Tag Archives: health

Why Is Optimizing Protein Intake So Important?

23 May

Why Is Optimizing Protein Intake So Important?

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn2

When it comes to improving overall health, performance, body composition, appetite control, and satiety, there is arguably not a single more effective, well-established dietary factor than optimizing one’s protein intake. Research has shown that consuming diets higher in protein are not only safe for otherwise healthy individuals, they may provide a host of benefits. Higher protein diets may:

  • Accelerate fat loss and spare lean body mass while following a reduced-calorie diet.
  • Attenuate weight regain and contribute to long-term weight maintenance.
  • Optimize 24-hour muscle protein synthesis and facilitate the maintenance or building of muscle mass.
  • Boost metabolic rate.
  • Preserve metabolic rate after weight loss.
  • Increase satiety and improve appetite control.
  • Improve carbohydrate metabolism and glycemic regulation.
  • Increase calcium absorption.


Establishing the ‘New Normal’

While the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has established a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein intake at 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (or, about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight), research illustrates quite clearly and convincingly that an increase in dietary protein intake to at least TWICE (i.e., ≥ 1.6g/kg or 0.72 g/lb) that of the IOM recommendations may be “metabolically advantageous,” particularly for individuals looking to improve body composition (e.g., lose fat) as well as older adults (who are likely to lose muscle mass as they age) and physically active folks (e.g., athletes, military personnel, recreational exercisers).1

The International Society of Sports Nutrition’s (ISSN) Position Stand on Protein states that “protein intakes of 1.4–2.0 g/kg/day [0.63 – 0.91 grams of protein per pound] for physically active individuals is not only safe, but may improve the training adaptations to exercise training.” Further, the ISSN states, “While it is possible for physically active individuals to obtain their daily protein requirements through a varied, regular diet, supplemental protein in various forms are a practical way of ensuring adequate and quality protein intake for athletes.”2 Further, the American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada support higher protein intakes in this range to optimize body composition and performance.3

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, renowned protein researcher Dr. Kevin Tipton from the University of Sterling suggests that a high-protein diet may be defined by as much as 35% of total daily caloric intake.4 What’s more, in a breakthrough study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, researchers revealed the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein has underestimated protein requirements by as much as 30 – 50%. Using a novel, validated scientific method, researchers have established that folks should be consuming as much as 35% of their total daily caloric intake from protein. Along these lines, researchers posit that one can optimize protein intake by eating 1.5 – 2.2 grams of high-quality protein per pound of body weight per day.5


Show Me the Data

High-protein diets have been shown to accelerate fat loss and spare lean body mass while following a reduced-calorie diet. In one study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers from the University of Illinois found that women consuming 0.72 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (about 125 grams per day or 30% of their total daily caloric intake) for 10 weeks had a 66% better ratio of fat to lean body mass loss compared to the “normal” protein group (who consumed half the amount of protein). This means the high-protein group lost MORE fat and LESS muscle—despite consuming the EXACT same amount of calories.6

Interestingly, when the same group of researchers, led by Dr. Donald Layman, combined exercise (5 days of walking plus 2 days of strength training), the effects of the high-protein diet were amplified. Over the course of 16 weeks, the folks combining a high-protein diet (about 30% of calories per day) with exercise lost 43% more fat than the “normal” protein group, who consumed the same number of calories and followed the same exercise program. Even more, compared to the normal protein group that dieted without exercise, the high-protein plus exercise group lost 75% more fat over the course of the 4-month study.7

In a recent randomized control trial published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from McMaster University found that men combining a reduced-calorie high-protein diet (about 1 gram per pound of body weight per day) with a strenuous exercise program lost over 10 pounds of fat in 4 weeks—37% more than the low-protein group eating the same number of calories and performing the same exercise routine. What’s more, the high-protein group gained over 2.5 pounds of muscle­—despite heavy calorie restriction—while the low-protein group experienced no change. That’s the holy grail of body composition: Fat loss PLUS muscle gain!8

In a recent randomized control trial, a group of researchers from UCLA, led by Dr. Lorraine Evangelista, found that study participants consuming a high-protein diet for 12 weeks lost 77% more weight and dropped more than TWICE as much body fat than the standard protein group.9 In another recent randomized control trial, a group of German researchers, led by Dr. Marion Flechtner-Mors, found that folks consuming a high-protein diet for 12 months lost over TWICE as much weight as the standard-protein group.10

In yet another randomized control trial conducted at the University of Navarra in Pampalona, Spain, a research team led by Dr. Idoia Labayen found that obese women consuming a high-protein diet (about 30% of daily caloric intake) for 10 weeks lost nearly 10 MORE pounds (or, 92% more weight) and 88% more fat than the standard-protein group—once again, despite both groups eating the exact same number of calories.11

In another recent study, researchers from the University of California-Davis, led by Dr. Sidika Karakas, found that overweight women consuming a high-protein diet lost THREE times more weight and over SIX times more fat than the standard-protein group despite sticking to the same amount of reduced calories.12

One of the most objective analyses of the effects of an intervention (like high-protein diets) is something called a meta-analysis, in which researchers gather all of the studies on a particular topic and perform a highly sophisticated statistical analysis. Along these lines, in a meta-analysis of 24 weight-loss studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of South Australia found that high-protein diets led to significantly greater losses in body weight and body fat and spared losses in lean body mass and reductions in metabolic rate, which are common with standard-protein, reduced-calorie diets.13

The study authors concluded that, compared to standard-protein diets, high-protein diets (between 25 – 35% of total daily caloric intake) provide benefits for weight and fat loss and for mitigating losses in lean body mass and resting metabolic rate.


No One-Trick Pony

What’s more, high-protein diets help attenuate weight regain and contribute to long-term weight maintenance. That’s right, not only have high-protein diets been shown to lead to greater fat loss and improvements in body composition during dieting trials, researchers have also found that high-protein diets increase compliance and long-term weight management.14 In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that after dropping over 20 pounds during an 8-week weight loss trial, folks consuming a higher protein diet (25% of daily caloric intake) maintained body weight over the next 12 months whereas individuals consuming a standard-protein diet regained some of the weight lost.15

As mentioned above, high-protein diets also help preserve metabolic rate after weight loss.16 A common concern and consequence of standard-protein, reduced-calorie diets is a significant decline in metabolic rate, which frequently leads to weight regain. However, studies have shown that high-protein diets may conserve metabolic rate, and therefore, prevent weight regain. In one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that metabolic rate was conserved to a significantly greater extent in folks who consumed a higher protein diet (30% of total calories) compared to individuals who consumed a lower protein diet (20% of total calories).17

One way by which high-protein diets may improve weight-loss outcomes is through increased satiety and improved appetite control. High-protein meals boost satiety, which means that protein-dense foods are much more likely to make you feel full and satisfied.18 What’s more, diets rich in high-quality proteins improve appetite control, as well as reduce daily food intake.19 In a recent study published in the Nutrition Journal, researchers from the University of Missouri found that consuming higher protein, dairy-based snacks (e.g., yogurt) improved satiety, appetite control, and limited subsequent food intake when compared to higher fat and higher carbohydrate-based snacks.20


Balanced Bites

Many people tend to follow a skewed pattern of protein intake throughout the day. In other words, they might have a carbohydrate-dense breakfast (e.g., oatmeal, cereal, bagel) that contains just a few grams of protein, and at lunch, they may have a salad, sandwich, and/or soup that contain less than 20 grams of protein. Then, at dinner, they tend to have a large meal with their largest portion of protein for the day.

