Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Liquid Calories"

Day 349 - The Truth Behind Calorie Labels



It really does make you wonder how far off your calorie counting is or could be. You may not realize it, but being off by 500 or so calories a day can add on some major pounds! I always try and recommend to people that they cook for themselves as much as humanly possible, but not only that, try and stick to real, whole foods with minimal ingredients. It is much easier to try and calculate how many calories are in an apple than a frappuccino at Starbucks...

Quote of the day:
"Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can."
-Lowell Thomas


Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com





Day 344 - Liquid Calories

The other day's blog, I discussed calories, and more importantly, how calories are digested and used in the body. When it comes down to it, all of us need calories to survive as they are the "energy currency" in our bodies to allow us to do stuff. Calories allow energy actions in our bodies to be performed such as thinking, breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, walking, etc. 

The problem most people run into is that they ingest too many calories, which are then stored as body fat as an evolutionary "backup plan". You see, our ancestors didn't always have a KFC sitting on the nearby corner, so they actually had times of famine. Our bodies store adipose (fat) tissue for when we are in need of energy when those hunting and gathering times aren't so good.

People have to ingest calories in order to survive. Foods tend to contain other things in them such as nutrients that make them ideal for our calorie consumption. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats are all nutrient dense. What this means, is that healthy foods give you the most "bang for your buck". You want to aim to get as many nutrients and vitamins in your body through natural sources as possible, while keeping your calorie count low, in order to maximize your metabolism and keep your weight down, while maintaining good health.

Liquid calories can therefore be a major pitfall for a lot of the population. Virtually all sources of beverages that people consume (other than water) have high calorie counts, with very little nutrient payoff. Take sodas for example, most of these beverages can contain anywhere from 8-10 teaspoons of sugar....per can! Visually picture yourself scooping 10 teaspoons of sugar into a can, then filling the rest with water. There doesn't leave much room for water, let alone any vitamins or nutrients.

Believe it or not, sodas can actually play a part in a person's diet, that is if they are a highly active person. Take, for example, a marathon runner. If they were to drink a can of soda before a race, that sugar would be digested and burned off in no time from their high activity level. Most people, however, sit down and enjoy a can with a high-calorie meal while watching tv. Those calories coming from the sugar in the soda are either used right away for high-energy activity (which they aren't) or are packed away for future use (aka, body fat).

Alright, fine, let's give up soda. Many people have taken this pledge (including myself) to give up soft drinks, so now what? I find milk to be a good alternative, but watch your nutritional labels. Milk is high-calorie because it contains fat and protein as well as natural and added sugars. You may be surprised at how much sugar is in your glass of milk. Look at the sugar count per cup (250mL), in grams, of milk, and you may be surprised how much is actually in there. Not only that, as you get closer to skim milk, or in other words, less fat, companies add in even more sugar in order to make sure the taste stands up. I personally like to enjoy either 1 or 2% milk in moderation as milk can provide a lot of vitamins and nutrients such as calcium!

Alright, so milk is a nice substitute for soda, but keep it in moderation. How about fruit juices then? Many companies are jumping on this bandwagon so to speak as they are finding the need to produce what the public is asking for. I will just come out and say it, fruit juices can be just as bad, if not worse than sodas. They can be very high in sugar with potentially little to no nutrients left. The act of processing fruit juices to get the product to your grocery shelf can remove many of the nutritional benefits of the product, not to mention the removal of fiber, which is helpful in slowing the digestion of eating fruit whole. Try and stick to real fruit juices that have no added sugars, and often times, you can "cut" the juice by filling half a glass of juice with the other half water and still enjoy the flavor, minus all of those extra calories.

Coffee is actually zero-calorie. There are numerous health benefits to drinking coffee that have been reported in the recent past. Let's face it, coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in human history, so it is no surprise that it is also one of the most widely-researched (pros and cons). I could write an entire blog on coffee consumption, which I can in the future, but for now, you can make your own conclusions on this. Chances are, if you are currently a coffee consumer, I may not change your mind either way, and vice versa. Just keep this in mind, coffee can suddenly become very high-calorie by adding too much cream, sugar, or flavored coffees to the mix. If you can handle black coffee, that is the best, but I understand some people like to add some sugar and (I recommend) milk to help the taste, so 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee in the morning will not make or break your diet assuming you are ingesting a well-rounded diet throughout the day.

