip greens are also high in calcium. Finally, the flavonoids anthocyanin and quercetin are found in red and purple plants such as apples, peppers, berries, red grapes and tart cherries. These powerful antioxidants help limit damage to cells from carcinogens and free radicals, and can help lower our risk for heart disease, cancer and more.
An easy way to start changing up our fruit and vegetable choices is to eat seasonally. Lucky for us, spring is here and that means it will be quite easy to stumble upon a vast variety of locally grown, nutrient dense, colorful plants! When grocery shopping, we can try swapping out white cauliflower for the orange or purple varieties. Or instead of the “conventional” varieties we can look for purple sweet potatoes, golden beets, watermelon radish or rainbow carrots! Many plants come in different varieties and the best way to get in more colors is by seeking them out. Local farmers markets are another way to discover new colorful and delicious plants, with great resources to tell you all about their flavor profiles, and some ways to enjoy them! However we obtain our plant foods, let’s explore new options and capitalize on the health benefits of eating an assortment of colorful plants!
Source: The Rainbow Diet by Dr. Deanna Minich, PHD.