Category Archives: The Science

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Do Calories Matter? – Part 4

We’re on to PART 4! This is the longest series of blog posts I’ve ever done. Evidently, there is a lot more to talk about! These are just the highlights of a much bigger picture.


Let’s do a quick recap379302_325658287555375_1376847731_n.21

The flaws of the calorie centric view:

  • Humans are not perfect machines (cannot apply the concept of calories in/calories out). Equations are pretty much useless. Just use it as a GUIDE. Your life does not depend on it!
  • It goes against the Second Law of Thermodynamics
  • Calorie counting does not take into account the quality of foods and its metabolic effects on hunger, appetite, energy usage/storage, satiety etc
  • Many factors affect metabolism – environment, genetics etc
  • It is possible to increase fatness on a reduced calorie diet (on high GI foods) [1] SURPRISE SURPRISE!
  • Quality of diet can affect/induce anabolism (fat storage)
 Quick links to Part 1, 2 and 3!

QUALITY over QUANTITY

A calorie focussed mind would lookout for foods that are low/-er in calories. Since FAT is calorie dense, it immediately gets a bad rep. Low fat foods are usually high in refined carbs/starches. That’s because most times, when you take something out, you need to fill it with something else!
Even if they are not “empty calories” per se (containing vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants etc), these foods that are high in processed, artificial refined carbs/starches are DETRIMENTAL to health, causing harm to the body and metabolic dysfunction [2].
What to eat?
NUTRITION over CALORIES
 Tips-How-to-Pick-Good-Dog-Food-Ingredients-Dog-Food
Low refined sugar/carbs/starches
If you are going to eat carbs, go for WHOLE minimally processed ones. Starchy vege (sweet potatoes, potatoes, taro, pumpkin, squash etc) and fruits are great options. When going for rice/pasta/bread, think brown/red/wild/black. These are more nutrient dense. Refined options have been stripped of their vitamins, minerals and fibre. You’re basically just eating sugar.
Fats
The only bad fat here is highly processed trans fat. Go for fats found naturally in olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, dairy products, real butter, fat from meat and fish. These are all high in a good combination of mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Protein
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt).2016-10-21-1477056674-8700239-homer
How much of each macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) to eat is different for each individual. Get a dietitian to do the work. ;D

Gut Health

This is a growing area of research. The little bacteria in your gut is SO important!
Research has now shown that WHAT you eat affects the little bacteria world in your gut. You might need to rethink your zero-calorie artificial sweeteners! They have been shown to have the potential to alter your gut microbiome [3]. ANY disruption to this balance can possibly lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease and a decreased immune system [4].stomach-bacteria
The quality of food, prebiotics (food for healthy gut bacteria), probiotics (healthy gut bacteria) and antibiotics affect the overall balance of gut bacteria.
Sources of prebiotics: Prebiotics are the fibre foods that cannot be digested. Onions, garlic, asparagus, unripe bananas, artichokes are great sources. These are “eaten” and considered food for your gut bacteria.
Sources of probiotics: Fermented foods like yoghurts, kefir, tempeh, miso, kombucha, saukraut etc. Different brands use different strains of bacteria and the amount it contains varies.
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These are beneficial but there is very little research that shows how much pre/probiotics to consume, exactly which strain (is best), the quality and how much of it actually stays in our gut after consumption [5].

Physical Activity

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
JUST GET UP AND GET MOVING!
Any form of physical activity is better than NOTHING. Pick something that you like and JUST DO IT!

Rest
Sleep has become a luxury and stress has now become commonplace in our lives.
How do these affect weight and metabolism?
Stress stimulates the body to release cortisol, which is the hormone involved in CRAVINGS. “Stress eating” is real.Processed with Snapseed.
When you don’t get enough sleep, the hunger hormone kicks in.
Together, they have an influence on food intake and fat storage.


When you focus on QUALITY and pay attention to your natural body cues, you wouldn’t need to be whipping out your calculator and counting everything.
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 Key points to remember:

-Focus on the SOURCE of calories and not calorie counts

-Eat REAL, MINIMALLY processed, WHOLE, FRESH, NUTRIENT dense foods

The GOLDEN rule is: If it is packaged, highly processed with ingredients that you can barely pronounce with loud “health claims”, don’t buy it!

-Achieving optimum hormonal balance and metabolic function is KEY

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Do Calories Matter? – Part 3

Hello Part 3 (Part 1 and Part 2)!

We’ve explored calories, energy in food, the calorie focused theory and how we gain weight!