Alcohols, like soda, are nutritional bombs. Just to give you an idea of calorie breakdowns, and where our dietary energy comes from; fats are 9 calories/gram, proteins and carbohydrates are 4 calories/gram, and alcohol is 7 calories/gram. Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are generally packaged with nutrients and dietary benefits when they are consumed, whereas alcohol is essentially useless in the body and is just used as energy. Yes, like coffee, there have been many studies done on alcohol trying to prove or disprove its need in the human diet. I will say that there appears to be some health benefits to having a drink now and then to help relax, and lower blood pressure, but many people do not stick to their daily recommended intake. Not only is alcohol itself high-calorie, but most people do not drink alcohol on its own, they mix it with sodas or drink it as beer or wine, which can all heighten those calorie counts.

I find it so discouraging to see some people that are trying so hard to exercise and eat somewhat respectively, but then literally pour away their potential health benefits and gains by consuming large quantities of calories through needless liquid sources. The human body has evolved to feel "full" from eating solid foods. We do not get that same response from drinking our calories, which I think plays a part in the consumption of large numbers of calories being consumed. If people were to make a switch to drinking just water, milk (in moderation), and tea (zero-cal green teas, etc.), they could literally cut hundreds of calories out of their diets every day which that switch alone can account to pounds lost over months and years!


Quote of the day:

"The first requisite of success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem without growing weary."
~ Thomas Edison


Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com






Day 339 - Calories

We live in a society that is constantly swayed by trends. Recently, one major trend that is taking over is counting calories. You would be pretty hard-pressed to go somewhere without seeing some sort of mention of calories. Restaurants print them on menus (not always accurate, only an estimation), food companies print them on packaging, diet and exercise claims on the radio, tv, and in advertisements all claim to "burn more calories". The problem with mostly all of this is that majority of the population never stops to think or understand what these numbers or claims mean. Unfortunately they just get caught up in the trends.

I have made a list of calorie claims, myths, truths, and partial-truths below to help my readers understand how to decipher what they see and read out in the world today.

1. Calories Fuel Our Bodies

The term "calorie" was first coined in the 19th century for steam engine heat conservation. Basically, a calorie is a unit of energy required for 1 gram of water to heat 1 degree Celsius. It was in 1890 that the USDA first brought this term over to the food industry. Scientists would literally take a piece of food and light it on fire to see how much it would heat water. Some of you may remember doing this in science class, I know I do. The term "calorie" in the food industry should actually be "kilocalorie" as the calorie count you see on food packaging refers to the amount of energy required to heat 1kg of water by 1 degree Celsius, but everyone usually drops the "kilo" because we are all lazy...

There is also one problem here, our bodies do not have little fires raging in our cells to produce energy, we break down macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) to use their chemical energy. Also, instead of one enormous chemical plant, we have billions of little energy producers in our cells called mitochondria that are much more efficient. The problem that many people think and feel, is that all calories are created equal, when this simply is not the truth, which leads me to #2.

2. All Calories are Created Equal

When we eat stuff, i.e. food, the chemical makeup of that stuff must be broken down into smaller chunks to be absorbed, transported and utilized by our bodies. This is not a passive process which means that we need energy to digest, or in other words, we require energy to produce energy. (Takes money to make money right?) To assume that all calories are created equal is just silly.

Carbohydrates are the easiest macronurtient to digest and therefore has the highest yield. Carbs, also known as sugar, is nature's form of jet fuel for our bodies. The problem is, our society seems to pack more and more and more sugar into everything, leading us to the point where we would never come close to burning off as much of that energy as we take in, leading to adipose tissue (body fat)...but that is a different blog topic altogether. Anyways, carbs return about a 90-95% energy yield per calorie. What I mean by that is, for example, every 100 calories of carbs you take in, it requires 5-10 calories of energy to digest.

Fats actually have a slightly higher energy yield than carbohydrates, ranging in the ballpark of 95-96%, but this should not be alarming as our diets require much less fat than carbs. What this means is that in 100 calories of fat, it takes about 4-5 calories to digest.

Protein has the lowest energy yield, which can actually be very beneficial for weight loss. Only about 70-80% of protein calories consumed are returned to the body when digesting proteins which isn't all that surprising as the body greatly prefers fats and carbs for energy whereas protein is mostly used for tissue repair. Regardless, proteins are highly recommended throughout the day for those looking to lose weight or are highly active.

