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Muscle and Its Role in Diabetes Risk

By Diabetes, Fitness, Health

A widely-known but often misunderstood disease is steadily overtaking an increasing portion of the U.S. population. In this country, more than one-third of adults are at a high risk for developing this condition and causes about 330,000 deaths each year. This disease is diabetes.

Diabetes, type 2 in particular, is a condition affecting an ever-expanding pool of Americans. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 30.3 million Americans had diabetes in 2015. That’s nearly 10 percent of the population! Furthermore, about 90 percent of those people had Type 2 Diabetes, and those numbers are only expected to rise.

The steady increase in diabetes diagnoses is due, in part, to the obesity epidemic. 87.5 percent of adults with diabetes are overweight or obese according to their Body Mass Index (BMI), a simple health indicator based on the ratio of weight to height. However, these findings make it seem like only those with high body weight are at risk for diabetes, and that is not the case. In fact, so-called “skinny fat” people, individuals with a normal or low BMI but a high percent body fat, are at an increased risk to develop diabetes or prediabetes. As you can see, the underlying theme here is that, rather than a high body weight, it is an imbalanced body composition that increases the risk of diabetes. This is why it is important for those looking to reduce diabetes risk or manage their diabetes to understand their body composition.

So what’s going on here? How does your body composition affect your diabetes risk, and can improve your body composition reduce that risk or help you overcome diabetes?

Let’s first take a look at body composition. What is it and why is it important?

What is Body Composition?

The term “body composition” means exactly what it sounds like: the components that your body is made up of. Generally speaking, these components can be simply categorized as fat and fat-free mass. As you might expect, your fat-free mass, also called Lean Body Mass (LBM) is everything in your body that isn’t fat. It includes your lean muscle, organs, blood, and minerals.

The body generally needs a balance of LBM and fat mass to function optimally and maintain positive health. However, this balance is disrupted in many overweight and obese individuals due to excess fat.

Most people think that the ultimate goal for overweight individuals should be to lose weight, but this overlooks the bigger picture. In order to improve your health, get physically fit, and fit into those skinny jeans, you’re going to have to change your body composition. In other words, the goal for overweight individuals should not be to simply lose weight; instead, it should focus on improving body composition by reducing fat mass while maintaining or increasing LBM.

Not only will a more balanced body composition make you look leaner, but it can also reduce your risk of diabetes and other obesity-related disorders. Furthermore, it can have a positive effect on your metabolism.

Diabetes and Metabolism

When most people think about metabolism, they imagine some magical system within the body that allows certain people to eat more food without gaining weight. In reality, metabolism simply refers to the process of breaking down foods in order to supply energy for the maintenance and repair of current body structures.

When you consume food, your body breaks it down into its elemental components and then directs each piece to where it needs to go. It looks something like this:

  • You eat food.
  • Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, a simple sugar.
  • The glucose enters your bloodstream.
  • Your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin (Phase 1 insulin response).
  • Insulin helps the glucose enter your body’s cells so it can be used for fuel, stored for later use, or stored as fat.
  • Since your pancreas has released insulin, it needs more. So it starts to create more insulin. (Phase 2 insulin response)
  • Now your body is ready to start the process all over again the next time you eat.

Seems like a relatively simple process, right? But for people with diabetes, the process doesn’t work the same way.

This is because diabetes is a metabolic disorder. It changes the way your body metabolizes food so that your cells are unable to use that glucose for energy. How? It all comes back to insulin.

Let’s look at that metabolism breakdown again. There are two places where insulin is key: the Phase 1 and Phase 2 insulin responses. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells absorb glucose to use for energy. Your pancreas releases this hormone when it first detects the glucose from your food, and then it makes more insulin to use later.

In people with type 1 diabetes (T1D), the body does not produce insulin at all. In type 2 diabetes (T2D), the body produces insulin, but the cells can’t use it properly. This is called insulin resistance. Without access to insulin, glucose can’t get into your cells, so it ends up lingering in your bloodstream.

Of course, when the glucose can’t make its way out of the bloodstream, it will start to build up. All that excess blood sugar may then be converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. With this increase in fat mass, hormone imbalances or systemic inflammation may occur or persist, increasing risk for many other diseases or conditions. Diabetes is associated with increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, skin infections, and eye problems. Diabetes can even result in an impaired immune system, which, combined with poor circulation to the extremities, increases risk of wounds and infections, sometimes even leading to amputation of the toes, foot, or leg(s). In far too many cases, diabetes creates complications that eventually lead to death.

Effects of Type 2 Diabetes on Muscle

Many are already aware of the connection between high-fat mass and diabetes, however, more recently, researchers have begun to focus on another aspect of body composition as it relates to diabetes risk: Lean Body Mass. Many studies have shown strong links between Type 2 Diabetes  (T2D) and low lean body mass.

A large component of our LBM is our skeletal muscle mass, the muscles used for posture and movement. Unfortunately, diabetes is not only more common in those with less muscle, it can actually have negative effects on their muscle.

There are three main muscle characteristics that T2D affects: fatigability, strength, and mass.

Muscle fatigability refers to the rate at which your muscles become weaker after exercise or movement, and the amount of time it takes for them to recover or return to their full power. Researchers have known for years that muscle fatigability increases with T2D. When people with T2D perform an exercise, their muscles lose power faster than those of a healthy person.

T2D reduces overall muscle strength as well. Even after adjusting for age, sex, education, alcohol consumption, lifetime smoking, obesity, and aerobic physical activity, people with T2D had less handgrip strength than people without it.

Not only do T2D patients have both reduced muscle recovery and strength, they also start to lose muscle mass. In fact, the longer you have diabetes, the more muscle mass you tend to lose, especially in the legs.

As you can see, the raised blood glucose levels caused by diabetes and insulin resistance puts your muscles at a disadvantage for a number of reasons.

How Building Muscle Mass Reduces Risk of T2D

Here’s the good news. You can take control of your diabetes risk by improving your body composition. It all starts with Skeletal Muscle Mass.

Research has shown that increasing your muscle mass reduces your risk of T2D. For example, In a 2017 study, researchers in Korea and Japan followed over 200,000 otherwise healthy people who had no diabetes or prediabetes at the start of the experiment. After 2.9 years, the participants with more muscle mass were significantly less likely to have T2D: Yet another reason to include muscle building resistance exercises into your workout routine.

In fact, exercise is good for reducing diabetes risk as well as improving diabetic state all on its own. This is because exercise increases the delivery of glucose to our muscle cells. When you exercise, your muscles are exerting more than their normal energy demand, thus creating a higher need for energy/glucose to fuel them. In fact, resistance training has been shown to be particularly beneficial for T2D. Larger muscles require more energy, therefore the leg muscles, being the largest muscles in the body, are especially important for glucose uptake and regulation. Therefore, targeting the legs with resistance exercise may improve diabetes risk factors as well as promote physical function. As mentioned previously, those who are diagnosed with T2D often lose the most muscle mass in the legs, making leg day all the more important to maintain and build muscle mass to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Although type 2 diabetics are insulin-resistant, this increased demand for glucose from exercise helps to increase the efficiency of insulin to get glucose into the muscle cells, improving their diabetic state overall!

How to Improve Insulin Resistance with Diet and Exercise

So what does this mean for you? We’ve talked a lot about diabetes and its relationship to your body composition. Remember, people with T2D and pre-diabetes are resistant to insulin, meaning their cells can’t utilize the insulin they need in order to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Eventually, this can lead to a number of health complications and other debilitating diseases. However, we’ve seen that it’s possible to significantly reduce diabetic risk and, in some cases, even reverse T2D. Here are some diet and exercise tips that will help you improve your body composition and get to a healthy level of insulin sensitivity.

If you are otherwise healthy but have low LBM and high PBF

If you don’t currently have diabetes or pre-diabetes, the most important thing you can do to lower your risk is exercise.

In one study, researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. The survey covered 13,644 adults who were not pregnant and not underweight. They reviewed each person’s muscle mass and compared it to their diabetes status. What they found was astounding.

For each 10% increase in the ratio of skeletal muscle mass to total body weight participants showed an 11% decrease in insulin resistance and a 12% decrease in prediabetes. The results were significant, even after the scientists took into account other factors affecting risk for insulin resistance.

For people with T2D and Prediabetes

If you already have high blood sugar or diabetes, there are still ways that you can improve that. First, resistance training 2-3 times a week can relieve some diabetic symptoms.

One study found that participants who completed a strength training program had reduced their HbA1c levels from 8.7 to 7.6 percent. In fact, 72% of participants in the resistance exercise group were actually able to reduce their medication use after 16 weeks of a strength training program.

Regardless of the type of training you engage in, getting started is the first step. However, make sure you check with your health provider if you have diabetes or any other conditions before you start an exercise regimen.

Takeaways

The major takeaway here is that diabetes is not only a disease that has to do with weight – high body fat and low muscle mass both increase diabetic risk.

The main goal to reduce this risk or improve diabetic state is to improve body composition. This can be done by reducing body fat for those who are overfat, as well as building muscle for those who have low skeletal muscle mass. One study showed that people who increased their LBM while reducing their fat mass had a much lower risk of T2D than people who had high fat mass combined with high LBM, or low body fat combined with low LBM.

What’s next?

The best thing to do in order to have a better idea of your health risks and create attainable goals for yourself is to get your body composition tested. From there, you can make adjustments to your lifestyle to alter your body composition, if necessary, to reduce your risk for diabetes and other conditions. If you already have T2D or prediabetes, focus on losing fat while engaging the muscles with exercise.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how your body composition affects your diabetes risk, and how you can harness the power of diet and exercise to control that risk. A low-sugar, high-protein diet combined with regular exercise, especially strength training, can improve your body composition and improve insulin sensitivity, among other benefits.

So what are you waiting for? See what you’re made of and get started on the path to a healthier life today!

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Nicole Roder is a freelance writer specializing in health, mental health, and parenting topics. Her work has appeared in Today’s Parent, Crixeo, Grok Nation, Chesapeake Family LIFE, and the Baltimore Sun, among others.

How to Use HIIT to Improve Your Body Composition

By Body Composition, Fitness

If you’ve been trying to get in shape recently and you’ve been scouring the Internet for effective workout styles, chances are you’ve stumbled upon something called HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training.

Over the years, professional athletes and fitness buffs alike have sworn by this training method.

Whether it’s lowering fat mass or increasing muscle gain, you’re probably wondering if it’s the right workout type that will help you attain your body composition goals as quickly as possible.

Read on below for a closer look of this popular workout style and how you can use it to effectively attain your desired body composition outcomes.

The Lowdown on HIIT

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is based on the premise that short, explosive burst of activities can have a huge, lasting impact on your body composition. In a nutshell, it’s not about how long you’re exercising but rather how intense you’re performing the workouts within a certain period of time.

In a typical HIIT routine, you alternate between intervals of quick, intense bursts of exercise and short, sometimes low intensity, periods of rest. Here’s how the American Council on Exercise (ACE) describes HIIT:

Most endurance workouts, such as walking, running, or stair-climbing —are performed at a moderate intensity, or an exertion level of 5-6 on a scale of 0-10. High-intensity intervals, on the other hand, are done at an exertion level of 7 or higher, and are typically sustained for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, although they can be as short as 8-10 seconds or as long as 5 minutes; the higher the intensity, the shorter the speed interval. Recovery intervals are equal to or longer than the speed intervals.

Running HIIT-style involves intervals of 30 to 60 seconds of running near your peak of ability. You follow this almost breathless (but definitely not winded) running with a comparable cool-down period of walking. For instance, you can do a short sprint upstairs and walk back down four times in a row.

