Q?If I am exercising and weight lifting do I need more protein in my diet?

PROTEIN is necessary for the growth, repair, and maintenance of muscle and other lean tissue. Protein is composed of building blocks called amino acids. There are more than twenty amino acids necessary to build tissues, red blood ells, and the hundreds of other protein-rich molecules that sustain life.

Many athletes and exercisers believe that a high protein diet will increase muscle mass and strength. The typical American diet supplies two to three times the recommended amount of protein and is more than adequate to meet all protein needs of athletes and exercisers Research shows that intakes that supersede normal requirements have no effect on building muscles. Only training increases muscle mass and strength.

There is now some evidence to support the use of carnitine to support increased strength in MEN who are dedicated weight lifters. It is of no use to the average strength trainer or young person who is eager to “bulk up”.

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Q?How can I tell if I am dehydrated?

Dehydration is what happens to your body when it loses more fluid than it takes in.

Water is essential to life. It is the medium in which all the functions of our body take place. In fact, water makes up 45-65% of our total body weight. About 62% of this water is stored in our cells. The remainders is in plasma, lymph, and other fluids.

The amount of fluid in our body usually remains relatively stable. If, for some reason fluid output exceeds fluid intake it’s no problem–if the imbalance is adjusted pretty quickly. It’s when fluids aren’t replaced that you can get in trouble and experience dehydration. If you do, the effects can be significant. Common symptoms of even mild dehydration include muscle weakness, decreased performance, reduced cardiac function during exercise, higher resting heart rate, decreased oxygen consumption and fatigue.

It’s normal for us to lose body fluids through perspiration, sweating, excretion and exhalation. Abnormal water loss occurs with prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, bleeding, burns and some medical conditions like diabetes.

The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink water regularly. Typical needs are about 6-8 glasses of liquid a day but individual needs vary based on the kinds of food you eat and whether or not you exercise. If you’re exercising you need more water to replace fluids lost as your body regulates its internal thermometer through perspiration. Out and out sweating does not cool your body so the requirement for water on very hot days increases significantly.

Physiologically it’s smart to drink one or two glasses of cold water 10-20 minutes before exercising followed by an additional glass of water for every 20 minutes you work out. If you exercise in very humid conditions you need twice as much.

Water with glucose and electrolytes or sports drinks with polymerized carbohydrates are popular fluid replacements for people who exercise for long periods of time. The polymerized drinks speed the replacement process while providing the carbohydrates for energy.

Plain water remains the best fluid for hydrating the body.

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Q?What does the term target heart rate mean?

The intensity component of training for cardiovascular fitness is critical. The principles of aerobic and anaerobic energy production make it clear that exercise at too great an intensity will use anaerobic metabolism, not the aerobic system that can increase your fitness levels. The higher a client’s level of fitness, the higher their appropriate exercise intensity. Heart rate during exercise can provide an excellent monitor of intensity.

Research shows that optimum exercise intensity for fitness improvement is in the range of about 60-90 percent of maximum heart rate. (Maximum heart rate or MHR is typically the number 220 minus your age.) “Target heart rate” is a shorthand term used to describe a heart rate at the “training-sensitive zone.”

To compute your Target Heart Rate, multiply your MHR by .60 and again by .90. This range is, for most people, the heart rate at which you will achieve maximum aerobic benefits.

For example:
If you are 40 years old your MHR is 220 minus your age (40) or 180.
60 % of 180 = 108
90% of 180 = 162

Your Target Heart Rate (range) is 108-162. Exercise at this pace. Compare it with the talk test which takes advantage of the hyperventilation response which indicates you’ve moved beyond aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. If breathing while you exercise in your target heart range is labored and difficult, the intensity is too great regardless of the numbers. If you can carry on a comfortable conversation while exercising in your target heart range, chances are using a target heart rate is a useful strategy to monitor your fitness training.

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Q?What should I eat before and after my workout?

Athletes continue to search for the perfect diet or the right combination of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals to maximize exercise performance. Even recreational exercisers want to enhance their health and exercise program by eating the right foods in the right combinations. Ironically several studies report that athletes do not always eat right. Poor diet, combined with the increased requirements for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can jeopardize athletic performance and general health.

