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Identifying Disordered Eating Patterns

disordered eating patterns

While specific criteria can identify a full-fledged eating disorder, disordered eating patterns may be more difficult to spot and understand. Disordered eating is defined as “a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder.” This broad definition does not speak to what these behaviors might be or how they could impact health. To spread some awareness on this issue, I wanted to highlight the most common disordered eating patterns, common side effects, and what actions to take to seek help if needed.

 

Common Disordered Eating Patterns

  • History of dieting or weight yo-yoing
  • Viewing foods as either “good” or “bad”
  • Engaging in rituals with food or exercise (i.e. not eating after 6 pm no matter what, exercising more in response to eating more)
  • Frequently feeling guilty or ashamed about certain food choices or amounts eaten
  • Occupation with food, exercise, and/or body image that negatively impacts quality of life
  • Feeling a loss of control around eating behaviors and food choices
  • Experiencing anxiety in social situations involving food

 

When a client presents with one or more of the patterns above, a red flag immediately goes up. These behaviors tell me that a client doesn’t have an entirely healthy relationship with food. The priority needs to be raising awareness of and addressing these behaviors before anything else, regardless of why a client may have come to see me. In fact, many clients I have worked with have come to me to improve sports performance or to change body composition and through conversation, disordered eating tendencies have been discovered for the first time. For any health professional not aware of these warning signs, they may not see the red flag and simply address the clients concerns about weight loss or performance without addressing the underlying disordered relationship with food, which in the end can frequently cause more harm.

 

Effects of Disordered Eating Patterns

Common side effects of long-term disordered eating patterns can include:

  • Decreased metabolism
  • Frequent gastrointestinal issues (such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, or nausea)
  • Increased rates of depression, anxiety, or social isolation
  • Decreased bone strength and increased risk of fractures
  • Significantly high or low blood pressure or heart rate
  • Electrolyte disturbances or other nutrient imbalances
  • Development of a clinically significant eating disorder

 

What Can You Do If You Suspect That You or A Loved One May Be Experiencing Disordered Eating?

The most important thing to do is reach out for help or additional resources as soon as possible. Both disordered eating and eating disorders have higher rates of recovery when these issues are addressed early. It’s important to find a trusted professional or team of professionals to help guide you or your loved one. Health professionals that can help include registered dietitians, counselors or therapists, psychiatrists, primary care doctors, and social workers. Please note that it’s important to seek out professionals that have experience working in the field of eating disorders or disordered eating in particular. Not all dietitians will be able to help with these issues, just like not all doctors are specialized in cardiology or orthopedics.

If you need help finding resources in your area, please click on the links below to find professionals in your area or reach out to me for help and recommendations:

 

If you would like to read more about this topic, please visit the links below for online resources or additional written materials:

 

 

References

https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/eating-disorders/what-is-disordered-eating#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20Disordered%20Eating&text=Rigid%20rituals%20and%20routines%20surrounding,food%2C%20including%20compulsive%20eating%20habits

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The Importance of Hydration

water, hydration

Proper hydration is important year round, but it can become particularly critical during the summer months. July and August are usually the hottest months of the year in the United States, which is also usually the time that people are engaging in more outdoor activities and athletes begin ramping up training for fall sports. Unfortunately, this time of year is also a prime time for a potentially serious condition to occur: dehydration.

How does dehydration occur?

Dehydration can occur by losing too much fluid (usually through sweating) or by not drinking enough fluid. You may recall from school that the human body is made up of approximately 70% water, so this fact alone illustrates how important proper hydration is for us!

The body has mechanisms in place to urge us to drink fluids, most notably the feeling of thirst. This is the most obvious sign that our body is running low on water; however, by the time you feel thirsty, you are actually already experiencing mild dehydration.

How can you tell if you are dehydrated?

There are many other symptoms that can signal dehydration. Some examples, according to Medline Plus, include the following:

  • Mild dehydration: Thirst; dry mouth; decreased urination; yellow urine
  • Moderate dehydration: Dry, cool skin; headache; darker yellow urine; muscle cramps
  • Severe dehydration: Irritability or confusion; dizziness; rapid heartbeat and/or rapid breathing; shock (decreased blood flow to important organs); unconsciousness.

