How Undereating Can Cause Weight Gain
By: Kait Fortunato
Losing weight is challenging, and people who struggle with it often tell the same story: they increase their exercise and decrease their calories, only to be frustrated by a scale that doesn’t change. They might even gain weight! What’s the deal?
Undereating can slow down your metabolism and make you gain weight. You need calories to exercise, walk, eat, sleep, think, breathe, pump blood—the list goes on. If you don’t take in enough calories to survive, your body will store food to protect itself. It will not let you burn off what you can’t afford to lose, even during exercise.
Signs of a Low Metabolism
If your calorie intake is too low, it can effect your thyroid, which regulates hormone levels in the body. Hormones are responsible for regulating mood and appetite. If you are not getting hunger signals, it could be a sign that you have slowed your metabolism. You may also feel more irritable or depressed due to lack of fuel. It’s a double-whammy: you may be starving or unhappy, and you’re not losing weight. Cravings are also a sign of low energy. The body craves sugar when it is not nourished.
Instead of starving yourself, follow some of these easy guidelines to stay healthy while losing weight.
What You Can Do
Eat every 3 or 4 hours
Balance your meals
Include sources of fiber, healthy fats and protein whenever you can. Fiber makes you feel full without piling extra calories into your belly. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole wheat bread also help you feel satiated longer. If you have to, plan your meals and snacks ahead of time to stay consistent.
Sleep affects metabolism. It is responsible for hormonal imbalance and can decrease the number of calories your body burns while resting. Develop a sleep routine by finding ways to relax to ensure you get adequate rest each night.
Exercise stimulates metabolism when you move and packs on lean muscle, which increases your resting metabolism. The result? You burn slightly more calories even on days off.
Work with a professional
Your doctor or a registered dietitian can measure your resting metabolic rate and help you determine a plan that fits your individual needs.
Saltzman, Edward and Robers, Susan. “The Role of Energy Expenditure in Energy Regulations: Findings from a Decade of Reasearch.” Nutrition Reviews. August 1995.
Sharma, Sunil and Kavuru Mani. “Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview.” International Journal of Endocrinology. April 2010.
Boost Your Brain Power with Science by Monitoring Your Blood Biomarkers (Inside Tracker)
We all know that you have to train hard in order to take your physical performance to the next level. But the mental aspect of physical activity is just as important as keeping your body strong and fit. Good thinking skills are beneficial to everyone because making sound judgments can have a profound effect on maximizing your physical skills. Conversely, if you’re tired and unfocused, it can be difficult to make the right moves (both in sports and in life!). Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to improve your cognitive function, but you need to find out what’s going on inside of your body first. Blood analysis provides a unique window, as biomarkers are a great evaluation metric. Read on to learn about some of the most relevant biomarkers for your brain health.
Vitamin B12 is essential for a healthy nervous system, and for brain function. B12 works to strengthen the connection between the brain and the body’s nerve sensors, which include your toes, fingers, and the tongue. This helps to improve brain-body response time and ensure that your sensory reactions are up to par. Individuals who have low levels of vitamin B12 can experience slow reflexes and poor muscle coordination, which spells bad news for those of us who would like to perform at our physical peak. Studies have also shown that older people with higher levels of B12 are six times less likely to experience brain volume loss.
Your best bet for consuming adequate amounts of B vitamins is to stick to whole, unprocessed foods; for B12, animal products are the main source. Make sure you’re working animal-based proteins, such as salmon, beef liver, ground beef, haddock, milk, cheese, ham, eggs, and chicken breast into your diet. Even though you don’t need very much B12, those who avoid animal products (such as vegetarians or vegans) may have “beef” with this recommendation. Fortunately, many breakfast cereals are fortified with enough B12 to meet recommended needs without violating a vegetarian diet.
