When you’re trying to stay healthy and shed a few extra pounds, it’s natural to start looking at your diet as a way to help you get in beach-ready shape and live longer. And so you should, since decades of research has shown what we eat on a daily basis can play a huge role in keeping us fit and out of the doctor’s office. But pinpointing the necessary dietary changes that need to be made can seem daunting, especially when there is no shortage of talking heads who claim to have the eating solutions you need. Let us help!
Instead of saying you need to treat gluten like it’s cyanide or banish dessert from your menu entirely, we’d prefer that you focus on a set of more sustainable and research-backed eating pursuits that are more effective in helping you achieve any fitness and health goals. Start with these 10 eating habits that will put you on the path to your best body ever.
Eat the Rainbow
If you’re in need of some alone time, head to the vegetable aisle of your supermarket. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. In general, men fair worse than women when it comes to eating broccoli and carrots. As a result, we are missing out on the health-hiking, fat-torching fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that veggies supply. To get what you need, work at including a vegetable presence in most of your meals and snacks, and that can even include breakfast.
Tomatoes can easily sneak their way into scrambled eggs, and shredded carrots add natural sweetness to oatmeal. When grocery shopping, aim to toss a rainbow of vegetables into your cart — the pigments that give items like bell peppers, eggplant and spinach their colors have strong antioxidant activity with differing health benefits.
Go Fish for Fat
By now, most people have heard that omega-3 fats are beneficial and good for their hearts. But few, and we really mean few, people are heeding the advice to eat more of them. A recent study published in the journal Nutrients determined that about 98 percent of participants fell well below the optimum 8.0 Omega-3 Index — a test of omega-3 fat levels in the blood. American subjects clustered in the 3.25 to 5.75 range, a level where people won’t reap the full benefits of these mega-healthy fats, which includes warding off early mortality from various diseases.
The best way to raise your omega-3 index for better health is to reel in fatty fish for your meals at least twice per week. The main swimmers especially rich in omega-3s include salmon, sardines, mackerel, barramundi, sablefish (black cod), herring, rainbow trout, arctic char and some species of tuna. Shrimp, tilapia, cod and pollock (sold mostly as fish sticks and fried fish sandwiches) are popular seafood options in America but are omega-3 poor.
Spread It Out
If you spend several hours every week working up a serious sweat, make sure you spread out your calories throughout the day instead of packing most of them into dinner. In a watershed study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Metabolism,researchers found athletes who spent more time in a state of energy deficiency during a 24-hour period (in which their bodies were not obtaining enough calories to support training), experienced larger drops in metabolism and increased hormonal disturbances such as lower testosterone levels and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to their counterparts who spent fewer periods of the day in a calorie deficit. This is worrisome because it can hinder your ability to recover from workouts and build lean body mass.
Another study found that muscle protein synthesis was 25 percent higher among those who ate 30 grams of their protein at each meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner — than among those who consumed 10 grams in the morning, 15 grams at midday and 65 grams at night. Spreading out your protein intake gives your muscles a more consistent supply of amino acids to support recovery and growth.
The take-home message then — for improved fitness gains — is to better distribute your food intake throughout the day so you don’t leave your gas tank empty for too long.
Put Your Mind to It
Today, most people eat on autopilot, distracted by computer screens, smartphones or the need to wolf down a meal in a flash in order to get on with a never-ending list of tasks. But the perils of mindless eating are many: too much food eaten too fast, followed by belly bloat, pangs of guilt and a sense that you’ve just gleaned no joy from what you’ve eaten. Sound familiar?
This is why mindful eating is increasingly being promoted as a means to achieving a healthier relationship with the food we eat. With mindfulness, people are encouraged to tune into their thoughts, emotions and physical sensations during periods of eating as a means to making better food choices and recognizing signs of fullness to help limit gut-stretching overeating. Studies show that practicing mindful eating can help stamp out cravings for junk food, improve portion control of calorie-dense foods and reduce periods of emotional eating that can spiral into weight gain.
There are several ways to practice mindful eating, but some good ways to start include avoiding distractions like watching television while eating, eating more slowly to give you a better chance to recognize satiety signals, and halting the practice of serving foods like granola and yogurt straight from their containers so you can be more mindful of appropriate portion sizes. Take a moment before you reach for a snack to ponder how famished you actually are. Do so and you’re less likely to misinterpret sensations like tiredness or emotions such as anxiety as true hunger.
