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Food & Supplements

  • Do Fad Diets Work to Lose Weight?

    After seeing countless advertisements and news reports on the latest fad product (many of which I have written about in the past), I was so glad to hear a news bulletin today stating that the Federal Government's Health Task-force is introducing much stricter guidelines that weight loss products must adhere to. This came about after the government found no credible proof that fad dieting is viable. This notion has been backed by the Dietitians Association of Australia, and certainly by us at Amino Z.

    My thoughts on the matter - it's about time!

    I'm not entirely sure what the new guidelines are just yet, but with so many bogus products currently on the market, it's no wonder that so much time and money is wasted on products that promise the world and often deliver very little.

    Fad diets do not work - period. Some people may be successful in losing weight following a fad diet, however this is due to changed lifestyle habits and not the fad diet itself. The fad diet can sometimes be responsible for a shift in one's attitude and act as a cornerstone in developing a new long-term approach to weight loss. Fad diets, in themselves, are short-term, quick-fixes that have no long-term viability.

    Nearly three years ago, I wrote one of our most popular articles, "Fad Diet, Fad Result". After having published this article, I followed it up with a more objective take on the subject with "Yo-Yo Dieting, No-No Dieting". Both cover exactly the same topics, because fad dieting is what paves the way to yo-yo dieting.

    Fad dieting will not deliver desirable long-term results. The reason is because in reality, such diets cannot be adhered to on a long-term basis. For example, I am yet to meet anyone who is able to live happily and consistently off one whole-food meal a day and two protein shakes for more than a year. In theory, they sound great, but in the real world, they are just not viable.

    As a result of following such an approach as advocated by many extremely unhealthy fad diets currently available within Australia, this can cause muscle loss and a lowering in your metabolic rate. The reduction in your metabolic rate effectively means that you process less calories per day - making it much easier to gain the weight back on. In some circumstances, you can actually begin to break down organ tissues, which can cause permanent long-term damage. In addition to all of this, there are a plethora of other health risks that you run when continually following diets of this nature.

    It is no wonder that people who go from one fad diet to the next (commonly known as yo-yo dieting) gain more weight than what they lose. Initially, they may lose a significant degree of body-weight quickly (which can be extremely unhealthy in itself), but upon coming off that fad diet and re-initiating old lifestyle habits, the body-fat will inevitably pile back on. Unfortunately, this results in two of the most common frustrations of dieters:

    • Lost Money
    • Wasted Effort

    As a professional in the industry, I can completely understand that fad diets can be very tempting, especially when you feel that you have exhausted all other options. It can be so tough when you feel like a failure. But you have to understand that the healthiest, most sustainable and viable approach is to redevelop your lifestyle.

    If you feel completely lost and overwhelmed, here is a good place to start, How to Lose Weight.

  • How to Choose The Best Protein Powder

    There are so many protein powders available to purchase it can be overwhelming if you are trying to find a powder that best suits your requirements!

    I remember when I first started exercising, I walked into a nutritional store and was utterly confused at all the choices that were available. I could buy a whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, a casein, soy, rice, pea, wheat, milk or egg based protein powder. Or, I could buy a protein powder which had a blend of a mix of ingredients. Where do you begin?!

    In this single article, I am not going to be able to tell you exactly what is the most suitable for you as your circumstances will be quite different to the next person's. However, I will be able to provide you with a general guide for one of the most common goals.

    Choosing a protein powder to build muscle is one of the most common predicaments. This is the number one reason why people purchase a typical protein powder supplement - to enhance muscle gain. But all protein powders are not created equal! There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages with various forms of proteins.

    The science strongly supports whey protein based protein powders to be the most effective at encouraging muscle synthesis (or gain). Whey protein (derived from milk) is a super-high quality protein that is quickly absorbed into the body, making it ideal for pre- and post-workout supplementation. Whey proteins typically fall into two categories:

    Whey Protein Concentrates (WPC): Which are quite fast absorbing proteins.

    Whey Protein Isolates (WPI): Which are even faster absorbing proteins due to further processing.