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, enables us to respond to both physical and emotional stressors. Long-term exposure to cortisol may cause the neurons in your brain to shrink, and can also interfere with their ability to send and receive information. This means that people who are chronically stressed may experience symptoms of “brain fog,” short-term memory loss, and inability to function. Fortunately, lifestyle modifications and stress management techniques can play a significant role in controlling cortisol levels. Identifying how you respond to stress, as well as your personal stressors and relaxants, is important. Consider the following tips for coping with stress:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet (think whole foods!) with consistent meal timing
- Get sufficient sleep and rest
- Maintain positive, healthy relationships
- Practice relaxation, whether through yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, listening to music, or laughing
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine intake
Folic acid is another type of B-vitamin. It’s an essential vitamin, meaning that our bodies cannot produce it, and it’s vital for the production of new cells (aka the building blocks of life). It’s also crucial for brain function because it is required to make your DNA and RNA, which in turn create new cells. Folic acid also affects the production of neurotransmitters—which are substances that carry messages to different parts of your brain.
Folic acid is found in a variety of food sources. Some of the highest sources include beef liver, lentils, spinach, enriched noodles, great northern beans and asparagus. A federal law passed in 1996 mandated the fortification of enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products with folic acid to prevent birth defects in women who weren’t consuming adequate amounts of the vitamin in their diet. Consuming a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal allows most people to meet their recommended daily intake.
Glucose, also known as blood sugar, is delivered throughout our bodies and derives in part from the carbohydrates that we consume. After we eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, our digestive system breaks them down and turns them into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. From there, the glucose enters individuals cells throughout the body and provides them with the energy that they need to function. Your brain also needs a constant supply of energy in the form of glucose in order to work properly. In fact, your brain cells need much more energy than the other cells of your body because they’re always in a state of metabolic activity. Even when you’re sleeping, your brain cells are hard at work in repair and rebuild mode.
Some good examples of meals and snacks that are high in carbohydrates include:
- Peanut butter on whole grain bread
- Oatmeal or cereal with milk
- Wheat pasta with garlic bread
- Grilled chicken breast and brown rice
- Any dried fruit (raisins, apricots, etc.)
Remember that not all carbohydrates are grain-based! Squash, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and bananas are also good sources of healthy carbohydrates.
Unlike cortisol, magnesium is considered to be an “anti-stress” mineral because it works to calm the nerves and relax the muscles, which in turn can help people fall asleep. So, why is sleep important to maintaining optimal cognitive function? Most importantly, getting an insufficient amount of sleep can slow your reaction time. One study showed declines in split-second decision-making following poor sleep, and showed that subjects who were well rested had increased accuracy on tasks that required quick decisions. Conversely, getting enough sleep can have some great benefits: improved athletic performance, reduced appetite, and better memory function. When you are well rested, you are better able to focus and to learn more efficiently.
You can get magnesium from many types of foods, especially from leafy green vegetables. Other good sources of magnesium include: whole grain cereals, soybeans, nuts and seafood. Also keep in mind that magnesium absorption is primarily affected by the quality of your diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains contain phytate, which can inhibit the body’s absorption of magnesium. Avoid combining foods that are high in fiber with foods that are good sources of magnesium.
Take your knowledge to the next level by signing up for an InsideTracker plan. You will receive recommendations for lifestyle, exercise, and dietary changes that will help you achieve more focus and improve your cognitive performance.
Is Doing a Cleanse a Good Idea? (Healthy Living)
Lisa D’Agrosa, M.S., R.D., Associate Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine
My friends and family often use me as a sounding board for their own personal diet questions-this is what happens when you’re a Registered Dietitian. One question that seems to come up often is some variation of, “Should I go on a cleanse?” Whether they want to lose weight or they think it’s a way to detox their body, plenty of people look to cleanses as magical cure-alls. But are cleanses as healthy as they’re hyped up to be? Here are some reasons you might want to rethink starting a cleanse, plus a healthy plan to clean up your diet.
Certain cleanses are super-extreme: nothing but lemon water for two weeks-no, thank you! Almost all cleanse diets require you to drastically cut calories, which will slow down your metabolism. When you severely restrict calories, your body goes into a type of “starvation mode.” It tries to hang on to the energy-read: fat-that it has. As a result, the weight you do lose will likely be a mix of water weight and muscle mass, not fat. Losing muscle mass slows your metabolism even further. Your new, slower metabolism will make you more likely to gain weight once you stop the cleanse and start eating again.