3. You Are What You Eat

We have all heard this term before, but don't think that everything you put in your mouth stays in your body and is digested. Just keep in mind, there are things that come out the other end - and that will be as far as I go with that! When you eat your food, your teeth chew it up, then the juices in your stomach break things down further into a paste. This paste then travels through your intestines where the nutrients are absorbed through the spongy walls. For most people, however, 5-10% of this paste just keeps passing on through and is expelled as waste.

For the most part, fat digests easily and passes through the walls quickly. Animal protein sources are absorbed better than plant-based sources. Then we come to carbs. Glucose and starchy carbs (i.e. chocolate, potatoes) are absorbed rapidly, whereas high-fiber carbs like in fruits, vegetables and grains take their sweet time passing through your system. Not only that, but fiber seems to prevent your body from absorbing certain calories and can even lower cholesterol levels. An equivalent amount of broccoli compared to an equivalent piece of chocolate may register as the same number of calories in a laboratory, but that does not mean that they act the same way in your body. Studies have shown that individuals with high-fiber diets have close to 20% of their daily ingested calories move through their digestive system without being absorbed. Less calories this way can lead to less body fat!

4. "I'll Just Burn it off at the Gym"

Many people grossly over-estimate how many calories they actually burn during a workout. Everybody has heard someone say (while reaching for a second helping of dessert), "Oh, I'll just burn it off later when I am (insert weak excuse for an exercise here)." Truth is, even the craziest of fitness nuts only burn, at most, 30% of their daily calories in working out each day.

Most of our calories burned on a day to day basis come from doing things like digesting food, thinking, breathing, repairing a cut to your leg/face from shaving, etc. This is known as our resting metabolic rate, which means you are burning a ton of calories even when watching tv! There are other daily activities can also contribute to our daily caloric expenditure that are known as non-exercise thermo-genesis (N.E.A.T.) such as walking up the stairs, walking your dog, having sex, etc.

I know what you may be thinking, "Hell, I don't need to exercise then!" Keep in mind that exercise causes a whole list of benefits too long to list in this blog, so I highly recommend you continue (or start) to exercise 5-6 days a week. Not only that, but a properly designed strength and conditioning program consisting of cardio and resistance training will raise your resting metabolic rate, mentioned earlier, so that the rest of the day when you are not exercising, you will burn more calories than the average person!

The best scenario in this case would be to exercise often, but to also make small changes in your life that can result in bigger changes over the long-haul. For example, if you live or work in a multi-storey building, take the stairs more often rather than the elevator. Park at the back of the parking lot when shopping to force you to walk a bit further, etc.

5. "Big" People Have Slower Metabolisms

There are many studies that show that thin people may potentially absorb and burn dietary fats quicker than their "bigger" counterparts, but this topic is definitely false. When referring to the "resting metabolic rate" (RMR) discussed in #4, studies have shown that the average man requires 11 calories per pound of body weight for their RMR, even if they sat in front of the tv all day. If you do the math, you would quickly discover that the bigger you become, more calories are actually required to maintain your current weight.

6. Low Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight

This seems to be a very hot-button issue as of late. Many people seem to think that eating "Low-Fat" or "Low-Calorie" food substitutes will help them lose weight. It looks and sounds good on paper! The problem here is that companies often remove fat from products, but replace with either sugar or artificial sweeteners or in high-sugary foods, they remove natural sugars and replace with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. The problem arises when those "zero-cal" sweeteners hit the bloodstream. A long story short, the body thinks its taking in sugar (and calories) when in fact the artificial sweeteners are useless which causes a blood-sugar dip causing you to crave guess what, more sugar!

More and more studies are coming out detailing how individuals who frequently consume things like "Diet" sodas and low-cal foods are actually gaining weight in the process, oh, the irony! The ideal situation here would be to remove soda from the diet and replace with another zero-cal beverage...water!


Quote of the day:

"It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com






Day 51 - The Ongoing Battle with Liquid Calories...



Not sure if you folks have seen this or not, but USA Today sat down for an interview with Katie Bayne, who is the president of sparkling beverages at Coca-Cola. I will post the interview below, with some of my thoughts added in.

Q: If Mayor Bloomberg were sitting across from you, what would you say to him?