While there’s no specific set of guidelines as to how often you should do HIIT,  alternating periods of high-intensity and low-intensity activities at least three times a week as part of your exercise routine is a good rule of thumb to reap its benefits. One study in the European Journal of Endocrinology reported that male subjects following an 8-week HIIT program experienced muscle gain and lost a significant amount of abdominal fat mass, even though the program included no weightlifting.

The great thing about HIIT is you can apply interval training to almost any type of workout — from interval running to doing explosive laps at the pool to your twice-a-week kettlebell routine. This means that you can continuously mix things up in your routine so you won’t get bored and give up on our body composition goals.

HIIT and Its Impact on Body Fat

Let’s look at HIIT’s impact on body fat.

HIIT has been shown to be effective in torching body fat more than other types of exercise. In terms of belly fat, studies found that HIIT workouts help reduce both visceral (fat mass around the organs) and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat.

Another study compared the results between a group of participants who committed to three days a week of high-intensity exercise routine and another group who did five days a week of low-intensity exercise. After sixteen weeks, the researchers discovered that the participants who committed to high-intensity exercise routine for three days a week lost more fat than the group who showed up for low-intensity steady-state exercise.

HIIT’s significant role in reducing fat mass is good news if you’re not seeing consistent results in reducing your body fat percentage (particularly that stubborn belly fat) despite your regular workout routine.

HIIT and Its Impact on Muscle Mass

As for HIIT’s possible role in building lean muscle mass, let’s take a look at the findings of a study published last year in the Journal of Diabetes Research.

The researchers compared the effects of five weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) among overweight and obese, young women in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and blood glucose.

Participants in the HIIT group performed 60 repetitions of high-intensity interval exercise — at 8 seconds of cycling at 90% of peak oxygen consumption, and 12-second rest on a cycle ergometer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, participants in the MICT group performed continuous cycling exercise at 65% of peak oxygen consumption for 40 minutes.

In terms of lean mass changes, the researchers concluded the following:

“..the MICT group experienced significantly decreased total lean mass (TLM) and leg LM. Meanwhile, TLM and leg LM in the HIIT group were unchanged. ”

Based on the study’s findings, here’s what we know so far:

  • HIIT may not be the most effective workout routine to build lean muscle mass
  • HIIT, however, can help preserve or retain lean muscle mass, while MICT can potentially make you lose lean muscle mass if you’re trying to lose fat mass at the same time

One of the many benefits of HIIT is that it increase the proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers over slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Why is this important? Fast twitch fibers are a main factor of your strength and speed. They are also very important to train in that if you don’t use them, you lose them, especially as you get older. That being said, you can see how important muscle gain is when you are young, in order to maintain your strength and speed (reflexes) as you age.

While HIIT may not be as effective in increasing muscle mass, it does offer potential benefits to achieve that sculpted look.  However, if your main goal is to build muscle mass, bodybuilding or weight training may be your best bet. Here’s an in-depth look between bodybuilding and HIIT to improve body composition. You can note also that both these methods may be used in conjunction to help you to attain your desired body composition.

Additional Benefits of HIIT

Besides helping improve your body composition through fat mass loss, HIIT also provides the following benefits:

  • Short yet explosive bursts of exercise may be more effective in boosting your V02 max— a measure of aerobic endurance— than performing the same exercise at a slower pace. This can help you to use oxygen more efficiently and increase exercise performance.
  • Incorporating HIIT workouts into your exercise routine is more time-efficient. This study reveals that you get the same cardiovascular effects from traditional endurance training in HIIT in just a couple minutes.
  • New research findings published last April concluded that HIIT improves glucose metabolism in muscles and boosts insulin sensitivity among type 2 diabetics.
  • HIIT is perceived as a more enjoyable activity than moderate-intensity continuous exercise. This finding suggests that HIIT will likely promote long-term exercise adherence than other workout styles.
  • In a 2015 study comparing the afterburn effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC, HIIT (as well as weight training) reigns supreme over regular cardio up to 21 hours post-workout. The more oxygen your body requires to return to its resting metabolic state, the more calories you burn. This means that HIIT can help you burn more calories even after a day (or almost) you exercised.

Making the Most of Your HIIT Workout

To help you accomplish and maintain body composition success, there are various types of HIIT methods to choose from — from the Tabata protocol to turbulence training. Plus, HIIT can be applied to almost every workout routine or fitness setup out there. You can do CrossFit, engage in bodyweight workouts, or even do HIIT with Pilates.

Regardless of the workout routine or HIIT method you prefer, you can make the most of your HIIT routine by sticking to the following best practices:

  • Don’t forget to do some warm-up before you engage in explosive, high-intensity moves.
  • Aim for at least three-to-five minute intervals completed at least six times. This interval has been shown to provide long-term sustainable results in a systematic review of studies on HIIT protocols that are most effective.
  • Complement your HIIT routine with other workout styles or training programs such as yoga or trail running to keep things interesting.
  • Incorporate as many muscle groups as you can. Using more muscle groups will help to burn more calories!
  • Use your own body’s cues to gauge exertion level. For example, you’re doing it right if you can say single words in the middle of your HIIT routine but you should not be able to complete whole sentences. So if you still find yourself chatting it up at the gym in between reps and you’re not seeing results, maybe it’s high time to pump up the effort level a few notches.
  • Watch what and how much you eat. The best HIIT routine in the world will amount to nothing in the long run if you’re not mindful of your diet and nutritional needs.
  • If you have existing health issues,  it’s best to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional first before engaging in HIIT.

It’s All About Consistency

To benefit the most from any form of HIIT, build a habit of doing it consistently. Even if you can only spare a few minutes, you can effortlessly incorporate these quick interval workouts to your day.

How about getting off your social media of choice for about half an hour to do HIIT? Perhaps you can do reps with your officemates during lunch hour.

The next time you feel like exercise is a chore or a task that you need to check off your to-do list, introduce HIIT into your workout routine! You might not know it but a quick, fun HIIT sesh may be the missing piece in bidding adieu (finally!) to your current body composition woes.

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Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food. 

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/how-to-use-hiit-to-improve-your-body-composition/

All About Fiber and Its Dirty Little Secrets

By Body Composition, Nutrition

Ask anyone knowledgeable in nutrition about the benefits of fiber and the positives will trump over the negatives. People claim this type of carbohydrate will help you reduce your risk of certain cancers, lower your type 2 diabetes risk, and help with weight loss as it supposedly reduces appetite and increase satiety. In other words, fiber is magic and should be given the same amount of adoration that we shower antioxidants and the rest of the nutritional superstars with.

Yet when was the last time you fact-checked fiber’s benefits? What if we dig deeper into recent nutrition research to learn more?

In this article,  we’ll put fiber in the limelight and sort myths from facts. While mainstream beliefs will tell you that adding lots of fiber to your daily diet is key to good health, let’s figure out if this advice is scientifically sound, especially when it comes to sustainable weight loss and improving your body composition.

Know Thy Fiber

Before we dive into separating myths from established facts and findings, let’s cover the basics.

Dietary fiber, sometimes referred to as roughage, refers to a broad, diverse group of carbohydrates that we, as humans, cannot digest because we are lacking in digestive enzymes to break them down. For this reason, roughage ends up in your colon unchanged.

So why would something that humans can’t digest turn out to be beneficial part of your diet?

Fibers are inherently unique from each other due to their chemical properties. That’s right, the fiber you find brown rice is different than the kind you find in oats. Scientists categorize dietary fibers based on a specific set of characteristics.

To have a better understanding as to how fiber can possibly impact your body composition and overall health, let’s take a closer look at this indigestible carbohydrate through the lens of its popular methods of classification: solubility, viscosity, and fermentability, and a special note on resistant starch.

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

irst of all, all plant-based foods are generally a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Think of the soluble fiber as the dawdling sibling while the insoluble type is the speedster in the family. How come?

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and morphs into a gel-like substance when it passes through the gut. Foods high in soluble fiber include apples, beans, blueberries, lentils, nuts, and oat products.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and the term roughage generally refers to this specific type. Unlike its slow solubility sister, roughage does the exact opposite. It speeds up transit time in the digestive system and adds bulk to your stool. This is the basis of the most common health recommendation for eating more roughage: to prevent constipation by helping food move through your system.

Foods high in insoluble fiber include brown rice, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, wheat, whole wheat bread, and whole grain couscous.

Contrary to popular belief, solubility does not reliably predict whether or not a certain type of fiber is beneficial to your health. However, the terms soluble and insoluble are still used by many nutrition and healthcare professionals including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in nutritional labels.

Viscous and Nonviscous Fiber

Another way of classifying fiber is through its viscosity. Certain types of soluble fiber are more viscous, or more likely to form firmer, stickier gels when mixed with water than other types. When you digest food with high-viscous fiber in it, it increases the viscosity of the gel-like substance that passes through your gut. As a result, it reduces your appetite because you feel fuller longer.

Viscous fibers include the following:

  • pectins (abundant in berries and fruits)
  • β-Glucans (Beta-glucans: abundant in barley and oats)
  • guar gum (commonly derived from the Indian cluster bean)
  • psyllium (isolated from psyllium seed husks)

The most frequently cited benefits of fiber (e.g., reduce cholesterol levels, improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes, improve stool form in both constipation and diarrhea) is directly correlated to its viscosity. Nonviscous food sources tend not to have these beneficial properties. This is incredibly important because the general public tend to lump all types of fiber as one and associate its health benefits to all types too. Until more is known about the beneficial effects of low-viscosity fibers, a good strategy is to learn toward foods higher in viscosity.

Fermentable and Nonfermentable Fiber

If you’re not aware yet, your entire body is host to trillions (yes, trillions!) of beneficial bacteria.  The majority live in your intestines and are referred to as your gut microbiome. Also known as the forgotten organ, these little creatures have a say in your body composition and overall health.

The beneficial bacteria in your gut thrive on fermentable fiber. Not to mention that this wonderful alchemy of fermentation in your gut produces short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate that suppress gut inflammation and can possibly reduce your risk of various digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Majority of fermentable fibers are soluble, but some insoluble fibers are cool with fermentation too. Foods that are rich in fermentable fibers include oats and barley, as well as fruit and vegetables. Cereal fibers that are rich in cellulose (like wheat bran) are nonfermentable.

Special Note on Resistant Starch

Lately, many experts have been encouraging people to add resistant starch to your diet because of its powerful health benefits.

Resistant starch is not exactly a fiber, but another form of carbohydrate (long form of glucose molecules really) that functions like soluble and fermentable fiber. Like fiber, Resistant starch is not fully broken down and absorbed in your small intestine and gut bacteria thrive on it. When fermented, resistant starch produces short-chain fatty acids as well as gases (which in turn can lead to bloating and abdominal discomfort when eaten/taken in excess).

Great food sources of resistant starch to add to your diet include beans, various legumes, green bananas, cashews, raw oats, and cooked (and then cooled) rice/potatoes. The cooling process turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches through a process called retrogradation.

So why differentiate all the different types of fibers? Because each types will have different effects in the digestive process and having an array of natural food sources (whole wheat, oats, brown rice, starch) in your diet can have a positive overall impact on your health by improving digestion and also feeding bacteria that work so hard to keep you healthy.

Fiber’s Claims to Fame: Legit or Not?

When we talk about fiber and its impact on one’s health, we are often told about the following benefits:

  • Lowers down blood sugar levels
  • Reduces cholesterol levels
  • Prevents chronic constipation
  • Reduces the risk of specific cancers such as colon cancer and breast cancer
  • Help with weight loss and improve weight control

The American Dietetic Association recommends 14g of dietary fiber per 1,000 kcal of food intake or roughly 25g for adult women and 38g for adult men. Food variety in your diet is encouraged to meet one’s daily fiber requirement. Mix it up with whole wheat, nuts, starchy carbs, and vegetables.