Exercising on an empty stomach is not smart. Your body requires the energy food provides to fuel muscles. Any time you go more than 4 hours without carbohydrate intake the body begins converting body protein (including muscle) to the sugar needed to fuel the brain–and prevent hypoglycemi The strain you put on your body when you deprive it of food, followed by the challenge of exercise, will set it up to conserve the calories you eat later and store them as fat.

Sports Nutritionist/Dietitian Nancy Clark, author of The Athlete’s Kitchen agrees on these additional key facts for people who work out regularly:
• Complex carbohydrates, such as breads and cereals are the best form of fuel for endurance sports–not sugar.
• Athletes need little or no more protein than is provided in the typical American diet. Protein powders are NOT necessary to meet this daily need.
• Water should be consumed every 15-20 minutes during exercise

Whether you are a “weekend warrior” or a recreational exercises who engages in moderate activity two or three times a week be sure to begin your day with a breakfast of whole grain cereals, fruit, and nonfat milk. For lunch carbohydrate and protein eaten in salads, sandwiches fruit and non fat milk or juice will prevent afternoon fatigue. A dinner of pasta, bread, vegetable and beans and snacks with more of the same is the foundation for eating for exercise and health.

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Q?Are height-weight charts a good way for me to determine if I’m overweight?

Height-weight charts are statistical landmarks developed in the 1930’s by looking at height and average ranges of body mass of men of military age for whom the mortality rate was lowest. They did not take into account specific causes of death or the quality of health prior to death. At that time a man more than fifteen percent above the highest number in the range was considered obese and a health risk. In the 1940’s it also meant he was ineligible for military duty. The chart was developed by insurance companies. The numbers for women were extrapolated from the figures for men.

In the 1980’s the ranges for men and women were increased by about ten pounds to allow for the increased mass that is carried by most of us born after WWII.

Height-weight charts are now regarded as outdated by health and fitness professionals. That’s because total body weight, or mass, is not as important as your ratio of fat to lean tissue. This information is not revealed by a scale. Only body composition assessment, commonly called body fat testing, allows a qualified technician to accurately predict an individual’s percentage of body fat, pounds of fat and pounds of lean and a realistic weight goal..

Most of us have heard of stories of airline attendants who were put on probation when their weight was too high for their height or lean football players who, based on height-weight charts, were told to lose weight. How many of us have weighed ourselves in the morning because we know how radically weight changes over a day?

If you are still relying on height weight charts to determine if you are over or underweight you are “out of step” with the fitness community. Dump those statistics and your scale along with it. They’re worthless!

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Q?Why should I have my body fat measured? What’s the best method?

Determining your body composition allows you to make appropriate decisions regarding the diet and exercise program that is best for you. Beyond that it is the most useful way to measure the progress in changing your fat to lean ratio.

Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate method to measure body fat, composition. Also referred to as “underwater weighing,” this technique requires the individual to weighed on land and under water. Percent body fat is calculated using a complex mathematical equation. Hydrostatic weighing is the gold standard for body fat measurement because research using the “tank” has been replicated and repeated most accurately using the ultimate test subject–a cadaver! In fact, the most common question professionals ask is how closely other methods correlate to this protocol.

The down side to hydrostatic weighing is that it is time-consuming, requires expensive equipment, and relies heavily on the expertise of the technician performing the test Therefore, other methods are more commonly used.

The second most popular method for determining body composition is skinfold measurement. The technician uses a caliper to measure skin fold thicknesses at various sites on the body. The caliper also has limitations. Individual differences such as age, gender and fitness status make it difficult to determine norms for a large population.

Other methods developed in recent years include ultrasound, bio electrical impedance, arm x-ray, and computerized tomography. Although sales people will tell you differently, none of the research on these methods compare in accuracy to hydrostatic weighing or skin fold measurement, mostly because it’s difficult to replicate results.

Nonetheless, the accuracy of body fat measurement is of dire consequence only to the avid athlete. The “scale” is the most popular method for measuring land weight, but you don’t find people running around asking which scale is the most accurate. Like land weighing, body fat composition is most useful to monitor your progress. Any method, used on a repetitive basis, provides an accurate benchmark to measure progress.