A: I'd say, Mayor, we believe you're absolutely right. Obesity is a critical health challenge facing our nation. But singling out single brands or foods is not going to help the situation. Working together in a partnership will.


Me: To be honest, this interview actually starts on the right foot. Bayne is correct in saying that obesity is a much larger issue than finger-pointing just 1 product.

Q: Is there any merit to limits being placed on the size of sugary drinks folks can buy?

A: Sugary drinks can be a part of any diet as long as your calories in balance with the calories out. Our responsibility is to provide drink in all the sizes that consumers might need.


Me: This is where things start getting a bit off track. Bayne wrongfully comments that, "as long as your calories in balance with the calories out", then everything will be ok. I would like to ask her if she truly believes in that statement. Does she truly believe that the nutritional value of say 100 calories worth of Coke is the same as 100 calories of broccoli? Food is more than just calories, it is meant to be nutrition and fueling for your body, and although sugar does play a part in fueling our bodies, the levels of sugar found in soft drinks goes well beyond what most people ever need...let's move on.

Q: Is anyone at Coca-Cola trying to figure out a way to get sugar out of all drinks?

A: There is a large portion of the population that relies on the carbohydrates and energy in our regular beverages. When my son gets home from school, he needs a pick-up with calories and great taste.


Me: Way back when, beverages like Coke used to be an "energy drink". Remember, when folks had busy lives, farming, construction work, or whatever else that may entail? Unfortunately, soft drinks of all sorts, shapes and sizes have made their way into people's every day lives as just a regular beverage...or in this case, according to Bayne, a "pick-up with calories and great taste". I am never one to want to tell someone else how they should or shouldn't raise their children, but what is wrong with your son having an apple as a "pick-up with calories and great taste"?

Q: But critics call soft drinks "empty" calories.

A: A calorie is a calorie. What our drinks offer is hydration. That's essential to the human body. We offer great taste and benefits whether it's an uplift or carbohydrates or energy. We don't believe in empty calories. We believe in hydration.


Me: You are absolutely right, the body needs hydration...from water. I think if people started drinking more water and less liquid junk, then maybe water wouldn't taste as 'boring' as some people think it does now. As for the empty calories comment, as far as I'm concerned, and backed-up by Wikipedia, here is a definition of what "empty calories" means:
"Empty calories, in casual dietary terminology, are a measurement of the energy present in high-energy foods with poor nutritional profiles, with most of the energy typically coming from processed carbohydrates, fats, or ethanol. Also known as a discretionary calorie, an "empty calorie" has the same energy content as any other calorie but lacks many accompanying nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, or dietary fiber. Although carbohydrates, fats and water are also nutrients, they are typically ignored for this analysis, with the exception of essential fatty acids."

That sounds like the EXACT definition of soft drinks to me...but it couldn't be since Coca-Cola doesn't believe in "empty calories".


Q: Because sugary drinks have been linked with obesity, some suggest soft-drink makers place "warning" labels on cans and bottles.

A: There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity. If you look at the data, you can see that during the same period obesity was rising, sugar intake from beverages was decreasing. Between 1999 and 2010, sugars from soda consumption decreased by 39%, but the percentage of obese children increased by 7%, and 13% for adults.


Me: To be honest, I will actually have to somewhat agree with Bayne on this one. Similar to the very first answer she gave, it is extremely difficult to point a finger at any single culprit in the rising obesity epidemic. Dietary studies are very hard to complete and make reliable because there are literally an infinite number of variables involved in studying one's diet.

The only way to truly prove/disprove any food or drink as being part of an illness is to hire a large group of study participants and have them eat/drink 1 product for weeks/months/years at a time. Not only that, but they would all have to live the same lifestyle, exercise the exact same amount, live in the same climate, etc., etc., etc. Since eliminating so many variables is not logistically possible, we have to base our knowledge on generalized research and studies that try and find overall trends.

Having said that, there have been trends that find those who consume not only sugary drinks, but also artificially-sweetened beverages, have higher risks for obesity and the gambit of disease that is associated with it.


Q: Shouldn't teens drink less cola and more milk and water?A: Teens should get a healthy diet through food and beverage choices throughout the day.

Me: Absolutely. But teens are not the only ones who Bayne's advice should be targeted towards. Every individual should aim to make as many healthy choices in their day to day lives. Choosing water over sugary beverages is always the better choice!

