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Weight Loss

  • Is eating saturated fat making us fat?

    Saturated fat and trans fat have been publicly demonised as the "bad fats", which have turned many of us away from consuming traditional foods containing high levels saturated fat such as butter and bacon and opting for low-fat alternatives. While most people on the street would have trouble telling saturated fat and trans fat apart, they are actually very different. Saturated fat occurs naturally and is generally found in animal products such as red meat and full cream milk. Trans fat on the other hand, is mostly made by partial dehydrogenation of oils, a process that makes the fat easier to cook and harder to spoil than naturally occurring oils. Trans fat has been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase unhealthy cholesterol and can cause abdominal obesity. Saturated fat on the other hand, despite all the bad publicity from marketers, healthcare professionals and even government agencies, is not all that bad compared to many of the so called healthier alternatives.

    While saturated fat can increase both HDL and LDL cholesterols levels in the body, there is currently no concrete evidence associating saturated fat consumption with increased risk cardiovascular diseases (Siri-Tarino et al 2010, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Mente et al 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine). On the other hand, despite the findings in scientific studies showed that consuming saturated fat can make you gain weight, historic population figures painted a very different picture. In 1960, 45% of the calories came from fats and oils in an average American's diet, with 13% of the population considered obese and only fewer than 1% of the people had type 2 diabetes. Remember, that was before the invention of most of the low-fat alternatives so people were actually consuming a healthy dose of saturated fat each day. Today, Americans are eating a lot less fat, 12% less to be precise, however, 34% of the population is obese, that's 21% more than that of in 1960 and 11% of the people have diabetes. Correlation does not equal to causation, but these figures are staggering considering pretty much everyone blames the obesity epidemic on fat consumption.

    In my previous articles I mentioned that the current obesity epidemic is mainly caused by a lack of physical activities and a lack of sleep. Here may I add the third item to that list: too much carbs and sugar. That's right, many low fat alternatives contain high levels of carbohydrates and/or sugar. The increased consumption of carbohydrates and sugar will increase the risk of weight gain.

    I believe that if we all revert back to the fatty diet of the old days and perform regular exercise the current obesity epidemic would go away. The content of saturated fat in the food we eat is irrelevant as long as we eat natural, whole foods and have a good lifestyle. Replacing saturated fat with low-fat alternatives high in carbohydrates will probably make you fatter. Saturated fat consumption is not to blame for the ever-increasing waistline of the society.

  • Water drinking may assist weight loss

    Water is one of the most mundane yet important substances on earth. Over 50% of our body is made up of water, with the average water content slightly higher in men than in women. Most of us probably have heard the slogan that tells us to drink 8 glasses (or 2 litres) of water a day and yet, it was reported that around 75% of the population in America (Australian data not available) may be suffering from chronic dehydration due to a lack of water intake or/and an excessive amount of dehydrating beverage intake. We don't drink enough water. While drinking water has obvious benefits such as thirst quenching and life sustaining, it is the weight loss effect of water drinking that motivated me to write this article and to share this unusual information with you.

    Drinking room temperature water (22°C) can induce a thermogenic response, partly due to the fact that the body has to warm up the water to 37°C after ingestion. How much energy does it take for the body process water? Boschmann et al found in 2 independent studies using healthy male and female subjects that drinking 500mL of room temperature water can increase metabolic rate by up to 30% over the course of 60 minutes after ingestion. This energy-burn generally begins from 10 minutes after water ingestion and reaches maximum at around 30-40 minutes after ingestion. It's estimated that 100kj of extra energy is spent by the body to process 500mL of water. That is 400kj of extra energy expenditure per day if you drink the recommended 2 litres of water, which is equivalent to roughly 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. This may not seem much to some, but for those who want to lose weight, every calorie counts, especially when you can burn them by just drinking the recommended amount of water. The catch however, is that researchers found drinking a small amount of water (50mL) does not induce a thermogenic response, you have to do it in relatively large quantities, i.e. 500mL portions (Boschmann et al 2003 and 2007, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism). So the recommendation of 8 glasses of water 8 times a day should be modified into 8 glasses of water, 4 times a day, 2 glasses each time, if you want to take advantage of the thermogenic effect of water for weight loss.

