Tag: health and fitness

How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?

How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?

Protein is the building block used to create new cells. This includes anything from new skin cells to muscle tissue.

Protein is also an energy source and, though, it provides the same amount of energy as carbohydrates, it is not a good energy source. It has a long metabolic process, requiring a lot of energy to break down, and gives you a very slow and weak energy source.

This is great for people trying to cut back on carbohydrate intake, or to lose weight, but is not good for high performance and function.

To function at your best, you should use carbohydrates for fuel and protein for recovery.

Amino Acids and Protein

Proteins themselves are made of amino acids linked together. Each amino acid has a distinct shape that enables it to perform a unique function.

There are 20 different amino acids. Most are obtained by food while some can be created in the body.

However, if any of the 20 amino acids are lacking, then a protein, or new building block, cannot be made.

Without complete proteins, a new cell cannot be formed and the energy obtained from the extra amino acids is used as energy, or stored as body fat.

This means that we should be consuming complete proteins and not just amino acid sources in order to gain the best results.

How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?

Naturally every day we lose thousands of cells every day that need to be replaced with new cells. This includes anything from dead skin cells to broken down muscle tissue.

Individuals who exercise or do strenuous work, in which muscle is broken down often, need even more protein than sedentary individuals, to replace the lost cells.

However, there is a limit to how much protein we should be taking because it has been discovered that taking too much protein (over 1.5g/lb or 3.3g/kg of body weight) can put an unnecessary, and potentially harmful, strain on your body’s systems.

Also, your body can only grow so much in one day so taking extra protein, no matter how big and muscular you are, will only put more strain on your body and give you a weak energy source.

Therefore, it is best to consume only what is needed to recover and use carbohydrates and fats as your main fuel sources. 

To ensure you get enough protein to maintain or gain strength, aim to consume 0.5-0.7g of protein per pound (1.2-1.6g/kg) of body weight daily.

For individuals who do not exercise or break down muscle often, it is recommended that they consume only 0.4-0.5g per pound (0.8-1g/kg) of body weight daily.

In either case, any excess protein that is not used to build new cells will then be used for energy or fat storage.

Protein is not a bad source of energy, but it is not optimal either. It is much slower to break down and uses the most amount of water during metabolism.

By maintaining a constant level of protein daily, based on your needs, then the better energy sources, carbs and fats, can fluctuate depending on your daily activities.

Carbs are fast digesting while fats are slow digesting. So on days that you have a lot of intense activity consume more carbs while on less intense activity days you should rely more on your fat intake for energy.

Good protein sources are meats, beans, legumes, and dairy products.

Protein supplements can help to accumulate more protein in a diet but should be used sparingly, as whole food will always give you better results, guaranteed!

 

If you want to learn more, check out: The Truth About Protein Supplements!

Tip: Supplementing with BCAA’s, or branch chain amino acids, can be effective, but only if you are lacking one of the 8 essential, or 2 semi-essential, amino acids. Any excess amino acid that cannot be used to make a complete protein will be used for energy or stored as fat.

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Carbs for Fuel and Performance

Carbs for Fuel and Performance

Carbs are the #1 source for fuel in the body.

The main function of carbohydrates is to supply the body with energy, and they are also the only fuel source for the brain.

Our body does not “need” carbohydrates to survive, but they are vital for optimal performance in all forms of athletes, as well as everyday life.

The amount of carbohydrates required for optimal health and performance is different for everyone, based on body weight and activity level, but we all need that fast-acting energy source to be at our best.

Many diets focus on manipulating carbohydrates for different purposes. These are effective as long as you are using the right amount of fuel for your needs, and not forgetting about your health.

When manipulating carbohydrates in your diet you can choose:

  1. No Carb
  2. Low Carb
  3. Moderate or Regular
  4. High Carb

Each serves a specific purpose that we will go over in the following.

 

Low-Carb Diets

Low carb diets limit the number of carbohydrates you are allowed to consume each day. This is great for non-active individuals or those trying to decrease their cravings or dependency on sugars.

If you find yourself often sedentary (without exercise), or craving sweet treats too often, you may want to give this a try. Just don’t limit your carb intake too much.

By limiting carb intake through low carb diets, you are starving your body and brain of the fuel it needs to perform optimally.

This is not deadly, but your brain and muscles will not function at their highest performance.

If you just go low carb, consuming only 30-130g of carbohydrates per day you will often feel tired and slow as your brain doesn’t get enough fuel to perform its best and your body runs on its slow-acting fat stores.

So make sure that even on low carb diets you get at least 130g of carbohydrates, no matter your bodyweight, to keep your brain focused on tasks, not hunger.

Any extra carbs you have after that should be based on your activity level for the day.