Q: How much Coke should a kid drink a day?A: We don't make recommendations on what kids should drink. But a 12-ounce can of Coke has 140 calories, the same as a lunch-box-size bag of pretzels.

Me: Here we go with the discussion of calories again, not only that, but Bayne lets on like a bag of pretzels is a healthy snack, ha! Anyways, regardless of calories, a 12-ounce can of Coke not only has 140 calories, but it also has 39g of sugar, which is just short of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Would you put 10 teaspoons of sugar in a lunch-box-size bag of pretzels and ship that off in your child's lunchbox as well?

Q: What sugary drink limits do you place on your kids?

A: My job as a parent is to guide them through the day to make the best choices. If my son has lacrosse practice for three hours, we go straight to McDonald's and buy a 32-ounce Powerade.


Me: I could be WAY off here, but I played a lot of sports growing up. I played a a fairly high-level of competitive hockey and soccer, and even went on to play Division II soccer at University. I can't ever remember a time when we had practice that would last more than 90 minutes. The odd time I could see our practices maybe reaching 2 hours, but that was the absolute most.

I am not calling this woman a liar, but 3 hours seems pretty extreme to me. Having said that, if her son actually is practicing for 3 hours, you know what? A Powerade is perfect for him. I still don't really understand why she had to throw in the McDonald's name there. Name-dropping at its finest I guess...
Q: What do you drink daily?

A: I might have a mini Diet Coke while cooking breakfast for my family. After the kids leave for school, I go for a run and then have a Powerade Zero. At work I may have a Diet Coke in the morning and in the afternoon, Gold Peak Tea. In the middle of the afternoon, I may have an 8-ounce Coke. I'd rather have that than a candy bar or cookie for a pick-me-up.


Me: More name-dropping (or should I say brand-dropping), but that isn't all that surprising. What is surprising here is the amount of crap this lady ingests...Maybe if she didn't have so much sugar in the morning, she wouldn't need even more sugar in the afternoon to balance-out her expected sugar-crash.

Q: What do you say to those who believe that sugar — particularly in soft drinks — works on the brain like an addictive substance?

A: There is no scientific evidence.


Me: Has this woman ever heard of Google?

Here
Here
Here

I could keep going too...


Q: Critics say Coke is pushing sugary drinks in China and India and will cause obesity there just like here.

A: Every person in those countries is different and should be able to choose what's right for them.

Me: ....speechless

Anyways, this interview, as expected, is full of PR-type responses. Take from it what you will. Excuse me, I am going to get a glass of water and some fruit for a mid-morning pick-up.

Quote of the day:
"The surest way not to fail is to determine to succeed."
~Richard Brinsley Sheridan





Day 40 - "All Natural"





Be Mindful of What You Are Eating!

I have always been an active person, playing sports year-round growing up. I have also been quite lucky *knock on wood* to have a slim build and never really need to worry about what I eat. Over the past few years, I have definitely put on a few pounds of "comfortable insulation" but nothing too serious.

After I graduated University in 2006 at the age of 21, I still had that lazy mindset that I could basically eat whatever I wanted and drink whatever I wanted because exercise and my metabolism would take care of the rest. Well, a few pounds crept up on me and I decided to nip my bad habits in the butt long before they took hold and overran my life.

In 2008 when I decided to really start to change my lifestyle by exercising more frequently and 'watching what I eat' I really only did one part of the equation. Again, I figured that since I was so active and that I was still young with a blazing metabolism, I could basically eat whatever I wanted to.

Fast forward a few years now, and I have had some pretty good success. I don't necessarily eat/exercise to "look good", because as I have told people in the past, I frankly don't really care what I look like on the beach. I exercise and try to lead a healthy life for a number of reasons including feeling better, being able to do the things that I like to do, be in a better mood, and hopefully all of these criteria for years to come (especially now with my son!).

I will say that in these past few years of exercising more, I have begun to change my dietary habits as well. Not only do I wish to maximize my results and how I feel from being active, but I have also come to learn of the numerous other health effects/benefits a proper diet has. You could say that my diet has been slowly evolving over the years and rather than an overnight resolution to overhaul everything, I have been making small changes over the years that are manageable to me and make sense based on what I learn/read about.

This brings us to November 2011. For my 27th birthday, my wonderful wife bought me an iPad for my birthday/Christmas/Anniversary gift. I played around with the idea of 'tracking calories' for years now but have never wanted to be a slave to what I eat.