Like so much of nutrition, what’s true today may not be true anymore in the next three, five, or ten years. Research findings and conclusions that once seemed valid and well-founded may be revised— or even totally flipped— as new research is completed. The idea that fat doesn’t actually make you fat is a good example.

With that said, let’s figure out the recent science-backed truths of the aforementioned benefits.

Does fiber help in reducing blood sugar and cholesterol levels?

In terms of fiber’s ability to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, a review of studies on the subject published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics last February revealed the following:

“…high viscosity fibers (eg, gel-forming fibers such as b-glucan, psyllium, and raw guar gum) exhibit a significant effect on cholesterol lowering and improved glycemic control, whereas non-viscous soluble fibers (eg, inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and wheat dextrin) and insoluble fibers (eg, wheat bran) do not provide these viscosity-dependent health benefits…”

With this information, we can see that not all fibers are created equal. If lowering your serum LDL cholesterol and normalizing blood glucose and insulin levels is your goal, adding soluble, viscous fibers to your diet (mainly from whole food sources) would be beneficial.

Meanwhile, resistant starch can potentially lower down blood sugar levels after meals and improve insulin sensitivity.  This means that your body is less likely to store excess glucose as fat. This is good news if you’re currently working to lose fat mass as a priority in improving your body composition.

The takeaway: Not all types of fiber can help control blood sugar and reduce cholesterol levels. To gain fiber’s benefits in terms of regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol, opt for high viscous fibers and resistant starches.

Does fiber help with chronic constipation?

How many times have you been told to add more fiber to your diet if you’re having chronic problems in maintaining regularity in your bowel movement?

It turns out that this common advice is not as true as we thought.

In fact, a 2012 study concluded that idiopathic constipation (or constipation of unknown cause) and its associated symptoms can be effectively reduced by stopping or even lowering the intake of dietary fiber.

Furthermore, the same review of studies which examined fiber’s impact on blood sugar and cholesterol recommended that not all types of fiber can help with chronic constipation. The researchers concluded that large/coarse insoluble fibers are more effective as a laxative. Soluble fermentable fibers (e.g. inulin, fructooligosaccharide, and wheat dextrin) do not provide a laxative effect, and some fibers can even be constipating (e.g. wheat dextrin and fine/smooth insoluble wheat bran particles).

The takeaway: Not all types of fiber can help with chronic constipation. Specifically, fruits and vegetables can increase stool bulk and shorten transit time. Meanwhile, fiber supplements that are effective in treating constipation include cellulose and psyllium.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of cellulose because this type of fiber is mainly found in plant cell walls. On the other hand, psyllium is isolated from the seeds of Plantago ovata, an herb mainly grown in India. Also known as ispaghula husk, it often comes in supplement form such as granules, powder, and capsules. Psyllium is the active ingredient in Metamucil, a popular supplement to reduce constipation.

Some baked goods and fortified cereals contain this type of fiber.

An important note on this is that sufficient fluid intake is also required to maximize the stool-softening effect of increased fiber intake.

Does fiber help reduce my risk of colorectal cancer (as what most people believe)?

The surprising fact is that much of the research does not support this. Recent findings from large prospective cohort studies and clinical intervention trials do not see an association between fiber intake and the risk of colorectal cancer. In fact,  a 4-year intervention trial found out that supplementation with 7.5 g/day of wheat bran had no effect on colorectal adenoma recurrence.

As for general disease prevention, it’s worth noting that observational studies that identify associations between high-fiber intakes and reductions in chronic disease risk tend to assess only fiber-rich foods rather than fiber itself. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether observed benefits are actually related to fiber or perhaps, other nutrients or antioxidants found in fiber-rich foods. Another point for eating foods that are naturally high in fiber instead of relying on fiber supplements.

Can I rely on fiber supplements to get the same benefits as fiber from whole sources?

To get the full-benefits of fiber, research reveals that fiber-rich foods trump (as always when it comes to nutrition) supplement sources. A systematic review of studies found out that most supplements do not help at all in reducing body weight.

Okay, Enough With the Science! I Just Want to Lost Weight. Can Fiber Help?

Yes. But you have to understand that fiber for weight loss doesn’t apply to all types of fiber.

As mentioned earlier in this article, some fibers are readily fermented by your gut microbiome, most of which are soluble fibers.  Soluble fibers, alongside resistant starch, help promote a thriving and diverse community of gut bacteria. Collectively, they are often referred to as prebiotics (not to be confused with probiotics which are live bacteria). If Popeye thrives on spinach, your gut bacteria thrives on prebiotics!

So what do prebiotics have to do with weight loss and your body composition?

Currently, there is reasonable evidence that increased dietary prebiotic intake decreases inflammation and helps improve insulin sensitivity. It’s worth noting that both inflammation and reduced insulin sensitivity are strong drivers of weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

By feeding your gut’s friendly and health-promoting bacteria with the right type of fiber, you also reduce your risk of obesity or unwanted weight gain. As for fiber’s role in promoting satiety reducing appetite (thus the popular belief that fiber can help with weight loss), research on the subject continues to yield conflicting results.

Conclusion

In summary, fiber’s benefits are wide ranging, but they don’t all come from one food source. In the end, variety is king. Recent findings show viscous fiber types and resistant starch may be the best sources, not just in transforming body composition but also helping you improve in key biometrics like cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Ultimately, getting more fiber in your diet from whole food sources is always better than relying on supplements. After all, nutrition is not about eating more protein, carbs, or any specific nutrient, but it’s the synergy of these nutrients that truly matters. Besides, berries and apples are more flavorful (and more appetizing!) than chewable tablets, right?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/all-about-fiber-and-its-dirty-little-secrets/

How To Not Hate Dieting

By Diet, Health

If you’re here, you probably hate dieting. For many people, simply the word “diet” brings feelings of misery.

A “diet” for a lot of people means: “I’m going to develop the self-control of a monk, start eating low-calorie, healthy foods that I don’t like, cut out unhealthy foods that I do like, and starve myself.”

No wonder so many people fail! But it doesn’t have to be this way.

If your goal is to make long-term changes to your body composition, then yes, you need to accept the principle that unless you have some type of medical condition affecting your metabolism, you need to use more calories than you get from your food. This is called a caloric deficit. It’s real, it works, and science has backed it up forever.

"How To Not Hate Dieting": how to create a caloric deficit

But losing body fat doesn’t have to be severe dietary restrictions and starvation. If you make smart nutritional choices, adopt healthy eating habits, and incorporate enough exercise, you can still eat the foods you like, and make long-term improvements to your body composition.

Seriously. Let’s take a look.

You Really Don’t Need To Starve Yourself

extreme portion control diet

Going on a diet usually means eating less than you usually do, but losing the unwanted fat you gained over time doesn’t mean you have to stop eating, skip meals, or starve yourself.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at what happened to a group of people who actually were starved: the participants of Ancel Keys’ famous Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a brief history lesson: In the 1940s, the Allied powers were pretty sure they were going to defeat Hitler in Europe, and they needed to know how to deal with a starving European continent once the war was won. In order to do that, they needed data on what happens when people starve and are later re-fed.

36 healthy volunteers were selected to go on a yearlong starvation experiment that consisted of 3 months overfeeding, 6 months near-starvation, and 3 months refeeding/recovery.

Did they lose weight? You better believe they did: roughly 25% of their body weight, gone in 6 months.

What happened here? How did they lose so much body weight so quickly? The same way everyone loses body weight: by being in a caloric deficit. However, the deficit the experiment participants experienced was very extreme.

After adjusting their bodies to 3 months of a 3,200-calorie/day meal plan, their diets were uniformly slashed to 1,570 calories a day, a reduction of about 1,630 calories. But they weren’t allowed to just sit around; the participants were further required to walk 22 miles a week AND expend 3,009 calories a day.

"How To Not Hate Dieting": Increase in exercise and extreme decrease in calories

We’ll do the math for you: that’s a caloric deficit of nearly 1,500 calories a day, or 10,000 calories a week.

That’s about triple the caloric deficit required to lose a pound of fat per week, which is an achievable goal.  The starvation diet in the Minnesota study was anything but healthy and came with the following starvation-related side effects:

  • Increased weakness
  • Increased feelings of introversion
  • Increased irritability/impatience with others
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Obsession with food

You don’t want any of these effects, nor do you need to experience them.  A caloric deficit of approximately 500 calories/day has been shown to be effective, especially for initial fat losses.

How you achieve that caloric deficit doesn’t have to be extreme either, which brings us to the second point…

Choose a Caloric Deficit That Works For You

There are two ways to create a caloric deficit: cutting calories from food and increasing your activity level. In the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, both methods were used to create that drastic caloric deficit.  You can do the same (although there’s no reason to go to the extreme like in the experiment). Here’s how:

Calculate the number of calories your body burns at rest, also known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Online calculators exist that will estimate this for you, and some methods of body composition analysis can also estimate your BMR.

Take your BMR and multiply it by 1.2 (this being the conversion rate for a sedentary person. If you have an active job or already exercise and are maintaining your weight, you’ll multiply it by a higher factor). For example, let’s say your BMR is 1631 calories; a rough estimate of your total caloric needs would be around 2,000 calories to maintain weight.  Shave off 500 calories for the caloric deficit, and the caloric balance each day to lose a pound of body fat per week will be around 1,500 calories a day.

Now here’s the part where you get to make a decision by choosing a calorie-reducing strategy that works for you. How will you create this 500-calorie reduction?

You really do have a choice in the matter. In a study of overweight people, participants were made to create an overall 25% energy reduction. The first group achieved this reduction entirely through caloric restriction; the other achieved it with a 12.5% reduction in food intake and an increase of 12.5% in energy use due to exercise (equaling a 25% reduction in energy).

Both groups lost 10% of their body weight and 24% of their Fat Mass, with the researchers concluding that it didn’t matter whether you simply cut calories or cut calories and exercised: what mattered was the total energy deficit.

This isn’t to say that effort the exercising group made was completely useless – the researchers found aerobic benefits to their exercise – or that strength training should be avoided during fat loss since it’s been shown to preserve muscle. What it does mean is for fat loss, you have some choices on how you want to achieve it.

"How To Not Hate Dieting": Increase in exercise with a slight decrease in calories

For example, if you already feel like you are eating very little, cutting 500 calories from your meal plan might be extremely difficult for you.  You can make up the bulk of your caloric reduction by increasing the energy you expend throughout the day.

You could also go the alternate route.

"How To Not Hate Dieting": Small increase in exercise

If you think you can the bulk of your calories from your meal plan without with a small increase in the exercise you already do, that’s also an option.

The point is when it comes to weight loss, one size doesn’t fit all, and if you follow a program that isn’t designed for you and is too hard to stick with, the chances you’ll quit are high.

But before you start cutting everything out of your diet that you like to eat…

Choose Things That You Want To Eat and Eat Them

Really.

Don’t just cut everything you’ve ever enjoyed eating out of your life with a buzzsaw.  It’s not completely necessary and can actually work against you.

Think of your daily caloric intake as a budget, and your caloric deficit is the “money” put away for a vacation.  If you stay within your budget, after a period of saving, you get to go on a trip.

So long as you stay within your budget, it doesn’t always matter how you spend the rest of your money. So it is with calories. You don’t have to cut out everything you like to keep your diet, and here are a couple of truths that can keep you motivated.

  • Fat isn’t your enemy

For decades, it’s been common knowledge that a high-fat diet leads to obesity.  Fat used to be at the top of the food pyramid, something that you ate only sparingly.  Well, it turns out that those high-carb/low-fat diet rules may have been sabotaging your efforts for years.

While this doesn’t mean you can overeat fatty foods, this does mean it’s OK to incorporate healthy fats in your diet and still reach your goals. Bring on the avocados and olive oil! (just be careful about the high-calorie foods – you still need a caloric deficit).