Vary Your Protein
It seems that as long as you eat enough protein, you’ve got a good chance of building muscle regardless of where you get it from. A recent study in TheAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that among 2,986 men and women, muscle mass and strength were higher in those who consumed the most protein (1.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight), compared to those who consumed the least (0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight). But an interesting finding was that the body composition and muscle strength results did not change based on people’s dietary protein preferences.
A person getting a large amount of his or her protein from meat was benefiting as much as a person gleaning a larger amount of protein from plant-based foods like beans. In fact, there are numerous benefits that come with achieving your daily protein quota from a variety of sources. Dairy can offer up leucine, an amino acid that is especially effective at stimulating muscle recovery and growth, plant proteins such as lentils offer up a bonus of antioxidants and fat-fighting fiber, beef contains important vitamins and minerals like iron and vitamin B12, and seafood can give you not only high-quality protein but also those much-needed omega-3 fats.
As they say, “Variety is the spice of life.”
Break the Sugar Habit
In America, life is sweet all right — so sweet that about 17 percent of the daily calories in the typical diet hail from added sugars — sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar and even honey that don’t occur naturally in food. Eating an overly sweet diet not only contributes to Buddha belly but also to a range of health woes. For instance, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who took in 10 to 24 percent of their daily calories from added sugar were 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than those who consumed less.
A study in the journal Nature Communications suggests that sugar-heavy diets may stimulate the growth of cancer cells. And a report in TheAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition study revealed that high free-sugar intakes, considered to be sugars added to packaged foods like yogurt and cereal or to foods cooked at home, can coincide with lower intakes of several important micronutrients like calcium and magnesium.
So if you want to hone a six-pack and live a long retirement, it’s a good idea to make your diet less sweet. Beyond obvious methods such as nixing the sugar-sweetened drinks and sugary baked goods, you can go a long way in scaling back your intake of added sugars by carefully reading ingredient lists of everything from yogurt to salad dressing to nut butters to tomato sauce on the hunt for sweeteners that manufacturers have pumped into the product. Studies show that after a few repeated exposures, you can retrain your taste buds to enjoy versions that are less sweet.
There is a lot of love going around for bugs these days. No, not the ones buzzing around us while trying to enjoy a walk in the woods but instead the bugs that make up our gut microbiome — the collection of trillions of microbes or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract that the white coats are increasingly linking to a dizzying array of health benefits that go well beyond better digestion.
A robust microbiome where beneficial microorganisms outnumber less desirable ones appears to play a role in everything from improved mood, trimmer waistlines and even improved immunity in people who exercise hard. To help fertilize your gut with more friendly critters, it’s a good idea to start including one or more servings of fermented foods into your diet each day. Options include yogurt (duh!), kefir, sauerkraut, miso, sourdough bread, tempeh, kimchi and low-sugar kombucha. So top your lunch sandwiches with sauerkraut or fiery kimchi, blend yogurt into postworkout shakes, and use crumbled tempeh as you would meat in dishes like chili and pasta sauce.
When you do eat your carbs, make them count by gravitating toward whole grains. A 2017 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study randomly assigned men and women to two diets of equal calories for a six-week period — one that included whole grains and one that included refined grains — to determine whether there would be any differences in energy-metabolism metrics. In the end, it was discovered the whole-grain diet resulted in larger increases in resting metabolic rate and stool energy content that translated into nearly an extra 100 calories a day being lost.
Over a period of several weeks, this could translate into significant fat loss. Whole grains such as quinoa, oats, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta require more work for our digestive track to process than items like white bread and white rice, which can jack up our metabolic rates and lead to fewer of their calories being absorbed. Containing a bundle of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, whole grains have also been linked to various improved health measures such as lower blood pressure numbers and better blood sugar control. The upshot is that at least 75 percent of the grains in your diet should hail from those that are whole instead of being processed to within an inch of their nutritional lives.
It’s fine to drink a beer or two while watching the game or enjoy a glass of wine during a nice dinner, but it’s wise to limit how much you imbibe overall. A study published in The Lancet involving nearly 600,000 current drinkers found that about 100 grams of alcohol — the equivalent of 5 pints of beer or five 175-milliliter glasses of wine — is the upper safe limit for consumption on a weekly basis. More than that raises the risk of early death from things like stroke and heart failure. More bad news for craft beer lovers: An investigation published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology cites evidence that alcohol consumption can increase the occurrence of certain cancers. Moderate (one daily drink for women and two for men) to heavy drinkers (eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more for men) face a two to five times higher risk for liver, mouth, throat, esophageal and colorectal cancers, the report warns.