Regardless of which method you choose, test yourself or get tested on a monthly basis, using the same protocol and the same technician. If you are working out regularly and eating healthily, you’ll experience a satisfying decline in the fat to lean ratio and move rapidly to your goals.

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Q?What is interval training?

Interval training is a special training technique that involves periods of maximum or near maximum exercise interspersed with periods of rest or light activity. These intervals, which can be used to enhance competitive performance in a specific sport or to improve general fitness can vary in four ways, intensity and/or duration of the “sprint” and intensity and/or duration of the “rest.” Depending on how the workout varies an athlete can train the specific energy system necessary to develop his or her sport.

If you want to become a better sprinter, for instance, the Creatinine-Phosphate energy system needs to be trained. To do this, hard short sprints need to be followed by long walks. In “sprint” you go completely anaerobic then make sure you are breathing comfortably before the next sprint. During rest the ATP and Creatinine Phosphate energy systems are fully restored. The muscles say, “If I have to learn to sprint that hard, I have to make more than normal amounts of ATP between the sprints.” “I can only do that if the rest period is completely aerobic.”

On the other hand, if you are a middle distance runner (or play stop and go sports) you engage in exercise that can build up painful lactic acid. To delay this build up you need to train intensely then back off to aerobic levels where you almost get their breath back–sprinting again before you have completely recovered. Since the ATP and Creatinine Phosphate system are only partially replenished the muscles learn to handle greater and greater loads of lactic acid with less fatigue.

The long distance runner, interested in training the aerobic system, runs as hard as possible–moving into anaerobic metabolism then “resting” almost immediately in an aerobic mode. The secret in this form of interval training technique is in the recovery. During recovery aerobic enzymes not only replace ATP and Creatinine Phosphate they also process lactic acid and increase aerobic enzyme activity.

Interval training is the ultimate form of cross training because it makes use of all your energy systems. But most of all, it brings variety to a workout, decreases injury, and can make exercising fun.

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Q?Should I wear a weightlifting belt during resistance training?

The necessity for a weight lifting belt is dependent on the kind of resistance training you’re doing and how much weight you are lifting. Weight lifting belts help support the torso during heavy lifting–especially in squats and dead lifts. As a general rule, if you are performing a lift that requires significant torso stabilization and using more than 75 percent of the total weight you can lift just once, you may need the extra support a belt offers.

The downside of using a weightlifting belt is that depending on them for support, instead of the abdominal and back muscles can result in a weakening of these muscles that are so important to body stability. If you’re going to use a weight lifting belt don’t neglect strengthening your abdominal and back extensors before or after you do those heavy lifts.

If you do wear a weightlifting belt, use one that is only about four inches wide and fits snugly around your abdominal and lumbar region.

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Q?Do I really need to stretch before I go out for my run?

It’s always a good idea to begin any aerobic workout, especially a run, with a light bout of walking or light jogging to allow muscles, tendons and other tissues to warm up gradually. Some fitness experts believe that’s all you need to do to prepare for a workout–that stretching serves no useful purpose. However, limited joint mobility can predispose you to injury and taking a few minutes to increase flexibility in muscle groups that might be overused cannot hurt. In fact, Research by Peter and Lorna Francis support the use of appropriate flexibility exercise before and after a walking or jogging workout. They encourage stretching the Achilles tendon, calf and hamstring muscle groups, quadriceps muscles, foot and even the low-back muscles will help improve jogging and running efficiency.

There are several types of stretching but they can be placed into two main categories: passive stretching and active stretching. During a passive stretch, the elastic components of the muscle are usually relaxed, and the portion of muscle most likely to be loaded is the connective tissue. The static stretch method is an excellent example of passive stretching. Active stretching has grater effects on the elastic components of the joints. It requires muscle contraction through a range of motion and prepares the muscles, tendons and joints for the functional activities at hand.

Regardless of which stretch you choose to use resist the temptation to rush through the stretching phase of your warm up. Stretches performed improperly and in haste are of little value. Talk to your personal trainer for the stretches most useful for your genetic make up and the goals and objectives of your run or other workout.

