Archive for the ‘Healthy Meals’ Category

Grain products are often baked, and are rich s...

CARBOHYDRATES:

Carbohydrates (Carbs) are the primary source of energy for all body functions and muscular exertion.  Carbohydrates are the chief source of fuel for anaerobic activity (weight training, activities which raise heart rate above 60-70%).  It’s widely believed that in the absence of carbohydrates that the body will use fat for its fuel source.  While that is true, remember, only if you’re performing activity at a fat burning heart rate (aerobic- up to 60-65% VO2 Max).  Since carbs are our chief source of fuel, this leads to depletion of available and stored carbohydrates (glycogen) and creates a continual craving for this macronutrient.  Carbohydrates also help regulate the digestion and utilization of proteins and fats.

**Note: I intentionally refrain from using the term “cardio” in reference to lower intensity activity that targets body fat as a fuel source (as it’s so often used out of context).  I opt to use the term “aerobic” because by definition the word means simply, “with oxygen” or to oxidize fat for energy!  Whereas, cardiovascular activity is intended to train just that, cardiac tissues (of the heart), while this type of exercise is an absolute necessity for health, it’s not the focus of this particular article.  

**The depletion of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) does NOT occur within one workout or activity for the majority of individuals.  Mainly because the amount of glycogen the body can store is a relatively large amount.  The above statement in the first paragraph relating to this is made with individuals whom are consuming a restricted carbohydrate nutrition program, and are beginning their training sessions in a state of “carb depletion.”  Also, a state of depletion is relative, or at least dependent upon the type of activity being performed (e.g., long distance hike vs 45 min. weight training session).  Based on feedback from what you, the readers following this blog want, this article is intended to target those trying to reduce body fat levels and positively improve body composition.  I felt it necessary to clarify before continuing :))! 

The principle carbohydrates present in foods occur in the form of simple sugars, starches and cellulose.  Simple sugars, such as those in honey and fruits, are easily digested.  Double sugars, such as table sugar, require some digestive action but they are not nearly as complex as starches, such as those found in whole grains, rice and potatoes.

Starches require prolonged enzymatic action in order to be broken down into simple sugars (i.e., glucose) for utilization.  Cellulose, commonly found in the skins of fruits and vegetables, is largely indigestible by humans, but does play more then one very important role within the body.  The indigestible “roughage” is essentially just fiber(s), soluble and insoluble, fiber provides bulk for proper intestinal function and aides elimination.  Fiber is necessary for a number of other essential functions in the body, which I’ve discussed in previous articles.

All sugars and starches are converted by the body into simple sugars such as glucose or fructose.  All sugars must become glucose before the body can use them for energy.  Some glucose or “blood sugar” is used as fuel by tissues of the brain, nervous system and muscles.  A small amount of the glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles, any excess is converted to fat and stored throughout the body as a reserve energy source.  When total calorie intake exceeds output any extra carbohydrate, fat or protein is stored as body fat.

Carbohydrate “snacks” (Ugh, I can’t stand that term!) which contain large amounts of refined sugars and starches, typically promote a sudden rise in blood sugar levels, thereby providing the body with an immediate source of energy and few nutrients.  The “insulin spike” which shortly follows this reaction rapidly lowers the blood sugar levels resulting in uncontrollable cravings for more sugary foods and potentially causing fatigue, dizziness, nervousness and headaches (varying levels of hypoglycemia).

Diets (Lifestyles) that are high in refined carbs are usually low in vitamins, minerals and cellulose.  Foods such as white flour, white sugar, instant potatoes, etc. are lacking in B vitamins specifically, as well as other nutrients.  Overindulging in starchy and/or sweet foods gives you calories without the nutrients and robs you of the essential nutrients to metabolize these foods.  **I realize this really isn’t ground breaking new information for most of you, but so often the basics of the basics are overlooked or at best assumed to be understood.  For some it may be very well understood, however, it’s the others (the majority) that this article is targeting…this is not meant to be a criticism to anyone what so ever, I myself need regular reminders to stop overanalyzing and get back to the basics!  I hope this can be that reminder for some of you!!

Lipids (Fats).

English: A salmon rose, part of a sashimi dinn...

Lipids:

Lipids (i.e., fats) are the most concentrated source of energy in the diet.  One gram of fat yields approximately nine calories when oxidized, furnishing more than twice the calories per gram of carbohydrates or proteins.

In addition to providing energy, fats act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  By aiding in the absorption of vitamin D, calcium is also available to body tissues, particularly to the bones and teeth.  Fats are also important for the conversation of carotene to vitamin A.

Lipids/Fats are involved in the following:
▪    Cellular membrane structure and function
▪    Precursors to hormones
▪    Cellular signals
▪    Regulation and excretion of nutrients in the cells

Fat deposits surround, protect and hold in place organs (visceral fat), such as the kidneys, heart and liver.  A layer of fat insulates the body from environmental temperature changes and preserves body heat.  Dietary fats prolong the digestion process by slowing the stomach’s secretions of hydrochloric acid, this creating a longer lasting sensation of fullness after a meal (satiation).

Fat in Foods:

The bulk of fat consumed in the diet is ingested in the form of triglycerides.  Triglycerides are made up of a glycerol backbone with three fatty acids attached.  The fatty acids attached to the glycerol may differ from one another in two ways: chain length and degree of saturation.  Saturation refers to the chemical structure.  A saturated fatty acid is one that carries the maximum number of hydrogen atoms, leaving no points of unsaturation.  Unsaturated fatty acids can be divided into two types: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Food fats contain a mixture of the three kinds of fatty acids.

When a fat contains predominantly saturated fatty acids, it is said to be a saturated fat.  Similarly, when a fat or oil contains a large proportion of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat, respectively.  Generally, the more unsaturated the fat, the lower it’s melting point and the more likely it is to become liquid at room temperature.

Trans-fatty acids are not generally found in nature.  Trans-fatty acids are created when double bonds are transformed into single bonds through the addition of hydrogen.  This entire process creates trans-fatty acids.  An example of this process is when a poly-unsaturated vegetable oil is transformed into a semi-solid (i.e., margarine, shortening).

Essential fatty acids:

Essential fatty acids (EFA‘s) are just that, essential!  These fats are considered essential simply because they CAN NOT be manufactured by the body.  Furthermore, essential fats CAN NOT be manufactured from other sources within the body, as is the case with essential amino acids.  EFA’s must be provided to the body through one’s dietary intake or via supplementation.  The common essential fats are; Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9.

**Interesting fact: The FDA recently changed the recommended ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids to Omega-3 fatty acids from a 20:1 ratio, to a 3:1 ratio…I’m no math whiz but that’s a tremendous difference!  It’s now known, saturated fats only account for approximately 20% of arterial plaque accumulation.  What happens when Omega-6 fats grossly out number Omega-3’s (i.e., 20:1 ratio)?  We find where the other 80% of arteriolosclerosis comes from!

Essential fatty acids truly deserve the attention of an entire article.  However, you can’t have an article titled, Lipids, without including something about the shear necessity of EFA’s.  If you can afford only one supplement, make certain it be a quality Omega-3 fatty acid supplement!

What the heck is a snack anyways? How many calories is it outside today?.