And don’t forget that alcohol is generally considered a source of empty calories, which shuts down the body’s ability to burn fat, leading to beer bellies. It’s worth noting that alcohol drinking on the whole, including high-risk activities like binge drinking, is on the rise in America among all segments of the population. So for the sake of your health and waistline, don’t be ashamed to be a proud teetotaller and grab a nice big glass of water.
Don’t Eat too Clean
“Clean eating” is a buzz term these days and means feasting mostly on whole, unprocessed foods like grass-fed beef, legumes, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. For the most part, this is exactly the type of nutrient-dense eating we should be embracing. But trying to practice spick-and-span dieting too diligently by eating only cauliflower “rice” and sweet potato “toast” and you may find yourself charging the cookie jar headfirst. Being too restrictive with your diet by eliminating all indulgent foods could backfire and lead to massive cravings. Slam the door on pizza, ice cream and chips completely and you could very well end up feasting on larger portions of these items than if you just ate small amounts here and there to satisfy cravings.
You don’t want to make sugary or calorie-laden foods like brownies and fast-food burgers a daily treat, but a couple of small portions during the course of a week can be enough to get your fix without upending your get-lean pursuits. One way to do so is by occasionally adding a small amount of a splurge food to an otherwise nutritious plate of grub. A Vanderbilt University study found that this “vice-virtue bundle” can trick your brain into thinking that the overall healthy meal is just as delicious as a meal that is dominated by indulgent items like cheeseburgers, onion rings and cake. A little bit of a naughty taste can bring about enough satisfaction to keep your overall healthy diet on track.
Elevated levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) -- a compound linked with the consumption of fish, seafood and a primarily vegetarian diet -- may reduce hypertension-related heart disease symptoms. New research in rats finds that low-dose treatment with TMAO reduced heart thickening (cardiac fibrosis) and markers of heart failure in an animal model of hypertension. The study is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology -- Heart and Circulatory Physiology and was chosen as an APSselect article for November.
TMAO levels in the blood significantly increase after eating TMAO-rich food such as fish and vegetables. In addition, the liver produces TMAO from trimethylamine (TMA), a substance made by gut bacteria. The cause of high TMAO levels in the blood and the compound's effects on the heart and circulatory system are unclear, and earlier research has been contradictory. It was previously thought that TMAO blood plasma levels -- and heart disease risk -- rise after the consumption of red meat and eggs. However, "it seems that a fish-rich and vegetarian diet, which is beneficial or at least neutral for cardiovascular risk, is associated with a significantly higher plasma TMAO than red meat- and egg-rich diets, which are considered to increase the cardiovascular risk," researchers from the Medical University of Warsaw in Poland and the Polish Academy of Sciences wrote.
The researchers studied the effect of TMAO on rats that have a genetic tendency to develop high blood pressure (spontaneously hypertensive rats). One group of hypertensive rats was given low-dose TMAO supplements in their drinking water, and another group received plain water. They were compared to a control group of rats that does not have the same genetic predisposition and received plain water. The dosage of TMAO was designed to increase blood TMAO levels approximately four times higher than what the body normally produces. The rats were given TMAO therapy for either 12 weeks or 56 weeks and were assessed for heart and kidney damage and high blood pressure.
TMAO treatment did not affect the development of high blood pressure in any of the spontaneously hypertensive rats. However, condition of the animals given the compound was better than expected, even after more than a year of low-dose TMAO treatment. "A new finding of our study is that [a] four- to five-fold increase in plasma TMAO does not exert negative effects on the circulatory system. In contrast, a low-dose TMAO treatment is associated with reduced cardiac fibrosis and [markers of] failing heart in spontaneously hypertensive rats," the researchers wrote.
"Our study provides new evidence for a potential beneficial effect of a moderate increase in plasma TMAO on pressure-overloaded heart," the research team wrote. The researchers acknowledge that further study is needed to assess the effect of TMAO and TMA on the circulatory system. However, an indirect conclusion from the study could underscore the heart-healthy benefits of following a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish and vegetables.