Now, let’s take a look at what happens if we just ate less!


Undereating

Image result for undereating

The conventional approach to lose weight would be to decrease food intake, increase physical activity or BOTH! Because……

Calories in < Calories out = WEIGHT LOSS

It seems to make sense.

We’ve all done it at some point in our lives. And I can tell you that it definitely works!

……tired-runner

Until your body catches up and starts going against you. You can’t outsmart your body!

Your body will undergo a period of trying to adapt to the decreased food intake and/or increased physical activity. It wants to defend your body’s set weight [1]. This leads to biochemical changes that can throw off your metabolism (i.e. slowing it down!).

You become very efficient at using your fuel and stores – being able to survive with less energy. It means that overall, you burn less. Keep in mind that your basal metabolic rate takes up a huge chunk of your daily expenditure (60-75%!). You do not want to mess this up.

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The pitfalls of undereating

If this continues, you might:

-Hit a plateau

-Feel tired and fatigued

-Experience mood/behavioural changes

Hunger

-Strong cravings

Lose muscle

-Store more fat

Gain weight

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…… basically a ticking time bomb towards failure and losing control. And all of this is happening because your body is trying to look out for you!

This potentially explains why some people, despite a calorie deficit, fail to lose weight!

There’s evidence that fatness can increase despite being in an energy deficit state [1].


We’ve seen how the calorie focused view fails to explain weight gain and weight loss.

So, now what?

What CAN we do?

Stay tuned for Part 4!

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Do Calories Matter? – Part 2

Back for Part 2 of Do Calories Matter?

Here, we will discuss the calorie focused theory and how we gain weight.


Calories in calories out theory

Many of us tend to look at the calories in food when we are trying to achieve a certain weight (gain or loss).

Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain

Calories In = Calories Out = Weight Maintanence

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss

From this perspective, it seems to say that we can eat whatever we want. Because only calories matter. It is saying that a calorie’s worth of beef, butter, ice cream, rice or beer have the same effects on the body (fatness and weight).

We also hear common terms like #IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).  As long as it fits within your macros (protein, carb, fat), you can eat it. For example: I can have burgers and fries twice a day because it fits within my calorie needs/macros.

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But is 500 kcal of junk the same as 500 kcal of real food?

Are we gaining weight simply by EATING TOO MUCH?

Based on the calories in calories out theory, we gain weight by consuming more than we expend (which is true from a mechanic point of view).

The-Truith-About-Over-Eating

Calories in > Calories out = WEIGHT GAIN

Sounds easy enough?

BUT!

We are humans! We are not perfect machines where mathematical equations simply apply. There are MANY other factors that affect weight and metabolism. Counting calories disregards the quality of food and its effect on our metabolism – hunger, appetite, energy usage and storage, satiety etc.

Did you know that certain foods can “trigger” hunger?

This also goes against the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that energy transfer is not 100% efficient. There will be losses. It means that what we eat does not necessarily become energy that we can use.

This is why people respond so differently towards food. We all have that one friend who can eat the world, not move a muscle and yet, not gain a kilo.

A different perspective

 

Obesity Model Flow Chart

The diagram is from a paper by Prof David Ludwig and Mark Friedman. They challenged the theory of gaining weight simply by consuming more calories.

They proposed the alternative model B, which shows how the quality of the diet can increase fat storage, drive hunger, decrease basal metabolism and the cost of energy to move muscles (muscles use less energy), ultimately leading to weight gain.

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So, how do we gain weight (FAT)?

Let’s take a look at 2 hormones – insulin and leptin

Insulin is one of the hormones that play a major role in managing fuel concentration in the blood. It comes out to drive nutrients into STORAGE in the liver, muscle and fat cells.

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According to the same research paper, poor quality rapidly absorbable carbohydrate rich foods (white rice, refined starches, sugars, high GI foods etc) can cause spikes in insulin levels (more so compared to proteins, unrefined carbs and fats).

Insulin is VERY efficient, so much so that it quickly stores the fuel (i.e. in fat cells around the waist). Since all of it is in storage, your blood circulating fuels suffer a sudden drop.

As your body is running low on fuel (because it is stored away), you’d feel tired, lethargic, moody and HUNGRY. This is also known as the “SUGAR CRASH”! And as a result, you EAT…… again!

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It becomes a vicious cycle and it all starts with eating insulin spiking foods.

High insulin levels promote fat storage AND prevents the breakdown of fat. It has been identified that insulin is the main culprit when it comes to overweight and obesity [1].