In fact, many people consume as much as 50% of their daily protein intake at a single meal in the evening.21 Contrary to this common pattern (referred to as a “skewed” intake of protein), research shows us that a “balanced” intake of protein throughout the day appears to be optimal to take advantage of the many beneficial attributes of protein.

For instance, in a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that balancing protein intake over the course of three meals (about 30 grams of protein per meal) significantly increased muscle protein synthesis (by 25%) when compared to a “skewed” protein intake typical of the American diet.22

Why is this so important? Maximizing protein synthesis is paramount to looking, feeling, and performing your best regardless of your age or goals, and it’s especially important for improving body composition, optimizing metabolism, improving carbohydrate tolerance, avoiding age-related declines in muscle mass and metabolic rate, improving performance, and optimizing physical function.

In a separate study published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers from McMaster University discovered equally impressive findings when they compared a balanced to a skewed protein intake combined with calorie restriction (i.e., dieting). In general, dieting results in a marked decrease in muscle protein synthesis, which typically leads to muscle loss. In fact, losses in lean mass may account for as much as 25% of the weight lost.23,24

The researchers found that a skewed protein intake combined with calorie restriction led to significantly greater reductions in muscle protein synthesis. In other words, a balanced protein intake “rescued” much of the normal decline seen in protein synthesis with dieting. Even more, they found that combining resistance training with a balanced protein intake completely rescued the decline in protein synthesis seen with energy restriction and skewed protein intake.25

As far as how much protein to eat, the research suggests at least 30 grams per meal (3 – 4 meals per day) as a starting point. More specifically, researchers suggest that about 0.18 grams per pound of bodyweight per meal seems to be optimal.26


Take-Home Points

  • Optimizing protein intake is a well-established nutrition priority for looking, feeling, and performing your best.
  • Studies show that higher protein intakes accelerate fat loss, preserve lean body mass, promote recovery and performance, increase satiety, improve appetite control, reduce cravings, improve glycemic control, preserve metabolic rate, and attenuate weight regain.
  • The evidence suggests that an optimal protein intake may be between 0.7 – 0.9 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day as a starting point.
  • Research also suggests that a balanced intake of protein (versus a skewed intake) throughout the day may be optimal to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Based on the current body of research, an intake of around 0.18 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per meal may be a good starting point.
  • Combining resistance training with an optimal protein intake appears to be superior (for body composition, health, performance) than a higher protein intake alone.
  • High-quality sources of protein are likely best and include: lean meats, poultry, fish/seafood, and wild game (preferably pasture-raised, wild, organic, etc., when appropriate); eggs (preferably pasture-raised); dairy (e.g., Greek yogurt, cottage cheese; preferably organic); protein supplements. [Note: Many protein studies use milk-based protein supplements (e.g., whey, casein), which are considered superior due to their protein quality (e.g., leucine content) and are often used to establish key baselines.]



  1. Pasiakos SM. Metabolic Advantages of Higher Protein Diets and Benefits of Dairy Foods on Weight Management, Glycemic Regulation, and Bone: Benefits of higher protein…. J Food Sci. 2015;80(S1):A2-A7. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.12804.
  2. Campbell B, Kreider RB, Ziegenfuss T, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4(1):8. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-8.
  3. Rodriguez NR. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109(3):509-527. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2009.01.005.
  4. Tipton KD. Efficacy and consequences of very-high-protein diets for athletes and exercisers. Proc Nutr Soc. 2011;70(02):205-214. doi:10.1017/S0029665111000024.
  5. Pencharz PB, Elango R, Wolfe RR. Recent developments in understanding protein needs – How much and what kind should we eat? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. April 2016:1-4. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015-0549.
  6. Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, et al. A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2003;133(2):411-417.
  7. Layman DK, Evans E, Baum JI, Seyler J, Erickson DJ, Boileau RA. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2005;135(8):1903-1910.
  8. Longland TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchell CJ, Devries MC, Phillips SM. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(3):738-746. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.119339.
  9. Evangelista LS, Heber D, Li Z, Bowerman S, Hamilton MA, Fonarow GC. Reduced body weight and adiposity with a high-protein diet improves functional status, lipid profiles, glycemic control, and quality of life in patients with heart failure: a feasibility study. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2009;24(3):207-215. doi:10.1097/JCN.0b013e31819846b9.
  10. Flechtner-Mors M, Boehm BO, Wittmann R, Thoma U, Ditschuneit HH. Enhanced weight loss with protein-enriched meal replacements in subjects with the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2010;26(5):393-405. doi:10.1002/dmrr.1097.
  11. Labayen I, Díez N, González A, Parra D, Martínez JA. Effects of protein vs. carbohydrate-rich diets on fuel utilisation in obese women during weight loss. Forum Nutr. 2003;56:168-170.
  12. Kasim-Karakas SE, Almario RU, Cunningham W. Effects of protein versus simple sugar intake on weight loss in polycystic ovary syndrome (according to the National Institutes of Health criteria). Fertil Steril. 2009;92(1):262-270. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.05.065.
  13. Wycherley TP, Moran LJ, Clifton PM, Noakes M, Brinkworth GD. Effects of energy-restricted high-protein, low-fat compared with standard-protein, low-fat diets: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(6):1281-1298. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.044321.
  14. Layman DK, Evans EM, Erickson D, et al. A Moderate-Protein Diet Produces Sustained Weight Loss and Long-Term Changes in Body Composition and Blood Lipids in Obese Adults. J Nutr. 2009;139(3):514-521. doi:10.3945/jn.108.099440.
  15. Larsen TM, Dalskov S-M, van Baak M, et al. Diets with High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance. N Engl J Med. 2010;363(22):2102-2113. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1007137.
  16. Soenen S, Martens EAP, Hochstenbach-Waelen A, Lemmens SGT, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Normal protein intake is required for body weight loss and weight maintenance, and elevated protein intake for additional preservation of resting energy expenditure and fat free mass. J Nutr. 2013;143(5):591-596. doi:10.3945/jn.112.167593.
  17. Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, et al. Effects of dietary composition on energy expenditure during weight-loss maintenance. JAMA. 2012;307(24):2627-2634. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6607.
  18. Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(5):373-385.
  19. Leidy HJ. Increased dietary protein as a dietary strategy to prevent and/or treat obesity. Mo Med. 2014;111(1):54-58.
  20. Ortinau LC, Hoertel HA, Douglas SM, Leidy HJ. Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutr J. 2014;13:97. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-97.
  21. USDA Agricultural Research Service. Energy Intakes: Percentages of Energy from Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat, and Alcohol, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2009–2010.; 2012. http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=18349.
  22. Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, et al. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. J Nutr. 2014;144(6):876-880. doi:10.3945/jn.113.185280.
  23. Weinheimer EM, Sands LP, Campbell WW. A systematic review of the separate and combined effects of energy restriction and exercise on fat-free mass in middle-aged and older adults: implications for sarcopenic obesity. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(7):375-388. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00298.x.
  24. Areta JL, Burke LM, Camera DM, et al. Reduced resting skeletal muscle protein synthesis is rescued by resistance exercise and protein ingestion following short-term energy deficit. AJP Endocrinol Metab. 2014;306(8):E989-E997. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00590.2013.
  25. Murphy CH, Churchward-Venne TA, Mitchell CJ, et al. Hypoenergetic diet-induced reductions in myofibrillar protein synthesis are restored with resistance training and balanced daily protein ingestion in older men. Am J Physiol – Endocrinol Metab. 2015;308(9):E734-E743. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00550.2014.
  26. Moore DR, Churchward-Venne TA, Witard O, et al. Protein Ingestion to Stimulate Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Requires Greater Relative Protein Intakes in Healthy Older Versus Younger Men. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015;70(1):57-62. doi:10.1093/gerona/glu103.