Keeping an eye out for these signs are important for everyone, but they are particularly critical for two groups: older adults and athletes.

Who is most at risk for dehydration?

Older adults have a decreased response to thirst and are more likely to be on a diuretic. These factors make it important for this population to drink fluids constantly throughout the day, even when they may not feel thirsty. This is especially important during prolonged exposure to heat during activity, such as walking, gardening, mowing the lawn, etc. These activities may not always seem strenuous, but they can cause the body to sweat profusely. During activities that are of a more vigorous intensity (such as jogging/running, hiking, biking, etc.) the sweating effect is more pronounced and proper hydration more critical.

Athletes exercising in the heat can lose an average of 2.0 liters of water through sweat per hour (which is equal to a large bottle of soda!). Not replacing the lost water can cause serious fluid imbalances and dangerous rises in core temperatures. Unfortunately, student athletes are often the victims of poor monitoring of hydration status. According to sports nutrition experts William McCardle and Frank and Victor Katch, “Hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperatures) has occurred more than 100 times over the past 30 years among football players who died from excessive heat stress during practice or competition.” These situations are completely preventable by making sure to either have water or an electrolyte replacement beverage at all times during outdoor activity in the heat.

What can you do if you suspect dehydration?

If dehydration does occur for any reason, there are several steps that can be taken, depending on the severity of the condition:

  • Sip water or suck on ice cubes (or an electrolyte sports drink)
  • If heat exhaustion is also a problem, lie down somewhere cool and focus on breathing slowly
  • For severe situations, go to a hospital immediately

Notice that the first suggestion is to sip water. While replenishing fluids is a critical step to treating dehydration, it is possible to drink too much water at one time, which isn’t healthy either. Rehydrate slowly if you become dehydrated!

How much fluid should you be drinking?

A good rule of thumb is 2 cups of water 20 minutes before being active in the heat. For athletes or anyone engaging in vigorous exercise, you can weigh yourself before and after activity takes place to gauge how much fluid you need to take in to replace losses. The amount of weight lost in pounds should be replaced at least 100% to account for fluid loss in sweat and urine. For example: If 2 lbs., or 32 oz., is lost during an hour of activity, 32 oz. (or 4 cups) of water or a sports drink should be ingested over the next hour. In terms of choosing between water and a sports drink, always choose the sports drink if activity is lasting longer than an hour. Below an hour, water is usually sufficient.

So whenever you leave the house this summer, always bring a water bottle with you! And remember to always drink more when exercising or being active in the heat. Dehydration is 100% preventable, as long as you provide your body with the fluids it needs every day.

 

References

 

McArdle W, Katch FI, Katch VL (2013). Exercise, Thermoregulation, Fluid Balance, and Rehydration (4th ed.). Sports and Exercise Nutrition (pg. 319-335). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Popkin B, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH (2010). Water, Hydration, and Health. Nutrition Review; 68 (8): 439-458.

U.S. National Library of Medicine (2013). Dehydration. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000982.htm

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LiveLifeBig Podcast

podcast

One of the best parts of being a small business owner is connecting with other business owners in the community. In March of 2020, I was invited to appear on the LiveLifeBig podcast by host Ben Glass. In addition to hosting this podcast, Ben is the owner of Ben Glass Law, a personal injury and disability law firm. He also started his own marketing firm, Great Legal Marketing, to help other lawyers and small business owners learn how to market their businesses effectively. Ben is a great example of the importance of authenticity, networking, and personalized service for both his clients and his colleagues.

To learn more about Ben and the services he offers, visit the Ben Glass Law website to learn more!

Learn more about NOVA Sports Nutrition here

 

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My Top 5 Most Commonly Recommended Dietary Supplements

variety of dietary supplements

The world of dietary supplements can be difficult to navigate. It’s easy to get lost in supplement aisles at the grocery store or overwhelmed by the numerous products being advertised to us in the media for a variety of purposes.

While I always take a food-first approach with all of my clients (meaning that I aim to help them meet all of their nutrient needs through foods), there are often times when a dietary supplement is needed. Supplementation may be necessary due to certain dietary patterns, disease states, or training demands. Additionally, some people benefit from supplements to boost reserves of nutrients, hormones, or neurotransmitters that otherwise would become deficient.

