Why too much sugar is bad in your diet

Added sugars, like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose, contains a lot of calories with no essential nutrients. That’s why they’re called empty calories.

There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar – only calories.

Sugar is the leading contributor to obesity in both adults and children. People who consume a lot of sugars are more likely to become obese, and this applies to all age groups.

Sugar is very easy to overeat. Some nutrients make us feel fuller for longer, therefore we eat less within a 24 hr period. Protein and fiber are known for their satiating properties, but sugar isn’t. In fact, foods and drinks high in added sugar are extremely easy to over-consume. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the worst because even though they’re high in calories, your brain doesn’t register them like solid food. So you won’t eat less food to compensate for those calories.

Sugar can contribute to insulin resistance, that can cause serious metabolic problems. Insulin is a very important hormone when it comes to weight loss. It allows blood glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells to be utilized for energy. Too much glucose left in the blood can cause complications, like diabetes, kidney damage or blindness.

Insulin resistance is when cells become resistant to insulin which means it stops working as it should. Insulin resistance is believed to be the major cause for metabolic diseases.

Sugar also causes tooth decay. When we eat sugar, the harmful bacteria in the mouth can use it for energy. This allows them to grow, multiply and secrete acids that erode the protective enamel of the teeth. Sugar alcohols are popular alternatives that may help protect the teeth.

What you can do if you would like to lose weight is to cut back on added sugars in your drinks and foods. If you miss the sweet taste, you can use certain natural sweeteners to cure your cravings.

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The health benefits of foam rolling

The idea of foam rollers is simple: using your own bodyweight and agility you roll specific muscle groups against a firm foam roller to mimic a deep massage. You can control how much pressure you apply and you can locate and focus on problematic areas.

  • They improve blood circulation throughout your skin, muscles, fascia and even tendons and ligaments.
  • More efficient exchange of nutrients and waste products at a cellular level.
  • Lengthening of short, tight muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Better posture, stronger core.

When we experience pain or stiffness around weight-bearing joints (hips, knees and spinal joints) a very effective approach is to increase the blood circulation around the problematic area through deep pressure work and stretches.

Sometimes short and tight muscles and ligaments are the root cause of pain and stiffness in the joints.

Some foam rollers and softer, others harder. However it is always you, who controls the pressure that you put on a certain area.

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About refined carbs

Not all carbs are created equal. There are lots of whole foods that are high in carbs but still incredibly healthy and nutritious.

And there are refined or simple carbs, that have most of their nutrients and fibers removed. Eating refined carbs can lead to many illnesses including obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

So what are refined carbs?

There are 2 types of refined carbs:

  • Sugars, like high fructose corn syrup and table sugar
  • Refined grains: grains that have their nutritious and fibrous part removed. The biggest source is white flour made from refined wheat.

Refined carbs have been stripped off most of their fiber and vitamin content therefore they are considered empty calories. They also absorb quickly in the bloodstream, therefore they have a high glycemic index (GI).

Sugars and refined carbs are a very large part of the total carb intake in many countries.

The main sources of refined carbs are: white pasta, white rice, white flour, white bread, pastries, sodas, snacks, sweets, breakfast cereals and added sugars.

Because refined carbs are low in fiber and digested quickly they cause major swings in blood sugar levels. Foods with high GI promote short term fullness, lasting for about an hour. Low GI foods promote long term fullness, lasting for 2-3 hours. Blood sugar levels drop after about 1-2 hrs eating refined carbs. This promotes hunger and stimulates cravings. When you crave food, you’re prone to overeating.

Refined carbs can cause inflammation in the body which could be the primary cause of obesity and leptin resistance.

Studies show that a high consumption of refined carbs is linked with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. These are the main symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Refined carbs also increase blood triglyceride levels which is a risk factor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

However not all carb foods are bad. There are many foods that contain healthy carbs because they’re great sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. These include:

  • oats
  • buckwheat
  • quinoa
  • bananas
  • sweet potatoes
  • beetroot
  • oranges
  • blueberries
  • grapefruits
  • apples

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How to boost the immune system?