All About Probiotics

15 Oct

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn2

What Are Probiotics?

According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), probiotics are defined as “living microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”1

The digestive tract alone contains roughly 100 trillion bacteria. To put that into perspective, we have 10 trillion cells that make up our bodies. In other words, the bacterial ecosystem that makes us who we are outnumbers our cells on the order of 10 to 1. From a DNA perspective, the genes of the microbes that inhabit our bodies exceed the amount of human DNA we each have by a factor of 100.

small world

Cani PD, Delzenne NM. Pharmacol Ther. 2011;130(2):202-212.(2)

Building and maintaining a healthy gut flora—which involves optimizing the balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria—is critical to digestive system health and function, overall health, immune system function, mental health and wellbeing, metabolism and weight management, respiratory (i.e., lungs) and integumentary (i.e., skin) systems, and more. When the gut flora is at a healthy balance, it provides immense support to digestive function, immune system, metabolism, skin health, mental wellbeing, and more.

However, when the gut is unbalanced and unhealthy, a number of issues can ensue. In fact, research suggests that having inadequate levels of healthy bacteria in your gut may contribute to over 170 different health issues, including weight gain and difficulty with weight management, as well as digestive-, skin-, and mental wellbeing-related issues. Along these lines, there are many common factors that can upset the balance of gut bacteria, including:

  • Aging
  • Environmental factors
  • Food choices (e.g., Certain artificial sweeteners like sucralose have been shown to reduce the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut and negatively alter the gut flora.11)
  • Stress
  • Medications (e.g., antibiotics12)
  • Smoking

In other words, a modern lifestyle—characterized by poor food choices, stress, and antibiotics, as well as factors outside of your control like nutrient-deplete soil, environmental toxins, and pollutants—can wreak havoc on the gut flora. The great news that there is a solution to an unhealthy gut, and you can begin restoring your gut health by supplementing with high-quality probiotics.

western living

Adapted from Schippa S, Conte M. Nutrients. 2014;6(12):5786-5805.(5)

This leads us into a discussion of how probiotics may be helpful. In the GI tract, probiotics serve a number of important functions, as they:

  • Support a balance of healthy bacteria in the gut
  • Keep pathogenic bacteria from settling and growing
  • Help digest and absorb nutrients and support a healthy GI tract
  • Help regulate and support a healthy immune system
  • Produce key nutrients (e.g., B & K vitamins, short-chain fatty acids)
  • Keep the system moving
  • Help metabolize chemicals and phytonutrients
  • Synthesize polyamines
  • Produce coagulation and growth factors
  • Promote a healthy balance of cytokines
  • Regulate secretion and use of intestinal mucus
  • Help regulate blood flow to internal organs
  • Provide gut barrier reinforcement
Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, et al.(1)

Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, et al.(1)

A Lesson in ProBiology

Symbiosis refers to a “mutually beneficial relationship between two different organisms living in close approximation.” Pertinent to the conversation on probiotics, humans have evolved intimate symbiotic relationships with gut microbes. In fact, human beings can be considered “superorganisms” as a result of their close symbiotic associations with the gut microbiota.3 Optimal human health and homeostasis revolves heavily on this symbiotic relationship, which entails maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

Along these lines, dysbiosis refers to microbial imbalances on or within the body. In other words, dysbiosis describes the state of an unhealthy imbalance of bacteria in the gut flora, characterized by excessive levels of pathogenic bacteria, inadequate amounts of commensal and probiotic bacteria, and/or reduced bacterial diversity. Fundamentally, gut dysbiosis destroys the symbiotic relationship between humans and microbes; in fact, gut dysbiosis has been linked to numerous human health issues, including obesity.4–9

This is leads into why probiotics are critical to restoring gut health and fortifying the gut microbiome. By their very definition, probiotics are non-pathogenic, healthy bacteria that confer a clear beneficial effect on the host (i.e., humans). Supplementation with these commensal bacteria—which supply essential nutrients and defend against pathogens—helps restore a normal, healthy microbiome. Beyond restorative and reactive measures, probiotics help to prevent a normal, healthy individual from acquiring dysbiosis in the future.

In both cases, probiotics promote probiosis (i.e., an association of two organisms that enhances the life processes of both) and support and fortify the symbiotic relationship between humans and gut microbes.

The symbiotic relationship between humans and gut bacteria. Commensal bacteria supply the host with essential nutrients and defend the host against opportunistic pathogens. They are involved in the development of the intestinal architecture and immunomodulatory processes (i.e., healthy immune system function). On the other hand, the host provides the bacteria with nutrients and a stable environment.(10)

The symbiotic relationship between humans and gut bacteria. Commensal bacteria supply the host with essential nutrients and defend the host against opportunistic pathogens. They are involved in the development of the intestinal architecture and immunomodulatory processes (i.e., healthy immune system function). On the other hand, the host provides the bacteria with nutrients and a stable environment.(4)

What Does This Mean for You?