Well, to start 2012, I finally decided to download a free app for my iPad that would help me track my calories in a fairly loose sort of way. Now I need to mention a few disclaimers here. One, I have only been doing this for a week. Two, I don't plan on doing this forever, I just wish to educate myself on how my diet is going based on how I currently living my life, etc. Three, I am not being 100% accurate about things, but I am doing my best and am probably 90-95% accurate (I am NOT using a food scale to weigh every single morsel of food).

Well, at the end of my first week with this new endeavor/hobby/goal/whatever you want to call it, I have made some pretty startling observations that I will list below.

First, about me; I am 27 years old, have a pretty fast metabolism, work a full-time job with a few part-time personal training jobs on the side. I am married, have an infant son at home and also exercise 6-7 times/week. I am very active and should be consuming well over 3000 calories/day!

I have done a bit of research and realize that I don't really wish to lose a whole lot of weight, plus I am active and try and keep my lean muscle mass in check so I have been aiming for about 40-50% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein and 25-30% dietary fat (healthy fat as much as possible). This plan seems to work best for me and seems to fit my lifestyle the most, but should still challenge me to meet certain criteria.

Things that I have learned so far:

1. Carbohydrates creep up on you FAST! Holy smokes has this ever been an eye opener for me. There is sugar in nearly EVERYTHING we eat! I cut soda out of my diet a long time ago, so the only beverages I consume is either water, green tea, the daily glass of chocolate milk (post-workout), and the occasional glass of white milk (1%) with dinner. I try and eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can and keep my grains to whole grain and I STILL have absolutely no problems blasting through my daily carbohydrate consumption...and that is even when I am aiming for 50% carbs on a 3000cal+ diet!!!!

This is scary for a few reasons. One, I know I am in a very small minority of people who actually consume this few of carbs. Two, there are many, many people out there who consume carbs with this thought in their heads that it is 'fat free' so it must be good for them...only to pack on more and more and more pounds! Three, as I said, I don't consume any sugary beverages and I still have no problems meeting my daily caloric counts, I struggle to keep my carbs down, and I am highly active. I find this downright scary and disturbing to think of some folks out there who down cans and cans of soda a day or eat carb-full meals then go sit on their butts and watch tv...holy smokes. To be honest, I knew it was bad, but never really knew it was THIS bad!

2. I really am trying to do my best to keep my protein levels up. I do quite well with this as I try and have protein with every meal, I have healthy snacks that I try and squeeze some protein in, as well as having protein shakes (low-cal) throughout the day. I guess this one will be tougher for me to keep my numbers up the more active I am because the higher my daily calorie count goes, the higher my recommended proteins go as well. This is probably my best category though.

3. Healthy fats are out there, you just have to look for them! I try and cook with olive oil, I take a fish-oil supplement and I try and squeeze some avacado into my diet whenever I can. The scary part is seeing the amount of fat in some packaged products at the grocery store. A little bit of fat is good, too much fat is bad, and especially stay away from trans fats. What may be even scarier than all of this however, is that when companies remove the fat from their products, they replace it with sugar...which makes most individuals in our society think its then guilt-free....wrong!

This is going to continue to be a learning curve for me. I have realized that I have actually been doing quite well in my daily caloric intake. I often wondered how far off/on I was before I started tracking, but have come to realize that I am pretty spot-on in that regard. The biggest learning curve for me will be to watch my carbohydrate calories as the higher that goes, the less room there is calorie-wise to get my required proteins and fats in. I will keep everyone updated!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS




Liquid Calories

Last Thursday's blog I discussed calories, and more importantly, how calories are digested and used in the body. When it comes down to it, all of us need calories to survive as they are the "energy currency" in our bodies to allow us to do stuff. Calories allow energy actions in our bodies to be performed such as thinking, breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, walking, etc.

The problem most people run into is that they ingest too many calories, which are then stored as body fat as an evolutionary "backup plan". You see, our ancestors didn't always have a KFC sitting on the nearby corner, so they actually had times of famine. Our bodies store adipose (fat) tissue for when we are in need of energy when those hunting and gathering times aren't so good.

People have to ingest calories in order to survive. Foods tend to contain other things in them such as nutrients that make them ideal for our calorie consumption. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats are all nutrient dense. What this means, is that healthy foods give you the most "bang for your buck". You want to aim to get as many nutrients and vitamins in your body through natural sources as possible, while keeping your calorie count low, in order to maximize your metabolism and keep your weight down, while maintaining good health.