  • High-protein diets can make you feel fuller/help you eat less

Often dismissed as a concern of bulky bodybuilders and powerlifters, eating foods high in protein can actually go a long way in helping you lose fat properly.  That’s because foods rich in protein have been shown to have a positive effect on feeling full.

If you include healthier, protein-rich foods in your diet, you might have an easier time sticking to your diet while you enjoy meat, fish, eggs, and other protein-dense foods.

You Don’t Have To Hate Dieting

You will hate dieting if you go about it the wrong way.  What’s the wrong way? Going too extreme on any part of it.

You do not need to starve yourself and then slave away at the gym.  Even though reaching rapid weight loss goals might sound appealing, if you actually go through with it for an extended period of time like the participants in the Minnesota experiment, you can wind up feeling depressed, tired, and unmotivated.  Remember those participants committed to their diet full-time because it was their way of contributing to the war effort.

You can find a nutrition plan/exercise balance that works for you and your lifestyle.  For some people, dieting alone may be effective, but these people more than likely have increased metabolisms because they have a lot of muscle. Trying to lose fat by purely cutting calories can be very difficult if you have a smaller metabolism. Instead, strike a balance between diet and exercise.

You do not need to go on an extreme diet where you skip meals or cut out an entire macronutrient group out of your diet (some people demonize fat; others, carbs. You need both these nutrients).  While low-carb diets have been shown to be an effective plan for weight loss, this doesn’t mean you have to go on an Atkins-style diet and cut out your morning whole-grain bagel. It’s not a sustainable long term nutrition plan and will likely make you feel miserable in the long run without these vital nutrients.

It may take a little bit of planning to find a diet that works for you, but if you’re looking to make positive changes in your body composition and lose fat, bear these things in mind, stick to them, and you will start seeing results!

 

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/97278337-how-to-not-hate-dieting/

Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

By Body Composition, Fat mass

If you went to primary school in the 90s, you probably remember this diagram from a nutrition class.

food pyramid nutrition

 

Released in the U.S. in 1992, the food pyramid was designed as an easy way for people to remember which foods they should be getting their calories from and the relative importance of each. Carbs were healthy and good, and so they formed the base; fats were bad and placed at the top. The fat category lumped everything together from healthy fats like Omega-3s and olive oil to saturated fats and sugar. This concept helped trigger the fat-free craze. Although this concept seems pretty normal to us now, at the time in the late 1970s it was actually considered quite radical – so much so that then-president of the National Academy of Sciences, Philip Handler, described the proposed shift as a “vast nutritional experiment.” Essentially, the Dietary Guidelines suggested that people eat less fat and get more calories from bread, grains, rice, pasta, etc. This was intended to protect Americans from weight gain and heart disease. This is why the “high carb, low fat” diet seem familiar and normal to you, and probably why you think eating fat makes you fat.  

What was the result of this recommendation?

Beginning at around the time when the guidelines were first recommended in 1977 and their release to the public in 1980, the percentage of Americans classified as obese increase almost 20% as they followed the government’s advice to cut fat and increase carbs. Why have obesity rates in the United States skyrocketed over the last 18 years? Because the idea that “fat makes you fat” is wrong. Fat is just another nutrient source, same as carbohydrates and protein.  What makes you fat is taking in more energy (calories) in a day than you use. That’s called being in a caloric surplus.

While this might seem like a somewhat challenging thought, fat isn’t solely to blame for weight gain, and it’s not fair to even say it’s a major factor in weight gain.  At fault is a confusing mishmash of terminology, the negative connotation of fat over the past generations, and a pesky little diagram that’s been imprinted in the minds of generations of Americans.

Let’s take a look at how fat got a bad rap to see what you really should be thinking about when you’re trying to lose weight.

Eating Fat Is Not the Same as Becoming Fat

Part of the reason people get confused and think that the fat they eat makes their body store fat is because we use the interchangeably to describe both body fat and dietary fat.

  • Body Fat = Adipose Tissue

The fat that is stored by our bodies is more accurately called “adipose tissue.” Adipose tissue stores are made up of primary adipocytes or fat cells and are responsible, among other things, with storing excess energy for times when you’re not able to give your body the energy it needs in a given day.

Body fat/adipose tissue is essential for survival.  Anyone with a body fat percentage of 0% would not be alive. When you cut your body fat level down to what’s called your “essential fat” – the fat needed to maintain a healthy and functioning body – complications arise.

Take the example of bodybuilders, who in a sense could be defined as “professional body fat cutters”.  When bodybuilders get into competitive shape, they try to lose as much body fat as possible in order to achieve more muscle definition.  Often, this can lead to some health complications that they don’t frequently advertise.

For example, in a 2013 study a competitive male bodybuilder preparing for competition was continuously observed 6 months prior to competing and 6 months after. During that time frame, the bodybuilder was able reduce his body fat percentage from 14.8% to 4.5% by competition time.

In the process of losing all this fat, the researchers observed various complications:

Of note, many of the physiological changes observed including an elevation in cortisol, reduction in testosterone, reduction in testosterone, reduction in immune function, alterations in mood status, and decreases in physical performance and maximal heart rate that occurred during the preparation period are consistent with markers of overtraining.

Rossow, et al (2013)

Contrary to popular belief, the study shows that a very low body fat percentage can disrupt important biological process and can actually be detrimental to your health!

  • Dietary Fat = Macronutrient

The fat you eat is dietary fat and is one of the three essential macronutrients your body can get energy from.

When we talk about calories, we’re actually talking about some combination of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Let’s examine a standard nutrition label. What do you see?

Although they’re not labeled as such, you’ll see the three macronutrients listed there – which we’ve underlined – along with the grams of each.  Each macronutrient contributes a certain numbers of calories to the total caloric content of the food.

  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

You can actually multiply the grams by the calories and add them together to get the total calorie number listed at the top of the label (this one actually comes out to 232, but the government allows rounding to the nearest 10).

This bears repeating: fat is a macronutrient. It isn’t necessarily bad on its own.  Furthermore, you need dietary fat. That’s because your body can make all the fatty acids it needs, except for two: linoleic acid and linolenic acid.  These two necessary substances have to be found in your diet.

Would you believe that people actually used to eat more fat than they do now and at the time obesity rates that were much lower? It’s true, they did, and it’s true – obesity rates used to be much lower.  So if increased fat isn’t making you fat, what is?

What’s Actually Making You Fat?

Too many calories, probably from carbs.

Eating more calories than your body uses and needs in a day causes you to gain weight, and Americans continue to eat more and more calories with each passing year.

According to the USDA, from 1970 to 2000, the total number of daily calories that Americans ate increased by 530 calories, an increase of 24.5%. During the same time period, the percentage of Americans categorized as obese increased dramatically.

What happened?

Americans started to eat more calories.  This is surprising when you consider that carbohydrates contain less than half the calories (4 Cal) that fat (9 Cal) does, gram for gram. Shouldn’t shifting away from fats and towards carbs just reduce overall caloric intake, just by simple math? It doesn’t work that way if you just eat more carbohydrates. You see, consumption of a high carbohydrate diet can trigger something called “reactive hypoglycemia.This is a condition experienced by people who do not have diabetes and are otherwise healthy. Among its symptoms is a feeling of hunger. 

Guess what’s the best way to make that hunger go away? Eat more carbs – your body will be craving them.  And since carbs were supposed to be the largest macronutrient source anyway, most people didn’t think twice about having a snack that consisted of bread, rice, or something else carb-heavy.

By advising people to eat less fat and eat more carbohydrates, the government actually made the obesity problem far worse.  Recognizing the sharp increase in obesity, the food pyramid was revised in 2005 and ultimately retired in 2011 in favor of what the USDA now calls “My Plate,” which gives people a much better visualization of the relative importance of each food category by showing roughly how much space each should take up on a plate.

 

To be clear, neither carbohydrates nor fats on their own cause you to gain weight – it’s just that you tend to eat more calories when your diet is focused on carbohydrates over fat.  Being in a caloric surplus causes you to gain weight. A carb-heavy diet makes it very easy to be in a caloric surplus.

So I Can Throw Away the Low Fat Options?

If you’re smart about it, yes, but you still have to be careful.

Remember, it’s not the fat itself that’s making you fat; it’s the extra calories that you don’t need that makes you fat.  While it’s very easy to eat extra calories on a carbohydrate-based diet, it’s also very easy to add on extra calories from a fat diet too.

At 9 calories, fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient by far.  This means that if you’re looking to lose fat, the low-fat options are still fine choices – not because of their low fat content, mind you, but because of their lower caloric content.  

The fat isn’t making you fat due to just being fat; it’s the extra calories from fat (as well as all the macronutrients) that is causing you to gain weight.

What this means is, if you are responsible with your diet, you can choose foods that contain fat, guilt-free.  You just need to be smart about your caloric intake throughout the entire day.

For example, if you really like the taste of whole milk and have been forcing yourself to drink 1% milk because you think you’re supposed to, you can drink whole milk guilt-free so long as you know that that whole milk contains 46% more calories than 1% milk and you understand that you’re making a deliberate choice to get more calories from milk than from somewhere else.

This means that if you choose to get more calories from milk (and by extension fat), you have to cut calories elsewhere.  If you’re like most Americans, you can probably find foods containing carbohydrates, that if you’re being honest, you can probably do without.

The current (2015-2020) Dietary Guidelines for Americans agrees, as it does not encourage a low-fat diet any longer.  It even encourages a lower intake of carbohydrates.

Optimizing Your Diet

Ultimately, the only person who has any real influence on how you divide your nutrient intake/calorie limit is you.

A lot goes into planning, preparing, and following a diet. Trying to balance what you like to eat with what you should be eating to maintain a healthy weight and body composition can be tricky. Don’t punish yourself with a extremely low-carbohydrate diet because it will probably be unsustainable. But if you want to make improvements, a good guide would be a diet that is low-sugar and low in saturated fats and high in healthy fats (like Omega-3s) and protein.

When you have a good idea of what your individual caloric needs are, which you can learn by using a combination of your Basal Metabolic Rate and your activity level, this will become a lot easier.

Understanding how fat and the other macronutrients make up these calories will only further ease the problems with designing a nutrient dense balanced diet. Remember, fat isn’t bad on its own.  Focus on building a diet that you actually want to eat, keep it within a reasonable number of calories, add in more physical activity, and you’ll be closer to your weight loss goals than if you simply just reach for packaging that promises “low fat” or “reduced fat” foods.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/90571521-fat-doesnt-make-you-fat/

Your Body and You: A Guide to Phase Angle

By Body Composition

When it comes to body composition testing and analysis, most people instantly think of body fat percentages and muscle mass . Yet today’s medical BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis) devices do so much more than just measure body fat and muscle mass.

Body fat percentages are only one part of a complete body composition analysis. For body composition devices using Direct Segmental Multi Frequency-BIA technology (DSM-BIA), you can also measure and track other valuable indicators of your health like your visceral fat, body water distribution, segmental readings, and phase angle values.

Although your body fat percentage can be a strong indicator of your overall health and current state of your body composition, the aforementioned outputs are equally useful metrics that can help predict or detect health issues.

In this article, let’s go beyond the usual discussions on body fat and muscle mass when it comes to body composition. Read on for a in-depth explanation  about your Phase Angle (PhA) – one of the most valuable, and misunderstood, health indicators provided by medical grade BIA devices.

What’s Phase Angle Anyway?

In his book The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger, celebrity dermatologist and skin care expert Dr. Howard Murad writes:

PhAs have given us a remarkable window into how the body responds to changes in health — for better or worse. This explains why people with illnesses such as HIV or cancer, or those who are nutritionally deficient, routinely exhibit low PhAs. As expected, PhAs also decrease with age as your body loses its capacity to repair and return over new cells as quickly as it did in its youth. The true age of a human being can be determined by the changes in the Phase Angle. 