To help you sort through what dietary supplements you can trust and which supplements may be right for you, I put together a list of my top 5 most commonly recommended dietary supplements and recommendations on what to look for when purchasing supplements.

 

1. Omega-3 Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which means they help with decreasing inflammation caused by stress, toxins, or injury. They also are essential for forming the structure of cell membranes. Most Americans don’t consume enough omega-3 fatty acids; according to a recent analysis completed by the FASEB journal, 83.5% of Americans do not consume enough seafood to meet minimum omega-3 recommendations through the diet. The most current recommendations from Harvard Medical school are that anyone who does not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids through the diet should supplement with 1g of omega-3 fatty acids per day to decrease inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular events.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D serves several critical functions in the body, including: promoting calcium absorption, which keeps bones strong; supporting immune function, cell growth, and cell division; and reducing inflammation. This nutrient is not found naturally in many foods aside from fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel) and several mushroom varieties, though it is added to several dairy products such as milk or yogurt. Vitamin D can also be synthesized with sufficient exposure of the skin to sunlight. Because these foods often comprise just a small part of the typical America diet and adequate sun exposure is not always possible (particularly in cooler climates), vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US (about 42% of us are deficient). For someone who is deficient, supplementation is likely necessary, though dosage and length of supplementation will vary based on the severity of the deficiency.

3. GABA

GABA stands for Gamma Aminobutyric Acid and it is a neurotransmitter that is made naturally in the body. Its primary role is to reduce fear and anxiety. This neurotransmitter is not available in many food sources (only a few fermented foods, such as kimchi or tempeh), and GABA levels in the body can become deficient during periods of high stress. Additionally, individuals with certain medical conditions tend to have low levels of GABA, including those with seizure disorders, ADHD, panic disorders, or mood disorders. GABA supplementation has shown to be most effective for those who experience anxiety. I have found it to be particularly useful for myself and clients who have difficulty falling asleep at night due to racing thoughts.

4. Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is essential for DNA and red blood cell production. This nutrient is only available from animal sources, which means that anyone following a vegan or predominantly plant-based diet will need to take a dietary supplement. Additionally, anyone who has undergone gastric bypass surgery will need to supplement with B-12 because absorption of vitamin B-12 occurs in the stomach (which has largely been bypassed), not the intestines as is the case with most other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also be common in the elderly because our digestive capabilities tend to weaken as we get older.

5. BCAAs

BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are a group of 3 amino acids that have been shown through research to assist with reducing muscle soreness after exercise. Some studies have also shown that they can help with increasing muscle growth. These amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are found naturally in many foods, including meat, dairy, and eggs. However, individuals following a vegan or plant-based diet may not consume enough through the diet to meet their needs. Additionally, anyone engaging in a strenuous weightlifting program requires additional protein intake for recovery, and a BCAA supplement can help with supporting these needs during and after exercise or between meals. You can learn more about BCAAs by visiting my earlier blog post on this topic.

 

These supplements represent the most common recommendations I make for my clients, which include athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all ages. Remember, dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and therefore you cannot trust that every supplement on the shelf or online is safe. I would always recommend talking with your doctor or dietitian first before starting any new dietary supplement. To see the brands I typically recommend for different supplements, visit the link to my Fullscript dispensary on the Products page of my website. Fullscript is an online dispensary that can only be used by licensed healthcare professionals (such as doctors and dietitians) to recommend professional-grade supplements of the highest quality, purity, and potency.

If you are ever looking for supplements yourself, please look for a third-party seal to ensure the supplement has been verified for quality, purity, and potency. Examples of third-party seals include USP, Informed Choice, NSF, and GMP.

 

Are there any dietary supplements you would like to learn more about? Any supplements I didn’t cover here that you would like for me to review? Comment below!

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Does Taking Antioxidants During Your Workout Improve Exercise Recovery?

Exercise, running, recovery

All athletes and fitness enthusiasts should be concerned with exercise recovery. If you don’t get in the nutrition and rest that you need to recover from each workout, this will negatively affect health and performance over time. One of common recommendation to assist with exercise recovery is consuming a diet rich in antioxidants to decrease inflammation and free radicals in the body.  Free radicals are molecules that can cause damage to tissues in the body and are typically produced in the body in response to certain physiological or pathological conditions. Common initiators of free radical production include air pollution, radiation, fried foods… and exercise. This doesn’t paint exercise in a particularly positive light, but the free radicals produced during aerobic training and weightlifting actually serve a good purpose: they trigger the release of proteins and enzymes necessary to begin muscle repair and recovery. This process is actually what makes our muscles stronger and helps us adapt to repetitive strenuous activity.