 

The (No Carb) Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic Diet, a no carb diet, is getting more and more popular these days for its ability to relieve people of their sugar dependencies in order to lose weight and become healthier.

Of course, this lack of carbohydrate intake poses a problem for our brain’s fuel. However, our bodies have a solution.

Our bodies are smart and will adapt to a lack of carbohydrates by creating ketone bodies as a secondary fuel source for the brain to live on. This is a survival mechanism, but it can also be harmful if ketones are in the blood for months at a time.

Ketone bodies are acidic and will change our blood pH which in turn puts stress on other systems in the body.

So realize that Ketogenic is only a short-term diet.

The Ketogenic Diet is not meant to be maintained for more than 3-6 months. It is a lifestyle change that allows you to restart your relationship with carbohydrates after a few months.

When you start over, simply start adding in good carbohydrates that are non-addicting like fruits, whole grains, and some starches. Breads and sugars tend to be addictive so only have those on occasion.

 

Carbs for Everyday

While carbs should not be too low, they should also not be too high.

If carbohydrate intake is too high without adequate exercise, then there will likely be an excess of energy leading to fat storage. Any carbs that are not used through exercise, or metabolism, will be stored in your muscles, liver and then fat cells.

It is easy to use carbohydrates while they are in the blood or muscles, but when they are stored as fat their function changes. They go from being a fast-acting fuel source to a slow-acting fuel source in the form of fat.

Therefore, carbohydrate intake needs to be regulated depending on the amount of exercise you do.

A good range of carbohydrates to have daily for inactive individuals is between 1-2g per pound of body weight with a minimum of 130g to maintain optimal brain function.

Intake should be spread throughout the day in small increments rather than eaten all at once so that you always have a little fast-acting energy ready.

Your main carb intake should come from whole fruits (not juices), beans, oats, and grains; not addictive carbs like breads and sugary treats.

 

High Carb for Athletes

Athletes that do intense exercise exceeding 1 hour on a given day, should have a high carb diet. This allows for higher performance and faster recovery.

An optimal range of carbohydrate intake for highly active individuals is 2-4g per pound of bodyweight.

The majority of carbohydrates should be consumed before, during and after exercise.

During intense exercise, that exceeds one hour or more, it is helpful to intake about 20-60g of carbohydrate per hour, depending upon body weight and intensity, to increase endurance.

To replenish glycogen stores post exercise, carbohydrates should be consumed at a rate of 1.2g per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight every hour until stores are replenished (based on body weight).

 

The Final Word

Overall, when it comes to carbs, find what fits you.

If you are not very active, then you do not need more than 130g of carbohydrates daily. If you are highly active, you need a lot to keep up with your activity level.

Most of us are in between so just keep a normal amount based on your bodyweight and make sure you are getting your carbs from healthy sources, not breads and treats.


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Why You Need Fat In Your Diet

Why You Need Fat In Your Diet

Fats, also known as lipids, are valuable sources of slow, but long-lasting energy consumed in the diet.

This valuable nutrient is great for helping you stay fuller for longer but is easy to overconsume, and just like anything else you eat, if you do not use it for energy, then it is stored as body fat.

There are three types of Fat:

  1. Saturated Fat,
  2. Unsaturated Fat,
  3. and Cholesterol.

Saturated Fat

First, saturated fat is known as “bad” fat due to its properties linking it to many heart illnesses.

However, one important thing to remember about saturated fat is that it is created in the body. For fat to be stored in the body it must be converted into saturated fat so that it can be solidified at normal body temperature.

This means that saturated fat does not need to be in the diet!

Yet, it is not recommended to avoid natural meats that have relatively high amounts of saturated fat, because these meats also have higher nutrient content as well. Without saturated fat in your diet, your health will suffer through a lack of fat soluble vitamins.

To avoid excess saturated fat, simply do not eat the fat that you see on meat and avoid foods that have an abundance of saturated fat in them, with few other key nutrients.

Unsaturated Fat

Next, there are two types of unsaturated fat:

  • Polyunsaturated
  • and Monounsaturated.

Both forms of unsaturated fats are essential and must be consumed often to maintain a healthy body.

To ensure you get an adequate amount of these essential fats, consume foods rich in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat, such as nuts, avocados, olive oil, fish and lean meats.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is also linked to many heart illnesses, but this is more due to the excessive saturated fat in our diets rather than the cholesterol consumed.

Like saturated fat, cholesterol is also formed in the body.

Cholesterol is used by the body to create hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. This makes cholesterol a highly valuable nutrient, especially for those looking to build muscle and get stronger.

We are told to avoid excessive cholesterol in our diets, however, the body makes way more cholesterol than is consumed in a regular diet, and those that train hard need a lot of cholesterol to keep their hormones up.