Our body is equipped with its own lines of defense against toxins. Our gut, kidneys and liver work together to filter out what our bodies don’t need. It’s a fine-tuned system and unless it’s broken, as in kidney or liver disease, it works pretty well. People with good overall health don’t need to “cleanse”-their body is already on the job.
When you restrict your food intake on a cleanse diet, you’re probably going to miss out on key nutrients like healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and proteins. Even cleanses that include fruits and vegetables, which are the less-restrictive types compared to liquid-only cleanses, will likely be lacking in heart-healthy fats-which the body needs to absorb certain vitamins and to make hormones-and protein, which is necessary for building and maintaining muscle and other body tissues.
A Healthy Clean-Eating Plan
Instead of a full-out cleanse, try a healthy clean-eating plan. Cut back on things like salt, sugar, processed foods, alcohol and saturated fat. Focus on upping your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins (like chicken breast and beans). Occasionally “re-setting” your diet by cleaning it up can be a really helpful reminder of how many times you might be swinging by your coworker’s candy jar or eating a few too many slices of bacon.
The Berry That Helps You Stay Slim (Yahoo Health)
People who consume cranberry—or its juice—regularly have thinner waists, better memories, and healthier hearts than those who don’t. What’s more, this berry also fights infections, tooth decay, and may even help protect you against cancer, according to several new and recent studies.
Rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and a variety of micronutrients, cranberries have a truly amazing array of benefits. A cranberry compound called myricetin is one of several plant derivatives being investigated as an anti-cancer drug, according to a study published in Nutrition Cancer.
Here’s the skinny on how the festive red fruit may boost your health.
A Slimmer Waist And Lower Weight
One of the most surprising new studies links drinking cranberry beverages to a lower body weight, even though they aren’t typically thought of as a diet drink, due to the relatively high sugar and carb content. The study, which included 10,891 adults, was published in the journal Nutrients. The researchers analyzed food diary data from participants in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2005 to 2008. Overall, cranberry juice drinker averaged 7.5 ounces of the juice per day. Those with low-to-moderate intake of the tangy beverage were less likely to be overweight or obese and had smaller waists, compared to non-drinkers of cranberry beverages.
Reducing Heart Attack Risk
Here’s a great reason to go red for your heart health. Low-calorie cranberry juice combats two major cardiovascular risks oxidized: LDL (the problem that leads to buildup of cholesterol plaque in the arteries) and inflammation (the fiery process that ignites heart attacks, as well as other chronic diseases), according to a paper published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
A new analysis published in Critical Reviews of Food Science and Nutrition found that clinical studies “strongly support” cranberry juice as an effective, natural way to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in young and middle-aged women. That’s because compounds in cranberries appear to inhibit bacteria, such as E. coli, from clinging to the walls of the urinary tract and triggering infections. In addition, there is preliminary evidence that the tart berry may also help combat H. pylori bacteria growth in the stomach, thus reducing risk for ulcers, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Cranberry juice appears to act as “Teflon for the teeth,” by preventing cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to them, according to dental researchers from University of Rochester Medical Center. The team reports that compounds in the tangy fruit also helps prevent the buildup of dental plaque. A study in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association also suggests that cranberry polyphenols may reduce inflammation in the mouth—and could be a promising weapon against both cavities and gum disease.
In a 6-week double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that included 50 adults age 60 and older with no history of dementia or cognitive impairment, twice as many of those who drank a 32-ounce beverage containing 27 percent cranberry juice rated their memory as “improved,” compared to those who drank a placebo beverage.
6 Diet Rules that Boost Fitness Results
Keep it simple, keep it balanced—and keep it hydrated
By Pamela Nisevich Bede, M.S., R.D.,Runner’s World
Hopefully, with March right around the corner, you’ve been sticking to your New Year’s fitness resolutions (if you haven’t been consistent, revisit the plan with these 6 Ways to Stick to Your Weight Loss Goals). When you start exercising regularly, you might have to revamp some of your everyday eating habits in order to feel your best while you’re working out and avoid unwanted bathroom stops. Here are some general rules that will boost your workout and help you start seeing results on the scale.
1. Go on empty (sometimes). What you eat before you hit the road or the gym all depends on when you’re exercising and what kind of workout you’re planning. Many people don’t have the time-or the stomach-to eat and digest food before a workout, especially if that workout is taking place in the early morning. For an easy workout of one hour or less, going without food or drink probably won’t do you any harm. (Just make sure you’re staying hydrated.) But for any event that’s longer or more intense, preworkout fuel is critical. Go out on empty and you’ll fatigue sooner, plus you’ll have a much tougher time meeting your goals.
2. Keep it simple. So what’s the perfect preworkout meal? Familiar foods that are easy on your system, low in fat and fiber, and high in carbs will boost your energy without upsetting your stomach.
3. Time it right. When it comes to fueling your workout, timing is everything. Before your workout, you’ll want to have something that will give you a boost of energy without leaving you with an upset stomach on the road. So focus on carbs, and foods that are low in fiber and low in fat. In general, the bigger the meal the more time you’ll need to digest. Each person is different, but you’ll want to eat at least 30 minutes before you head out so you don’t have GI distress when you’re on the road. Within 20 minutes of finishing your workout, have a protein-rich snack to repair muscle tissue, and carbohydrates to restock your spent energy stores. This will kick start the recovery process so that you can bounce back quickly for your next workout. (Learn how much recovery fuel you’ll need post-workout without cancelling the results of your exercise.)
4. Drink up. Hydration is important, and not just when you’re exercising. Fluids regulate body temperature, move waste from your body, ensure that your joints are adequately lubricated, and help flush out the damaged cells that can lead to inflammation. And proper hydration can help control cravings, which is important because it’s often easy to mistake thirst for hunger. While there’s no set recommendation for daily fluid intake, a good rule of thumb is to aim to drink about half of your body weight in ounces each day. (So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water.) And you don’t have to just guzzle water. Fruits and vegetables can also help you stay hydrated. Plus they’re packed with antioxidants, which boost muscle recovery and immunity. (Follow these 9 Golden Rules of Hydration before, during, and after your workouts.)
5. Get the balance right. Even if you’re not exercising with a goal of losing weight, you still need the right mix of foods and nutrients to feel energized on your runs and to stay injury-free. About 55 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 25 percent should come from protein, and another 15 to 20 percent should come from unsaturated fats. But there’s no need to start carrying around a calculator. Don’t obsess. At each meal, just simply devote half of your plate to carbs, one-quarter of your plate to protein, and another quarter to healthy fats.
6. Take out the trash. If you have a family to feed, it may feel like you’re constantly surrounded by
diet-dooming foods. Your kids and partner may not be trying to get in shape, but eating more fruits and vegetables, and less junk, is good for them, too. So next time you’re at the store, shop with a “clean kitchen” in mind. Limit the high-sugar, high-fat foods you toss in your cart; if they’re not in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat them. Stock your fridge with fruits, veggies, and whole grains, so they’ll be there when mealtime rolls around. Those foods will keep you feeling good when you’re working out, plus they’ll keep your heart healthy, your cholesterol low, and your blood sugar stable.
What Should I Drink While Exercising?
How much and what you should drink while working out.
Look on the market and there are a dizzying array of sports drinks that promise to help you go longer, get stronger, run faster, and recover better. But what should you drink for your workouts?
Certainly it’s important to stay hydratedduring exercise. But for the average workout of 60 minutes or less, you typically won’t need anything more than water. If you’re going longer than an hour, or it’s hot and humid outside, then you may need the extra calories and electrolytes that sports drinks provide.
Each individual has different needs based on weight, sweat rate, and how hard you’re working. Here is what you need to know to stay hydrated.
STICK TO WATER. Simple water is the best way to go. But if you just can’t stomach it, try one of the many flavored, calorie-free waters on the market. Be sure to read the nutrition label and avoid extra calories and sugar. If you want a natural option that’s a little tastier, try adding a slice of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, a few mint leaves, or even cucumber to your water.
STAY HYDRATED THROUGHOUT THE DAY. This is the best way to avoid a last-minute push to pound fluids before a workout, a sloshy or nauseous feeling while you’re on the road, and unwanted pit stops on your run. So sip small amounts of water or calorie-free beverages throughout each day. A good rule of thumb is to aim to drink half your body weight in ounces daily. So if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 100 ounces throughout the day. If you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75.
DO THE BATHROOM CHECK. When you’re adequately hydrated, your urine will be the color of pale lemonade or straw. If it’s clear, you’re drinking too much. If it’s the color of apple juice, drink more.
DRINK WHEN YOU’RE THIRSTY. That’s the advice from the International Marathon Medical Directors Association and Tim Noakes, M.D., author ofWaterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports. The body’s thirst mechanism is exquisitely tuned to tell you when you need to hydrate.
DRINK MORE WHEN IT’S HOT AND HUMID. Hydration becomes most important during intense exercise in the heat. When it’s hot and you’re sweating, it’s easier to get dehydrated. Even slight dehydration can make the effort feel tougher. So drink extra water and electrolytes when it’s hot &/humid outside. The best bet for rehydration is to consume a low-cal beverage that contains electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Good choices include sports drinks (go low-cal if your workout), try coconut water, or water with a slice of fruit. The refreshing hint of flavor may drive you to drink more. How much is enough? Try to drink to match your thirst. If you want to be technical about it, simply weigh yourself before heading out and once again when you return. For every pound of body weight you lose, aim to drink at least 16 oz of fluid. You’ll know you’ve consumed enough when your urine runs light yellow in color.
CHECK THE LABEL BEFORE YOU SIP. Many sports drinks look appealing, but they are also laden with calories and sugar, which makes it easy to consume all the calories that you worked so hard to burn. Avoid specialty coffee drinks, high-octane sports drinks, and even fruit juice, all of which can be high in calories. Unless your workout lasted over an hour or cause you to sweat profusely, stick to something as simple as water with a slice of lime. If you’re looking to replace electrolytes, choose a calorie-free sports drink or even coconut water. Remember, if your goal is to stay hydrated while also shedding unwanted weight, choose a drink with less than 50 calories for every 16-ounce serving.
GET A JOLT PRERUN. It’s okay to drink coffee or caffeinated tea before a workout. In fact studies have shown that caffeine boosts energy and alertness. Just be sure to leave enough time between your java and your run to hit the bathroom. The heat of the liquid gets the bowels moving, and you don’t want to have to make an unwanted stop on the run.
DO THE SWEAT TEST. If you’re curious to see how much fluid you lose during an hour-long workout, here’s how to find out: Weigh yourself naked before a workout, then again after you’re done. If you lost one pound during the workout, you sweated 16 ounces (one pound). Next time, when you’re working out in similar conditions, aim for 16 ounces of fluids during the workout to replace what you lost through sweating.
REHYDRATE POSTWORKOUT. Do you have white streaks on your skin or clothes after your workout? It means you’re a salty sweater. You’ve lost a lot of sodium. Have a sports drink or water with an electrolyte tablet. There are many types of sugar-free, low-calorie electrolyte tablets, which dissolve quickly in water and help replenish electrolytes. You might also try vegetable juice, which is a good source of sodium.
If you’re looking for a boost, try this all-natural recipe to make your own sports drink. Just combine these ingredients:
- 8 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 24 ounces water
16 Healthy (and Yummy) Prerun Meals and Snacks
Your body needs high-octane fuel to run its best.
Here are some high-carb, low-fat, low-fiber meals and snacks that can provide the energy you need to run your best, for a variety of different workouts. These meals and snacks, packed with nutrients to keep you healthy, are suggested by sports dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede, Runner’s World’s Fuel School columnist.
Use this as a guide, but listen to your body. Each individual is unique in terms of digestion time, so you may need to eat closer to your workout or a few hours earlier than what’s prescribed here.