Building and maintaining a healthy gut flora—which involves optimizing the balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria—is critical to digestive system health and function, overall health, immune system function, mental health and wellbeing, metabolism and weight management, respiratory (i.e., lungs) and integumentary (i.e., skin) systems, and more. When the gut flora is at a healthy balance, it provides immense support to digestive function, immune system, metabolism, skin health, mental wellbeing, and more.

However, research suggests that having inadequate levels of healthy bacteria in the gut may contribute to over 170 different health issues (including weight gain and difficulty with weight management), and a modern lifestyle characterized by stress, processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, antibiotics, nutrient-deplete soil, and environmental toxins can wreak havoc on the gut flora and disrupt the natural balance of healthy bacteria.

With that in mind, I would consider a high-quality probiotic (recommendation: BioTrust Pro-X10) “foundational” for nearly everyone to support optimal levels of probiotics, establish and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, promote a healthy digestive system, and support a robust immune system. Along with probiotic supplementation, you can also fortify your gut by eating plenty of traditionally fermented foods:

  • Kefir, yogurt
  • Sauerkraut, pickles, and other properly fermented vegetables
  • Miso, tempeh
  • Kombucha
  • Red wine

Establishing optimal gut health is a balance between what’s there and what’s not there. Along those lines, it’s also advised to be mindful of and reduce exposure to the controllable factors (e.g., diet, stress, medications) that may negatively impact the composition of the microflora, gut health, and every other aspect of human health and function mentioned above.


  1. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, et al. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014;11(8):506-514. doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66.
  2. Cani PD, Delzenne NM. The gut microbiome as therapeutic target. Pharmacol Ther. 2011;130(2):202-212. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2011.01.012.
  3. Li M, Wang B, Zhang M, et al. Symbiotic gut microbes modulate human metabolic phenotypes. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2008;105(6):2117-2122. doi:10.1073/pnas.0712038105.
  4. Martín R, Miquel S, Ulmer J, Kechaou N, Langella P, Bermúdez-Humarán LG. Role of commensal and probiotic bacteria in human health: a focus on inflammatory bowel disease. Microb Cell Factories. 2013;12(1):71. doi:10.1186/1475-2859-12-71.
  5. Schippa S, Conte M. Dysbiotic Events in Gut Microbiota: Impact on Human Health. Nutrients. 2014;6(12):5786-5805. doi:10.3390/nu6125786.
  6. Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, Gordon JI. Microbial ecology: Human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature. 2006;444(7122):1022-1023. doi:10.1038/4441022a.
  7. DiBaise JK, Frank DN, Mathur R. Impact of the Gut Microbiota on the Development of Obesity: Current Concepts. Am J Gastroenterol Suppl. 2012;1(1):22-27. doi:10.1038/ajgsup.2012.5.
  8. Turnbaugh PJ, Hamady M, Yatsunenko T, et al. A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. Nature. 2009;457(7228):480-484. doi:10.1038/nature07540.
  9. Zhang H, DiBaise JK, Zuccolo A, et al. Human gut microbiota in obesity and after gastric bypass. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009;106(7):2365-2370. doi:10.1073/pnas.0812600106.
  10. Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, et al. Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice. Science. 2013;341(6150):1241214. doi:10.1126/science.1241214.
  11. Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-1429. doi:10.1080/15287390802328630.
  12. Jernberg C, Lofmark S, Edlund C, Jansson JK. Long-term impacts of antibiotic exposure on the human intestinal microbiota. Microbiology. 2010;156(11):3216-3223. doi:10.1099/mic.0.040618-0.

Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Edition

5 Feb

Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Edition

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

In Switch, an influential book on behavior change, brothers Chip and Dan Heath conjured an image of a person riding an elephant to describe the challenge of the change-making progress. In short, the Heath brothers’ metaphor translates like this:

  • The rider is the voice of reason. He is the “logical” brain that “knows” what to do and tries to control the powerful elephant, something he’s successful at doing…for a very short period of time.
  • The elephant represents raw, powerful emotions. It is physically strong and overpowering, and it is both figuratively and literally significantly larger than the rider. At some point or another, the elephant—our impulses and deep emotional needs—overcomes the rider.

With that in mind, both the rider—or, the “thinky” brain—and the elephant—the primal, emotional brain—both need to be “addressed” appropriately along the path to behavior change.

Speaking of path, the Heath brothers also discuss its significance in the change-making process. Specifically, whether the elephant realizes it or not, it is constrained to a certain path, or environment. In fact, the elephant’s path has an even greater effect on its actions than the “smart” rider.

In tangible terms, this means that in order to build better nutrition habits, you need to consider your environment and shape your path. While your environment can be influenced by social (e.g., people), cultural (e.g., expectations), and intellectual (e.g., beliefs) factors, we’re going to focus our attention on your physical environment—notably, your kitchen.

According to nutrition coach extraordinaire Dr. John Berardi, the “first law” of good nutrition is as follows:

 If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.

This is particularly discerning for a number of reasons, and it gives powerful insight into how strongly your environment can affect your eating habits and health goals. This law can be taken at surface level (e.g., if a trigger food is around, it could lead to trouble), or it can take it a step further (e.g., if your living mates aren’t “on board” with your goals, then you could be set up for failure).

What’s also neat about this law is that it has a corollary:

If a healthy food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it. 

With all of that being said, you can see that you have the power to shape your path toward healthy eating habits and good nutrition behaviors by taking a look at your environment (i.e., kitchen) to identify (and trash) non-nutritious “junk” and “trigger” foods that promote overeating and poor eating habits and derail you from the path to optimal health, body composition, and performance. Likewise, this same process involves making sure that you have the nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods you need to support your goals, as well as the right tools to prepare them in a nutritious manner.

With that in mind, you are now the star of your own reality show: Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Edition!

This process can vary from person to person based on a number of factors (e.g., nutrition knowledge, socioeconomic background, roommates and family members), and a good place to start is with the following assessment:

PN Kitchen Makeover Questionnaire

This questionnaire helps to give you an idea of where your kitchen sits on the spectrum of makeover-ness, and it gives you an idea of the types of foods that you’ll find in a healthy kitchen—along with those that you won’t—as well as the tools that you should have on hand to make sure that you have the capability to prepare healthy meals. In addition, it can give you some feedback about your food-related behaviors (e.g., grocery shopping, prepare foods in advance) and thought processes.

Once you’ve completed the Kitchen Makeover Questionnaire, it’s a good idea to start to get an idea of what foods will stay (and why) and what foods must go (and why). One very effective way to do this is to create a “trigger” list of red, yellow, and green light foods. You’ll start by identifying the red and yellow light foods because these are the items you’ll want to get out of the house. Then, we’ll move on to the green light foods, which will be the locus of your kitchen restocking efforts.