… free radicals produced during aerobic exercise and weightlifting actually serve an important purpose.

When you take antioxidants during your workout (such as vitamin A, C, or E), this dampens this response and can actually limit improvements to performance and exercise recovery. Multiple studies have proven this to be true for both strength and endurance athletes(1)(2).

The Takeaway

What this means is that you shouldn’t trust pre-workout or intra-workout supplements that contain high levels of antioxidants and purport that these nutrients will lengthen time to fatigue or increase strength. They will actually do the opposite! Keep in mind, however, that eating a moderate amount of antioxidant-rich foods (such as 1 cup of berries or a small handful of nuts) will not negatively affect your exercise performance; we are only talking about mega-doses that would be found in dietary supplements. If you do take a high-dose vitamin C supplement to support immune health or dietary insufficiency, try to avoid taking it immediately before or after your workout. High-dose vitamin E or A supplements should only be taken if recommended by a doctor or a dietitian to correct a nutrient deficiency.

Have additional questions on this topic? Comment below or visit the following links for more information on this topic and specific studies referenced:

(1) http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/26/why-antioxidants-dont-belong-in-your-workout/?_r=0

(2) https://examine.com/nutrition/antioxidants-muscle-building/

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5 Tips for Staying Sane During Self-Quarantine

While many of us may complain about having to go to school or work, once our routine is disrupted and we are forced to stay at home, it can quickly become apparent how important these obligations were to providing structure in our lives! Here are a few tips to help you stay mentally and physically healthy, even while social distancing:

1. Continue to have a schedule.

It can be easy to stop setting alarms or to become easily distracted by chores or technology when you are spending most of your time at home. While your time commitments and daily routine may be different during this time, that doesn’t mean you should start treating every day like a weekend. A recent study from Northwestern found that a lack of routine can cause stress, poor sleep, and ineffective use of time. So, continue to plan out your day to ensure you are making time for important tasks like work, self-care, sleeping, eating, and staying organized. You will feel better at the end of the day seeing how much you have accomplished!

2. Plan meal and snack times.

Grazing is a common problem for many people who work from home. This can lead to overeating or relying more on processed snack foods than whole foods for energy. Continue to plan meals and snacks on a daily or weekly basis and aim to eat every 2-4 hours during the day. Aim for a balance of nutrients at each meal and continue to prep food ahead of time to make healthier choices easier. If you need ideas for foods to have on hand during self-quarantine, check out our previous blog article.

3. Move your body every day.

Exercise has a multitude of benefits. It can boost mood, improve heart and bone health, and increase metabolism. It can also boost immunity by improving circulation and allowing the immune system to operate more effectively. Even if you can’t participate in exercise the same way you used to, find ways to stay active daily and get creative with the space or equipment you have at home. If you need some ideas, leave a comment on this page or check out these tips published last month by CNN.

4. Pick up a new (or old) hobby.

More free time could be a great opportunity to try something you always wanted to learn or get back into an activity that you haven’t had the time to pursue. Examples could be writing, painting, drawing, playing a musical instrument, photography, cooking, scrapbooking, or a host of other pursuits. You could also consider studying new subject matter, such as a foreign language or meditation. If you familiarize yourself with a new skill now, you will have an easier time continuing to utilize this skill once self-quarantine restrictions are lifted.

5. Schedule regular social time (from a distance).

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to how much social time they need to feel happy and complete. Whether you consider yourself to be more introverted or extroverted, keeping in contact with the people who are most important to you is critical for maintaining a sense of connection. Aim to reach out to at least one friend or family member daily, and schedule regular phone calls or video chats to keep in touch and prevent feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Thank you for reading! Please reach out if you need additional help with navigating nutrition and fitness routines– NOVA Sports Nutrition is offering all our services remotely at this time!

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The Best Foods to Have on Hand During Self-quarantine

This time of self-quarantine and social distancing poses some unique challenges for meal prepping and following a nutrition plan. Some foods that were once readily available are now scarce on the shelves or hard to keep on hand due to a short shelf life. For ideas on the best foods to look for by food group when you go shopping, read the list below to stay healthy and balanced!