Furthermore, he elaborated:

The Phase Angle goes up when you’re healthy and down when you’re ill. It also goes down as you age. When you increase your Phase Angle, you slow down aging.

Slow down aging, did that catch your attention? But before we get to that, we need to learn the basics of PHa by reviewing the established facts and research.

Demystifying Phase Angle

Your PhA is a direct measurement of your cell integrity and the distribution of water within and outside the cell membrane. In his book Supercharge Your Cell Vitality, author Dr. Greg Barsten refers to PhA as merely a fancy name for cell membrane health.

Cell membranes hold in the important parts of the cell and also regulate what comes in and out. Think of this regulation like a fortress drawbridge.

In healthy humans, the cell membrane consists of a layer of non-conductive (insulator) lipid material sandwiched between two layers of conductive fluids (body water). When there are two conducting materials surrounding an insulator, we often refer to this insulator as a capacitor. That said, your cell membrane is like a fortress with capacitor-like capabilities that not only try to prevent currents from entering the cells but also other unwanted materials like toxins and waste. What this means is that healthy cells (or stronger capacitors) are better at preventing these unwanted substances from entering cells.

How is Phase Angle Measured?

In BIA, PhA is the relationship between resistance and reactance.

To understand these variables, you have to understand what lean body mass and body cell mass means.

Your Lean Body Mass (LBM) is the total weight of your organs, skin,  bones, body water, and muscles. It describes the entire weight of your body minus your body fat.  This is why it’s also often referred to as fat-free mass.

On Resistance, Reactance, and Impedance

Resistance happens when a conductor transfers the energy of (or moves) an electrical current. The greater the conductor, the lower the resistance. In the human body, low resistance is associated with large amounts of LBM. High resistance is associated with smaller or low amounts of LBM.

Body fluids consisting of water and charged ions readily conducts electrical currents. Both extracellular water or ECW (water and ionized sodium Na+) and intracellular water or ICW (water and ionized potassium K+)  provide a conductive pathway. When a person has a lot of lean body mass, they have a lot of body water, meaning greater conductivity of the current and less overall resistance.

It’s also worth noting that resistance in the body is proportional to one’s LBM because water is contained solely within your LBM. The unit of measurement for resistance is ohms.

Reactance, on the other hand, gauges your cells’ ability to store energy. Your body has high reactance if your cells can store energy easily and it has low reactance if it stores energy poorly. Cells that are “healthy” or those with intact cellular membranes hold the electrical energy charge “longer.”

For this reason, your body reactance is proportional to both the amount and strength of the cells in your body. Like resistance, the unit of measurement for reactance is ohms.

Impedance is the sum of resistance and reactance, but when evaluated trigonometrically, the relationship between resistance and reactance creates a ratio. This ratio is your PhA and is expressed in degrees.

You can measure your PhA and cell health using a Bioelectrical impedance device that sends electrical currents is used to assess cell membrane health. Impedance is measured by introducing a small alternating current into the body and measuring the effects on the current caused by the body. In humans, 50 KHz is considered ideal to maximize reactance and determine the point where cells are strongest at resisting the current (thus creating the highest PhA).

As the current travels in your body,  your body water will naturally resist the flow of the energy current as it travels and this is referred to as resistance.  To keep it simple, when the current encounters a cell, the cell wall will cause a “delay” as the voltage builds up enough energy to pass through the cell wall while the current continues instantaneously.  The brief time delay caused by the cells is compared to the amount of water, providing us with a PhA, in degrees. Impedance is a combination of these two values.

Why You Should Care About Your Phase Angle

What does PhA have to do with your overall health?

By tracking your PhA, you’ll be able to gain a more precise picture of your health because it examines cell integrity health and the amount of water inside them.

Based on established research findings, higher PhA values suggest greater cellular integrity and reflects better overall cell health.  A low PhA, on the other hand, is highly predictive of decreased muscle strength, impaired quality of life, and increased mortality in old adults with cancer. Low phase angles tend to be consistent in individuals with malnutrition,  HIV/AIDS infection, cancer (discussed in detail below), chronic alcoholism, and old age.

Thus, keeping your pHa high through healthy lifestyle habits is encouraged.

How do you know if you’re PhA is within normal values or not?

This is where things get interesting.

While it has been shown that certain factors can influence one’s PhA (age, gender, and BMI), it has been shown that there are considerable differences between phase angle reference values across different populations. These differences are not only explained by age or BMI and may be due to differences between impedance analyzers.

In short, PhA values tend to differ based on the BIA device you’re using. In clinical practice, multi-frequency- and segmental-BIA may have advantages over single-frequency BIA in these conditions, but further studies and validation are still required.

Below is an example of PhA reading using InBody’s 770 model.

Phase Angle Reading Example:

Finally, it’s important to note that phase angle is dependent on every person’s individual makeup. To gauge progress, comparing your current phase angle readings to your previous readings is more important than comparing your PhA values with someone else’s.

Your Body Composition and Phase Angle: What’s the Connection?

Can improving your body composition help increase your phase angle values? It sure does.

A 2016 study revealed that age plus a combination of FFM (fat-free mass) and height were the most important variables that influence PhA variability among healthy subjects. The same research concluded that the ECW:ICW ratio may justify the variations shown in PhA when it comes to several clinical situations and severe obesity. When someone has inflammation or edema (causing a higher ECW/TBW), the health of their cells (and their phase angle) will be negatively affected.

Based on the study’s results, you are likely to increase your chances of improving your cellular health and PhA values if you take steps towards improving your body composition, whether it’s through nutrition, exercise, or a combination of both.

Other lifestyle factors that are most likely to impact phase angle variability include but are not limited to:

  • Toxicity exposure
  • Consumption of highly processed meals
  • Lack of quality sleep
  • Stress (physical, mental, and emotional)
  • Lack of consistent physical activity
  • Excess intake of coffee, alcohol, and refined sugar

The same research concluded that the ECW:ICW ratio may justify the variations shown in PhA when it comes to several clinical situations and severe obesity.

In a healthy body, an ICW:ECW ratio of 3:2 is considered ideal. However, certain health conditions like renal disease, chronic inflammation, and even increased body fat mass in obesity (due to disruption of one of your body’s hormone systems (the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system) can potentially cause your ECW to go up.

For instance, patients with symptoms associated with heart failure have a limited ability for the heart to circulate blood, causing edema. Edema is irregular swelling caused by accumulation of fluid in certain tissues within the body. When this happens, PhA values will likely go down because the pressure from excess ECW causes cells normal functions to become compromised. In fact, phase angle seems to be an independent prognostic marker in patients with ADHF (acute decompensated heart failure) because of fluid retention. For the cells to function properly, it’s important to maintain or restore ideal (or near ideal) ECW (or extracellular) balance.

The link between your phase angle values and body composition can be summarized through the following:

Increased phase angle may be a result of:

  • Gains in muscle mass
  • Loss of inflammation and reduction of body fat

Decreased phase angle may be a result of:

  • Loss of muscle tissue
  • Increased inflammation

But wait, there’s one caveat: an increase in PhA is not always a good thing, nor should a decrease in your PhA values always be frowned upon.

Phase Angle: Implications for Clinical Practice

In regards to PhA’s use in clinical settings, research literature and data reveal the following:

A 2012 study found a significant association between low PhA and increased nutritional risk, increased hospital length of stay and non-survival. The researchers concluded that gauging PhA values can help quickly identify patients who are at nutritional risk at hospital admission. This will help save time on the hospital staff’s end (and possibly save the patient’s life)  because they can forego in-depth nutritional assessments by doing a quick BIA test instead.

Another set of studies came up with identical conclusions. This time around, the implications of PhA to a patient’s nutritional status are more specific. It turns out that bioimpedance-derived PhA can be a potential nutritional indicator for patients with advanced colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

Finally, a research paper presented at the 2011 AAAI (Association for the  Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) 2011 Spring Symposium suggested that phase angle is an independent indicator of prognosis in cancer (of most types) because it illustrates cell membrane integrity and function that may not be possible with other approaches that gauge prognosis. In fact, the paper suggested phase angle-based biometric scoring systems for determining prognosis among cancer patients. This is good news because BIA is quick and noninvasive in comparison to tools and tests used in cancer prognosis.

The Takeaway

Your PhA values can clue you in with what’s going on in your body. It can help identify health risks and address existing health issues and help track progress of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise). For most people, it has helped them make data-driven health and wellness decisions.  Medical practices also use it to personalize a patient’s health care plan.

However, keep in mind that your PhA values are only part of the equation when it comes to assessing the current state of your health.

The rest of the body composition outputs (body fat, muscle mass, body water ratio)  are equally valuable so finding a BIA device that can provide more detailed outputs is crucial. For instance, changes in your body fat percentages can be tricky to explain if the only outputs you have are merely body fat mass and fat-free mass values. For more accurate results, make sure you choose your BIA device wisely.

 

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Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

How Menopause Changes Your Body and What You Can Do About It

By Body Composition

Menopause, which literally means the “pause” (end) of your “menses” (period), comes with many natural changes. Some women are lucky enough to skate through this time with no discomfort, while many experience the classic symptoms: fatigue, insomnia, and hot flashes. Reproductive and mood changes. And of course, the metabolic changes that result in weight gain around the torso and buttocks.

This increase in waist size has even earned a special name: “menopot”.

What exactly is going on during menopause, how does it affect your body composition, and what can you do about it? Read on as we answer these questions and more.

The physiological and metabolic changes of menopause

What exactly is happening during menopause? A lot! The transition to menopause, known as perimenopause, takes place over a period of several years. As the ovaries gradually reduce estrogen production, there are many hormonal fluctuations as the body adjusts to the inevitable shut-down of the ovaries.

A woman is officially in menopause when she has not gotten her period for 12-months straight. At this point, the ovaries have significantly reduced production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, ending a woman’s child-bearing years.

There are significant physiological and metabolic changes occurring at this time that directly affect your body composition.  So, if you feel like the struggle to lose weight or change your body is more difficult than it was 10 or 15 years ago, it’s not your imagination.

Aging

Aging, in and of itself, has been associated with changes in body composition and weight.  In general, as women age, lean muscle mass decreases while fat mass accumulates.  Part of this change is due to the natural change of your metabolism as you age. Another significant factor is lifestyle.

Women tend to become less physically active as they pass from their 40’s into their 50’s.  A decrease in physical activity means less calories burned, which inevitably leads to increased weight and fat mass and muscle mass loss.  Another culprit is not adjusting caloric intake to compensate for the reduced metabolism.

Estrogen

Estrogens often referred to as the “female hormones,” are responsible for your sexual and reproductive development.  Produced primarily by the ovaries in women, estrogen levels plunge when your ovaries stops releasing eggs.

Reduction in estrogen has a few negative effects on the body’s propensity to store fat.  Animal studies have shown that lower estrogen not only increases appetite and food intake, it is also associated with changes in weight and fat distribution.  Coupled with estrogen’s negative effects on your metabolism, which may reduce the rate at which your body burns calories and the efficiency in how your body handles starches and blood sugar, the end result is increased fat storage.

Cortisol

Commonly known as the “stress hormone”, the primary function of cortisol is to help you respond to stress.  When cortisol prepares the body for a stressful situation, it often signals the breakdown of muscle tissue to release energy.

Chronic stress, which results in a continuous release of cortisol, has been associated with fat accumulation in the midsection of women.  This leads to a vicious cycle as abdominal fat leads to more cortisol production and cortisol continues to promote fat in the abdomen.