It has been found that only when saturated fat is high in the diet alongside a lack of exercise, so too are the dangers associated with cholesterol and heart illness.

With this in mind, realize that cholesterol is not harmful. Lack of a healthy diet combined with a lack of exercise is.

Eat Your Fat!

Realize that fat is important for every diet. Even body fat is important for optimal body function as well as fat-soluble vitamin storage.

Fat is a great source of energy, an insulator and allows the body to perform optimally. Without proper amounts of all 3 types of fat in your diet, your health and performance will suffer.

To ensure an adequate amount of these essential nutrients, consume these foods regularly:

  • Eggs
  • Red Meat
  • Lean Meat
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Olive Oil

 

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Vitamins, Minerals and You!

Vitamins, Minerals and You!

Take your vitamins and eat your food!

Vitamins and minerals are key nutrients that our bodies need to survive. These vital nutrients are supplied by our diet to help our body function properly.

If any one nutrient is deficient or consumed in extreme excess it can have tremendous negative effects on your health and performance.

Taking a multi-vitamin supplement can help make sure that you do not become deficient, but most of your vitamins and minerals should come from food.

Vitamins and minerals help your body to function properly. If anyone nutrient is deficient it can have tremendous negative effects on your health and performance.

Also, if any nutrient is consumed in excess it can be harmful and even deadly.

To avoid becoming deficient or even over consuming any one nutrient, consume a variety of foods including:

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Meats and Fish
  • Dairy
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Beans and Legumes

Each category of food listed above provides vital nutrients our bodies need to survive. If eating a variety of foods is not permitted due to your diet, or you have some food allergies preventing certain food groups, you will need to take a multivitamin or supplement to get these vital nutrients.

To make it simpler, just eat a variety of natural foods, regularly. Even if you choose just one item from each group to include in your diet, it can make a big difference.

Add a handful of spinach to your breakfast eggs, have some fish once a week, eat more cheese, snack on some nuts and join in a chili eating contest! Find what works for you and stick to it, for your health!

Some nutrients are more important than others for men and women. For example, women need a lot more calcium, vitamin D and iron, to account for blood loss and because they lose the ability to absorb calcium after age 30. It is vital for women to get a lot of these key nutrients during puberty and especially as they age. Men, on the other hand, need more magnesium and zinc to help with testosterone production throughout their lives.

Though it is important to get all of our vital nutrients in, more does not mean better. If you take too much of any one nutrient it can have harmful, and even deadly effects.

Though it is difficult, if you eat too much of one thing or add in a lot of supplements, you can start to feel negative symptoms. So be conscious of how you feel on a normal basis, and if anything starts to change, you may want to look at your diet.

When choosing a multivitamin look for one that supplies only about 50% or less of the daily value for each nutrient. This will ensure that you are not greatly deficient in any nutrient and leaves room for an abundance of nutrients to come from food, as they should.

Note: Generally men should have little to no iron in their multivitamin but women need to have some.

Now ask yourself…do you have an incomplete diet that lacks a variety of foods? Do you often feel fatigued, weak or have any skin or eye discoloration? If so, you may need to rethink your diet and start making changes to improve your health and well being.


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What You Need To Know About Electrolytes!

What You Need To Know About Electrolytes!

Electrolytes are an important part of our diets, but if you think that drinking some Coconut water or eating a banana helps cure or prevent cramping, then you need to think again. Here is what you need to know about electrolytes…

There are 4 main electrolytes we will focus on:

  1. Sodium (Na+),
  2. Potassium (K+),
  3. Calcium (Ca++), and
  4. Magnesium (Mg++).

Each electrolyte has a distinct function but they work in unison to create optimal cell performance. If our electrolytes get too far out of balance they can counteract each other and hinder performance.

It is important to keep adequate amounts of electrolytes in the diet, but it is more important to keep them in balance.

Electrolytes are charged particles within the body that maintain proper cell function. One common mistake is that those who regularly exercise believe that they need to constantly replenish their electrolytes due to the loss in sweat.

It is true that these electrolytes are lost through sweat, among other things, but we should keep in mind that our body is smart. Our body wants to hold onto these valuable nutrients as long as it can. With this in mind, our body attempts to retain the electrolytes which are low in the system and releases the ones which are in excess.

Sodium (Na+) is always present in sweat while the other electrolytes are in much lesser amounts. Due to this, water is the only necessary nutrient that needs to be replenished if exercise lasts less than one hour.

Don’t go around thinking that you need a calorie filled sports drink or Coconut Water just because you did some light activity for 30 minutes.

For events lasting longer than one hour, some electrolytes need to be restored. Just avoid overindulging on added sugars while replenishing your electrolytes, unless needed due to your daily energy expenditure. Remember, you don’t need it unless you have been continuously sweating for at least 60 minutes, not including breaks.

