What’s Wrong with Fad Diets

Fad DietsIf you are reading this article there’s a huge probability that you have been on a diet at least once in your life. Some of us tried multiple ones. Low carb, low fat, raw foods, fruit diet, cabbage soup, meal replacements, fasting – name it – we’ve done it! Every ‘diet’ is based on the idea that it is a certain food or food group that is to blame. Headlines read: sugar kills you, carbs make you fat, fat causes obesity and heart disease!  Long story short – all that is simply not true! The reason why people get hung up on such reasoning is because it’s easier to believe in a miracle diet  which will solve all your worries than to realize it is hard work and balanced eating that will get you to your goal.  Secondly – marketing. Companies selling miracle diet books, meal replacements such as bars shakes and soups and other gimmicks want you to believe them!

According to Alan Aragon, a hugely experienced nutrition and fitness expert:

‘You should completely ignore fad diets. All of them falsely scapegoat a single nutrient or food group. This is missing the forest for the trees.’

He goes on to explain that by demonizing a single food we give it too much power over our emotions, we crave it even more and we ignore the main problem which is the lack of balance. Nobody is overweight because of sugar or fat. People are obese because they adapt a certain lifestyle. In the western society people have minimum physical activity, they consume huge portions of calorie dense foods and they eat too much sugar and fats. All that, combined with jobs becoming more and more sedentary (technology now enables you to work from your couch – you don’t even have to get out of you pajamas) is what makes us fat and sick.

Alan discredits fads such as keto or paleo by pointing out that cutting out a food group simply tricks you into reducing calories – hence they produce results.  It is important to see that many followers of such diets, which frankly often remind cults, base their convictions on limited and biased evidence. For example, there is no evidence that the Paleo diet is anything but a fad. Firstly, how can we put all our ancestors into one bag? As Alan points out their diet depended on where they lived and what they had available.

We all know it is hard to accept the thought that in weight loss, cancer and other disease prevention there is no miracle cure! No secret. No hidden answer. You have to make a conscious effort to learn about healthy nutrition and then implement small but sustainable changes. Exercise regularly (no, I don’t mean a walk in the park on a Saturday) and eat 80-90% whole, unprocessed healthy foods (yes, have that donut once in a while) and you will, truly, see improvements.

Remember, fads are dangerous and research shows that in the long term they lead to obesity, health and psychological issues such as eating disorders. Just a reminder: check our Rule 1 Proteins fad diets

Mutant BCAA’s Review

mutant bcaa 9.7Every person familiar with the fitness and bodybuilding industry must have at least heard of BCAA’s. But what are they really, how do they work and is it worth investing in a BCAA supplement?

Unlike other supplements, BCAA’s have been thoroughly researched and the studies show that BCAA supplements are indeed beneficial.

What are BCAA’s?

Let’s look at the basic science behind building muscle.  Muscle mass is equal to the rate of protein synthesis minus the rate of protein breakdown. If both are equal – you don’t gain or lose. If you break down more than you synthesize you will lose so it’s in your best interest to increase the muscle synthesis and recovery as much as you can. Especially during dieting and cutting you are more likely to cause catabolism with the calorie deficit and reduce synthesis.

So whether bulking or cutting (but especially the latter), you need to make sure to do your best to minimize catabolism (muscle breakdown) and maximize synthesis (growth).

This is where BCAA’s or branched-chain amino acids come in. They stimulate protein synthesis, possibly even more efficiently than regular protein on its own. BCAA’s have high bioavailability, they encourage cellular repair and muscle synthesis.

On the other hand BCAA’s reduce the catabolic effects of training and dieting. As you can see it’s a win- win situation. You won’t lose and gain more muscle! Quite a good outcome, if you ask me.

Other Benefits

Another benefit of BCAA’s is that they have the potential to increase workout performance.

During exercise, serotonin in the brain can increase the perception of fatigue and tiredness and cut your workout short. But BCAA supplementation reduces the amount of tryptophan and serotonin in the brain, and therefore reduces the amount of serotonin produced. This will ensure your workouts are more productive.