    WPI is obviously more expensive and is generally regarded as the most effective form of protein supplementation pre/post workout. However, a blend of WPI/WPC is a very effective mix that won't break the budget.

    Other proteins do have other uses:

    Casein proteins absorb slowly over approximately seven hours (will vary between individuals). So this is good when the body doesn't need a fast acting source of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) - such as before or after a workout. Generally this is most useful prior to bed to provide a slow absorbing stream of protein throughout the night. Many protein blends also include casein for slow absorption throughout the day.

    Whole Milk and Egg based proteins are of quite high quality, yet will take hours to digest. These are commonly found in protein blends and can be very effective to be ingested during the day if you are unable to consume sufficient protein from food.

    Soy proteins are very poor in quality relative to milk derived (whey, casein) and egg derived proteins. If you are trying to build muscle, soy protein will yield significantly less results than higher quality proteins. However, they are the best quality available for people who have dietary limitations and cannot consume milk based products. Soy is much cheaper than milk based proteins.

    Grain and vegetable based proteins are very low quality and are very cheap. Unless you have a specific dietary recommendation, stay away from these products.

    If you are looking to purchase a protein powder, be sure to check out our supplement store!

  • Did You Know? Health & Fitness Interesting Facts & Trivia

    What a way to finish the week off with some interesting facts about health and fitness. Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, increase your fitness or just improve your general health, I'm sure that you will be able to put these interesting facts to use at some point!

    Health & Fitness Fact 1: Strength and Muscle Size are NOT Directly Related

    It makes sense that the larger a muscle, the stronger it is, right? Well, not exactly. Consider Olympic weight lifters for example - some of those guys are tiny compared to professional bodybuilders (who are often much weaker too!)

    There are a few factors that influence strength. Muscle tissue in itself is comprised of a number of different fibre types - some which are responsible for explosive strength and some which are responsible for endurance (and everything in between). So even though some may have an above average muscle mass, their muscles are not necessarily conditioned to handle a large force in a short period of time.

    In addition to this, strength is often very dependent upon neurological development. When you begin exercising, your brain is extremely ineffective at communicating with the muscles in how to perform an exercise effectively. As your brain adapts, it "learns" new motions. This improved efficiency of brain-muscle communication means better strength.

    Health & Fitness Fact 2: Carbohydrates are Imperative for Muscle Growth

    You may have heard the old adage "muscle is protein". In fact, muscle is the body's most abundant and ready source of protein. But in order to build muscle, you need much more than protein in your diet.

    Take the analogy of building a house. To build a house, you cannot just pile up a number of bricks and call it a house. You need tools, other materials and the skills to build that house. The same goes for muscle. Whilst protein is a primary building block of muscle, you need many other nutrients, an effective training programme, effective recovery etc. to build muscle.

    So why are carbohydrates so important for muscle growth? Well, carbohydrates assist in insulin production. Proteins from your diet cannot be utilised for the muscle building process without insulin present! Without insulin, the ingested proteins for muscle gain (broken down into amino acids) will primarily be excreted via the urine.

    In a practical sense, add carbohydrates to your pre and/or post workout shakes! Pure protein is not very effective in isolation. The best way to go for serious muscle gain is to buy some protein powder and then add in some dextrose (which can be purchased for $2.50 a kilo!).

    Health & Fitness Fact 3: More Exercise is Not Necessarily Better

    This really comes down to recovery, something that I blog about often. Exercise is where you place stress on your body. The changes that take place within your body (significant fat loss, fitness, muscle development etc.) happens when you're recovering from this exercise. Your body is effectively repairing itself so it will be able to handle the extreme stress of exercise more efficiently next time.

    So - avoid the temptation to:

    • Perform crunches after every workout to obtain a flat stomach
    • Exercise intensely seven days a week to lose weight
    • Perform numerous sets of bicep curls to focus on bicep development
    • Train a muscle group multiple times daily

    Always remember - you obtain the results outside of the gym - NOT while you are putting in the effort!

  • The Best Protein Powders in Australia

    Having trained for many years and tried a plethora of protein powder supplements (many from the annual fitness expo!), I feel that I now have a sound idea about which are the best protein powders in Australia.