The scary thing is that all of this can be happening even when a person is eating in a calorie deficit! Studies have shown that when the number of calories remained the same, a diet with transfat promoted weight gain compared to a diet without transfat [1].

Leptin

Leptin is a hormone that responds to the body’s fat cells. When fat stores are FULL, this hormone is released. It acts on several organs and glands (muscles, thyroid gland etc) to overall increase energy expenditure (move more) and decrease energy intake (eat less).

jabba-the-catThis is your body helping you to NOT store so much fat and to stop eating!

If something is “metabolically wrong” (i.e. insulin resistance) or if a person is obese, this signalling gets messed up. Instead of telling you to move more and eat less, it does the total opposite! [2].

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High insulin levels can also cause the body to stop responding to leptin.

These are perfect examples of how the quality of food (type and concentration of carbohydrates) acts in a neurohormonal way to push you to MOVE LESS, STORE MORE and EAT MORE!

Tackling obesity becomes more than just behavioural change. It is not just about telling someone to eat less and move more. As we’ve seen, you can gain weight and be metabolically obese even if you are eating less.

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It goes beyond that.

It is looking at the QUALITY of food.


Looks like we cannot “outrun” a bad diet. I always thought we could. You’d be pleased to know that my ice cream and cake intake are now very much under control.

So, what WOULD happen if we just ate less?

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss?

Stay tuned for Part 3!

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Do Calories Matter? – Part 1

Hey Hey Hey!

How have you guys been?

Can you believe that we are halfway through the month of MAY?!


I just want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for following/reading my blog. Especially to those that have been around since I started blogging!

To me, the numbers don’t matter. As long as I am able to make a small difference/influence somewhere, ALL my effort is worth it.

I will try to blog more often, so do subscribe to my blog to receive the LATEST (and the greatest. Baahahhahhaha! #jokes) stuff in your mailbox! *The subscription tab is on the top right corner*


Quick life update:

DONE with clinical placement! YASSSSS!IMG_2513

I’m currently on community placement (Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics) with my classmate, Tegan. So far, we’ve been creating content for eNews, tip sheets and updating the food database.

During our first 2 weeks, we worked on a presentation – “The Calorie Controversy” – for our supervisor to present at FILEX 2017 (An educational conference by the world’s leading health and fitness experts!).

Let’s just say we found some pretty compelling stuff. I will be sharing glimpses of what we found. 😉


It will be a series of several blog posts under the title “Do Calories Matter?”

Counting calories? Calories in = Calories out?Image result for counting calories

For this post, we will look at what a calorie is.


Before we even begin talking about whether or not calories matter, WHAT exactly is a calorie? What does the body use energy for?

Calorie and Joule

A calorie is the amount of energy that is needed to raise the temp of 1 Kg of water by 1 degree at room temp.

Joule is the SI unit of energy. It is the work that is needed to move 1 Kg of an object with a force of 1 Newton by 1 metre in the direction of the force.

Fun fact: The zettajoule (ZJ) is equal to one sextillion (1021) joules. A yottajoule (YJ) is equal to one septillion (1024) joules. Just thought that sounded pretty cool.

Ok, enough of the JOULE. I’m a calorie person. Here’s the conversion:

1 kcal = 4.182 kJ

*Both units commonly used to represent ENERGY in food*

How do we know how much energy is in food?

Image result for bomb calorimeter

By using the bomb calorimeter. Food is basically torched and the heat produced represents the energy content.

Food provides energy and nutrients. But where does it all go?

Image result for daily energy expenditure

Source

Our bodies need energy to do all of the above (image).

Basal metabolic rate: Energy needed to keep you alive at REST *Note that this is a huge chunk of your daily energy expenditure (60-75%!)*

Thermic effect of food: Energy needed to digest food

NEAT: Movement that is not exercise: fidgeting, cooking, going to the car etc

Activity: Physical activity: Running, swimming etc

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What is it in food that provides energy?

Carbohydrate 1g = 4 kcal

Protein 1g = 4 kcal

Fat 1g = 9 kcal

Alcohol 1g = 7 kcal

Image result for healthy food photography

How much energy or how many calories do we need?

That depends. Everyone is different. You can work it out here. But there are many things that can influence this (genetics, weight, height, body composition, health, hormones etc). Even activity levels are highly variable. We cannot truly be sure how much we really need. But of course, it gives you a rough estimate.


Now we know what a calorie is and what our bodies use the energy for!

