Thursday, September 30, 2010

I exercise yet my Scale keep reading high!

A client expressed disappointment that she seemed to be adding more weight even though she is on a controlled diet and constant exercise regime.

She is having her worst nightmare! (Whisper)

But if you’ve seen an increase in your weight, and you are working out regularly, there are some key reasons and possible solutions for correcting them. 

First, a reality check: You may not have gained as much weight as you thought. It is normal for the body weight to fluctuate by several kilograms a day depending on fluid shifts in your body, and the time at which you weigh yourself. Stepping on the scale first thing in the morning when you have not eaten in 12 or more hours will give you a slight different number than in the day when you may have had plenty fluids and several meals.

If you did gain weight, let us explore the possible reasons and solutions.

1. Water Retention
Preventing dehydration is important during exercise. The body can go into survival mode and start retaining water when you are slightly dehydrated. Once this happens, it is difficult to reverse that process. The solution is to monitor your hydration by weighing yourself before and after exercise. Observe how frequently you urinate and the color. Dark, frequent urination is another sign of dehydration. Slow down your workout and pump up the fluids.

2. Appetite may increase with Exercise.
With increased exercise, the body will need more energy to burn fat and stay active. Your appetite may increase to answer to those needs. The solution is to eat nutritious foods that are high in lean protein, low in fat and sugar. Rewarding yourself with extra food will be a wrong move; a good workout is not a license to eat.

3. Muscle weighs more than Fat
A problem some people may experience when they start exercising is building muscles faster than they loose body fat. With strength training exercises, it is possible to lower body fat and lose inches, yet still see your weight increase. Since muscle mass weighs more than fat, you could be producing muscle faster than you are losing fat, causing you to gain weight. The solution is to stay focused, do not be discouraged by the numbers on the scale.
Genetics could also be playing a role here. Some people put on muscle more easily than others, if that is the reason in your own case, do not stop exercising, and adjust your programme to ensure that you are getting enough Aerobic exercise(biking, brisk walking, jogging, climbing) to promote weight loss.

4. Eating more or less.
If you have measured yourself in different ways and realized that you are gaining fat, take some time and go through the following possibilities. You may need to make changes in your diet to see improved outcome. Many who are doing only short workouts for only a few days per week easily eat more calories than they are burning, and gain weight as a result. If you exercise long and often enough, eating extra is necessary to replace energy stores.
Eating more calories than you burn causes weight gain. After you start exercising, you may start eating more without being aware of it. Keeping a journal and monitoring portion size can help. When you are about to eat or snack, pause and ask yourself whether you are really hungry. Sometimes, people mistake thirst for hunger and eat when their body is really longing for more fluid.
On the other hand, if there is a severe restriction in calories, the body may fight this reduction by slowing down its metabolism. The solution is to eat enough calories to sustain your body if you’ve increased your activity. Eat regular meals so that you do not get too hungry, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables so as to have enough fiber and bulk to feel full.

5. Give your body time to adjust
Increased activity and new eating habits require the body to make adjustments. The body will not respond immediately and will require weeks and sometimes months adjusting to the new change. Give your body time to make adjustment.

Consuming too much energy or sports drinks and fruit juices can keep you hydrated and will contribute to weight gain. Choose water whenever possible. Pay a visit to your Doctor and rule out any medical condition that may be contributing to your weight gain. Some medical conditions and medications can interfere with normal body processes. Thyroid problems and some medications can make weight loss difficult.

Whatever the cause of your weight gain, do not give up on exercise. It is not only your ticket to weight loss, it is also important for your health.

Two hours at the Gym yesterday got me feeling slow and drained this morning. I expected so because I skipped my workout for two weeks. I got my reward. I guess!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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Monday, September 27, 2010

When will the WAR end?

Strategies for Improving Maternal and Child Nutrition!!!  That was the theme of the just concluded AGM of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria.

Recent statistics showed that Nigeria accounts for 10% global Maternal and Child mortality rate. Presently, the rate of maternal deaths is 540 deaths out of 100,000 births, and 276 children out of the live births die before their 5th birthday. 53% of deaths are traceable to poor nutrition. 

This is very! Very! Very! depressing. When I was a child, I was told stories of how a lot of children suffered from severe malnutrition during the Nigerian civil war by my father. Pictures from television documentaries on the Nigerian civil war and that of some warring African nations depict kwashiorkor and marasmus as war conditions. When ever I hear of war, I see hungry people, and people who got sick due to hunger and poor nutrition. It is very unfortunate to know that even when dear Nigeria is not at war, this picture of war condition still lives with us.

We are still at war, and this war is one that we have to win. It is a war against maternal and child mortality, opposing malnutrition is the best strategy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Which is better for you: Butter or Margarine?

I was taking a client on a healthy shopping session when we ran into a couple, maybe newly weds , arguing whether or not to include butter in their shopping basket. Very impressive, I thought. At least people are getting health conscious more than before.

First we were told to steer clear of the saturated fats in butter and switch to margarine. Then we discover the dangers of trans-saturated fats in margarine, resulting in many of us switching back to good old butter. So which one really is better for us?

Many people prefer the taste of butter over margarine and are drawn to the idea that it is a more natural product.  However, it is high in saturated fat.  Saturated fat not only raises total cholesterol but it also significantly increases the LDL (bad) cholesterol – the type that clogs the arteries and can lead to heart disease.  Healthy eating guidelines advise that we should consume no more than 10% of total calories as saturated fat. 