  • Proteins. Protein is a nutrient that is critical to get in every day. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, we cannot store excess dietary protein, so we need to consume adequate protein daily to meet metabolic demands. The next time you go grocery shopping, look for the following items:
    • Packaged or canned fish/chicken
    • Frozen seafood, meat, or meat alternatives
    • Eggs/egg whites
    • Sliced deli meat (no nitrites or nitrates)
    • Beans, lentils, or peas (canned or dry)
    • Milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
    • Protein bars/powders

 

  • Fruits and vegetables. Produce is one of the top sources of essential vitamins and minerals that offer antioxidant and immune-protecting benefits for the body. If you aren’t sure what to get, look for:
    • Frozen fruits or vegetables (frozen options are great because they retain high levels of vitamins and minerals – sometimes even more than fresh!)
    • Canned fruit or vegetables (no added sugar or artificial sweeteners for fruit and low- or no added sodium for vegetables)
    • Fruit pouches (such as apple sauce or mixed berries – these aren’t just for kids, but great for adults if you need fruit on-the-go or an easy-to-digest pre-workout snack)
    • Fresh potatoes, carrots, and onions or apples, pears, oranges (long shelf lives)
    • Do continue to get other fresh options weekly or as often as possible! As long as you plan ahead of time to intentionally use ingredients such as lettuce, mushrooms, or cucumbers in recipes, you can utilize these foods effectively and avoid waste.

 

  • Starches. These are typically easier to get at the store, but the source matters! High-nutrient options are best, such as:
    • Brown or wild rice, quinoa, cous cous, farro, etc.
    • Oatmeal, cream of rice, muesli
    • Whole grain wraps, bagels, or pasta
    • Potatoes, corn, or peas
    • Beans, lentils, or chick peas
    • Limit high-sugar, processed starches like chips, crackers, cookies, etc. Some comfort food is okay, but don’t rely on these foods for most meals and snacks!

 

  • Dairy. Dairy is important for getting in calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and more! These foods should be consumed on a regular basis for strong bones and balanced electrolyte levels:
    • Milk, regular yogurt, cheese
    • Note: You can get many of these nutrients from dairy alternatives, but some dairy alternatives like almond or coconut milk are much lower in protein and some products may not be calcium-fortified. Check labels to make sure you are getting the intended nutrients from a particular product.

 

  • Healthy fats. Important for healthy cell membranes and neural function, as well as the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. See if you can find:
    • Olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil
    • Nuts/seeds (any type of nut or seed is fine, but look for lightly salted or unsalted)
    • Black olives
    • Avocado/guacamole
    • Pesto
    • Limit butter, whole fat dairy, and high-fat meat, esp. if heart disease or high cholesterol are concerns.

 

  • Other ingredients to have on hand:
    • Corn starch
    • Chicken or vegetable stock
    • Bouillon cubes
    • Minced Garlic
    • Herbs and spices
    • Soy sauce or hot sauce
    • Vinegar (balsamic, white, red wine, etc.)

If you need help with meal planning, please reach out! I would be glad to assist you with developing a meal plan to meet your specific needs and preferences during this time. NOVA Sports Nutrition offers virtual nutrition counseling from the comfort of your home for ease and convenience.

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Is Low-Calorie Ice Cream a Good Choice?

ice cream

Everyone deserves to have treats every now and then, and with new products coming out that look and (sometimes) taste just like your favorites with less sugar, fat, and calories, it’s tempting to fit them into your healthy routine as often as you can. Eating an entire pint of ice cream for only 250 calories sounds like a dream come true, but as with any food it is important to focus not just on how many calories you get from it but also the quality of those calories in terms of macronutrient and micronutrient content.

Are all low-calorie ice creams created equal?

Let’s look at two popular brands of ice cream with low calorie contents: Halo Top and Ben and Jerry’s “Moo-phoria” Light Ice Cream.

At a glance, it looks like Halo Top is the preferred choice. One serving has fewer calories, fat, and carbohydrates and 1 g more protein. When you focus on macronutrients, it seems like the best way to have something sweet without disrupting your goals.