Researchers have proposed a conceptual framework for examining the relationship between exercise and adaptive neuroplasticity in the population with multiple sclerosis (MS). The article, " Integrative CNS Plasticity with Exercise in MS: The PRIMERS (PRocessing, Integration of Multisensory Exercise-Related Stimuli) Conceptual Framework," was published in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 2018 Sep 12.
Researchers are increasingly exploring the effects of exercise in various clinical populations, but little attention is being focused on the neural mechanisms that underlie positive changes in mobility and cognition. Using this conceptual framework will enable scientists to systematically examine the effects of exercise on brain connectivity, brain structure, and molecular/cellular mechanisms in the population with MS, and develop new strategies for rehabilitative care.
"Many individuals with MS develop disabling deficits in mobility and cognition," said John DeLuca, PhD, senior VP of Research and Training at Kessler Foundation, and a co-author of the article. "Exercise is a low-cost, non-invasive modality that relieves both types of symptoms," noted Dr. DeLuca, "so we are very interested in learning more about how activity results in these improvements. Rethinking how we view exercise in our plans for the long-term management of people with MS and other neurological conditions is our first step. We anticipate that use of the PRIMERS framework will accelerate advances in treatment by integrating the contributions from neuroscience, neurophysiology, and neurorehabilitation," Dr. DeLuca concluded.
Materials provided by Kessler Foundation. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Brian M. Sandroff, Robert W. Motl, William R. Reed, Aron K. Barbey, Ralph H. B. Benedict, John DeLuca. Integrative CNS Plasticity With Exercise in MS: The PRIMERS (PRocessing, Integration of Multisensory Exercise-Related Stimuli) Conceptual Framework. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 2018; 32 (10): 847 DOI: 10.1177/1545968318798938
Higher blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood are associated with a higher likelihood of healthy ageing among older adults, finds a US study published by The BMJ today.
With populations across the world living longer, there is a growing focus on healthy ageing -- a meaningful lifespan without major chronic diseases and with good physical and mental function.
Previous studies suggest that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) derived from seafood and plants may have beneficial effects on the body that could promote healthy ageing, but results are inconsistent.
So a team of US researchers, led by Heidi Lai at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, set out to investigate the association between circulating blood levels of n-3 PUFAs and healthy ageing among older adults.
The study involved 2,622 adults who were taking part in the US Cardiovascular Health study from 1992 to 2015. Average age of participants at the start of the study (baseline) was 74 years, 63% were women and 11% were from non-white groups.
Blood levels of n3-PUFAs were measured at baseline, 6, and 13 years. These included eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The main dietary sources of EPA, DHA and DPA come from seafood, while ALA is found mainly in plants (nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables).
Based on these measurements, participants were split into five groups (quintiles) of circulating blood n-3 PUFA levels, from lowest to highest.
Through review of medical records and diagnostic tests, the researchers found that 89% of the participants experienced unhealthy ageing over the study period, while 11% experienced healthy ageing -- defined as survival free of major chronic diseases and without mental or physical dysfunction.
After taking account of a range of other social, economic, and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that levels of seafood-derived EPA in the highest quintile were associated with a 24% lower risk of unhealthy ageing than levels in the lowest quintile.
For DPA levels, the top three quintiles were associated with an 18-21% reduction in the risk of unhealthy ageing. However, seafood-derived DHA and plant-derived ALA were not associated with healthy ageing.
A possible explanation for this effect is that n-3 PUFAs help to regulate blood pressure, heart rate and inflammation, explain the authors.
They point out that this was an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and they cannot rule out the possibility that some of the observed risk may be due to other unmeasured factors.
The study had a long (up to 22 years) follow-up period, and results remained largely unchanged after further analyses.
As such, they say that, among older adults, higher levels of circulating n-3 PUFAs from seafood were associated with a lower risk of unhealthy ageing.
"These findings encourage the need for further investigations into plausible biological mechanisms and interventions related to n3-PUFAs for maintenance of healthy ageing, and support guidelines for increased dietary consumption of fish among older adults," they conclude.
In a linked editorial, Professor Yeyi Zhu at Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and the University of California and colleagues say this study makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the effect n3-PUFAs might have on ageing. But they caution against using these findings to inform public health policy or nutritional guidelines.
We live in challenging times, when lifespans are increasing but healthy lifespans are not, they write. "Following the World Health Organization's policy framework for healthy ageing, any evidence-based clues to improve health in later life are welcome but additional efforts to accelerate this area of research are essential," they conclude.