Red light foods are the obvious “junk foods” as well as foods that tend to prompt overeating. While the latter may be a bit more unique to you—for me, it’s nut butters—the former may include:

  • Baked goods
  • Cakes
  • Candy
  • Cheese spreads
  • Chips
  • Chocolate
  • Condiments
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Diet soda
  • Dips
  • Ice cream
  • Instant foods
  • Frozen dinners
  • Fruit snacks
  • Margarine
  • Processed meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces
  • Soda
  • Sweetened drinks
  • Take-out leftovers
  • Vegetable oils
  • Alcohol is negotiable

Yellow light foods are a bit less obvious junk foods, and we like to call these “trick foods.” These foods are generally masqueraded as healthy, but they are far cry from whole, minimally processed foods. Some examples include:

  • Bagels
  • Breads
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Dried Fruit
  • Energy bars
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Fruit-flavored yogurt
  • Fruit juice
  • Granola bars
  • Light/fat-free yogurt
  • Organic “junk” food
  • Pretzels
  • Regular peanut butter
  • Trail mix

As we’ll talk about below, you don’t have to throw out everything. The makeover—just like your body transformation—is a journey. If you’re not ready to toss something, that’s okay. This is a dynamic process, and you’ll just want to continue to be aware (i.e., notice and name) of your relationship with any red or yellow light foods that you keep.

Some people find that getting rid of a couple of things each week—and displacing them with green light foods—works really well. They hold onto their lists of red and yellow light foods, and they cross them off as they go (and they don’t buy more of them).

Green light foods are those that are nutritious and health-promoting, and these are the foods with which you’ll want to stock your kitchen. Along these lines, the corollary to the “first law” of good nutrition says that having healthy foods available to prepare and eat is just as important as getting rid of the “junk” food.

The Kitchen Makeover Questionnaire is a great stepping stone to help you stock your kitchen with nutritious foods, and along with that, the following list may help you with this portion of your kitchen makeover:

Superfood Reference Guide

That guide is a great start, and it emphasizes that you can’t go wrong with whole, minimally processed foods. In addition, the following checklist provides some additional options, along with some coaching tips for navigating the aisles of the grocery store:

Super Market Survival Guide

If at any point during this process you’re feeling a little ambivalent or doubtful, that’s okay. It’s completely normal to want to hang onto that bag of potato chips like a life-saving flotation device or be a bit indecisive about throwing out and “wasting” food.

In the case of the former, this doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” situation, and you can revert back to your red, yellow, and green light lists to establish a makeover continuum. Remember, this is your journey, and you have control over shaping the path.

If you choose not to remove something now, simply notice how you respond by keeping it around. You might find that the bag of chips is more like an anchor and less like a flotation device. Shaping the path is a dynamic process, and you may find that you add and subtract foods and tools over time, as well as maneuver your kitchen for optimal food prep.

In terms of “wasting” food, you might ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Is this really “food” in the first place? It’s likely that most of the things that you’ll be tossing out are mere resemblances of food-related items with little to no health-redeeming qualities. With that in mind, you’re not technically wasting any “food.”
  • Also, you might ask yourself, what would be more of a waste: getting rid of the cheap “food” or ingesting it and allowing it to work against your health and body composition goals by increasing body fat and inflammation?

Remember, this is a process, but it’s an important one. Going back to the metaphor at the beginning, the elephant is stubborn and powerful, and yet it is constrained to its path, which has a much greater effect on the direction it travels (i.e., behavior) than the rider.

By modifying the path (e.g., the kitchen makeover), the job of the rider is considerably easier. Although you may experience some feelings of ambivalence and contradiction initially, changes in your surrounding environment relieve the rider and help to motivate the elephant. Ultimately, shaping your path makes it easier to adopt healthy nutrition behaviors and eating habits, and therefore, optimize your health, body composition, and performance.

Exercise DOES Work

6 Dec

Exercise DOES Work: Combat Holiday Overeating with Intense Exercise

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

We are now deep in the heart of the holiday season. You likely feel like you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off. As a matter of fact, you may be so stretched for time that your workouts have taken a backseat. Being strapped for time can also mean compromising your nutrition. What’s more, we all know that this time of year is the epitome of holiday parties, which means overeating less than optimal food choices.

That’s right, the holiday season is the hallmark of moving less and eating more, which can be a catastrophe for your body composition, health, and vitality. Chronic overeating, also known as a caloric surplus or a positive energy balance, can have major repercussions. While most of us think about the obvious weight gain, there are other factors to consider: overall health, cellular fitness, blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance, risk for certain types of cancer, and many more.

While there many ways to avert these potential pitfalls and avoid becoming subject to this self-fulfilling prophesy, you may not have to become a recluse and steer clear of all the wonderful holiday goodies. New, appropriately-timed research suggests that keeping up with your daily workouts counteracts the negative metabolic effects of short-term overfeeding.

Researchers from the University of Bath in England recruited 26 healthy young men between the ages of 18 and 32. The lads were separated into two groups, one of which was an exercise group that performed 45 minutes of treadmill running at a moderate intensity (e.g., 70% VO2max) daily. The other group did no exercise.

Both groups were charged with the responsibility of significantly overeating. The non-exercise group was instructed to consume 50% more calories than their habitual intake. In order to ensure a consistent energy surplus (not to be canceled out by exercise energy expenditure), the exercise group consumed nearly 75% more calories than normal. Now that’s some serious overeating, and this went on for a full seven days!

In addition to the overeating, the researchers had both groups significantly reduce physical activity. Both groups were instructed to wear pedometers as a gauge of their activity, and the scientists had all participants reduce their steps from 10,000 daily (pre-study) to less than 4,000 per day (during the study). Besides running on the treadmill, the exercise group was forced to be just as lazy as the non-exercise group.

The duration of this experiment was one week. Both prior to commencing the study and after the 7-day period, the researchers collected various health measurements, including fasting blood sugar and insulin and biopsies of fat cells.

The results, in just one short week, were staggering. The non-exercising group displayed worrisome changes in fasting blood sugar and insulin levels. What’s more, their fat cells demonstrated health-derailing changes in the expression of key genes, which were a sign of much-maligned changes in metabolic functioning.

The exercise group, on the other hand, was not similar afflicted. As a matter of fact, the scientists concluded, “Vigorous-intensity exercise counteracted most of the effects from short-term overfeeding and under-activity at the whole-body level and in adipose tissue, even in the face of a standardised energy surplus.” The effect was so profound, that the authors of this study titled it “Exercise counteracts the effects of short-term overfeeding and reduced physical activity independent of energy imbalance in healthy young men.”