Does Brand Matter?

Firstly, some people say that whey will do you just as well. Is simply not true as BCAA supplements contain them in a free form easily absorbable and ready to hit your body straight away.

So what brands dominate the market when it comes to BCAA’s?

Rankings show that Optimum Nutrition and Muscle Pharm are popular in the community. Personally I have tried Mutant and found that it was rather effective in putting on muscle mass and reducing recovery time. It has a good ratio of BCAA’s (high dose of leucine) plus glutamine. Capsules are easy and portable, and powders are tasty. You may think taste is not important but if this is something you used every day – well it is quite important not to gag every time you take a sip.

Give it a try

Especially if you’re just getting into the world of supplements – invest in a good quality product such as Mutant and observe how it works. More expensive isn’t always better but it helps to do research first.  If you love it – great, if not something else. And most of all remember – it’s the hard work, the diet and then the supplements.

Flexible Dieting-You can have your cake and eat it

flexible dietingYou may have come across the term IIFYM or Flexible Dieting but yes, we agree, it sounds a bit cryptic to say the least. So what would you say if we told you that you can eat everything you like in moderation and still lose weight, build muscle and achieve all your fitness goals? Crazy, right? Yet, there is a whole community of fitness people who do just that to stay in shape or even compete in international bodybuilding competitions. Yes, you heard that right, they eat donuts too!

What is IIFYM?

IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros. The term ‘macros’ refers to macronutrients you consume daily – protein, fats and carbohydrates. The diet approach is based on a calculation – the amount of calories you need daily to lose weight safely (small deficit compared to the maintenance number) made up of the right proportion of carbs, fats and protein. Usually you will consume 35-40% carbs 35-40% protein and the rest will be fats (20-30%). There are multiple calculators online that will help you estimate your numbers based on age, weight and activity rate. It will also vary depending on your target – weight loss, gain, muscle bulk or maintenance. Then, all you have to do is track all your meals so they add up to your daily macro and calorie targets. If you want to eat a donut and it fits into your daily plan – go for it! It is very important to stick to healthy, whole unprocessed foods 80-90% of the time, though to ensure you are healthy and losing weight consistently.

Why it Works

You may say – ‘so IIFYM is simply reasonable, healthy eating.’ Exactly – no rocket science here! You can eat lots of nutritious foods with occasional treats and get in the best shape of your life. Unnecessary restrictions or excluding food groups will only lead to emotional eating and binging in time. Foods should not be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘clean’ or dirty’. According to a nutrition expert Alan Aragon blaming or excluding single foods gives them power and can lead to further problem such as eating disorders. We should look at the issue of nutrition from a wider perspective – there are many elements that make up a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. You shouldn’t shame yourself for eating anything. Just make it fit in with your goals and keep a balanced approach.

There is a bit of a debate recently on Flexible Dieters promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Some of them may share more junk food photos than seems reasonable but that’s ok. If they feel like it fits in with their goals and lifestyle, who are we to judge. However, we strongly recommend a 90% healthy foods approach which will ensure you stay not only slim but healthy and energized! Here is a tip as well to help you if you are finding it hard to get in all your protein.  Why not try a Protein shake.  Optimums Nutrition has a delicious whey protein gold standard that comes in a large variety of flavors so you don’t get bored!

The Cardio Truth

cardioThe belief that cardio is the most efficient way to lose weight and stay fit was and still is popular in the fitness world. People who don’t exercise also believe that only hours spend on the treadmill can make them look better and they never dare try. But is this true and where does this stereotype spur from?

Myth #1 – You need to do at least an hour of cardio to burn fat.

Of course, many bodybuilders do cardio daily, sometimes for extended periods but remember they usually eat a lot and they prepare for competitions where single digit body fat percentages are a must. Even then, many of them only do cardio a few times a week for half an hour at a time.