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Q?What are some strategies I can use to successfully implement healthy lifestyle changes?

If you’ve resolved to leave bad habits behind, you know how difficult it can be to maintain that resolve, but there are some ways you can successfully negotiate the path to new behaviors.

Set goals and objectives. They add aim to energy, focus effort and structure time. Surveys show that people who plan ahead are much more successful over the long term than those who plunge in without knowing where they’re going or how they’ll get there. Remember: Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable and realistic.

Put your goals in writing. Written goals are a tangible sign of a promise that you intend to keep. They will also help you track you progress, make your accomplishments more obvious, and help you identify problem areas that need more attention.

Identify supporters and saboteurs. The support of others will make it easier for you to pass through the sometimes difficult transition from old to new behaviors. Identify the people who will nurture you and help you maintain your well-being, as well s those who don’t see your point of view.

Plan for the unexpected. Lack of time is the most frequently mentioned reason for discontinuing a fitness program. Life is filled with surprises, so include strategies that assure you will make time for keeping your commitment.

Reward your success. Set up a reward system so you can receive a treat for changed behaviors. Some examples include extra time for yourself with a favorite book, a manicure or pedicure, a trip with a special friend or a lecture or play that stimulates your mind. Avoid rewards related to food and drink that may be sabotaging in the long run.

Negotiating the path to new behaviors can be fulfilling and rewarding if you can hang in there for the weeks to months necessary to make new behaviors lifestyle habits.

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Q?Is lifting weights as important to my physical fitness as aerobic exercise?

Absolutely. Although aerobic exercise burns far more calories, and a higher percentage fat calories, than strength or anaerobic training, weight lifting, or resistance training, increases your lean body mass. Muscle tissue is metabolically active. It uses as much as 45 calories per pound per day to sustain itself. The more muscle tissue you have, the higher your resting metabolism. Even when watching television, the local gym rat burns more calories than their couch potato neighbor. So, while aerobic exercise burns fat during and briefly after a workout, the lean muscle tissue that is gained by lifting weights burns calories around the clock. That’s especially important if you want to decrease body fat.

Stronger muscles also enable you to perform daily activities more easily. The result is less fatigue at the end of the day. Well-conditioned muscles also reduce your risk to injury.

Strength training is a highly individualized procedure. That’s why two equally successful strength athletes may have very different training routines. Nevertheless, in order to increase muscle mass or lean tissue, you need to train with weights a minimum of two to three times per week. The best resource for a program that will augment your aerobic conditioning program is a fitness professional trained to develop a program to meet your needs.

The American College of Sports Medicine now considers resistance training a necessary component of any sound exercise program. So regardless of what your fitness goal may be, get out there and toss some weight around.

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Q?When I sweat during my workout, am I sweating away fat?

Many people think that when they sweat while they’re working out they’re losing fat. It’s not true. they’re sweating off fat When you sweat during your workout you’re losing water. If you weigh yourself before your workout and then again afterwards, the difference between the two is water weight, not fat weight.

How much fat you “lose” during exercise depends on several factors. These include fitness level, body mass, the duration and intensity of your workout, and when you ate your last meal. Wearing plastic pants or a fleece sweat suit won’t make you lose fat weight more quickly than if you dress comfortably. Wearing excessive clothing during exercise may interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself and result in mild to severe heat illness.

Another common myth about sweating is that it rids the body of toxins. Sweat is nothing more than water, salts, and ureas. The body isn’t detoxified when it sweats; the only thing it gets rid of is water and a few salts.

Your ability to sweat is not a measure of your fitness. Sweating is nothing more than the most efficient factor in your body’s temperature regulation ability. Some people sweat more than others.

The most effective way for you to keep your “sweat mechanism” healthy is to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Then you don’t have to worry about overheating, dehydrating and feeling awful after you work out!

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Q?Will caffeine help me run faster?

A few years ago it was popular for runners to drink a cup of coffee before a race because caffeine will stimulate the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream. The athletes were counting on using the fatty acids for fuel, rather than glucose, “saving” the glucose for later in the race when it might give them a second wind. There is also a study based on athletes who were given 330 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent to two to three strong cups of coffee or seven caffeinated soft drinks) one hour before exercising. The athletes were able to perform moderate aerobic activity 15 minutes longer than their “decaffeinated” control group.

