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Why You Find It Hard To Quit Sugar (and what to do!)

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Written by hayleigh bennett
personal trainer, nutrition advisor
web - instagram


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The ‘S’ word... don’t say it out loud!

There are many ways to sweeten the concept of sugar addiction – we’ve accustomed ourselves to having a giggle at our bestie being a ‘chocaholic’ and our Grandma having a ‘sweet tooth’. Sugar addiction can lead to a number of chronic health problems that may not present themselves until it’s too late. It’s time to ditch the secret stash, the donut shop loyalty cards and create new habits to avoid sacrificing your health.

 

Types of Sugar

Sugar comes in many forms and can be hidden behind a number of different names. Often sourced and extracted from sugar beet or sugar cane plants, you’ll also discover sugar in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars by our digestive system, which provides energy for the body. There is an abundance of names for sugar that I’ll add below, but let’s break it down into four for now -

Glucose is our body’s preferred energy source and primary fuel – almost all foods contain glucose.

Fructose is found in ripe fruits, honey (40%), maple syrup (35%) and agave sugar (90%) – this is usually found together with glucose and is what makes food taste sweet.

Galactose is mainly found in dairy products in the form of lactose.

Sucrose is derived of half glucose and half fructose and can be found in the form of table sugar, brown sugar, caster sugar, raw sugar and low GI sugar.

 

As mentioned above, there are a number of hidden names that the food industry uses for sugar – particularly those promoting ‘healthy’ foods (check out our blog ’20 Health Foods That Aren’t Actually Healthy’). This may seem like a long-winded list, but there are many more hidden out there - acesulfame potassium, alitame, aspartame, cyclamate, monk fruit, neotame, saccharin, stevia, sucralose, thaumatin, agave nectar/syrup, coconut sugar, corn syrup (dark), fructose, glucose, golden syrup, grape syrup, honey, isomalt, lactose, maltose, maltitol, maple syrup, molasses (treacle), polydextrose, rice syrup, sugar and xylitol.

 

How Sugar Affects Us

Sugar is an addictive substance, often compared to drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. It increases dopamine levels and for many it creates a sensation that the only way to feel ‘normal’ is to have access to the substance. If this craving is not satisfied the brain reacts by going into a mild depression. The high that we receive when we consume sugar does not satisfy hunger and spikes our dopamine levels, followed by a sugar-induced cortisol elevation, reducing our immune system by 50% for the first hour – this ‘fructose infusion creates building blocks for chemical addiction’ (Gillespie).

 

The over-consumption of sugar can also incur the following health issues –

·      Chronic inflammation

·      Gut bacteria issues/imbalances (including increased Candida)

·      High blood sugar

·      Tooth decay

·      Implications for obesity

·      Insulin Resistance

 

Fructose can be the culprit for mineral depletion (including collagen and elastic), uric acid elevation, has links to heart disease, stroke, fatty liver disease, cancers, PCOS, infertility, impotence, depression and anxiety.

 

How to Reduce

First and foremost, there is no ‘healthy’ amount of bad sugar, secondly it’s not going to be easy and you’re going to have to make some seemingly hard decisions whilst altering your mindset.

1.     Attitude – nutritious foods don’t have to be boring or expensive

2.     Eliminate habits – drinking liquid calories (soft drinks, frappes, alcoholic beverages), buying confectionary at the supermarket

3.     Create good habits - increasing water intake, eating mainly low-GI carbohydrates

 

As per J. Clear’s Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad One’s, to eliminate and build habits you need to follow 4 rules – cue, craving, response and reward. To eliminate we need to make it invisible (cue), unattractive (craving), difficult (response) and unsatisfying (reward). To create good habits we need to make them obvious (cue), attractive (craving), easy (response) and satisfying (reward).

 

‘The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible’ (Clear).

 

Whether you gradually reduce your sugar intake or quit cold-turkey, it’s up to you to take control and beat the addiction that is sugar. It’s important to be aware of your habits before you can change them.


 

References

D. Gillespie, 2010, Sweet Poison Quit Plan, Penguin Group, Australia

J. Clear, 2018, Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, Random House, Great Britain

A. Barclay, P. Sandall, C. Shwide-Slavin, 2014, The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners: Discover the Taste, Use, Nutrition, Science and Lore of Everything from Agave Nectar to Xylitol, The Experiment, United States 

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GUT MICROBIOME vs your Hormones, Stress and Mood

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Suddenly being mentioned everywhere, your ‘gut’ is something you may have heard referred to. It’s the nickname given to your gut microbiome, a community of microorganisms which live in your Gastrointestinal (GI) tract (and also in the tract of every animal). For the most part, the microbiota and your gut live in relative harmony. The gut has a bi-directional relationship (two way communication) with our central nervous system (CNS), this is referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis’. This gut brain axis allows the gut, specifically the microbiota, to send and receive signals to and from the brain.

 

Some signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut include:

·      Regular cravings for sugar and carbs

·      Stomach disturbances such as gas, bloating, irregular toilet habits

·      Unintentional weight changes (either up or down)

·      Sleep disturbances and fatigue

·      Skin issues such as acne or eczema

·      Food intolerances

·      Autoimmune conditions

·      Headaches, brain fog, memory issues

·      Poor immune system

 

It is important to note, due to a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, diet, environment, season, and health status it is virtually impossible to pin down one response to what is a ‘normal’ microbiome for the average human. Gut microbiome can also vary due to genetic diversity, however the dominant species generally results from the composition of a person’s diet (Clapp et al. 2017).

 

HORMONES

Healthy gut function has been linked to normal CNS function. This in turn means that you’ll have more stability with your sex hormones, thyroid function, and even adrenaline function. Recent studies suggest that the gut-brain axis extends also to the neural, endocrine, and immune pathways (Carabotti et al. 2015).

 

Both internal hormones and exogenous hormones (those from external sources) affect the body, and the gut. Oestrogen also has a gut biome access, resulting in our gut health altering our hormonal health. β-glucuronidase (an enzyme that breaks apart oestrogen into it’s active forms) is produced by the gut to influence oestrogen regulation throughout the body. This process can be disrupted when the gut is not performing at it’s best, resulting in reduced diversity in the gut microbiota, and then a decline in the amount of active oestrogen that can be used in the body.

 
“Estrogens are primarily produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and adipose tissue and circulate in the bloodstream in free or protein-bound form and first undergo metabolism in the liver, where estrogens and their metabolites are conjugated. Conjugated estrogens are eliminated from the body by metabolic conversion to water-soluble molecules, which are excreted in urine or in bile into the feces. The conjugated estrogens excreted in the bile can be deconjugated by bacterial species in the gut with beta-glucuronidase activity (constituents of the ‘estrobolome’), subsequently leading to estrogen reabsorption into the circulation. Circulating estrogens exert effects on target tissues including breast, which stimulate cellular growth and proliferation. By modulating the enterohepatic circulation of estrogens, the estrobolome affects both the excretion and circulation of estrogens. In turn, the composition of the estrobolome can be shaped by factors such as antibiotics, other drugs, and diet that modulate its functional activity.” Cell Host Microbe.  2011;10(4):324-335.