What does all of this mean for you? Simply put, you can offset the cascade of negative health effects that accompany overeating and less than stellar nutrition habits during the holiday season by making time for a vigorous daily workout.

As mentioned at the onset of this article, time is precious. What’s more, 45 minutes on the treadmill does not sound at all enticing, and you may not have that much time to spare. On top of that, it’s plausible that exercising at an even higher intensity and including some resistance training can provide further metabolic benefits. Heck, you may even be able to add some lean muscle mass if you play your cards right.

The solution: Barbell complexes. These efficient but nasty combinations pack as much bang for your buck as pretty much any routine you’ll find. What they lack in time and equipment, they more than make up for in intensity and metabolic demand.

The name of the game with complexes is to choose a series of exercises that can all be completed with the same barbell (or set of dumbbells). You take minimal rest between exercises and a short rest between sets, or rounds.

One of the more frequently asked questions when implementing complexes is the amount of weight to use. Generally speaking, the load is going to be pretty conservative. As a matter of fact, you might find that the barbell by itself provides enough of a metabolic stimulus. Muscular failure is not necessarily the goal, although you may base the weight on your weakest movement in one of the complexes. However, if you’re not questioning why you’re doing these halfway through—or earlier—then you’re probably not going heavy enough.

Each of these complexes will take only about 15 – 20 minutes to complete, and very little equipment will be needed. [Note: Please do a proper, thorough warm-up prior to commencing one of these routines.] You’ll simply choose one of these complexes and utilize the following guidelines for sets, reps, and rest:

• Beginner: 4 sets of 5 reps each exercise; rest for 90 seconds between sets.
• Intermediate: 5 sets of 5 reps each; rest for 75 seconds between sets.
• Advanced: 5 sets of 6 reps each; rest for 60 seconds between sets.
• Sadistic: 6 sets of 6 reps each; rest for 45 seconds between sets.

Generally speaking, each complex will contain some combination of the following:

• Explosive movement
• Lower body movement
• Upper body movement (push)
• Lower body movement
• Upper body movement (push)
• Miscellaneous

Without further ado, let’s get to the chaos!

Complex A:

• Hang Clean + Front Squat + Overhead Press
• Reverse Lunges
• Bent-over Barbell Row (overhand grip)
• Jump squats (no barbell)

Complex B:

• Hang Snatch
• Romanian Deadlifts
• Push Press
• Back Squat
• Upright Row
• Bar Rollouts

Complex C:

• Split Jerk
• Deadlifts
• Back Squat
• Lateral Lunges
• Bent-over Barbell Row (underhand grip)
• Lunge Jumps (no barbell)

Complex D:

• Squat Jumps (with barbell)
• Front Squat + Overhead Press
• Step Ups
• High Pull
• Burpees

You’ll simply choose one of the previous complexes and the appropriate set, rep, and rest guidelines shared above. You can incorporate these complexes as a workout themselves when you’re strapped for time. You can use them as a form of metabolic conditioning separate from your strength training workouts. Or, if you’re especially sadistic, you can use them at the start of your regular workout. You’ll just want to complete them when you’re fresh.

Just remember, these are not for the faint of heart. They are very challenging, albeit incredibly time-efficient. Not only will they offset any holiday overfeeding, you’ll actually find yourself in significantly better metabolic condition, and you may even drop some fat while you’re at it!


Walhin, JP et al. Exercise counteracts the effects of short-term overfeeding and reduced physical activity independent of energy imbalance in healthy young men. J Physiol. 2013 Nov 25. [Epub ahead of print]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24167223

Mindful Eating: HOW do You Eat?

31 Mar

Mindful Eating: HOW do You Eat?

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

“Hara Hachi Bu” – Confucius

When it comes to eating for fat loss and improving overall health, everyone wants to know “what” and “how much” to eat. These are important questions, no doubt, as certain foods will fuel your goals better than others. What’s more, portion control is a key player in regulating energy balance, and we all know that we have to eat less to lose more.

But, let’s be honest, calorie counting can be annoying and time consuming, and measuring and weighing foods can be even worse. In the short-term, these can be very useful tools to give you a better idea of exactly what you’re putting in your body, but these are unsustainable actions, which means they won’t last.

Very infrequently, however, do we talk about “how” we eat. Do you eat quickly like you have two brothers hawking over your plate? Do you eat while watching TV or checking your e-mail? Do you count the number of times you chew before you swallow? Do you think about where your food originated?

New research indicates that how we eat can actually aid, or impede, our fat loss efforts. Researchers suggest that “eating attentively” may be latest, most valuable tool in winning the battle of the bulge.

In a brand new research article that appeared in the April 2013 issue of the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists from the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) reviewed 24 different studies that examined the effect that manipulating memory, distraction, awareness, or attention has on food intake.

The scientists found that eating when distracted not only causes you to eat more at that meal or snack, but, get this, causes you to eat an even greater amount later on in subsequent meals.  On the other hand, the researchers found that being more attentive to meals and using “food memories” (i.e., using visual reminders of meals, keeping food wrappers) led to decreased food intake both immediately and at later meals.

This research provides clear evidence that the practice of “mindful eating” is increasingly important when trying to lose stubborn fat. As a matter of fact, the authors of the study concluded:

“Evidence indicates that attentive eating is likely to influence food intake, and incorporation of attentive-eating principles into interventions provides a novel approach to aid weight loss and maintenance without the need for conscious calorie counting.”

Here are some helpful tips to increase your attentiveness while eating and put mindful eating practices to use right away:

  • Remove Distractions. As the researchers suggested, distractions cause you to eat more. Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and set your phone in another room. As a matter of fact, sit at the table and take the time to enjoy your meal.
  • Use Smaller Plates. Appearance can be deceiving. A smaller plate that’s full is much more satisfying than a large plate that is half empty because it gives the impression that there is a more abundant amount of food.
  • Take Your Time. Cara Stewart, Registered Dietician and member of the Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery team, says that it takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain and stomach to register fullness. I don’t know about you, but I can put a lot of food down in 20 minutes. Taking your time allows you to better gauge your level of fullness and satiety.
  • “Hara Hachi Bu.” This ancient Confucian adage literally means “Eat until you are 8 parts (out of 10) full” or “belly 80% full.” Practice this wise teaching when you eat by stopping your meal when you are almost full — not stuffed.
  • Chew Thoroughly. I’ve seen people literally swallow pieces of meat whole, like they’re afraid someone’s going to take the food right out of their mouth. Take your time with each bite and try to recognize different tastes and textures. A good guide is to chew each bite 20 times. The added benefit of this is that digestion starts in the mouth, so you can also avoid some GI distress by chewing more thoroughly.
  • Take Smaller Bites. Cut your food into smaller pieces, which will help increase the duration of the meal. You could even use baby utensils to help decrease the size of each bite. This will also help you feel like you’ve eaten more.
  • Put Your Fork Down. Remember, your fork is not a shovel. You can set it down between bites, which will help you focus on the taste, look, smell, and feel of your meal and help you to slow down your pace.
  • Have a Conversation. Gasp! Yep, I mean actually talk to someone while you’re eating. You’re already sitting at the table, you might as well ask your partner and children how their days were. If you have any manners, you won’t talk and chew at the same time, so this will slow down your eating, as well as enhance the memory of the meal.
  • Eat with Your Non-Dominant Hand. Michael Jordan once said that one of the reasons he is the greatest basketball player of all time is because everything that he did with his right hand he also did with his left — from dribbling a basketball to brushing his teeth. Not only will doing this enhance your dexterity, the awkwardness of this task will force you to slow down your eating and take smaller bites.