The burning question is: Do calories REALLY matter?

Stay tuned for WHY weight gain is not simply calories in > calories out or why weight loss is not just calories in < calories out!

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Hit a Plateau? Here’s WHY!

Do these sound familiar?

-Working out but not seeing any changes?

-Not getting anything out of your fitness regime?

-Not losing/gaining weight?

-Bored?

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If they do, you’ve probably hit a fitness plateau.

First off, YOU are NOT alone! We all struggle to find that ultimate BALANCE – eating well + training right to reap the max benefits.

I’ve hit a few plateaus throughout my fitness journey. But I also remember the times where I’ve seen significant changes. Those happened when there were drastic changes in my nutrition and workouts.

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Stress and shock will force your body to change. Remember the changes you saw when you first started working out? You probably saw HUGE changes in the first 3 months. That’s because you went from sedentary to active, the kind of shock that your body was not accustomed to. And then something amazing (or not) happened, ADAPTATION. Your body adapted to the stress (and your new lifestyle) and the only way to continue to see change is to WORK HARDER (new stress)!

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Aside from doing the “physical work”, your body is like a MACHINE that needs the RIGHT FUEL. There is SO much information out there about workouts and foods to eat.

BUT in order for any of those information to make sense to your body, you need to know YOU.


 Let’s talk metabolism

Metabolism is basically ALL of the chemical processes that goes on in your body to keep you alive.

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Source

Anabolism – making stuff (cells, tissue, muscle etc)

Catabolism – breaking stuff (for energy)

Putting it into VERY simple terms, these two processes ultimately affect your fitness, physique and weight.

Understanding YOUR OWN body will help you beat plateaus. We need to tune into our own body ques.IMG_0897

The tricky bit is that we all have VERY DIFFERENT metabolic rates. Our health state (disease, illness, stress), sex, age, height and genes affect our metabolism. Environmental factors play a significant role too. Major ones would be nutrition and physical activity.

By making better lifestyle choices and changing a few bits here and there, you CAN workout and eat smart to achieve your ultimate GOALS.


Here are a few things to look out for:

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Estimated Energy Requirement (EER)

The BMR is an estimate of the energy that you need in a day to maintain bodily functions (breathing, heart beat, body temp etc) while at rest. It is usually based on gender, age, weight and height.

With the BMR, you can now calculate your EER which adds in the activity element.

You can do all of that here.

Macro Breakdown

KNOW the macros in your food. They play a role in metabolism!

Macronutrients are the carbs, protein and fat in food. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is 45-65% Carb, 20-35% Fat and 15-25% Protein of your total daily energy intake. However, you can alter these values based on your personal preference (low carb, high protein etc), performance goals etc.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProtein + Healthy Fat + Carbs

Work out what you eat in a day. It can be a lil tedious but it is worthwhile if you’ve hit a plateau. You can always take the stress out of nutrition and get a dietitian to work it ALL out for you, including EXACTLY what you should eat. 😉

Body Composition

It is good to get a sense of your body composition – percentage of body fat and muscle mass. Most fitness centres or the doctors would provide this service.

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Muscle weighs more than fat. You could be within the normal weight range for height but you could be carrying excess fat. Similarly, you may be on the heavier side of the weight spectrum but have more lean muscle mass.

This could be the reason you’re not seeing changes on the scale (if you’ve been working out and eating well). Try not to rely on the scale. Go by how you feel, look and how your clothes fit!

Change Your Routine

Following a strict routine may very well be the cause of your plateau. Mix it up and throw in new elements (new workouts, new foods etc). This will give your body a nice surprise and kick start your metabolism!

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Record Keeping

Sometimes, life can get to us and we can be UNAWARE of what we are doing or eating.

I AM ALL ABOUT RECORD KEEPING. I keep an e-record of my workouts, nutrition, emotions, work, finance and sleep. I find that it keeps me accountable of my actions, how I spend my time/money and helps with awareness and reflection.

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It can be overwhelming and I don’t expect you to go from zero to hero! Start with something small, like workouts and nutrition for 1 week. You can make it as brief or as detailed as you please.

Who knows, you might SURPRISE (or not) yourself at the end of the first week. And you probably would be able to spot what you need to change.

I have a food journal template. Drop me an email or leave a comment if you want one!


Perspective

Plateaus are not ALL bad.

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Lil reminder to REST!

Let’s look at it as a time to rest, reflect, change, and continue to challenge and push ourselves towards our goals!

IMG_5353Stay strong, I am here for you!

All the best!