The immune system is an interactive network of organs, cells and proteins that protect the body from viruses and bacteria or any foreign substances. The immune system works to neutralize and remove pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi that enter the body, recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment, and fight against the body’s own cells that have changes due to an illness.

The cells of the immune system originate in the bone marrow, then migrate to guard the peripheral tissues, circulating in the blood and in the specialized system of vessels called the lymphatic system.

When our immune system is working properly, we don’t even notice it. It’s when the performance of our immune system is compromised that we face illness. Underactivity of the immune system results in severe infections and tumors of immunodeficiency, while overactivity results in allergic and autoimmune diseases.

Give your immune system a boost with these tips:

  • Supplement with echinacea: Research shows that one of the most significant echinacea benefits is its effects when used on recurring infections.
  • Supplement with probiotics: Probiotics are good bacteria that help you digest nutrients that boost the detoxification of your colon and support your immune system.
  • Eat more ginger: It’s believed that ginger helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in our organs due to its warming effects. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system,our network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
  • Eat more berries: berries are full with antioxidants, that are excellent for promoting healthy immune response.
  • Get more rest: restful sleep is absolutely essential for health and recovery. When you sleep certain protective cytokines in your body increase in levels, and inflammatory cells decline, which means that less sleep could result in a deprived immune system.
  • Have some garlic: it is great to avoid any cold, flu or other viruses. If you don’t like the taste of it, try capsules.
  • Aerobic exercise boosts immune system: people who are fit and active are less likely to suffer from illnesses and the symptoms are less severe.

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For athletes: 9 science based ways to lose weight

Recently I’ve come across an article that talks about 9 science-based ways for athletes to lose weight. When you think about it, it’s always more difficult to lose weight when you’re always training, always eating clean. Humans need a certain amount of bodyfat to maintain basic functions. Too much bodyfat – however – can negatively affect an athlete’s performance. So what can athletes do to ‘step up’ their weight loss to be in prime condition and shape?

  1.  The first point this article suggests is to lose weight off season. We are talking about b athletes in general. It does make sense to try and lose the excess bodyfat offseason because it’s very difficult to reach peak fitness while dieting. When you’re not eating enough calories, your athletic perfomance will suffer. Losing weight offseason will give you more time to lose the excess bodyfat as well, so that you don’t have to rush the fat loss and can stick to the healthy pace of 0.5 kg / week – minimising the muscle loss.
  2. Avoid crash diets. I think we don’t really need to prove this point, athletes know that they need a certain amount of calories to be able to perform at the training sessions. Also drastically reducing your caloric intake will affect your metabolism and hormonal balance. Athletes should only cut their calories by no more than 300-500 kcal a day.

  3. Eat less sugar and more fibre. Low carb diets are proven to be the best for fat loss. However restricting the carb intake too much will affect your athletic performance. To reduce the carb intake cut out added sugars, and avoid cane juice, dextrin, maltodextrin, barley malt, caramel, fruit juice concentrate, fruit juice crystals and any type of syrup. Instead increase your intake of vegetables high in fibre.

  4. Increase your protein intake. Protein promotes fat loss in several ways: high protein diets increase feelings of fullness and the number of calories burnt through digestion. High protein diets also prevent muscle loss during periods of weight loss. Therefore athletes restricting their calories to lose weight should eat between 1.7 – 2.8 gr protein / kg of bodyweight / day.

  5. Spread protein intake throughout the day. 20-30 gr protein per meal is sufficient to stimulate muscles to produce protein for the following 2-3 hrs. Eating a snack containing 40 gr protein before bed can increase muscle protein synthesis during night. This may help prevent some of the muscle loss expected during sleep.

  6. Refuel well after training. Eating the right foods after competing or training is very important for the athletes, especially when trying to lose bodyfat. Proper refuelling is very important especially on days when you have more than 1 events with less than 8 hours recovery time. Carbs with protein can speed up recovery time and promote protein production in your muscles.

  7. Strength training can also help holding on to the muscle when trying to lose bodyfat. Research shows that both protein intake and strength training stimulate muscle protein synthesis and combining the two can produce an even better effect.