“Estrogens are primarily produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and adipose tissue and circulate in the bloodstream in free or protein-bound form and first undergo metabolism in the liver, where estrogens and their metabolites are conjugated. Conjugated estrogens are eliminated from the body by metabolic conversion to water-soluble molecules, which are excreted in urine or in bile into the feces. The conjugated estrogens excreted in the bile can be deconjugated by bacterial species in the gut with beta-glucuronidase activity (constituents of the ‘estrobolome’), subsequently leading to estrogen reabsorption into the circulation. Circulating estrogens exert effects on target tissues including breast, which stimulate cellular growth and proliferation. By modulating the enterohepatic circulation of estrogens, the estrobolome affects both the excretion and circulation of estrogens. In turn, the composition of the estrobolome can be shaped by factors such as antibiotics, other drugs, and diet that modulate its functional activity.”Cell Host Microbe. 2011;10(4):324-335.

 

Oestrogen

The gut microbiome manipulates oestrogen metabolism, and therefore can alter how much oestrogen gets excreted once used, or how much gets re-circulated through the body. Some gut bacteria produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase (BG for short), and the more BG which is produced, the less oestrogen is excreted from the body and the more is recirculated (Maryann et al., 2016). Oestrogen is great for female hormonal health, healthy skin and a functioning reproductive system, but too much oestrogen can lead to decreased sex drive, irregular menstrual cycles, frequent headaches, weight gain, and increased PMS symptoms. Greater reabsorption of free oestrogens can also increase the risk of oestrogen-driven cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.

 

Strong links have also been made between the gut microbiome and thyroid function, these can include:

·      Disruption in iodine uptake;

·      Alterations to thyroid-hormone receptors; and

·      The liver’s reduced ability to convert T3 and T4 (resulting in a ‘sluggish’ thyroid).

There are currently studies underway looking into the relationship between gut microbiota diversity and autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), which includes Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) and Grave's disease (GD).

Mental Health

GI homeostasis (overall gut health) is imperative to our general health and wellbeing (Lyte, 2010). Recently, studies have shown that variations in the gut microbiome and the effect these have on various central nervous system (CNS) disorders, including (but by no means limited to) depressive disorders, anxiety, schizophrenia, and autism (Mayer et al., 2014). Your gut microbiota are capable of delivering neuroactive substances such as GABA and serotonin, which interact with the gut-brain axis. Current research suggests that certain strands of probiotics can have anti-depressant and anxiety-relieving properties (Evrensel and Ceylan, 2015).

 
The gut-brain axis pathway. Image created by Megan Clapp and Emily Wilen.

The gut-brain axis pathway. Image created by Megan Clapp and Emily Wilen.

 

In a double-blind placebo-controlled and randomised parallel group study by Messaoudi et al in 2011 researchers used healthy volunteers who took either Lactobacillus helveticusR0052 and Bifidobacterium longum or placebo for 30 consecutive days. A variety of parameters were tested using the Hopkins symptom checklist, hospital anxiety and depression scale, the perceived stress scale and coping checklist. The results from these tests showed that self-perceived psychological stress levels, as well as tested urinary free cortisol levels were both reduced in the subjects who took probiotics regularly. This means those who were on the frequent probiotics ended up with test results that showed less stress, and less depressed moods.

In summary

There is so much more down the rabbit hole of microbiota which I am currently researching, but I felt the connection to oestrogen metabolism, thyroid health and mental health were the most prevalent. Clearly the relationship between our physical and mental health and gut microbiome is a complex one, where much research still needs to be done. However in saying this, even the current amount of research which has been brought to light reinstates the fact that we need to look after our gut, so you may be wondering, how exactly do we do this?

Some events which can cause changes in our gut microbiome:

·      Poor, unvaried diet

·      Low fibre diet

·      High amounts of artificial sweeteners and/or refined sugars in diet

·      Recent course of antibiotics

·      Have been on heavy medications (such as during cancer treatment) or other immune suppressant medications (such as those used to treat Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or even psoriasis).

·      Chronic stress

·      Lack of prebiotics in the diet (think: asparagus, rolled oats, bananas, nuts, leeks, beans)

·      Drinking too much alcohol

·      Lack of physical activity

·      Smoking

·      Insufficient sleep

As you can see, there’s many lifestyle factors (not just diet-based factors) which can alter the balance of your gut microbiome. Let’s take a look at some adjustments you can make to repair or maintain the integrity of your gut.

1.     Eat more prebiotic foods

Foods rich in prebiotic fibres (which help ‘feed’ the good guys in your gut) include leeks, onions, asparagus, rolled oats, bananas, nuts. I personally like to include the addition of a supplement called Gut Performance. Disclaimer: this is not sponsored (nothing on this blog is ever sponsored and no free product is ever received as part of my commitment to only offer unbiased information and genuine product feedback), I do not have an affiliation with the company, it’s just a genuinely great product I have found, and have yet to see something work as effectively for my gut.

2.     Consume more probiotics.

Probiotics increase the abundance of good gut bacteria. Keep an eye out for fermented foods, including traditional Greek yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

3.     Stress reduction.

Learn to manage your stress levels through mindfulness techniques such as exercise, meditation, mindful breathing techniques, and others.

4.     Sleep properly

Never underestimate the power of consistently good sleep. Train your body to sleep and wake up at similar times each day, remove digital distractions before bed, and make getting AT LEAST 7 hours a priority, 8 is better.

5.     Basic healthy eating patterns

Your diet needs to focus on wholesome foods, variety and quality. Alter what fresh produce you consume based on what’s in and out of season to get a diverse range of micronutrients, and consider exactly what it is that’s making up your macros, not all foods are created equal.

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How To Transition Off Keto

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If you’ve followed along on my YouTube channel you are probably aware that in 2017 I followed a ketogenic diet for 11 months to help improve some of my PCOS symptoms. My body wasn’t using carbohydrates correctly, and I was having a very hard time maintaining my weight, with my body gaining fat despite the fact I wasn’t eating in a caloric surplus. No matter how much I trained or what I did, it just felt like my body didn’t ‘work’.

This was due in part to insulin resistance, which had tagged along as part of my PCOS. Insulin resistance is when your body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin (a peptide hormone), and glucose (sugar) cannot enter your blood cells as easily, this results in higher blood sugar levels and if left untreated can lead to Type 2 Diabetes (The Clinical Biochemist Reviews, 2005).