    The timing of water consumption may also help with weight loss. It was found that premeal water consumption (again in 500mL portion) could significantly reduce energy intake during a meal. A 44% greater reduction in weight was also observed in middle-aged and older adults with BMI of 24 - 40 after 12 weeks of premeal water treatment while on a low calorie diet compared to those on a low calorie diet alone without the water (Dennis et al 2010, Obesity). Other studies have also confirmed the energy intake reduction property of consuming 375 - 500mL of water before a meal in healthy and obese adults aged 55 and above (Van Walleghen et al 2007, Obesity; Davy et al 2008, Journal of American Dietetic Association). However, this energy intake reducing effect was not observed in young health adults aged between 21 - 35 (Van Walleghen et al 2007). No studies that examined the effect of premeal water consumption on energy intake reduction in obese young adults were found during my literature research while writing this article. Therefore, while drinking 500mL of water before a meal may help you to lose weight by reducing energy intake if you are over 55, I cannot comment on the effectiveness of this strategy if you are under the age of 35.

    Drinking enough water can ensure good health and increase energy expenditure, which could help with weight loss. I hope this article gives you enough incentive to follow the doctor's recommendations on water drinking. Go fill up your glasses and drink up.

  • Protein consumption, calorie intake and weight loss

    We have discussed in the past the effect of high carbohydrate intake on weight gain. Although high carbohydrate intake is considered as one of the main culprits for promoting weight gain and having a low-carb diet is one of the most effective ways for weight loss, it is unhealthy and unsustainable to live on a low-carb diet for a prolonged period of time. Rather than deliberately trying to avoid eating carbohydrates, incorporating extra protein into your diet can really help to reduce appetite and calorie intake, hence to achieve a similar outcome as having a low carbohydrate diet. Losing weight from eating more rather than eating less certainly makes dieting a lot simpler and much more entertaining. So what can incorporating extra protein into your diet actually do?

    Increasing protein intake can increase diet-induced thermogenesis by up to 2 fold compared to having a high carbohydrate diet, which can in turn increase energy expenditure and satiety (feeling full and satisfied). A high protein diet can create a negative fat-balance and a positive protein balance, and can increase fat oxidation, at least in the short term (Westerterp-Plantenga 2008, Regulatory Peptides). A high protein diet that makes up 30% of daily energy intake can significantly reduce appetite and hence reduces daily calorie intake by around 441kcal per day and decreases fat mass by 3.7kg over a 12-week period compared to that of people on a weight maintaining diet with 15% of the daily energy intake from protein (Weigle et al 2005, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

    Eating less carbohydrate will help to maintain body weight and assists weight loss. However, it is unhealthy to have no carb and on top of that, it's difficult to know the exact carbohydrate content of the food we eat, which makes carbohydrate reduction from our diet a real challenge. Eating more protein can reduce one's appetite for other food, increases energy expenditure and subsequently promotes weight loss. It's much easier to eat more than to eat less. Make protein at least 25 - 30% of your daily energy intake and the extra weight around your belly will go.

  • Fitness-Branded Foods Can Lead to Eating More

    Fitness-branded foods can actually make people eat more. Attractive packaging can induce the idea that these foods are better. People tend to eat more of them and reduce the actual focus on physical exercises. Those looking to lose weight can be doing more harm by actually eating extra food, which takes them in the opposite direction of controlled caloric intake.

    Fitness foods and what researchers say about branding

    Those looking to lose weight are often targeted by fitness branding. Protein bars and weight loss supplements are just a few of the products consumed by those looking to lose weight. Made with attractive branding, they can sometimes be detrimental as people associate them with healthy foods and simply eat them in larger quantities.

    Research shows that this is not the sole problem of branding, as consumers tend to overlook physical activity. These foods can often be mistaken as a substitute for actual workouts.

    The methods of the research included observing a group of subjects told to act normally, as in everyday life, when it comes to snacking. In a controlled environment, the group was given a healthy snack which also had images of running shoes to imply the idea of health and fitness. After consuming one such product, they had the option to go train on a stationary bike or consume the snack. Unless they were strictly prohibited by their diets, the subjects of the study chose to consume another snack.

    Made with the purpose to investigate the effects of fitness branding, the study concluded that these healthy snacks can be a problem for those trying to keep their weight under control and that attractive branding had a major impact on this problem.

    Recommended alternatives

    The researchers also made a few recommendations. While the products were actually beneficial, they suggested that manufacturers would need to use other ways to promote a healthier way to lose weight, instead of implying it through pictures and branding. Gym vouchers or exercise tips were recommended as an alternative. These alternatives would be a more realistic solution which would not diminish the importance of physical training for those trying to manage body weight.

    Simply put, fitness branding can discourage physical activity, despite the fact that it promotes consuming more calories. This is counter-productive for those trying to lose weight. The research made by the American Marketing Association raises awareness of the issue of branding in the health and fitness space. Many products use different imagery to suggest the idea of exercising, without directly recommending physical activity.