Put these mindful eating habits to use right away and watch your waistline — and your calorie counting frustrations — disappear!


Robinson E, et al. Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;97(4):728-42.

Soy: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

21 Feb

Soy: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

Nary has something undeservedly received such applaud as a “health food” as soy. As your resident myth-buster and resource for honest nutrition, I think it’s time once and for all to put the soy debate to rest.

Next time you walk through the store, take a look at all of the soy products on the shelves. You’ll find soy milk to soy burgers to soy ice cream to everything in between. You all know how much I like ice cream, and I wouldn’t touch that version with a 10-foot pole.

So, what’s the deal with soy? Why is it marketed as such a health food?

Soy: What’s the Whole Story?

Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story, is an expert on the hidden dangers of soy. In her book, she references myriad studies demonstrating that soy consumption is associated with thyroid problems, growth retardation, amino acid deficiencies, malabsorption of important body minerals, endocrine system malfunctions, and carcinogenic effects.

Most commercial preparations of soy — like those listed at the beginning of this article — are downright unhealthy. Let’s review some of soy’s blatant problems:

  • Soy impairs Thyroid function. Thyroid hormones are key to obtaining and maintaining the lean body that you desire. Soy contains substances called goitrogens that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones. A drop in thyroid function means weight gain, depression, lethargy, and a whole host of other negative symptoms.
  • Soy lowers Testosterone levels. Guys, you know this is a huge deal in all aspects of your life — body composition, feelings of well being, energy levels, and libido. Soy contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones that have been shown to lower Testosterone in humans (as well as animals).
  • Soy may cause female reproductive issues. The isoflavones in soy can mimic and sometimes block the effects of estrogen. Soy phytoestrogens are known to disrupt endocrine function, may cause infertility, and may promote breast cancer in women.
  • Soy is genetically modified (GM). Experts estimate that over 90% of the soy grown in the United States is GM. Essentially, GM crops are like a pesticide factory that are resistant to herbicides, thus loaded with toxic pesticides. Recent research from Sweden shows that animals fed a GM diet got fatter quicker than animals fed a non-GM diet.
  • Soy damages your gut health. If you’ve been reading my newsletters for any period of time, you know exactly how important the good bacteria in your gut are to your overall and digestive health, as well as your immune system. GM soy contains altered genes that are transferred to your gut bacteria. This poses a huge potential problem to the proper functioning of your gut flora.
  • Soy contains phytic acid. Phytic acid is known as an “anti-nutrient.” When it reaches the gut, phytic acid prevents the absorption of vital and valuable minerals by binding with calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, as well as the vitamin niacin.
  • Soy may cause gastric distress. Soy contains substances that inhibit proteases, enzymes that digest the proteins that we eat. This can lead to GI distress, poor protein digestion, and an overworked pancreas.
  • Soy is an allergen. Soy is one of the top 8 allergens that the FDA requires food manufacturers to list on ingredient labels.

What about the Chinese and other Asian cultures?

Marketers and soy proponents would certainly like for you to believe that soy is a staple in these cultures. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Soybeans were first grown in Asia to be used as a crop fertilizer — not eaten. As a matter of fact, soy was commonly called “green manure” and was used to enrich the soil between the planting of crops. Soybeans were known for their ability to replenish the nitrogen supply in soil, which improved the harvest of crops that were consumed as food.

The Chinese later began introducing small amounts of heavily fermented soy into their diets in the form of miso, tamari soy sauce, tempeh, and natto. Contrary to popular belief, the Chinese only consume about an ounce of soy per day and only of this fermented variety.

The fermentation process destroys nearly all of the toxins and anti-nutrients listed above. What’s more, the fermentation process yields probiotics (i.e., good bacteria) that can have a very beneficial effect on your gut flora.

Tips for Reducing Soy

Overall, you’re best off avoiding most commercial soy products. Here is a list of soy foods I recommend that you avoid:

  • TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
  • Soy protein isolate (any soy protein powders)
  • Soybean oil
  • Soy milk
  • Soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy yogurt
  • Soy “meat”
  • Soy infant formula — the estrogens can have a very harmful effect on your baby’s sexual development reproductive health.

What soy products are good for you?

Occasional consumption of soy from whole food sources would be the best options, if you choose to include it, for the reasons outlined above.

  • Miso
  • Soy sauce — choose organic Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Edamame

Take note that tofu does NOT make this list. Tofu is not a fermented soy food and thus should be limited.

Overall, your best bet is to avoid processed foods — soy is hidden everywhere — and focus on whole, minimally processed foods that you prepare yourself.

In short, soy is NOT a health food. If you include it regularly in your diet, it could very well be holding you back from the progress you deserve and, in many cases, causing you to store belly fat. Worse yet, it could be damaging your metabolism, hormones, and overall health.

Eat More Protein

If you rely on soy for a source of protein, hopefully I’ve convinced you that the negatives far outweigh the positives. That being said, you also know that protein is a critical component of optimizing your health, fitness, and vitality.

A high-protein diet:

  • Increases your metabolic rate and satiety.
  • Improves your weight loss profile while dieting.
  • Decreases body fat.
  • Increases or helps maintain lean body mass while dieting.
  • Reduces cardiovascular risk.

In addition to focusing on lean meats (grass-fed when possible), poultry (free-range when possible), eggs, fish (wild), and small amounts of dairy, I highly recommend that most folks invest in a protein supplement to optimize their protein intakes and overall nutritional profile.

My recommendation is BioTrust Low Carb™. BioTrust Low Carb is 100% all-natural, which means no artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, or ingredients of any kind. The proteins are Farmer Certified Growth Hormone-Free, which means that you will not be exposed to potentially dangerous growth hormones or antibiotics.