To compound the issue, a study found that women in perimenopause and early postmenopause experience elevated nighttime cortisol levels.  The study concluded that nighttime production of cortisol is associated with biological changes rather than actual environmental stress.   This means that proper sleep and stress management may be important tools to prevent fat storage around the belly.

Fat Distribution

This leads to one of the most common complaints women have about their bodies after menopause is the loss of their waistline.

While a decline in reproductive hormones (follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone) has not yet been directly linked to weight gain, several studies shows that menopause does play a role in many midlife women’s transformation from a pear-shaped figure (wide hips and thighs with more weight below the waist) to an apple shaped figure (wide waist/belly with more weight above the hips).

The International Journal of Obesity published a study that investigated how menopause affects body composition and abdominal fat distribution.  The study concluded that this period of life is associated with increased total fat mass. Another key finding confirmed, “the menopause transition appears to promote the selective accumulation of fat in the intra-abdominal compartment.”

Leptin

Leptin is known as the “satiety” hormone.  Produced by your fat cells, the hormone leptin determines the amount you eat, calories you expend and even how much fat your body stores. Leptin levels are based on an individuals’ fat mass and its primary purpose is to protect you from starvation.

Low levels of leptin signal your brain to increase feelings of hunger which trigger you to eat more while your body burns less energy.

Overall, women have higher leptin levels than men, which makes sense due to women naturally carrying a higher percentage of fat than men.

It has been found that leptin levels decline significantly in post-menopausal women, regardless of the amount of fat mass. This explains why so many women report an increased appetite during menopause.

Combined with the other menopausal factors of aging, decreased estrogen, increased cortisol, and metabolic changes, the hormone leptin only adds to the struggle for women trying to control their weight gain and fat accumulation.

Is it a losing battle?

Absolutely not!  While the odds seem to be stacked against you, you can take action to positively change your body composition after menopause. Remember to always consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise or eating plan. Here are some lifestyle changes you can take:

Move more!

All levels of exercise intensity — light, moderate, and intense — are highly beneficial to post-menopausal women for impacting body composition.

One study concluded that intense physical activity resulted in significantly lower levels of total body fat in postmenopausal women.

Here’s one area in which postmenopausal women have an advantage (finally!):  light physical activity has a greater impact on body composition in women after menopause than before.  It is important to note this study also found that sedentary lifestyle is more strongly associated with an increase in waist circumference after menopause than before.

The bottom line? You don’t have to start intense daily endurance and strength training to see improvements. Small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.  You can benefit from a variety of physical activities from gardening to walking.

Don’t forget strength training

The same principles apply postmenopause as they do at any age. You can’t forget your about fitness level just because you are aging. Strength training increases muscle mass and quality and helps balance your hormones like your estrogen levels.  More muscle mass increases metabolism, which may contribute to diminished weight gain and decreased fat mass.

Now more than ever is the time to counteract that loss of muscle mass to prevent a slowdown of that metabolic rate. You should aim for strength training exercises at least two times per week to get the maximum benefit for your muscles. Consult with a fitness professional to help you get started.

Watch what you eat

To reach your target body composition may require permanent lifestyle changes rather than a stop-gap dieting approach. Keep in mind you may need about 200 calories less per day to maintain your weight in your 50’s than you did in your 30’s due to a decline/decrease in muscle mass.  It is important not to take in too few calories as this will lead to muscle loss, which will slow your metabolism.

Instead of taking a restrictive dieting approach, aim to pay attention to what you eat and drink. Choose nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins and fats. And make sure you get the extra nutrients you need, like extra protein, to help you build muscle. Avoid processed foods and limit sweets and alcohol.

Get enough sleep

Menopause is notoriously a time of challenged sleep, and lack of quality sleep directly affects hormones that alter your body composition, increasing cortisol levels the next day and may accelerate the development of metabolic consequences.  Practicing good sleep hygiene may help you get the 7-9 hours of nightly sleep you need. Sleep hygiene refers to habits that promote quality sleep, such as:

  • Regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime
  • Avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, close to bedtime
  • Adequate exposure to natural light during the day to maintain sleep-wake cycle
  • Avoiding long naps (more than 30 minutes) during the day
  • Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine with limited TV time
  • Creating a comfortable sleep environment

Manage stress

Remember that stress hormone called cortisol?  Effectively managing stress will reduce your body’s production of cortisol, which will help you avoid negative changes to your body composition, like fat gain and muscle loss.  You can’t eliminate stress, but you can do things to help you handle it better. Exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi, spending time with friends, or just doing things you enjoy are all effective strategies to decrease your cortisol levels.

Conclusion

While some women dread the arrival of menopause, many embrace the freedom from years of menstrual cramps and bloating.  It is true you will likely experience changes during this midlife event — some not so welcome — but you can take control of your body composition with simple lifestyle changes.

Understanding the factors contributing to changes in your body composition — aging, estrogen, cortisol, fat redistribution, and leptin — is the first step to fighting the battle. At the same time, you will be warding off health conditions associated with an unhealthy body composition, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Regular physical activity, strength training, proper diet, adequate sleep, and stress management are all proactive things you can do to help during this natural aging process and help you enjoy your golden years.

***


Jennifer
 Boidy, RN is a freelance healthcare content writer who is always on the lookout for innovative technologies that improve health and the delivery of healthcare.  Jennifer resides in Manchester, MD with her husband, two teenagers, dog, cat, and plenty of wildlife.

The Top 3 Reasons Diets Fail (and how to stay on course)

By Diet

If you recently decided to focus on losing excess weight, you probably noticed a small burst of motivation after choosing what your diet and training plans would look like. That sense of finally moving in the right direction…it can be pretty exciting.

And it should be! Make no mistake: making healthy choices about the quality and quantity of the food that you eat is a huge part of becoming a healthier version of yourself.

But the reality is the actual long-term success rate of diets is dismal. Sometimes people dive into their diets only to give up on them within weeks. What’s worse, studies have shown that only 1 in 5 people are successful at keeping the weight off in the long run. That means 80% of people fail to achieve their health goals. Is it simply a case of a lack of discipline? No!

A lot of people are making mistakes, and without proper guidance and education, chances are you too may end your fitness journey frustrated.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the most common reasons that diets fail and explores strategies to help you push through those barriers and get closer to becoming a happier, healthier you.

1. Poorly Defined Goals

Having a dietary plan in place is a great place to start–as long as you have realistic expectations and clear goals. Now, before we dive into this, let’s get one thing out of the way: ideally, health and wellness is a journey, not a destination. The pursuit of a healthier mind and body is something that never truly ends and should simply become a way of life.

But…embracing that way of life isn’t easy. And expecting someone who’s never had to worry about nutrition or training regimen to become a health nut overnight is unrealistic. That very mentality is the foundation for why so many diets fail (but more on that later).

The average first-time dieter is going to be looking at an uphill battle. Yes, they’ll have to combat all of their old habits and temptations. And sure, making a health-oriented lifestyle second nature is a tall order. But if we really want to know what really ruins people’s efforts, we need to take a look at the glaring flaw in most nutrition plans: the lack of clearly defined goals.

It may sound obvious, but many people begin fitness journeys with only the vaguest of goals, which sets them up for potential failure, especially in the long-term.

  • Clearly Define Success

If you ask the first-time dieter, they might say that they want to lose 20-30 pounds or ‘look good in a swimsuit’ in 30 days. Setting these types of goals are a common mistake. Most people typically don’t have reasonable expectations on how long it will take to make substantial changes. By setting unrealistic, vague goals you are setting yourself up to fail. If you want to ensure your success, you need to understand not only where you stand right now in terms of body composition, but where you want your body composition to be in the future.

To put things simply: how can you expect to hit a target when you don’t know exactly what you’re aiming for?

That’s where an understanding of your body composition comes in handy.

Once you understand how much Lean Body Mass and Fat Mass you have, you’ll be in a better position to tackle the next important question: which do you want to address first?

Your body will have an unique response to different programs. Whether you decide to focus on fat loss first or developing Lean Body Mass, the key is that you create a goal-oriented plan that can keep you on track.

Additionally, dieting is more than just figuring out what you should be eating. The ideal diet has to be paired with a series of realistic, achievable goals that you can measure.  What gets measured gets managed, and vague goals are the bane of any successful training plan. The more well-defined your goal is, the easier this journey will be for you.

Instead of saying you want to ‘get stronger’, focus on gaining 5 pounds of muscle. Instead of wanting to ‘look good in a bikini’, focus on losing 10 pounds of fat. Not only does this help as a way to keep you motivated and consistent throughout the process, this subtle change in mentality can actually have a massive impact on the overall effectiveness of your training.

You’ll be able to avoid increasing your Fat Mass while adding those extra 5 pounds to your Lean Body Mass. On the flip side, you can avoid losing muscle (which can have some pretty disastrous consequences , even more so as you age). The real power of keeping track of your progress is that you’ll constantly be aware of what’s working, what isn’t, and how you can improve.

  • Track Key Milestones

So now that you’re tracking your body composition, you’ve clearly defined a goal and you’ve chosen an approach. These are all powerful concepts, but the glue that will hold them together is the use of milestones en route to that goal.

Milestones matter because they help you celebrate small successes on your fitness journey. They’re the answer to the question of ‘how do I keep myself on track for the next 3 months?’ Losing 10 pounds of Fat Mass is going to take quite a bit of work and time, so it helps to track smaller accomplishments along the way.

When you create a list of milestones, you’ll have built a roadmap for your fitness journey. Once you understand what your goal looks like, each milestone can be used to keep you charging in the right direction. Beyond that, they give you the opportunity to make health and wellness second nature over time.

What do realistic milestones look like, from a body compositional standpoint? These will vary for everyone, but generally speaking, someone who creates a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day (a 3,500 calorie weekly deficit) stands to lose 1 pound of body fat per week, or 4 pounds a month if the diet is “perfect” all month.

It gets tricker to set muscle milestones, because there are so many factors that contribute to effective muscle gain. However, assuming you’re new to muscle-building, one realistic estimate is that you can add about two pounds of muscle per month, with this number decreasing over time as you continue to lift.

If you really want to make being healthy a habit, create a series of milestones and you’ll have more than the undeniable proof that what you’re doing just isn’t working–you’ll be on your way to making health a priority in your life.

2. The Expectation of Perfection

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big when it comes to diet and exercise. We should all strive to want to be the strongest, healthiest versions of ourselves. However, envisioning something for your future and expecting it virtually overnight is not a recipe for success.

Many times people aspire to some idealized expectation of perfection, and so they set unrealistic goals, like dropping 30 pounds in 2 months. This is a mistake.

By nature, diets tend to be restrictive. In fact, most diets are designed with the intent of planning out each of your meals for you. The idea is that by erasing the need to think about what your next meal will look like, you’re more likely to make the right choice and stick to your diet.

Of course, that works perfectly well on paper. But in the real world, it’s hard to be perfectly consistent. The reality is mistakes will be made, and that’s OK. Your birthday/anniversary is coming up. Grandma will be offended if you don’t eat her famous chocolate cake. Or you are stuck at a event that lacks healthy food choices. These are just a few situations that diets aren’t really designed to account for.

Here’s what’ll usually happen. More often than not, you’ll have a person who wants to stick to their diet but can’t for some unavoidable reason. The issue here is that they then tend to fall into the trap of saying “well, I already messed up lunch. I’ll just make today a cheat day and start again tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, a cheat day can quickly turn into a cheat week and slowly but surely, people are completely off track. Think of this as the ‘New Year’s Resolution Effect’. Trying to take on too much, too soon is tough enough, but expecting everything to go perfectly according to plan can be a recipe for disaster.

This expectation of perfection is more than just unrealistic. It has the potential to undermine the average person’s health journey and, worse, make them think that they’re incapable of dieting properly.