  8. After your diet, increase your calories gradually. It may be tempting to start eating normally again after you’ve reached your desired body fat percentage, but that would lead you to gain bodyfat back. Gradually increasing your caloric intake can help restore your hormone levels and metabolism better, minimizing the weight gain.

  9. Here are some other ways you can achieve weight loss:

    • measuring your portions and keeping track of what you eat is scientifically proven to help you get better results.
    • drinking before consuming a meal can help you consume 22% less calories
    • eat slowly, aim to take at least 20 mins for a meal
    • avoid alcohol
    • get enough sleep, not enough sleep can increase hunger and appetite by 24%. Not getting enough sleep will also affect your athletic performance.
    • reduce your stress. Having high stress levels will increase cortisol levels which promotes food cravings and drive to eat. Mental and physical stress can also prevent proper recovery.

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About Creatine

Creatine is a protein that is naturally made of 3 amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine. It can also be found in meat and fish, and can be taken as a supplement.

Creatine combines with phosphorus to form phosphocreatine (PC) in the muscle cells. This fuels your muscles during high intensity training, such as sprinting or lifting weights. Creatine raises PC levels around 2%, which means you can sustain all out effort for longer and recover faster between sets.

Protein promotes muscle hypertrophy and protein manufacture. Lot of studies show that short-term creatine supplementation increases body mass. Studies found that creatine supplements improved strength, the number of repetitions performed to fatigue, and the ability to perform repeated sprints.

How does creatine work?

The gains observed are partly due to the increase of cell volume and partly muscle synthesis.

Creatine cause water to move across cell membranes. When muscle cell creatine concentration goes up, water is drawn into the cell an effect that boosts the thickness of muscle fibres by about 15%. The water content of muscle fibres stretches the cell’s outer sheaths.

In aerobic sports there is less evidence for creatine use. This is probably due to the fact the PC energy system is less important during endurance training.

Who should use it?

If you train with weights, or do any sports that includes high-intensity movements (sprints, jumps or throws: rugby, football, hockey, gymnastics, tennis etc), creatine supplements may help increase your performance, strength and muscle mass.

Taking carbs with creatine can be beneficial, as carb intake increases insulin which helps creatine uptake by the muscle cells.

Creatine monohydrate is the most widely available form of creatine. It comprises a molecule of creatine with a molecule of water attached to it. It requires a loading phase. One way to do it is to take about 20-25 gr / day in 4-5 doses for 5 days. After the loading phase the dosage is 2 gr / day.

The side effects of Creatine:

The main side effect is weight gain. This is partly due to the extra water in the muscle cells, and party to increased muscle tissue. It could be disadvantageous in sports where there’s a critical ratio of bodyweight and speed (like running), or in sports where there are weight categories. 

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About L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is one of the naturally occurring amino acids. It is often used as a weight loss supplement. It transports the fatty acids into the cells’ mitochondria where it gets burnt off to use as energy. Your body can produce L-Carnitine from the amino acids lysine and methionine. You can also obtain small amount of L-Carnitine from your diet by eating meat or fish.

L-Carnitine L-Tartrate is the most common form of L-Carnitine that is used in most sport supplements, because of its fast absorption and it may help with muscle soreness and recovery.

In human studies, taking acetyl-L-carnitine daily helped reverse the decline in brain function associated with Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

Some studies have demonstrated a potential benefit for reducing blood pressure and the inflammatory process associated with heart disease.

L-carnitine may benefit:

Recovery:It may improve exercise recovery.

Muscle oxygen supply: It may increase oxygen supply to the muscles

Stamina: It may increase blood flow and nitric oxide production, helping delay the “burn” and reduce fatigue

Muscle soreness: It may reduce muscle soreness after exercise

Red blood cell production: It may increase the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body and muscles.

L-carnitine has also been shown to reduce symptoms of type 2 diabetes and its associated risk factors.

The main foods high in L-Carnitine are:

  • – beef
  • – pork
  • – fish
  • – chicken
  • – milk

 L-Carnitine has a greater absorption rate from food than from supplements.

Doses of 2 grams or less per day seem to be well tolerated and safe for most people. Some people have reported nausea or other digestive side effects, but no serious issues have been found.