    Researchers recommend an increased attention on marketing techniques in the fitness space. Of course, a healthy snack can be a better alternative when a quick caloric intake is needed. But it is often the misleading branding which makes people eat multiple snacks. However, those which have been on strict diets where they knew which foods were allowed and which foods were not recommended for consumption, made it clear they did not want to consume another healthy snack.

  • The Number 1 Reason You Don't Have Your Dream Body Yet

    The 2 helpful hacks you can use, to have it before summer. 

    blog

    I think Einstein summed it up pretty well with a quote that reads something like – 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.'

    This fantastic little observation can apply to almost any area of life. It really made me think, many of us could be accused of being insane when it comes to our training and our nutrition.

    Back in my mid-teens, I was an average, skinny kid who lacked self-confidence and any proper experience in the world of fitness. In my early days of training, I began in a commercial gym mid-way through my 'awkward years' of high school. My training was scattered and lacked a proper structure for progression. However, there were a couple of exercises and habits I would often keep consistent. I loved the bench press and always finished my workouts with some arms exercises.

    Get your tickets to the gun show ladies, they're selling out fast!

    Yep, I started out just as many ambitious teenage guys do with their training and sure I experienced some results (noob gains aren't overly hard to come by thankfully), but I quickly hit a plateau.

    I tried to increase my weights, feed my ego and find some sort of progress but I was stuck.

    The weight on the bar stopped increasing and so did my muscle mass.

    I was eating right and training hard but was nowhere near the body or confidence level that I had hoped to achieve when I set out to improve the way I looked and felt originally.

    What was I doing wrong!?

    Insanity. I was doing the same thing over and over again with my training. The same routine, the same exercises for over a year!

    I didn't change up my rep ranges and barely ever threw in a new exercise. Not to mention the fact that my eating never changed and I wasn't eating enough protein or even food in general to help facilitate my desired level of muscle growth.

    Does this story sound familiar at all?

    It doesn't matter whether your goal is to drop 10kg of body fat, or add 10kg of lean muscle, or both, the principle is still the same. If you don't have a certain level of variety to your training, your body will eventually adapt and your results will begin to stall.

    We've all experienced a plateau at some point in our training or weight-loss journey. It happens. But with these 2 helpful hacks, you can avoid plateaus and be well on the way to the body of your dreams before summer rolls around.

    1. Give your routine a spring clean.

    If we do the same things, we get the same results – if your routine isn't giving you results anymore, it's time to change it.

    Far too often I see people in the gym doing the same routine they were doing months ago and looking more or less the same. Of course, there are plenty of other factors that go into making the end result like:

    • Diet
    • Training frequency
    • Other lifestyle factors

    However, it's obviously very important to get what you're doing in the gym right in order to see progress.

    For example, if you're the kinda gal who is intimidated by the weights section and scurries upstairs to the treadmill every time you step into the gym but your main goal is to tone up and add some firmness to your frame, you may be in for a shock.

    Or conversely, if you're a wanna be Arnie kinda guy who wants to stack on some solid muscle mass to your whole frame but you're too busy just doing bicep curls or lifting with your ego and doing 1 rep max sets of bench press every session, you're going to struggle to reach your goals.

    Re-assess what you're doing inside AND outside of the gym (i.e. your nutrition) and make an honest judgement as to whether what you're doing is the best course of action for you to achieve your goals.

    If it isn't, or if you've been stuck in the same routine for a while, then it's time to change it up.

    (If you're unsure about that, then by all means shoot me an email or a message and let's have a chat about what you can do to start progressing again).

    1. Be sure to keep things fresh and challenging - change things up every couple of months

    When we stop challenging our body, our results begin to slow down.

    There's no magic number as to how often you should change up your routine and everyone is different. That said, a standard weights routine for toning up or building lean muscle mass should be slightly altered every 6-12 weeks as a general rule.

    Obviously factors like your training experience and training style/goals will affect that number but it's a good basic guideline.

    Otherwise, you could even consider altering your program if you cease to see progress for more than a few weeks (assuming your nutrition and recovery are in order).

    I guess Einstein was a pretty smart dude after all…

    Attaining the body of your dreams is simpler than you think. Doing the same thing over and over again will only work for a period of time until your results slow right down.

    If you're unsure how to work out how to change up your routine or even just unsure about training in general, then we highly recommend reaching out to the Alpha Fitness team as we're always happy and willing to help.

    That's it for now from Jake and the Alpha Fitness team,

    Happy toning!

    Jake is passionate about helping women reach their full potential by rapidly transforming their bodies through holistic methods. To find out more, visit www.alphafitness.com.au.

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