Margarine usually contain fewer saturated fats than butter as they are predominantly made from plant rather than animal derived oils.  However, plant oils tend to be liquid at room temperature.  Therefore, in order to make them more solid and spreadable, manufacturers have traditionally used a process called hydrogenation.  During this process trans fats may be formed - a type of fat known to be even more harmful to health than saturated fat as they raise  LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol.

Increased awareness of the harmful effects of hydrogenated fats has resulted in a questioning of the real health benefits of margarine. However, margarine is still recommended as the healthier option. This is partly because changes in processing techniques have greatly reduced the amount of Trans fatty acids likely to be found in most margarine, but also because margarine is generally much lower in saturated fat than butter.  They are also a good source of heart friendly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. 

Monounsaturated fats are particularly effective at helping to protect against heart disease as they not only reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also increase HDL (good) cholesterol.  Polyunsaturated fats are a good source of immune strengthening omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids and will also help to lower LDL cholesterol. 

On whole, margarine really does seem to be the healthier choice but have different types. H ere is a guide to choosing a healthy option.
 1. Choose a spread that has a low total fat content.  Ideally, look for a spread that has less than 55g of fat per 100g.

2. Look for one with low saturated fat content.  Less than 10g per 100 grams.

3. Choose one with low Trans fatty acid content.   0.5 grams or less per 100 grams.

4. Go for a spread made from olive, rapeseed or groundnut oil as these are likely to have the highest monounsaturated fat content. 

Many of the cholesterol-lowering spreads contain stanols and sterols.  These are ingredients derived from plants that can actually reduce the amount of cholesterol that the body absorbs.  These spreads can be effective at lowering cholesterol, but they should be used as part of a healthy, balanced diet and not as a substitute for other.  Well established ways of reducing the risk of heart disease, such as increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables, quitting smoking, eating less saturated fat and taking more exercise.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stress killers

What special thing can I do to reduce my stress level? That was the first question I got from a client this morning at the office. Like always, the first thing I thought of was food. Yes, my brain has been trained and structured to always think food and good nutrition.

I gave him a list of some stress bursting foods. By the time I was done with the list, I realized that I could put the list here for you to read and be nutri-alert.

Stress management can be a powerful tool for wellness. There is evidence that too much pressure is not just a mood killer, people who are under constant stress are more vulnerable to everything from colds to high blood pressure and heart disease. Although there are many ways to cope or deal with stress, one strategy is to eat stress-fighting foods.

Foods can fight stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, actually boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline- stress hormones. Finally, a nutritious diet can counteract the impact of stress, by boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Do you know which foods are stress killers?

Complex Carbohydrates - All carbohydrates prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it is best to eat complex carbohydrates, which are digested more slowly. Good choices include whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, and pastas, as well as oatmeal. Complex carbohydrates can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels. 

Oranges - Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can reduce levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. If you have a particularly stressful event coming up, you may want to consider vitamin C supplements. In one study, blood pressure and cortisol levels returned to normal more quickly when people took 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C before a stressful task.

Spinach - Never let stress get the best of you, eat spinach. This is a very good source of magnesium.  Magnesium helps regulate cortisol levels. Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, thereby compounding the effects of stress. Try some other foods that are high in magnesium like soybeans if you are not a spinach eater.

Fatty Fish - To keep cortisol and adrenaline in check, make friends with fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and protect against heart disease. 

Black Tea, not Coffee. - Research suggests black tea can help you recover from stressful events more quickly. Coffee, on the other hand, can boost levels of cortisol.

Avocados - One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. In addition, avocados offers a nutritious alternative when stress have you craving a high fat treat.

Almonds - Almonds are full of helpful vitamins. There is vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus a range of B vitamins, which may make the body more resilient during bouts of stress. 

Raw Veggies - Crunchy raw vegetables can fight the effects of stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching carrot sticks can ward off tension headaches.

Bedtime Snack - Carbohydrates at bedtime can speed the release of serotonin and help you sleep better. Heavy meals before bed can trigger heartburn, so stick to something light like toast and jam.

Milk - Another bedtime stress buster is the time-honored glass of warm milk. Researchers have found calcium can reduce muscle spasms and soothe tension, as well as easing anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS. I recommend skim or low-fat milk.

De-Stress with Exercise - Besides  your diet, one of the best stress-busting strategies is to start exercising. Aerobic exercise is the most effective, because it increases oxygen circulation and produces endorphins. These are chemicals that make you feel happy. To get the maximum benefit, aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.

Note the foods that trigger the stress response-
•Refined Sugar
• Processed Flour
• Salt
• Caffeine
• Various Synthetic  Chemicals
Not only do processed foods and junk foods contain empty calories, they also contain substances that excite the sympathetic nervous system to release epinephrine and nor-epinephrine. If you are already stressed, eating these foods will be like throwing gasoline on the fire. Processed sugar and processed flour are known to have this effect. The big culprit is a substance found in caffeine that really excites the nervous system. Coffee, chocolate, some tea, sodas and energy drinks are foes. Salt falls in another category (bigger foe). Salt is known to cause water retention. This results in an increase in blood pressure. 

Am certain that there are more stress killer foods out there. Can you think of any?