I’m happy to report after a few months my insulin functioned correctly (as shown in my blood work), and due to the high fat nature of the diet, my hormonal profile returned to a normal state (previously I had elevated free testosterone, and slightly elevated E3).

After 11 months of being on the ketogenic diet, not having any cheat meals, not a drop of anything with even the slightest bit of caffeine in it, and eating around 3000-4000 calories per day to try and maintain my weight (which had dropped from around 70kg to 56kg), I figured it was time to jump off the diet. That, and I had a concussion and all I wanted was sweet potato hahah.

 
Second month on keto. Video screenshot (filmed Feb 2017)

Second month on keto. Video screenshot (filmed Feb 2017)

During keto October 2017 (scribbles because I would take photos/videos in undies for my own reference)

During keto October 2017 (scribbles because I would take photos/videos in undies for my own reference)

When I felt I'd lost too much weight (I'm 5'8").

When I felt I'd lost too much weight (I'm 5'8").

 

I was hesitant about this at first, because I had gotten so used to eating a certain way, and I am a creature of habit. In the following few paragraphs I’m going to teach you the best way to jump off keto with the least amount of weight gain possible. I personally bent these rules because I wanted to gain back muscle mass, which I felt I had lost (I can cover this in a YouTube video if you are interested).

 
Current picture (July 12 2018)

Current picture (July 12 2018)

July 18 2018

July 18 2018

 

Be aware – you will gain SOME weight

The hint is in the name, carboHYDRATE. Carbs attract water! So the more you add them into your diet, the more water your body is able to retain (Journal of Applied Physiology, 2010). If you got really lean on keto, you’d probably notice you looked ‘drier’ – your abs popped more easily and (for women) during your monthly cycle there was probably very little fluctuation in your look/weight.

This is no reason to be scared of carbs though! Carbohydrates will give you more energy for training, particularly resistance-based training (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2003), and are better for helping you grow and retain muscle, combined with a moderate amount of protein intake of course.
 

Plan what you’ll do

Don’t just jump back in to eating oats for breakfasts, wraps for lunch and rice with your dinner. Plan your transition out of a ketogenic diet.

1. For the first 20 days increase your carb intake by 15% of whatever it was initially and reduce your fats by 15%. For example: If you were previously eating 40g of carbs per day, this will now increase to 46g of carbs, and if you were eating 150g of fats per day this will decrease to 127.5g. There will be some calories lost in this transitional period. Keeping in a slight deficit during the process will also reduce the chance of a large amount of weight gain.

2. For the following 20 days increase this to 20% carb increase and 20% fat decrease. Your protein is the only macronutrient that should not be adjusted; this should remain around 1g per kilogram of body weight for sedentary people, up to 2g per kilogram of body weight for highly active people.

3. After this 40-day cycle you can return to your preferred macronutrient ratio. You can learn more about your body type and it’s ideal macronutrient ratio in the Get Lean Nutrition Guide.

 

No processed carbs

Stick to low GI carbs that won’t spike your blood sugar. High GI carbs can cause a spike in insulin, and repeatedly doing this may result in body fat gain (Nutrients, 2011). Here are some carbs that I would recommend adding to your diet, if they weren’t already in it, when you are transitioning out of keto (and also a good base to keep around even when you’re fully off keto!)

  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Green veg (e.g. beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc)
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Plum
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Coconut flour
  • Psyllium husk

 

Nutrient Timing

If your body is functioning correctly and you are not in the process of transitioning off a ketogenic diet, nutrient timing may not be so important (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2003). However, during the switch from keto back to a regular diet, nutrient timing is a brilliant way to get more carbs into your day whilst allowing your body to use them effectively and discourage them from being stored as body fat (Advanced Nutrition, 2015). This method is one that I stuck to religiously when transitioning off keto.

Here’s an example of how to nutrient time your carbs:

Breakfast: A meal with a moderate amount of protein, high carbs and low fat
[[Training]]
Post-training meal: A meal with high protein, high carbs and low fat.
Lunch: A meal with moderate protein, low carbs and moderate fat.
Dinner: A meal with moderate protein, almost no carbs, and high fat.

As you can see the carbohydrates are focused around my (weight training) session, so that my body can use them more efficiently.

 

Carb Cycling or Paleo

If you find that your body just works better on a ketogenic diet, you may find some relief by swapping to a more long-term sustainable diet such as paleo, or a carb cycling diet.

Paleo

Paleo is similar to keto in that has a ‘no grain/low carb’ approach to eating, however, unlike keto, a healthy paleo diet will give your body a more diverse range of micronutrients, and more access to low GI carbohydrates.

Carb Cycling

Carb cycling is another similar option to swap to. Carb cycling is when you have certain days in the week that you will eat more carbohydrates, it works on a similar principle to how body builders have ‘refeed days’ and allows you to build up your glycogen stores, and then return back to low carbohydrate days to ensure low blood sugar levels.

 

Best of luck on your way out of the ketogenic diet! Keto can be a great way to reset your insulin resistance, rebalance your hormonal profile, or aid in other medical condition improvements (such as epilepsy and Alzhiemer's), but it is not always a long-term solution for everyone! 

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What To Do After Your PCOS Diagnosis!

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So you’ve seen some of the symptoms, whether that’s an irregular menstrual cycle, ovarian cysts or follicular growths, acne, weight gain, high testosterone levels, or hirstutism – to name a few. You’ve been annoyed by what your body is doing for so long, seen numerous doctors, done blood tests, scans, ultra sounds and probably a plethora of other tests too, and finally you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS. When I first found out I had it (see this video and my PCOS playlist here) I was quite upset, and I think that’s a natural part of the process when you find out your body isn’t actually ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’.

Almost exactly two years after being diagnosed (and three years after seeing symptoms) I am now at a point where I don’t see my symptoms anymore. I’ve put the work in to see improvements, and slowly, but surely, they happened. My cycle is now regular, I’ve lost the fat I gained and have now been able to build a more muscular figure, my hormones are back in range, and whilst I still get the occasional spot or two – I no longer have cystic acne covering the lower half of my face.

 

Screenshots from a 2016 upload (obviously talking)

Screenshots from 2018 uploads (talking again haha)

 

In this blog post I’m going to share with you the steps that I believe are essential when it comes to managing your PCOS, and getting on top of it from the start. Slow changes are the best and will result in a more sustainable lifestyle in the future, so don’t think that you need to drastically change your routines all in one go. Instead, work on changing little parts of your daily activities until you reach a point where the healthier habit is the new ‘normal’. Check out my steps below to see what to do after you’ve been diagnosed:

 

 

Find A Doctor

Perhaps this is the doctor who got you diagnosed, or someone else, but it’s important to find a good GP whose beliefs align with yours. Maybe you wish to take birth control or Metformin to deal with some of the symptoms, or maybe you wish to seek out a more natural and holistic approach, either is fine, it’s up to you.