330 milligrams of caffeine is a lot of caffeine. For most people, the adverse effects of consuming that much caffeine would far outweigh the possibility of enhanced performance. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can cause headaches, insomnia, and abnormal heart rhythms. It contributes to irritability–the last thing you need if you already have pre-race jitters. And, the effects on the colon combined with irritability often results in diarrhea.

Caffeine is also a diuretic–the description for drugs that promote water loss from the body. Having to step behind a tree in the middle of a race increases race time as much as the fatty acids released by the caffeine may decrease it.

A cup of coffee contains approximately 50 to 150 milligrams of caffeine, tea about 10 to 50 milligrams, and caffeinated soft drinks about 50 milligrams. It’s also hidden in chocolate and many over the counter prescription drugs.

If caffeine was discovered today it would never pass restrictions of the safe food and drug act. But it’s here and asking a caffeine lover to give up a habit is asking a lot.

Caffeine may increase your endurance but it doesn’t make you run faster. Bottom line is the negative effects of its use far outweigh the positive so you’re better off to make water your pre-game beverage.

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Q?How will I know if I’m overtraining?

Even though exercise is almost a magical remedy for ill health, if you overdo it, you’ll produce risks rather than rewards that affect your body and your mind.

As a general rule, if your exercise regimen makes you feel worse instead of better, you are over training. An over trained individual often exhibits signs and symptoms that may be mistaken for disease or illness. Instead of increased vigor and energy, they experience fatigue and lethargy. Physical and mental performance suffers, they become more susceptible to viruses, and they feel irritable and depressed. Other symptoms include sleep disturbances, weight loss, higher resting heart rate, and loss of appetite. Interestingly, for the fit, over training can take the form of decreased fitness–despite the fact you’re exercising more. On the other hand, pain or an out and out injury is the hallmark sign of over training for the sedentary person or the “average” athlete.

Although the over training syndrome occurs most often in highly conditioned athletes who spend more hours training in an effort to “get better,” and enthusiasts who have who h”” believing they are “cleaning their body of toxins” or that a little more work will make the discomfort disappear.

To avoid over training, incorporate “off-days” into your workout routine. Fitness is about much more than burning calories of stored fat. When you work out hard your body needs rest to repair muscle and other tissues–to become fitter. Consume sufficient calories from foods that are rich in nutrients and drink plenty of water. Remember, the goal of exercise is to improve your physical and mental well-being, not impair it.

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Q?Should I be concerned about the amount of salt in my diet?

Many people regard salt as just another item on the list of “bad foods” that should be avoided in our diet. They mistakenly believe that excessive salt, or sodium, intake will lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension.

When people talk about salt in the diet they are usually referring to table salt or sodium chloride. In fact, sodium chloride is just one of many salts that are in our food.

Chemically a food is described as a salt when it shares common chemical characteristics. We can recognize these chemicals on food labels when we see the tags –ide (as in chloride), –ate (as in borate) or –ite (as in sulfite). If you take a look at the labels on prepared foods you can understand why we don’t need to add table salt to our diet. If we don’t have a diet high in fresh foods there’s a good chance we’ve already consumed far more salt than we need.

Interestingly, research has shown that salt has little or no effect on most people with normal blood pressure as well as many people with hypertension. There are, however, many individuals who are salt sensitive. They react unfavorably to salt in any form because it puts strain on the kidneys, increasing blood volume. If the arteries are unable to dilate sufficiently to accommodate this increased blood volume, blood pressure will rise.

Depending on who you ask, most health promotion educators recommend that adults limit sodium intake to 1000 milligrams per day–that’s about one teaspoon. To reduce the amount of salt in your diet, minimize the amount of canned and processed foods, smoked meats, condiments, chips, and soft drinks you consume.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to discuss health concerns with your physician, but moderation seems to be the key in most dietary matters, including salt.

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Q?If I’m exercising every day and have decreased my caloric intake, why don’t I seem to be losing any body fat? or What is a set point?