However, while the Halo Top is lower in calories and fat, it is important to look at what percentage of those calories are coming from fat. In one serving of Halo Top, 33% of the total calories come from fat. One serving of Ben and Jerry’s (B&J), on the other hand, has 28% of the total calories from fat. For both choices, half of the total fat content is saturated fat, though the B&J serving does contain more total fat and more saturated fat than the Halo Top serving, while the Halo Top has more cholesterol. If you stick to just one serving, Halo Top is the lower-fat choice. Keep in mind, it can be tempting to eat more than one serving of a lower calorie treat, in which case the Halo Top contains more fat per calorie.

Where did all of the calories go?

One of the ways that Halo Top creates a sweeter product with fewer calories is sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols on average contain 2 kcal/g, and taste as sweet as sugar. Halo Top uses a sugar alcohol called Erythritol and it contains 0 kcal/g. Unlike other sugar alcohols it does not have a laxative or bloating effect. The small intestine absorbs erythritol, and  because most of the bacteria in our body is unable to ferment it, the sugar alcohol is simply excreted in urine.

Erythritol is isolated from glucose fermented with yeast and is often paired with other sweeteners like stevia (such as in Halo Top) to produce a taste and mouthfeel that closely resembles sugar. Erythritol also requires stabilization and mitigation of its natural flavor with other ingredients such as vegetable glycerin. So while it provides fewer calories for its taste, it also requires extra ingredients that your body can’t make use of.

Other changes to the standard ice cream recipe

Another important aspect of the nutrition label when comparing low calorie ice creams is the sodium content. Halo Top has more than twice the salt of Ben and Jerry’s, with 110 mg in a ½ cup serving compared to only 45 mg in a ½ cup serving. This is likely due to the lower cream and sugar content of the Halo Top.  Cream and sugar are important contributors to the smooth and creamy texture of ice cream. Increasing salt can help to enhance texture and flavor lost in these recipes.

On the other hand, Ben and Jerry’s lighter ice creams keep more of the cream and milk fat content of their standard recipe. This allows them to avoid the use of sugar alcohols or isolated sweeteners. This highlights the two different approaches to producing a low-calorie ice cream – adjusting the classic ice cream recipe of cream, sugar, and eggs to provide a lower ratio of these higher calorie ingredients or replacing key ingredients of the classic recipe to provide a new product that mimics the original.

The Bottom Line

When considering different options among low-calorie ice creams the most important thing to remember is that these are not sources of nutrition. While one ice cream may be higher in protein than another, it is not a good substitute for protein from lean meats, eggs, rice, beans, or other vegetables. If you find yourself choosing an entire pint of low-calorie ice cream over one serving of a higher calorie ice cream, you may end up consuming more calories overall and feeling less satisfaction from your indulgence. A lower-fat treat is digested more quickly than one with a higher fat content, and a treat made with sugar alcohols and other low calorie sweeteners may lead to increased cravings for sugar once your body realizes that although you tasted something sweet, it did not receive much energy from what you ate.

It comes down to what you want from your ice cream. If your idea of indulgence is a larger volume of food and you find yourself eating the entire pint of whatever ice cream you buy, the lower-calorie choice will make less of an impact on your calorie and macronutrient goals. If your idea of indulgence is more centered on satisfaction with a smaller portion, one serving of a moderately low-calorie ice cream will provide you with a treat that satisfies your cravings and still allows you to stay within your calorie and macronutrient goals.

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The Effects of Inadequate Sleep

sleep, circadian rhythm

When you set a fitness or nutrition goal, you make adjustments to your diet and exercise, but what about your sleep? Sleep is one of the most often overlooked aspects of health and fitness and it is often the first to be compromised when trying to fit everything into a busy schedule.

 

According to the CDC, 35% of adults do not get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep per night.

 

Moderate sleep deprivation, such as chronically sleeping <7 hours per night, can have small impacts on your decisions and behaviors throughout the day and on your body’s regulation of physiological processes. Over time, these small impacts can create imbalances in your body’s ability to take in, store, and utilize energy. This causes those who have a shorter duration of nightly rest to have an increased risk for developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.1

We all know that most people like to be awake during the day and get tired at night. This is more than just a preference; our brains operate according to the circadian rhythm – a 24-hour internal clock that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. This clock is “set” by light from the environment, and the circadian rhythm also dictates other processes in the body such as food intake, hormone secretion, insulin sensitivity, and energy expenditure.2

What Happens When Your Circadian Rhythm is Disrupted?