 

Find A Naturopath

A Naturopath (in my opinion) is an important step to take after finding out you have PCOS. A good naturopath can guide you in more than just supplementation, but can also get you to question how some of your general behaviours can aid in your wellness. For example, my naturopath in Brisbane (here) convinced me to spend more time outside with my feet in the grass, getting sunshine, I laughed it off at first because it sounded a little too crunchy granola for my liking, but the more time I spent outside in the sunshine, the better I felt. Incase you weren’t aware; there’s a strong link between PCOS and Vitamin D deficiency, with a staggering amount of 67-85% of women who have PCOS also being deficient in Vitamin D (Indian Journal of Medical Research, 2015). There are small changes you can make throughout your daily routine that can have a positive impact on your PCOS.

 

Find Support

Whether it’s friends or family who also have PCOS, or an online group of like-minded women. Having at least 1 person around who understands what you are going through will be beneficial. When it comes to treatment what works for them may not work for you, but at least you have someone you can talk to when you need it.

 

Consider How You Eat

Diet will play the largest role in the management of your PCOS symptoms. If one of the symptoms you experienced is food intolerance (gluten, dairy, etc) you may notice a significant improvement from removing this food source from your diet (even if it is for a limited period of time, eg 6-12 months). Diet changes to aid in PCOS are (again, in my opinion) the most effective over the long term, but also the slowest for change to appear.

I personally went on a ketogenic diet for 11 months to help reduce symptoms I was experiencing from my PCOS. As I have studied nutrition I was able to write my own food plan, if you do decide to take this route I HIGHLY recommend you seek out a dietician or nutritionist to write up your plan for you to ensure you’re meeting all of your intake requirements. The ketogenic diet is not one to be taken lightly. If you’re interested to learn more about it I have a video here (Thinking Keto? Everything You Need To Know) and here (8 Things You Must Know Before Starting A Ketogenic Diet), and my keto shopping list here (Blog: Keto Food List).

A ketogenic diet is an extreme route to take, and perhaps one to only try if you have exhausted other options. Usually a diet high in fibre, free of refined sugar, and with a moderate amount of protein in healthy fats will be the most beneficial to a woman with PCOS. One of the aims of diet manipulation is to decrease fasting insulin levels (Fertility and Sterility, 2004). In women with PCOS, consistently high insulin levels can result in higher free testosterone levels (The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2010).


A low carbohydrate diet is usually sufficient for women with PCOS if it follows these basic guidelines:

  • No processed meats (fresh cuts only)
  • No refined sugars (no sodas, regular chocolate, biscuits, etc)
  • Low carbohydrate
  • Switching from white breads, wraps, etc, to whole meal (also called wholegrain)
  • Moderate amount of fats
  • (Optional) Dairy-free diets have been shown to help many women with PCOS

For more specific guidelines and meal ideas check out the ‘Endomorph’ recipes in the Get Lean Nutrition Guide.

 

Weight Loss? Or Not?

Obesity worsens the symptoms and persistence of PCOS. Women in the upper quartile of BMI are 13.7 times more likely to have metabolic issues and insulin resistance when compared to women in the lowest quartile of BMI. (Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 2006) So, the answer to whether to lose weight or not will depend on your weight (more specifically: body fat percentage) to begin with. For women who are overweight or obese, losing weight can improve PCOS symptoms.

Something to consider: even when I was losing weight on a ketogenic diet, it was only through macronutrient manipulation, not cutting calories, my daily intake was anywhere between 3000-4000 calories per day during this period.

In women who are at a healthy or low body weight who have PCOS, sticking to maintenance or even surplus calories will be the most beneficial when it comes to allowing your body to heal. Calorie deficits or trying to “diet down” just to look “shredded” when you really don’t need to be will actually increase cortisol levels in your body (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2010). This is where it’s important to have a goal that’s more than just how you look. Yes it’s nice to look ‘lean’, but unless you naturally sit at a very low body fat, this is not the healthiest thing. Consider your health before you consider your abs.

 

Get Your Gut Right

The more I learn about gut health, the more I am so impressed with how bacteria can control so many functions and reactions in our body. In 2016 a study on PCOS and gut microbiota used PCOS rats to compare what happened when the gut bacteria was changed (PLoS ONE, 2016). There was a control group, a group treated with lactobacillus, and a group treated with fecal microbiotia transplantation (FMT) from healthy rats. Hormonal cycles were improved in all rats in the FMT group, and in 6 out of 8 rats in the Lactobacillus groups. All of their testosterone levels were significantly decreased compared to the control rats that were not treated.

Similarly, improvements have been shown in women who are able to improve their gut microbiome, as women with PCOS tend to have less diversity in their gut bacteria (the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2018). You can improve your gut health through supplementation (see below), increasing the amount of good bacteria in your gut via consumption of fermented foods (see this post on Fermented Foods), eating unprocessed foods, and eliminating any food intolerances.

 

Reduce Stress

Stress, whether it’s emotional, metabolic, oxidative, or inflammatory all impact PCOS, metabolic and reproductive functioning. Long-term stress can lead to severe health implications (Medical Hypothesis, 2018). Women who have PCOS who fail to address chronic and long-term stress may see their results going backwards: weight gain, irregular menstrual cycle, and even worsening of other symptoms such as food intolerances. According to Barry and Hardiman 2018, not reducing these kinds of stress will “exacerbate further the reproductive, metabolic, and psychological derangements of the syndrome, leading to an endless cycle of chronic illness.”

 

Supplements

This is something to speak to your naturopath or healthcare professional about, but supplementation may aid in a reduction of PCOS symptoms. Some supplements you may wish to enquire about:

 

Get Moving

It’s a well-known fact that that exercise can improve an array of health-related conditions, improve mood, and prevent against illness in the long term. Training can also improve insulin sensitivity and help alleviate some of the symptoms we experience from PCOS. Aerobic exercise can improve body composition and aid in weight loss in women who have PCOS (and the general population, of course). For a guided plan check out my 8 Week Transformation program, which can be done from home and requires no equipment.

Weight training combined with aerobic training has been shown to be far more efficient in improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, whilst also reducing abdominal fat (Obesity Reviews, 2011). Check out my 6-month gym plan Get Lean to set up a long-term resistance training schedule.

 

I hope some of these tips will set you up on the path to success when it comes to dealing with your PCOS symptoms. They've been helpful for me, so I thought I would share. (Thanks to those who voted on my Instagram poll for this blog post, I will be uploading the Keto guide soon).

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Fermented Foods 101

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If you haven’t already heard about the health benefits of eating fermented foods, where have you been? In this post, I am going to explore what defines the term ‘Fermented Food,’ and explain in more detail what they do, along with giving you some examples of fermented foods.
 

What Is Fermented Food?

Fermented foods have been popular for many centuries now. In more recent years it has become more prominent and more widely regarded for providing us with ‘good’ bacteria, that helps to keep our digestive system healthy.

