Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Ever seen someone who seems to eat whatever they want but they never seem to gain weight? Let’s face it most people enjoy eating, but can you really eat whatever you want? Can you out exercise your fork? Find out in this week’s blog.
Fact is, even on a very basic calorie level, the amount of calories you take in by eating a fast-food burger, fries, and soda is probably far more than you'll ever burn during even the most high intensity workout you can possibly do! In exercise we burn off about 10 calories a minute, at rest we burn about 1 calorie per minute (yes that’s about it). So you ate one peanut M&M you would need to run the equivalent of two football fields to burn it off. For potato chips and Doritos, they equal two football fields for each chip! Chocolate chip cookies, depending on their size, equal 8 - 15 football fields. A snickers bar equals 50 football fields. Miller or Bud Lite equal 18 football fields. If you choose a regular Miller or Bud - that equals 36 football fields. And a Big Mac, fries and shake are 240 football fields or five straight hours of walking.
You have to realize that it’s not just a matter of calories in versus calories out, we dispersed that myth in earlier blogs. It’s actually far more than that. You do not necessarily get fat because you eat too many calories and don't exercise enough. It should be obvious that food in easily outnumbers the amount of calories you can burn in exercise. So two things are important to understand. First, you get fat because you eat the wrong kind of calories. And second, the number of calories you burn in an exercise period is irrelevant. It does not matter how many calories you burn it matters how you physiologically affect your body because you exercised. And yes, it is that simple.
I’ve blogged on this many times, but as long as you keep eating fructose and grains, you're programming your body to create and store fat, regardless of how much exercise you get. Your food matters. The type of food, how much you eat (at any one time) and when you eat. It all counts.
About 75 percent of your ability to reduce excess body fat is determined by what you eat, with the other 25 percent related to exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits such as sleep and stress reduction. In reality exercise prepares your body to handle the calories that you consume, but you can easily overwhelm it with the wrong kinds of calories.
What this means is that if your diet is based on processed junk food, your chances of getting fit and healthy, even if you work out, are almost impossible.
Choosing a poor diet isn't only a matter of eliminating "empty calories." Obviously those empty calories will contribute to weight gain without proper nutrition, but the problem is much deeper than this. For the most part, it’s the excess sugar and fructose consumption, common if you eat a lot of processed foods, which are linked to disease such as insulin resistance, high triglycerides, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
We all know that sugar is the driving factor in insulin resistance. We also now understand that whatever organ is affected by excess sugar, or becomes insulin resistant, ends up manifesting its own chronic metabolic disease. For example, when you have insulin resistance which affects your pancreas, you can end up with diabetes, in the brain it leads to Alzheimer's disease, in many cells it manifests as cancer, in the heart, heart disease, and the kidneys as chronic renal disease, and so on.
Refined fructose, typically in some form of corn syrup, is now found in virtually every processed food you can think of, and fructose actually "programs" your body to consume more calories and store fat. That’s right, eat a little and you want more. But fructose is unique insofar as it can remove the “brakes” from your natural hunger mechanisms, which leads to chronic overeating.
More importantly, fructose is metabolized in your liver. This is primarily because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. Since nearly all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, your liver eventually gets damaged by it, cannot digest all of it and in turn becomes toxic from it.
Now here’s the important part. Dietary sugar, and that includes fructose, activates a key enzyme called fructokinase. Yep, that’s a real enzyme! This in turn activates another enzyme that causes cells to store fat. What’s also important is that sugar consumption within a few hours after high intensity exercise will effectively prevent HGH (human growth hormone) from being produced. That means you cannot recover as fast and you get less out of your workout. Now this is particularly important because many protein shakes have a very high sugar content to enhance their taste! That means you need to find a protein shake that has 5 or less grams per serving to ensure you do not get too much sugar.
Let’s face it, processed foods are bad. They include Tran’s fats, fried foods, processed foods, sugar, and grains. They harm your health, they are highly inflammatory, and they increase your fat storage switch while removing your “hunger off” brakes. The important thing to understand here is that most health problems such as obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, periodontal disease, stroke, and heart disease are all rooted in uncontrolled inflammation. Exercise cannot prevent this if your diet includes foods that are causing that inflammation.