Disruptions to your circadian rhythm can result in visible changes to behavior. Studies show that individuals who sleep less than 7 hours per night consume an average of 300-400 extra calories throughout the day, have an increase in preference for snacks over meals, and demonstrate a tendency toward higher fat and higher carbohydrate foods with an overall decrease in protein intake.1,3

In studies controlled for caloric intake, those consuming more of their calories between evening and the following morning were found to have greater weight gain, indicating that timing of food contributes to the body’s ability to digest and utilize it.1 In some individuals lack of sleep can also impact energy expenditure.4,5 In athletes, those who are not well rested are more likely to have negative attitudes toward training and a greater perceived effort at lower levels of performance.5 This means that insufficient sleep can result in reduced performance and lack of improvement in the sport.

Other disruptions to the circadian rhythm are less visible, but just as impactful to health. One well studied impact is insulin resistance brought about by the mistiming of glucose production in the liver, sensitivity of tissue cells to insulin at different times throughout the day, and the intake of carbohydrates in the diet.2 Another studied impact is the changes to levels of the hormones leptin, which suppresses appetite, and ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Those with shorter sleep duration show reduced levels of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin.1 This can result in increased intakes of energy-dense foods and snacks and difficulty with appetite regulation.  Disruptions can even affect the brain reward systems through changes to hormones and neurotransmitters, increasing the reward for eating and choosing highly palatable foods high in sugar, salt, or fat.

What can you do to start getting more sleep?

Getting enough rest can be difficult, especially when an individual is already in a cycle of falling asleep and waking up at irregular times. Studies show that proper nutrition and regular timing of meals can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep deeply enough to feel rested. There are also behaviors that can be implemented to help your body wind down. Increasing exposure to bright, natural light during the day can improve sleep quality. On the other hand, reducing exposure to  blue light from screens on televisions, computers, and smartphones can help a person to fall asleep more quickly.2

Regular exercise also helps to synchronize body tissue clocks and improves sleep quality. Some studies show that meal timing can have an effect too, with positive results coming from populations who eat most of their calories in the morning to afternoon, and from populations who maintain a 12 hour fast between dinner and breakfast (meaning no late night snacks!).2

Are some foods better to eat before bed than others?

Studies also suggest that some specific foods and nutrients can affect sleep duration and quality. Eating higher glycemic index carbohydrates between 4 and 1 hours before bed reduced the time it took to fall asleep in some populations, though others showed that an increased load of carbohydrates before bed reduced sleep quality.5 Additionally, diets higher in protein contributed to better sleep quality and diets higher in fat contributed to lower sleep quality. Those who regularly consumed diets that did not meet their caloric needs saw decreases in sleep quality as well.5

Higher protein diets may result in better sleep because of their contribution to the synthesis of melatonin in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary for the synthesis of melatonin, and it requires large neutral amino acids in the blood to help it cross the blood brain barrier. Supplementing tryptophan in doses as small as 1 g can improve subjective sleep quality. Tryptophan can be found in foods such as pumpkin seeds (200 g) and turkey (300 g).5

Bottom line:

While the general population is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, athletes who exercise at a higher intensity may require 8 or even 9 hours to feel adequately rested and allow their bodies proper recovery. The bottom line: don’t sacrifice your sleep! Not getting enough can significantly undermine your health and fitness goals.

For more information on sleep, visit the links and references below:

https://www.tuck.com/foods-that-help-you-sleep/ 

https://www.mattressclarity.com/blog/how-nutrition-impacts-sleep/

 

References

  1. Dashti, H. S., Scheer, F. A., Jacques, P. F., Lamon-Fava, S., & Ordovás, J. M. (2015). Short sleep duration and dietary intake: epidemiologic evidence, mechanisms, and health implications. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 6(6), 648-59. doi:10.3945/an.115.008623

 

  1. Stenvers DJ, Scheer FAJL, Schrauwen P, Fleur SEL, Kalsbeek A. Circadian clocks and insulin resistance. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 2018;15(2):75-89. doi:10.1038/s41574-018-0122-1.