So, how do you avoid this dieting trap? Simple: stop expecting perfection.

To clarify, if you want to have a successful diet, stick to the script as best you can. But the occasional cheat day won’t undo weeks or months of training and dieting. You need to be willing to forgive yourself for any mistakes that you make along the way.

Just remember that moderation is key here. A cheat day once a month is one thing, but a cheat weekend can get out of control quickly. Once that cheat day is over, you need to be ready to tackle tomorrow with the same intensity as before.

3. An Imbalanced Approach

This is arguably the easiest mistake to make when it comes to your health and wellness journey. And the worst part? This issue might seem minor, but it can have a massive impact on your results. So, what is this mysterious issue we keep alluding to? Imbalance.

One of the most common issues that you’ll notice with a person just getting started on their fitness journey (and even seasoned veterans) is a lack of balance between diet and exercise when it comes to their approach.

Some people are guilty of making their diet a priority and neglecting their physical training. Others are guilty of putting all the focus on their physical training without paying too much attention to the quality of their diet. No matter which side of the imbalance an individual is on, that person’s results and progress will suffer.

Without proper training, expecting your body to increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass by itself is wishful thinking, at best. Study after study has shown that the most effective way to help your body build lean mass and lose fat mass is through a regularly implemented strength training regimen AND an optimized diet.

For those of you who think they can just start some type of exercise plan and see results, think again. If you want to hit those milestones that you’ve planned out and actually improve your body composition, you’ll need to have a diet that allows you to improve it. Specifically, you need to be following a diet that falls in line with your current body composition and body composition goals. How can you do that?

We’ve covered the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) hacking approach in-depth before, but here’s the abridged version: By determining your BMR using your Lean Body Mass, you’ll be able to calculate how calories your body needs on a daily basis to keep you alive. This is critical.

Once you have that information, you can start thinking about your caloric needs in terms of planning a diet by converting your BMR into your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). Your TDEE is a general estimate of how many calories you body uses during the day, and you can use it to plan out your diet.

Are you trying to optimize your diet for weight loss? Then you’ll need a caloric deficit. Trying to gain Lean Body Mass? You’ll need to go beyond your typical caloric needs. Knowing your body composition and having a clearly defined goal means that you can use tools like BMR diet-hacking to get results sooner and more consistently than ever before.

Staying Consistent

Keep in mind that building new habits and improving your health is not going to be simple. Even if you’re able to take these lessons to heart and overcome these three common obstacles, you’ll still face unexpected difficulties. Dieting, training and the overall journey towards becoming a healthier you will almost certainly be a challenging experience. But if you’re ever in a tough spot, keep in mind the overall theme of these solutions.

The tangible solutions of creating milestones, discarding the expectation of perfection, and having a balanced approach to your diet and training all have one thing in common: They’re built on the understanding that, at the end of the day, you’re a human being

People make mistakes and poor choices. And change is anything but easy. Accepting how hard this journey is going to be is the first step to actually completing it. The second step? Realizing that you CAN do this if you set yourself up for success and arm yourself with the knowledge to reach your goals.

***

Brian Leguizamon is a content marketing specialist. Brian has worked with Shopify, Gigster and a bunch of startups you’ve never heard of. When he’s not working, you’ll find him at his local gym, waiting for the squat rack to open up

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/the-top-3-reasons-diets-fail-and-how-to-stay-on-course/

What Happens to Your Body During Cyclic Overeating

By Diet

Just one piece, you think.

It’s been a long day, and you’re craving chocolate. And you know there’s a bag of dark chocolate waiting in the pantry for you. So you decide to eat just one to take the edge off of your hectic day.

But 15 minutes later, you’re sitting in front of the TV with an empty bag and a full stomach. You needed something salty to balance out the sweet, so you popped open a bag of chips to eat, too.

Sound familiar?

Most people binge occasionally, and it’s nothing to really be ashamed of – food tastes good, and self-discipline isn’t always easy to maintain. While not everyone who binges occasionally has full-fledged binge eating disorder, many people do show signs of food addiction.

Food addiction is characterized by symptoms including loss of control over the consumption of food, continued intake/binging despite negative consequences, and the inability to cut down despite a desire to restrain/refrain. It is a relatively new and somewhat controversial topic because there isn’t conclusive scientific evidence that clearly identifies the addictive properties of foods. The main problem is that food supports life and everyone eats, which prompts many professionals to discount the concept.

Rather than assuming that all foods are addictive, some scientists propose that certain foods are more addictive than others, especially foods rich in fat and/or sugar. These calorie-dense and delicious foods typically are the ones that become self-labeled “bad” foods. This often leads to causing a restriction/avoidance response that may be followed by a binge cycle, which then results in cyclic overeating– which can be classified clinically as an eating disorder.

It is often considered that for both mental and hormonal health, overeating may have its benefits; however, if it becomes a cyclic issue, food addiction can damage your metabolism and cause negative changes to your body composition.

Your body composition is the balance of fat and fat-free mass (like muscle and bone)- you need to keep these two variables balanced in order to reduce your risk of various health conditions. This is why important to understand how cyclic overeating can affect your body composition- it can negatively impact both weight and health goals.

Why are people addicted to food?

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard to stop eating your favorite snacks, you’re far from alone.

Susceptibility to food addiction is somewhat genetic, but many modern foods are also engineered specifically to make you want more. These “hyperpalatable” foods are concocted by flavor chemists in a way so that they surpass the reward properties of traditional foods. In other words, eating a potato chip will release more reward centers in the brain than eating a baked potato.

Salty, fatty and sugary foods tend to be the most addictive types of foods. In fact, though the scientific evidence isn’t quite conclusive in humans, sugar is thought to be as addictive as many drugs. And it doesn’t help that food addiction involves the same areas and many of the same chemicals in the brain as drug addiction does.

But it’s not just that modern foods are engineered to taste good: To binge is to be human. We are hardwired to love the taste of fat, salt, and sugar because those nutrients were calorie-dense and provided energy storage that aided in survival before we had food as we know it today.

High-calorie, fatty foods gave our ancestors the energy reserves needed to survive famines. Salt increases water retention, which helped them stave off dehydration. And our preference for sugar helped lead us to nutritious fruits and berries.

Humans’ natural preferences for these flavors and textures were once essential for survival.  But in a world where palatable foods are readily available and often inexpensive, those preferences can become unbeatable cravings. Often, we eat food just because it’s there and it tastes oh so good.

Unfortunately, humans haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the excesses of modern living. And this is why we can’t count on our instincts alone to maintain a healthy body weight—it requires constant and conscious effort.

A healthy, balanced body composition requires a balance in the intake of both micro and macronutrients. When we overeat, we expose ourselves to the risk of various diseases due to excess body fat and changes in our hormones.

What happens to the body when you overeat?

Every meal you eat – regardless of macronutrient composition – triggers dopamine release. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical associated with feelings of happiness and reward. However, meals higher in fat and sugar tend to trigger larger releases of the hormone.

When you overeat, especially those kinds of foods, you probably tend to feel fantastic… at first. When the rush of a binge wears off, most people experience an overwhelming and uncomfortable fullness, accompanied by a side of guilt or shame.

In addition to those unfavorable emotional effects, some pretty unfavorable things are going on inside your body, too.

First, binge eating is usually characterized by fast and uncontrolled eating, which can be detrimental to your metabolism and your heart health. This uncontrolled food intake is associated with obesity and future susceptibility to metabolic syndrome, a condition that often leads to cardiovascular disease.

Second, with binge eating, your pancreas goes into overdrive, releasing larger-than-normal amounts of insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance which, in the long-term, can be harmful to your metabolism. When you suffer from insulin resistance, your cells don’t absorb nutrients as they should and you end up prone to a host of conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more.

After a binge, your system is overloaded with a rush of calories, sugar, and fat. In addition to causing hormone and energy levels to fluctuate, this significant excess of calories promotes fat storage, inflammation, and digestive discomfort (think bloating and constipation).

These nearly instant consequences aren’t exactly favorable, but the outlook gets even worse if overeating is consistent. Cyclic binging results in hard-to-reverse changes to metabolism. Hunger and fullness cues are thrown off, making one think they’re hungry when you’re not and causing you to overeat further.

Dopamine becomes down-regulated, meaning you need more food to feel the same amount of pleasure as, say, a few months ago. Changes in leptin levels promote further fat storage. Your gastric capacity can increase, which means you may need more food to feel full.

Additionally, you can disrupt your circadian rhythm and induce depression: two factors that make it a lot easier to want to stay in bed all day, avoid exercise, and eat even more junk food.

You can probably gather how all of these consequences combined can drastically alter your body composition for the worse. If prolonged, cyclic overeating can cause negative changes to body composition such as increased fat mass- this leads to an increased risk for the development of long-term health and disease risks.

Why do people binge eat?

It’s no surprise that a common and powerful trigger of binge eating is restrictive dieting.

This type of selective diet is a feasible weight-loss method in the short-term because such a controlled program of calorie intake makes it easier to prevent overeating. The problem is that extreme restriction is not sustainable. If you’re like most people, you can only say “no” to your favorite foods for so long.

Though common, restrictive dieting isn’t the only reason people binge. Many people use food as an emotional crutch, overeating when they have high-stress levels, are bored, sad, or excessively tired. Our brains and bodies are already conditioned to crave addictive foods. When we want to get our minds off of something, cravings can become overpowering.

You might think that being addicted to food isn’t the worst thing: At least you aren’t addicted to drugs, right? While that’s a valid justification, food addiction is still an addiction and ridding yourself of addictive behavior toward any substance – even food – will improve your quality of life all around. Overcoming food addiction comes with physical health benefits in addition to an improved mental health state, namely reduced risk to diseases and improved body composition.

Recognizing that you have addictive behaviors and thoughts about food is the first step in the right direction. Wanting to change your diet for the better is a good thing for both mind and body.

How to avoid binges and overcome food addiction

Fortunately, there’s a better way to eat healthy than confining yourself to a short list of “good” foods.  Instead, you can occasionally eat all the foods you like- as long as you are balancing your diet and regulating portions. This is a great way to control bingeing: If you never feel deprived of foods you like, even sugary treats, you’re less likely to develop an uncontrollable desire to obtain those rewards to the brain that these foods can provide.

If that method doesn’t work for you, you can actually train your taste buds to like whole, natural foods as much as they like processed ones. It’s a sad truth that most of us are desensitized to the sweetness of fruit due to excessive amounts of dietary sugar, but it can be undone.

Another tactic is “crowding out” – instead of focusing on what you can’t have, focus on eating enough healthy foods that you don’t even have space for binge-worthy ones. Remember that it’s often the volume our stomachs want, not the calories. If you fill up on meals chock-full of nutrient-dense fruits and veggies, you’ll be way less likely to binge later on.

Some scientists suggest quitting junk food cold-turkey, but for many people, that method just increases the risk of the restrict-binge cycle.

You should take the time to identify trigger foods: those “can’t-have-just-one” foods. For many people, trigger foods come bagged or boxed and are easily over-eaten because they pack a lot of calories into just a few handfuls. Any product that causes you to feel a loss of control while eating – no matter how slight the feeling is – is a trigger food.

Food journaling can help you identify triggers. Try keeping a meal (and snack) log for a few days and write down how you feel after eating each meal or snack. It can be as simple as one word. For example, writing “sluggish” a few minutes after eating a chocolate bar as your afternoon snack. See that enough times, maybe you’ll realize the reward that you get when eating the chocolate isn’t worth the feeling you get afterward.

Meal prepping also helps exponentially because it results in less decision-making for you. Plus, you probably won’t want to waste the food you spent time, money and effort to prepare.

Different methods work for different people, so spend some time experimenting to find the best tactics for you.