What’s more, BioTrust Low Carb is a true time-released protein blend of both fast- and slow-acting proteins, which provide sustained nutrition for up to 8 hours. This makes BioTrust Low Carb the perfect protein supplement for:

  • Post-workout, as recent research shows that a combination of fast- and slow-acting proteins are superior to whey (a fast-acting protein) alone for optimal recovery.
  • Meal replacement, as the blend will provide sustained nutrition and appetite suppression for hours.
  • Before bed, as casein (a slow-acting protein in BioTrust Low Carb) has been shown in research to provide optimal recovery benefits while sleeping.

Best of all, BioTrust Low Carb™ tastes GREAT!

The Great Cholesterol Debate

25 Jan

The Great Cholesterol Debate

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

I have frequently been asked by folks who are serious about their health, fitness, and vitality on how they can improve their cholesterol. While I hesitate to call it a myth, it does seem that we have been deluded in our understanding of cholesterol and what causes “high” cholesterol. The aim of this article is to offer a clarification on what may lead to these high blood levels of cholesterol, as well as strategies to improve this marker of health.

In a nutshell, I would say that we have been misinformed as consumers by the media and health experts alike when it comes to cholesterol. That’s not to say that their intentions aren’t good, not at all. However, research really tells us that high cholesterol and high-fat diets are really NOT the cause of heart disease.

As a matter of fact, well-respected nutritionist and health advocate Dr. Jonny Bowden recently named the following four factors as far greater causes of heart disease that he labeled “The Four Horsemen of Aging.” They are: Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, Sugar, and Stress. In addition, Dr. Bowden recently co-authored a book recently titled, “The Great Cholesterol Myth.” May be worth looking into.

Did you that the high-cholesterol/heart disease “connection” began more than 100 years ago when a German pathologist theorized that cholesterol led to the development of plaques in your arteries? Did you know that his theory was later supported by a Russian scientist who fed cholesterol to rabbits and determined that it led to atherosclerotic changes?

Unfortunately, not too many people questioned the fact that rabbits are herbivores and do not naturally consume cholesterol:) Anyway, that breakthrough information started the notion that eating cholesterol leads to plaque deposits in your arteries, and at that time, it was believed that all cholesterol in your blood was due to dietary sources. But…

Did you know that your liver actually produces about 75% of your body’s cholesterol? That is indeed correct. So, even if you didn’t eat a single drop of cholesterol in your diet, you’d still have cholesterol in your body. And, that’s actually a good thing because cholesterol is needed by your cells to produce the cell membranes

My intention is to help you realize how little of an impact that dietary cholesterol has on blood levels of cholesterol. There are, arguably, studies that do connect cholesterol levels to cardiovascular disease — although we could pick those apart.

It seems that there are several reasons why health professionals would want to look at cholesterol in such detail. One, it’s relative easy to measure and monitor. Two, the cholesterol-lowering drug industry is highly profitable. And, three, it’s been imbedded in our heads.

Interestingly, while the goal of statin administration is to lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, a task at which it is markedly effective, research suggests that one’s risk of a cardiovascular event is only improved 25%:

Despite aggressive statin treatment to achieve target LDL-C levels, a residual risk for cardiovascular events of 65% to 75% is reported in statin studies. Factors contributing to residual risk other than LDL-C levels include components of non–HDL, such as very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), chylomicrons, VLDL remnants, and lipoprotein (a).

Going back then, what are the factors that really impact our cholesterol and how can we best manage our blood levels?

Metaphorically speaking, cholesterol accumulation on the walls of arteries can be compared to firefighters battling a blazing fire. Along those lines, we don’t accuse those brave men of arson because they’re at the scene of a fire. Rather, they are responding to a problem.

Cholesterol actually acts in the same way, as it is sent to repair damaged arterial walls. Cholesterol is sent in to “patch up” the damage induced by factors like smoking, chronic inflammation, metabolic disease, high blood pressure, etc. In a sense, elevated cholesterol may be “guilty by association,” as the body is simply responding to damage induced by these other factors.

Nutrition and lifestyle factors are the biggest, controllable factors in the battle against cholesterol. Wait, didn’t I say that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol? I did indeed. But, that doesn’t mean that other food choices and nutrition habits don’t have an impact.

Dietary fiber has significant cholesterol-lowering properties. Fiber can interfere with the amount of bile — which is necessary for the breakdown of dietary fats — that is reabsorbed in the intestines. To make up for this loss, the liver must produce new bile salts, which are composed of cholesterol. So, increasing your fiber intake through vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, etc., can have a cholesterol-lowering effect.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve HDL cholesterol levels and reduce triglycerides. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce levels Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, which is a marker of inflammation. What’s more, low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be closely related to high levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a marker of chronic inflammation, which implies that increasing Omega-3 fatty acid intake may reduce CPR (and systemic inflammation).

Not surprisingly, supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce C-Reactive Protein and improve insulin sensitivity. This latter improvement also seems to be important to managing cholesterol. Thus supplementing with a high-quality fish oil may have significant cardiovascular health benefits. (Recommendation: BioTrust’s OmegaKrill 5X.)

Certain herbs and spices like garlic, cumin, and ginger can have a cholesterol-lowering effect by blocking cholesterol uptake in the gut. Further, dark chocolate that’s high in cocoa (70% or more) has been shown to lower LDL while increasing HDL cholesterol.

Exercise and lifestyle (i.e., stress management) also play a significant role in lowering cholesterol.

The last point I want to come back to is that the liver is the predominant producer of blood cholesterol and nutritional factors — outside of dietary cholesterol — play a huge role.

One of the most-overlooked factors is actually blood sugar management and insulin control. That’s right, the hormone insulin actually plays a significant role in the liver’s production of cholesterol — that’s one reason why we actually see BETTER cholesterol numbers in low-carbohydrate studies. It’s also why we see increased risk for heart disease in low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. Shocker!

Insulin resistance is actually an underlying cause of heart disease and cholesterol manufacturing (especially of the LDL variety). Insulin resistance results, ironically, from a diet high in carbohydrates — especially processed carbohydrates, sugars, and fructose.

Ironically, I say, because most people are prescribed a low-fat diet when they are diagnosed with high cholesterol. When you can’t eat fat, you are told to eat more carbohydrates. More carbohydrates result in chronically high levels of both blood sugar and insulin, which result in insulin resistance and high cholesterol.

Hmmm, interesting. Here is one of many studies that implicate insulin sensitivity as governing factor over cholesterol production:

Insulin sensitivity regulates cholesterol metabolism to a greater extent than obesity: lessons from the METSIM Study.

So, it’s likely that the very foods that you’ve been told NOT to eat are actually better for you — and your cholesterol levels — than the foods that you have been told to consume.

Food for thought =)