Now, I have your attention, let’s understand that the majority of inflammatory diseases actually start in your gut. Your gut is considered to be 80% of your immune system. It is the reason why you stay healthy, gain or lose weight, get sick or stay well. Chronic inflammation in your gut can disrupt the gut bacteria by impairing their ability to function while feeding bad bacteria and yeast. This can cause the promotion of more inflammation and increase the risk of chronic disease and weight gain, even if you exercise.
Studies in gut flora find consistently that lean people tend to have higher amounts of healthy bacteria compared to obese people. For example, one 2011 study found that daily intake of a specific form of lactic acid bacteria could help prevent obesity and reduce low-level inflammation in rats.
Research in 2006 in Nature found that obese individuals had about 20 percent more of a family of bacteria known as firmicutes and almost 90 percent less of a bacteria called bacteroidetes than lean people.
Firmicutes appear to help your body extract calories from complex sugars and deposit those calories in fat. So having more of them promotes weight gain. When these microbes are transplanted into normal-weight mice, those mice start to gain fat at an accelerated rate, indicating that your gut bacteria may be more than simply an immune system booster. This research sheds new light on the importance of your gut flora and how taking weight loss supplements may be a horrible waste of time if they don’t build the bacteroidetes and lower the firmicutes (which they don’t). It may also explain why you may have trouble losing that weight, even on an appropriate diet. Keep in mind that it can take upwards of a year to repopulate your gut flora, so patience is important.
What you eat can also affect your health and the benefits you get from exercise. Fact is, when it comes to losing weight and toning up your muscles, without the right diet you may just be spinning your wheels.
If you're like most people, you're probably eating too many carbs, too much sugar and not enough vegetables. If you are a competitive athlete and are not insulin resistant, you can tolerate more carbs, but they don’t necessarily help your athletic ability unless you are in a competitive event.
For decades we have thought that fat makes you fat. But no research is able to prove that you get fat from eating healthy fats—you get fat from eating too many carbs (sugar) or excessive empty calories. Hence, what you'll find on my list of "fitness foods" below are primarily healthy fats, which is what you'll want to replace the lost carbs with for energy, along with high-quality proteins and foods to change your gut flora..
So, how do you support a healthy population of bacteroidetes? The answer is something called prebiotics. Prebiotics are a class of non-digestible carbohydrates – in the form of dietary fiber – that serve as food for the bacteria in your gut. In other words, you need to feed the gut flora so that they can grow and prosper.
To keep a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, we need to avoid processed foods and sugars (which grow the firmicutes) and increase our fiber-rich plant foods which grown the bacteroidetes. These foods should be part of a diet that includes plenty of good fats (I will cover 6 excellent choices later), vitamins and micronutrients, and avoids bad fats, excess refined sugars, processed/junk foods, and excess alcohol. Good forms of dietary fiber include: All vegetables but especially asparagus, artichokes, peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts; limited fruits (eat the berry kind); and limited beans.
In addition to a diet strong in prebiotic fiber, you can help support a healthy gut environment by eating probiotics. These are live, “friendly” bacteria that bolster your gut’s population of healthy microbes and also boost your immune system. For probiotics to work, there must be a sufficient number of live bacteria present in the product (lactobacillis, bifidobacteria, saccharomyces boulardii, streptococcus thermophillus, enterococcus faecium, and leuconostoc) to survive the acidic environment of the stomach, and reach the large intestine.
That’s why purchasing probiotics requires several billion versus a few million. Your dietary fiber (prebiotics) acts as food to nourish these friendly probiotic bacteria, and ensures their growth and colonization. This combination of pre- and probiotic support can be vital for insuring a healthy gut and eventually protecting you against weight gain.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, amasi, some cheeses, kefir, miso, natto, pickles, sour cream, soy sauce, tempeh, Worchester sauce, kombucha, and greek yogurt (careful of the high sugar kind) contain live microbes, and can also help boost the probiotic content of your digestive tract. One caution; not all fermented foods have live cultures, and it’s the live ones you want. So read your labels!
Medications, hygiene, age, health status, and stress can also influence your gut microbe balance. Eating a fiber-strong, gut-friendly diet and supplementing with probiotics and fermented foods is one of your best strategies for supporting gut health.