In the past, the technique used for fermentation was essentially a way to preserve drinks and foods before refrigeration was invented. Throughout the process, bacteria, fungi, yeast or any other type of microorganism will convert starch, sugars, and other organic compounds into acids or alcohol. The process generally creates pungent and somewhat sour flavors.

 

What Are the Benefits of Eating Fermented Food?

When you consume drinks or food that have been fermented, your digestive health will benefit significantly. The ‘good’ type of bacteria that is produced is also known as probiotics, and they have earned a reputation for helping with digestive health and other health issues and ailments.

When you eat fermented foods, you are increasing the ‘good’ bacteria in your body, specifically to your intestinal flora. This helps to enhance the health of your digestive system and your gut microbiome.

 

Availability of Nutrients

The process of fermentation can actually enhance the volume of readily available nutrients and vitamins for our body’s. By giving your body a boost of ‘good’ bacteria, you are also enabling them to produce more Vitamin B&K.

 

Absorption and Digestion

When the fermentation process occurs, many of the starches and sugars in the food will have already been broken down. This makes fermented foods far easier for the body to digest. A good example of this is with milk. Fermentation breaks down the lactose into simpler sugars such as galactose and glucose. If you are lactose intolerant, this can make cheese and yogurt much easier for your body to digest. Fermented vegetables actually help to treat a known condition called Candida Gut.

 

Immune System

There are still so many people who don’t release that the majority of the immune system is controlled by your gut. When you eat food or drinks that are rich in probiotics, you are helping to strengthen your immune system. If you have taken a course of antibiotics, then having probiotic foods can prove to be rather helpful.

 

Your Mood

Just as the gut is linked to the immune system, it is also linked with the brain through something called the enteric nervous system. There is a lining on the gut that is made up of different neurons, all of which can affect our feelings and of course, our emotions. Research has concluded that because serotonin is made in the gut, and this directly affects ones’ mood; the more pro-biotic bacteria you have, and the healthier your gut, the happier and healthier your mind will be.

With the stressful lifestyles people are increasingly living and the modern-day diet, this can provide the perfect environment for bad bacteria to thrive. By getting rid of sugary foods and adding fermented foods into the mix, you can support your immune system and restore the needed levels of balance back to your digestive system.

The average person carries around 4 lbs of bacteria in their gut.

 

Examples of Fermented Foods

There are many different types of fermented foods that people from across the world enjoy eating. Here are the top ten!

1.     Kombucha – This is a fermented drink of sugar and black tea. It helps to improve digestion, enhances energy levels, boost the immune system, prevents cancer, reduces joint pain, detoxes the body, and it can also help you to lose weight.

 2.     Kefir – This is a fermented milk product that tastes just like yogurt. The advantages of this are the high content of vitamin B12, Magnesium, vitamin K2, folate, probiotics, and enzymes.  It can help to heal IBS, kill Candida, improve overall digestion, combat allergies, and also helps to improve bone density.

3.     Pickles – These are packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. For those who have a deficiency in Vitamin K, this is an ideal food to help address this. Known for its benefits to heart and bone health, it also gives you a boost of gut-friendly bacteria.

4.     Sauerkraut – This is probably one of the oldest foods of tradition, and it made mostly with fermented cabbage. It contains Vitamin K, B, C, and A; while also being a great source of magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, copper, and manganese. It has a range of health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, combating inflammation, improving digestive health, strengthening bones, and also helping with circulation.

 5.     Tempeh – This is a type of soybean product that is created through the addition of a tempeh starter, which is essentially a live-mould mixture. It is similar in appearance and texture to cake. It can help to increase bone density, lower cholesterol, helps with muscle recovery, and can even help to reduce the symptoms of the menopause. Tempeh has elevated levels of Vitamin B2, B3, B5, and B6.

 6.     Miso – This particular food has powerful anti-ageing properties and is created uniquely by fermenting barley, soybean or brown with a fungus called Koji. It can help your nervous system, boost your skin's vitality and appearance, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve the performance of your immune system.

 7.     Kimchi – This is a Korean dish that is created using various spices, seasoning, vegetables, and cabbage. Its origins can be traced back to the 7th century. It carries a wealth of benefits and can improve both digestive and cardiovascular health. It also contains a high level of antioxidants and as such, can reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, gastric ulcers, and obesity.

 

Fermented foods can help you to strengthen your immune system and more importantly, they help you to regulate your appetite and can help to reduce the cravings you get for sugary foods. Research proves that probiotics play an essential role as part of a healthy diet while adding an extra layer of protection against microbial infections.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting

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Whenever we need to identify a particular thing as good or bad, we simply explore its merits as well as demerits and decide which of the two outweighs the other, right?

Intermittent fasting is all about deciding when to eat and when to abstain from eating, and it does not deal with what kind of food you eat. Like most things, intermittent fasting has its good points and it not-so-good points. In this post, we give you a taste of each so that you can decide whether or not intermittent fasting is right for you.

 

Getting rid of those extra pounds......

Let's explore the scenario on a lighter note. It seems an extremely attractive opportunity for losing weight without missing out on delicious food. It includes multi-day fasts and avoiding what you would consider to be main meals a few times per week. Intermittent Fasting is a comfortable method that can be readily used to get rid of some of the extra pounds you could be carrying. It reduces the quantity of insulin and raises the amount of growth hormone as well as Noradrenaline. All this renders the body to use up fats to generate energy. Statistical evidence has buttressed the significance of Intermittent fasting and showed that you could lose around 3-8% of your body fat between just 3-20 weeks of doing this.

 

Battling Type 2 Diabetes

Aside from the very valid first point made in this post about weight loss, intermittent fasting can also be examined as a powerful soldier that shields our poor body from the serious Type 2 Diabetes. This condition is a consequence of insulin resistance accompanied by a high blood sugar level. Intermittent Fasting minimises Insulin resistance and hence regulates blood sugar levels. Research shows that regular intermittent fasting results in insulin resistance being reduced by about 30% and fasting blood sugar by about 5%. With figures like this, surely it is worth considering!

 

Lower Cholesterol

LDL and triglyceride levels have been shown to decrease over a fasting period, particularly in overweight study participants. An 8 week study trial of 3 days per week fasting (450cals consumed per day) showed a 32% reduction in cholesterol levels and an average of 5.6kg weight loss.

 

Hidden Benefits...

Intermittent fasting can also help in enhancing the overall health of a person. It gives periodic rest to our poor digestive systems which are continuously in working mode. It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. It also aids in promoting cellular repair which occurs because, during fasting phases, the cells undergo a waste removal process. Intermittent fasting plays a major role in protecting the body against two major diseases, Cancer and Heart Attack; this is predominantly due to the various beneficial effects on the metabolism. However, does this mean that it should be used all of the time? Not necessarily...