Remember, binge eating is something that is controlled by your brain. Creating healthy eating habits and replacing some of these “rewarding” behaviors can help you overcome the binge eating process.

Addictive food doesn’t have to rule you (or your body composition)

Understanding the changes that happen to your body when you overeat is helpful for making healthier decisions. Food addiction and compulsive overeating lead to a whole host of problems, both mental and physical, that can permanently alter your health habits.

Weight gain, changes to your metabolism, hormonal fluctuations, and changes in the size of your organs are all effects of cyclic overeating that can lead to an unfavorable body composition and long-term health risk.

It’s easy to point fingers at big-name manufacturers, but before people realized what processed foods were doing to our health, it was all well-intentioned business – make better food, make more sales. Now that we know the consequences, however, many brands are changing their practices and procedures to put out healthier products.

Being aware of these healthier food products and paying attention to what you eat can help you overcome addictive behaviors toward food. Identifying trigger foods and emotional factors – such as stressful day at work or a fight with your significant other – can also help you overcome the urge to binge.

Remember that what works for one won’t always work for another. Some people find success in restricting and even eliminating trigger foods from their homes completely, while others can learn to enjoy them as an occasional treat by finding activities they enjoy to take the place of binging. For example, next time you feel the urge to finish a sleeve of Oreos, go outside and take a walk. On your walk, think about all the possible reasons why you might want those cookies.

In time, you’ll come to some realizations and conclusions about your food behavioral choices.

**

Amanda Capritto is a certified personal trainer and health coach who writes about nutrition, fitness and healthcare. A journalism alumna of Louisiana State University, Amanda spends her free time adventuring outdoors, hitting the gym, and encouraging people to live balanced, healthy lifestyles.

How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month?

By Fitness, Muscle
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on April 26, 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 19, 2017.
by InBody USA

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before, you may have heard that a 3,500 calorie deficit results in about one pound of fat loss. In other words, if your daily caloric requirement is 2,500 calories and you spend seven days eating just 2,000 calories, you’re likely to lose around one pound of fat.

But, there’s no rule of thumb explaining how to put on (or lose) a pound of muscle mass.

Why not?

Because it’s not a simple equation. Unlike losing fat, putting on muscle isn’t as easy  as causing a calorie surplus. You need to know how muscle building works so you can set realistic goals, especially if you’re participating in a fitness challenge. This article will lay out factors that go into your “gains” and will answer the question: “How much muscle can you realistically gain in one month?”

The Three Pillars of Muscle Growth

Building muscle comes down to three inputs: nutrition, exercise, and hormones. Understanding these factors is the first step toward understanding how much you can build in one month.

1. NUTRITION

The term nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” At a fundamental level, muscle growth starts with the nutrients you put into your body.

People trying to gain muscle generally eat a high protein diet. After all, the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of muscle. Your body can manufacture many of those amino acids, but nine are known as essential amino acids (EAA) because they can’t be made in the body. Instead, you have to consume EAAs from food sources like meat, beans, nuts, and soy. A diet containing mixed amino acids can help maximize muscle protein synthesis.

The amino acid, leucine is responsible for many of the anabolic (muscle-building) processes. This is known as the “leucine trigger concept,” since sufficient quantities of leucine trigger muscle protein synthesis.

Protein is not the only macronutrient responsible for muscle growth. In fact, there appears to be a limit to the amount of protein one can consume to maximize muscle gain. Additionally, it takes energy to build muscle, and this means you need a positive caloric balance in order to achieve hypertrophy.

If you want to build muscle, increase your dietary protein intake– but don’t exclude your carbs and your fats. Carbs and fats aren’t all bad for you! All three are important, thus a diet balanced in carbs, protein, and fats is effective for gaining muscle.

But remember, it’s not just the calories. Physical activity is also key to promoting muscle development.

2. RESISTANCE EXERCISE

Workouts that include resistance exercise stress the muscles, which results in muscle gain.

Your body adapts to resistance exercise by growing or changing to make them more capable of handling the workout.

The stress of resistance exercise causes the muscle fibers to tear at the cellular level. Then, special muscle cells called satellite cells jump into action to repair, rebuild, and grow the muscle.

The right types of exercises, like high-intensity workouts or compound exercises, can promote increased muscle growth.  A healthy balance between workouts and rest is necessary to support healthy hormone levels and maximize muscle gain.

3. HORMONES

Three primary hormones that stimulate muscle hypertrophy are insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), growth hormone (GH), and testosterone.

After weight training, increases in these hormones correspond with muscle protein synthesis, one of the key processes in muscle hypertrophy.

Essentially, these hormones signal to the muscle that it’s time to repair and build up after a session in the gym. GH is released in the greatest quantities during sleep, so remember that getting a good sleep helps you attain your body composition goals.

When nutrition, workouts, and hormonal effects combine, the muscle-building magic really happens. Figuring out the right balance is essential for reaching your goals.

How to Manage Your Muscle Gains

Your body’s individual response to nutrition, resistance exercise and hormones can vary. But other factors can impact how much muscle gain in a month.

Supplementing Muscle Growth

Muscles need the right fuel to grow. Protein supplements are long known to boost help muscle hypertrophy, and fueling your body with EAAs is important for providing the nutrients your body can’t synthesize.

After weight training, consuming protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis by supplying providing amino acid building blocks. Traditionally, 20 grams of protein has been considered enough. Researchers recently found that experienced lifters doing whole-body workouts may need about 40 grams. But consuming more than approximately 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day has no additional benefit for building muscle. Excess protein is burned for energy like carbohydrates and fats, excreted in urine, or even stored as fat.

Timing could also be important: research shows intaking protein before bed during a resistance training program is especially helpful for building muscle mass.

Note: While supplements may be beneficial for promoting muscle recovery and growth, they are only effective when combined with a balanced diet and exercise plan. More on supplements and their effects can be found here.

So what should you expect?

Just like muscle can’t turn into fat, fat can’t turn into muscle.

It is unlikely that your body will be able to utilize all of the additional calories for muscle growth. Some of the caloric surplus needed to gain muscle is going to be stored as fat, and that’s OK.

Only the most stringent of diet and exercise protocols have been shown to result in simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss. Researchers have called this protocol “grueling and unsustainable”, so it’s probably not an ideal strategy.

If you want to gain muscle, you need to accept that you’ll probably have some slight fat mass gain. It’s just being realistic.

What if you’ve hit a plateau?

Gaining muscle mass is all about forcing the muscle to adapt to novel stress. It’s no surprise that gains come more readily to novices than experienced weightlifters. For novice lifters, the right weight training program should be enough novel stimulus in the gym. Recent research suggests hypertrophy can be measured in as little as one month. But, there seems to be an upper limit to muscle gain. Experienced lifters should be closer to that ceiling than novices, making their incremental gains smaller.

How can the experienced weight lifter overcome this challenge? By introducing different and new nutritional or resistance stimuli.

The principle is simple: change up your routine. Since trained muscles adapt to consistent stimuli, adding variation will challenge the muscles in a different way and promote further growth.

The muscles you train also dictate your potential to gain. Your arms have a much lower total potential to gain muscle than your hips and legs because they’re smaller muscle groups.

Don’t skip your upper body lifts just yet, though. Research shows that arm muscles may be quicker to hypertrophy than legs. The ceiling is lower, but the rate of gain relative to what’s already there is quicker.

What if you’re not as young as you used to be?

Older adults may have a harder time building muscle because the body’s response to weight training has diminished. The muscle building machinery is still there, but it may require more input to achieve desired results.

To overcome this hurdle, use ‘novel stimulus’ thinking from the previous section. Try consuming some extra protein or adding a few new exercises to your routine. The goal is to convince your body to adapt to what you’re throwing at it.

Building muscle may be harder than it was in your youth, but it can still be done.

So what’s a realistic expectation for muscle growth for men vs.women?

It’s time to estimate how much you can reasonably gain in one month. It can be very frustrating seeing a man have an easier time putting on muscle. Due to the different physiological makeup of men and women, we will discuss hypertrophy separately.

 THE FACTS FOR MEN

Remember that study we referenced earlier? The goal was simple: lose fat while packing on muscle. It worked – participants gained about 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) of lean body mass and lost fat mass – but it was totally unsustainable. The cornerstone of this program was daily heavy circuit training, HIIT and sprint-interval workouts, and plyometric workouts, all while restricting calorie intake to just 60% of daily requirements and taking in high doses of protein supplements.

A word of caution: don’t try this program at home.

What you can take away is that those men, who had never lifted weights before, gained over 1 kg of lean body mass in just one month.

Another group of researchers decided to try a more sustainable program on a smaller scale, and guess what? The men gained 4 kg of skeletal muscle in 16 weeks. That means the rate of muscle gain was almost identical to the grueling, unsustainable program – about 1 kg per month.

This program, consisting of just five exercises (squat, knee extension, knee flexion, bench press, and lat pull-down), was certainly more realistic.

Based on the research, it’s reasonable to expect untrained men to be able to gain about 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs, of muscle per month at the beginning of an exercise program.

But what about experienced weightlifters? Because experienced lifters will likely have a slower rate of progression, the amount of gain will be generally lesser and depend on the level of training experience of the individual.

THE FACTS FOR WOMEN

Women tend to be less muscular than men, and most people believe it’s harder to build muscle as a female. There’s some truth to that statement. Muscle hypertrophies in proportion to the baseline quantity of muscle mass, so women gain less muscle mass than men because their baseline muscle mass tends to be lower.

How much muscle gain is typical for young women? One study says about 0.5 – 0.7 kg in the first month for novice weightlifters. This study involved just two lifts – the squat and the deadlift. You might be left wondering what happens when women undergo a whole-body weightlifting program.

Women’s arms gain muscle at about 3 times the rate as legs (an increase of 9.7% in arms vs. 3.3% in legs). According to the study, women can expect to increase their muscle mass by 1.5 kg during the 20 weeks of training, averaging out to 0.3 kg per month.

Since body composition wasn’t measured at any point during the 20 weeks of training, there’s no way of knowing whether the participants increased muscle mass faster in the first month or two.

So is that the end of the discussion? Not exactly. Remember, each individual is different and not everyone will be able to sustain a consistent diet and exercise routine to promote muscle development for extended periods of time. This is why research on this topic is more scarce than you might think. Many researchers measure muscle hypertrophy by looking at changes in the circumference around limbs or by imaging cross-sections of the body. This allows them to understand muscle growth in different body segments (arms, trunk, legs).

However, newer technology, such as Direct Segmental Multi-frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA), provides a quicker, less invasive way of measuring muscle mass in addition to other components of the body.

Conclusions

Altering your body composition is no easy feat. It takes patience, effort, and commitment, but it’s definitely within your reach.

Your body primarily needs three basic stimuli to build muscle: nutrition, resistance exercise, and hormones. You can and should manipulate nutritional and exercise stimuli to keep your body responding.

If your current daily protein intake is 0.8 g / kg of body weight, try bumping that up to 1.5 g / kg if your doctor says it’s okay. If you currently lift twice per week, try gradually increasing to three or four sessions per week. And if you don’t do resistance exercise at all, it’s time to start!

Some people will gain substantially moreand some will gain less muscle over the course of a month. But in general, the average is about 1 kg for males and 0.5 kg for females.

To have the best chance of building muscle, stick to a training, nutrition, and recovery plan. Make sure you get your body composition measured to set a baseline and track your progress to figure out whether your fitness regimen is working for you. If you don’t meet the average values mentioned above in the first month, use the next month as an opportunity to change your routine.

Armed with the tips and realistic expectations from this article, you’ll be on your way to a better body composition in no time.

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Max Gaitán, MEd is an exercise physiologist and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. When he’s not coaching, studying, or writing, Max spends most of his time outdoors training for triathlons.