    Honestly, I have tasted protein powders that I have struggled to finish drinking (and I'm quite adventurous when it comes to taste). Two products in particular stand out, but I'm not going to mention the brands because they have since updated their formula's (thankfully!).

    On the flip side, I have also tasted some AMAZING protein powder supplements - particularly in the past few years as much more development has gone into the taste of the products.

    But it's not all about taste. The quality, price and constituents of protein powders are all very important when it comes to deciding which supplement to use.

    With so many products out there, it can be confusing where to begin. So, below, I have listed the four best protein powders in Australia, for different reasons:

    The Best Tasting Protein Powder in Australia

    I really cannot go past Optimum 100% Gold Standard Whey. They have a number of flavours, all of which taste amazing! In saying this, there are other protein powders that are just as good tasting in my opinion. Yet why this product gets my vote is because of the quality of the constituents as well as the taste. It's primarily whey protein isolate, with whey protein concentrates as a secondary ingredient.

    The Best Value Protein Powder in Australia

    My definition of value considers two primary factors - product quality and price. Dymatize Elite Whey comes in a 4.5kg box, is a blend of whey protein concentrate and isolate (in that order) and is significantly more cost effective that the Optimum protein powders.

    The Best Quality Protein Powder in Australia

    This must go to AST Sports Science VP2. VP2 is a partially hydrolysed whey protein isolate protein powder. Whilst the label says that it is "100% hydrolysed", this refers to the fact that 100% of the protein has undergone the hydrolysation process. Hydrolysation enhances the rate of protein absorption to boost muscle synthesis and recovery following a workout. Ultimately, the quicker you can absorb amino acids, the more effective that workout will be. VP2 has been a world leader for many years and continues to remain right at the top of the list. But of course with the added quality comes the additional cost (albeit not excessive).

    The Best Natural Protein Powder in Australia

    I blogged about Dymatize All Natural Elite Whey not long ago, mentioning that it contained no artificial sweeteners, flavours or preservatives are added into this product. Better yet, there is no sugar either!

    Having consumed this protein powder regularly for a little while, I must say, the taste is really growing on me. It's not quite as sweet as the other powders on the market, but I really think that it's a good thing. Plus, it's primarily whey protein isolates!


    So there you have it. There are another bunch of protein powder supplements that I could add to this list, but these four products tend to really stand out.

  • Boosting Efficiency and Maximising Your Time at Work

    If you're like most people, you probably wish that you had more hours in the day to get through all the daily tasks of your work. Wouldn't it be great to boost your efficiency and maximise your time whilst you are working to boost the productivity of your day?

    Well believe it or not, nutrition and exercise both play a vital role in accomplishing an increased level of efficiency. Time management and goal setting aside, by looking after your body, you will be more effective at completing daily tasks, not only more efficiently, but with far greater quality.

    Nutrition can play a vital role in your brain function. Essential omega-3 fatty acids and imperative for daily processes and are often referred to as "brain food". Carbohydrates are the sole energy source of the brain and without adequate carbs, your efficiency and concentration will suffer markedly. B group vitamins can have a profound impact upon processing thoughts and assist in reducing stress.

    Recently, a lot of research has been conducted on the benefits of exercise and the benefits in the workplace. Not only are endorphins secreted that lift your mood and decrease stress, but exercise can actually assist in enhancing the daily processes conducted within the brain. In fact, exercise can help stimulate brain cell development - something not thought possible until only recently!

    Good eating and regular exercise can take some time. You have to prepare your food rather than ordering take-away. You may also need to take half an hour to perform a workout. Yet, this time is an investment into your productivity. With an optimally functioning brain, you could enhance your efficiency and maximise your time at work! You will get more done in less time. Whilst it's hard to quantify the benefits with a great degree of accuracy, there is no doubt that exercise and nutrition can play a vital role in getting the most out of each day.

    Be sure to check out the following articles we have available for further reading:

    Exercise Boosts Mood & Reduces Stress for 12 Hours

    The Effects of Exercise on the Brain

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