 

The Not-So-Good Bits

Unfortunately, good, old Intermittent Fasting has a dark side too. One of the most obvious disadvantages is becoming highly obsessed with following the intermittent fasting pattern precisely. A person would become rigid in eating particularly at times he/she has fixed earlier. For example, if you have planned to take the first meal of the day at 12:00 pm, and you are starving by 11:50 am, you might prolong eating for 10 minutes. Such obsessive eating habits are detrimental to one's psychological well-being.

 

Oh No! Overeating, Lethargy...

Another important factor associated with the harmful effects of intermittent fasting is the appetite not being effectively satisfied. Although a person is physically full, he/she will be tempted to eat more. This behavior leads to over-eating, and it almost kills the underlying purpose of losing weight by starting intermittent fasting in the first place.

Another chapter of this unfortunate dark side of intermittent fasting is the (reportedly) drastically reduced energy levels during the earlier parts of the day. This results in a person feeling lazy and lethargic during work and also causes reduced concentration levels that can affect one’s ability to carry out day to day activities.

 

Increased Hunger

A regular side-effect of fasting diets is that they can alter the balance of your hormones. Specifically, the reduction in leptin (which makes you feel full), and the increase in cortisol (which can result in your body being under more stress, and thus a halt in weight loss). A University of Virginia Study on fasting showed female students leptin decreased by as much as 75% and their cortisol increased by as much of 50% after the fasting period of the study. Increased cortisol can also result in changes in the menstrual cycle for women.

 

Hormone Imbalances

Leaner individuals (who have less weight to lose), and those with already active lifestyles are the ones most likely to experience this con to intermittent fasting. As mentioned in the previous point, the disruption in hormones can lead to irregular menstrual cycles for women, reduced testosterone in men, and also to more cases of insomnia and higher reported stress levels in all study participants of any gender. Obese individuals who take part in intermittent fasting are more likely to experience benefits and have a larger percentage of fat loss over the fasting period.

 

It can be inferred from the examples above that we cannot declare weather Intermittent Fasting is 'good' or 'bad', it is entirely up to your situation, current health, and body fat percentage. If you're planning to take on an intermittent fasting routine, it should be manipulated in such a way that it's negative consequences are as minimal as possible. There are different types of intermittent fasting available, for example, fasting only on weekends, fasting alternative days, it does not have to be something you do every day of the week! 

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Lack of Sleep: It Affects Your Brain & Your Training

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This post is going to cover the ins and outs of sleep deprivation, looking at how it affects your brain, and then how a lack of sleep can also impact your training. We’ve all been there, the odd late night or early morning; but there comes a point during that day where it instantly catches up with you and you remember just how little sleep you’ve actually had.

There are many, many effects that a lack of sleep can cause, ranging from general productivity loss, to your wider health and general well-being. Of course, it goes without saying that without the correct and proper sleep, we cannot perform as normal, but just how much of an impact can inadequate sleep really have on the body?

 

The Effects of Insufficient Sleep on the Brain

Are you sitting down? If not, you might want to for this next piece of information. A recent study, conducted just last year (2017) in Italy, revealed that depriving yourself of sleep can result in your brain cells consuming parts of their own synapses.

These brain cells are also known as astrocytes and it their primary responsibility to get rid of the worn-out cells, However, following a period of sleep deprivation, these cells actually eat the brains synapses. Another significant effect of sleep deprivation on the brain is a sharp increase in anxiety and anger. This is because the amygdala which is a specific part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions is also heavily impacted as well. This results in the generation of a more emotionally charged response when we are faced with negative stimulation, it makes staying in control of your emotions even more of a challenge.

And, it doesn’t end there...

There is another part of the brain that is severely affected by a lack of sleep. This has another interesting name, and its called the Hippocampus. This is essentially what controls your ability to store new memories. I’m sure you can relate to this; it is the reasons why it is very hard to take on new information and retain that information when you are tired or haven’t slept well the night before.

Everything from problem solving, controlling emotions, making decisions, and remembering information is affected when you do not get enough sleep.

While everyone is different, and some people suggest they can survive on just 4-5 hours per night; there are others who feel they need between 7-9 hours per night in order to get enough rest. The optimal amount of sleep has not been clinically defined, but for most people, around 7-9 hours is the average accepted count.

 

How A Lack of Sleep Impacts Your Training

Getting the right amount of sleep is vital when it comes to your training regime. With enough, your performance, results, and recovery are all going to be affected.

It goes without saying that there are always going to be occasions where you simply cannot get the required 7-9 hours. However, if this starts to occur more frequently, and even takes on form as a regular occurrence, you will find that your levels of energy are unable to be sustained, you will have less motivation, and your recovery rate will be much slower.

Metabolism

If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will produce less of a specific hormone called leptin. Leptin is a key hormone that helps you to feel full; with less of this in your body you are more likely to want to eat more, thus thwarting your chances of keeping your weight under control. According to scientific research, another hormonal consequence of not sleeping is enough is the increase it will cause to your levels of ghrelin, and this will actually make you want to eat more. The overriding result of both these factors is weight gain.

Energy and Motivation

It goes without saying that sustaining energy and motivation without sleep is tough. Your workout will be restricted if you are deprived of sleep, which can seriously hamper your progress. Just a single night of sleep deprivation has been scientifically proven to affect your anaerobic abilities for up to 36 hours following that period of inadequate sleep. Energy levels are also impaired as a result and your peak of energy following a period of sleep deprivation will be much lower than normal.

Muscle Strength and Repair

By not getting enough sleep, you will limit your progress. During a normal night’s sleep, a growth hormone that strengthens your muscles and bones is released into your body. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will significantly reduce the availability of this hormone in the body, which negatively affects the body’s natural ability to recover and repair the muscles. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Human Growth Hormone; without it, you will limit your ability to lift weights and recover easily following intense workouts.

Performance

Last, but by no means least, is physical performance. As I have already covered, both motivation and energy are both affected by inadequate sleep. However, one of the biggest impacts is on performance. The easiest way to explain this is to provide you with a tangible study that was conducted at Stanford University, the results of which were measured over a 2-4 week period Basketball players were asked to increase their sleep time to ten hours per night, compared to their normal average of 6-8 hours. After sleeping more, their recorded times for sprinting increased significantly. The accuracy was also improved with a demonstrated increased of almost 10% which came about as a result of their sharper focus and enhanced levels of concentration.

 

As you can see, insufficient sleep can really wreak havoc on the body, both mentally and physically.

It also goes a few steps further by speeding up the aging process, it can cause depression, and impact the immune system, which as we know all too well, can also affect your ability to train hard and stay fit.

In quick summary, skipping sleep just isn’t worth it. It is just as important to your health and wellbeing as what you eat, and how much you exercise.