You have to remember that weight and fat loss are a process that comprises of exercise and nutrition. So how much cardio you need to do will depend on your nutrition and other physical activity you perform daily. For example, if you have a sedentary job, yes, more cardio will be both healthy and optimal for weight loss. But if you spend most of the day on your feet, you may want to reduce cardio and focus on weight lifting or interval training.

Myth #2 – Fasted cardio burns fat better and faster

This is a popular one. We assume that in a fasted state our body has no choice but to turn to fat stores for energy. It turns out the opposite may be true – we will waste out muscle tissue away and end up ‘skinny fat’. A 2011 study concluded that fat burning is consistent regardless of whether or not you’ve eaten before a workout. Other research shows an increase in muscle catabolism from fasted cardio. Stick to basics – calories in vs. calories out. Perform cardio and mix it up to keep your body guessing and you are set for success. No need to be doing your cardio passing out from hunger. Eat a nice nutritious breakfast and it will enhance your muscle growth and cardio performance.

Myth #3 – You can’t lose weight without cardio

The one and only way to lose weight (and fat) is by creating a calorie deficit by diet or exercise and preferably both. The healthiest way to lose is to combine a balanced diet, cardio and resistance training. Lifting weights is important since it helps build muscle mass which increases your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This means that the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn just ‘living’ and performing everyday tasks. You can create a calorie deficit by dieting and lifting but we certainly recommend adding cardio for improved effects and cardiovascular health!

 

To summarize, the best and healthiest approach to weight loss is balance. A healthy diet with a moderate amount of cardio, interval and resistance training will definitely show results and the variety will keep you on your toes, too!

Beef Protein Supplements – Breakthrough or Fad?

beef proteinEveryone with a keen interest in fitness and exercise knows the importance of protein in the diet. We also know it’s important to eat adequate protein before and after a workout to prevent muscle tissue breakdown and encourage growth. But sometimes this may be inconvenient. For example, some people bring meals to the gym with them and carry their food containers everywhere religiously. Perhaps you’re not willing to make that kind of sacrifice or you simply cannot stomach another chicken breast. That’s ok. This is why protein supplements were invented and over time they have gained great popularity in the fitness world. The most popular kind is whey protein – made from milk. But recently a new contestant appeared on the market – beef protein supplements.

High Quality Protein

Not all protein is equally easily digested and absorbed. The most efficient protein is found in eggs – as much as 94% of the protein is used by the body. Research shows the beef protein, given the right conditions can be as well absorbed as egg. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition has found:

“In cases where the protein value amounted to 15% of the diet, the protein derived from beef showed no cysteine deficiency, and the value used for growth was the same as of egg protein.”

To compare, cow milk protein’s biological value is, on average, 60%. Even though some whey formulas are fully absorbable they often contain sugar which slows down the protein digestion. Beef protein powders such as Muscle Meds Carnivor do not contain sugar. Moreover whey is digested in the intestine which often causes bloating and gastric issues. Beef protein’s digestion takes place in the stomach which should alleviate the swelling and gastrointestinal issues associated with drinking whey.

So you think you’re drinking a beautiful lean steak? Think again. What many people find unsettling is that beef protein powder is sourced from gelatin. Gelatin is made from cattle bones, hooves, ligaments, hides, ears, and other byproducts from the beef and leather industries.

Muscle Meds Carnivor Review

As an example, let’s look at the Muscle Meds product Carnivor. It contains 63% protein which compared to other brands is a bit disappointing. Also, compared to other beef protein products it is high in carbs (21/100g). On the plus side it does not contain any sugars and it is vitamin and mineral enriched. It truly is a great supplement for putting on lean muscle mass. The major downside is the truly horrible flavor – I found Vanilla Caramel revolting. On the plus side it’s quite easy on the stomach and efficient.

 Trial and Error

Hopefully in the coming years the beef supplements will develop even further and evolve into something with a less repulsive flavor. For now, I recommend you try and find a supplement that works for you personally. Remember, shakes should not be used as meal substitution. They can be an occasional addition to a healthy balanced diet but shouldn’t replace your real food protein sources.