Most people who exercise and decrease caloric intake can expect to see decreases in body fat. It doesn’t always happen as quickly as we hope. Research has shown that the body has an internal control mechanism that drives it to maintain a particular level of body fat. The term used to described this phenomena is “set point.”

The set point mechanism acts much like a thermostat, turning energy expenditure up or down to avoid either weight gain or weight loss. When you restrict caloric intake the body attempts to maintain its weight and fat by lowering the metabolic rate. Conversely, the body will lose weight gained in excess of its internally regulated point by increasing metabolism. This may explain why some people have to exercise quite a bit in order not to gain weight.

Until recently we were told that the most efficient way of manipulating the set-point was by increasing exercise, thereby programming the body to store less fat. Now we know that after a certain amount of time this is no longer true. That internal control mechanism wants to maintain the equilibrium defined by your genes. So, although you can exercise your way to a leaner body than your parents, at a certain point it becomes counterproductive.

Most people who claim to be exercising more and eating less without seeing changes in body composition feel desperate. They begin to exercise more and eat less. In fact, the “cure” for a damaged set point is to drop back on your exercise program and increase the nutrient density of your diet.. Since this flies in the face of everything you have heard it’s a difficult task that can only be managed with daily support and dealing with body image issues that usually raise their ugly head at this time.

Stress is another well recognized cause for the inability to decrease body fat despite a physically active lifestyle and low calorie diet. Weight experts now acknowledge there is a relationship between stress and even suggest that it has to do with the fight or flight mechanism that encourages the body to store fat under stress. However, there is no significant research to explain this phenomena.
If you are exercising more and eating less and still not able to lose weight you face a significant challenge that needs to be met with a change in attitude.

Whatever you do, don’t charge off on another tangent that may make the situation worse. Consult your fitness professional for the non-judgmental support you need to be fit and fat.

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Q?What’s the difference between circuit training and free weights?

Circuit training is a form of fitness training that takes the participant through a series of four to ten exercise stations with relatively brief rest intervals between each station. It is particularly useful in fitness training because it breaks the monotony of sustained training and can be performed inside, at night, or in inclement weather. Historically, circuit training was designed to enhance muscular endurance and therefore incorporated exercises such as sit-ups, the bench press, and the leg press. In recent years aerobic circuit conditioning training programs have become popular. Between four and eight aerobic exercise stations with one to three minutes per station and a 15 second rest break between stations constitute a circuit. The key to success is to set the workload at each station to 50 to 70 percent of the client’s functional capacity.

“Old timers” in the gyms laugh at the resurgence in the use of free weights–tools they used long before machines with “captured” weight stacks came to the gyms. Nevertheless, training with free weights is regaining popularity because, in addition to strength training or aerobic conditioning, free weights enhance balance, coordination and power. Free weights require greater instruction and supervision and are more likely to cause injuries but are relatively inexpensive and can be kept at home.

Regardless of which you use remember that balance is the key to a well-conditioned body and lifetime fitness.

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Q?What’s the difference between eating for weight loss and eating for weight gain?

A successful weight management program requires a long-term approach, one designed to modify the behaviors that can influence our ability to lose or gain weight.

The most important factors in eating for weight loss include maintaining energy and nutrient balance. Severe caloric restrictions will slow down the metabolism, making weight loss harder to achieve. For women this means a minimum of 1200 and for men, 1500 nutrient dense calories a day.
To maintain energy the nutrient balance should be 65-70 percent carbohydrate, 15-20% protein and 20-25% fat. Carbohydrates remain the best choice for fueling muscles and promoting a healthy heart. A 20% fat diet can assure you are not denied the foods that nurture you but limits fat intake to levels that support weight loss.

It’s also important to maintain frequency of meals. Three meals a day is standard in our society but no law says you can’t heat more often. It’s particularly wise to avoid the all-too-common pattern of no breakfast, little or no lunch, and a huge dinner. Several mini-meals of 300-400 calories keep the body’s metabolism elevated.

A varied diet is also important for long term weight loss. Avoid eating large amounts of one type off food–even if it is a nutrient dense food–to the exclusion of others.