Electrolyte Breakdown:

Sodium (Na+)

Sodium (Na+) is an electrolyte that commonly works with potassium (K+).

Its main functions are to:

  • maintain our body’s fluid balance,
  • send nerve impulses and
  • allow for muscle contraction.

These functions are actually what stop cramping! Sodium (Na+) helps our cells to maintain hydration, but, more importantly, it prevents cramping through sending signals to our muscle to turn on and off. When we do not have enough Sodium (Na+), then our muscles cramp as our body turns a muscle on and saves Sodium (Na+) by not sending the signal to turn it off. This creates cramping.

While these are important functions, too much Sodium (Na+) causes high blood pressure, filtering systems dysfunction and potassium (K+) deficiency.

Sodium (Na+) works with potassium (K+) but has the opposite effect. If one gets too high in balance, it will prevent the other nutrient from performing its job.

Sodium (Na+) is a hard nutrient to avoid, being found in salt along with most everything processed. For those that exercise regularly, this is not commonly a concern due to sweat rates and the amount used for muscle contraction. However, those that are sedentary, or who have known heart problems, should avoid excess sodium (Na+) intake due to the increased stress it places on your heart.

Though it should not be banned entirely, sedentary individuals should avoid large amounts by limiting the number of processed foods consumed. Generally, anything edible within a package has some amount of salt, so be smart about your consumption.

Overall, to improve overall performance and health, a greater concern should be placed upon the intake of potassium (K+) relative to sodium (Na+).

Potassium (K+)

Potassium (K+) works with Sodium (Na+) in our cells to maintain an equal charge balance.

Other functions include:

  • maintaining osmotic pressure within the cell,
  • blood pressure regulation and
  • it is necessary for muscle strength and contraction.

Due to the large amounts of sodium (Na+) commonly consumed, and the lack of a proper diet, potassium (K+) is commonly overrun.

To keep your muscles in an optimal state of performance, try to get a good amount of potassium (K+) through your regular diet. Good food sources are avocados, tomatoes, coconut water, dark green vegetables and, of course, bananas.

If you have a low Sodium (Na+) Diet due to health-related issues, then avoid having an excess of Potassium (K+) which will actually cause more issues by throwing off your  Sodium-Potassium Electrolyte balance.

Also, avoid an excessive amount of sugars that generally come along with potassium sources unless intense exercise proceeds.

Calcium (Ca++)

Calcium (Ca++) is one of the most important nutrients and electrolytes in the body; especially for active individuals.

Calcium’s (Ca++) main function is initiating muscle contraction. Without calcium (Ca++), our muscles cannot contract.

Though this is important for our skeletal muscles, it is most important for our heart or cardiac muscles.

Without calcium (Ca++) in the blood being brought to our cardiac muscle cells, they will no longer be able to contract and our heart will stop. This is not very common due to our large calcium (Ca++) stores we call bones but can happen with too much exercise within a short period.

Our body would much rather break down our bone tissue so our heart can work rather than let our heart stop beating even once.

Remember, our bodies are smart. The only thing our bodies care about is survival. With this backup system in place, we do not have to worry much about our heart-stopping. However, if we want to keep our bones strong and increase our muscle contraction ability to become stronger, then we need a good amount of Calcium (Ca++) in our diet.

Good sources include dairy products, dark green vegetables, and bony fish.

Note: Calcium (Ca++) intake is most important for women, especially during puberty. This is because women’s ability to absorb Calcium (Ca++) greatly slows post-puberty and nearly stops around age 30. Therefore, women have to consume an entire lifetime worth of Calcium (Ca++) before the age of 30.

*Be careful not to over-consume large amounts all at once.

Magnesium (Mg++)

Magnesium (Mg++) is an electrolyte that is commonly overlooked.

Its common functions are:

  • as a structural component in our muscle cells,
  • to help lower blood pressure and
  • prevent heart arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats.

Also, Magnesium (Mg++) levels help to control the functions of Calcium (Ca++) in the body. If Magnesium (Mg++) is too low, then our Calcium (Ca++) metabolism will not be optimized.

To maintain a healthy heart and be able to gain new muscle cells keep an adequate amount of Magnesium (Mg++) in your diet. Just don’t take Magnesium (Mg++) and Calcium (Ca++) supplements together, as they compete for absorption within the body.

Some good sources are green vegetables, potatoes, nuts, and seeds.

The Bottom Line

Electrolytes are vital for our health but do not believe the new fad drinks that have you loading up on one nutrient without considering the effects it has on the rest of your body.

Know your nutrients, and know your body. Get what you need and not too much of one electrolyte versus another. 

Now go salt your bananas, and have some nuts in your milk!


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