Materials provided by BMJ. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Heidi TM Lai, Marcia C de Oliveira Otto, Rozenn N Lemaitre, Barbara McKnight, Xiaoling Song, Irena B King, Paulo HM Chaves, Michelle C Odden, Anne B Newman, David S Siscovick, Dariush Mozaffarian. Serial circulating omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and healthy ageing among older adults in the Cardiovascular Health Study: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 2018; k4067 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.k4067
A new study by researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the University of Pennsylvania and six other centers reveals that children with developmental delays, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are up to 50 percent more likely to be overweight or obese compared with the general population.
The findings were published online by The Journal of Pediatrics.
This is the first large study to demonstrate that young children with ASD or developmental delays are at an equally high risk of developing obesity. Among children with ASD, those with a higher degree of impairment and more severe symptoms were found to be at even greater risk of developing obesity by age five.
The study included nearly 2,500 children between the ages of two and five years old. This age group is especially relevant, since it is an important window for early obesity prevention.
The research was conducted as part of the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED). The multisite study analyzed 668 children with ASD, 914 children with developmental delays or disorders and 884 children from the general population who served as controls. Children's heights and weights were measured during clinical visits, and ASD severity was measured using the Ohio State University Global Severity Scale for Autism.
The study showed that children with ASD were 1.57 times more likely to be overweight or obese than the general population. Children with developmental delays were 1.38 times more likely to be overweight or obese. The risk for obesity was even more pronounced in children with severe ASD symptoms, as they were 1.7 times more likely to be classified as overweight or obese than children with mild ASD symptoms.
"These findings make it clear that monitoring these children for excess weight gain at an early age is critical, and that prevention efforts should be expanded to include not just children with ASD, but those with other developmental diagnoses, as well," said Susan E. Levy, MD, MPH, the study's lead author and medical director of the Center for Autism Research at CHOP.
Although increased obesity in children with ASD has been reported in other studies, this study is the first to examine if children with other developmental disabilities are also at increased risk for developing obesity. Also, the researchers examined connections between excess weight gain and the presence of other medical, behavioral, developmental, or psychiatric conditions.
"We need more research to understand why these children are more likely to develop obesity, and which children are at the highest risk," said Levy. Other medical conditions are especially common among children with ASD, and the authors note that these may play a role in excess weight gain. Possible factors include endocrine disorders, genetic disorders, gastrointestinal symptoms, medication-associated side effects, sleep disturbances, or rigid food choices, among others.
The research findings may shed light into possible mechanisms underlying the increased obesity risk in children with ASD, which may offer targets for early intervention. The authors suggest that clinicians monitor children who receive a diagnosis of ASD or developmental delays/disorders for signs of excess weight gain, and that they provide specific guidance for their parents in an effort to prevent obesity. Parents should discuss with their medical caregiver any concerns they have about their child who may be showing signs of obesity.
Susan E. Levy, Jennifer A. Pinto-Martin, Chyrise B. Bradley, Jesse Chittams, Susan L. Johnson, Juhi Pandey, Alison Pomykacz, AnnJosette Ramirez, Ann Reynolds, Eric Rubenstein, Laura A. Schieve, Stuart K. Shapira, Aleda Thompson, Lisa Young, Tanja V.E. Kral. Relationship of Weight Outcomes, Co-Occurring Conditions, and Severity of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Study to Explore Early Development. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.09.003
There’s something gratifying about a workout that makes your sweaty clothes stick to your skin and your hair a hopeless mess of frizz and flyaways. No doubt, a heart-pumping cardio session can eliminate fat, along with stress and frustration.
Done right, there are many benefits to performing aerobic exercise. However, we’ve all seen the cardio bunny at our gym. It’s the person who runs on the treadmill for hours on end or the person using the elliptical with minimal resistance, going as fast as he or she can. And how often do you see that person leaning on the rails of the StepMill?
Whether you prefer to perform cardio or would rather stick with the weights, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of aerobic exercise.
Pro: The Brain Benefit
Research suggests that aerobic exercise helps improve neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Basically, cardio exercise improves how your existing brain cells function and helps create new ones.
Pro: Improved Sleep
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can improve the quality of your nighttime sleep. People who exercise regularly may reduce their risk of sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other sleep disorders. If you still struggle to fall (and stay) asleep, consider a melatonin supplement.