The following 6 foods are those that are among the most helpful in terms of supporting your overall health with good fats. You should aim to incorporate as many of these foods into your diet on a daily or weekly basis as possible. Keep in mind that all of the items on this list should be organic, and if possible grass-fed/pastured or wild.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat that is easily burned for energy. A medium avocado contains about 22.5 grams of fat. They're also very low in fructose, which is yet another benefit, while being high in potassium, which will help balance your vitally important potassium-to-sodium ratio. They have a good supply of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, B5 and B6. Avocados also enable your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein, in other foods eaten in conjunction.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is nature's richest source of healthy medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which your body sends directly to your liver to use as energy. This makes coconut oil a powerful source of instant energy to your body, a function usually served in the diet by simple carbohydrates. Numerous studies have shown that MCFAs promote weight loss and help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
Additionally, research has demonstrated that, due to its beneficial metabolic effect, coconut oil also may increase the activity of your thyroid. A sluggish thyroid is one reason why some people are unable to lose weight, no matter what they do. Half of the fat content in coconut oil is lauric acid—a fat rarely found in nature—that could easily qualify as a "miracle" ingredient because of its unique health promoting properties. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-protozoa properties, for example. You can add raw organic coconut oil to green juices, smoothies, and even coffee (in lieu of sugar).
3. Wild Alaskan Salmon
Wild Alaskan salmon is an excellent source of essential animal-based omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA), which helps to reestablish your omega 3:6 ratio, it is a high-quality protein, as well as containing one of the planet’s most powerful antioxidants, astaxanthin—all of which are important nutrients for fitness.
Wild Alaskan Salmon is generally not a fish contaminated with mercury as long as its purity can be verified. You can also get animal-based omega-3 fats and high-quality protein, without a risk of contamination, by eating sardines and anchovies or taking krill oil.
4. Organic Pastured Eggs
Organic pasture-raised eggs, which are generally brown, are a great source of protein, essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your body tissues such as your skin, internal organs, and muscles. They are also the major components of your immune system and hormones. Pasture-raised eggs also contain healthy saturated fats and cholesterol—both of which your body actually needs for optimal health. There is no evidence that dietary cholesterol negatively affects your blood cholesterol by the way.
Eggs, as well as the chickens they come from, are healthy sources of protein but only if they have been feed healthy natural diets. You cannot produce a healthy product if you feed that product unhealthy food! True free-range eggs, now increasingly referred to as "pasture-raised," come from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
5. Whey Protein
Research has shown that aerobic exercise and strength training effectively enhances insulin sensitivity, but your post-workout drinks must have relatively low carbohydrate content to properly work. After a workout, the window for the highest protein absorption is 45-90 minutes, although it still has a positive effect up to 3-4 hours post exercise. Consuming a high-quality source of protein (shake or whole food) along with a vegetable-type carbohydrate is effective too. An example would be a spinach salad and some chicken or simply a whey based protein shake which is low in sugar. Interestingly, a banana eaten with the shake enhances absorption. The potassium in the banana seems to help with recovery.
If you want, you can take 20 grams of whey protein (make sure there's no added sugar) 30 minutes before exercise, and another serving about 30 minutes afterward. This can help increase both fat burning and muscle building. According to a 2010 study, consuming whey protein (20g protein / serving) 30 minutes before resistance training can boost your body's metabolism for as much as 24 hours after your workout. If you are only going to do one whey meal, then your post-workout meal is the most crucial, especially if your aim is to increase your muscle growth.
6. Antibiotic-Free, Grass-Fed Protein
All food fats are a blend of the different types, saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fats include poly- and monounsaturated fats. Omega-3s and 6s are types of polyunsaturated fats, called essential because we have to get them from food, our bodies can't manufacture them from other fats. Fact is grass-fed beef is naturally leaner than grain-fed beef. Omega 3s in beef that feed on grass is 7% of the total fat content, compared to 1% in grain-only fed beef. Grass-fed beef has the recommended ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats (3:1.) and grass-fed beef is loaded with other natural minerals and vitamins, plus it's a great source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) a fat that reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a number of immune disorders. Beef, in its natural grass-fed state, is a health food of the highest order.
It is also a good idea to ensure that you get about 25-30 grams of fiber per day. Other than lots of vegies, I would consider adding ground flax in the form of a drink (mixed with water or natural juice) to ensure that you get enough.