Some people have the opposite energy problem. They weigh less than they should and have difficulty putting on weight. Some of the aids to gaining weight are the reverse of techniques suggested for losing weight.

First, start with a nutritionally adequate diet and eat larger meals, more often increasing the energy density of the food. Then, consider a progressive strength training program to add body weight in the form of lean tissue (muscles) while you strengthen the body. If implementing these suggestions does to achieve goal weight, you may need to accept the fact that your body is genetically regulated at a lower level of fatness and maintaining a greater amount of body weight may require more time, effort, and expense than are worthwhile.

Regardless of whether you need or want to lose or gain weight exercise remains the basis for any long term lifestyle goals. A balanced exercise program is the key component of any successful weight loss program. eight loss without exercise can have a negative effect on body composition, especially if weight is regained or lost.

So, exercise, eat a balanced and varied diet, low in fat, low in sugar and high in fiber. If you maintain that regimen the body will find it’s own genetic set point.

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Q?What do the new food labels tell me?

A typical supermarket offers about 20,000 different items. Food labels, now required by law on almost every food, can help you choose among the options available.

The most significant part of the new food labels is a new heading that reads Nutrition Facts. That is followed by:
• a list of the serving size of that particular food and
• the servings per container.
The new labels have more consistent serving sizes that replace those that used to be set by manufacturers.

There are mandatory and voluntary dietary components required on food labels. Mandatory data, per serving, listed in the order in which they must appear are:
• Total Calories
• Calories from fat

The next mandatory portion of the label provides information about nutrients that are most important to the health of today’s consumers and includes:
• Total Fat (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Saturated fat (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Cholesterol (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Sodium (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Total Carbohydrate (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Dietary Fiber (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Sugars (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Protein (in grams) (and a percentage)
• Vitamin A (in a percentage)
• Vitamin C (in a percentage)
• Calcium (in a percentage)
• Iron (in a percentage)

WARNING: Although this portion of the label is a significant improvement over the previous label which listed carbohydrate, protein, and fat in grams, it can still be misleading. Health promotion educator, Ronda Gates, has a favorite saying that applies to food labels, “Labels don’t lie, but liars write labels.”

For example, if a label lists 260 total calories and 120 calories per serving, but under that lists total fat (still in grams) followed by a percentage, most consumers believe that percentage is the percentage fat of the food. In fact, if you look closely, you will see that percentage value is nothing more than % of daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. These reference values are intended only to help consumers learn good diet basics. If you don’t eat a 2,000 calorie diet, the information is of little use to you.

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Q?What are some useful strategies to beat stress?

When you’re in stressful situations, be they physical, mental, or emotional, your adrenal glands secrete special hormones to help you through the stress. These hormones include epinephrine (also called adrenaline), norepinephrine, and cortisol. They prepare your body to handle stress by speeding up the heart to increase cardiac output, constricting blood vessels to the gut while enlarging those to the muscles, and dilating pupils dilate to give us a better look at whatever we’re confronting. They stimulate the liver to release its glucose stores for quick energy. Fat depots are induced to liberate free fatty acids for fuel. Stress hormone release produces a heightened state of awareness which helps us think more clearly and quickly.

The good thing about these hormones is the way they prepare the body to run away from danger. The potential bad effect is that many normal body functions are subverted in order to meet the demands of flight. Amino acids that are supposed to be used for tissue growth and repair are, under stress, burned for energy instead.

If the stress is emotional rather as well as physical, you have a medical time bomb. With constant stress, there is a constant perversion or re-routing of amino acids. Instead of supplying fresh material to grow hair, make antibodies, and rebuild heart muscle, amino acids are removed from tissues, travel to the liver, then go to muscles to be burned up as flight fuel.

A heart attack in someone under constant stress is more likely to be lethal. Invading bacteria from a cut are less likely to be mopped up by the white blood cells. The immune system is less hardy. Muscle wasting is more likely. People, training hard for athletics, are more likely to tip over into the over training syndrome.

What we need is a drug that will encourage our adrenal glands to make more stress hormone when we really need them, but none for the routine occurrences that we perceive as stressful. You will be pleased to know that such a drug is available although it has not been sanctioned by the American Medical Association, released by the Food and Drug Administration, or approved by the surgeon general. The drug is called exercise and you don’t need anyone’s permission to use it.