Liquid calories can therefore be a major pitfall for a lot of the population. Virtually all sources of beverages that people consume (other than water) have high calorie counts, with very little nutrient payoff. Take sodas for example, most of these beverages can contain anywhere from 8-10 teaspoons of sugar....per can! Visually picture yourself scooping 10 teaspoons of sugar into a can, then filling the rest with water. There doesn't leave much room for water, let alone any vitamins or nutrients.

Believe it or not, sodas can actually play a part in a person's diet, that is if they are a highly active person. Take, for example, a marathon runner. If they were to drink a can of soda before a race, that sugar would be digested and burned off in no time from their high activity level. Most people, however, sit down and enjoy a can with a high-calorie meal while watching tv. Those calories coming from the sugar in the soda are either used right away for high-energy activity (which they aren't) or are packed away for future use (aka, body fat).

Alright, fine, let's give up soda. Many people have taken this pledge (including myself) to give up soft drinks, so now what? I find milk to be a good alternative, but watch your nutritional labels. Milk is high-calorie because it contains fat and protein as well as natural and added sugars. You may be surprised at how much sugar is in your glass of milk. Look at the sugar count per cup (250mL), in grams, of milk, and you may be surprised how much is actually in there. Not only that, as you get closer to skim milk, or in other words, less fat, companies add in even more sugar in order to make sure the taste stands up. I personally like to enjoy either 1 or 2% milk in moderation as milk can provide a lot of vitamins and nutrients such as calcium!

Alright, so milk is a nice substitute for soda, but keep it in moderation. How about fruit juices then? Many companies are jumping on this bandwagon so to speak as they are finding the need to produce what the public is asking for. I will just come out and say it, fruit juices can be just as bad, if not worse than sodas. They can be very high in sugar with potentially little to no nutrients left. The act of processing fruit juices to get the product to your grocery shelf can remove many of the nutritional benefits of the product, not to mention the removal of fiber, which is helpful in slowing the digestion of eating fruit whole. Try and stick to real fruit juices that have no added sugars, and often times, you can "cut" the juice by filling half a glass of juice with the other half water and still enjoy the flavor, minus all of those extra calories.

Coffee is actually zero-calorie. There are numerous health benefits to drinking coffee that have been reported in the recent past. Let's face it, coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in human history, so it is no surprise that it is also one of the most widely-researched (pros and cons). I could write an entire blog on coffee consumption, which I can in the future, but for now, you can make your own conclusions on this. Chances are, if you are currently a coffee consumer, I may not change your mind either way, and vice versa. Just keep this in mind, coffee can suddenly become very high-calorie by adding too much cream, sugar, or flavored coffees to the mix. If you can handle black coffee, that is the best, but I understand some people like to add some sugar and (I recommend) milk to help the taste, so 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee in the morning will not make or break your diet assuming you are ingesting a well-rounded diet throughout the day.

Alcohols, like soda, are nutritional bombs. Just to give you an idea of calorie breakdowns, and where our dietary energy comes from; fats are 9 calories/gram, proteins and carbohydrates are 4 calories/gram, and alcohol is 7 calories/gram. Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are generally packaged with nutrients and dietary benefits when they are consumed, whereas alcohol is essentially useless in the body and is just used as energy. Yes, like coffee, there have been many studies done on alcohol trying to prove or disprove its need in the human diet. I will say that there appears to be some health benefits to having a drink now and then to help relax, and lower blood pressure, but many people do not stick to their daily recommended intake. Not only is alcohol itself high-calorie, but most people do not drink alcohol on its own, they mix it with sodas or drink it as beer or wine, which can all heighten those calorie counts.

I find it so discouraging to see some people that are trying so hard to exercise and eat somewhat respectively, but then literally pour away their potential health benefits and gains by consuming large quantities of calories through needless liquid sources. The human body has evolved to feel "full" from eating solid foods. We do not get that same response from drinking our calories, which I think plays a part in the consumption of large numbers of calories being consumed. If people were to make a switch to drinking just water, milk (in moderation), and tea (zero-cal green teas, etc.), they could literally cut hundreds of calories out of their diets every day which that switch alone can account to pounds lost over months and years!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS