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Technically speaking, I'm a dietitian, but I see myself as a listener, a motivator, coach and teacher of nutrition. I prefer to end a busy day with a glass of red wine while chopping vegetables. Lover of almost anything pickled and fresh baked scones just not at the same time. I'm happiest when I'm cooking for people I love. Why am I so into food? Because I KNOW how much eating well can change your life. What you eat every day is going to impact your body and your mind. It's a confusing world out there - full of diet and food advice that always leaves you feeling like it's that one next diet that's going to be the weight loss answer. Stop waiting for that magic diet, and begin to take one step at a time in the right direction. I'm here to help you on your life-long journey, there's no better time to start!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Partner with your Metabolism - Feed It!

Think of your metabolism as a campfire.

What do you need to do to make sure your fire burns consistently all night, so that it doesn’t go out but that it doesn’t become out of control? To start, you need proper fuel for your fire. The same way you need dry wood to build a campfire, your body prefers certain types of fuel to work at an optimal level. If you don’t fuel your body adequately what can you expect to happen? Your metabolism function will decline and you will not burn as many calories. The campfire will weaken and eventually extinguish without proper fuel. Consequently, if you provide more fuel than you need, you will store calories (fuel) as fat to be used later. Keep this analogy in mind as you go through your day and plan for your workouts. Weight management is about balancing fuel type and timing with your energy needs. At the end of the day, did you burn more than you ate? If you can answer “yes” then congratulations, you have lost weight that day.

What is the “right” type of fuel for optimal burn?

There are no magic foods. Repeat: There are NO magic foods. A balanced combination of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein is ideal. Fad diets that focus on one of these nutrient groups more than another are not sound, and likely not realistic. If a diet is not realistic, you can bet you will have a pretty difficult time managing to keep lost weight off for good. Set yourself up for success and eat a variety of foods in the right amount for your needs. Don’t force yourself to stick to a “diet”. Focus your energy on learning what foods provide you healthy calories for energy to complete those tough workouts. Pay attention to your body’s natural hunger and fullness messages to prevent consuming more energy (calories) than you require. It is important to eat adequate carbohydrates when losing weight and building lean tissue. This is known as “protein sparing”. Since ‘carbs’ are your body’s preferred source of energy, if you do not eat at least 40% of calories from carbohydrate you will need to use the protein and fat you eat for energy. What does this mean for your muscles? The protein you eat will be converted in to energy at a very inefficient pace which leaves your muscles without adequate recovery protein available to repair tissue damage from exercise. You will risk losing the lean tissue you are working so hard to build. Do your body a favor and eat 40-55% of your total calories from carbohydrates so that the protein you consume can do its job and build muscle, repair cell damage and maintain lean tissue!

Why are certain carbohydrates better fuel choices than others?

Compare wood to newspaper: which is a better source of fuel for your campfire? Wood does for your fire what complex carbohydrates do for your body. They are slower to digest and provide long-lasting energy. On the other hand, newspaper is like refined sugar and simple carbohydrates; it gives you a big flame, then burns up quickly, leaving you starving for more! Choose complex carbohydrates most often, for more fiber and a longer lasting source of energy.

Examples of complex carbohydrates:

• Whole grain products (read ingredient lists and look for the word “whole”): pastas, quinoa, cereals, bread, crackers, brown rice, etc. Read labels and pay attention to serving sizes.

• Beans & Legumes (1/2 cup = 1 serving)

• Whole Fruit (with skin) 2-4 servings/day

• Vegetables – the more color variety the better

Examples of Refined Carbohydrates:

• Enriched or white flour

• All Sugar (read ingredient lists to identify sources of sugar): brown sugar, fructose, honey, molasses, corn syrup, cane juice, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc

• Soda and Juice – diet soda does not contain carbohydrates

• Sweets, sugary cereals, sweetened drinks (coffee drinks, shakes), etc.

Getting the most “bang-for-your-buck” from your food:

Foods can be considered “empty” foods if they aren’t providing you proper fuel to burn. When snacking, look for snacks that contain at least 3 g of protein and 3 g fiber. The protein will help to satisfy you and slows down the absorption of carbohydrate into your blood, giving you a more gradual rise in blood sugar instead of a quick spike followed by a “crash”. The fiber will help keep you full longer. For example: if your usual granola bar is 180 calories, but only has 1 g protein and 1 g fiber, you are getting 180 calories primarily from a refined source of carbohydrate. Look for a bar that contains a whole grain like oats, or a bar that contains nuts which will provide protein and a healthy dose of fat. You can swap that old granola bar for a bar that gives you the same amount of calories, but will be a better bang-for-your-buck to keep that “fire” burning stronger and longer. If you can choose more functional foods (think filling and a proper source of fuel), it will be easier to eat within your calorie targets for your weight goals. Is it better to eat a 100-calorie pack of Oreo’s with zero protein or fiber and feel hungry 20 minutes later, or to eat a 200-calorie bar made with nuts and fruit which will fuel you for 2-3 hours? What do you think? Remember – exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand when it comes to reaching your goals. If you aren’t fueling properly you are not setting yourself up for success. A restrictive diet too low in calories or carbohydrates will not get you where you want to be long term.

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