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Q?What drugs affect the body’s ability to burn body fat and glucose?

Most people forget that any medication, or drug, you take affects your entire body. Some medications increase appetite and food cravings, especially for sweet foods. In contrast, other medications reduce appetite and result in weight loss. Drugs alter taste, mood, ability to digest food, ability to burn fat and ability to maintain a normal workout.

How medications affect nutrients in the body is complicated and poorly understood. For example, some drugs mimic the shape of, and are mistaken for vitamins, so they block any real vitamins from participating in metabolic reactions. Some bind to a nutrient and limit its absorption or, because a drug can reduce the time that food is in the intestine it can limit the absorption time of nutrients.

How medications affect nutrients in the body is complicated and poorly understood. For example, some drugs mimic the shape of, and are mistaken for vitamins, so they block any real vitamins from participating in metabolic reactions. Some bind to a nutrient and limit its absorption or, because a drug can reduce the time that food is in the intestine it can limit the absorption time of nutrients.

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Q?What is the difference between HDL & LDL cholesterol?

Physicians used to be concerned about the total amount of cholesterol in the blood. Now they want to know the amounts of the two main forms of cholesterol, HDL and LDL. An elevated level of HDL, the “good” cholesterol is praised. On the other hand, LDL cholesterol is called “bad” because higher levels indicate an increased risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol is necessary to life. Without it we wouldn’t be able to digest fat since it is a key ingredient in bile. We wouldn’t have male or female characteristics because it is part of the steroid hormones. For that matter, we wouldn’t even exist since it is a major constituent of all cell membranes.

Cholesterol is a fat. In order for cholesterol to be soluble in watery blood, the liver wraps it with some protein so that blood won’t “see it” as a fat. When the protein wrapping is heavy and thick, it is called high density lipoprotein (HDL). When it is rather thin, it is called low density lipoprotein (LDL).

Cholesterol is a fat. In order for cholesterol to be soluble in watery blood, the liver wraps it with some protein so that blood won’t “see it” as a fat. When the protein wrapping is heavy and thick, it is called high density lipoprotein (HDL). When it is rather thin, it is called low density lipoprotein (LDL).

The better wrapped HDL doesn’t get “dumped” so easily. In fact, en route to its intended destination HDL cholesterol has a neat way of scavenging arterial walls by picking up cholesterol from them. Thus, it gets its “good” cholesterol reputation. Neither one or the other is really good or bad. They are simply two different delivery systems. It’s when they get out of balance that problems arise.

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Q?How can I ensure a diet will be safe and effective before I try it?

Permanent weight loss means understanding that your body functions optimally when it is exercised regularly and fed sensibly. The “fed sensibly” part means following U.S. Dietary Goals which include eating less fat, sugar and salt, and choosing more foods high in fiber and complex carbohydrates.

“Canned” diets can be confusing and misleading unless you know how to spot false promises. The following questions will help you scrutinize diet plans and choose one that can help you lose fat and not your mind:

Does the diet promise quick weight loss results?
Remember: It is virtually impossible to lose more than two pounds of fat per week.

Does the diet depend on one food or product to work?
A healthy, well-balanced diet includes a variety of foods.

Does the diet have sufficient calories to provide the nutrients you need daily?
While dieting, women need at least 1,200 calories per day; men 1,500.

Does the diet demand you eat certain foods at certain times of the day?
This kind of diet ignores your lifestyle and food preferences and may prove too difficult or inconvenient to follow.

Who promotes or endorses the diet?
Look for endorsement by a reputable dietitian, nutrition educator or physician.

Does the author or ad claim to have found the diet secret that no one else has ever discovered?
If so, the diet is either ignoring or is ignorant of the great amount of solid scientific research about weight loss.

Are behavior issues addressed in the plan?
Although learning to choose foods more healthily is helpful to most people, food is rarely the issue for those who struggle with their weight on a daily basis. Addressing behavior issues is often the key to permanent weight loss.

Webster defines “diet” as “a choice of foods.” Wise choices, without binges or deprivation, are the keys to long term success.

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