Pro: Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
When you work out aerobically, you put stress on your cardiovascular system. Over time, this system adapts and becomes stronger. The result? Your blood pressure may lower and HDL levels (the good cholesterol) may increase. This increased efficiency means less work for your body, heart and blood vessels — reducing your risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart attack and more.
Logging countless hours of cardio can leave you physically and mentally exhausted. If you’re a marathon runner, keep on running, but use caution when following an extensive cardio cross-training program. Whether you’re training for an event or if your goal is simply to improve your fitness, the body needs time to rest and repair. This will reduce your risk of overuse injuries — your body’s way of telling you to slow down.
Con: Muscle Loss
When the body is in a caloric-deficit state, it turns to muscle as a fuel source. Without adequate fuel, you risk losing your hard-earned muscle mass. Including cardio in your routine can actually improve your recovery from other forms of exercise, such as lifting weights, by stimulating blood flow to your working muscles.
Con: Fat Retention
If you want to lose weight, you amp up your cardio routine, right? Not always. Your body adapts to the stress you are placing on it. Improvement will require you to overload the muscles and your aerobic system. If cycling or walking or swimming are your go-to exercises, then you are forced to do more and more in order to see continual progress. Increased cardio can lead to decreased muscle mass, resulting in a lower, less efficient metabolic rate. Keep in mind that strength training helps your body maintain metabolically active muscle mass. It is the perfect complement to cardiovascular exercise.
We all aim to achieve that euphoric, post-cardio high that inspires us to finally clean the house or go to the grocery store and stock up on fruit, veggies and everything else that falls into the “healthy” perimeter of the store. However, it’s important to understand the difference between “too much” and “not enough.” It is recommended that you exercise aerobically 30 to 40 minutes per workout, three or four times per week. You can achieve this in increments throughout the day. Aim for an intensity level that’s 55 to 85 percent of your maximal heart rate.
By finding the balance that works for you, based on your goals and current fitness level, you will achieve that sweat-inducing sweet spot while experiencing the benefits of a heart-healthy workout.
Have you asked yourself, “Why are people so obsessed with these things?” Perhaps you’ve let out a sigh and dismissed them as “fads” in the fitness industry. Those leopard print leggings will go out of style before anyone can finish sipping their skinny tea, right? While that’s quite possible, it’s not necessarily true for macros (or for aerial yoga, for that matter). Talk of macros is spreading like wildfire on the internet and social media, and rightfully so. Before you get caught up counting them, it’s important to know what they are and why you need them.
“Macros” are short for macronutrients. They consist of three food categories: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Each system in your body depends on the availability of these three macronutrients. Macronutrients affect things like body composition, appetite, satiety, likelihood of disease and its progression, perceived energy levels and your ability to recover from exercise. We’re going to talk more about the role of each, along with recommended food choices.
Carbohydrates are the brain and central nervous system’s primary choice of fuel. When carb intake is low, brain fog and a decrease in athletic performance may result. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggests a minimum intake of 130 grams per day to meet basic energy needs to sustain bodily systems. However, your total carb intake will vary based on activity levels, goals, genetics and body size. In general, aim for a carb intake of 45 to 65 percent of total calories. Slow-digesting, minimally processed foods with sufficient fiber are the best choices.
There are many roles fat plays throughout your body. It is the most energy-dense nutrient, and it helps manufacture and balance hormones. It also helps transport fat-soluble vitamins. Overconsumption of fat may lead to an increased risk of heart disease. This effect seems to occur when saturated fat intake is high and the diet is also high in sugar and processed carbohydrates. Excess body fat also can result from this scenario. Avoid vegetable oils rich in omega-6 such as corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and cottonseed oil. Fats should make up 20 to 35 percent of your total calories.
Carbohydrates and fats are managed efficiently by the body. However, it’s difficult to maintain adequate protein levels without a proper diet. If your diet lacks amino acids (building blocks of protein) that your body can’t make on its own, your muscular structure, hormone levels and enzyme levels will suffer. Protein quality will vary based on a food’s level of amino acids. Animal proteins typically rank higher, while plant proteins (although they do contain all the essential amino acids) rank lower. Most healthy adults require 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Some experts suggest aiming for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, since higher amounts of protein are associated with improved immune healthy, metabolism and weight management.