If you’re exercising for up to an hour at an easy effort, it’s okay to run on empty. But having a small snack or meal ahead of time may help you feel energized and strong throughout the workout. These snacks are also ideal before shorter quality workouts, like speed sessions and hill work.
- 1 cup of low-fiber cereal with ½ cup skim milk (195 calories)- Eat this 30 minutes before a workout. The milk provides protein; both the cereal and milk have carbs to keep you energized.
- 2 (3-inch) fig cookies (198 calories)- Eat these 30 minutes to 1 hour before a workout. The cookies are easy to digest and packed with high-energy carbs, vitamins, and minerals.
- 1 cup of berries with ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese (160 calories)- Eat this 60 to 90 minutes before a workout. The berries offer carbs for energy, while the cottage cheese provides calcium, potassium, and vitamin D- all of which come in handy when training.
- 3 graham cracker squares with 1 teaspoon of honey (98 calories)- Eat these 15 to 30 minutes before a workout or short speed session. These crackers are packed with carbs to keep you energized for your workout.
- 6 ounces low-fat fruit yogurt and 1 medium peach (275 calories)- Eat this 1 hour before a workout. This snack has calcium, vitamin D, and potassium to support bone and muscle health, plus antioxidants to boost immune function.
IF YOU’RE WORKING OUT FOR 60 to 90 MINUTES
Going longer? You’ll need more fuel so you finish the workout strong and don’t tire out before you’re done.
- 1 medium banana and 1 tablespoon of nut butter (200 calories)- Eat this 1 hour before your workout. The potassium and fluid in the fruit help you stay hydrated; the nut butter offers heart-healthy fat plus carbs.
- 1 bagel with 1 tablespoon of nut butter and 1 tablespoon of jam or honey (390 calories)- Eat this 1 hour before your workout. The bagel and toppings offer long-lasting energy so you can stay strong.
- ½ cup of steel-cut oats with skim milk, topped with 1 cup of sliced strawberries (256 calories)- Eat this 1 hour before your workout. Packed with carbs and B vitamins, this is an excellent choice for pre- or postrun recovery.
- 2 ounces of pretzels with 2 tablespoons of hummus (263 calories)- Eat this 1 hour before your workout. The pretzels provide easy-to-digest carbs for fast energy plus sodium to keep you hydrated; the hummus offers iron for strength, plus protein.
- 2 whole-grain waffles (frozen) with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup(270 calories)- Eat this 1 hour before your workout. The syrup and waffles both offer fast digesting carbs to provide an energy boost; the syrup also offers B vitamins to boost energy and bolster recovery.
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-grain bread (360 calories)- Eat this 60 to 90 minutes before your workout. All the ingredients provide carbs for energy; the peanut butter offers extra protein to fend off hunger; and, the banana provides potassium to help stave off muscles cramps.
- 2 ounces of honey whole-wheat pretzels dipped in 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter (230 calories)- The pretzels provide carbs for energy and sodium to help keep you hydrated; the peanut butter offers protein to help muscles recover.
- 16-ounce sports drink (125 calories)- Drinks this 15 to 30 minutes before (or during) your workout. Provides fluids and electrolytes to help keep you hydrated.
- 15 animal crackers dipped in 2 tablespoons peanut butter (390 calories)- Eat these 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. The animal crackers are easy to digest and provide carbs for long-lasting energy. Peanut butter has vitamins and minerals like potassium, and has been linked to lower risk of coronary heart disease.
- 1 cup of Apple Cinnamon O’s cereal with 1 cup of skim milk and 1 medium banana (255 calories)- Eat this 45 to 60 minutes before your workout. The cereal and milk provide carbs for an energy boost; the banana provides potassium to support your muscles; and the milk offers an extra boost of calcium for bone health.
- 3 ounces deli turkey wrapped in a flour tortilla with 1 cup shredded veggies (275 calories)- Eat this 90 minutes before your workout. This will provide long-lasting energy with extra protein to aid in muscle recovery.