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Swap Sugar For These TODAY

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There’s no secret that refined sugar is bad. It’s bad for the body, it plays havoc with your teeth, and more... In this post, I will tell you in detail why Stevia and Erythritol are far better for your body, and why you need to ditch the highly processed sugars entirely and make the switch to one of these sugar substitutes today.

 

Refined Sugar

This is the worst element of the modern-day diet, causing a plethora of harmful effects that can bolster a number of diseases within the body. Refined sugar is highly calorific and has absolutely no nutritional value. It also feeds bacteria in the mouth with can cause and accelerate tooth decay.

On its journey through the digestive system, sugar is broken down into Fructose and Glucose. Glucose is produced naturally by our body whereas Fructose is not. Additionally, Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver which isn’t a problem if you consume sugar in small doses, such as your daily intake of fruit (which is able to be metabolised due to the fibre content). However, if your liver already has enough Glycogen, which is fairly common, the Fructose is instantly converted into fat, which of course, is bad. If you consume processed sugar regularly, and this can be sugar in food, as well as in hot drinks, on cereals etc., then it can result in you having a fatty liver, and lead to other much more serious issues.

Sugar is also known to be one of the contributing factors to Diabetes and Cancer. There are many studies that prove consuming sugar puts you at a higher risk of developing Cancer. It is also a leading cause of obesity, high-cholesterol, and it can lead to Heart Disease.

The list could quite literally go on, and on; however, I have said enough about sugar. The rest of this post will be focussed entirely on why Stevia and Erythritol are both better for your body.

 

Stevia

You might not know this, but the Stevia plant has actually been used by the people of Paraguay and Brazil for more than 1500 years. It has been used to sweeten the traditional Yerba Mate Tea, as a sweetener in foods, and is used in medicine as well.

The product itself originates from a herbal plant and is around 200 times sweeter than typical sugar which is grown in North and South America.

Almost in direct contrast to sugar, Stevia can actually help to prevent some types of Cancer. It can help to control Diabetes, as well as serving as an effective aid to weight loss, protect the teeth and oral health generally, and help to strengthen your bones. Another intriguing fact about the Stevia Plant is the nutritional value is carries. It has a huge array of antioxidant compounds and many other essential minerals.

Weight Loss - Stevia is exceptionally low in calories.
Diabetes Control - It provides essential regulation of blood sugar levels.
Oral Hygiene - It reduces the formation of bacteria in your mouth.
Skin Health - When the plant is used topically, it can help to treat dermatitis and eczema.
Cancer Prevention - Due to its high antioxidant contents, it aids Cancer prevention.
Bone Health – It can help to reduce the likelihood of Osteoporosis

 

Erythritol

This is another sweetener with a very low calorific value and is classified as a sugar substitute that is derived naturally, being made mostly from plant sugars. Specifically, it has 70% of the sweetness of sugar and contains only 6% of the calories. It will not cause blood sugar levels to spike and it has no effect on Insulin in the body.

Unlike sugar, it will not stimulate the production of bacteria in the mouth. There have been many studies carried out that demonstrate a reduction in bacteria and associated plaque, this proving that using Erythritol can help to improve oral health.

Oral Hygiene - It prevents the decay of teeth.
Anti-Aging Properties - Due to the antioxidant contents, it can help to prevent damage from free radicals that can be absorbed into the body.
Obesity - It can aid weight loss and help with treating Obesity and has a zero-glycemic index.
Digestive Issues - It is easily absorbed into the body and can reduce problems which can occur in the gut.
 


As you can see from the list of benefits above, both Stevia and Erythritol are two superb alternatives for sugar. Not only does refined sugar cause harm to your body, it can in fact seriously put your health at risk through prolonged and sustained use, even if only in low doses.

In this post, we have explained just how bad sugar for your body can be. One other important point to mention is that not all sweeteners and sugars substitutes are created equal. The FDA have approved five artificial sugar substitutes as safe for consumption. These are acesulfame, saccharin, neotame, aspartame, and sucralose. Using one of these non-natural sweeteners could in fact be doing more harm than good. This is because of the how the brain and the body respond to these sweeteners. In a study outlined by the Harvard Review, there has also been a suggestion that these artificial sweeteners could also be highly addictive. So, I would urge you to seriously consider a natural alternative to sugar, such as the two I have outlined here for you today.

Both the natural sugar substitutes I have spoken about in this post today will work intrinsically to help repair the damage which has been caused to your body from the consumption of sugar. They are also both heat stable, meaning they can easily and safely be used for baking.

So, the next time you consider using sugar in your everyday foods to sweeten the taste, consider Stevia or Erythritol as two of the best sugar alternatives.

Your teeth, and your body will thank you.             

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You Need Fats! Here's Why:

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We often think of fats as something to avoid in our diet; after all, take a look at just how many food products are labeled “fat-free” next time you go to the grocery store.

But the truth is, we need fats in our diet. Without fats, we wouldn't function as people. Read on to learn more!
 

Do I really need fat?

Short answer: Yes! The longer answer is still yes, but with the caveat that not all fats are created equal. We'll talk about that more shortly.

For now, know this: Fats are essential for energy, for cell growth, for proper organ function, and for insulation. They're also needed for some vitamin and nutrient absorption, brain function, and even hormone production. Without fats in your diet, your body wouldn't work very well, and soon, it would cease to work at all. So yes, you need fats.

For instance, consider the following functions fats fulfill:

  • Energy. Because fats are calorie-dense, they remain one of the best sources of energy we can consume. Additionally, when we don't take in as many calories as we're burning, our bodies can burn fats for that extra energy.
  • Vitamin absorption. For instance, vitamins A, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning that our body doesn't absorb them without fat. We need those vitamins.
  • Flavor. Fats are a huge part of what make some of our favorite foods so delicious!
  • Satiation. Fats can help us feel full longer. (Additionally, if you've ever gone on a low-fat diet, you've probably noticed your diet craving fatty foods. This is a big part of why: Your body needs fats!)
  • Nutrient transportation. It's fats that help nutrients get across cell membranes, allowing your body to use those nutrients.
  • Nerve insulation. Fat helps protect our nerves by insulating nerve fibers and helping facilitate nerve impulses.
  • Body insulation. Without fat, we would be so much colder in the winter, as fat serves an important function by helping insulate and protect our organs.

Without fats, our bodies would be in so much trouble!
 

What are the different kinds of fats?

There are four main types of dietary fats:

  • Saturated fats
  • Trans fats
  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats

Each of the four types are different chemically, and as such, have different physical properties as well. Let's look at each of them a little more closely.

Saturated fats: Tend to be solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are generally considered a bad fat because they raise the LDL cholesterol levels in your blood.

Trans fats: Like saturated fats, trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature. They, too, raise LDL cholesterol levels, which can contribute to cardiovascular health concerns.