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About ephedrine

The main ingredient in fat burners or thermogenics is ephedrine, a synthetic version of a chinese herb ephedra, or also known as ma huang.

Ephedrine is a drug, rather than a nutrition supplement. It is also used in low concentrations in flu and cold remedies (pseudoephedrine).

Ephedrine is chemically similar to amphetamines, which act on the brain and the central nervous system.

There is some evidence that ephedrine helps fat loss: partly due to an increase in thermogenesis, partly because it suppresses your appetite and partly because it makes you more active.

When taken as an ECA stack (ephedrine – caffeine – aspirin) ephedrine has a greater effect in terms of weight loss and thermogenesis. However the fat burning effect of ephedrine seems to decrease over time.

Ephedrine is judged to be safe in doses between 18-25 mg, that’s the amount that’s used in cold remedies. Doses more than 32 mg a day may triple your risk of bleeding in the brain. Prolonged use and higher doses combined with heavy exercise increase your risk of side effects, like increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, palpitations, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.

Ephedrine is addictive, and people can develop a tolerance to it, which means you will need to take more and more to get the same effects. 

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About caffeine

Caffeine was once classed as a banned substance but was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list in 2004. Caffeine is a stimulant and has pharmacological action on the body therefore is classed as a drug rather than a nutrient.
Caffeine is found in everyday drinks and foods, such as coffee, black tea, green tea, cola, herbs such as guarana, both dark and white chocolate and it is added to a number of energy drinks and sports drinks and gels. 
Caffeine acts on the central nervous system, increasing alertness and concentration. These effects reduce the perception of fatigue and allow exercise to be maintained at a higher intensity for a longer period. 
Large number of studies show that caffeine intake can enhance performance at doses of 1-3mg/kg. There appears to be little increase in performance above 3mg/kg. for a 70kg person, this would be 210mg = 2 cups of coffee or 2 cans of caffeinated energy drinks.
Performance benefits occur soon after consumption, so caffeine may be consumed just before exercise, spread throughout exercise or late in exercise as fatigue is beginning to occur.
Although caffeine is a diuretic, a daily intake of less than 300mg caffeine results in no larger urine output than water. Taking caffeine regularly builds up your caffeine tolerance so you experience smaller diuretic effects.
Caffeine consumption likely causes a short-term spike in blood pressure after consumption, with the spike being more pronounced in those who don’t normally ingest caffeine and in those with hypertension. However, the evidence concerning the long-term effects of caffeine and caffeinated beverages on blood pressure is mixed.
Caffeine may raise eye pressure, but only in those who have pre-existing eye conditions like glaucoma.
Coffee contains oily substances called diterpenes, and the 2 main types are cafestol and kahweol that increase the cholesterol levels. Coffee filters trap most of the cafestol and kahweol though, so instant or filter coffee don’t contain much of these, only boiled coffee. 

About BCAAs

BCAAs are the most popular amino acid supplements. They contain:

  • Valine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine

 These 3 amino acids make up to one third of muscle in the body. The body breaks down muscle to get energy, especially during strenuous exercise, to get these amino acids.

 BCAAs are converted into 2 other amino acids:

  • glutamine and
  • alanine,

which are released in large quantities during aerobic exercise. They can also be used directly for fuel, especially when muscle glycogen is depleted.

 Foods high in BCAAs:

  • Meats: red meat is the highest in BCAAs. Other meats (poultry etc) are high in BCAAs, too because they’re primarily protein. Choose lean cuts, chicken breast without the skin etc
  • Eggs: they are packed with nutrition and BCAAs, and easy to add to your diet.
  • Dairy products are high in BCAAs: low fat cheese, milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt. Additional dairy options could be: cheese, cream and butter.
  • Liquid and powder protein: very popular source, easy to prepare, drink and digest. If you mix your whey protein with milk, you boost the BCAA content of your shake.

Taking BCAA supplements before and during exercise can reduce muscle breakdown. They may also help preserve muscle in athletes on a low carb diet. It will probably not boost your endurance, however taking 6 – 15 gr of BCAAs daily may help improve your recovery.

 Side effects: BCAAs are relatively safe because they are normally found in protein in the diet.

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