 

  1. Khatib HKA, Harding SV, Darzi J, Pot GK. The effects of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;71(5):614-624. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.201.

 

  1. Capers, P. L., Fobian, A. D., Kaiser, K. A., Borah, R., & Allison, D. B. (2015). A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the impact of sleep duration on adiposity and components of energy balance. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16(9), 771-82.

 

  1. Halson S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 44 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S13-23.

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The Simplest Way to Improve Your Overall Health

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign sponsored by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, with a vision of a world where all people thrive through the transformative power of food and proper nutrition.

Many people seek the assistance of a dietitian in achieving their personal health or fitness goals. A registered dietitian (RD) is a nutrition expert and is most qualified to help you navigate the many individualized aspects of nutrition. Even with the guidance of an RD, it can be daunting to make lifestyle changes in pursuit of nutrition goals, and results can sometimes be slow to manifest in visible ways. However, anyone trying to improve their health should celebrate even incremental progress, especially in the early goings, and feel empowered to keep making small, sustainable changes to their diet.

One simple goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables. According to the 2018 CDC State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, only 12.2% of adults in America meet the daily fruit intake recommendation (1.5-2 cups per day) and only 9.3% of adults in America meet the daily vegetable intake recommendation (2-3 cups per day). Even something as simple as changing your diet to meet those recommendations can result in a cascade of health benefits.

What makes fruits and vegetables so beneficial? They are high in water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Your body needs these components to function at its best, from being able to contract the small muscles that move your eyes across this page to maintaining optimal digestive health. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these important compounds play a role in your overall health.

 

Water

Fruits and vegetables range from 75-93% water, making them the most hydrating foods you can eat. Water is essential in your body for the transfer of nutrients in and out of cells. Being well hydrated protects you from having a high solute load, which can cause tachycardia, dry skin, headache, fatigue, and increased strain on the kidneys.

 

Fiber

Fruits and vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel that slows food as it moves through your digestive tract. This gives food extra time to be broken down by digestive enzymes and for nutrients to be absorbed, and keeps you feeling full longer. Soluble fiber also binds to cholesterol in the intestines and removes them from the body, regulates blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose from your food, and makes it easier to pass stool by adding bulk to it. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but does help keep you feeling full longer and adds bulk to stool. Adequate fiber in your diet can help to prevent diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diseases of the intestines such as constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and other forms of inflammation.

 

Vitamins

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins A and C, as well as some B vitamins. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that contributes to the health of your skin and vision. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is essential to the formation of collagen, aids in wound healing, and helps the body absorb iron. B vitamins assist your body in performing numerous metabolic processes. By consuming enough of these vitamins, you give your body the tools it needs to utilize energy, fight infection and disease, and maintain overall health.

 

Minerals

Fruits and vegetables have small amounts of most minerals that your body needs. By eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you can avoid mineral deficiency. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in fruits and vegetables, and it plays a role in blood clotting, cardiac function, nerve transmission, and smooth muscle contraction.

 

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are chemicals in plant foods that have not yet been proven to be essential individual nutrients but do play a role in facilitating your body’s ability to utilize essential nutrients from plant foods. Phytochemicals are the primary reason it is important to get a variety of vitamins and minerals from your diet instead relying on vitamin and mineral concentrates like pills or powders, which cannot provide the synergistic blend of chemicals present in whole fruits and vegetables.

 

Including More Fruit in Your Diet

The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study found that the leading cause of death and disability in the United States was a result of the American diet, with the most glaring flaw being a lack of fruit. Consuming two cups of fruit per day provides significant protection against multiple chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and high cholesterol.

 

Including More Vegetables in Your Diet

Vegetables are among the most powerful fighters of disease and disability, delivering more nutrients per calorie than any other food group. Increasing vegetable intake can help to avoid chronic disease and disability, and even extend your lifespan.

 

Ultimately, an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables gives your body the tools it needs to perform at its best. The simple change of including more of them in your diet can be a huge step forward for your health and longevity.

How can you ensure that more fruits and veggies can fit into your diet? Find the 20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables here and send me an email if you have questions!

 

 

Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/downloads/fruits-vegetables/2018/2018-fruit-vegetable-report-508.pdf

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/food-synergy/

 

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