Monounsaturated fats: Tend to be liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats are generally considered a good fat.

Polyunsaturated fats: Tend to be liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats are also generally considered a good fat.

 

How many calories are in fat?

Regardless of the type of fat, every single gram of fat contains nine calories; fats are much more energy-dense than proteins or carbohydrates, each of which offer four calories per gram.

This is one of the reasons fats have gotten a bad reputation: Because they are more calorie-dense, they've often been blamed for weight gain and obesity. Additionally, high consumption of the bad fats—saturated and trans fats—has been linked to heart disease and stroke.

As a result, most experts recommend replacing saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats whenever possible.

 

Does that mean “trans fat-free” foods are healthy?

Not quite. Partially this is because trans fats are often replaced with saturated fats, which also aren't very good for you. Additionally, when producers remove fats from a food item, they often add sugars and other similarly nutrient-low ingredients.

Instead, look for foods that are either naturally low in fats or instead of trans fats utilize monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

 

How can I make fats part of my healthy diet?

Fats can, and should be, part of your diet. A few principles to keep in mind when looking at fats in your diet:

  • Balance your nutritional plan for a healthy balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. While some special diets may recommend a different ratio, the general idea for most people might be in the neighborhood of 50% carbohydrates, 30% proteins, and 20% fats, for instance. If you are on a 2,000-calorie diet, that might look like 1,000 calories from carbs (which at 4 calories per gram, is 250 grams), 600 calories from proteins (150 grams), and 400 calories from fats (or, at 9 calories per gram, 45 grams). As you can see, it doesn't take as many grams of fat to reach the same caloric levels because of the higher calorie-density.
  • Aim for a diet that prioritizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, as well as lean meats, fish, and nuts, and limits red meats, sugars, sodium, and artificial ingredients. Doing so will help limit your intake of bad fats while ensuring you get plenty of good fats.
  • Whenever possible, replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This means olive oil, for instance, instead of margarine or butter.
  • Lastly, be sure to balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn. 

 

Does this mean I have to give up my favorite foods, like steak and buttery lobster?

No. It does mean, though, that you should practice moderation when it comes to those red meats and other sources of unhealthy fats, instead working toward replacing some of those foods with healthier sources of fats.

For instance, fish, and especially fatty fish like salmon, are a great way to replace some of those steaks, as they're loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown beneficial for so many things, including brain function!

 

What should I add to my diet to get more good fats?

So many good things! Great sources of good fats include fish (especially salmon and tuna), nuts, legumes, and lean white meats, such as turkey.

 

Clearly, we need fat in our diet. Now we just have to make sure we're getting the good fats instead of the bad ones, and with the information above, you can do precisely that!

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This Is What Coffee Does To Your Training!

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Written by Hayleigh Bennett

Eat Run Lift's HIIT and female weight loss specialist. Hayleigh is exclusively available as an online coach.
Learn more about Hayleigh here >

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With an ever-increasing social acceptance of caffeinated products in the fitness industry, are we really making appropriate use and enhancing our performance or are we interfering with our training?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in various leaves, nuts, seeds and numerous plants – including the more commonly known coffee beans and cacao beans. Coffee, teas, cola, energy drinks and supplements are part of our general social acceptance (Catch up for a coffee, anyone?) and are increasingly popular for helping improve performance when marketed towards the fitness industry. These beverages often contain anywhere from 30mg to 120mg of caffeine and acts as an ergogenic aid during exercise. This helps our body to perform better during physical activity and change our perception on effort while exercising.

While we don't usually promote the use of caffeine or caffeinated products (due to long-term dependance or cortisol-related side-effects, we thought it may be useful for those who do use caffeine to understand what it's doing during your training session!

 

Does timing affect performance?

Consuming caffeine before or during training will increase our performance by influencing our central nervous system and reducing our perception of effort and perception of fatigue when consumed appropriately to an individual. Timing is important – for example, consuming caffeine prior to fasted cardio will promote the capacity for exercise due to the body’s low glycogen levels.

 

What benefits does caffeine have for training?

The most efficient way to benefit from caffeine during exercise is to use the lowest effective dose in the best form to minimize side effects. Generally the recommended dose of caffeine (to improve performance) is 1-3mg per kg of body weight. Daily, a 'healthy' amount to consume is 3-400mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to 3-4 cups of brewed coffee (where 1 shot of espresso is 75mg).

Endurance and resistance training session can benefit from caffeine consumption as it promotes a greater power output, increased speed, increased endurance and resistance to fatigue. When performing multiple lifts, throws or plyometric movements (box jumps, squat jumps, etc.), strength training can benefit from caffeine. Focus, vigilance and perception of fatigue are a bonus of the increased dopamine in the brain from caffeine.

 

Is caffeine effective for everyone?

During exercise a similar dose of caffeine can be effective on a person who is a habitual consumer to someone in withdrawal (of 2 – 4 days), however can be more effective when cycled with other supplements. It is possible to build up a tolerance within a few days of continued use – this is when side effects such as headaches upon withdrawal or trouble sleeping may occur. Try to “reset” your tolerance by taking 1-2 weeks off caffeine, then slowly re-introducing with smaller doses.

 

Are there any side effects from caffeine?

Whilst caffeine intake can effective for most people, high levels can cause a decline in performance - over-arousal during training may interfere with technique. Other side effects include impaired fine motor skills (shakiness), increased heart rate, high blood pressure and gastro-intestinal upset. Sleep disturbances and anxiety can also be a negative from being over-caffeinated or by incorrectly timing your dosage (check out our previous blog – Why am I tired all the time (part 1) -  Adrenal Maladaptation).

Continued use of caffeine in exercise or social situations can lead to a long-term addiction or dependency. Signs and symptoms of caffeine dependency include mood swings, anxiety, insomnia and twitching. Whilst a pre-workout supplement or energy drink may seem like a good idea before your training session try avoid using it every time that you train. Choose 2 training sessions each week (in a situation of training 4-5 times/week) where you feel you may need that boost the most.

Caffeine supplementation can be effective when focusing on endurance and resistance training. Remember to choose sugar-free options to remove the effect of carbohydrates – the benefits from caffeine are smaller in situations when carbs are consumed prior or during training.

References

Burke, L., Desbrow, B., Spriet, L., 2013. Caffeine for Sports Performance, 1st ed. USA: Human Kinetics.

Eat Right – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sarene Alsharif, MPH. 2018. Caffeine and Exercise. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eatright.org/resource/fitness/sports-and-performance/fueling-you-workout/caffeine-and-exercise.

Live Strong, Grey Evans. 2017. Is Caffeine Pre-Workout Bad? [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.livestrong.com/article/487685-is-caffeine-pre-workoutbad/.

Sports Dieticians Australia. 2018. Caffeine. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sportsdieticians.com.au/factsheets/supplements/caffeine/.